The emergence of Jay Ajayi in 2016 made the running game a sudden strength for the Dolphins’ offense. The team’s coach expects more of the same in 2017 from the team’s tailbacks.
“I think it’s a very, very tight group,” Adam Gase told reporters on Monday. “That whole group, they’re happy for each other’s success. If one guy is not on the field, you never see a guy standing by himself upset he’s not in the game. They are always kind of in it for each other. It’s pretty cool to watch over this last year then heading into the spring, how much they pull for each other.”
It wasn’t that way in 2016. At least not at first.
“I think we’ve started something good last year with our running game,” Gase said. “Jay has really done a great job of taking the lead with that group and becoming really our bell cow running back. Those other guys are all trying to figure out ‘Where do I fit in best for us?’ They’re all ready to go if something would happen and they had to be the next guy. I really like that group and love the way they’re working right now.”
Last year, Arian Foster arrived in the middle of July and became the starter. Ajayi wasn’t happy about it, and Gase decided to leave him in Florida for a Week One game at Seattle. Eventually, Gase got through to Ajayi — and eventually got the most out of him. (Foster eventually surrendered, retiring after Ajayi became the go-to guy.)
The experience sends a strong message to all players on the team: If you don’t like your role, bust your butt and show your stuff and maybe you’ll get a bigger job.
“Every guy in that room knows the best players will play and nothing will be given to anybody,” Gase said Monday.
It’s the latest example of his effort to remove the sense of entitlement from the locker room. Instead, it’s a top-to-bottom meritocracy in Miami, with no sacred cows or saved seats.