Running back snap counts are something to watch moving forward

As we enter the latter half of the 2016 NFL season we must begin to watch each running backs’ snap counts if the Miami Dolphins want to stay healthy.

As we all know head coach Adam Gase and the Dolphins gelled at the perfect time.  Sitting at 1-4 the season looked all but lost and we were all throwing in the towel.

That’s the time the offensive line came together to form the original starting five we needed.  And that’s the time Ajayi was ready to take the league by storm.

Heading into the week six matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ajayi had a combined 31 carries and caught six passes.  To break it down, he touched the ball nine times in week two, seven in week three, six in week four, and 13 in week five.

Since then he’s obviously seen his workload increase immensely; 26 touches in week six, 29 in week seven, 27 in week nine, and 20 last week.

Not long ago coaches and analysts didn’t strictly monitor running back snap counts.  Fast forward to this day in age the cardinal rule is coaches don’t want their starting running back to touch the ball more than 20 times a game in fear of wearing them down by seasons end.

To put it frankly, Ajayi is the reason for our 5-4 record.  We can applaud the offensive line, we can give a pat on quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s back for not turning the ball over, we can even consider a weak secondary coming up big when they needed to.  All-in-all, Ajayi is the guy we’ll all thank if the Dolphins somehow make it into the postseason.

Ajayi is also the guy Miami needs healthy down the stretch for the playoffs to be remotely fathomable.

The running game is the key for Miami’s success during the current four-game win streak.  But Gase must look at the other running backs to take the stress off of Ajayi before anyone gets ahead of themselves.

Next man up is Damien Williams.  Now in his third season, Williams is proving to be a multi-dimensional weapon that Miami needs out of the backfield.  Not only is he set to surpass his rushing totals from the previous two seasons his 12/155/2 stat line through the air proves to defenses that he’s not subbing in for Ajayi just to run the ball.

The most Williams has touched the ball in a single game this year is eight, coming back in week six.  This past week he had his number called only three times but converted on two touchdowns both on the ground and in the air.

Behind Williams we have the week nine hero, Kenyan Drake.  Although he wasn’t the cause for celebration on the offensive side of the ball he’s proven to be a playmaker in South Florida.

If you’re looking for production when someone’s on the field, he’s the guy.  On just 16 carries Drake has 77 yards, culminating 8.6 ypc.  A nine yard carry on Sunday was his first since week five.

The injury concerns for Ajayi are always in the back of our heads.  With seven games remaining before the end of the season, can he really be productive touching the ball 25+ times a game?

I’ll go ahead and answer that: no.  Ajayi is currently averaging 25.5 touches a game.  That’s too much in today’s NFL.

Right now Miami is dead last in snaps per game through week 10 sitting at a dismal 56.9 per game (the Arizona Cardinals lead the league with 71.1 snaps per game).  If everything goes as planned that’s at about 27 passes and 30 runs each week.  Gase can afford splitting the snap count amongst the backs 18/6/6 moving forward.

The healthiest team succeeds in the playoffs.  Feel free to make the argument that Miami needs to utilize their best weapon to get there but nobody is looking for a participation trophy.

We’re all looking for the Lombardi Trophy.

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