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By Abraham Gutierrez

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Even though Week 8 only marks the midway point of the 2016 NFL season, it has already been a wild roller coaster ride for first-year head coach Adam Gase and the Miami Dolphins. After a dreadful 1-4 start, the Fins have gotten healthy and seem to be headed in the right direction, heading into the bye week winners of two straight ballgames.

The Dolphins’ recent success is a credit to Miami’s coaching staff and a number of players who lay it all on the line week-in and week-out. On the flip side, there are also a number of players that have failed to deliver the goods through seven games. The following is a list of the Miami Dolphins’ “Studs and Duds” through Week 8.

Rising: Jay Ajayi, Running Back 

Out of everyone on the roster, there isn’t a single player who deserves being dubbed a “stud” more than Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi (84 carries, 535 yards, 5 TDs). What the second-year man out of Boise State has done this season has been nothing short of extraordinary and historic. On the verge of becoming the first player ever to rush for 200-plus yards on three consecutive ballgames, Ajayi is on a meteoric rise.

Against a respectable Bills defense in Week 7, the London, England, native tied O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky William by becoming only the fourth player in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in consecutive ballgames. More importantly, Ajayi has given this team the shot in the arm it has needed for years, as opponents now have to gameplan to contain him rather than focusing all their attention on going after Tannehill.

Rising: Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback

There are a number of Dolphins player that deserve to be recognized for their contributions thus far this season, including Ndamukong Suh (3.5 sacks, 32 tackles), Jason Jones (2.5 sacks, 18 tackles), Andre Branch (3 sacks, 17 tackles), Kiko Alonso (62 tackles), Kenny Stills (16 receptions, 317 yards, 3 TDs), Jarvis Landry (46 receptions, 572 yards, TD) and others.

Over the past two games, one could easily make the case that Miami’s entire offensive line also deserves a pat on the back by being placed in the “studs” category. Having that said, it’s no secret that any time a team loses the first player to take the blame is, more times than not, the quarterback.

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Based on that logic, giving NFL signal-callers the credit when it’s due is the fair thing to do. Despite the fact that Ryan Tannehill’s numbers this season (139 for 213, 1728 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs, 18 sacks) don’t exactly jump off the screen, he’s is certainly on the rise.

Much like in the case of Miami’s O-line, Tannehill’s numbers over the last two weeks have been much improved (39-for-57, 456 yards, TD, 1 sack).  Nevertheless, it’s his ability to manage the game — now that he’s not constantly running away from chasing defenders — that certainly give Miami hope to get back into the AFC playoff race.

Falling: Dion Sims, Tight End

The fact that Jordan Cameron has been sidelined most of the 2016 NFL season — due to his long history of concussions — has left the door wide open for Dion Sims to take over at the tight end position. Instead, the Detroit, Michigan native has contributed with little in Miami’s attempt to salvage the season, and thus, he’s been a dud throughout the first half of the year.

In six games played, Sims has started half the time, but one wouldn’t know it based on his numbers. Prior to sitting out the Dolphins’ win over the Bills in Week 7 due to a concussion, the fourth-year man out of Michigan State had managed eight receptions for 94 yards.

Falling: Mario Williams, Defensive End

The former Buffalo Bill has been on a steady decline since last season and the change of scenery has had very little effect in his attempt to regain his Pro Bowl form. After registering 14.5 sacks and 42 tackles in 2014, the NC State product’s production dropped significantly, mustering just five sacks and 19 tackles in his final season as a member of the Bills.

In his first season in Miami, the former first overall NFL Draft pick has been conspicuously absent. Through seven games (five starts), Williams has managed to record a mere sack and just 10 combined tackles (eight total, two assists), which recently caused Fins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph to sound off about his performance, or lack thereof: “Mario’s got to play better,” he said. “He’s got to play faster and more consistent.”

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Post Author: Abraham Gutierrez.