The Patriots made the most important half time adjustment against the Dolphins and it changed the complexion of the game. They gave the ball to Jonas Gray.
Gray received 17 snaps in the second half, compared to zero in the first half, while LeGarrette Blount saw his snaps change from 9 in the first, to 6 in the second.
There's a clear difference in skill sets between the two heavy backs on the roster. Blount has more breakaway speed and is able to slam members of the secondary to pick up an estimated 30 yards after contact. But he also has a much slower first step and is unable to generate momentum out of the backfield if the offensive line can't do its job.
Gray, on the other hand, has a fantastic first step to attack the hole, but will likely be unable to break into the second level. What he does do is fall forward for four, five, six yards at a time. In his eleven carries against the Dolphins, eight went for four or more yards.
Compare that with Blount, who just one of his eight carries go for more than four yards (and had another for a three yard touchdown). It's not that complicated; give the ball to Gray.
We know that the Patriots are converting short yardage downs via rushes at a pace 10% below the league average. It's a pretty big issue.
It turns out that running backs Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, and Stevan Ridley (even though Ridley was behind an exceptionally poor interior line) rank in the bottom 15% of the league with regards to runs inside. All three have over 50% of their runs go for 2 or fewer yards.
More proof that Jonas Gray should be the lead running back moving forward: best inside runner on the team. pic.twitter.com/RLEfzZLaG2— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 15, 2014
Compare that with Jonas Gray, who ranks 4th in the league with roughly a two-thirds of his carries exceeding two yards. It should also be noted that Gray has reached a point where his carries against the Colts make-up less than 50% of his carries on the year; so while his numbers are influenced by that historic day, he's still having success in other his opportunities.
And we can look at runs outside, too.
Exhibit B: Gray is the best in the league at avoiding short pickups on outside runs. pic.twitter.com/nW5XUwiT8p— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 15, 2014
Where Gray ranks #1 in the league in rushes to the outside. Best. On top. No one better. There are two backs who rank in the top 10 of both rankings; Gray and Jamaal Charles. Gray is the only back in the top 5 of both.
When the games start, and the opposing defenses are fresh, the Patriots should give the ball to Gray because he's going to turn it into positive yards; he's going to chip and chip and chip away at the defense until they're tired. Throwing Blount, with his lesser first step, will continue to lead to long yardage situations.
Let Gray tenderize the defense to start the game. Let Blount and his homerun ability act as the closer. It's pretty simple. Just give Gray the ball.