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Friday, September 3, 2010
Even with Marshall, Dolphins want to run

By Tim Graham

The Miami Dolphins have been a smash-mouth team since Bill Parcells assumed control and hired a head coach with handoff aminos in his genetic code, former offensive line coach Tony Sparano.

With their first draft choice, they grabbed left tackle Jake Long, and on that enormous slab -- with the benefit of running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams -- they built a philosophy that allowed for a throwback ground attack called the Wildcat.

Jake Long
Jake Long says the No. 1 goal of the Dolphins' offense is to lead the league in rushing.
But what do we make of the Dolphins' offense moving forward?

They've known for nearly a year they would enter 2010 with big-armed quarterback Chad Henne as their starter. They added star receiver Brandon Marshall in April, creating wonder of what kind of offense the Dolphins will deploy.

I had the chance to ask Long how the Dolphins have evolved.

He claimed they haven't much.

"First and foremost, we want to run the ball," Long said. "As an offense, if we can run the ball and wear defenses down, that's a point of pride. That's an organizational goal with wanting to be dominant in the run game.

"Last year we were fourth in the league. This year we want to be first in running the ball. That's our No. 1 goal."

The Dolphins didn't demonstrate that attitude against the Dallas Cowboys in Thursday night's preseason finale. Perhaps emphasizing some particular elements of their offense in their last dress rehearsal, the Dolphins ran only 12 times with their running backs (quarterbacks Tyler Thigpen and Chad Pennington scrambled four times) while throwing 39 passes.

Last year, the Dolphins had 1,088 offensive snaps, most in the NFL.

They ran 509 times and passed 545 times.

So the Dolphins don't necessarily have to throw more, but they should expect to be more effective when they do now that they have Marshall. Their 6.2 yards per attempt tied for 24th in the league.

"We're working very hard up front to protect Chad," Long said. "If we do that, he can sling the ball. We got great receivers. We want to be a more balanced offense, and I think we can do that with the players we have."

Marshall's presence will help the run game for sure. He'll keep defenses more honest than the possession-dominant crew the Dolphins were working with. Their only legitimate downfield threat was Ted Ginn, but he played small and dropped enough passes to quell any fears within an opposing secondary.

"Defenses are going to watch out for him," Long said. "That'll maybe slow down blitzes a bit because they're going to have to watch him out on the edge, and one-on-one coverage he can definitely beat."

Long also admires the way Marshall blocks. In their preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars he blocked like a fiend to help pave the way on two touchdowns.

"He's a very unselfish guy," Long said. "To have him out there and not only be a great receiver, but to have him blocking and giving his body up when he doesn't have the ball is pretty impressive."