Armando Salguero

PFF Week 8 Dolphins grades: Jay Ajayi, Cameron Wake rock; Parker, Williams go the other direction

We all know that Adam Gase got hired as the Miami Dolphins head coach primarily because of his reputation as a quarterback mechanic or QB whisperer or QB guru or ... well, you get it.

Adam Gase has been about making quarterbacks look good or better than they have in the past for some time.

So the Dolphins hired him to give Ryan Tannehill the treatment. The thing is, to be a QB whisperer you have to throw the football. And Adam Gase loves to throw the football. And the NFL encourages teams to throw the football.

Except the Miami Dolphins have emerged as a downhill running 1970s throwback kind of running team, as I am going to keep reminding everyone. And as Gase himself requires reminding.

“The one thing, and I reminded our [offensive coaches] today, ‘Don’t let me go away from Jay (Ajayi). And don’t allow me to start getting in that rhythm of just throwing the ball,’ “ Gase said Monday.

Why?

“The reason why is, why Jay is so effective is, he’s a guy that runs very angry, and when you do that for four quarters, eventually the other team’s going to break because he’s a big back that runs hard and he runs through contact,” Gase said. “You saw the other night, in that last three minutes of the game, all of a sudden a couple of arm tackles, he runs through them and it’s 20 yards. So the key for us is it’s really the attempts, staying with it, finding that rhythm, and if it happens early, great. Because that means it’s going to be a long day for the other team. If it doesn’t, just stay with it because eventually it’s going to work out for us.”

Gase is obviously going off tape and live action, and the anecdotal evidence both have provided. The analytical evidence is provided by my friends at ProFootballFocus.com in our weekly Tuesday film review of the most recent game.

Consider:

Against the New York Jets on Sunday Ajayi proved the previous two games were no fluke by going over 100 yards against the league's No. 1-ranked run defense. Of his 111 yards on 24 carries (4.6 avg.), he gained 55 yards after contact and also scored a touchdown and forced three missed tackles.

So, yes, Ajayi is running through arm tackles. He’s making people miss. He’s getting stuff done on his own and the more you stick with him, the more that is likely to happen because the defense tires later in the game.

Ajayi now has 332 yards after contact in his last three games. That’s a majority of the 525 total yards he’s gained in his last three games. And that is by far the most for any running back in a three-game span this season, per PFF.

So the Dolphins must not -- cannot -- go away from Ajayi because he makes people miss and the Dolphins believe he does so much more later in the game

Other grades from Sunday’s game:

QB Ryan Tannehill has become more of a game-manager in recent weeks for the run-first new look Dolphins' offense and Sunday against the Jets was more of the same. He needed only 149 yards (17-of-28) with one TD pass with no turnovers to get the job done against the Jets.

As has been the norm Tannehill’s entire career and especially this season, he struggled facing pressure. In 11 dropbacks against pressure he was only 5-of-10 for 40 yards and 0 touchdowns.

But he got the job done facing no pressure. He had 18 drop-backs where he suffered no pressure and in those he was 12-of-18 for 109 yards and one touchdown.

Center Mike Pouncey, who has been great since returning from his early-season hip injury, had his worst game of the season against the Jets' strong defensive line in the pass game. He allowed four QB pressures and a sack. He was ranked 23rd of 26 centers who played Sunday afternoon, including the worst in pass blocking grade.

With that said, Pouncey had another strong showing in run blocking, paving the way for Ajay. Pouncey ranked fourth amongst centers in run-blocking.

WR Jarvis Landry continues to see his role in the offense diminish in the new run-first approach. He had only three receptions on six targets. The three catches tied a season low. After ranking fifth in the league in targets and second in catches through the first four weeks of the season, Landry only has 23 targets and 18 catches the last four games.

WR DeVante Parker had a tough October, catching only 10 passes, and he didn’t exactly get rolling to start November. He was targeted only three times and had two receptions for 8 yards.

On the season, he has seen 37 targets and 25 catches. For perspective, please consider that Parker had 13 of his 37 targets and eight of his 25 receptions his first game of the season in Week Two at New England. So in the last six games, Parker is averaging 2.8 catches per game.

Parker has now had 28 or fewer receiving yards in four of his seven games this season. And, yes, Parker has been fighting with that nagging hamstring injury that apparently allows him to suit up but also doesn’t fully allow him to be explosive. That needs to be said.

But everyone expecting the big second-year jump in productivity seen from so many NFL players have not yet seen it from Parker.

On defense ...

Cameron Wake continues to play at a Pro Bowl level in the Dolphins' new wide-nine defensive scheme. He recorded two sacks and two forced fumbles against New Jersey (zinger just for fun) and graded out as the top 4-3 defensive end for Week Nine. For the season, PFF ranks Wake third at his respective position, despite playing 162 fewer snaps than Eagles' top ranked DE Brandon Graham.

(Honestly, which of you have been reading me so long that you remember me loving Brandon Graham coming out of the draft back in the day? Probably the same ones who said I was wrong about that guy.)

DT Ndamukong Suh was dominant against the undermatched Jets' offensive line that was missing two starters. He recorded one sack, three QB hurries and four stops on the afternoon. For the season, PFF ranks Suh as the third-best DT/NT, trailing only Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox.

Suh ranks in the top five in QB hurries, stops, sacks, and overall tackles. He has been much more effective versus the run this year as opposed to rushing the passer, which is something that he's done only one other year in his career.

DE Andre Branch, working to get a big payday for 2017, continues to play well in his new role as a starter on the defensive line. He was the second-highest graded 4-3 DE in Week Nine (trailing only teammate Cameron Wake) and was tied for the lead with five QB hurries.

Branch now has 10 QB hurries the last two weeks after combining for five the previous six games to begin the season.

CB Byron Maxwell was once again the lowest-graded player in the Dolphins' secondary. After going back and forth with WR Brandon Marshall in the media earlier in the week, Marshall was able to grab 4 of 6 targets for 31 yards against Maxwell, while also drawing one penalty on the afternoon. Marshall was open a number of times, including for a TD, but Crazy Arm Fitzpatrick missed him time and again.

Maxwell, who played all 58 snaps, only had two coverage snaps against a WR other than Marshall. That came against Robby Anderson for both.

DE Mario Williams continues to play in a minimal role for the defensive line unit. He played only 19 of 58 snaps against the Jets and has not played more than 32 snaps since Week Five against Tennessee. In Weeks 1-5, Williams did not play fewer than 46 snaps but as long as Andre Branch continues to produce with the starting unit this is likely to continue.

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