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Dolphins’ New Secret Weapon: The Running Game

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Over the past three seasons, the Miami Dolphins’ running game has roughly resembled the outline of the Grand Tetons; they finished 23rd in the NFL in rushing in 2015 and rocketed up to 9th in ‘16 before plummeting back to 29th last year. The team might have been able to sustain the loss of either Ryan Tannehill or former RB Jay Ajayi, but asking the offense to run the ball without either player proved to be unrealistic.

Tannehill does so many things for this team that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, one of which is executing the play action fake. No quarterback in the league sells it more convincingly. A lot of defenders have been burned the past few years peeking into Miami’s backfield and charging the line of scrimmage to stop an apparent ballcarrier, only to watch Tanny pull the ball out and loft it over their heads for a big play. With projected starters, Laremy Tunsil, Josh Sitton, Dan Kilgore, Jesse Davis and Ju ‘Wuan James along the offensive line, that unit looks to be much improved from a year ago, as well. I’m particularly pleased that James is going to be here for at least one more season. The two things I kept hearing about him were that he was the Dolphins’ highest rated offensive lineman a year ago and that the team might not exercise his fifth-year option. To me, those two statements just didn’t jibe; you don’t let your best lineman walk when it won’t cost you big money to keep him.

Speaking of Tannehill, he’s improved by leaps and bounds over the past eighteen months, without ever stepping on the field. Every time a team improves its defense or its running game, by extension, this benefits the quarterback. The Dolphins couldn’t run the ball last season because their passing game didn’t scare anyone. Now that their starting QB is returning, with a better defense and OL, each side of the ball should help keep the other in the game. This is the way good teams function.

The Dolphins’ stable of running backs also looks better and more versatile than it has previously, with newcomers Frank Gore and rookie Kalen Ballage joining the always dangerous Kenyan Drake in Miami’s backfield. The common denominator among Dolphin running backs this season? All can pass block and all are capable receivers. Now, let’s have a healthy and productive training camp and go get those ten wins that are waiting for us in the regular season. It’s an exciting time to be a Dolphin fan.