The Miami Dolphins take on the Tennessee Titans this week in a game they should win, but also the sort of game they will struggle with. The Cleveland Browns nearly took a Week 3 battle from the Dolphins in overtime, and the Titans have a more talent than the Browns did.
Dolphins fans would be excused if they were a bit nervous.
The two biggest issues for the Dolphins come down to the secondary and the offensive line. There’s nothing much to do about the secondary, which will be without rookie Xavien Howard on Sunday, but the offensive line is getting Branden Albert back.
That should help, but it might not have center Mike Pouncey, which leaves a weak spot at a key position. Part of the reason the line is so critical is that the offensive line hasn’t been giving quarterback Ryan Tannehill much in the way of protection.
Tannehill has had his own issues so far this season, but pressure from a shaky offensive line has exacerbated them quite a bit.
That’s why the Dolphins should commit to the run on Sunday.
The Dolphins are averaging the fewest attempts on the ground in the NFL this season with just over 18 a game. That’s despite having a good yards-per-carry average of 4.2.
Injury has played a part, but so has head coach Adam Gase’s propensity to throw and his constant shuffling of running backs.
This week, Gase says he is committed to the run and will use just two backs as his primary ballcarriers. Jay Ajayi and Kenyon Drake will probably get the bulk of the carries here, with Damien Williams filling in when needed.
The Titans are tied for 20th in the NFL this season averaging 110.0 rushing yards allowed per game, but are really stingy in the red zone, allowing just one touchdown so far in four games.
That’s fine because the Dolphins can work Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker within the 20s. The key is running the ball to get there.
Doing so accomplishes several things.
First, it keeps Marcus Mariota and Demarco Murray off the field. Miami averages 129.8 rushing yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL) which makes them vulnerable both to Murray and Mariota, who can scramble for yards. The Dolphins want to concentrate on tamping down on both players and the simplest way to do that is to just keep them off the field.
It also will wear the Titans defense down. The Dolphins clearly have struggled to close games when they had the chance but if they can get the Titans tired in the fourth, it gives the Miami offense a better chance to finish the game off with a score and put it away once and for all.
From an offensive standpoint, running the ball will help keep the defense from just pinning its ears back and going after Tannehill, who has struggled with pressure. It will also pull a safety into the box to defend the run more frequently which will leave Landry, Parker or Kenny Stills in single coverage.
The Dolphins should win this game, but nothing has come easy for this team so far this year. Focusing on executing on the ground will give them an edge and put them in a better position to win a game they really should.