Did Miami Get Better Against The Run?
Run Defense was a major liability in 2016… will it be the same in 2017?
Going into this off-season, one of the Miami Dolphins primary jobs was to find a way to improve against the run.
Miami’s rush defense was ranked 30th in the league–only slightly ahead of the two worst teams in the NFL: the Browns and 49ers. The Dolphins allowed a whopping 142.7 yards per game on the ground, and if they want to have a winning record again, against a schedule that in percentage terms is harder than last year, then they are going to have to find a way to be better against the run.
Miami spent a ton of money and resources on Defense this off-season. Does this mean they’ll actually be better against rushers? Comparing the players on Defense that Miami acquired in the off-season to the players just drafted on defense, it appears that we may have actually done a better job getting better against the run with our free agent transactions.
Linebackers were terrible against the run in 2016
In free agency we signed LB Lawrence Timmons and DE William Hayes. Timmons is a linebacker that is known for having a nose for the football and being very stout against the run. The biggest knock on him that NFL football fans can see is he’s entering his 11th year in the league and may have lost a step–especially in coverage. I’ll be very interested–in a nail-biting way–to see how he does this year, because the Steelers have the uncanny ability of knowing when is the right time to not resign their free agents. Will this trend finally broken or not.
Then Miami traded for Hayes–a sneaky good move–because his forte is stopping the run. Even though Hayes is also on the wrong side of 30, he immediately becomes our best run stopping Defensive End. This might have been the best move to fix the run defense, given the limited commitment and the players ability.
In the Draft Miami selected DE Charles Harris, who is known for his prowess in the pass rush, but is actually referred by some as a liability in the run game. This is definitely a concern for Miami, but it’s going to be something that both Harris and the coaches are going to focus on improving in Harris’ game. So depending on how much Harris grows will determine his contribution. Both pupil and teacher can put a big feather in their hat if Harris makes a dramatic improvement early.
Running Backs often had a field day against the Fins
Our second round pick of LB Raekwon McMillian appears to be the best one in terms of addressing our need to get better against the run through the draft. Many scouts felt that McMillian excelled against the run and is the kind of linebacker that is always around the football.
The one knock on McMillian is that he lacks a bit of athleticism, which could make him a liability in coverage against Tight Ends and Running Backs. If McMillian truly does have a problem on passing downs in coverage, but is able to be productive against the run, then this would still be considered an improvement for our defense. Even if McMillian is limited to obvious running downs, while not an a perfect scenario, at least he would bring help to a desperate need.
In terms of the Dolphins drafting CB Cordrea Tankersley, Miami definitely selected him because of his cover skills and not his run defense skills he showed no desire to want to be involved in the run defense and make tackles. This is obviously a concern, because even though CB’s are paid to defend against pass catching wide receivers, they need to at least be capable to make tackles and maintain the perimeter on running plays. Question is, can you teacher heart?
A key to 2017 is how much the Dolphins can limit runners
The other two draft picks that Miami used on defense were both on Defensive Tackles: Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. I like that Miami doubled down on the DT position late in the draft, because DT’s are definitely key cogs in stopping rushers. However, both of these DT’s are actually known more for their inside pass rushing ability, than their ability to stop the run. Since they are both late round draft picks, it’s going to be a battle for them to just make the team. If they do make the roster, then they’re going to have to get better technique and even stronger to hold their own in the trenches against the run.
We did a better job of improving against the run with our FA acquisitions compared to our recent draft picks who may potentially contribute. Overall, the grade is uncertain due to potential being the operative word. Only if this staff can improve the draft picks skill set and fast, can Miami make a dramatic improvement against the run. The FA’s alone won’t bring enough to the table to turn this defense around, so coaching will be key. What are the rest of the Miami Dolphins News fans thoughts about whether or not we got better against the run?