Miami Dolphins: Running game struggles behind O-line
By Sean Denison
Once again, the Miami Dolphins first-unit offense got off to a fast start Saturday night in Charlotte, North Carolina. The starting offense scored touchdowns on two of their four possessions—and squandered another opportunity to score when Damien Williams fumbled out-of-bounds in the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
Despite this setback, the Dolphins starting offense and defense outplayed their opponent for the second week in a row. But while fans should be optimistic that the score and statistics look good when the first team offense is on the field, there is still a problem that continues to linger on this offense: the running game.
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At times, the Dolphins starting offensive line struggled against a Panthers defensive line that were missing several starters. There was nowhere to run; there were a few runs for losses; there was a strip-sack, which fortunately Ryan Tannehill recovered; and the offense struggled to muscle their way in from the three-yard line. And because of the softness of the offensive line, the running game can’t seem to get going.
Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium, the Dolphins Lamar Miller had only five yards on three carries. Subsequently, Damien Williams also struggled—ending his night with 14 yards rushing on four carries. Between the two, they averaged less than three yards per attempt. No matter how you look at it, that’s not going to get the job done.
In order for this offense to work, the running game needs to be successful. If Miami can’t run, opposing defenses will take notice and force the Dolphins to be a one-dimensional offense—ultimately being asked to win solely through the air. That’s a lot to ask from a passing attack whose bread and butter is to dink and dunk their way down the field. Because this offense is designed to be multi-dimensional, it can only flourish when it has multiple strategies to bring to bear on the field.
However, the Dolphins are still without starting left tackle Branden Albert—a huge piece to this crucial puzzle. Hopefully, Albert’s rehab on his knee continues to improve and the all-pro is ready week one of the regular season. Unfortunately, Albert has continued to see limited playing time and it’s still unknown when he will officially be ready to go.
As every Dolphins fan feared, it appears that Miami is out of the Evan Mathis sweepstakes. In fact, the pro bowl guard visited the Seahawks in Seattle this past weekend. And although there hasn’t been an agreement between the two parties, Seattle—coming off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances—might be exactly what a veteran player finds attractive.
Stated from an optimistic perspective, the Dolphins are deep at running back. Lamar Miller showed us last season what he was capable of; Damien Williams has shown glimpses of being a strong, decisive runner; LaMike James showed a little of what he has to offer last night on special teams and in the backfield; and Jay Ajayi, although battling a lingering hamstring injury, has tremendous upside.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned backs won’t have much to offer behind poor offensive line play. But let’s have patience. Sometimes things take time in order to be successful. The Dolphins don’t need to rush back Branden Albert—it could come back to bite them.
Remember what the famous Lee Child once said: “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” This specifically reigns true with the Miami Dolphins and their offensive line. It could be a slow process, but with patience, the Dolphins could potentially have an upper-tier offensive line.
I can’t believe I just said that.