After a 1-4 start to the season, the Miami Dolphins were heading toward their worst finish in years. But after beating the Steelers and Bills in back-to-back weeks, the Dolphins (3-4) are suddenly back in the thick of things in the AFC.
“It’s been awesome to see this football team turn things around,” Dolphins offensive lineman Mike Pouncey said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Obviously our season started off not the way we expected. We had a bunch of injuries but we’ve got some guys back and we feel like we’re rolling right now.”
The main reason for the turnaround, of course, has been running back Jay Ajayi, who has rushed for 414 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games.
“Jay has done a great job of making our offensive line look good,” Pouncey said. “He’s running the ball really, really hard. If you watch the games, you see he’s breaking through a lot of arm tackles, running guys over on the second level. When your running back runs that well, it just makes your offensive line look really good.”
Ajayi’s running ability has taken some pressure off of Ryan Tannehill, who hasn’t thrown a pick in back-to-back games.
“I really do believe (Tannehill can lead us to a championship),” Pouncey said. “The reason I believe that – not only is he a good football player, but I see the work that he puts in Monday through Saturday. A lot of people don’t get to see that. We see what he does day in and day out, week in and week out. He comes in and prepares like a real pro. A lot of fans give him a hard time because they only see (what happens on) Sundays. They don’t see everything else. We really do believe in him. I think that he will take us to the next level. Hopefully it happens this year.”
To be fair, though, isn’t preparation throughout the week simply part of the job description of being an NFL player?
“That is true,” Pouncey said, “but you’d be very surprised by the amount of guys who actually do that in the NFL. It was shocking to me coming from a place where we had a really good football team where guys love football, and then you come into the NFL and it’s just kind of a culture shock. You expect for guys to go out there and play hard and to prepare like a pro because they’re getting paid well. A lot of times that isn’t the case. When you see a guy that does it that way, your respect for him goes out of the roof – because you know he doesn’t take advantage of being in the NFL. It’s a privilege to be here; it’s not something that just happens. I think a lot of guys lose that sense of it’s a privilege of being in the NFL and you need to prepare and play that way. If we had a lot of guys that did it that way, we’d win a lot of football games.”
While Ajayi’s running has helped Tannehill, it may have played a role in Arian Foster’s retirement. The 30-year-old announced Monday that injuries have taken their toll on his body and that he is stepping away from the game. One of the best players in football from 2010-12, Foster ran 22 times for 55 yards (2.5 yards per carry) in four games this season.
“It was shocking,” Pouncey said of Foster’s retirement. “Just because being around Arian, the person that he was, he was a great person, a great football player, and someone that we really appreciate having in our locker room. At the end of the day, you can’t tell a guy how his body feels, but I respect someone more that, if their mind’s not all the way there, that they just let it go. Because when you’re not all the way there, you can not only injure yourself, but you can injure other people. I wish Arian was still here because he’s a hell of a player and I enjoyed watching him throughout his career. We wish him nothing but the best.”
The Dolphins, who have a bye this week, host the Jets (2-5) on Nov. 6 before a pair of road games at San Diego (3-4) and Los Angeles (3-4).
“We really do (think we can make the playoffs),” Pouncey said. “We really do believe in that. Obviously we still have a lot of division games left, there’s still a long football season, and I feel like our football team put things together at the right time. Right now we’re on a two-game winning streak going into the bye week. We’re going to get guys back healthy going into New York and playing the Jets at home again. The Jets have a really good defensive front. They play really well against the run. So it’s going to be a challenge for our offensive line, but we’re looking forward to it.”