The good news for the Miami Dolphins is they don’t field the worst rushing yards per attempt defense in the NFL. So, a tiny sliver of hope.
The Dolphins gave up 5.8 yards per rush against the Baltimore Ravens last week and that’s not exactly good, although it wasn’t the NFL’s worst last week. The Dallas defense, believe it or not, is 32nd in the NFL in rush yards per attempt.
So Brian Flores’ team has something to work with here.
Something it can grab and try to build from.
And that’s exactly what must happen for the Dolphins, 18 1/2 point underdogs at home on Sunday, to not get literally run out of their own stadium again, this time by the New England Patriots.
The Dolphins have to contain the Patriots running game. Because like the Ravens last week, the Patriots actually try to achieve balance in their offense and throwing the football is often done from play-action — which relies on the threat of the run.
So if the Dolphins contain that threat by limiting the run, that might also help their pass defense.
It’s kind of a circle of life.
This week the Dolphins are trying to make the run defense respectable. And how, exactly, are they doing that?
“First, I would start with communication — identifying what they’re in, communicating and getting aligned, and then defeating blocks and tackling,” coach Brian Flores said Wednesday. “I would say at the forefront of that is tackling.
“There were a lot of yards after contact last week. It’s something that we’ve harped on the last couple of days and we’ll work at that today. The hope is to get better at that. If we tackle better, that will go a long way for us as a total defense.”
The Dolphins have a long way to go. Because while the Baltimore average per attempt wasn’t the league’s best, their 265 yards on the ground was indeed the NFL’s highest mark.
That’s why Miami is 32nd (last) in rush yards allowed per game.
That’s right, in a game the Dolphins committed resources from the secondary — putting seven and sometimes eight players in the tackle box — and had defensive backs and linebackers biting up on play-action fakes, the Ravens still rushed for more yards than any other NFL team on opening weekend.
That cannot continue for the Dolphins. That cannot repeat against New England.
So how exactly are the Dolphins trying to improve their tackling?
“Well, we have pads on today,” Flores said before practice. “We’ll work a couple of tackling drills. Some of them — we’re going to have some contact in practice today. I think we need that. I think we need that as a team. I think we need that defensively. I think we need that in the kicking game. We’ll just continue to work at it.”
I have a suggestion as well:
Move Bobby McCain back to nickel cornerback. He bit a lot on those play fakes. Move Minkah Fitzpatrick to free safety. He’s better suited to play nickel as well, but perhaps he won’t bite up as much.
Play Raekwon McMillan against run formations more. He’s clearly a good run-down linebacker.
Increase strong safety Reshad Jones from his 22 snaps (42 percent of the defensive downs) of a week ago. (This one may be a challenge because Jones is nursing an ankle injury and missed practice Wednesday).
Dolphins coach must also hope the youngsters on the defense that should have been embarrassed by last week’s outing play more aggressively and loose this week. Week 1 is fine for nerves.
This is Week 2, fellas.
One more thing beyond sound tackling ...
“Just our fundamentals,” linebacker Sam Eguavoen said. “Learning to work together and being physical and knowing where to fit and where teams are going to try to attack us defensively.”
That would help, too.