When it came to the Miami Dolphins ground game, the season didn’t quite get off to the start they had planned. Despite winning week 1 with absolutely no balance on offense, the team had no illusions of it being a winning recipe, preaching balance heading into week 2′s match-up in Indy.
The main problem plaguing the ground game was the amount of penetration they allowed the Browns to get in their backfield. Dolphins Tailbacks were receiving hand-offs with no time to gain momentum and reach their landmarks in order to let their instincts and vision take over.
Over the past year, the Dolphins have adopted a zone running scheme, desiring to get defenses moving laterally so their Tailbacks can cut back against the grain. To run this scheme successfully, you need mobile interior Offensive Linemen that can reach block, pull, and get to the second level. Unfortunately, their interior Offensive Line is missing the skill sets to do so consistently.
Yes, Mike Pouncey can do everything on the football field you can from a blocking aspect because he is a freak of nature with natural god given movement skills, and yes the Tackles have the skill sets to run the zone scheme, but their Guards are what hold the them back. Yes, Richie Incognito is the heart of the line and coming off a Pro-Bowl season, but pulling is not his forte and he is at his best when asked to drive block and manhandle the man in front him in a power running scheme.
Also, John Jerry doesn’t have the movement skills to get to the second level consistently, and while he’s solid in pass pro, he is woeful at run blocking. The best way to hide that deficiency is to let him fire off the ball and lean that mammoth body on the opponent instead of making him block in space where defenders can outrun him in pursuit.
Leading up to the Colts game, the coaching staff noticed these needed changes in their philosophy and put together a simple run package for their game plan. They stopped asking their Guards to do things they were incapable of doing consistently and tailored the game plan to their strengths.
By relying on their Guards to maintain the line scrimmage at the point of attack and using their Tackles and Center with superior movement skills to get out on the second level, the results were impressive as the Dolphins ran for over the century mark as a team.
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were able to get the hand-offs cleanly and gain some momentum before having to beat a defender. This allowed their natural running skills to shine as Miller averaged almost 5 yards a clip and Thomas almost 4 yards a clip on their way to quadrupling the past week’s run total.
It’s a testament to the coaching staff for figuring out what their players do best and incorporating that into the game plan. By running quick hitting plays like dives, isos, and plunges instead of stretch zones and counters, the staff took advantage of their size and power up front.
After a terrible debut on the ground, the coaching staff’s superb adjustment gave the ground game the traction that will hopefully give them the balance needed to continue playing winning offensive football.