Jasen Vinlove / USA TODAY Sports activities

The Miami Dolphins have been solely ever going so far as Jay Ajayi might carry them in 2017, even earlier than the franchise was rocked by Ryan Tannehill‘s knee damage Thursday.

The Dolphins reportedly worry Tannehill wants season-ending surgical procedure, although no choice has been made, and he might try and relaxation the damage as an alternative.

However no matter path the Dolphins and Tannehill take, the pivot is all however sure to overlook the beginning of the common season, which is lower than 5 weeks away. Meaning Ajayi has no margin for error.

Miami desperately wants its beginning operating again to hit the bottom operating – from the primary second of the common season – if the group is to have any probability of creating the playoffs. Now, greater than ever.

Associated: 5 choices for Dolphins if Tannehill misses time with damage

Ajayi’s breakout season was one of many largest – and most shocking – storylines of 2016. As a 23-yr-previous, he did not even start the yr because the starter; actually, he was left behind in Week 1 by head coach Adam Gase on account of how he dealt with the group making Arian Foster the No. 1 again over him.

However Foster handled accidents and retired at midseason, and Ajayi took full benefit of his newfound alternative. He turned simply the fourth participant within the Tremendous Bowl period to publish again-to-again 200-yard video games in Weeks 5 and 6, and in addition produced a 3rd 200-yard efficiency later within the season.

In these video games, Ajayi’s sky-excessive potential was on full show. However whereas the operating again recorded 1,200 dashing yards throughout 12 begins, he was additionally wildly inconsistent.

In case you take away his three 200-yard performances, Ajayi’s per-recreation dashing common for 2016 drops to sixty three yards – nowhere close to the type of manufacturing anticipated from a lead again with no actual menace to his touches.

Now, a number of the blame needs to be positioned on the Dolphins’ offensive line, which was ravaged by accidents, and consequently was unable to open up holes for Ajayi like earlier within the yr.

And when Ajayi will get holes, nice issues occur.

Throughout this fifty three-yard achieve towards the Buffalo Payments, Ajayi took a fast peek on the hole between the appropriate guard and the appropriate deal with earlier than appropriately bouncing outdoors. The third-yr professional’s agility is clear, as he first made a fast minimize to beat a defender within the gap after which shimmied his method by means of two Payments on the second degree, completely timing a stiff arm earlier than bursting downfield for an enormous achieve.

Velocity. Quickness. Stability. Toughness. Imaginative and prescient.

Ajayi has all of it.

Even when the offensive line allowed penetration – and it occurred with growing frequency – Ajayi confirmed he is among the many league’s uncommon breed of backs who could make one thing out of nothing:

However for each play Ajayi made regardless of his blocking, there was one other when he was unable to conjure up magic:

The well being of middle Mike Pouncey, the Dolphins’ greatest offensive lineman and premier run-blocker, is significant to Ajayi’s success. That does not imply Ajayi cannot carry out solidly with no good O-line, however even potential celebrity runners need assistance – simply take a look at Ezekiel Elliott.

And positive, it’s going to be harder for Ajayi if Tannehill misses vital time, however nice backs persevere – and produce – in troublesome circumstances.

After teasing himself as one of many NFL’s subsequent nice runners, it is time for Ajayi to cement his place and reinvigorate the Dolphins’ hopes for 2017.