Dolphins camp notebook: Running game to boost Tannehill

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake runs against the Kansas City Chiefs last December.Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

By Walt Villa, The Sports Xchange
A good running game is the best thing Miami can do for Tannehill

DAVIE, Fla. — Quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s success this season could be closely tied to running back Kenyan Drake’s success. In Tannehill’s best two seasons, 2014 and 2016, he had 1,000-yard rushers. In 2014, it was Lamar Miller (1,099 yards), and in 2016 it was Jay Ajayi (1,272 yards).

At first glance that’s not a big deal because that’s probably the case for a number of quarterbacks.

But Tannehill, who has missed the last 19 regular-season games due to a pair of left knee injuries, has had career-best numbers in touchdowns (27 in 2014), interceptions (12 in 2014 and ’16) and passer rating (93.5 in 2016) with 1,000-yard rushers.

Of course, there’s another way to look at things. Miami also has running back Frank Gore, who will be an often-used No. 2 behind Drake.

In 2014, Miami was 12th in rushing at 117 yards per game, and in 2016, Miami was ninth at 114 yards per game.

Whatever formula Miami has to use, it’s apparent from anecdotal evidence that a good running game is the best thing Miami can do for Tannehill.

–The Dolphins saw a lot of talent walk out the door with the departures of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (released/signed with Los Angeles Rams), center Mike Pouncey (released/signed with Los Angeles Chargers) and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (traded to Cleveland). That’s 11 Pro Bowl selections, seven with Miami. Now they are gone.

Interestingly, however, Miami added 11 Pro Bowl selections among guard Josh Sitton (four), running back Frank Gore (five) and defensive end Robert Quinn (two).

The Dolphins made it clear they weren’t trying to replace the departed talent one-for-one. In other words, they weren’t trying to replace Landry with another Pro Bowl wide receiver.

But, in a manner of speaking, they did replace their departed talent, one-for-one, in another way, without even trying.

–Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the first-round pick from Alabama, enters training camp with many possibilities but no defined role. Fitzpatrick, who can play safety or slot, is expected to primarily play safety along with starters Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald.

And because the Dolphins use their safeties interchangeably, there’s not necessarily a defined free safety or strong safety, so the possibilities are numerous with Fitzpatrick.

But it remains to be seen exactly how defensive coordinator Matt Burke plans to get three safeties on the field.

You can be sure Jones, who is coming off a Pro Bowl appearance, will get the most snaps from scrimmage among safeties.

However, between McDonald, a hard-hitting, big-body type, and Fitzpatrick, who is more celebrated for his coverage than his aggression and tackling, this should be interesting.

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