Ground Game Is Starting To Add Desired Balance

Posted Oct 23, 2013

Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas are finding their rhythm.

Running and passing efficiently is imperative in the National Football League and the Miami Dolphins have been trying to establish that balance. After last week’s home game against the Buffalo Bills, they look to be closer.

Miami rushed for 120 yards on 25 carries (a 4.8 average) in a heartbreaking 23-21 loss at Sun Life Stadium and running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas led the way. The pair combined for 103 yards on 21 carries (a 4.9 average), with Thomas carrying the ball 12 times for 60 yards for an even 5.0 yards per attempt. Miller added 43 yards on nine carries, including a 30-yard burst and both displayed a better knack for shedding tacklers at the line of scrimmage.

“One of the things we talked to our guys about this week was getting some more yards on their own and breaking some tackles,” said Head Coach Joe Philbin, who is preparing for a critical road game inside the division at the New England Patriots on Sunday. “I thought we did a better job of that (against Buffalo). There’s some pictures on the film where you turn it on, and there is yards-after-contact. They are falling forward breaking some tackles, which is always positive.”

Thanks to that performance on the ground against the Bills, the Dolphins increased their average yards per carry for the season to 3.9 and have rushed for 468 yards and five touchdowns. Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have seen a steady improvement since the rough season opener at the Cleveland Browns when the ground attack managed just 20 yards on 23 carries.

New England’s head coach, Bill Belichick, has paid close attention to the progress being made by Miller and Thomas in that backfield, especially after Miami opted to let Reggie Bush go in the offseason. He and his staff have watched lots of film in advance of the upcoming game and the three-time Super Bowl winner came away with some pretty concrete impressions.

“They run well, they run hard and a lot of times they push the pile and grind out two or three extra yards when it looks like they’re really stopped,” Belichick said. “There’s certainly a lot of times where they’ve broken tackles and gone through I’d say relatively small holes in the line for big gains. They have good vision, good quickness and good strength. They don’t go down easy with arm tackles and sometimes guys that don’t wrap up they just bounce off of them and keep going for extra yards. So I think those guys have done a real good job running the ball both inside and outside and I’ve been impressed with the running of both of them.”

Up until last Sunday, Miller had been the regular starting running back and then gone on to more or less split the carries with Thomas. That ratio remained intact against Buffalo only with Thomas owning the slight edge this time.

For the season, Miller is the team’s leading rusher with 254 yards and two touchdowns on 59 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Thomas has gained 131 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries for a 3.4 average. Miller also has caught six passes for 25 yards and Thomas has caught seven for 41 yards, but Miller’s evasiveness, quickness and flat out speed still catch Philbin’s eye.

“I like his balance. I like his awareness. I think he has good vision,” Philbin said. “I like how he keeps his feet underneath him and I think he can make a quick cut.”

If ever there will be an opportunity for Miller and Thomas to step up their game and perhaps find a little more room to run up the middle it could be this Sunday. The Patriots are without their big nose tackle, Vince Wilfork, who was lost for the season to an Achilles injury in a Sunday night game on September 30th at the Atlanta Falcons.

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