In 1988, the pass-intensive Dolphins delivered to Don Shula only his second losing season in Miami in part because they could not run the football. That team rushed for a franchise low 1,205 yards en route to a 6-10 record.
The 2013 Dolphins are a solid 3-2 so far. But they are having more trouble running the football than that long-ago terrible running team.
The Dolphins have 348 rushing yards in five games. They are averaging 69.6 rushing yards per game.
At the current pace the team is going to finish with a historically franchise low 1,114 rushing yards for the season. Does that worry latter day Dolphins coach Joe Philbin?
"I'm not concerned about franchise marks and where we stand with other teams," Philbin said Tuesday. "I want us to be a better running football team, no question about it. I think we will be. But I'm not concerned about comparing us to other teams here."
It is encouraging that Philbin believes better rushing performances are coming. He says the Dolphins have "core" running plays and "have some plays we believe in very strongly," that will lift the team from its current No. 29 rush offense NFL ranking.
One answer might be to actually run the ball a bit more because the Dolphins are only 26th in rush yards per play. More runs, more yards.
Practice update: Every player on the roster participated, at least on a limited basis, in practice today. Middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe spent part of practice rehabbing his shoulder during the part of practice open to the media but when practice was over he was drenched in sweat, taped up and carrying his helmet off the field, suggesting he participated to some degree. There is no practice or injury report due today so the Dolphins won't provide any official word on whether Ellerbe practiced or not. But it looks as if he did.
Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle is a strong believer in attacking the opposing offenses. He doesn't like the idea his defense is a "bend-but-don't-break" unit.
"Yeah, I hate that term, to be honest with you," Coyle said.
Well, then he should speak with head coach Joe Philbin, who today said his defense has been living by a "bend-but-not-break philosophy."
"I think we've given up some yards," Philbin said. "But in tight situations we've played relatively well. There's been a lot of room for improvement, whether it be third down or the red zone. I think we have a chance to improve as the second half of the season kicks off. After the bye week I see us playing better."
Coyle, meanwhile, sees his defense as an aggressive bunch with that kind of philosophy. Disagreement on semantics aside, both men agree the Dolphins defense is likely to improve.
"We’ve been an aggressive defense," he said. "We aren’t satisfied with the way we’ve played through five games. I think I mentioned it last week, we’ve been inconsistent. There have been flashes of very good play, individual play, but collectively we haven’t had a game where we came out and just flat played from start to finish the way we are capable of. We are working hard. The players are working hard.
"I really believe it’s going to start to come. We’ve got too good of players, and we trust our scheme and what we are doing. We have an aggressive scheme. We have an attacking scheme. That’s why I’m not joking when I say to you I don’t like that term (bend-don’t-break) because although in games it’s looked like that this way this year because we haven’t had the three-and-out consistency or the big play consistency defensively that I believe we can have and hopefully we have here soon as we go forward. We want to get after people. We want to create turnovers. We want to be dictating the tempo of the game. That’s what we plan to do from here on out."