The Hidden Wrinkle in the Miami Dolphins Run Game

The Miami Dolphins significantly improved their offensive line, but it is their weaponry that could drastically improve their run game.

Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are preparing for their Week 1 matchup with the Patriots, and are doing so with some significant questions surrounding the team. However, none are bigger than the identity of their run game.

First year head coach Mike McDaniel’s run scheme, which he brings over from San Francisco, is lauded for both creativity and effectiveness. Whether it’s the variety of different looks, designed cutback lanes, or use of weapons such as Deebo Samuel, his ability to draw up successful run plays is a large part of what landed him the Miami job. Although, there is much work to do.

Miami’s offensive line had significant questions after finishing second-to-last in yards per carry in 2021, and even in adding high quality talent in Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, there remains cause for concern.

However, Mike McDaniel and Chris Grier have built this team in such a way where the offensive line isn’t the only advantage needed in the run game. It is the horizontal stretching, specifically by the deadly combo of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, that will keep defenses guessing.

Two High Safeties

Perhaps the most obvious effect of having two of the fastest receivers in the league is how defenses will play their safeties. Putting one high, which was really effective against both the run game and the short pass against the Miami Dolphins in 2021 won’t work this year. There are simply too many deep options that, even if teams don’t respect Tua Tagovailoa’s ability, he should be able to hit one every so often against one high safety.

Thus, teams will have to move back into two-high shells, which, in turn, takes one man out of the box. With a team that plans to run a lot of 11 personnel, it’s very possible we see a numbers advantage for the Miami Dolphins run game.

Not to mention, this also opens up the middle of the field, which is where Tua does his best work, as well as where Tyreek and Waddle have thrived.

Horizontal Stretching

Just as important as stretching out the defense vertically is what you can do from sideline-to-sideline. The Miami Dolphins are in a perfect situation to stretch defenses horizontally with their run game.

Not only will teams primarily have two high safeties on the field, they will have to protect the perimeter. This not only opens up the middle of the field, but also effectively takes those safeties out of a potential run play. Defenses will need to dedicate at least three defenders to the combination of Waddle and Hill (bracket one, put the best cornerback on the other). When combined with lighter boxes in scenarios where Miami trots out slot receiver Cedrick Wilson, it’s nearly impossible to stop all of the dynamic athletes.

For instance, picture this potential play in your head. Miami comes out in 20 personnel in the shotgun, with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert to his left and right, Hill and Waddle on the perimeter, and Wilson in the slot. Teams already have to come out in a lighter package to account for the third receiver. However, if you send Edmonds on a bubble motion, that now draws out another defender from the box.

This now leaves an even lighter box for an offensive line that already creates numbers advantages through pulls, along with one of the fastest running backs in the league in Mostert with open gaps. Miami may not come out in gun often, but the point still stands. The opportunity to generate explosive plays in the run game should be there in this offense.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Run Game

Miami’s offensive line, no matter the external factors, must succeed this season. Tua Tagovailoa has demonstrated severe drop-off when consistently pressured, and we already know how the run game is affected.

However, their job may be a little easier knowing defenses have to account for a litany of weapons, headlined by two of the fastest players in the NFL. It will certainly be interesting to see how Mike McDaniel employs his players and scheme in such a way that can stretch out defenses in Week 1 and beyond.

Miami Dolphins 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offense

With a new look offensive system, featuring plenty of new and exciting additions, which players will make the final 53 man roster? Dolphins ATB breakdown the key roster battles ahead of the final pre-season game.

Credit Miami Dolphins- Roster
Mandatory Credit: Miami Dolphins

In years gone by, Miami’s offense has been stagnant to say the least. While the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and Jaylen Waddle attract all of the headlines, a team is only as good as the depth it has on the roster. We break down which players will constitute the much anticipated Mike McDaniel offense in Miami, and who we think makes the Dolphins final 53-man roster.

Miami Dolphins 53-Man Roster Prediction: Offense

Quarterbacks

  • QB1- Tua Tagovailoa- Lock
  • QB2- Teddy Bridgewater- Lock
  • QB3- Skylar Thompson One to watch

It is somewhat surprising how little we have heard about Teddy Bridgewater during training camp, with Tua taking all of the headlines, both good and bad.

Rather, the biggest surprise has been the emergence of Skylar Thompson. The Dolphins’ 7th round draft pick has been both impressive and consistent throughout the Dolphins’ first two preseason games. During his first two outings in the aqua and orange, Thompson has gone 29/38 for 347 yards, 2 TDs and no picks.

