Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in context

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Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in context

Postby snitchinsider » Tue Oct 25, 2016 2:47 am

Not actually a study, but plenty of context to be understood. So we're going with it.

• According to film analysis from KC Joyner this past offseason, Ajayi's 3.8 YPC his rookie season was "misleading." He said Ajayi received poor blocking on 71% of his runs, among the worst rates in the NFL. He averaged better YPC on those poor blocking plays (1.9) than the league average (1.2). When the blocking was "good," Ajayi averaged 9.0 YPC, better than both Lamar Miller and the league average.

• Ajayi's YPC was further stifled in his rookie season by the final two games. In Week 16 vs. Indy, Ajayi had 9 carries for 23 yards (his most carries of the season), however three of them were from the two yard line and one was a play blown up five yards behind the line of scrimmage, while Miller himself was just 15 for 31 (2.1 ypc). In Week 17 vs. NE, he was shut down by NE 7 for 2 yards, but in the same game Miller was held to 19 for 60 (with a 29 yard run). Rarely when a RB runs 7 times for 2 yards is it because of the RB, however unfortunately for Ajayi his 7 carries were the second highest he had in the season, giving it more weight. Prior to these final two games, Ajayi was averaging a very healthy 4.9 YPC on the season. I realize this is a bit of picking and choosing, but when you have a limited sample size I think it's really important to be more critical how to weigh data when evaluating players. After 7 weeks of play, Ajayi averaged 4.9. Two weeks later, it was down to 3.8, and it didn't concern me then and I don't think it ever should have concerned anyone else given the context.

• For what it's worth, Ajayi was also returning from a cracked rib during his rookie season, although I don't know how much (if any) impact it had on him. Considering how physical he is as a runner, I can't imagine it helped him any. It's probably worth noting that prior to that injury, Ajayi averaged 5.7 ypc on 16 carries in the preseason. He wouldn't see another game until he returned from injury in Week 9.

• Up until the last few weeks, blocking for Miami has been abysmal, and Dolphins fans won't tell you any different. It was really, really ugly. In the preseason it was unthinkably bad in particular. I think this play sums thing up well: https://twitter.com/SportsGuyTweets/sta ... 4247197696. There might not be more than one or two successful blocks on that entire play, and yet Ajayi nearly snatched victory away from certain defeat. In that game in particular, Ajayi averaged 1.6 yards/carry, but 2.1 yards after contact, which means the defense hit him 0.5 yards behind the line on AVERAGE.

• The line got healthy and some starters returned for Miami, and suddenly everyone agrees Miami's blocking has been good. But, it's not just that Miami's line has blocked well. When given room to run and not hit in the backfield, Ajayi has made defenders pay. Out of the 418 yards Ajayi has run the past two weeks, 277 of them have come after contact. In fact, Ajayi now leads the league in yards per carry after contact at 4.11, and has more forced missed tackles (20) than Ezekiel Elliot has (10) on 50+ less touches. Sometimes yards after contact as a metric can be a product of poor vision, and does favor physical backs who seek out contact, but I think we can all agree Ajayi didn't have any problems finding the holes the last two weeks when they were there. PFF gave him the highest grade of any RB in the past two seasons (95.5) for this past week.

tldr; Running back is a very volatile position largely because there's so much that is out of a back's control (see Gurley, Todd, 2016), so I think it's always extra important to go through a player's production (for better or worse) with extra care to try and understand the context, so you don't discard players too early, or prop players up too easily. None of this necessarily means Ajayi is going to be a stud going forward, but it certainly makes it easier to understand why someone who on the surface seemed to have done nothing up until this point, could have exploded in such a fashion. Sometimes a player's quality of play is obfuscated by situation.

Final note: Abdullah is really good at football. He's next.
Last edited by snitchinsider on Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby Dynasty DeLorean » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:05 am

I think you can make similar arguments for many players, but nice write up nonetheless.

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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby Weeman » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:42 am

As a Dolphins fan watching Tannehill get sacked to pieces weekly sucks. Branden Albert & Tunsil being healthy helped AJayi running to the left in particular. Breaking tackles downfield against cbs vs dl always looks good. I'm not entirely sold that if this oline struggles AJayi can overcome. I still see this team as drafting an RB. They weren't confident enough to give AJayi the nod over Foster which is concerning. They seem to be intriqued by Damien Williams & Drakes role. As a fins fan Miller was great & got 12-15 carries. I'm not sure this team can change its philosophy to running. Gase wants to see Stills & Parker get deep shots downfield & Landry get a dozen targets. Whether Ajayi is good or great won't matter if they strip his opportunities away. Gase has been trying to implement no huddle uptempo offense. Which makes sense since they play from behind all the time. I don't see Ajayi being a 100 plus yards guy every week, enjoy the numbers while they last.

