The Dolphins rushing attack, which seemed underwhelming entering the season, has been underwhelming during the early stages of the season.
The Dolphins are averaging 3.4 yards per carry, which is sixth worst in the league.
Their 43 rushing attempts are fifth-fewest, though that low number is partly a byproduct of the Dolphins trailing throughout their loss to the Bills and needing to pass more under those circumstances.
The Dolphins’ 145 yards rushing are sixth fewest in the league.
So do the Dolphins need to get the running game established?
“We want to have balance - run/pass, screens, RPO, best way to move it,” coach Brian Flores said. “We have to be more efficient offensively. You always want balance; it helps the run and the pass game [so ideally] the defense doesn’t know what it’s going to be. You have to have variety in schemes, concepts, run pass drop back.”
Flores said the running backs have done “a solid job” in pass protection.
Flores addressed other issues during his Friday news conference:
▪ Flores said he expects receiver Will Fuller to play Sunday: “He has worked hard. He will be out there.”
Fuller missed the opener serving the final game of a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing substance policy. He missed Miami’s second game because of a personal matter.
▪ Flores said Jacoby Brissett - who will start Sunday in Las Vegas because of Tua Tagovailoa’s fractured ribs - “has done a nice job from a preparation standpoint, watching the film, asking questions.”
▪ Flores said the team is still deciding what to do with backup quarterback Reid Sinnett, who will be the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday.
The options are elevating him as a 54th player (each player can do that twice a season for any practice squad player) or placing a player on injured reserve (such as Tua Tagovailoa) and promoting Sinnett to the 53.
If Tagovailoa is placed on IR, he would be required to miss a minimum of three games.
Flores said the organization wants to see Tagovailoa’s progress before making a decision before Saturday’s 4 p.m.. deadline.
“We are with Tua is it’s day to day and see how he’s doing,” Flores said. “Is he making improvement? That gives us a lot of the information we need to make those types of decisions. He’s in today. He’s getting a little better every day. We have a little more time to make a decision and gather more information. Those conversations are being had.”
▪ How much does a player’s past performance against a particular opponent factor into how much he plays the next time the Dolphins play that team? For example, cornerback Nik Needham struggled in Week 17 against Buffalo and barely played against Buffalo last Sunday.
In the game at Las Vegas last December, Dolphins safety Eric Rowe struggled against Raiders tight end Darren Waller, though most teams have.
So would past performance against a particular team impact that player’s playing time the next time they play?
“Every game is different,” Flores responded. “I look at last year’s game but their team is different. Some guys are the same. I don’t think it’s a copy and paste game plan. I look at it as if it’s brand new, clean slate, we have different players. What’s the best way to game plan?”
Waller caught five passes for 112 yards in the Dolphins’ Week 16 win at Las Vegas last season.
“When you’re that big and fast — and he’s strong too — it’s a tough cover, and especially with a quarterback like Derek Carr,” Rowe said, adding he wasn’t pleased with how he played Waller last season.
“I was there in position [with Waller]. I just needed to take that extra step and either knock it down or catch the ball — it was right there — but obviously, you got to put it in the past. … I was in position. I can say that, but to be a corner or a safety in this league, to cover, you got to make a play on the ball.”
▪ The Dolphins have been aggressive going for it on fourth down this season. Flores said analytics plays a role in those decisions “but I don’t think you’re going strictly off a model.”
Dolphins outside linebackers coach Rob Leonard will miss Sunday’s game because of COVID-19 protocols. The other defensive coaches will pick up his responsibilities.
No player appears on the Dolphins’ final injury report except Tagovailoa, who is out Sunday. Offensive lineman Jesse Davis (knee) and receiver Jakeem Grant (ankle), who were limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, practiced fully on Friday and are available to play against the Raiders.
Former Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito (calf) and safeties Dalin Leavitt (concussion) and Roderic Teamer (ankle) are out for the Raiders, and running back Josh Jacobs (ankle) is doubtful.