I Guess We're Doing Something Right: Miami's Run Defense

With a challenging game against the Arizona Cardinals coming up, and plenty of FanPosts around that discuss our team's flaws, I'd like to occasionally chip in a post looking at an area in which the Miami Dolphins are good.

To begin, I wanted to look at one area in which the Dolphins are not just very good - they're Elite. And the best candidate is the run defense.

On Sunday, the Dolphins defense held the rushing attack of the "Ground and Pound with a hint of Tebow-cat" Jets to 88 yards on 33 carries, for a rushing average of just 2.7 yards per carry.

The week before, the Dolphins held the Raiders to 1.6 yards per carry. As an aside - the Raiders beat the Steelers and are now ahead of Miami on ESPN's Power Rankings. Apparently, when the Dolphins beat a team by 20+ points, the Dolphins still haven't proven that they're better than that team....

And that's why power rankings are meaningless - all I care about is wins.

Anyways, getting back on topic, the rushing attack of the Texans in week 1 was held to just 2.4 yards per carry on 35 attempts.

Those numbers by themselves look pretty good, but what if those teams are just bad at running the football this year?

1. The Texans replaced the right side of their offensive line during the offseason with unproven guys.

2. The Raiders were good running the ball last year but switched to a new zone blocking scheme.

3. The Jets' offensive line woes at right tackle and struggles running the ball last year are well documented.

A naysayer could argue that those rushing attacks were easier to defend.

But if that were true, then the running game stats of those teams would be poor against their other opponents, not just the Miami Dolphins.

Well, below is a table courtesy of Bill Barnwell's recent article on Grantland that takes a look at interesting statistics from around the NFL.


vs. Dolphins

vs. Other Opponents

Opponent Atts Yds Avg Atts Yds Avg
Texans _____35 83 2.4 __________82 368 4.5
Raiders _____14 23 1.6 __________41 164 4.0
_____33 88 2.7 __________58 208 3.6
Total _____82 194 2.4 __________181 740 4.1

The usual warning of a sample size of only 3 games applies, but the trend is clear.

The Texans gained 2.1 more yards per carry when not up against the Miami Dolphins, and with an overall rushing average of 4.5 yards per carry against other opponents, they look like the same elite rushing team as last year.

The Raiders improved their average by 2.4 yards per carry to average a respectable 4.0 yards per carry against other opponents.

Even the Jets managed to average 3.6 yards per carry when not up against the Dolphins - or 0.9 yards per carry better than what they averaged on Sunday.

It's good to focus on "per-carry" stats since someone could argue that teams choose to pass more against Miami than run due to Miami's weakness against the pass. That would explain why total running yards would be low against Miami but would not by itself explain why average yards per carry are low.

The "Other opponents" being listed are:

Texans - Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos

Raiders - San Diego Chargers and Pittsburgh Steelers

Jets - Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers

Most of other those teams are thought of as having good or at least average defenses this year, so performing much better than them on a per-carry basis against the run is impressive.

This is a case where the results of the "eye-test" match the statistics.

If it looks like offensive linemen can't push aside Soliai or Starks, if it looks like running backs struggle to get outside of either Wake or Odrick, if it looks like Dansby and Burnett and Misi are flowing to the ballcarrier to meet them near the line of scrimmage, and if it looks like Jones and Clemons are making run stops behind the line of scrimmage more frequently, that's all accurate.

Miami's run defense this year is elite. Running backs can expect a 1-2 yard reduction in their average yards per carry when up against Miami. Scoring rushing touchdowns, even in goal-line situations, isn't a cake-walk, as Shonne Green learned after going airborne and crashing into Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby in midair last game.

This elite run defense is one of the reasons for our solid performance in the redzone this year, and it's a reason why you would be wise to avoid starting running backs in fantasy football who are up against Miami.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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