We are basically two months into the 2017 fiscal year for the National Football League. It’s safe to say we have seen plenty of player movement via free agency and trades. And in late April, a total of 253 players were selected in the NFL draft. So as teams get ready for mini-camps and OTAs, we figured it was a good time to have some fun looking (and learning) at the significant numbers – both in regards to the past and the present – for each of the 32 franchises. You can play catch-up by clicking here. Now it’s time to check out the Miami Dolphins.
Following a 1-4 start, the Miami Dolphins opted to give second-year running back Jay Ajayi a much bigger role. And it’s safe to say he got on a roll. By season’s end, the 2015 fifth-round pick totaled 260 carries for 1,272 yards and eight scores. And he got early half of that by posting three performances of 200-plus yards on the ground, once against the Pittsburgh Steelers and twice against the Buffalo Bills. New head coach Adam Gase’s decision to be run-heavy after the team’s early struggles resulted in the Dolphins’ finishing ninth in the NFL in rushing yards per game. And it also led to a 10-6 record (9-2 in final 11 games) and a long-awaited playoff berth.
It’s really quite amazing when you think about. The San Francisco 49ers were dead last in the league against the run and finished 2-14. The Cleveland Browns were the second-worst defense in this category and won only one game. But it was the Dolphins that were 30th in the NFL in this key statistic, one that would catch up with them eventually in the playoffs at Pittsburgh. The defense needs more contributions from defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Phillips, as well as pass-rushing end Cameron Wake. The deficiencies against the run were also big reasons the ‘Fins added linebacker Lawrence Timmons (Steelers) via free agency.
The one aspect of the Miami Dolphins’ defense that did improve was the team’s ability to force opponents into costly mistakes. One season after totaling a mere 16 takeaways, the club upped that total by nine. And while 25 takeaways is hardly an awe-inspiring, it’s worth noting that 21 of those enemy miscues came during the team’s 9-2 finish. Still, this remains an area that the team needs to get noticeably better at. The last time the ‘Fins totaled at least 30 takeaways in a season was 2008 – the last time the franchise won the AFC East.