Armando Salguero

Breaking down the tape: What happened to the Miami Dolphins’ run defense?

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon McMillan preparation for Thursday’s game against the Houston Texans, get a hair cut.

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon McMillan preparation for Thursday's game against the Houston Texans, get a hair cut.
Up Next
Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon McMillan preparation for Thursday's game against the Houston Texans, get a hair cut.

When a team runs the football for 248 yards on your defense, you have a problem.

It’s not just that you gave up 248 rushing yards, although that is hard to digest. It’s that you have put stuff on tape that other teams are going to try to duplicate to see if it is corrected.

And the problem with the Miami Dolphins making those corrections before Thursday night’s game at the Houston Texans is that there are only three days to fix everything.

(Of course, the Texans have only three days to replicate the previous team’s strategies, but you get the idea.)

So what went wrong with the Miami defense that it yielded a season-worst 248 rushing yards, a season-worst 7.1 yards per carry and a season-worst 12 rushing first downs?

“It was bad,” coach Adam Gase said. “We have to clean up a lot of stuff. We have to get on the same page and everybody needs to make sure they play as a group. We just did not do a good job of all three levels working together.

“It’s unfortunate because I felt we had an opportunity to do something at home, win a game where we could put ourselves in a really good position. We didn’t take advantage of it.

“They gutted us on defense. There was too many big holes.”

Big holes is just one problem.

Dolphins defenders overran plays.

Linebackers didn’t fill gaps.

The defensive ends — particularly Robert Quinn — did a poor job of setting the edge.

It was a clinic on how to not do it.

Let’s start with Quinn. He was brought to the Dolphins in trade from the Los Angeles Rams primarily to rush the passer. That’s what the guy has previously been great doing in his career.

Except Quinn has only one sack this season. Gase says sacks don’t matter but rather pass disruptions — as in hurrying the quarterback and/or making him change his platform to affect the pass — is what matters.

That’s coach mumbo jumbo. Getting a sack and, even better, a strip sack is like hidden points for your team. Disruptions are what teams fall back to when they’re not actually sacking the passer. It’s like saying touchdowns don’t matter as long as you’re kicking field goals.

Anyway, back to Quinn. He’s 257 pounds so he is something of an undersized defensive end. And that’s fine as long as he sets the edge of the defense on run plays.

Here, Quinn failed in that assignment....

View this post on Instagram

Robert Quinn setting the edge.

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

To be fair, I saw only one other examples of Quinn failing in this assignment on the edge.

It was not a good day for Miami’s linebackers. Not surprising.

There weren’t really a lot of missed tackles from this group. I only counted two. But it was as if they were guessing a lot.

And they were guessing wrong. And they were often a step late.

On the second-quarter 71-yard run by Kerryon Johnson, linebacker Raekwon McMillan was clearly a step late ...

View this post on Instagram

Bad game for Miami linebackers.

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

I mentioned there seemed to be guys guessing a lot in this game. And here I thought there were gap assignments and guys made sure they fit the gaps and plugged holes.

Anyway, on Detroit’s 2-yard touchdown run by LaGarrette Blount, it bothered me that it was so easy. I mean, goal line should be a tough set of downs for the offense to run the football in for a score.

There should really never be an example of a guy simply walking in to the end zone untouched. And if there is, something is amiss.

Well, something was amiss here ...

View this post on Instagram

LaGarrette Blount easy TD run.

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

I talk about Reshad Jones guessing wrong on where the play was going and that seemed to happen.

One more thing: It would be good for guys to get off their blocks.

I tell you there was guessing in this next video but as I think more about it, I think there was just some anxiety by defenders because they were getting shredded on running plays and they wanted to make it stop.

So on the following video you see guys really overcommitting as much as anything ...

View this post on Instagram

More guessing poorly.

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

The problem with this is the Lions used the instincts and reaction time of Miami players against them.

I get the feeling the Houston Texans will test this Thursday night.

View this post on Instagram

Can’t miss with 8 in the box.

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

The Lions used overloads multiple times during the game.

They would bring in extra tight ends or extra offensive linemen and overload to one side or the other of the center.

And then they just snapped the ball and created this scrum of players at the line of scrimmage. And sometimes the back ran to the overload side, and sometimes he would cut back.

View this post on Instagram

Deetroit Lions overload. Why did I say Dee-troit?

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

And once the overload thing works, the team is going to keep doing it....

View this post on Instagram

Running behind an overload.

A post shared by Armando Salguero (@thearmandosalguero) on

One thing I didn’t mention in the videos: I didn’t notice anyone really planting themselves and holding their ground.

I didn’t notice a lot of stalemates.

If the defensive line manages a stalemate and doesn’t get moved off the ball, that’s a win for them. A tie is a win.

The Dolphins’ front didn’t get many stalemates in this game.

Follow me on Instagram: @thearmandosalguero

Sports Pass for $30 per year

Get unlimited access to all Miami Herald sports stories and videos for $30


Related stories from Miami Herald