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Will Miami Establish A Rushing Identity Against the Chargers?

Will Miami Establish A Rushing Identity Against the Chargers?

The Dolphins need a large dose of Ajayi to establish their identity in 2017

The Dolphins need a large dose of Ajayi to establish their identity in 2017

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.

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  • phinfreak

    I would completely disagree that the Fins WR are a mismatch vs Chargers man style CBs. The passing game is not simply about WR’s vs CBs. Its about the pass rush, types of coverage mixes, blitzes vs OL pass blocking, QB hold time, success in run game.

    Chargers DL is better than Fins OL
    Chargers CBs are premium man coverage Corners
    Jay Cutler tendency is he holds the ball too long
    Most improvement is from game 1 to game 2 – this is the Chargers 2nd game, Fins 1st.
    Chargers have strong run game, Fins notorious for weak run D

    No way in hell Fins win this game.

    • Dunner

      Fact #1 unproven, name someone on the Bolts DL other than Bosa
      #2 = even the best CBs are going to struggle vs Laundry, Parker, Stills, fact!
      #3 = true under all circumstances except when Cutler played under Gase
      #4 = I concur, however, there is no game #1 for Bolts to break down, unlike the Bolts for Miami to disect
      #5 = true in ’16, 17 remains to be seen

    • admin

      “Chargers DL is better than Fins OL” Agree if the T’s play like they did in Preseason Week 3. If not, and play better, it’s debatable. Dolphins DL IS better than the Chargers OL. Chargers drafted G’s in the 2nd and 3rd for a reason. Lamp went down for the season. That has to hurt.

      “Chargers CBs are premium man coverage Corners”. They were ranked #20 in pass d in 2016 and were lit up by the Broncs and Trevor Siemian. Are you saying Cutler is no Trevor Siemian? That the Fins don’t have a better WR core?

      “Jay Cutler tendency is he holds the ball too long” Agree, but that weakness was mitigated under Gase. We’ll see if that trend continues.

      “Most improvement is from game 1 to game 2 – this is the Chargers 2nd game, Fins 1st.” Great point.

      “Chargers have strong run game, Fins notorious for weak run D” Charger were ranked #26 in 2016 and were held to under 3 YPC and 64 yards rushing by the 2016 #28 run defense. Not sure if you mean they have good backs or good running game.

      “No way in hell Fins win this game.” Okay, time will tell.

      • Dunner

        BINGO -Well Said

      • phinfreak

        Chargers lost vs Broncos from a special teams breakdown, typically a FG has high success %, so from an in-game on-the-field perspective the Chargers had the Broncos beat for not a block FG. Advantage Chargers.

        Re Charger DL vs Fins OL, perhaps its better said to compare the Chargers front 7 (include their stud LBers) vs run to our OL run play. Advantage Chargers.

        Re Chargers CBs: The Los Angeles Chargers secondary in 2016 wasn’t great but they weren’t terrible either, ranking in at No. 14 per Pro Football Focus.

        Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward earned PFF’s highest overall grade for his team with a score of 88.9 and led the NFL in interceptions with 7.When opposing quarterbacks threw Hayward’s way it was to no avail with an average passer rating of 53.4 per PFF.

        In 2014 the Chargers drafted Verrett in the first round of the NFL , if it wasn’t for season ending injury last year, this duo would have been ranked much higher that 14 according to PFF.

        But hey, kool-aid tastes good to me too.

        • admin

          Just for perspective: PFF Maxwell was ranked 11 best CB and the WR core was ranked Jarvis Landry ranked 10th, DeVante Parker ranked 22nd, and Kenny Stills ranked 54th. Chargers OL was ranked 21st WITH Lamp. Dolphins had a defensive line Cameron Wake ranked 7th among edge defenders and Ndamukong Suh ranked 3rd among defensive tackles, also at defensive tackle, Jordan Phillips ranked 60th. Also in the article you posted is titled Best Case Scenario… in that article you failed to mention this “No. 3, Trevor Williams stepped in to fill the void. Unfortunately for L.A. Williams play was dreadful as he ranked No. 107 out of 120 cornerbacks graded by PFF”. You see, my goal isn’t to argue or ‘prove my point’ it’s to try and be objective because the truth is coming. I don’t drink or pour Kool Aid… at least I try my best not to. You should have pointed out how terrible Williams was, it would have made your argument… well less of an argument.

        • Dunner

          Chargers were down 24-7 heading into the 4thQ. Denver did everything they could to give that game away and the Bolts did not take advantage. Bolts did however have a chance to tie due to Denver’s collapse in the 4thQ. To me Denver dominated 3 quarters of the game. That was how my eyes seen it without getting into the numbers. Sometimes the eyes tell all and sometimes #’ are skewed for one reason or another.

