Adam Gase is on record: He wants to get Jay Ajayi 22 to 25 carries per game in 2016 — which comes out to 350 on the year, if he stays healthy.
Forgive us if we think Ajayi doesn’t come close to that total.
It’s not that Ajayi can’t handle the workload. He had nearly that many rushing attempts in two fewer games his last year at Boise State.
Rather, it’s simply a matter of math. There probably won’t be enough snaps to do it, because the two backs behind Ajayi on the depth chart will make it tough for Gase to ignore them completely.
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The Dolphins thought so much of Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake, they didn’t sign a veteran or draft a college kid to push them.
Williams and Drake combined for 589 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns on 80 offensive touches last year. And considering the Dolphins gave Williams a huge raise this offseason, you can expect that usage rate to rise.
Here’s an idea of why, thanks to Dolphins blogger Max Himmelrich.
NFL season: Fourth.
2016 stats: 35 carries/115 yards/3.3/3 touchdowns; 23 catches/249 yards/3 touchdowns.
2017 salary: $1.8 million.
NFL season: Second.
2016 stats: 33 carries/179 yards/5.4/2 touchdowns; 9 catches/46 yards/0 touchdowns.
2017 salary: $595,000.
While Jay Ajayi is clearly the most well-rounded back on the Dolphins' roster, and therefore the rightful owner of the depth chart's top position, the team will be able to turn to the members of its backfield for help in 2017.
Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams are two incredibly different players, but they both bring the same asset to the table: versatility. Last season, Adam Gase lined Williams up all over the field, bringing him into the fold as a FB in short yardage and a weapon out wide when defenses showed vulnerability. Drake's skills alone, including collegiate experience catching passes at Alabama, will end up being enough to get him onto the field in 2017.
In 2016, one of Adam Gase's best wrinkles on offense was getting Williams involved as a fullback. The Dolphins' offensive guru also called passes for Williams out of the same type of set.
Given the fact that defenders have seen these various implementations on tape, it's incredibly difficult to predict how Williams will be used on any given play.
Gase's desire to create confusion through the versatility of his RBs didn't stop with creativity in the backfield -- he continued his efforts by involving them out with receivers.
Had Matt Moore placed the ball in an easier location on the play above, Gase's call would've netted his team a huge first down in a tight game. Calling that type of play for a RB given the situation shows how confident Gase is in his current group of playmakers.
However, with an accurate pass, it's easy to see how effective plays can be when using RBs to create mismatches against slower players in coverage.
While the Dolphins know what they're getting in Williams, Drake will be more of an X-factor entering 2017. It was clear based on Drake's limited usage at Alabama that he would be a project in terms of pro development, but I was impressed by some flashes of ability that the rookie showed last year.
If Drake can harness his immense physical ability, and build on the glimpses of refined RB play we saw in 2016, the Dolphins' coaching staff will have another dangerous weapon on their hands.
The moral of the story is this: Gase has a clear desire to implement his RBs all over the field, and he has two backups with the versatility to get the job done. Williams and Drake each possess the ability to make plays from their traditional positions, or do so outside and in the passing game.
Gase's time in Denver showed him the value of quantity when building an arsenal of offensive weapons. With Drake and Williams in position to grow into bigger roles behind Ajayi (on a team that also has an abundance of wide receivers), Gase could have plenty of fun drawing up plays for his squad heading into his second season at the helm in South Florida.