The only way to win in today’s NFL is by spreading it out, opening it up and throwing the football all over the field yard. Either get on the train or get left behind.
Wait what’s that? Teams with the most passing attempts in Week 1 went 3-13? And those with the most production on the ground won 11 of the first 16?
Perhaps conventional wisdom needs revision. The Dolphins sure think so.
While an elite, dynamic quarterback is undoubtedly the golden ticket to success, the first week of the season proved that balance — yes old, boring balance — is still essential.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Case in point: When the Dolphins ran the ball early last Sunday, they were in the game. When they stopped running, they fell apart.
Ryan Tannehill might someday be a star, but for now, he’s a rookie who will make mistakes — like when he threw three interceptions in the span of six passes at Houston.
Meanwhile, the team’s most dynamic offensive player — Reggie Bush — had just four carries after Tannehill’s first pick, even though he averaged nearly 5 yards per rush in the game.
“That’s one of the things that [offensive coordinator Mike] Sherman talks about in the meetings,” said Bush, who had 69 yards on 14 carries. “Just keeping that balanced attack, and that’s got to come from all phases of our game — running the ball, throwing the ball, protecting the quarterback.”
When the Dolphins do all three, they’re an efficient offensive team. But that running attack will likely be a short-handed Sunday against Oakland.
Backup running back Daniel Thomas has not practiced all week and is expected to miss the home opener after sustaining a concussion in Houston. If he can’t go, there’s a good chance Lamar Miller, the rookie out of the University of Miami, will be activated for the first time
Expect Miller, Marcus Thigpen and possibly even fullback Jorvorskie Lane to split the difference. Lane and Miller were coy Thursday when asked of a possible increased role this Sunday.
“It’s just like schoolwork,” Lane said. “If a teacher tells you to do something, you do it.”
Added Miller: “I’ve got to get ready for the opportunity and be prepared if my number’s called.”
Miller is a dynamic talent when he runs the ball, but was a bit of a liability in pass production during camp. Miller said he has made strides thanks, in part, to Bush’s tutelage.
Regardless of who is the primary ball-carrier Sunday, two things are clear:
• It will be tough sledding against Oakland’s stout front seven.
• Miami is likely run to the left more than the right.
The Raiders lost their season opener against San Diego, but it wasn’t the run defense’s fault. Dominant defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly controlled the line of scrimmage, surrendering just 1.6 yards per carry.
“I think Seymour’s the total package,” Dolphins left guard Richie Incognito said. “He does it all. He’s got good quickness off the ball, he’s got good power. He’s got good instincts. The guy’s played a lot of football in his career.”
Incognito and left tackle Jake Long have played a lot of football together. Not surprisingly, the Dolphins are more comfortable running behind that experience. Of their 17 carries in Houston (excluding a kneel-down and fumbled snap), Miami went to the left 13 times for 54 yards.
Jonathan Martin and John Jerry, the team’s right tackle and guard, respectively, held their own in the rare situations they were featured. Miami averaged 7 yards per carry when they went right of center.
“Jake’s a more veteran, seasoned player than our other tackle,” coach Joe Philbin said. “We felt like there was some advantage of running to his side as opposed to the other.”
Added Long: “This is going on our third year playing together. When you plan next to a guy for so long, you get comfortable with his tendencies. We’re good at playing off of one another, are really comfortable with one another.”
Run Sunday the way they’ve showed they can, and the Dolphins might have to get comfortable with another trend-buster: a victory.