There it was last night. As part of the Eagles Sunday night 38-7 NFC Championship Game demolition of the Vikings, RB Jay Ajayi was making impact plays for his new team.
And now, he’s headed to Super Bowl LII.
This image from Philadelphia locker room says it all:
? chugging along pic.twitter.com/1MPt6P45Gs
— Chris Fischer NBC6 (@FischerNBC6) January 22, 2018
And, if you cup your ear towards South Florida, there will be some, on the radio, the internet, etc. who will suggest that the Dolphins should have never gotten rid of Ajayi.
And, they would be wrong.
Yes, Ajayi has had two mostly solid performances in Philly’s playoff wins over the Falcons (he had a critical fumble early also) and now, the Vikings. And, in particular he showed the speed and acceleration that Dolphins fans were wowed by in 2016.
His stats in the games? 33 carries 127 yards rushing and six catches for 70 yards receiving and zero TDs.
While solid, none of that is spectacular. Or, irreplaceable.
And, most importantly, let’s not revise history on why Miami was so eager to part with Ajayi during the season.
Remember, the October Thursday night 40-0 destruction the Ravens put on the Dolphins? How about, the day after when coach Adam Gase lit into his offense in general, but also into Ajayi specifically, without actually saying his name?
As we wrote then, Gase was critical of his work ethic, his lack of desire to help/get better with pass blocking and also, his lack of patience in running through the line while trying to run every run into a 60, 70 yarder.
It’s not a coincidence that three days later, Ajayi was headed to Philadelphia.
Gase also knew that he had young backs Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, who were both better blockers, and better pass catchers to help the offense run better with QB Jay Cutler at the helm.
Drake ended up running for 600+ yards, including two 100 yard games, over the last nine games of the year after the trade. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and he also caught 29 passes for 236 yards after the trade of Ajayi. Solid production in replacement.
Williams was effective for a couple of games before suffering a shoulder injury that basically wiped out the last six weeks of his season.
Look, no one is going to say that Gase and the Fins had a tremendous back waiting in the wings to replace Ajayi and be the top ball carrier for the next four to six years in Miami.
That’s not Drake or Williams.
And, Miami will look strongly in free agency and also in the upcoming Draft, where they are picking 11th to address whom that future back might be.
Now, you might want to argue that Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier should have gotten more than a conditional fourth round pick for Ajayi back in October.
That’s a different argument and has merit.
But also, remember the Dolphins offense was terrible, their season was going nowhere and their coach had publicly put Ajayi on blast, including questioning his work ethic. Add all that to medical reports that say Ajayi’s knee has chronic soreness that has effected him, even in Philadelphia, with being able to practice all the time, and they got what they got in the trade.
Yes, Ajayi is living a dream and playing in the Super Bowl.
And yes, the Dolphins had decided he wasn’t their future and wasn’t worth the headaches anymore.
There quest to find that guy in Miami is underway, again.
Dolphins beaten up every way possible after latest loss in Green Bay
Make no mistake, the Dolphins season is not officially over at 5 – 5 headed in the bye week.
It just looks and feels that way.
Mostly, it does, because the Dolphins are banged up, not only physically, but also it appears emotionally and psychologically. So, much so, they don’t appear to have a whole lot left for the stretch run.
Let’s start with the actual physical injuries and that began Sunday with the inactives. The Fins starting offensive line was minus Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, which were not unexpected. However, after being able to practice some this week, former number 1 pick defensive end Charles Harris was not able to play against Green Bay today, either.
Then, as the game wore on, it was one Dolphin leaving after another. Whether it was Kenyan Drake with a shoulder injury in the first half or Bobby McCain with a concussion in the third quarter or when receivers Jakeem Grant and DeVante Parker both had to leave on the same Drive, it was tough to watch the Dolphins walking wounded.
The biggest fear is for the smaller but explosive Grant, who may have torn his Achilles in the third quarter. Grant was already suffering from Achilles tendonitis and came up hobbling right away on a slant pass and could not put weight on the foot. He was then carted shortly thereafter to the Dolphins locker room.
