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Welcome back to the Week 7 NFL breakdown and this week we take a closer look at Jay Ajayi.

For the second consecutive week, Jay Ajayi rushed for over 200 yards en route to a Dolphins win.

After these successful outings, the Dolphins now rank second in rushing DVOA only to the Cowboys.

Even though these successes occurred against two middling rush defenses in the form of the Bills and Steelers, the Dolphins have to feel more at ease now that they know they have a running back that they can rely on more heavily than the committee approach which yielded little productivity at other points this season.

With that, lets get to this week’s breakdown as we look at four of Ajayi’s rush attempts against the Bills.

Week 7 Breakdown – Jay Ajayi

Bills: 10 Dolphins: 3 (2nd – 8:53)

  • The Dolphins bring in an extra offensive lineman, place him to the field side of the formation, and run an outside split zone to the strength of the formation. It’s called a “split” zone because of the action from the H-back to the opposite direction of the play side.
  • The 0-technique—Jerel Worthy—over pursues the play and Ajayi makes the correct cut to head toward the boundary side of the formation. On outside zone runs, running backs are taught to read whether or not the defensive player’s helmet is outside or inside the offensive lineman/blocker’s helmet; reading toward the sideline in, if the defender’s helmet is inside the blockers, the running back continues to look outside; if the defender’s helmet is outside the blockers, the running back is taught to cut inside.

Bills: 17 Dolphins: 6 (3rd – 0:25)

  • Out of 12 personnel, the Dolphins score off of another outside zone. Ajayi shows great patience on this play to work his way down the line until he finds a lane.
  • Zach Brown does a great job of defending the B gap and causes Ajayi to reverse course, while Brandon Spikes gets a little too far up field and is past Ajayi by the time the play flows his way.

Bills: 17 Dolphins: 6 (4th – 11:37) 53-yard run

  • Notice that the Dolphins have four blockers (including the center) to the boundary side of the formation to go against the four Bills defenders to that side of the field. If the Dolphins have one blocker for every Bills defender, the defense either needs to beat a block or have someone from another part of the field come in to make a play on the running back.
  • It looks like the Bills run a gap exchange with the 7-technique and the inside linebacker. The right guard—Jermon Bushrod—is supposed to combo block with the center and then block the second level defender (i.e. the inside linebacker that plans to gap exchange); if the inside linebacker—Preston Brown—gets to the C-gap fast enough, there isn’t any way for Bushrod to block him. As it happens, Brown is slow to the gap and gives Bushrod enough time to get up to the second level and make a great block while Ajayi cuts around.

Bills: 17 Dolphins: 14 (4th – 5:19)

  • Kyle Williams does a good job against the right guard and forces Ajayi in the opposite direction of the play’s initial flow, and Ajayi makes the correct read to head to the field side of the play.
  • While Branden Albert does a good job of blocking Zach Brown on the second level (he releases right before any official would be able to call a hold), Lorenzo Alexander isn’t able to make a play as the cutback defender.

On the day, Ajayi finished with 214 yards and one touchdown on 28 attempts. Ajayi would have finished with 5.96 yards per carry without his 53 yard run (I know how much people love stats like this) at the start of the 4th quarter and turned a great game into a memorable performance. The Dolphins offensive line looks in sync, and most importantly, Ajayi has shown the ability to perform in a way that would suggest long-term success with his ability to make correct reads. The Dolphins have a bye this week, but next week’s matchup against the Jets’ stout defensive front that ranks third in rushing DVOA will be a solid test for the Dolphins rush offense.

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Devin Jordan

Devin Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading him, follow him on Twitter!
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