Dolphins running game: 107.0 rush ypg (15th)
Packers running game: 107.0 rush ypg (14th)
Dolphins run defense: 117.8 rush ypg (21st)
Packers run defense: 104.8 rush ypg (15th)
It feels great to get back into the swing of things after a long, miserable week off. We still have five more long days to wait, but at least we can start previewing this Sunday's game in Lambeau Field. I said yesterday, after watching Green Bay struggle to pull of a victory against the Lions at home and drop a game to the Redskins on the road this past Sunday, that this game was looking more and more winnable. Now, when you throw Aaron Rodgers possibly being ruled out with a concussion, optimism has officially returned after it's two week hiatus. I know that we are previewing the running game today, but if Rodgers can't go every aspect of this game will be affected. I will explain below.
Packers running game vs. Dolphins run defense
It's something that needs to be said every week. The Dolphins must, I repeat must, set the edge better. We saw the Vikings and Jets have enough success testing the perimeter for New England to run to the outside on just about every run play last Monday night. Cameron Wake has usually been the center of attention on most of those runs. I'm not saying that he's been good setting the edge or anything, but when he has created a little penetration on the outside, cutback lanes have been wide open.
Wake, along with Koa Misi and hopefully more Ikaika Alama-Francis on early downs, need to create more penetration all the while containing the edge, but the backside pursuit must not get caught over committing and they need to fill gaps properly for the Dolphins to stop the bleeding against the run. And that's against anybody. No, the Packers aren't an elite running team, but the way this defense is playing right now, just about anybody is going to be able to get their running game going on the outside.
And I think the Packers have ran the ball better than people have given them credit for. A lot has been made of Ryan Grant being out, but Brandon Jackson's 256 yards on 4.6 yards per carry is pretty solid if you ask me. John Kuhn provides a nice number two option with 4.6 yards per carry as well, totaling 133 yards on the ground.
The big wildcard, though, is obviously Aaron Rodgers' health. If he can't go, the Pack aren't an elite passing team anymore- more on that Thursday. But it also will effect their running game, because if Mike Nolan is smart, and he is, he will load up the box and make the unproven Matt Flynn complete passes to move the ball. Maybe the youngster will do just fine with an outstanding receiving core and get the Dolphins' defense back on their heels a little bit. But I just don't know how you justify not committing to the run until he does.
Dolphins running game vs. Packers run defense
Enough is enough. It's time for the Dolphins to run the ball like we all know they are capable of. We all saw first hand last Monday night why Chad Henne isn't ready to run a pass first offense yet. It's time to get back to the identity. That doesn't mean go in a shell like we saw in the first two weeks, Henning still needs to trust Henne to make plays down the field for this offense to reach it's full potential and to keep defenses off balanced.
But looking back at the past two seasons, this team has been at its best when they are pounding opposing defenses with a solid dose of Ronnie and Ricky. Obviously they can't just line up and do it, they are going to need better blocking from the interior offensive line. I know I said the same thing two weeks ago, but the Packers defense will present a golden opportunity to finally get the run game going. Are they horrible against the run? No, they have a respectable 15th overall ranking.
But without the Dolphins thinking they need to score early in often to keep up with an Aaron Rodgers led offense (that's if he doesn't play) they may be tested and hopefully exposed a little more. 15th overall against the run is nothing to be ashamed of, but the 4.7 yards per carry they are conceding is actually tied for sixth worst in the entire league. That means they certainly can be ran on.
The Dolphins should come out with a balanced mindset every game in my opinion, but it especially rings true this week. They can't fall in a big hole like we saw against New England, though, causing them to abandon their running game. At the end of the day, this should be a statement game for Ronnie, Ricky, and the offensive line. It's time they remind the league and show the Green Bay Packers what they are all about.