You can duck history.
Or you can embrace it.
Mike Pouncey doesn’t duck anyone or anything.
He wants to be part of the offensive line that blocks for the first NFL player to rush for 200 yards in three consecutive games.
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“Of course, man,” the Dolphins center said Wednesday. “We’re trying to be a part of the history books.”
Granted, Jay Ajayi’s name would be the one inscribed in that book, but Pouncey and his fellow four fellow linemen might as well hold the pen.
Because they’ve had as much to do with Ajayi’s overnight rise to stardom as anyone.
Ajayi is back, refreshed and eager to play after the Dolphins’ bye week. The last time he took the field, he ran for 214 yards on 28 carries against the Bills. And that came just a week after he torched the Steelers for 214 on 25.
And although three other backs in league history have cracked 200 in consecutive weeks, none have ever gone back-to-back-to-back.
“To have that for ourselves, the O-line, myself included, I think it would be a great accomplishment,” Ajayi said. “At the same time, that’s not our main priority and focus. We want to win the game. We know that as the running game goes, so does our offense.”
The thing is, the Jets say the same about their run defense, which has been consistently excellent all season. The Jets rank first in rushing yards per game allowed (74.0) and first in opponents’ yards per carry (3.3).
New York’s front seven is so stacked, the Jets, in Pouncey’s words, were “trying to trade guys they can’t pay.”
That’s in reference to defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, whom New York reportedly tried to move before the trade deadline. Standouts Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams are also on the Jets’ roster.
“They play the run really well,” Pouncey said. “They put a lot of guys in the box. But we’re not going to shy away from it.”
Here’s why: the Dolphins have as much confidence in their offensive line as the Jets do to their defensive.
Once Pouncey, Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil started playing together, it changed Miami’s season. Just three weeks ago, the Dolphins were one of the worst running teams in the league, averaging just 72.4 yards per game. Now they rank in the top 10 with 120.
Here’s an even more telling stat: Miami ranks second in yards per attempt (5.0). That means the Dolphins average a first down every two times they carry it.
Coach Adam Gase tailors his offense based on the week’s matchups, and so logic suggests the Dolphins might run less this game than in the previous two. But he also might not want to mess with what has turned around a season that once looked lost. Gase reiterated Wednesday that the Dolphins will “do what’s best for that game.”
“Obviously, we feel pretty good about what we’ve got going on with the chemistry our offense right now,” he said. “This is going to be a very challenging game for us, as far as being able to run the ball. … There will not be an easy yard to be had against these guys.”
Ajayi spent his bye weekend in New York, and even there a few people noticed him. His national profile has skyrocketed, and a once-absurd prospect has now become not-so-far-fetched: Ajayi winning the NFL rushing title.
He ranks 10th with 535 yards despite having 75 fewer carries than Ezekiel Elliott, whose 799 yards lead the league.
“I don’t even know how close I am to doing that but it’ll be something cool to strive for as the season’s getting close to ending,” Ajayi said. “I know in the NFL it’s hard to get 100 yards. So for us to have done back-to-back 200-yard games is a credit to the hard work we have put in, the O-line, receivers, everyone including myself. And so if it does happen again, that’s going to be an amazing thing, an incredible thing.”