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Open Locker Room: Dolphins present unique challenge


JACKSONVILLE – The task is the same and different all at once.

The Jaguars on Sunday again must stop the run. But to hear defensive coordinator Bob Babich tell it, the Jaguars' task Sunday is different – and perhaps tougher – than this past Sunday.

The Miami Dolphins, like the Jaguars' opponent this past week – the Cleveland Browns – very much run to win. But the Dolphins run in different way, emphasizing quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the read-option offense.

That makes the task as tricky as any the Jaguars' defense has faced this season.

"It creates some problems," Babich said Thursday as the Jaguars (1-6) prepared to play the Dolphins (3-3) at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. "It's something you don't see all the time. You need to make sure you're fundamentally sound."

Statistically, the Dolphins create a similar task to the Browns.

The Browns entered EverBank Field last Sunday ranked third in the NFL in rushing, and the Jaguars held them to 69 yards on 30 carries in a 24-6 victory.

The Dolphins enter Sunday fourth in the NFL in rushing, but whereas the Browns ran almost exclusively a zone-oriented attack to help set up play-action passes by quarterback Brian Hoyer, the Dolphins run read-option with Tannehill in the running game.

"This time the quarterback can run the ball," Jaguars defensive tackle Roy Miller said. "Tannehill's a heck of an athlete. Watching him on film, you can see how he makes their offense. They're dangerous because of him. He brings that outside running threat. We're going to have to be prepared to set the edge on the outside and be disciplined."

Miller said the best way to think of the Dolphins' offense is to think of the Philadelphia Eagles, but whereas Eagles quarterback Nick Foles usually doesn't run Tannehill is a legitimate running threat.

"Obviously, he does a good job running it," Babich said. "He's been successful and has had some big runs."

Bill Lazor is in his first season as Dolphins offensive coordinator after spending the 2013 season as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said while there are elements in the Dolphins' offense similar to the all-up-tempo-all-the-time offense run in Philadelphia by Head Coach Chip Kelly, it's far from a carbon copy.

"They have some tempo," Bradley said. "You see some similarities of style. There are other things that he's kind of branched off and done his own way."

Tannehill, who last week had one of his best games as a pro completing 25 of 32 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over Chicago, has completed 138 of 218 passes for 1,423 yards and 10 touchdowns with five interceptions this season. He also has rushed 22 times for 150 yards, a 6.8-yards-per-carry average.

"The read-option is always difficult," Bradley said. "It's always difficult. Whenever you have that, it's the play passes that come off of it and a chance for explosive plays. Philly (Foles) didn't keep it that much when we played them.

"It's different this week. They have a similar philosophy, but different ways of utilizing their personnel."

Also around the Jaguars Thursday:

*Cornerback Alan Ball returned from seeking a second opinion in San Francisco on a biceps injury sustained Sunday. He is expected to miss practice Thursday, but said while he doubts he will play against Miami, he doesn't believe the injury is season-ending. "I think within this next week and a half I'll get my body back to the best it can possibly be and go from there," Ball said. "My thoughts are that it's not season-ending." Ball has started 22 of 23 games since signing with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent last offseason. Demetrius McCray – the starter at left corner the last three games – likely will play Ball's right corner spot Sunday with Dwayne Gratz starting at left corner. Gratz started the first four games of the season at left corner opposite Ball. …

*Running back Toby Gerhart said he felt good coming off his first practice in two weeks Wednesday and said he could work full Thursday. Gerhart, the Jaguars' starting running back in the first five games of the season, missed the last two weeks with a foot/ankle injury that he played through since Week 1. "It went well," Gerhart said. "Just getting back out there and moving around was fun. I was a little rusty, but I felt good out there." Gerhart said he ended practice with no setbacks or soreness. "There were no sharp pains or anything, so it was good," he said. …

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