Barry Jackson

Miami Dolphins plan to change approach at running back

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill hands the ball off to Jay Ajayi as they play the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thurs., Sept. 29, 2016.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill hands the ball off to Jay Ajayi as they play the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thurs., Sept. 29, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Tuesday afternoon:

• Dolphins coach Adam Gase continues to blame himself for a lot, saying Tuesday that using four running backs the past two weeks, in retrospect, “was some bad coaching by me. Going forward, hopefully we can target a couple of guys a game or one guy a game and let that guy get in the flow of it.”

Gase didn’t say this, but it’s clear that Jay Ajayi (4.2 per carry) and Kenyan Drake (4.9) have earned more work.

Arian Foster, who has missed two games with an injury initially listed as a groin and later changed to a hamstring, was not participating in the part of practice open to the media on Tuesday.

• Gase confirmed the Dolphins are mulling a change at free safety. Isa Abdul Quddus has started all four games there but Gase said the Dolphins are considering a rotation with Quddus and Michael Thomas sharing time opposite Reshad Jones.

“We’ll see how practice goes,” he said. “Every week, we go in and there are certain positions that we do that with. Sometimes it goes noticed, sometimes it goes unnoticed. Mike has been playing well. We felt like he could help us back there, and part of the reason is Bobby (McCain) has been playing well (in the nickel/slot position).”

• There was a lot of discussion today about the Dolphins’ ineptitude on third downs, where Miami ranks last in the league in conversions.

So what’s the problem?

Apparently everyone is to blame – Ryan Tannehill, his weapons and, of course, the offensive line.

“We had a couple of chances to make some plays - whether it was (a) throw (or) catch,” Gase said. “That was a good amount of them where we could have basically taken care of business on our own, minus schematics. (We had) probably one too many protection breakdowns. That’s probably where it comes down to the most. If we could: 1) Just make the plays that are there. That’s going to help us a lot, and then if we can just clean up some of the protections, just make sure we don’t have any free runners at the quarterback. We’ve got some guys open. They’re doing the right stuff outside. We just need to clean up some of our protections.”

Gase was just getting started. He’s justifiably irked by the high number of 3-and-outs.

“So far, we’ve kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit too much and it’s continued and rolled over into the second half some games,” Gase said. “I think for us it’s basically getting back to some of our basics and doing a good job on first and second downs. Let’s get into third-and-manageable, get inside third-and-5 and let’s convert those. We have a good a number of third-and-5s and we’re in the right position, we’ve just got to finish some of these plays. I think the more we’re together and the more we’re getting used to ...

“I think our guys are getting used to my play-calling style. I think our guys are getting used to our scheme and they understand the why. We’re doing it right. We have to take it to that next step. We have to make plays. If the ball’s a little off, make the play. If we throw a good ball, we have to catch it 100 percent of the time. If we can eliminate some of those little things ... Same thing with the protection - when we have the blitz picked up and we’re in the right spot, let’s finish the blocks. Let’s get the throw off. If we clean up a couple of those things - hopefully this week, we’re heading in the right direction, as far as what we did in practice today - those numbers will turn around.”

• Gase suggested cornerback Tony Lippett, who replaced the benched Byron Maxwell last week, will continue to get playing time this week.

“It’s another chance for him to prove himself,” Gase said, “another opportunity for him to go out there and compete against some good receivers and a good scheme they have going on there.”

He said he wants more “consistency” from Lippett.

The Dolphins insist they haven’t given up on Maxwell, but it’s surprising they pulled the plug so quickly on one of their ballyhooed offseason acquisitions.

• Kiko Alonso, rated the NFL’s third-best run defending linebacker by Pro Football Focus and third in the AFC in tackles, credits his play partly to health.

“This is the best my knee has felt since 2013,” he told me. “It’s not only the physical part but the mental part.”

• More evidence of Tannehill’s struggles when under duress: According to Pro Football Focus, he had a 133 rating against Cincinnati on 15 drop-backs with no pressure, a 0.00 rating on 15 dropbacks with pressure.

Also: Branden Albert was sick today and sent home… Mike Pouncey returned to practice, and Jordan Cameron remains out in the concussion protocol --- two topics that colleague Adam Beasley explores in his stories on the sports home page.

For UM football nuggets from today, including UM’s plans if disrupted by Hurricane Matthew, please click here. And for instant news and links, please follow me on Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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