The Miami Dolphins rank 19th in third-down conversion percentage, moving the sticks on an average of 36.3 percent of their third downs.
That's not bad, but it could be a lot better if the Dolphins could pick up the easy conversions. The Dolphins have converted just 14 of 31 (45.16 percent) third downs of two yards or less. That is currently the second-lowest average in the league.
They have converted on nine of their 18 rush attempts in those situations, and their .500 batting average in those situations ranks six spots from the bottom of the league. Six of the Dolphins' nine conversions came in three games against the Jets and the Raiders, who rank 22nd and 25th in defensive yards per carry, respectively.
What's been the problem for Miami? Joe Philbin delivers his take:
It's a variety of things. Sometimes penetration, sometimes read of the back, it's a combination thereof. Usually the things that affect runs are quick penetration and decisiveness running the ball or poor course or poor read. It's all those things. You throw on our tape for 3rd-and-1 and you'll probably see all of that.
So, here's a cut-up of every time the Dolphins have run the ball on 3rd-and-2 or shorter this year. (Why 3rd-and-2 and not just 3rd-and-1? The one yard makes a difference, but an offense should be able to get two yards on the ground when called upon.)
What do we see?
A lot of missed blocks, with defenders getting into the backfield early and often. Were it not for running back Reggie Bush's insane level of athleticism, the Dolphins would probably have converted at least two fewer 3rd-and-short situations on the ground, perhaps even three.
The tackles and tight ends struggle to maintain blocks, while the interior offensive line struggles to get any push off the ball.
There are some opportunities for cutbacks that are probably missed on occasion, but the blocking in these situations has been so bad that the Dolphins backs can't be in the wrong for thinking they won't get any extra yards by bouncing to the other direction.
Now, if the Dolphins are going to get back on track, this is the week to do it. As bad as Miami has been at converting in those situations, the Buffalo Bills have been even worse at stopping their opponents. They allow conversions on 10 of 13 runs on 3rd-and-2 or shorter (76.9 percent), the seventh-highest average in the league.
Seven of the 10 conversions have come on runs up the middle, so it will be up to the Dolphins' interior offensive linemen to get a better push than they have this season so far.
Judging by the play of Buffalo's defensive line, I like their chances.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.
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