Anyone can gather a collection of pertinent facts about the Miami Dolphins’ running game after two games that already suggest there are terrible days ahead for coach Adam Gase’s offense.
The Dolphins are 27th in the NFL in rushing yards per game. They’re leading rusher is quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They’re starting running back, Arian Foster, is injury prone, nursing a groin injury and is out for Sunday’s game against Cleveland.
The Dolphins’ best run blocker, center Mike Pouncey, also is injured, hasn’t played this year, isn’t playing Sunday and might not play until the fifth game of the season.
This is sounding bad, isn’t it?
So why are the Dolphins not worried?
“I’m all right with where we are at right now,” Gase said this week. “I know why certain things are what they are, and you’ll know if I have a concern with the running game.”
Gase knows things we don’t know.
Does he know stuff his offensive coordinator doesn’t know? Because while Clyde Christensen isn’t reaching for a huge glowing panic button when he considers the running game, he is feeling uneasy about what he has seen so far.
“I wouldn’t use the word worried yet, but I feel anxious that we get it going,” Christensen admitted. “It makes everything easier. It’s really, really important.”
So what is it that Gase knows that we do not?
“Look at this way, we played Seattle, and they’re tough to run the ball against,” Gase said. “They line up, they always have one more guy [in the tackle box] than you do. You have to kind of finesse it with them. Los Angeles played them this week and averaged less yards per carry than we did. They averaged 2.8, and we averaged 3.2. It’s a tough team.
“You’re not going to have great runs against those guys because, one, they load up the box and, two, they’re great tacklers. They’ve been the NFL’s best tackling team since 2013.”
So that explains 64 rushing yards against the Seahawks. But what about the modest 70 rushing yards against New England? And, no, 6 more yards on the ground is not progress.
“It got so lopsided so fast and then I tried to keep it honest and we had a fumble, which amplifies everything,” said Gase, making the point that his team got so far behind, the second half of that game was about throwing the football almost exclusively.
The Dolphins ran the ball seven times in the second half against New England as they passed to make the game closer as quickly as possible.
“When you go into a normal game and it doesn’t get lopsided either way, that’s when you want to see what kind of flow you have,” Gase said. “And you have to go into a game against a team that you can say, ‘We’re going to balance it up.’ Because sometimes you go into a game and have to say, ‘Hey, we’re throwing it 50 times because that’s what we have to do to win this game.’ ”
So Gase isn’t worried. He believes circumstances have dictated Miami’s dismal run statistics more than the team’s actual ability to forge a running attack.
But that doesn’t mean Miami’s ability to run the football should not be closely monitored until, you know, it actually proves it can.
The truth is that although the Dolphins believe their 2016 offensive line and running back corps will produce good rushing statistics by season’s end, there are doubters around the league.
“I understand what they’ve done with that offensive line down there, it makes sense in a lot of ways,” one NFC personnel man said this week, “but I see good, technically sound pass protectors. Which one of those guys is a [butt]-kicker? Which one of those guys buries people?
“And they’re relying on Arian Foster. He’s injured this week, right? Is that a surprise? I don’t know about all that coming together.”
No one really knows. The Dolphins having or lacking a good run offense is all a projection until it actually happens or doesn’t. But the point about how Miami’s offense is configured is a valid one.
This Dolphins’ line promises to be excellent at pass protection. These guys are going to protect Tannehill better than any line he has played behind because all the linemen are very good pass protectors.
But are these fine pass blockers intense run blockers who steamroll defenders?
I don’t know. Neither does anyone else. What I do know is the Dolphins’ offensive line is manned by five men and four of them are left-tackle types. And left tackles are typically great pass blockers but not necessarily great run blockers.
“It’s probably a little bit hard to put it in a clean box and say that left tackles aren’t good run blockers and guards are real good run blockers,” Christensen countered.
That’s fair. I would defer to Gase and Christensen on all this until we reach a sample size of games that allow inarguable proclamations.
But questions are already out there after only two games.