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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby Litesout13 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:31 am

I respect the effort put into this. Took a lot of time.

But I just cant buy into a guy who will be so abysmal when the offensive line isnt playing well. It want like he was just "ok" when the line was bad and then turned into a stud. He went from awful to stud? That rarely ever happens or rarely ends up being sustainable.

There have been plenty of RBs throughout the years to run behind an average to below average offensive line and still be productive. Recently Jamaal Charles comes to mind a few years ago when the offensive line had a ton of new players and moving parts. Obviously Charles is on another level, but that is kind of my point. Good players can produce regardless. Bad players need everything to work in their favor, and even then its a crap shoot.

Look at McFadden vs Zeke. Behind essentially the same offensive line, Zeke has nearly reached McFaddens total from last year in just 6 games. That is an example of a good RB vs an average one.

I think Ajayi will have his days, but it will be hit or miss on when those will be. He is Matt Jones-esque to me. Get what you can for him now because I fully expect the Dolphins to find a legit, more reliable RB in the draft.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby snitchinsider » Tue Oct 25, 2016 11:51 am

Litesout13 wrote:I respect the effort put into this. Took a lot of time.

But I just cant buy into a guy who will be so abysmal when the offensive line isnt playing well. It want like he was just "ok" when the line was bad and then turned into a stud. He went from awful to stud? That rarely ever happens or rarely ends up being sustainable.

There have been plenty of RBs throughout the years to run behind an average to below average offensive line and still be productive. Recently Jamaal Charles comes to mind a few years ago when the offensive line had a ton of new players and moving parts. Obviously Charles is on another level, but that is kind of my point. Good players can produce regardless. Bad players need everything to work in their favor, and even then its a crap shoot.

Look at McFadden vs Zeke. Behind essentially the same offensive line, Zeke has nearly reached McFaddens total from last year in just 6 games. That is an example of a good RB vs an average one.

I think Ajayi will have his days, but it will be hit or miss on when those will be. He is Matt Jones-esque to me. Get what you can for him now because I fully expect the Dolphins to find a legit, more reliable RB in the draft.
I think it's more fair to say productive players don't always produce regardless. Even really, really good players are held down by situation sometimes (awful QB play held Larry Fitzgerald down for three years, Todd Gurley is in no-man's land right now, Adrian Peterson averaged 1.6 on 50 attempts before he went on IR, Hopkins and Robinson are both ghosts this season with how bad their QB play has been, Marshawn Lynch was borderline inefficient in his tenure in Buffalo). Good players can overcome some really bad situations, but not usually with much consistency.

I guess my counter-argument would be that, as mentioned earlier, last season Ajayi's YPC was better than the league average on poor blocking plays, and better than the league average on good blocking plays. I would consider that performing against odds as you've requested. The number of poor blocking plays was just league-bottom level disproportionate. That's pretty extreme. Obviously, if you're getting 6-7 carries a game you have to be a special level of efficient, but I think we're beyond the days of 6-7 carry Ajayi.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby Litesout13 » Tue Oct 25, 2016 2:13 pm

snitchinsider wrote:
Litesout13 wrote:I respect the effort put into this. Took a lot of time.

But I just cant buy into a guy who will be so abysmal when the offensive line isnt playing well. It want like he was just "ok" when the line was bad and then turned into a stud. He went from awful to stud? That rarely ever happens or rarely ends up being sustainable.

There have been plenty of RBs throughout the years to run behind an average to below average offensive line and still be productive. Recently Jamaal Charles comes to mind a few years ago when the offensive line had a ton of new players and moving parts. Obviously Charles is on another level, but that is kind of my point. Good players can produce regardless. Bad players need everything to work in their favor, and even then its a crap shoot.

Look at McFadden vs Zeke. Behind essentially the same offensive line, Zeke has nearly reached McFaddens total from last year in just 6 games. That is an example of a good RB vs an average one.

I think Ajayi will have his days, but it will be hit or miss on when those will be. He is Matt Jones-esque to me. Get what you can for him now because I fully expect the Dolphins to find a legit, more reliable RB in the draft.
I think it's more fair to say productive players don't always produce regardless. Even really, really good players are held down by situation sometimes (awful QB play held Larry Fitzgerald down for three years, Todd Gurley is in no-man's land right now, Adrian Peterson averaged 1.6 on 50 attempts before he went on IR, Hopkins and Robinson are both ghosts this season with how bad their QB play has been, Marshawn Lynch was borderline inefficient in his tenure in Buffalo). Good players can overcome some really bad situations, but not usually with much consistency.

