Will Miami Establish A Rushing Identity Against the Chargers?
Miami began to win in 2016 when they decided to take on a rushing identity
The Miami Dolphins are days away from playing their first game of the season this Sunday in LA against the Chargers.
And we fans are drooling to see the action.
What we are also waiting to see–given that the Denver Broncos racked up 140 yards in rushing against the Chargers–is will Miami focus on the ground game.
If they want to win their first game–and for long haul success, they must establish their identity as a running team, week in and week out.
I’m not saying we should tea-cup up and run Bill Parcells‘ ball, but rather, be a balanced offense.
A consistent run game will help the O-linemen block, as defenders will be reluctant to pin their ears back, and it will give Cutler a big ace in the hole with play-action passes and boot action off the fake.
Last year, backed by a healthy line, Miami saved their season with a ground and pound offensive attack run through Jay Ajayi. Coach Adam Gase has said numerous times this offseason that he wants to get Ajayi more touches. So it will be interesting to see if he actually makes it a priority this season. The fact is that the Chargers Run-D looked shaky against the Broncos, and there’s no reason why Miami can’t take advantage of this in LA.
The Dolphins 2017 identity can’t be pass happy
With Mike Pouncey back in the lineup, and Ajayi the type of running back that gets stronger and wears on a defense as the game progresses to the 4th quarter, patience will be a crucial ingredient to winning against the Chargers.
The Chargers have a talented and athletic front led by the stellar Joey Bosa. And if Miami runs the ball, there will be plenty of minimal gains as seen in the first play in the video below. A big concern is the point attack strength of Pouncey. If we see too many results like play #2 at the Center position, then Miami will have big issues all day. Pouncey is elite at the second level, but a couple of times in Preseason he was driven deep into the backfield, due to his inability to handle bull-rush power. This has been a growing trend for Pouncey since his first hip injury.
But, if Miami can keep at it, and be patient through the negative and minimal gains, then good things will happen. The Chargers defense loves to pass rush, but they lose focus, technique, and effort in run defense with some frequency. Bosa loses effort and pulls up too early in play #3. In play #4 Bosa loses his contain assignment and a misses tackle due to poor angle. In the next video, you’ll see from several plays that Bosa isn’t alone in run defense miscues.
Miami has one of the most physical backs in the game, they need to use him
The Broncos run the Zone Stretch rushing scheme as do the the Fins. This scheme can be very effective against the 3-4, which is the scheme the Chargers base their defense on. When the ZS goes up against the 3-4, the more difficult assignments are given to the Center and Tackles. Schematically, the Guards often play a lesser role because they are likely to have the easier alignments. Better starting angles, blocking LB’s on the second level, and being part of the double team on the Nose Guard / Tackle give them the cushier job as opposed to the Center and Tackles who have harder assignments. In theory, Miami is ‘supposed to’ have their talent on the Offensive Line at Tackle and Center. This week will show whether this theory is a reality.
You can see the Phinsnews film study on the Dolphins Tackles here for the concern.
Despite the Chargers formidable ability to pressure the QB, manage the gaps… and even blow up run plays, they were sloppy and inconsistent in week 1. In the video below, you’ll see that from front to back of the defense, they miss tackles– a lot of them. And since Ajayi was the best at breaking tackles in 2016, this will provide good results if Miami can stay patient. Patience in the run game was a bit of an issue with Gase in 2016, when he had a tendency to not always stick with the rushing attack.
The Zone Stretch uses movement to create blocking angles that can rob the strength of the big guys on the inside of the 3-4 with leverage, while also getting the smaller LB’s on the outside to get blocked by larger linemen. This opens doors in the defense along the line of scrimmage. The holes for the back can open either play side or in the cutback. Again, patience from the staff and the backs in this scheme are key. The Chargers are fast and quite often kill the play with speed on the cut back with their ability to blow up and evade blocks. But, missed tackles crop up nearly every play, making this talented defense vulnerable in their run defense
Miami’s O-Line is the key to this game, a few big miscues could lead to a loss
Miami must slow the Chargers pass rush, and the run game will be key in that. The Dolphins have the ability to run the ball, but it will comes down to not only execution, but more importantly patience.
Three things will be key: Tackles can’t lose on the edge with whiffs, Pouncey can’t get driven back by the NT too often, and Anthony Steen, who is also vulnerable to the bull rush at the point of attack, must be far more stout than in Preseason.
Many of the best price per head software programs for betting just came out with the line on the game, with the Dolphins being a +4.5 point underdog. Not much of a surprise there considering that the Dolphins are on the road and the lines makers never give them any respect. To be honest, I like it when the Dolphins are the underdog. The public always pounds the favorite and the public is often wrong, which is why sportsbooks are constantly making money.
What are the rest of the Miami Dolphins News fans thoughts about Miami’s ability to run the ball against the Chargers? And will Gase actually stick with developing a rushing identity through the thick and the thin?
*M.J. contributed the video and break downs on this one.