Cardinals Vs. Dolphins: Attacking Miami's Strength

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Even with the Cardinals struggling to run the ball and with Miami being very strong against the run, the successs of the Arizona running game might just be the difference in the game.

Stating the obvious - if you win the turnover battle in a football game you are most likely going to earn the victory.

When you have an elite defense like the Arizona Cardinals and you are set to face a Miami Dolphins team featuring a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who just two years ago was playing wide receiver at Texas A&M, if you turn the ball over it is the only way you will lose the football game.

The easiest way to avoid monumental mistakes that can cost you a mark in the W column is to move the ball on the ground.

If the Cardinals will be able to pull that off against the Dolphins stingy run defense remains to be seen.

Through three games Miami has been run against 81 times for 199 yards (3rd best in NFL), at 2.5 yards per carry (2nd best in NFL), with their longest run allowed being 14 yards (best in the NFL).

According to Pro Football Focus nine of the Fins starting 11 defenders rate positively against the run - Jared Odrick 12th and Cameron Wake 20th out of all 4-3 defensive ends, Paul Solai 9th and Randy Starks 18th for defensive tackles, Koa Misi 4th and Kevin Burnett 14th at 4-3 outside linebacker, Karlos Dansby 5th for inside linebacker and Rashad Jones 4th and Chris D. Clemons 9th at safety.

In its three games the Dolphins have faced the Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, and New York Jets.

Here's a chart Bill Barnwell from Grantland put together in this article that shows how Miami's defense has held opponents to below their standards in the run game.

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I went back and watched the film from the Texans game in Week 1 because I felt they were built most similarly to the Cards. Both teams have an elite receiver on the outside with solid complimentary weapons at the other WR positions and tight end. Obviously the Texans are more proven at running back and quarterback.

Houston's elite run game was held to 83 yards on 35 carries, but Miami turned the ball over three times so the Texans picked up a 30-10 win.

On every single run play (excluding some for goal line plays and kneel downs) the Fins used a four man front on all 27 I included in my tally.

They stacked eight in the box 18 times, seven in the box eight times, six in the box one time and nine in the box once.

Any time the Texans showed a look with two WR, TE, FB and RB Miami pretty much played a single high safety with an eight man front.

The Texans only tried to run out of shotgun once and that was the six man front the Dolphins got to face. This might be something the Cardinals want to explore to get better numbers in the running game.

I would expect a similar strategy, maybe even more aggressive against the Cards considering Matt Schaub has a more proven track record than Kevin Kolb.

Arizona's running statistics aren't very pretty through three games. The Redbirds have 86 attempts for 244 yards, which is 2.8 yards per carry.

Good news did come from the Week 3 game against the Philadelphia Eagles when second year running back Ryan Williams piled up 83 yards on 13 carries.

With Beanie Wells on IR and out for a significant period of time it's going to be on the Virginia Tech product to shoulder the load.

Williams' number one goal is to protect the football -- he fumbled once each in Week 1 and Week 2, but didn't let the ball hit the ground in the last game.

Even if they struggle to run early against the Dolphins this is one of those games where the attempts could be more important than the yards. Miami has six turnovers in three games including the three from the Texans game.

Control the ball, hopefully control the clock, and let Ray Horton's side of the ball work their magic.

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