176.4 yards per game.
That’s what the Miami Dolphins running game produced over the first three weeks of the season. That includes a 76 yard effort against a stiff Houston Texans defense in a game that was dominated by the pass.
176.4 yards per game. The Dolphins running game looked dominant, and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill had it made in the shade.
Then Reggie Bush went down at the hands of the New York Jets in Week 3, and the running game went down with him.
Since the end of that game, the Dolphins have only averaged 85.3 yards per game, less than half of the production they were getting in over the first 3 Weeks. In that time, Miami has a winning record, taking 2 of the next 3 games but it has been on the arm of Tannehill.
Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin has attributed the loss of production to tough defenses that stacked the box with the intent to stop the run. These defenses put the pressure of winning the game on the shoulders of a rookie, daring Miami to beat them through the air.
85.3 yards a game with the backs operating at less than 100% and the defenses focusing in on them. With that in mind, the number doesn’t sound so bad. The problem is, just over 85 yards an outing is not enough to keep the Dolphins in contention with the rest of the AFC. Miami currently sits at 2nd in their division, 1 game behind the New England Patriots. The only way they are going to be able to stay within reach is by balancing their attack.
The Jets represent the last team that the Dolphins were able to reach 100 total yards rushing against. Gang Green has been playing much better over the last two weeks, but the run defense still has been an issue for the Rex Ryan defense. Going into the Week 8 match-up against the Dolphins, the Jets are giving up an average of 147.7 yards per game, including 130 last week in a loss to the Patriots.
With the Dolphins coming off of a bye, Reggie Bush is finally feeling healthy.
“I’m definitely a lot stronger than what I was a couple weeks ago,” said Bush, who started the season looking like he would contend for this season’s rushing title. “I feel a lot better. About as healthy as you can get as this point in the season is where I am. I feel good and I feel ready to play.”
Bush will be running hard this week, looking to exact a little revenge against the team that he believes purposely injured him in Week 3. This chip on his shoulder, coupled with the Jets weak run defense, should translate into the balanced attack they need going into the second half of the season.
The Dolphins cannot afford to get swept in any of their divisional series, and after giving away the first game to the Jets in overtime, the success or failure of the Dolphins season could be hanging in the balance on Sunday.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.