Running Game Declining Recently For Miami Dolphins

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

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The Miami Dolphins running game got off to a terrific start to the 2012 NFL season, but of late defenses are having success stopping their ground game.

The first game of the season was a 30-10 loss at the Houston Texans. A six minute span to end the first half was disastrous, and essentially ended the game. Miami ran for 76 yards and 6 first-downs. As the game turned ugly Miami threw almost twice as much as they attempted to run.

Week 2 the running game went wild at home vs the Oakland Raiders. 263 yards, and a whopping 4 TDs. Miami moved the chains a dozen times from runs in that game. Dominating. Big-plays. Awesome.

Week 3 vs AFC East rival New York Jets also was a good one for the ‘Phins run game (statically that is…They did lose Reggie Bush in this game). They ran for 187 yards, plus 2 TDs. They also rushed for 9 first downs.

Through 3 weeks Miami was averaging 175 rushing yards per game, and 2 rushing TDs per game. Phenomenal production.

In the 3 games that have followed we have seen the production dip, big-time…

Rushing TDs cut in half from 6 to 3. The yards per game has plummeted to 63 (yikes). The one that concerns me the most is first downs. Miami is getting into the red-zone less and less each season. Without big-plays you have to be able to move the chains to get into the RZ. In the first 3 games Miami was rushing for 9 first downs per game. Very good production. In their last 3 games that average is at 3 rushing first downs per game. Yikes.

There do seem to be reasons for the decline in production.

A place to look first is the passing game. Is the passing game taking over the amount of play calls to the point where the running game has no choice but to be dwarfed? Actually, no. Ryan Tannehill has increased his production lately, but he is actually throwing less passes per game in the last 3 games than the first 3 games.

However…

We remember the end of the first half of the Jets game when many Dolfans thought that Bush should have been out of the game at the end of the half when Miami was just running out clock to take a 10-3 lead to the half. Bush injured his knee. Would we agree he has not looked the same since?

The depth will get there (potentially soon if Lamar Miller develops faster) but for now we have seen #2 RB Daniel Thomas miss 2 games in 5 weeks with concussion issues. That leaves Miami with 2 hobbled RBs, and a rookie. Surely there is potential in the running game, but a return to health is likely the place to start.

The offensive line has been interesting. Not good. Not bad. Interesting. I would have thought that the right side of Jonathan Martin and John Jerry had potential to struggle, while the left side was locked-down with veterans Jake Long and Richie Incognito. What we have seen in the first 6 games has perhaps been the opposite.

As defenses have now adjusted to the ‘Phins running game we will surely see adjustments coming out of the bye week. The majority of the running plays would have been designed to feature Long and Incognito on the left side. Going forward Mike Sherman can draw up less plays to the left, and more to the right. That is a pro-active way to try to rejuvenate the running game.

It is worth mentioning that Miami went 1-2 in those first 3 games, and 2-1 the last 3. For me personally I do think the long-term strategy does require fixing (for lack of a better term…maybe “work on” is better) the running game asap. The BFF for Tannehill would be a good running game. Plus once Miami re-establishes their running game Tannehill can work play-action well. Win-win.

This is a contract year for Bush so he needs a return to health asap. Since the Raiders game we have seen a lot of Bush trying to juke a bit too much to create a home-run when it doesn’t exist. I think it would also help the running game if Bush did put his head down and fight north-to-south more often which I think would accumulate more yards (in the long run) than seeking the big-play as often as he does (he often ends up losing yards on those plays).

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