The Miami Dolphins have a few complicated issues. We all know about the special teams being not so special. But for an offense that has considerable talent, something isn’t quite clicking and it makes every fan that watches each offensive snap cringe. Like a forgot–to-oil machine, it revs and makes noise but ends up like a like a current M. Night Shyamalan film; great concept but annoyingly unresolved and unsettling. After being in the stands and witnessing the third loss of the season, I can make a good case for a lingering problem, which is our lack of offensive coordination. Mel Gibson had better coordination during his DUI in Malibu.
Yes, I am taking aim at Dan Henning. With all due respect to his impressive career, he and Brett Favre should enjoy the fruits of their labor. The play calling issue is creating growing fan disgust with a talented but awkward offense that leaves countless points on the field. We have the personnel, the execution is improving all the time and the coaching (minus the special teams) is solid but far from passionate. However, how long are we going to watch fast drives end with a quick death? It’s like watching a Thelma and Louise marathon.
I know we all want a bruising running attack, but the frequency of running plays is not directly proportional to the efficiency. Many teams in the modern NFL recognize that adjustments are now a crucial element of success. That means that some games, you simply should not expect to run the football well. This is particularly true when you try to run against the Steelers. I understand keeping the safeties honest, so you run those plays when you can afford to, but not in the clutch.
After the first two possessions of the game, I got out my binoculars and started looking for Wannstedt pacing the sidelines.
I have reviewed the play by play for all Dolphins’ drives against the Steelers and what became clear is what has been brewing in my mind for weeks and what is apparent when you watch the offense on the field. Methodical movement down field followed by a strange series of plays that are completely out of sync with the rhythm of the drive to that point. It’s clunky. My grandmother is smoother one hour after her evening Ambien.
You start getting receiver separation and large clumps of yardage. Chad Henne starts getting into a rhythm. The defense is on its heels. Then, first down at striking distance from the end zone, running play left tackle, right tackle and right tackle again. Fourth down. Field goal.
Chad Henne went 23 of 36 for 257 yards and 1 touchdown. He continues to display the fact that his arm is a cannon. He missed the mark at times, but overall it’s a pretty good showing. I credit Dan Henning with calling that many pass plays, but it’s the timing of the play selection and the types of throws that are the issues. That’s why you can’t use that statistic I’ve heard that when we run the ball X amount of times, we win and when we throw X amount of times we don’t. That’s shortsighted. It doesn’t take into account the opponent or how the game flow dictated the play calling. Henne completed passes to seven different receivers. Not one shot into the end zone? No gutsy shots down field with Brandon Marshall against the 27th best pass defense in the league. Take the handcuffs off Henne, please. Let’s see what he can do, understanding he will make mistakes. It’s easy to forget that many of the best quarterbacks in the league had interception slumps. That’s how they learn. Henne has the amazing ability to come back out after being picked with full confidence. That’s a great quality in a young player. We are 3-3 in a division where gutsy play is the norm and a sure way to eliminate yourself is to stubbornly force what you wish your offense was on what it is. Play to your strengths rather than force your will. If Bess makes the same catch on the same route three times in a row, make it ten times in a row until the defense is forced to adjust.
The offensive line is 7th overall in the NFL and protecting Henne well, as they did against the Steelers, allowing only one sack against that dreaded pass rush. They are a young unit who have banded together after injury decimation in training camp and improve every week. That’s heart and coaching. Oh, and no penalties in the first half.
The Dolphin’s passing attack is 12th in the NFL, rushing is 16th, receiving is 14th but scoring is 27th. Is there room for improvement in performance? Of course. But the numbers say to me that talent is there but not utilized effectively.
Red Zone efficiency against Pittsburgh was 0% and third down efficiency was 25%.
We have arguably one of the best slot receivers in the league, a reliable fullback, a quality half back duo and wide outs who make yards after the catch, one of which is a three-time pro bowler who looks as good as ever.
You have the offensive line, coaching, talent and stats, but you cannot capitalize. The offense was stalled in the first few weeks with the wildcat and now with a persistent reluctance to tap the talent on the field. Would you rather see a near miss on a shot downfield and watch the chemistry improve with the season’s progression or watch a predictable right tackle running play just barely acquire a first down only then to squander the following set of downs?
This offense has changed but Dan Henning doesn’t seem to see it. If the passing game becomes an entity defenses have to adjust for, Ricky and Ronnie may start to see more lanes. Not until then, though.