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Miami Dolphins

Hard evidence suggests Dolphins offense is better since Ajayi trade

Roy Cummings

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all the uproar it created, it’s almost impossible to say right now that their controversial decision to trade running back Jay Ajayi didn’t make the Dolphins a better football team.

At the very least it has made them a better offensive football team.

When the Dolphins traded Ajayi to the Eagles after dropping a humiliating 40-0 decision to the Ravens just before Halloween, their offense was scoring an average of just 12.1 points per game.

In the five games they have played since then the Dolphins have yet to score anything less than 17 points in a game and their offense alone through that stretch has scored an average of 19.8 points per game.

That’s more than a touchdown’s worth of improvement and a big part of the boost has come from the area where the Dolphins subtracted what was easily one of the most talented players on the team.

We suggested shortly after the trade was made that this addition-by-subtraction phenomenon might take place and a look at how the running game has produced in the weeks since the trade occurred suggests it has.

Prior to letting go of Ajayi, who had started complaining a bit too much and a bit too loudly for a player who wasn’t buying into coach Adam Gase’s system, the Dolphins were averaging 77.8 yards per game on the ground.

They have run for an average of 96.2 yards per game in the five games since and that despite Gase’s decision to de-emphasize the running game and lean more on his backs as pass catchers.

The boost in due in great part, of course, to the fact the Dolphins have gotten some breakaway runs out of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, but those runs have been sparked by better play up front.

Gase said a few weeks back, after blasting his entire offense for what her perceived as a lack of commitment, that his offensive linemen had finally started doing their homework. Indeed, it seems they have.

ESPN analyst KC Joyner, who studies running attacks in great detail, told the Miami Herald this week that the Dolphins run blocking has improved markedly since the Ajayi trade.

Per Joyner, who has come up with a system to determine just how effective a team’s run blocking really is, the Dolphins line had 31.5-percent “Good Blocking Rate’’ through its first seven games.

Since then (though not including the grade it received last week againt the Broncos because that had not been calculated yet) their GBR as Joyner refers to it stands at 36.3-percent.

Now, that is still well below the league average of 41.4-percent, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction and there’s reason to believe the trend could continue to move in that positive direction.

Though they’ve lost right tackle Ja’Wuan James for the rest of the year, the Dolphins have Ted Larsen back at left guard. Meanwhile, they’ve been getting solid play from right guard Jesse Davis and right tackle Sam Young as well.

That has all helped to spark an offense that has simply performed at a much higher rate than it was earlier in the year, and whether it’s due to the dismissal of Ajayi or not really doesn’t matter.

The bottom line is that the Dolphins are finally starting to move the ball and score the way they were supposed to and while it’s too little too late to save this season, you simply can’t knock progress.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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  1. Samuel Reid

    December 9, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Keep thinking

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins hit big plays against Raiders to remain unbeaten

Florida Football Insiders

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another Sunday of big plays and another win for the Dolphins, who for the first time since 2013 are 3 – 0. This after dealing the Raiders their third straight loss in a 28-20 come-from-behind victory at Hard Rock Stadium.

After Oakland scored almost immediately, when quarterback Derek Carr hit Jordy Nelson on a long completion and then with a red zone touchdown pass, Miami found themselves trailing quickly 7 to nothing.

But from there on, the Fins began to hit the Raiders with one big play after another. That started with a 34-yard beautifully thrown touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a streaking Kenny Stills to tie the game 7-7.

The Raiders actually took a 10-7 lead into the locker room and then put together a lengthy drive capped with a Marshawn Lynch up and over touchdown in a 17-7 lead.

However, the Dolphins were not fazed and 2 minutes of clock time later had marched into Raiders scoring territory. That’s when Jakeem Grant took an inside flip hand off from Tannehill (above) and raced around the right end to cut the lead to 17 – 14.

Next, head coach Adam Gase went into the” bag of tricks” and after a double hand off, receiver Albert Wilson fired this long pass to Grant down the right sideline:

The 52-yard trick play touchdown, gave Miami the lead for the first time at 21-17.

The Raiders tried to mount a go ahead drive but Derek Carr’s the pass for Martavis Bryant was picked off by Xavien Howard ending their threat.

Next, Wilson caught another short pass from Tannehill and did the rest, racing around the left sideline for a 72-yard score at the 2-minute warning, which put the game away.

