Running Backs, Linebackers Crucial To Miami Dolphins Win Sunday

Daniel Thomas Miami Dolphins
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

In more than half of the Miami Dolphins‘ losses, there is a common theme: their running game is shut down and their defense allows over 100 yards of rushing.

The Dolphins have won only one game this season when their offense produces less than 85 yards on the ground. Stopping the run will also be key as the Dolphins have given up over 100 yards of rushing in nine games this season and have lost five of those games.

If the Dolphins want to win Sunday, they are going to have to get their running game going against the tough front line that the New York Jets possess and shut down the Jets’ power running game, which might be difficult with the way the Dolphins’ linebackers and front seven as a whole have been playing lately.

The Dolphins’ new linebackers, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, have been the object of much scrutiny as of late, and it is well deserved. They are not stopping the run well and their pass coverage is responsible for many touchdowns to tight ends. Not to mention Wheeler’s costly hands-to-the-face penalty in the fourth quarter of last week’s game to keep a Buffalo Bills drive alive, a drive which the Bills eventually scored on.

What’s worse is the two aren’t producing in the one area in which they were sold on, sacks. The two have combined for 1.5 sacks through 15 games. But all will be forgiven if these linebackers can have monster games and disrupt Geno Smith with those double A-gap blitzes that Kevin Coyle loves so much.

The Dolphins’ running game will be key Sunday, mainly whether they have it or not. In four out of seven losses this year, the Dolphins ran for 22, 52, 14 and two. That can’t happen Sunday.

If the Dolphins are not successful with their basic running schemes in this game (which happens a lot), then they need to be more creative with the running game. Screen passes to the running backs would greatly help this offense, as it would slow the Jets’ pass rush and make Rex Ryan think twice about blitzing.

Unless the Jets go on a ridiculous scoring run (don’t’ hold your breath) to start the game, the Dolphins can’t give up on the run game. If it is getting stuffed, bring out the creativity. A strong day for Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas coupled with a solid performance from the Dolphins’ front seven will equal a Dolphins victory.

Danny Williams is a Miami Dolphins writer for rantsports.com, follow him on Twitter @danwilli45.