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Dolphins don't think Jay Ajayi's struggles are his fault

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The Miami Dolphins' running game has sputtered since Thanksgiving.

Jay Ajayi has gained less than 80 yards per game in each of his past five contests, with fewer than 3.0 yards per carry in two of the last three games.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Wednesday the problem is a confluence of issues: facing better run defenses and injuries to the offensive line.

"Coming off some of these injuries we've had up front, some moving pieces, and we played some good defensive fronts, that's the one thing that myself and coaches have been reminding him of," Gase said, via the Miami Herald. "Just remember we have played some good teams. ... And the teams that have been good on defense, it's been the front seven that has been the strength of all of these teams that we've played."

The Dolphins did play some good run defenses, including the Ravens and Cardinals the past two weeks. Ajayi also earned just 45 yards against a putrid 49ers run D.

When Ajayi burst out in October with back-to-back 200-yard games, the Dolphins' offensive line was the healthiest it had been all season. During the running back's struggles, however, Branden Albert has missed time with a wrist injury and Laremy Tunsil has dealt with a shoulder injury. Most notably, center Mike Pouncey entered the lineup during Ajayi's best stretch and his exit coincided with the running back's worst play.

With Pouncey on injured reserve, Ajayi's outlook isn't getting easier.

"It's tough not to get frustrated because you want to be able to create that output," Ajayi said. "You want that production. It's tough when you look at the end of the game and the stats kind of don't showcase what you feel is going on out there. But that's what it is and it's motivating to keep going out there, keep doing maybe something more, just trying to keep pushing myself to get back to the high production level we had before."

Matt Moore starting in place of Ryan Tannehill with the playoffs on the line (Miami sits seventh in the AFC), means the Dolphins will need to ride Ajayi hard down the stretch.

Gase said even with the recent struggles he doesn't want the running back to change his rugged style. The coach believes sooner or later Ajayi is going to bust out again.

"I mean we're a shoelace away so many different times to where all of a sudden that 5-yard gain is going to be 25," Gase said. "We've been close quite a few times. Last game, there were a couple of them that were just so close to being explosive runs. I know everybody wants to get caught up with the numbers, but we're kind of looking at each play individually and saying, 'OK, this was good. We're close. We've just got to finish this a little better.'

"So I'm not getting discouraged by numbers right now. I know if we keep giving him touches and giving him opportunities, and we get back in a rhythm and we get guys healthy as we finish this thing out, I think we're going to start having the number production be better."

The Dolphins need that uptick to start Saturday night versus a New York Jets team that Ajayi scampered for 111 yards on in Week 9.

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