Taking Offense: Ranking the Dolphins’ Top Five Offensive Plays of 2016
While the Miami Dolphins were bounced from the postseason last weekend, it’s hard to not want to further dissect Miami’s first winning season since 2008. In Adam Gase’s first year as head coach the offense made major strides. Before his season-ending knee injury, Ryan Tannehill was posting career high numbers in terms of his completion percentage and QB rating.
However, Miami’s quarterback wasn’t the only member of the offense that posted an impressive 2016 campaign. Kenny Stills and Jay Ajayi became irreplaceable players in Miami’s offense after both had subpar seasons in 2015.
So, in a year full of offensive prosperity for Miami, we thought it would be fun to re-live some of the offense’s finer moments from this past season. Below, we rank the five best offensive plays from the Miami Dolphins in 2016.
1. Week 10 @ San Diego: Kenny Stills’ 39-yard Touchdown Reception
The top ranked play might also have been the best throw in the professional career of Ryan Tannehill. Considering the moment in the game in which this play happened makes it even more impressive as well. Miami was reeling down 10 points with halftime in San Diego looming.
The Chargers do a good job in disguising their blitz, but Ryan Tannehill knows the pressure is coming. As soon as the ball is snapped, the Chargers bring the heat. Kenny Stills manages to break out of his move just in the nick of the time and runs vertically towards the end zone. Tannehill sees this and manages to launch a beautiful spiral just before being walloped. When considering the small window the Dolphins’ QB had to work with, it makes the throw and catch all the more impressive. Tannehill manages to squeeze the ball over the out-stretched arms of the safety for the season’s top offensive play.
2. Week 16 @ Buffalo: Kenyan Drake’s 45-yard Touchdown Run
When the Dolphins drafted Kenyan Drake in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, this was what Miami’s front office envisioned. Of the many things Dolphins fans should be looking forward to, the development of Drake should be high up on that list. With the emergence of fellow running back Jay Ajayi, the Alabama product didn’t get too many opportunities. However, the rookie tailback still managed to provide an impact on offense and special teams.
Here, Buffalo is able to sniff out Miami’s intentions and gears up to stop the run. The Bills are able to get great penetration and meet Kenyan Drake at the line of scrimmage. Instead of going to the ground to avoid a loss on the play, Drake uses his athleticism and improvises. The Dolphins’ rookie running back shows off his vision and breaks his run towards the outside part of the field. Drake has blockers in front of him but with his speed truly doesn’t need them in this instance. Neither Buffalo defender left on the screen has the speed or angle to catch up to the Dolphins’ speedy rookie. In a game that was decided by a field goal, Miami needed every score they could get.
3. Week 16 @ Buffalo: Jay Ajayi’s 57-yard run
Play number three comes from the same contest as play number two. While not as impressive as Drake’s improv act, it was still mighty important for Miami. With four minutes remaining in the overtime period, thoughts of a possible tie suddenly became prevalent in the minds of Dolphins fans. At a point in time when a tie seemed as good as a loss, Miami needed a big play. Fittingly so, it came from the man who many credit with igniting the Dolphins’ season turnaround: Jay Ajayi.
While some will say the Dolphins were fortunate since Buffalo only sported 10 defenders on the field, you must give credit to Ajayi for continuing to do what he did all season—run hard.
Being down a defender made an already difficult job even harder on a Bills team who gave up over 200 yards to Ajayi in both of their meetings against Miami. The Dolphins run a stretch play towards the left-side. The Boise State product scans the field and, once he sees the hole, transforms into a locomotive. The Dolphins’ Pro Bowl tailback wouldn’t be touched until he was already well into field goal territory. Many will remember this as the run that took Miami to the postseason in 2016.
4. Week 11 @ Los Angeles: Jarvis Landry’s 10-yard Touchdown Reception
If you ever find yourself searching for the play that could be described as the epitome of the 2016 Miami Dolphins, your search ends here.
Miami looked dead in the water during their Week 11 duel at The Coliseum against the Rams. The Dolphins’ offense matched the gloom of the Los Angeles weather for much of the afternoon. However, after a missed field goal by the Rams’ kicker, the tide quickly shifted. Suddenly, what had been a sturdy Rams’ defense during most of the game had no answer for the Dolphins’ offensive exploits.
The Dolphins had finally reached the red zone and after a quick completion to Jarvis Landry seemed set up for a 3rd and goal situation. However, Jarvis Landry and most of the Dolphins’ offensive linemen had a different idea. Landry continued to churn his legs forward and Ja’Wuan James takes notice. James rushes to the point of the ball and begins to push Landry towards the end zone. The other Dolphins’ offensive linemen along with Damien Williams quickly notice Landry’s building momentum and begin to push as well. Before you could pick your jaw off the ground, Landry was in and the comeback was on. The touchdown went to Landry but the whole offense should have gotten a touchdown next to their name in the box score for those six points.
5. Week 15 @ New York: Jarvis Landry’s 66-yard Touchdown Reception
The same man who was at the center of the 4th play on this list is at the forefront again. It feels as if Jarvis Landry is due for these types of plays at least a handful of times during the course of a season. His most memorable play of the 2016 campaign came at New York on primetime television.
The Dolphins already had one foot in the victory column but Landry’s long touchdown catch and run was the icing on the cake. On this play, the LSU product beats the defender covering with him on a slant with relative ease. Matt Moore hits his receiver in stride and then it simply becomes a foot race. While some questioned the angle taken by the Jets’ safety as well as his total effort in pursuing the Dolphins’ Pro Bowl receiver, most defensive backs in the league would have trouble trying to catch Landry once he’s in full stride and has nothing but green grass ahead of him.
Jarvis Landry is the heart and soul of the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins’ front office should keep that in mind, as contract extension talks could begin with Landry as soon as this offseason.
It should be considered a good thing that this list wasn’t easy to put together. The Dolphins’ offense was able to create and make big and impactful plays throughout the entirety of the season. With the Dolphins heading for their first complete offseason with Adam Gase as head coach, there’s no reason to believe the offense won’t continue to make strides in year two under Gase.
Miami’s core on offense should stay relatively intact in 2017. The only notable free agents on the offensive side of the ball are Kenny Stills and Dion Sims. While losing Stills would be a blow, if it came down to it, Miami could find a cheaper alternative either in the draft or free agency.
Either way, this offensive ranking could be even more difficult to narrow down around this time next year.