Pretty soon -- like next week -- the NFL season will bleed into December and teams that can run the football effectively and consistently will have an added advantage as they head for the NFL season's finish line.
It is no coincidence that the NFL's top five teams in rushing yards per game -- the Giants, Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore and Tennessee -- have had good seasons so far. It is not a stretch to think they will continue to have good seasons because they seem built for offensive success running the ball even when the weather turns uninviting.
But this being a Dolphins blog, we're not going to study the Giants or Ravens or Titans now. We should consider the Dolphins running game.
Before this season began and we didn't know anything about the Dolphins (some of you might argue I still know nothing about the Dolphins) we all accepted the idea the offense should have a fairly effective running game. After all, the Dolphins have a former Heisman Trophy winner backing up a former No. 2 overall pick in the draft at the running back spot.
We all expected Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams to be the team's best players. We all expected some success running the ball, especially with first overall pick Jake Long plowing the way from his left tackle position. Time for that expectation to pay more dividends, don't you agree?
The Dolphins are not a terrible running team. But neither are they a stellar running team if you look at their raw production numbers.
They average 112 yards per game running the ball which is 15th in the NFL. They have gained 1,241 rushing yards which is 17th in the NFL.
So Miami's run-production is middle of the pack. But if the Dolphins are to make a legitimate push for the playoffs this winter, when winds get stiff and the strength behind Miami's passing game would tested in outdoor venues such as Kansas City and New Jersey, the Dolphins definitely could help themselves by running the football better.
And this week this week could be a wonderful springboard.
The Rams are among the NFL's worst run defenses. They allow almost 163 rushing yards per game which is ranked 30th in the NFL. They've yielded 20 rushing touchdowns this year which is 31st in the NFL. Six running backs have had 100-yard days against them. They are allowing their opponents a 4.9 yard per carry average which is also 30th in the NFL.
In other words if the Dolphins don't run successfully against St. Louis on Sunday, something is amiss. Coach Tony Sparano knows what awaits the Dolphins down the road in the cold climes against New York. So does he think it important Miami get its running shoes laced right starting immediately?
“Yeah, it’s going to be really critical," he said. "There’s no question about it. We have goals to where we want to be and how we want to be playing going through the next four or five weeks here. We know that we’ve got a lucky draw here in the next couple weeks just in that you’re inside and indoors and of course, the next week we’d be home in that third week, then in the last two week, you don’t know what you’re going to get out there.
"I grew up in the northeast, so I know what we’re going to get down there in the last ballgame of the season. You’ve got to be able to run the ball. We need to be able to establish that. Ronnie, Ricky, these guys are going to be really important down the stretch for us. Now that being said, those are good people to be hanging your hat on down the stretch. What we do have to do, though, is we’ve got to create some consistency over the next couple weeks. You can’t just show up in Week 14 and not run the ball worth crap prior to that and think that it’s going to get done.”
Here's a thought that might interest you: I believe the Dolphins should run the ball more than they have been doing. That's right. More.
Miami's 4.2 yards per rush average is tied for 12th in the NFL which is a higher ranking than its actual yardage production numbers. Meanwhile, the Dolphins rank 20th in the NFL with 298 rushing attempts -- lower than their production numbers.
So it stands to reason if they run more often their production numbers will climb because when Miami does run, they average a pretty good chunk of yardage every carry.
The idea is for Miami to do something they do fairly successfully more often. Makes perfect sense because, well, December is around the corner.