A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the Miami Dolphins declining running game. At the time it was just a topic I though was interesting, not necessarily a reason/time for panic, but interesting to see that the running game was struggling. Fast forward a few weeks later and we are through week 9 in the NFL and the Dolphins run game continues to plummet. It may be going from interesting to worrisome. Let’s take a look…
I the first 3 weeks the ‘Phins run game was clicking. Miami was getting a whopping 4.9 yards per carry, and were averaging a whopping 175 rushing yards per game. They had 524 rush yards in the first 3 games, but that has regressed massively. In the 5 games that have followed Miami has amassed just 371 yards. 5 games later, yet 153 yards less than the first 3 games. The 175 yard average in the first 3 had declined to just 74 for the next 5 games. At that average it would take Miami 7 games to match their rushing yards from the first 3 games. Yikes.
In the first 3 games Miami was moving the chains with the ground game. They averaged 9 rushing 1st downs, but that has been cut by more than half allllll the way down to a measly 4 rushing 1st downs per game in these most recent games. Miami had 27 rushing 1st downs in those 1st 3 games, but has amassed just 19 in the 5 games since. Yikes.
Their main man Reggie Bush had aspirations of leading the NFL in rushing yards in 2012 (his contract season). That goal got off to a great start as he was averaging 100 yards on 6.0 yards per carry in the first 3 games. That production has been cut in half. In his last 5 games Bush is averaging just 46 yards on just 3.2 yards per carry.
I looked at the defenses that Miami has played to see if that could offer an explanation as to the steep and unexpected decline for their run game. It did not. In the first 3 games where Miami was great on the ground they played rush-Ds that averaged an NFL rank of 20th overall vs the run. In the 5 weeks that have followed the opposition averages the exact same rank vs the run of 20th.
QB Ryan Tannehill was averaging just 205 passing yards in the first 3 games. That has increased big-time to 280 passing yards per game since so we see the passing game has taken great strides, but I am concerned about the lack of balance.
This past weekend we showed that the results of a struggling run game means you have potential to have the opposing offense get more time of possession than you want. We saw Andrew Luck use his extra time to carve the Dolphins and that was the difference between 5-3 or 4-4 as it was the difference in the Colts game.
Miami has the New England Patriots twice, and San Francisco 49ers also remaining on their 2012 schedule. Those are 2 of the top-4 rush Ds in the NFL. They also play the Seattle Seahawks who are stout vs the run. Fortunately they also have the Jacksonville Jaguars who struggle vs the run, and the Buffalo Bills twice. The Bills are t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e vs the run (gotta be worst rush-D in NFL).
Miami’s defense and special teams play, plus Tannehill’s improvements, are the reasons for the (perhaps surprising) 4-4 start. Those are the reasons Miami is in the playoff hunt (currently the #8 seed in the AFC). If Miami is going to continue to be one of the pleasant surprises in 2012 then offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and head coach Joe Philbin need to find a way to rejuvenate the Dolphins run game.
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