Miami Dolphins

Dolphins need to re-establish their run-first offensive identity

Photo by Al Diaz/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

The Dolphins were an ugly 1-4 and looking lost on offense a year ago when they suddenly realized the best thing they could do when they had the ball in their hands was keep it on the ground.

It was a discovery that saved their season, the Dolphins changing their fortunes largely as a result of a change of identity in which they went from throwing the ball 63-percent of the time to running it 47-percent of the time.

Now at 1-2 and looking lost once again on that side of the ball, the Dolphins might want to consider going back to the scheme that got them to the playoffs last year, because they’ve clearly lost their offensive identity.

Seemingly unsure of whether they want to be a downfield passing team or the run-first, play-action team they were while racing to the playoffs last year, the Dolphins have run the ball on just 34-percent of their offensive plays this year.

It’s almost like coach Adam Gase has suddenly forgotten just how lethal a weapon running back Jay Ajayi is and how important a role balance plays in the overall success of an offense.

Sure, there’s a lot of talent in the Dolpbhins receiving corps as well, but after running the ball 28 times in the season-opening victory over the Chargers, Ajayi has run the ball just 23 times in the last two games combined.

Part of that is a result of the fact the Dolphins were playing from behind late in each of those two games, but they weren’t so far behind that they needed to scrap their game plan.

Instead, it seems as if the game plan is more geared toward taking advantage of quarterback Jay Cutler’s talents, but that’s clearly not working and largely because the Dolphins aren’t getting the Cutler they may have thought they were getting.

Part of that is a result of the play of the offensive line, which has done a poor job of protecting Cutler, who has completed just 11 of the 29 passes he’s thrown 11 or more yards downfield for 217 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Gase has called out the offensive line, even suggesting personnel changes may be in the offing, but that’s as unlikely as the Dolphins finding a way to thrive on a steady diet of screen passes and dump offs to the running backs.

The best approach then is to lean again on Ajayi and running game. That will slow the pass rush and should create more time for Cutler to eventually work the ball downfield to his pass catchers off play-action. It just may help keep the defense fresh, too.

It’s worth a try. After all, when all seemed lost just as it does now, it worked last year.

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