          So hopefully my eyes do not disappoint on Sunday. I do know one thing though, that Kool-Aid will taste good as ever Sunday around 730

    • admin

      Hey, Freak did you hear Verrett is out this week. That will be big for Miami… def. will alter the Chargers secondary.

  • Dunner

    Good article and as I mentioned to Lemmus in previous article, the onus will be on the tackles and not so much the guards. I don’t see any reason why the Fins can’t run the ball effectively vs the Bolts. However, with a trio of WRs such as Miami’s it would/could be so tempting to get away from the run to exploit the mismatches these WRs will create, and they will create a mismatch or two or even three, they have the ability to be that good. But, so does the running game. Key for Miami’s offense may not even be the run or pass but their third down conversion(s). They struggled in this category last season to say the least. Then again, you can’t convert third downs if there are no third downs (wishful thinking). Should Miami get a lead early this could spell trouble for the Bolts, A) Bolts strength can’t pin their ears back and tee off on Tanny (OOPPS) Cutler B) Ajayi’s physical running style could really wear down the Bolts D, when Drake comes in fresh and snaps off a big run or two C) Miami’s strength on defense can all the sudden pin their ears back and tee off on Rivers who didn’t look very good under pressure in week 1.

    Not many are giving the Fins a chance Sunday except for maybe a few of us Fins fans. I do like it when Miami is a underdog, but this week I just don’t understand it,,,, +4.5???? So on a neutral field Miami would be a 1.5 point underdog??? Maybe they know something I don’t (which I’m sure is the case 90% of the time), but this Sunday should be 10% of that time. Can’t wait to see

    • admin

      “Should Miami get a lead early this could spell trouble for the Bolts, A) Bolts strength can’t pin their ears back” This is the key.Their pass rush as Freak has said is excellent. Bosa popped out at me. I didn’t expect him to be that good that the rush… he does however have weaknesses elsewhere. The Tackles will win or lose this game for Miami. If Miami has time they will cut up the secondary. They were beat most of the time that the rush didn’t affect the play. And they miss tackles, so Ajayi will wear them down… IF they can survive the early attack. Freak makes a great point, but I do disagree this is a forgone conclusion that Miami will be sacked to oblivion and lose. Broncs were hit and hit often and won. Would have been a blow out too if not for a weird late 4th.

      • Lemmus

        …we have 3rd stringers starting at one G and the pff’s lowest ranked G from last year starting at the other …they will be attacked …this litany that it will all be on the OTs is nonsense …LA isn’t stupid

        …if Gase is right, 3 & 4 WR sets will burn the DL rush, but he was wrong last year and it took him 4 games to get it right

        …Ajayi will succeed only if the pass attack is working, else they will stack the box

        …that said, I think Miami wins …but only because of they don’t, I’m going to have to break out the paper bag again

        • admin

          A semi cursory response as I’m still looking things over: PFF grades Broncs OL #25 and Fins #26. Going over the game for the 6th time focusing on pass v.s. pass D. As a rough estimate, there were 6 pressures inside and 8 that from the outside (roughly). Interestingly, 4 of them were on former cowboy now RG Ron Leery. Not making PFF to be all knowing, but roughly speaking we should expect similar play. Add in a better QB, RB, and WR core. Also, this is a good comparison because the offensive scheme is also very similar. Again, it’s not nonsense in regards to G’s verse 3-4. Head up on a defender in 4-3 verse empty space verse 3-4 obviously changes the complexity of your assignments. It’s not to say they are irrelevant–they aren’t. It’s not to say there won’t be issues in this game due to having lesser talented G’s and through the season as Miami play 8 4-3 D’s. But every scheme and play puts the onus on certain players and certain position. 3-4 attacks the wings more due to the wide D formation… not including inside blitzes and stunts. But the vast majority of the pressure comes outside in 3-4, unless you have Ray lewis inside or wilfork. Again, take this from PFF with a grain of salt and only in regard for this game: “The primary concern for the Chargers’ front seven lies in their health and productivity in the middle of the defensive line. Chargers defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is an outstanding player, but at 32 years old and after a season where he got dinged up, the team may have to rely on Liuget more than it cares for. Liuget had a horrible 2016 but is supposedly lighter and will be playing a new position that should help him maximize his talents.”

          So outside with ingram and Bosa and inside with Jatavis Brown and too a lesser extent Mebane seems to be the concern. But brown at 5’11’ 221lbs and 3.5 sacks in 2016 isn’t too much a concern. Anyway, that’s what I’m seeing as I look things over. Wings, pouncey’s strength and Steen not getting overwhelmed with strength are the keys for me.