Tannehill finished 17-23 for 289 yards and the three TD passes. Carr had 345 yards and a TD in the losing effort, but also two costly interceptions.

The Dolphins are 3-0 for the first time since 2013. That team finished 8-8 and still missed the playoffs.

The Raiders fanfare of hiring Jon Gruden out of the Monday Night Football booth is over, as they are now 0-3 and already three games behind the Chiefs, who won Sunday.

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Miami Dolphins

Gameday- Dolphins host Raiders looking to remain unbeaten

Florida Football Insiders

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Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Who:  Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)

Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens

When: Sunday 1 p.m.

Spread: Dolphins by 3 (Courtesy Vegasinsider.com)

Miami has opened by winning the first two games for the first time since 2013 and now has a golden opportunity to get to 3 – 0 today. Here’s what we’re watching

Progression of Ryan Tannehill

Coming off a solid start by spreading the ball around to numerous receivers, Ryan Tannehill will look to keep it up. The Raiders defense is obviously reeling after the trading of Khalil Mack on the eve of the season, and Tannehill may be able to take advantage of the Oakland secondary.

Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson as the deep threats could do significant damage later today. Look for coach Adam Gase and coordinator Dowell Loggains to test them early.

Does Derek Carr follow up last week’s performance?

Oakland’s 5th Year quarterback was tremendous for much of the Denver game a week ago, completing 23 of his first 24 passes. With the Raiders getting acclimated to Jon Gruden’s new offense and terminology, it’s still obvious they want to get the ball out of Carr’s hand quickly with short throws.

Another part of Oakland’s offensive success is the early running of Marshawn Lynch, who is questionable for this game with an injured shoulder. They would like to set up play action with Lynch or backup running back Jalen Richard. If Miami can stuff the run, it will help greatly in stopping the Raiders attack.

Dolphins defense continues its optimistic play?

Whether it was surviving the two lengthy weather delays two weeks ago against the Titans with key sacks and takeaways, or last week in New York with frustrating rookie quarterback Sam Darnold, Miami has been able to make plays at times.

That needs to continue on Sunday. Safety Reshad Jones will be a game-time decision with his injured shoulder and that could affect their defensive scheme for coordinator Matt Burke.

If Miami’s pass rushers, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Charles Harris, Etc can get to Carr it will make life easier at Hard Rock Stadium.

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Miami Dolphins

Jon Gruden’s returns to Florida already in coaching turmoil

Florida Football Insiders

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It may be premature to say that the “second honeymoon” for Jon Gruden with the Oakland Raiders is already over, but another defeat Sunday, and it likely is.

The Raiders are clearly struggling after dropping their second straight game last week in heartbreaking fashion against the Broncos in Denver. Oakland controlled most of the game and Derek Carr was outstanding, completing 23 of his first 24 passes on the day.

However, in the end Case Keenum rallied the Broncos and when Brandon McManus’ last-second field goal went through, the smirking critics of “Chucky” were already “sticking their chests out” about his NFL return.

Without question, some of this is self-inflicted, as Gruden clearly did not want to pay and therefore keep, linebacker Khalil Mack for the Raiders. And yes, they got a bounty of draft picks in return, but Mack has been nothing short of sensational as a pass rusher in two games in Chicago, and the Raiders defense is again mediocre-at-best.

So, that brings us to Sunday. And even though Gruden has been living in the Tampa Bay area while doing Monday Night Football for ESPN, this is the first time that he’s back coaching a game in the state since the final regular-season game of 2008. That day, ironically his Buccaneers lost to the Raiders completing a four-game losing collapse and costing his team a playoff spot-ultimately Gruden his job with the Bucs.

Now, the Raiders have come all the way East to Miami to play the 2 – 0 Dolphins. And while Gruden is in absolutely no jeopardy of losing his job, at least not until year 3 or 4 if it’s not working, owner Mark Davis didn’t make this shockwave multimillion-dollar hire to have the Raiders be one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Clearly, there was going to be some learning curve for Gruden with his new staff and new players. However, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback like Carr the belief was the Raiders would be solid, if not a wild card playoff contender.

It hasn’t shaped up that way as of yet.

The good news for Raider fans is: no one is going to outwork Gruden at trying to get it right.

The bad news is: the Raiders may not have enough overall talent to overcome that above-mentioned learning curve and digging themselves an 0-3 hole start 2018.

And the Fins, may be about to deal “Raider Nation” their latest lost Sunday.

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