Will the Miami Dolphins running game finally break out in 2023?

The Dolphins reached the playoffs in 2022 during head coach Mike McDaniel's first season in Miami.
The Dolphins reached the playoffs in 2022 during head coach Mike McDaniel's first season in Miami. / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

It’s been pretty dormant each of the past six seasons. There were signs of life a year ago under first-time NFL head coach and offensive mind Mike McDaniel. Still, the Miami Dolphins have a ways to go when it comes to their ground attack in terms of it being a force for the club.

Only five teams in the NFL gained more total yards per game than the playoff-bound Dolphins a season ago. While the club finished fourth in the league in passing yards per contest, McDaniel’s squad averaged only 99.2 yards per game on the ground. That was tied for 25th in the NFL.

One year earlier, the Dolphins ran for the third-fewest yards in the league. They were 29th in 2017 and dead last in the NFL in 2019. You get the picture. The last time the franchise possessed a Top 10 running game was the 2016 season. There are some startling numbers over the past six years. There have been 98 regular-season games and the club has been limited to fewer than 100 yards rushing in 58 of those contests. In the 2022 playoff loss at Buffalo, Miami ran for 42 yards on 20 attempts.

Yes, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was outstanding when healthy and the team has quite the 1-2 wide-receiving punch in speedsters Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. It’s worth noting that the Dolphins’ offensive unit scored 42 touchdowns in 17 contests. A total of 30 of those came via the passing game while McCaniel’s team ran for only a dozen scores.

Former 49ers’ Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. did provide a spark at times. The former led the club with 891 yards on 181 carries and ran for three touchdowns. Wilson, obtained from San Francisco in early November, also rushed for three scores and totaled 391 yards on 84 attempts in eight games with the club. He ran for one score and totaled 23 of the Dolphins’ 42 yards rushing in the playoff loss to the Bills.

This past season, only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (386) totaled fewer running plays than the Miami Dolphins (390) in 2022. A more balanced attack would make life a lot easier for Tagovailoa and whoever winds up behind center this upcoming season.

Will there be more from Mostert and Wilson this year? Could rookie running back De’Von Achane (Texas A&M) make an immediate impact? Plenty of questions but this is a team that could make some real noise this year, especially if McDaniel’s quarterbacks can stay upright this year with the help of a less-predictable attack.