Miami Rushing Offense vs New England Rushing Defense
The Miami Dolphins had one of the most explosive running backs in the NFL on their roster last year in Lamar Miller. Despite his success, Miami decided to move on from him and allowed him to sign in Houston as a free agent. Miller was a big play threat every time he touched the football but oddly enough the Dolphins limited his touches in his time in Miami.
To replace Miller the Dolphins insisted Jay Ajayi was their man–until he wasn’t anymore. Late in training camp it was clear to everyone (except Ajayi) that Arian Foster was healthy and would be the lead back. Ajayi sulked throughout the final preseason game and complained and whined his way into a DNP-CD (did not play-coach’s decision) for week one. Now he is back and will back-up Foster along with Damien Williams.
The Miami offensive line is still a work in progress as veteran left tackle Branden Albert is still a solid starter when healthy and right tackle Ja’wuan James has a bright future. Rookie Laremy Tunsil fell to the Dolphins on draft night and the future starting tackle is currently starting at left guard. Veteran Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey (fractured hip) is injured and already ruled out for week two and Anthony Steen will step in. Jermon Bushrod (another former tackle) is the starter at right guard.
The offensive line is serviceable in Miami (which is better than it has been in recent years). Just having Kraig Urbik, Dallas Thomas, and Billy Turner on the bench and not starting makes Miami better along the line. At running back Foster was already on the injury report with a sore hamstring this week (but should play) and Ajayi is a huge question mark. Williams is a third down back who can contribute as a pass catcher.
The Dolphins had a tough time running the ball last week against Seattle, but the Seahawks are hard to run against. Not having Dont’a Hightower in the middle of the New England defense is probably the best news for the Dolphins running backs. Hightower is a beast in the middle of the defense and made it hard for Arizona to get positive movement in the running game.
Replacing Hightower in the run support role is a tough job and expect to see Jonathan Freeny, Barkevious Mingo, and Shea McClellin all share snaps next to Jamie Collins trying to slow down Arian Foster on Sunday. Safety Patrick Chung can come up in run support to help out if need be and is a physical player despite his size.
The Patriots do have second year defensive tackle Malcom Brown and veteran Alan Branch clogging the middle of the line on defense. These two are both excellent run stuffers and rookie Vincent Valentine was effective last week as well rotating inside. Defensive ends Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long are both strong setting the edge and providing run support.
New England is talented enough on defense to shut down the Miami running game. The Dolphins will be looking to establish the run to take pressure off of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Gap discipline and staying strong at the point of attack should allow the Patriots to make Miami one-dimensional on offense.