There are several things about the start to the 2012 season that have been pleasant surprises for the Miami Dolphins. Rookie QB Ryan Tannehill is surely progressing. The running game has had its share of great games/moments. Brian Hartline and Davone Bess have made a weak-on-paper WR group look good. The offensive line has likely played above expectations. But 1 thing we did anticipate for this team was they were going to be very stout vs the run.
That has come to fruition…big-time.
Kevin Coyle came over from the Cincinnati Bengals to be the ‘Phins new defensive coordinator. He switched the ‘Phins from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3 base. There were some players in the front-7 who already had experience in the 4-3, and the others just simply have so much talent that we really have not even seen any growing pains from this change.
Sunday’s W over the St. Louis Rams was the 20th straight game where Miami did not give-up 100+ yards rushing to 1 RB. Miami is currently yielding a measly 61 yards on the ground per game. #1 in the National Football League currently.
Miami is also #1 for power running which are runs that convert on 3rd and 1-2 yards remaining or 4th and 1-2 yards remaining for 1st down. These also count for goal-to-go scenarios within 2 yards from the end-zone.
A Stuff is where the opposing RB is tackled at, or behind, the line of scrimmage. Miami is top-3 for that.
Miami is also top-3 for Second Level runs which are runs where the RB gets 5-10 yards down-field and gets to the 2nd level of tacklers (LBs and occasionally Safeties).
Open Field yards are plays where the RB goes for more than 10+ yards. Miami is top-3 here also.
Coming into the Rams game Miami gave up an average of just 2.7 yards per carry. You guessed it – #1 in NFL (Ramshad a good game vs Miami on the ground so we will see where the ‘Phins rank after week 6 finishes).
The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers defense yielded just 61 yards per game on the ground, and opponents averaged 3.5 yards per carry. They were the best run defense I ever saw (and statistically/historically they have a claim to #1 ever). This Miami defense is on pace to be the best ever.
Early? Sure it is. That Steelers team was dominant for 16 games, while Miami has not even reached their BYE week yet so it is early.
All we can do is look at what we have so far and that is a defensive-line of Cameron Wake, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, and Jared Odrick making plays, and occupying would-be tacklers so the LBs can roam free to make plays too.
Here is how the opposing RBs have fared so far in 2012…
Arian Foster…26 carries for 79 yards and 2 TDs (only 2 rushing TDs Miami has allowed, and remember this was the first game of 2012).
Ben Tate…5 carries for 6 yards (1.2 yards per carry)
Darren McFadden…11 carries for 22 yards (2.0 yards per carry…wow).
Shonn Greene…19 carries for 40 yards (2.1 yards per carry)
Bilal Powell…10 carries for 45 yards (rare nice average vs Miami…4.5 yards per carry)
Ryan Williams 13 carries for 26 yards (2 yards per carry…Arizona Cardinals had zero 1st downs from the rushing game…wow)
This most recent game vs the Rams was the shakiest the rush-D has been in ages. Steven Jackson had 12 carries for 52 yards (4.3 average) and Daryl Richardson had 11 carries for 76 yards (including a 44 yard burst on a toss to the right side…Teams are trying the tosses to the edges a lot more these days because it has become evident that trying to run up-the-gut vs Miami is not going to work out for you).
Chris Johnson, Frank Gore, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Marshawn Lynch are all on the ‘Phins schedule, so we see there are still tests for this D.
The Dolphins sit at 3-3 and if you have not already heard about this rush-D, or been impressed by seeing it with your own eyes…you will!
Thank you for reading!
www.rantsports.com/nfl/author/craigballard/ for all of my Dolphins articles