Coach Adam Gase offered no real update on Grant’s status other than that it’s a wait-and-see. As for Parker, same thing is being hoped, even though, the media reported him walking around in the locker room after the game with his left arm in a sling. You combine those injuries with Kenny Stills being slowed by a groin injury and Albert Wilson already out for the year having hurt his hip a few weeks ago, and the Dolphins may be looking for Mark Duper or Nat Moore to come out of retirement at this point.
Bigger than just the physical injuries, the Dolphins appear spent in the figurative sense as well. The frustration mounted as Aaron Rodgers continued to carve them up throwing darts all over the football field Sunday night in the Lambeau cold. He finished with only 195 yards passing, but did have two TDs. And, they marched on the Dolphins defense, whenever he wanted.
It was almost as if Miami was just helpless to do anything against him, and they are watching their season wind down.
Consider that backup quarterback Brock Osweiler was not able to spark the team for the third consecutive game. So poor is the offensive output, that Miami has not scored a touchdown in their last nine quarters dating back to the Thursday night loss in Houston.
The Dolphins aren’t playing with any confidence, at least from the guys that are replacing the injured players. Remember, with Miami at full strength early in the year they got off to a 3 – 0 start.
So, the bye week comes now and perhaps, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill shoulder will be healed enough that he can practice in 10 days and maybe play at Indianapolis. It’s anybody’s guess as to who, out of the names above, will actually be healthy enough to help Tannehill and the Dolphins for the final six games.
Finally, even though Miami would appear by record to be very much in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot, they don’t look like a playoff team.
No. They’re banged up and look like a team that will be watching the postseason like everybody else.
Gameday- Dolphins travel to chilly Lambeau Field
Who: Dolphins (5-4) at Packers (3-4-1)
When: Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
Spread: Packers by 10 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Here’s what to watch:
Dolphins defensive coordinator Burke under scrutiny
It has been a tough few weeks for the Dolphins all the way around, but specifically on the defensive side of the ball, the struggles are mounting. And when you throw in a player pouting and essentially pulling a mutiny on the sidelines last Sunday, it’s not good for the defensive coordinator.
That’s what happened a week ago when Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones refused to go back in the game on two occasions during the second half of the Dolphins close 13 – 6 win over the Jets. It’s been a big topic in South Florida for the last few days, and it obviously has defensive coordinator Matt Burke having to answer for what’s going on in the defense of meeting rooms, practices, etc.
Dolphins Live: Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke meets with the media. https://t.co/2145Fq3uaU
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 8, 2018
As the press continued to poke at him about the Jones situation, you could tell that Burke is over it, as is coach Adam Gase, and they want to move on for this week. However, Jones didn’t make that any easier, when he basically refused to apologize for not wanting to play.
And, moving past it may also be easier said than done, when the opponent is All-Pro quarterback and former League MVP Aaron Rodgers at his house, Lambeau Field.
Yes, the Dolphins have some pass rushers, and that would include second-year defensive end and former number 1 pick Charles Harris returning to practice this week after a calf injury, and he may be able to play. Veteran Cam Wake came alive pressuring Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold repeatedly, and registering a couple of sacks.
However, the defensive plays have been few and far between, as the Dolphins have lost four of the last five games.
That brings us back to Burke, who was elevated after coaching the linebackers in 2016, when Vance Joseph left Miami to become Denver’s head coach. After spending his entire pro career as a linebackers coach, this is his first opportunity to be the guy in charge of the defense.
So, he and Gase can get aggravated with the questioning of what we’re seeing, but the bottom line is: if the Dolphins defense doesn’t continue to step it up, like they did last week, there is going to be much more scrutiny of him.
The oddsmakers have the Dolphins as double-digit underdogs to Rodgers and the Pack.
Now, let’s see if Burke’s unit will rally together, play solidly and give Miami a chance to win Sunday.
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