While it’s obvious the Dolphins’ biggest problem is keeping quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright, the lack of a consistent and dependable running game isn’t making the job any easier.
And it’s not only that the Dolphins aren’t having success running the football (they rank 28th in the league with a mere 69.6 yards a game). Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman has pretty much gone further and further from remaining committed to it.
The Dolphins had a season-low 11 rushing attempts for 22 yards against the Ravens on Sunday, and have only run the ball 95 times this season compared to 182 pass attempts (17 of those rushing attempts belong to Tannehill). Miami has not run it more than 20 times in a game since Week 2 against the Colts.
Last season they handed it off an average of 27.5 times a game.
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“I think if we fix our running game all of our sacks will go away,” center Mike Pouncey said Tuesday. “We’ll put ourselves in better down and distance in third down where we’re not taking so many steps in the drop back. It will help us all a lot, definitely help Ryan stay healthy the rest of the year.
“I think we’ve just got to get into a rhythm. When we find those runs that we’re good at running we just have to keep running those runs. I hate to say it, but if you don’t have a good week in practice you’re not going to have a good week in the game. We got to start doing a better job as a football team having a great week in practice so the games are a lot easier for us.”
Sherman said Monday the Ravens stacked the box against Miami, unlike what the Saints did the week before.
“They put numbers in there to keep us from running what I call sub and nickel routes, and so the numbers weren’t right so we had to get into some passes,” Sherman said.
“Do I like to run the ball? I love to run the ball. My history, I think running the football sets up everything else, and it also helps in the protection, where you’re not throwing all the time. I would like to be able to run the ball, but if the defense forces you to throw it, you take what they give you in those situations.”
While starting tailback Lamar Miller is averaging a respectable 4.2 yards a carry (Reggie Bush averaged 4.3 yards a carry last season), he’s considered the worst elusive starting running back in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com. That rates a runner’s success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers.
According to PFF, Miller has only evaded one tackle this season on his 50 carries for 211 yards.
Considering the Dolphins’ woes on the offensive line, that’s not a good formula for success.
Daniel Thomas isn’t much better, producing only a 2.6 yard-per-carry average on 27 attempts with four missed tackles according to PFF. The aforementioned Bush, now in Detroit, is averaging 4.9 yards a carry and is credited with having created 16 missed tackles.
“It’s not frustrating at all,” Miller said.
“We just have to get better as a whole unit and just try to keep improving every day.
“Sometimes everything is not always going to be there, so I have to be my own blocker and try to make something happen.”
Where Miller has had his most success according to PFF — including his two longest runs of the season (a 49-yarder against Atlanta and a 20-yard burst against New Orleans) — is behind Pouncey and left guard Richie Incognito. Miller has combined for 117 yards on 19 carries (6.15 yards per carry) rushing through those gaps. He has 94 yards on 31 carries (3.0) when he hasn’t run between them.
“It’s not one thing that’s hurting us,” Pouncey said. “What we do best, teams obviously scheme us to take it away from us. So when we try to go to our secondary runs sometimes they’re not there. When they take away your best plays you kind of have to throw the football.
“That’s what a lot of teams have been doing — trying to make Ryan win football games for us. And he’s been doing a good job for us. We just got to do a better job keeping him up on his feet.”