I guess my counter-argument would be that, as mentioned earlier, last season Ajayi's YPC was better than the league average on poor blocking plays, and better than the league average on good blocking plays. I would consider that performing against odds as you've requested. The number of poor blocking plays was just league-bottom level disproportionate. That's pretty extreme. Obviously, if you're getting 6-7 carries a game you have to be a special level of efficient, but I think we're beyond the days of 6-7 carry Ajayi.
So if Ajayi's YPC last year were bad, but it was better than the average among the other RBs....does that make it good? I dont think so. Last year he had 2 games where he had 8+ YPC. Conversely he had 3 games under 3 YPC and 2 right at 3 YPC. I think the 2 games(first two games he played) elevated his YPC to make him look better. If you take those first 2 games out, his YPC drop to a staggering 2.66. That isnt just average, that is BAD!!

We could go round and round with examples from both sides. But like I said, good players generally dont have a large sample size of being unproductive. Even Lynch(the example you used), wasnt as unproductive as you make it seem. Of the 4 years being there, he really only had 1 bad year where his YPC were under 4. The rest were over and even started off with back to back 1,000 yards.

Sure, Ajayi could be an example of getting stuck behind a bad offensive line. But for me, it is hard to imagine that being the case. He started bad his rookie year and continued it this season. Then exploded for 2 games.

I feel people over react to things like this, then find reasons to justify it. A month ago, Stefon Diggs was being touted as the next Keenan Allen, and now he has come back down to earth. 2 weeks ago, Ajayi was on his way out, now people think he will be a borderline RB1...my guess is he comes back down to earth and becomes the same below average guy he has been
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby thebeast » Tue Oct 25, 2016 3:49 pm

Something doesn't add up... I guess it's possible that the flood light came on, but the staff saw this guy in practice every day and were able to compare him to their other backs can he really all of a sudden be this much better? I guess it's possible, but seems odd to me for this to happen basically over a week. In the meantime Williams alos looked beastly on that TD run and I can't help but think that majority of this is the oline and not Ajayi. I will say he sure looks the part of a RB who should be dominating the league, time will tell, but as a non owner I would rather miss out on him at this point then try and pay up an acquire him these days.

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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby ninotoreS » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:28 pm

Quality post, OP.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby ninotoreS » Tue Oct 25, 2016 10:30 pm

thebeast wrote:I guess it's possible that the flood light came on, but the staff saw this guy in practice every day and were able to compare him to their other backs can he really all of a sudden be this much better?
Actually, Gase has recently been quoted saying that Ajayi did look this way in practice most of the offseason, but then had a very bad week between the last preseason game and the first regular-season game.

Although I thought he looked crummy all preseason, not just during that interval. Whatever though, that's what Gase said.
I can't help but think that majority of this is the oline and not Ajayi
Breaking tackles is breaking tackles, and Ajayi is breaking lots of them, regardless of what his line has done for him.

The line is suddenly clicking, but I think the difference between them clicking and not clicking would have been Ajayi having back to back century yardage weeks instead of 200-yard monsters. Or in other words: he still would have been good.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby Balzac » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:43 am

Litesout13 wrote:I respect the effort put into this. Took a lot of time.

But I just cant buy into a guy who will be so abysmal when the offensive line isnt playing well. It want like he was just "ok" when the line was bad and then turned into a stud. He went from awful to stud? That rarely ever happens or rarely ends up being sustainable.

There have been plenty of RBs throughout the years to run behind an average to below average offensive line and still be productive. Recently Jamaal Charles comes to mind a few years ago when the offensive line had a ton of new players and moving parts. Obviously Charles is on another level, but that is kind of my point. Good players can produce regardless. Bad players need everything to work in their favor, and even then its a crap shoot.

Look at McFadden vs Zeke. Behind essentially the same offensive line, Zeke has nearly reached McFaddens total from last year in just 6 games. That is an example of a good RB vs an average one.

I think Ajayi will have his days, but it will be hit or miss on when those will be. He is Matt Jones-esque to me. Get what you can for him now because I fully expect the Dolphins to find a legit, more reliable RB in the draft.
These examples are flawed.

1. Charles is a completely different back who excels at catching passes out of the backfield. Ajayi is a bruiser. A bruiser needs more help from their line, where as a back like Charles needs space which comes from getting outside the o-line.

2. Zeke is obviously a better runner, but McFadden did just fine with the cowboys line. The starting job wasn't McFadden's the entire year. Also, remember who was under center last year. All in all McFadden had a better year than everyone expected, and a lot of that had to do with his o-line play.

O-line is so incredibly valuable to every RB. If a back gets hit behind the line 90% of the time how are they ever going to be productive? Look a Guerly, he is arguably the best back since AP and he can't get anything done.

Now I'm not saying Ajayi will have another 200 yard game if his line plays well, but in no way would he benefit if they started playing bad again. Seems like a simple concept.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby The Red Rooster » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:40 pm

Great post. Thanks for sharing!

