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I was going to devote this column to two second-year quarterbacks going at it Sunday in Indy, how the spotlight will clearly be on Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill as we get a close-up look at the progress of both. Luck had a better rookie season. But who will prevail as a sophomore? This game will provide an early indication of that. Exciting stuff.
But the more I thought about this column, the more I realized that it has to center on the running game because if the Dolphins run the ball the way they did in the season opener at Cleveland, I’m not really sure it matters what happens between Tannehill and Luck.
In this league, if you can’t run, you can’t hide. That the Dolphins were able to beat the Browns with only 20 yards rushing, third worst in franchise history, is downright remarkable. It is a credit to Tannehill’s passing and the defense’s superiority that they are standing at 1-0 right now.
To think they can repeat that same anemic rushing performance and win in Indy is far too much to ask. But really this isn’t about repeating that performance. No rushing offense is that bad. The Dolphins will be better on Sunday. That is certain. But unless they are significantly better, unless they can give the Colts defense something to think about other than Tannehill, they are, in all likelihood, in for a long, frustrating afternoon.
That means the offensive line and the running backs have to step up where they didn’t against the Browns. Lamar Miller 3 yards on 10 carries? Can’t happen. Daniel Thomas 14 yards on 8 carries? Won’t work. The offensive line getting pushed around far too often? You can’t win many games that way.
This has been the emphasis all week at practice. The Colts gave up 171 yards on the ground last Sunday, so it’s not as if the Dolphins will be facing The Steel Curtain. But unless they execute, unless they come out with a different mindset against the Colts, does it really matter who they are facing?
Each player needs to be held accountable. As tackle Tyson Clabo put it, “It definitely wasn’t the standard that I set for myself.”
Added center Mike Pouncey: “Nobody feels good when you run for just 20 yards. We know we are better than that. Now we have to go out and show it.”
But it wasn’t only the line. Tight end Charles Clay, though productive in the passing game, clearly struggled with run blocking. Both Miller and Thomas, though the holes were few, did little to generate extra yardage.
We knew heading into the season that this would be an area of concern. We knew that the passing game would be the strength of this offense. We just didn’t expect it did to reach rock bottom in Week One.
Now, there is only one way to go. “I have confidence in my abilities,” said Miller, who averaged an impressive 4.9 yards per carry last season. “Whenever I had a bad game in college, I usually followed it up with a good game. We know it’s on us to get it done.”
Added Thomas, “I feel like as the season continues and the more games we get, we’re going to get better at that. We have to get better at that.”
Keep in mind, the Dolphins don’t need to be a top-tier rushing attack. Not the way this offense is built. They simply need a sense of balance, something to keep the defense honest and the play-action pass a viable part of this offense.
Joe Philbin will tell you that he loves to throw the ball. His offensive coordinator, Mike Sherman, even suggested this week that his boss probably wouldn’t mind throwing it on every play. As much as part of me would like to see that happen, reality shouts otherwise.
Sunday is an important game. A 2-0 start, both on the road, would set up nicely for those three brutal games next on the schedule. But it won’t happen with a one-dimensional attack. It just won’t.
“I think we will never have a game again where we rush for 20 yards,” Thomas said.
For the sake of this entire football team, let’s hope not.
On Monday, AC in the AM takes a look back at the Indy game.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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