The Miami Dolphins believed they were set at running back until this morning.
They figured Jay Ajayi was going to be the bell cow back and they’d get the football in his hands 400 or so times this year while Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams provided some outstanding depth as youngsters who are change-of-pace guys and pass-catchers out of the backfield.
But I told you in May that wasn’t going to be good enough in piecing together a team. I told you the Dolphins needed a backup plan in case Ajayi was injured -- even if it was a minor injury. I told you the team needs an experienced, solid (not great necessarily but good enough to get by) answer in case Ajayi couldn’t answer the bell every single game.
And all I heard from YOU and, more importantly, from the Dolphins, was that Drake and Williams would be the next man up if that ever happened. And that, I was told, was good enough.
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Well, it happened Monday. Ajayi is being evaluated for a concussion and so the team could be working an indefinite number of practices after Tuesday’s off day without their starting running back. That’s not a big deal now.
“Jay will be back sooner rather than later,” Drake predicted.
But this is important:
If further tests confirm Ajayi has a concussion that’s one for this season in only one practice in which there was tackling. What’s going to happen the next 400 carries?
The point is the Dolphins cannot and should not count on Ajayi being healthy. Hoping for good luck is not a strategy. They should actually take steps in case the exact opposite is true.
They should today be looking for a viable back with experience and talent who can carry the load if Ajayi cannot.
I am told the Dolphins are indeed looking around for that viable RB now.
The problem is there aren’t many and perhaps any such players available now.
I mean, 48,000-year-old DeAngelo Williams is available but he’s not the answer in a perfect world. Unfortunately, waiting until the last day of July to sign a player has made this an imperfect situation.
And in this imperfect situation, a player who has a list of three or four teams he’d play for, as Williams supposedly has, and being a 3.5-yard-per-carry guy a year ago makes Williams about as good as anyone available. That’s bad, I know, but that’s what’s out there.
I’m certain now -- CERTAIN -- that barring one of their backup running backs beyond Drake and Williams going absolutely bonkers in the preseason, you’ll see Miami looking for a viable Ajayi backup on the waiver wire. It makes sense.
Ajayi is the most important player on this team because right now the gap between him and the next man up is a gulf that cannot be bridged it’s so vast. So the Dolphins have work to do before the start of the regular season to try to find an answer to make the gulf less daunting.
The Dolphins have to find a Jay Ajayi backup that can been the bell cow back if Ajayi cannot.
And now some notes from today:
...Offensive tackle Branden Albert, traded from Miami to Jacksonville in the offseason for a 2018 seventh-round draft pick, retired on Monday. The Dolphins now forfeit the pick.
...Julius Thomas, who not done a whole lot in practice the first four days of training camp, caught a nice TD pass from Ryan Tannehill on Monday.
...Coach Adam Gase said the team will Tuesday make a decision on the status of safety Reshad Jones. Jones is on the non-football injury list because he strained a calf while training on his own prior to training camp.
...Wide receiver Jarvis Landry left practice for a few series Monday and then returned but was held out of team drills the rest practice. Coach Adam Gase noted the practice got a little chippy and he didn’t want Landry in the mix. He’ll be practicing Wednesday. Drew Morgan and Leonte Carroo got first-team reps while Landry was out.
...Bobby McCain, who left practice Sunday with a knee injury, returned to practice -- sort of. He did not participate in team drills. Michael Thomas took all the first-team slot corner repetitions as he did the day before after McCain went out. McCain worked lightly in individual drills.
...The first day of tackling included a couple of minor skirmishes and some tempers flaring. I have absolutely zero problem with this. Football is an emotional sport. So a team should show some of that emotion in practice.