Miami Dolphins

Dolphins explore options for solving ‘unacceptable’ rushing defense

Running back C.J. Anderson of the Denver Broncos scores against the Miami Dolphins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Nov. 23, 2014 in Denver.
Running back C.J. Anderson of the Denver Broncos scores against the Miami Dolphins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Nov. 23, 2014 in Denver. Getty Images

The Dolphins had more than enough trouble stopping the run Monday night with all 11 players on the field.

So when they fielded just 10? Forget about it.

The only touchdown the Jets scored, a 20-yard run by Greg Salas on an end-around, came on a play in which the Dolphins defense was somehow a man light. Miami had eight in the box, two cornerbacks pressing the line — and no help deep.

Once he turned the corner, Salas had to make just one move to reach the end zone.

That breakdown did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff and might have contributed to the general grumpiness in the defensive end of the building early this week.

Defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers was particularly blunt with his players after Miami surrendered more than 200 yards on the ground in back-to-back games. The Jets went for 277 a week after the Broncos ran for 201.

“As a defensive line, you know, it kind of gets to you — especially the guy that’s coaching us,” defensive end Dion Jordan said.

As for what Rodgers said in the group’s meeting?

“It’s definitely unacceptable,” Jordan recalled. “It shouldn’t be like that for any defensive line.”

It better not be this Sunday, or the Dolphins’ season could go sideways quick. The Ravens come to town with the league’s fourth-most-productive running back (Justin Forsett has 1,009 yards) and the league’s No.5 rushing attack (131.8 yards per game).

Strangely, the Ravens might have a better offense without Ray Rice — who can’t find work after knocking out his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City casino — than they did with him.

Rice averaged just a shade over 3 yards per carry last season, and there is no telling how many fewer carries Forsett would have gotten this year if Rice was still on the team. Forsett never had more than 619 yards in any of his first six NFL seasons, which were spent on four teams.

So how do the Dolphins, on pace to allow the most yards per rush (4.3) since their 1-15 season, go about stopping him?

It starts with getting better play in the trenches. Defensive tackle Randy Starks in particular has struggled against the run the past two weeks.

In the Jets and Broncos games, he was on the field for 85 total snaps but logged just two solo tackles (including one for loss) and two assists.

But while it’s easy to point fingers at the defensive line — none of Miami’s defensive tackles played well against the run Monday, according to Pro Football Focus — coach Joe Philbin wouldn’t scapegoat just that group.

“I think it’s everybody,” he said. “I wouldn’t put it on the D-line.”

Philbin added that he would “entertain anything” to fix the problem, including tinkering with the team’s defensive line rotation.

If so, perhaps Derrick Shelby will see his workload increase. Shelby, who can play both defensive end and tackle, was one of the few Dolphins linemen to fare well against the run Monday night. He had three tackles (including one for loss) in just 22 snaps.

As Philbin mentioned, however, the issues extend beyond the Dolphins getting beat up front.

They have also struggled with their linebacker fits and have missed 22 tackles over the past two weeks. That’s after missing just 61 in the first 10 games of the season.

“Now, if we want to throw our arms up into the air and panic about two games of not doing it so well — one we won, one we didn’t — it’s a matter of being a pro right now,” defensive tackle Jared Odrick said.

“It’s a matter of being a professional. There’s nothing about what happened with the Miami Dolphins in the past couple of weeks that says panic. We’re still in a playoff position. We’re in position to control our own destiny. We’re still in position to get better as a defense.”


▪ Linebacker Chris McCain evidently injured his ankle in practice Thursday. He left the locker room on crutches late in the day. McCain, officially listed as limited in his participation on the team’s injury report, was present for the start of practice and appeared fine at the time. He was not on Wednesday’s injury report, suggesting the ankle issue is a new one.

▪ Reserve lineman Nate Garner remains away from the team to deal with an undisclosed illness.

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