After deciding to move on from Ndamukong Suh last spring, the Dolphins had a vision for how they expected to stop the run, one that included new additions Robert Quinn and Akeem Spence, a heavy rotation on the defensive line and the insertion of middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who missed his rookie season with a knee injury.
The plan hasn’t worked out, and on Monday, the Dolphins found themselves having plunged to last in the league in run defense, allowing 142 yards per game on the ground and 4.8 yards per attempt, which ranks 26th.
Last season, with Suh, Miami was 14th against the run, allowing 110.5 yards per game on the ground, and permitted 4.1 yards per carry, which ranked 17th.
In Sunday’s loss to Green Bay, the Dolphins were torched for 195 rushing yards on 7.8 per carry.
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“That’s on us,” linebacker Kiko Alonso said Monday before players adjourned for a six-day break on their bye week. “We’ve got to do a better job. It’s just details and about execution.”
The loss of defensive lineman William Hayes, Miami’s best run-stuffer, to a season-ending knee injury in week three has been especially damaging. And various players in the front seven have struggled against the run.
Overall, the Dolphins rank 26th in yards allowed per game (392.3), compared with 335.7 last season, which was 16th. They’re allowing one more point per game than they did a year ago – 25.6 to 24.6, which ranks 21st in the league.
Coach Adam Gase, asked if the team will re-evaluate anything it does in the wake of so many injuries, said: “We’ve looked at everything. It would be one thing if we were having all of these soft tissue injuries, but we’re having season-ending type injuries. And it’s always on game days. I think a lot of it is it’s almost across the league where every week you see big-name players going down. I don’t know if we’ve really been hit any harder than anybody else.
“It feels like it to us because we’re here every day. ... I wish I had an answer for you because some of these are just unexplainable. Like a guy gets tackled and jacks his shoulder up. How do you prevent that?”
▪ Though Miami gave up six sacks (including three late in the game), Gase praised the work of four backup offensive linemen who were pressed into starting Sunday because of injuries.
“Those guys did a good job up front,” Gase said. “They executed a lot of things in the run game very well.”
▪ Gase’s assessment on where his 5-5 team stands heading into the bye:
“Right now, the only thing that’s really been eliminated for us is an undefeated season,” Gase said. “Everything else is on the table. Other teams are having a lot of the same issues we are and it’s really who can pull it together these last six games and find a way to get in.
“I think it’s really, for us, get healthy as much as we can. If we can find a way to clean up our red area stuff on offense and eliminate the explosive plays on defense, I know that sounds like a broken record but that’s what this season is about.”
▪ Safety Reshad Jones ended up playing 45 of 57 defensive snaps after sitting out the first quarter as discipline for refusing to re-enter the Jets game after he was rotated out.
“That was just what I told him that I wanted to do,” Gase said Monday. “He didn’t have anything to say and we moved on. I told him after this is done, we’re done with it. We’re moving on.”
Rookie Minkah Fizpatrick played 55 of the 57 defensive snaps, playing at both safety and boundary cornerback.
There was a shift in playing time at tight end, with A.J. Derby (back from a foot injury) playing 30 snaps, Nick O’Leary 21 and Mike Gesicki 20. Rookie fourth-round pick Durham Smythe was inactive.
Rookie Kalen Ballage got six snaps at running back, with Kenyan Drake logging 34 and Frank Gore 29.
Defensively, with cornerback Bobby McCain limited to 33 snaps because of a concussion and other factors, rookie Cornell Armstrong played eight snaps and Torry McTyer six.
Spence played the most snaps at defensive tackle (41), followed by Davon Godchaux (32), Sylvester Williams (21) and end/tackle Ziggy Hood (15).
Quinn played the most at defensive end (37), followed by Cam Wake (32) and Cameron Malveaux and Andre Branch (25 apiece).
At linebacker, Alonso played all 57 snaps, with McMillan logging 45 and Jerome Baker 37.
Here’s my post from earlier today with good news on Ryan Tannehill and Jakeem Grant.