Monday, October 17, 2011
Run game focus of both Dolphins, Jets
The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets – two teams in desperate need of a win – hook up on Monday Night Football (8:30 ET on ESPN) for the 12th time and first since 2009. The Jets hold a 6-5 edge in games against the Dolphins on MNF.
The Dolphins are 0-4 and have lost seven straight dating back to last season, the longest active streak in the NFL. After a 2-0 start, the Jets have lost three straight, the third time they’ve had a losing streak of that length in three seasons under Rex Ryan.
One focus tonight will be on each team’s running game. The Dolphins traded for Reggie Bush in the offseason, thinking he’d be the team’s every-down running back. However, Bush has run for only 119 yards on 40 carries, while rookie Daniel Thomas leads the team in rushes (41) and rush yards (202). Bush is averaging a career-low 3.0 yards per rush and hasn’t scored a rushing TD since Nov. 15, 2009 (a span of 17 games).
The Jets have been struggling with their identity, trying to revert to their trusted ground-and-pound philosophy. Shonn Greene had his best game of the season last week at the New England Patriots (83 yards, TD), but the Jets were held to fewer than 100 yards rushing for the third time in five games this season. In Ryan's first two seasons as head coach, the Jets were held to fewer than 100 yards rushing a total of three times.
In addition, the first two years under Ryan saw the Jets average more rush yards per game than anyone else in the NFL and rank in the top four in rush defense. So far this season, the ground game has come to a screeching halt, averaging fewer than half as many yards per game while giving up 40 more per game.
One reason the Jets are struggling in the run game this season is their inability to run the ball up the middle. They are averaging just 2.7 yards per rush up the middle, with Green making the majority of those rushes. Of the 57 rushes up the middle the Jets have run this season, Green has 37 of them, while picking up just six first downs.
As mentioned, the Jets’ rush defense has been vulnerable this season as well, particularly on rushes to the offenses’ left. The Jets have allowed five touchdowns on 63 attempts this season after allowing four in 109 attempts last season.