MIAMI GARDENS — When Mike McDaniel arrived in Miami, so did the hope of the Dolphins rushing attack becoming one of the league’s best.
McDaniel brought with him the wide zone running scheme that he utilized to great success over his time with San Francisco, first as the running game coordinator and later offensive coordinator.
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Despite bringing in talented and experienced backs such as Chspanse Edmonds and Rspanheem Mostert, it just hasn’t clicked for an offense that’s averaging 69.3 rushing yards per game, 29th in the league.
“We need to have a better commitment, starting with me, in the plays that are called, and we need to have better execution by everyone on the team, including the quarterback, at operating the run plays,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “These are things that in the course of a season, you could be surprised if you took four-game blocks and broke down people’s statistical, wherever they’re at, in the league. It’s not unfounded to have a four-game block where you’re down in a phase and that becomes a strength of yours as the season progresses.
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“As a coaching staff and as a team, that’s our plan, for it to progress and become a strength of ours. That’s the goal. … So I think that it’s a concerted effort by everyone, including the coaches, to prioritize that and to better execute that when the bullets are flying on Sunday.”
Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert have not had explosive plays
One of the biggest problems with the run game thus far has been the Dolphins’ inability to take advantage of the explosiveness of guys like Edmonds and Mostert.
At their previous organizations, both were part of offenses that created a multitude of explosive running plays, defined as a rush that gained 10-plus yards. Arizona (Edmonds) had 56 last season and San Francisco (Mostert) finished with 61. Miami has five such plays through the first quarter of the season, tied for the fewest in the league along with the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers.
“We got to get on the same page as an offensive unit,” Edmonds told the Palm Beach Post. “Whether it’s blocking assignments, certain running lanes or goals about where we think the ball should be hitting on certain run plays.”
Mostert has plenty of experience and success in McDaniel’s offense from his six seasons with the 49ers. His dazzling 2019 season was capped off with a record-setting performance in the NFC Championship Game in which he became the first player to rush for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game. With his understanding of the offense, Mostert, who’s had three of those five explosive plays, has seen some commonalities when he’s managed to pick up a few extra yards on the ground.
“Open field,” Mostert said. “Getting out into space. Wide zone, I think that outside zone, that’s really what’s been beneficial for us.”
Mostert also understands, perhaps more than anyone else, how difficult it is to grasp and execute the type of scheme McDaniel and offensive coordinator Frank Smith want to run and has talked his teammates through that.
“We’re not far off at all,” Mostert said. “I think we just really got to hone in on those things with IDs and everything like that. And then once we do that, it’s gonna be like clockwork. So, I believe in that.”
Raheem Mostert is Dolphins’ leading rusher
While Edmonds has the Dolphins’ two rushing touchdowns, it’s been Mostert who has found the most success running the ball, especially against the Bengals when he finished with a season-high 69 yards that included a 25-yard rush, Miami’s second-longest of the year.
After having five rush attempts in week one, Mostert led the team with 15 against Cincinnati and played 72% of Miami’s offensive snaps. He’s become the team’s top rusher with 147 yards.
As he continues to get reps and work his way back after suffering a season-ending knee injury last season, it would not be surprising to see him take charge and become the explosive feature back of this offense as he has been in the past.
“It’s definitely helped build my confidence up,” Mostert said of the increased workload. “I’m always gonna be a team guy, team first, that’s just my mentality. But it’s nice to get more reps under my belt so that way, when it really matters the most, I could put the weight on my shoulders and be like, ‘Alright, here we go.’ “That’s the type of mindset I always got.”