Barry Jackson

Dolphins mull running back personnel issue; Dolphins nuggets

New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams (92) and teammates take down Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) in the fourth quarter as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, September 24, 2017.
New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams (92) and teammates take down Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) in the fourth quarter as the New York Jets host the Miami Dolphins at Met Life Stadium on Sunday, September 24, 2017. adiaz@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Friday:

• One personnel decision that will require thought throughout the season is how much to play running back Jay Ajayi on third downs as opposed to his backups, Damien Williams or Kenyan Drake.

Ajayi played on third downs in the opener against the Chargers but didn’t, for the most part, against the Jets.

Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen on Thursday sounded inclined to work Williams and Drake in the game on third downs.

“Jay is our horse. That’s a good time to rest him because we have two guys that can really catch the ball and make big plays catching the ball,” Christensen said. “Jay can also, but third down, especially later in that [Jets] game, especially with Jay nursing the knee and soreness and stuff, it was a good chance for us to get those other guys in.”

Christensen said schematic factors work into the decision of who to use on third downs.

“A lot of it depends on if it’s a zone game, if it’s a man game, the matchups,” he said. “We want to play them all on third down. Our intention is to put Damien and Kenyan in the game on some of those third-down passing yards, two-minute (offense), and that’s two-fold because they are good players and they make some big plays and they’re natural receivers, and it gives us a chance to breathe Jay.

“Hopefully you’re still running the ball in the fourth quarter, which wasn’t the case; but, you’re still running the ball and it’s still a game in the balance where you can stay balanced and you want Jay fresh on that first and second down.”

Ajayi clearly has improved as a receiver out of the backfield. But Drake and Williams are also skilled at doing that.

• We wrote Wednesday about the challenges Adam Gase faces in giving Drake or Jakeem Grant a bigger role on offense. He explained it this way.

Here’s one way he could use Drake more: By using Drake and Ajayi in the game at the same time and putting one in the slot. Drake said Gase did that several times last season but not so far this season.

“That poses the threat of run or pass,” Drake said.

• Grant, while not complaining in the least, is eager for a chance. He has had four snaps on offense.

He said he would never encourage coaches to put him in the game because “that’s selfish.”

Grant said if he is given the chance, “I will give them what I had in preseason” – which was high-level production.

• One Dolphins player said he never saw Gase angrier about the offense than he was this week, especially about mental errors.

But tight end Julius Thomas, who worked with Gase in Denver, said he saw Gase similarly angry even when Peyton Manning and the Broncos were putting up big offensive numbers.

“We scored 35 points and he would come in saying we left two [bleeping] touchdowns on the board,” Julius said, smiling. “He would come in screaming.”

Said Thomas: “He's fiery. Offense is his passion. I know for him having an efficient, successful amazing offense is highly important. He's building that and doing everything he can to get us there.”

• Last year, Jarvis Landry fielded punts near the Dolphins goal line, when the Dolphins were expecting a punt that would pin Miami back. But last week, Jakeem Grant did. So has Miami changed its approach with that?

“It continues to be a situational thing,” special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi said. “There was going to be a couple of times where had they punted, Jarvis would have been up there as well; but we’re going to continue to rotate those guys. Jarvis had been in the week before on the one that we got a hand on – the one Senorise (Perry) got a hand on.”

FYI: Through two games, Rizzi said the Dolphins’ best player on punt coverage has been Michael Thomas. On kickoff coverage, Drake, Perry, and Thomas.

And Rizzi praised Bobby McCain for making an impact on opponent’s field goals each of the past two weeks.

“It’s definitely a knack you have to have,” Rizzi said of McCain coming off the edge. “Bobby’s really worked at that and we have a technique we call the drive-and-crank – not to get too technical on you – and he’s really become really good at that and he enjoys doing it. It’s a thing that he’s really been accountable for and he’s really accepted that role. I really like the way he’s been playing on that.”

• The Dolphins’ TV ratings so far aren’t very impressive. The Jets game produced a 13.8 rating in Miami-Fort Lauderdale, which is good in the context of all programming but not good in the context of what an NFL market should generate for a road game against a rival team. That’s equal to 13.8 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with TV sets.

Nielsen didn’t produce a rating for the Dolphins-Chargers opener because of the effects of the Hurricane Irma.

If you have any interest in the Florida Panthers, please click here for my Friday morning post with Panthers fodder, including Roberto Luongo opening up on a few issues.

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