Unhappy with their lead running back for multiple reasons, the Dolphins on Tuesday morning traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia for a 2018 fourth round draft pick..
The trade, made hours before the NFL’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, leaves Miami without a clear-cut lead running back.
Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams and special teams player Sinorise Perry are the only running backs remaining on the roster. Drake, who has big-play ability because of his speed, is expected to get an extended look.
Selected in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft, Ajayi was one of the NFL’s most pleasant surprises last season, putting together back to back 200 yard rushing games and finishing fourth in the league in yards rushing (1272) and seventh in average (4.9).
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But this season, his 465 yards rank 13th in the league and his per carry average had plunged to 3.4, which is 43rd of 49 backs.
ESPN’s Kc Joyner, who studies every play, said Ajayi is for the most part maximizing available yardage. He said the Dolphins are blocking successfully on running plays just 31.1 percent of the time, which is worst in the league.
According to Joyner, Ajayi has an 8.1 average when he has good blocking, better than the 7.8 league average, and had a 1.3 average on bad blocking, barely below the 1.4 league average.
He has gained all but 83 of his rushing yards after contact. His 382 rushing yards after being hit by an initial tackler are fourth-most in the league.
What’s more, since the start of last season, he forced defenders to miss 81 tackles, which led all NFL backs during that time, according to Pro Football Focus.
But coach Adam Gase didn’t see it that way. In a comment made about all the running backs but clearly directed at Ajayi primarily, Gase said he believes his backs need to stop “trying to hit home runs” and take “the four or five yards you’re going to get.”
Gase also said his backs are unprepared in pass protection and don’t even know who to block.
Ajayi was among the players that Gase had in mind when the coach called out players last week for not studying enough on their own time, according to a source.
This isn’t the first time Gase was unhappy with Ajayi. He left him home for the opener against Seattle last season because Ajayi didn’t react maturely, in Gase’s eyes, to news that he wouldn’t start. And Gase was happy with Ajayi’s attitude in recent weeks, according to a source.
With Ajayi gone, the remaining running backs on Miami's roster have only 142 career carries.
Williams has 99 career carries for 328 yards, including just 12 for 32 this season. He has a 3.3 career rushing average.
Drake has run 43 times for 204 yards in his career, a 4.7 average. This season, he has just 10 carries for 25 yards, a 2.5 average.
Perry has never had a rushing attempt in his brief NFL career.
The Dolphins made no other trades but did make three other roster moves, activating receiver Rashawn Scott off the physically unable to perform list and placing guard Anthony Steen and safety Nate Allen on injured reserve, ending their seasons.
Those moves, coupled with the Ajayi trade, leave Miami with two spots open on the 53-man roster.
Scott had missed the first seven games because of a broken foot sustained in June. Valued for his special teams work, Scott was active late last season, including for Miami’s playoff game in Pittsburgh.
Steen, who started six games at left guard, had foot surgery. Jesse Davis started at left guard against Baltimore, and Ted Larsen - now eligible to come off injured reserve - is expected to be starting at left guard by mid November.
Allen will miss the remainder of the season with a calf injury.
Michael Thomas likely will start at safety opposite Reshad Jones on Sunday against Oakland, but T.J. McDonald probably will assume that role at some point this season. McDonald is eligible for come off NFL suspension for the Nov. 13 game against Carolina.