Miami Dolphins: LeGarrette Blount

Here is some bad news for the Miami Dolphins: In a playoff-or-bust year for many in the organization, they could have the reigning Super Bowl champs in their division in 2015.

The New England Patriots steamrolled the Indianapolis Colts, 45-7, Sunday to advance to Super Bowl XLIX. New England will face the Seattle Seahawks. At the very least, Miami will have the defending AFC champions in its division.

But there are some things the Dolphins can learn from the Patriots' latest Super Bowl run. Here are several thoughts:
  • Patriots save best for last: New England is distinctly opposite of Miami in that the Patriots annually save their best football for the end of the season. New England finds ways to get better throughout the year. Then, the team is peaking at the right time for the postseason. The Dolphins, meanwhile, start the season well and play their worst football down the stretch. They have December collapses in back-to-back seasons.
  • Quarterback greatness and consistency: Tom Brady played his ninth AFC title game Sunday. That is an astounding figure and a show of greatness through consistency. Brady consistently gives New England a chance nearly every year and broke through six times to play in Super Bowls. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is far from that level but must begin to close the gap to give Miami a chance.
  • Staying multiple on offense: The Patriots don’t have a built-in identity offensively other than they play smart football at a good tempo. But New England is strong enough in most areas that it is able to do whatever it takes week to week to exploit weaknesses in the defense. The Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens last week by passing the football against Baltimore’s thin secondary. New England beat the Colts Sunday by pounding the football with running back LeGarrette Blount (148 rushing yards, three touchdowns) to expose Indianapolis’ undersized front seven. The Dolphins could learn how to stay multiple and flexible offensively to win late in the year.

The Dolphins split with the Patriots the past two seasons. So there is progress on that front. But Miami doesn’t have nearly the level of consistency it takes to be a contender. The Dolphins don’t have to look far for the best example within the division.
The Miami Dolphins have addressed several needs in free agency, such as left tackle, safety and cornerback. However, the tailback position remains up in the air after Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas failed to get the job done last season.

How will the Dolphins address their 26th-ranked running game? Here are several options:

1. Maurice Jones-Drew

Pros: Jones-Drew is a proven veteran who still may have something left in the tank. He rushed for 803 yards last season on an awful Jacksonville Jaguars team. There’s a good chance Jones-Drew could put up stronger numbers with a better team if he can stay healthy.

Cons: Jones-Drew’s best years are behind him. He’s 29 and averaged a career-low 3.4 yards per carry last season. Jones-Drew is at the stage where many running backs hit the wall. Signing him would only be a short-term fix.

2. LeGarrette Blount

Pros: Blount, who was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a connection to general manager Dennis Hickey. He is a power runner the Dolphins lack and could fill a need. Signing Blount also would take something away from the New England Patriots, who are the favorites once again to win the AFC East.

Cons: Blount had a strong year but most likely was a product of New England’s system. Blount rushed for 772 yards and seven touchdowns. But it’s a lot easier to run when future Hall of Famer Tom Brady is the quarterback. The passing threat of Brady created plenty of open rushing lanes for Blount.

3. Knowshon Moreno

Pros: Moreno is coming off a career year where he rushed for 1,038 yards. He just completed his rookie contract and doesn’t have a lot of tread on the tires. He also has winning experience after playing in the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos.

Cons: Moreno is not a feature back. Similar to Blount, much of his success was a result of open running lanes created by the threat of future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and the passing attack. Moreno never lived up to his potential of being a former first-round draft pick and is only a complementary piece to the puzzle. That’s not what the Dolphins are looking for. Miami already has two complementary tailbacks in Miller and Thomas.

4. NFL draft

Pros: There is a chance for good value at tailback in this draft, which is what the Dolphins like. Miami won’t draft a running back in the first round because of bigger needs. But the second- and third-round options are solid. Names like Carlos Hyde, Tre Mason and Bishop Sankey come to mind for the Dolphins.

Cons: There are no stars or guaranteed fixes in this draft. No running back is projected to go in the first round. The Dolphins would have more youth and inexperience at this position if they addressed it via the draft. Miller and Thomas are young and unproven, as well.

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