AP Sports Writer

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins rank second in the NFL in rushing yards per carry but next to last in rushing attempts per game, which has offensive coordinator Bill Lazor on the defensive about his play-calling.

Would the Dolphins (3-5) be better if they ran the ball more? Lazor has pondered that question.

"You rack your brain, and you say, `If I remember back, each time I called a play I thought it was the best play at the moment,"’ Lazor said with a smile Thursday. "I have looked at those statistics. We’re going to try to run it when we think we’re going to be effective."

Miami runs the ball 34 percent of the time, third-lowest in the league. Leading rusher Lamar Miller is averaging 5.3 yards per carry but only 11.4 attempts per game.

The Dolphins’ per-carry average of 4.9 yards would be their highest since 1973, when they had Hall of Fame fullback Larry Csonka and won the Super Bowl. But they’re on pace for their fewest running plays since 1988, during Dan Marino’s heyday.

Sunday’s game at Philadelphia (4-4) should offer a chance to run. The Eagles rank 21st in run defense, and in the past two games they’ve allowed 338 yards rushing.

The biggest reason the Dolphins have been pass-happy is that they’ve been behind so much of the season. They’ve been outscored 56-34 in the first quarter, and their past four losses have been by 27, 13, 29 and 16 points.

And Miller’s not a workhorse back. He averaged only 13.5 carries last year, when he became a 1,000-yard rusher for the first time.

"If we ran it every play, we certainly wouldn’t be as effective," Lazor said. "We work really hard to do the things in the run game that fit our people."

The impressive rushing statistics aren’t a fluke, though. The Dolphins also ranked second in the league last year in yards per carry.

"I maybe don’t do a good enough job telling our players those kinds of things, because I tend to ignore the stats," Lazor said. "Maybe I need to tell them, `Hey, you guys can run the ball."’

The return of rookie Jay Ajayi gives the ground game a boost. Sidelined for the first seven games because of a chest injury, Ajayi earned praise after running for 41 yards in five carries last week at Buffalo in his NFL debut.

Interim coach Dan Campbell said the running attack has showed improvement since he took over Oct. 5. Blocking has been good, he said, and he praised both Miller and Ajayi.

Continuing to throw the ball two-thirds of the time isn’t the plan, Campbell said.

"That’s not ideally the way we’d like to go," he said. "When we’re playing from behind, you have no choice."

The playoffs are a long shot at the halfway point in a disappointing season, but the running game provides a potential path toward progress.

"Is it something to build on? Yes," Lazor said. "I hope we can. I think we will."

More handoffs would help.


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