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Miami Dolphins' Perceived Weak Run Defense is Overstated


They can't run the ball and they can't stop the run! We've heard it all week by football junkies plastered across South Miami sports radio.

While that's a recipe for an abysmal season in the National Football League, it's only half true for the Miami Dolphins through Week 2.

What is factual is Lamar Miller and his brittle offensive line have not found success on the ground. Miami's rush offense ranks 29th per Football Outsiders and their 3.4 yards per carry is tied for third worst in the NFL. What's interesting is left tackle Branden Albert, not either of Miami's much criticized offensive guards, has been the team's worst run-blocking lineman, per Pro Football Focus. He was abused in the opener, his first game back from offseason knee surgery, and received a -2.3 run-blocking grade. After leaving last week's contest due to injury after 19 snaps, his replacement in Jason Fox wasn't much better, receiving a team-worst -1.4 run-blocking grade.

Another notable wrinkle is they've only registered 34 carries, which ranks dead last in the NFL, opting to pass the ball 70 percent of the time. So Miami hasn't run the ball much and when they did, they were ineffective.

The rush defense doesn't tell the same depressing tale. Football Outsiders ranks them 12th and their 4.1 yards allowed per carry ranks 19th.

The raw totals are the reason for the misguided narrative. Miami allows 142 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 27th in the NFL. But on a per-play basis, they're hovering around the league average. The Redskins and Jaguars both ran the ball with frequency. Suiting up Kirk Cousins and Blake Bortles at quarterback probably has something to do with it.

While Miami was gashed on the ground by Washington in Week 1 (4.4 YPC), they were much more successful in Week 2. The Jags averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Further boosting that number was Blake Bortles' 28-yard run on a defensive breakdown when Miami's front failed to contain him in the second quarter. Take that out and Miami allowed just 2.97 yards per rush, a tremendous number for an entire game.

A huge early test will come this Sunday in Miami, when the Dolphins defense will face a dynamic Bills rushing attack -- the league's most efficient rushing offense, per Football Outsiders. Averaging a league best 4.9 yards per carry, their run game is sourced from a three-headed beast -- the quick-twitch LeSean McCoy, bruising rookie Karlos Williams, and mobile quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

The Miami Dolphins have been lousy running the ball through the first two weeks of the 2015 season, but their perceived inability to stop the run has been widely overblown. We'll learn more about it in Week 3.

Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshBaumgard

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