Miami Dolphins

Role reversal: Dolphins offensive line now leaving opposition frustrated

Miami’s Arian Foster breaks a tackle by Atlanta’s Ricardo Allen to score in the second quarter on Thursday night.
Miami’s Arian Foster breaks a tackle by Atlanta’s Ricardo Allen to score in the second quarter on Thursday night. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

To hear Arian Foster tell it, football is easy.

Simply run where the other guys are not.

“Colors. A bunch of colors,” Foster said late Thursday night, when asked what he saw on his first touchdown run as a Dolphin. “Trying to find somewhere where there was no colors.”

Much more went into Foster’s 2-yard touchdown run Friday night, of course. The left side opened up because the Dolphins successfully blocked down and tight end Jordan Cameron sealed off Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

“There was no colors over there,” he deadpanned.

It was a rare run-blocking win for an offensive line that has made huge gains in pass protection but still cannot find its footing on the ground.

Dolphins running backs this preseason have gained 264 yards on 82 carries — an average of just 3.2 yards per attempt. And that figure is inflated by a 45-yard touchdown run by Isaiah Pead in Week 2.

Still, the Dolphins will probably live with that if it means Ryan Tannehill isn’t getting hit. Since Gase put Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod in the starting lineup, the pass protection has been excellent. Tannehill has been sacked just once in his last 50 drop-backs.

“We're as ready as we can be [for the regular season],” left tackle Branden Albert said. “We've got to be ready when it comes. You can't hesitate.”

Added Foster: “It’s just a testament to the work we have been putting in, it is doing the work every single day.”

Miami didn’t just fend off the Falcons’ pass rush. The Dolphins demoralized Atlanta’s pass-rushers.

Down the hall from a raucous post-game Dolphins locker room, Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley seethed.

“It ain’t working right now,” Beasley told ESPN. “... It is [frustrating] at times.”

Imagine that: the Dolphins’ offensive line leaving its opposition frustrated, not the other way around.

It’s the way Adam Gase envisioned the offense working when he assembled a line with three former left tackles — Albert, Tunsil, and Bushrod — plus Ja’Wuan James, who played on the left side after Albert tore up his knee in 2014. And Anthony Steen hung in there in his first start at center for injured Mike Pouncey.

That combination was technically proficient. But not overly physical.

Which brings us back to the ground game. Billy Turner is a better run-blocking guard than Bushrod at this point, but that might be a tradeoff Gase is willing to make to keep his quarterback healthy.

“I feel like the run game is coming,” Gase said. “We’re developing. We’re starting to pop some runs here and there. I probably could have run a little more in the first half to be a little more balanced, but we were trying to make sure we were cleaned up on some of the pass protection. We want to make sure we’re good with the routes. We wanted to make sure we established that tempo. We only have so many plays to get in that first half, so when we play a four quarter game, that run game is going to get better as we go throughout the game.”

The same is probably true of Foster. He made the most of his 13 snaps Thursday night. Along with the score, he caught 2 passes for 20 yards, including one on fourth-and-short that kept the starting offense’s only touchdown drive alive.

It’s hard to say if Foster or Jay Ajayi has the edge for the starting running back job; neither averaged more than two yards per carry Thursday.

“I just wanted him to get hit a few more times to make sure he feels like he’s back, because he won’t play next week [against the Titans],” Gase said. “His next time he’ll have any kind of contact is going to be Seattle.”

▪  Linebacker Jelani Jenkins had what is being described as a “clean-up” procedure on his knee after getting hurt in Thursday night’s game. Meanwhile, defensive end Terrence Fede suffered a sprained MCL.

Miami Herald sportswriter Barry Jackson contributed to this report.

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