The Miami Dolphins have been a revolving door at the running back position, with five different backs involved in the offense over the first four weeks of the season. With starting running back Arian Foster sidelined, the team has constantly rotated between Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams, and Isaiah Pead. It has lead to minimal success, as none of the players seemed to ever find their rhythm, and it is a problem head coach Adam Gase realizes he needs to fix.
“I think that’s something I’m going to evaluate, see if I can maybe narrow it down a little bit, so we can get one of these guys in rhythm,” Gase said after last week’s 22-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. “I feel like I have a pretty good idea as far as what some of these guys showed me the last two games. [I want to] come up with a plan to see if we can get a little bit (of) consistency going on here. I know it’s hard on the offensive line. It’s hard on the backs. It’s hard on me as a play caller as far as who’s in the game, what runs are best to run in those situations. We’ll try to narrow it down here."
Through the first four weeks, Ajayi leads the team with 18 carries, followed by Foster with 16, Drake with 13, Pead with 8, and Williams with 5. Add in 12 carries from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and you basically have all of Miami’s rushing attempts spread fairly evenly across the running backs and quarterback (wide receiver Jarvis Landry has two carries this year as well). The Dolphins need to find one running back who will carry the ball the majority of the time, and they have to do it with someone not named Foster who continues to miss practice with the injured hamstring/groin that has caused him to only appear in two of the team’s four games.
“I think I’ve got to get … Whether it’s one or two guys, I need to create some kind of flow for these guys,” Gase added on Wednesday, recognizing the issue. “I feel like last week, I probably should’ve done a better job as far as if somebody got hot, keeping them in the game instead of moving guys in and out. That was some bad coaching by me, as far as rotating those guys. Going forward, hopefully we can target a couple of guys a game or one guy a game and let that guy get in the flow of it and see what happens.”
Does Gase know who will be the main running back moving into the Week 5 game against the Tennessee Titans? Yes, but he is not saying. ““Yes, I do,” he replied, laughing, when asked if he knows how the backs will be used. “That’s all you’re getting. That’s the one time, I’m not giving you that one this week.”
Gase recognizing, admitting, and moving to correct his mistake is a good sign for the Dolphins. He is not too proud, nor too stubborn, to make changes when they are needed. It is refreshing to have a coach like that, but now the actions on game day need to match the words during the week. Miami has to find their “feature” running back and use him in a way that gets him in rhythm, and gives the offense an option other than throwing the ball on every down.
The Dolphins have to get more production out of fewer running backs.
Unless that happens, the offense is likely going to continue to struggle and this year is going to continue to drag along.