“He looks like he belongs out there. He looks like if he got a call, he would be ready to go…The skill set we saw on tape is what we really liked. The makeup of the guy and the work ethic he has, has enabled him to do what he’s doing. The skill set is there…His feet speak to him and tell when the ball is supposed to be out and where it’s supposed to go. He’s really buying into the details.”

Dolphins’ QB Coach- Darrell Bevell was full of praise while talking about Skylar Thompson during this week’s media availability.

Thompson’s impressive performances have led many to question Bridgewater’s value on the Miami Dolphins 53-man roster, seeing the former Saints QB as a tradeable asset. For the time being at least, Bridgewater is expected to stay with Miami, leaving the Dolphins with the very difficult question of what to do with Thompson.

Available roster spots are few and far between. Miami has not carried three QBs on their final roster since the 2018 season with Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, and David Fales.

Thompson will not likely see the field during the 2022 season. However, if released, it is very likely that Thompson will not clear waivers, having shown enough to be picked up by another team.

In recent years, Miami has committed on average $6 million per year to their back-up QB. With cap space likely to be more of a concern from 2023 onwards with big deals for Hill and Armstead to account for, it may be that Thompson will be a cheaper alternative to acquiring a rental journeyman QB once more.

Running Back /Full Back

  • Chase Edmonds- Lock
  • Alec Ingold- Lock
  • Raheem Mostert- Likely Lock
  • Myles Gaskin/ Salvon Ahmed- Ones to Watch

Miami’s running back depth is perhaps one of the biggest questions heading into the final preseason game. The battle between Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed being the biggest unknown in relation to who makes the Miami Dolphins’ final 53-man roster. Gaskin was consistently the Dolphins’ best running back during the Brian Flores era; his productivity in an otherwise stagnant offense gives him the slight edge on Ahmed.

ZaQuandre White most likely will make it to the practice squad, and may feature during the season given Mostert’s injury history.

Wide Receiver

  • Tyreek Hill- Lock
  • Jaylen Waddle- Lock
  • Erik Ezukanma- Lock
  • Cedrick Wilson- Lock
  • Trent Sherfield- Ones to Watch
  • Lynn Bowden Jr- Ones to Watch

While the above players are locks to make the team for their contributions on offense, the remaining roster spots will most likely be influenced by a player’s contributions to special teams. Lynn Bowden’s all round versatility as a receiver, rusher, returner, and even in the passing game, ought to earn him a roster spot.

The Trent Sherfield/River Cracraft battle is likely to be fiercely contested. Let us not forget that Cracraft was an early recipient of the infamous orange jersey. However, Sherfield’s contributions during camp and overall explosiveness give him the edge.

Preston Williams is likely to be cut, with Braylon Sanders hopefully making his way to the practice squad following an impressive training camp.

Tight End

  • Mike Gesicki- Question Mark
  • Durham Smythe- Lock
  • Hunter Long- Lock

TE was one of Miami’s biggest strengths, now it is one of their biggest unknowns. One thing is for sure: Cethan Carter is almost an inevitability to be cut. Durham Smythe and Hunter Long have been quiet throughout camp. Undrafted free agent Tanner Conner has impressed, however his immediate future seems destined for the practice squad.

What Miami does with Mike Gesicki remains to be seen. It is likely that he will stay, however, one thing is clear: something is not right. Gesicki has been quiet all offseason and has featured long into preseason games, while other starters have been on limited snap counts. Check out fellow Dolphins ATB writer Tim Rodriguez’s article addressing the latest rumors surrounding the star tight end.

Offensive Line

  • Terron Armstead- Lock
  • Connor Williams- Lock
  • Robert Hunt- Lock
  • Liam Eichenberg- Lock
  • Austin Jackson- Lock
  • Michael Deiter- Lock
  • Robert Jones- Likely
  • Solomon Kindley- One to Watch

Here we go again… At least it can’t get any worse… yet! There is no disputing that the additions of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams have certainly bolstered an otherwise woeful offensive line.

With Williams repeatedly struggling with snapping consistency, Michael Deiter has to be a lock to make the final roster in the event that Williams needs to shift back over to LG. The biggest concern has to be at tackle in the event that Armstead goes down. The Dolphins have a lot of versatility on the interior offensive line — not so much at tackle. McDaniel and GM Chris Grier may elect for further depth at tackle in the form of Larnel Coleman rather than Solomon Kindley.