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3 posts from December 19, 2012

December 19, 2012

Philbin challenges his RBs to break tackles

One of the more disappointing things about this season (there have been some, you know) came in the Buffalo loss in November.

The Dolphins lost but it was how it happened that truly frustrated. In losing the Dolphins showed an unexpected inability to run the ball. Understand that the Bills at the time were 32nd in the NFL against the run. That means that as NFL teams go, the Bills against the run basically, um, stink.

And yet Buffalo held Miami to 60 yards rushing. Buffalo limited Miami to 2.5 yards per carry.

It was completely unexpected.

So what up with that, I asked coach Joe Phiblin today.

“They did a good job of getting off of blocks number one, I felt," he said. "Unfortunately, we’ve watched that game a couple of times. We watched it in live color there when I was there. We watched it on the way home from Buffalo. Watched it the next day and I’ve been watching it a couple times this week.

"Number one, they got off blocks very well and the second thing I thought they did is they tackled well. I know that’s simple, but we didn’t have a lot … As you know, a lot of times you’ve got to have backs break a tackle to get explosive runs and we just didn’t have a lot of those. So it’s a credit to them. They got off blocks. Credit their coaches. They had a good game plan and they tackled well."

Did you catch that?

Yes, the Bill get credit for getting off the blocks. Yes, the offensive line has to do a better job of staying locked up. But in those sentences you can find a challenge to Miami's running backs.

And that challenge is this: Break a tackle, will ya!

Philbin appreciates backs that break tackles and definitely Reggie Bush didn't do a ton of that against the Bills. He also didn't make them miss very often.

The idea that Philbin likes backs that break tackles is evident in how he speaks of Buffalo's C.J. Spiller, a player very much like Bush in both size, speed and style.

"Their running back does a great job of breaking tackles and that’s why he's averaging so many yards per carry," Philbin said. "We’ve got to break a couple tackles and we’ve got to sustain our blocks better."

Daniel Thomas on IR so what now?

The Dolphins are shaking up and rattling the roster today. So let me tell you how and how the team might address the issues:

You know Charles Clay is out and on injured reserve with a knee injury. Today, Daniel Thomas joined his teammate on injured reserve with a knee injury so he's also done for the year. The team added Julian Posey to the roster from the practice squad.

Now, how does Miami deal with this?

Michael Egnew is very likely to be active Sunday against Buffalo. He would have to absolutely stink in practice this coming week to be inactive. The reason?

Well, the Dolphins are likely going to run a lot of double-tight-end formations because, in part, the team needs to run that look to protect right tackle Nate Garner against Mario Williams, who typically lines up over the right tackle.

If the Dolphins are like anyone else, they will use a tight end to double Williams on many if not most pass plays. This may be especially true for the Dolphins because while Garner is a decent run-blocker his weakness is pass-blocking -- something offensive coordinator Mike Sherman alluded to Monday.

This is only my speculation, but if the team is going to count on two tight ends so much, they need to take three to the game in case one gets injured. Thus Egnew comes into the picture.

At running back, the loss of Thomas is mitigated by the fact Lamar Miller has been working ahead of him already. Obviously the Dolphins need to have another option and that might include Marcus Thigpen who in recent weeks has actually been getting more work in the slot at receiver.

I say Thigpen works at back at RB now and Armon Binns gets the work in the slot. Again, that is just logical.

That still leaves a hole for what the Dolphins do on goal line situations. Thomas has been their goal-line back which is the reason he has four TDs this year. So who takes that job now?

Jorvorskie Lane is an option. Obviously, Bush is an option. And Miller, who weighs more than Bush is an option.

Lane was the one Miami used earlier this year so he can't be dismissed but his handle on the football has coaches worried. He has had some fumble issues. Bush isn't very big or physical so that worries. Miller has no experience and his tough running isn't exactly a proven commodity.

One wild card: Goal line run from the 1-yard line?

Quarterback sneak.

Improbable postseason charge would kill draft order status

The Dolphins are on two very interesting and divergent courses and, frankly, I'm torn about which is better.

On the one hand this team that is flawed and has lost more than it has won and doesn't have an offense that scores consistently is still not out of the playoff hunt. That's right, hard as it is to believ (even to them), the Dolphins are still mathematically alive for the postseason.

Now, various things have to happen, not the least of which is Miami has to win out and that includes a victory at New England where very few teams come away with a victory late in the season.

Beyond that, the Dolphins need help in geatting the right combination of losses from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and others.

[The Bengals must lose their final two games at Pittsburgh and home against Baltimore. The Steelers must win at home against Cincy and lose at home to Cleveland. And the Jets have to lose again.]  

It is so improbable even players are talking about this season as one in which the team didn't accomplish its goal of making the playoffs.

"We didn't do enough," linebacker Karlos Dansby said Tuesday in speaking to the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club.

And against this possible but improbable circumstance we have the NFL draft order.

You see, with every victory they add in this season that will likely end at New England, the Dolphins sink in the draft order. Last week the FIns were slated for the No. 11 overall pick in the first round. Then they beat the Jaguars and now Miami is slated for the No. 13 overall selection in the first round.

Every bit of success hurts Miami's draft standing.

Do you see the irony?

Win and you might draw closer to a playoff berth that might happen but probably won't. But if the team does win, the cost is a superior draft standing, which obviously hurts the chances of picking an elite player.

Dolphins fans should be particularly sensitive to this situation because many last year advocated a "Suck for Luck" mentality that entailed rooting for the team to lose so that it could get an elite quarterback such as Andrew Luck.

Turns out the Dolphins had too much success late in the season after starting out 0-7 and wound up with the eighth overall selection.

On the other hand, the Dolphins haven't tasted the playoffs since 2008. So perhaps some of you are more than willing to sacrifice the chance to have a Top 10 draft pick in exchange for the possibility -- however slight -- that the team might get into the postseason.

Where do you stand?