Coach Adam Gase has had to fight his own impulses during Miami’s three-game winning streak.
Just ask Clyde Christensen. The Dolphins’ offensive coordinator joked recently that Gase gets a “rash” if he calls too many run plays.
(To which Gase fired back in jest Monday, “Clyde might not be speaking anymore.”)
Behind every joke, there’s a kernel of truth.
And the truth is, Gase has had to change the way he calls games. Jay Ajayi’s out-of-nowhere ascent has forced him to do so.
Just check the numbers. In the Dolphins’ first four games, they threw the ball or Ryan Tannehill was sacked on 67 percent of their offensive snaps. In their past four, the Dolphins have run on 53 percent of their plays from scrimmage.
Part of this is a function of the Dolphins playing from behind for much of those first four, and vice versa in the past four.
But it’s also a reflection of Gase committing — and sticking — to a ground attack.
Expect more of the same during the Dolphins’ West Coast trip, beginning Sunday in San Diego.
During one of his first meetings of the week, Gase reminded his coaching staff again: “Don’t let me go away from Jay. And don’t allow me to start getting in that rhythm of just throwing the ball.”
Gase explained why: “Jay is so effective, he’s a guy that runs very angry, and when you do that for four quarters, eventually the other teams going to break because he’s a big back that runs hard and he runs through contact.”
That was the case Sunday against the Jets, when Ajayi had nearly half of his game-high 111 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
“I think that you have to respect that,” Ajayi said of topping 100 yards against what was the league’s No. 1 rush defense (the Jets are now fourth). “I think we had a good day on the ground and we were able to do a lot of good things on offense.”
Particularly since the Jets were all-in on keeping Ajayi from making history. He entered the Sunday with a chance to become the first player in NFL history to run for 200 yards in three consecutive games. But the Jets sold out to make sure it didn’t happen.
The physical edge was set on the first drive; the Jets were stacking the line and talking trash. Ajayi is no shrinking violet; he acknowledged he gave as good as he got.
“Throughout the week, Coach Gase kind of made it clear that we are going against the No. 1 rush defense, [but] at the same time though, it’s going to be a four-quarter game,” Ajayi said. “He’s still going to trust the running game and allow us to still get in a rhythm because he told us it might not be how it’s been with the 200-yard games, where we’re having a lot of good runs early and we’ll just have to fight and just kind of chip away, and it became that kind of game [Sunday]. And we were able to do that.”
Expect more of the same Sunday in Southern California.
The Chargers’ run defense ranks fifth in yards per game (85.3) and eighth in yards per carry (3.8). There’s no secret why: San Diego has good players.
Rookie defensive end Joey Bosa, out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, has been a stud (four sacks, six tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits in four games), Brandon Mebane grades out as the league’s No. 14 defensive tackle according to Pro Football Focus, and ex-Miami Hurricane Denzel Perryman has been solid.
They will challenge a Dolphins offensive line that now has to be considered one of the league’s best — and one that still has room to improve.
“We feel like we could’ve done better [against the Jets],” left tackle Branden Albert said. “But for the most part, for us to do what we’ve been doing is gratifying. We felt like we left a lot out there [Sunday]. We could’ve done better, but we’ll keep improving and keep going.”