Run protection may need been the factor that stored the Miami Dolphins from making the playoffs final 12 months. It additionally may be the distinction between successful and shedding when the Dolphins host New England in Sunday’s season opener.
“They’re a very run-oriented team,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer stated of the Patriots.
You’ll recall the Dolphins acquired trucked by Tennessee within the next-to-last sport of the season final 12 months. The Titans rushed for 198 yards dashing on 40 carries in a 34-3 loss that knocked Miami out of playoff competition. Tennessee’s D’Onta Foreman had a punishing 132 yards on 26 carries to cleared the path.
The Dolphins completed 9-8; 10-7 would have earned a wild-card berth.
Most doubtless Miami’s run protection is within the crosshairs of New England’s offensive sport plan.
You can guess the Patriots, who had been eighth in dashing final 12 months at 126.5 yards per sport, will do their finest to use any perceived weak point within the Dolphins’ protection, and the 2 greatest proper now are the run protection and the cornerback who replaces Byron Jones [knee].
But let’s speak run protection.
Two of the core items to the Dolphins’ run protection are defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis. But they’re not the one ones chargeable for making New England one-dimensional.
Run protection, as Boyer stated, entails all 11 gamers.
So throw in the remainder of the entrance seven – defensive linemen and linebackers similar to Trey Flowers, Emmanuel Ogbah, Zach Sieler, who appears to make a behavior of tackles for lack of yardage, Jaelan Phillips, Jerome Baker, Elandon Roberts and everybody else.
They all play a task.
“If one guy is at a gap or out of place,” Boyer stated, “there’s a crease there.”
Even in that circumstance there’s a backup. The secondary, led by cornerback Xavien Howard and security Jevon Holland, needs to be there.
Do an excellent job on the again finish of the funnel, Boyer stated, and a 12- to 15-yard massive play turns into a manageable 6- or 8-yard carry.
“We’ve had a couple of runs that have hit big on us,” Boyer stated. “I think if you look at it over time we can definitely do a better job on that.”
Boyer and the Dolphins predict a gentle weight loss program of working performs.
“They’ve got good running backs [Rhamondre] Stevenson, [Damien] Harris,” Boyer stated. “I’m sure they’re going to use [wide receiver Ty] Montgomery in certain ways. We’re preparing for [running back] J.J. Taylor if they elevate him from the practice squad.”
Here’s the opposite factor about stopping the run — do it efficiently, and quarterback Mac Jones’ passing sport will get affected.
The Patriots are environment friendly and efficient by means of the air.
“The quarterback does a good job,” Boyer stated. “He gets the ball out quickly. He’s very good with this reads. He knows and understands where to go with the ball.”
But the passing sport doesn’t exist by itself.
“They set up their play action off their run game,” Boyer stated.
So, if the Dolphins cease the run, they’ll additionally take away a significant facet of the passing sport.
Miami was tied for thirteenth in run protection final season at 109.8 yards per sport. It introduced again all 13 gamers who logged no less than 5 begins.
Among the 187 attainable defensive begins from final season [11 players, 17 starts]. Miami returns 178 [95.2%].
There’s two methods to take a look at the massive variety of returnees.
One standpoint says this run protection can be higher as a result of it’ll have one other 12 months collectively. It’ll develop naturally.
The opposing standpoint says don’t assume enchancment from the identical group of fellows, modifications have to be made for the group to enhance.
The Dolphins are clearly banking on the previous. I’m proper there with them on that thought.
“We expect that they’re going to try to run the ball,” Boyer stated. “And we’re really looking forward to the challenge this year.”