Despite a quality outing from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in his first game back from fractured ribs, the Dolphins know the best way to help him — and a young offensive line continuing to find its way — is to have a reliable running game. Unfortunately, the Dolphins haven’t tapped into that aspect of their offense much this season.
Entering Week 7, the Dolphins rank last in the NFL with 19.2 rushing attempts per game. The only team with fewer total attempts than Miami this season — the New York Jets — has played one fewer game.
“We’ve got to run it more,” coach Brian Flores said Wednesday. “We’ve got to run it more efficiently, and it’s something we’ve talked about and hopefully we have an opportunity to do that and obviously try to do that. Yeah, it’s something we need to do a better job of.”
In last Sunday’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Dolphins totaled 77 yards on 20 attempts. However, 22 of those yards came on three scrambles from Tagovailoa. The Dolphins also ranked last in rushing yards per game (71.5) and have only run for 100 yards in a game once this season, in Week 3 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Asked how using run-pass options, which gives Tagovailoa the ability to hand the ball off or throw after the snap, have impacted the low rushing attempts, Flores said: “I think it’s more about probably being behind. I think that’s probably the No. 1 reason why we’re getting less rushes. The RPOs may play a factor in that as well. If it’s run-pass, if they give us the pass, we pass it. But I think every team is dealing with that. But we’ve got to do more.”
According to Football Outsiders, the Dolphins have trailed for 29 minutes and 30 seconds of game time, 10th most in the NFL, adding merit to Flores’ point about being in catch-up mode far too often.
Co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach George Godsey said Tuesday that “ideally, we’re balanced,” but added the team views short passes that come out of RPOs as an extension of the running game.
“Statistically they end up in the passing game but for us, we have that organized a little bit differently,” Godsey said.
Advanced metrics tell the story of a team that could be more successful running the ball if it committed more to it. While the Dolphins rank last in ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric, defined as how long players can hold their pass blocks for at least 2.5 seconds, they rank 11th in run block win rate, which shows how long players can hold their run blocks for at least 2.5 seconds.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, running back Myles Gaskin, who leads the team with 176 rushing yards, has faced eight or more defenders in the box on just 5.13 percent of snaps, the third-lowest rate among players with at least 35 rushing attempts. And yet, Gaskin hasn’t carried the ball more than 13 times in a game, which occurred in Week 3 against the Raiders.
“I’m not sure. Just kind of the way the games have gone,” Gaskin said of the low volume of attempts. “We’ve been in different situations at different times and with those types of situations, you have to do other things. We like our RPOs. I think Tua, I think [quarterback] Jacoby [Brissett] was really good at it. Just making those decisions because if there is another guy in the box, you’re just setting yourself up for failure sometimes at times. But when you can hit [tight end] Mike [Gesicki], [wide receiver] Jaylen [Waddle] and guys like that out in space, that’s a great thing to have.”
Football Outsiders ranks the Atlanta Falcons’ run defense, allowing 108.2 yards per game, as a below-average unit. Of course, execution and efficiency are just as important as attempts. No example sticks out more than the Dolphins’ final offensive play from scrimmage, a fourth-and-1 run by Malcolm Brown that was stuffed short of the first-down line.
When asked what it takes to convert short-yardage situations, Brown answered: “Just pure heart and will. I think it just comes down to a mentality. I feel like you get into certain formations, certain plays, certain situations. There are times where the whole stadium may know you’re about to run the ball and you’ve got to get it done.”