Green Bay Packers vs. Miami Dolphins: Ground game will be crucial


Heading into the Green Bay Packers vs. Miami Dolphins tilt Sunday with kickoff at noon, there are a couple of statistics that are bearing down on me … the Dolphins average more than 130 yards rushing on the ground, while the Green Bay Packers defense is giving up more than 160 yards per game to opposing rushers.

That simple fact doesn’t sit well with me, nor does it with the Packers.

Here is what Clay Matthews told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after Thursday’s practice:

“It is very challenging. I’ve seen a growing trend within this league of offenses that are using a lot of misdirection, and using all of their capabilities of putting the defense at a disadvantage. It is no different this week – it’s different from the Joe Philbin that I saw when he was here, but they’re doing a great job of creating advantages for their team. We’re going to have to be ready for that.”

With the Joe Philbin-led Dolphins ripping it up on the ground, you can bet that they are going to be feeding their running backs early and often.

With the Joe Philbin-led Dolphins ripping it up on the ground, you can bet that they are going to be feeding their running backs early and often.

With 114 attempts rushing this season, the 2-2 Dolphins have ground out 569 yards rushing already – a 5-yard average per attempt.

And watching this Packers team give up first down after first down on the ground, there is surely reason to worry.

Miami Dolphins running back Knowshon Moreno. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Add into the mix that Knowshon Moreno is set to be back on the field Sunday it only adds to the Dolphins’ ammunition.

It will be difficult for the Packers to stop this team with what they have shown to date and with defensive lineman Datone Jone’s injury, it doesn’t get any easier for a defensive line that’s thin to begin with.

So, what will defensive coordinator Dom Capers dial up?

Well, it’s difficult to dial up anything for the Packers at this point.

Maybe a little luck? Maybe a turnover here or there?

That’s how this defense has been operating to date. They continue to give up huge chunks of real estate, but are finding ways to take the ball away.

To make a difference in this game, that’s what Green Bay will need to do.

Whether it’s Lamar Miller or Moreno who’s carrying the rock, the Packers are going to have their work cut in bringing those two backs to the ground.

Miller has carried the ball 47 times in his four games for 277 yards – a 5.7-yard-per-carry average.

Moreno, who has been injured the past two games, has 25 carries for 138 yards – a 5.5-yard average.

Considering that the Packers have already given up 815 total yards on the ground in five games – that’s on 178 carries (4.6-yard average), the Dolphins’ strategy on Sunday shouldn’t be too complicated. They will attempt to exploit the Packers’ soft underbelly, control the clock and keep Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense off the field.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

What will be interesting to watch is how the Packers try to defend. Do they bring their safeties up right away and dare the Dolphins the throw? Or do they sit back, try to keep the Dolphins in front of them and work for turnovers?

Whatever transpires will most likely be played out within the first couple of possessions by the Dolphins.

Matthews summed it up:

"“There’s so much misdirection and with Knowshon out, you’d think there’d be a drop off, but there definitely isn’t. They’re running hard out there and they make you stay gap sound within your defense. So it is important for us to know exactly where we’re fitting because they have so many variations of plays and what they can run that it can keep defenses flustered.”"

Yes, “flustered” is the best word to describe the situation. The real question is whether the Packers stay within themselves, play sound fundamentals and come out of Florida with a win.

We’ve all heard Coach McCarthy stress fundamentals. If there’s a single game where those skills are needed, it will be Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Stay tuned …