The Miami Dolphins Raced to 70 Points With a Team of Former Track Stars

From a Wall Street Journal story by Andrew Beaton headlined “The Dolphins Raced to 70 points With a Team of Former Track Stars”:

Jerry Hill had a problem when he coached Tyreek Hill on the Coffee High School track team. His star sprinter burst out the blocks with such force that he literally tore the rubber off the school’s track.

“He was just so powerful with that first step,” Jerry Hill says.

Tyreek Hill now uses that same speed to blow past NFL defenses as a wide receiver, which the Denver Broncos learned a painful lesson about on Sunday. Hill and the Dolphins raced past them in a historic offensive showing: Miami scored 70 points.

The 70-20 win put the Dolphins within a couple points of the NFL’s regular-season scoring record of 72, and made them the first team to reach 70 in the last 57 years. Miami’s 726 yards of offense were the second most ever.

It was a tour de force that makes the undefeated Dolphins unlike any other team in the league, and their explosiveness is hardly a coincidence. That’s because Hill, a player known as “cheetah,” may not even be the fastest player on his own team. All of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s top weapons were track stars before they became star NFL players.

“They most definitely have a crazy sprinting prowess with those few kids in Miami,” says Lloyd Banks, the high-school track coach of running back Devon Achane, who ran for 203 yards on Sunday.

There isn’t another NFL team that could put together a 4×100-meter relay team that is faster than the one assembled by the Dolphins. Hill, Achane, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and running back Raheem Mostert posted times in high school or college that wouldn’t be embarrassing at the Olympics. And they play in an offense that prizes those talents: coach Mike McDaniel’s scheme emphasizes getting the ball to players in space and counting on them to beat defenders.

The team is equipped with players who excel at doing just that. The NFL’s Next Gen Stats tracks the top speeds that players reach while running with the ball during games. The five fastest times this season have all been posted by Dolphins: Hill, Mostert and Achane. Hill set the high-water mark on Sunday when he reached 22.07 miles an hour after one of his catches.

Their former coaches say that in a world in which coveted athletes are increasingly funneled into playing only one sport, these players benefit to this day from sticking with track as long as they did. That’s because they can see the same sprinting techniques on display whenever they turn on a Dolphins game, and it’s not just about pure speed. Events such as the hurdles, they say, teach the body control necessary to navigate defenders.

“One of the advantages to running track is it teaches you those good running mechanics and it translates well on the football field,” says Brendan Robinson, who coached Mostert’s high-school track team. “If you have good running mechanics, it’s gonna be harder to tackle you.”

Mostert was so keen on running that he went to Purdue because the school allowed him to do both. That’s when veteran track coach Lonnie Greene started working with the player he calls the most gifted athlete he’s ever had on one of his teams.

Greene, who’s now at the University of Kentucky,, watched Mostert’s football games with one thing in mind. “My interest was hopefully that he didn’t get hurt,” Greene says. He couldn’t afford to lose his fastest runner. In the Big Ten indoor championships, Mostert won the 60 meter and 200 meter events. Outdoors, he won the conference title at 100 meters and 200 meters.

Greene contends that Mostert is the fastest player in the NFL. The only people who might disagree are his own teammates.

Jerry Hill, who teaches engineering at Coffee High School in Georgia, didn’t know the first thing about coaching track when he accepted the gig after nobody else would take it. His entire experience consisted of a few instructional DVDs the former coach left him.

But he agreed to the role because Tyreek Hill (no relation) was on the team, and that meant getting the chance to work with one of the fastest high-schoolers in the country at the time—in 2012, Track & Field News named Hill the boys athlete of the year, an award that has been won by the likes of Olympic medalists Galen Rupp and Noah Lyles. Jerry Hill tried to give his ace runner pointers here and there, but he mainly marveled at his abilities and how he continued to get better.

“There were a few things that I couldn’t fix,” Jerry Hill says. “In my ignorance, it’s probably better I didn’t succeed.”

Hill is also the highest-profile example of how the Dolphins have gone out of their way to prioritize speed over size. They acquired Hill, who’s just 5-foot-10, from the Kansas City Chiefs in a blockbuster deal last year, not long after hiring McDaniel. That same off-season, they signed Mostert, who’s the same height as Hill. Then this year, they drafted the 5-foot-9 Achane.

Lloyd Banks, who coached Achane at Marshall High School in Texas, remembers asking Achane to do something he knew he would hate: running in the 4×400-meter relay. Banks had worked with sprinters who loathed stretching out to that longer distance, but he knew he needed Achane to win the state championship in the event.

Achane didn’t flinch and insisted that he run the first leg to give the team the lead.

“He wasn’t a Ferrari,” Banks says. “He was a Tonka truck. I knew I could always depend on him”

Banks also has first-hand knowledge of the speed of another Dolphin: he coached against Waddle in high school. Waddle hit one of the fastest speeds for a ball carrier in all of the NFL last season.

The Broncos learned how nightmarish it can be to keep up with these Dolphins when they routinely whizzed past the Denver defense, even with Waddle sidelined due to an injury. Hill had 157 receiving yards and caught a 54-yard touchdown pass on the game’s third play. Achane and Mostert each recorded four touchdowns, with 375 combined rushing and receiving yards between the two of them.

The performance has put the Dolphins on a historic path. No team has recorded more yards through the first three games of a season.

They’re now the NFL’s must-watch team because they’re a blur.

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