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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby Cameron Giles » Wed Oct 26, 2016 7:51 pm

thebeast wrote:Something doesn't add up... I guess it's possible that the flood light came on, but the staff saw this guy in practice every day and were able to compare him to their other backs can he really all of a sudden be this much better? I guess it's possible, but seems odd to me for this to happen basically over a week. In the meantime Williams alos looked beastly on that TD run and I can't help but think that majority of this is the oline and not Ajayi. I will say he sure looks the part of a RB who should be dominating the league, time will tell, but as a non owner I would rather miss out on him at this point then try and pay up an acquire him these days.
Ajayi was good at Boise State, though I always thought that he looked average between the tackles with limited run creativity. Regardless, he was productive and before the reports came out about him having degenerative knees, most thought he would be a 1st/2nd RD talent in the NFL Draft. He had over 2400 total yards and 32 TD's as a junior.

What he's done the last two games is clearly more than anyone could've imagined. I'm just not very interested mainly because of the knee problems.

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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby ninotoreS » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:31 pm

Ajayi had a tendency to bounce and dance too much at the LoS with Boise, especially his first two seasons. He improved on that his final season, but it was still a work in progress.
Regardless, he was productive and before the still unsubstantiated rumor came out about him having one degenerative knee, most thought he would be a 1st/2nd RD talent in the NFL Draft.
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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby heyfeefellskee » Thu Oct 27, 2016 4:32 am

ninotoreS wrote:Ajayi had a tendency to bounce and dance too much at the LoS with Boise, especially his first two seasons. He improved on that his final season, but it was still a work in progress.
Regardless, he was productive and before the still unsubstantiated rumor came out about him having one degenerative knee, most thought he would be a 1st/2nd RD talent in the NFL Draft.
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This.

There is still not a single piece of evidence about his knee being "bone on bone", other than from word of mouth.

You'd think someone like schefter would have confirmed this using his sources leaking medical records, but alas, nothing so far.


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Re: Ajayi Didn't Just Suddenly "Get Gud" -- A study in conte

Postby JFever » Thu Oct 27, 2016 6:27 am

There is a lot of oversimplification and misdirection going on in this thread. I quoted this statement from above, but, I think I could have included several others.

I had to laugh out loud a bit at the hypocracy.

"I feel people over react to things like this, then find reasons to justify it. A month ago, Stefon Diggs was being touted as the next Keenan Allen, and now he has come back down to earth. 2 weeks ago, Ajayi was on his way out, now people think he will be a borderline RB1...my guess is he comes back down to earth and becomes the same below average guy he has been".

Now, Diggs first. The quote starts off by saying that he feels people overreact to things. Then uses the example and compares Diggs to the next K.Allen. Just in case ya didn't know, Diggs has been dealing with a groin. A month ago, the connection was nothing short of logical. His start to the year vs the Titans and the Packers was solid as he scored over 50 fantasy points in those two match ups. However, then he has an avg performance vs the Panthers at their place as they clearly tried to take him out of the game since he was coming off a 30plus point game the week before, then 3 weeks ago vs NY he has a minor tweak and the injury is sustained, He tries to play through it. Then, misses the next game completely vs the Texans, then has a bye. This past week, coming off of injury vs Philadelphia, the Vikings were outplayed. Diggs wasn't sharp, neither was any other offensive player. Wonder why he "came back down to earth"? Could it be a groin injury that heavily effected 2-3 weeks, a bye week mixed in then a tough road match up at Philadelphia in which the Vikings Oline was mauled as was Bradford.

YEP! Sounds to me like Diggs should be called out... :doh:

You are calling people out for over reacting to things and justifying them, and you are doing the very same thing. Ajayi, was NEVER on his way out a couple weeks ago. Not sure where that came frome. He was a work in progress and Gase has been high on him, just wanted him to man up, take the reigns and step up into his role. To earn it and hold it and to not expect anything to be handed to him.... He seemed to have motivational issues, maturity issues, along with o-line issues. It is never as simple as an just "o-line thing" or just a "talent" thing. It is, in reality, a complex web of influences that contributes to a rb performance. People try to pretend that it is a simple thing and then bring up Zeke in Dallas. lol. I'd like to see zeke try to run behind a bottom level O-line. I"m quite sure we'd see different #'s. Look at the line look at the measurables and walla. Nope. it isn't like that. We are dealing with people here. People are dynamic.

A.Foster was never the long term answer. Never. If anything he was brought in to mentor. It was a matter of time before his (Ajayi) head got on straight and their O-line got healthy. And as for the comment on Diggs. I'm wondering if you've ever seen him play, cuz that was weird.
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