The Miami Dolphins are a few days into training camp and I can’t help but notice all the positive vibes and media hype surrounding this team. It’s Day 1, and I can understand how everyone is feeling, because, well, every team is 0-0. But for the Dolphins to get to the next step, they need to build on something that has haunted this team for years; chemistry.
Let’s first back up a few years. Dave Wannstedt Dolphins team never really had a sense of identity or chemistry. Yes, his defense could basically be considered one of the best in Dolphins history, but his offense was led by Jay Fielder and Ricky Williams. Their identity was to run the ball 30 times a game and hope not to pass. The results speak for themselves as Dave walked away from the team, as no one, in the stands or the front office trusted his leadership.
Next came Nick Saban. Let’s not even go there.
Cam Cameron was basically one and done, after only posting one victory during his brief tenure as the Miami Dolphins head coach, so you can’t really asses him on team Chemistry.
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Tony Sparano led the Dolphins to the playoffs, but celebrated field goals as if they were playoff appearances. His team had no identity after the wildcat year and with friction in the front office, both his players and the fans couldn’t trust him.
Joe Philbin is next. Philbin tried to build a team that catered to his mentality, which was lackadaisical. The team played with no heart, no emotion and had zero chemistry on and off the field. Add in the fact that the Philbin traded away or cut the Dolphins top talents, the cupboards were bare and the team didn’t understand how to develop or foster talent.
So what’s the point in all of this? Simple – the Miami Dolphins have gone through over 4 head coaches, numerous amounts of Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, different play books, altering formations and schemas, different scouts and mentalities – how can they build chemistry. Compare that to the defending champs, who have had 15 years of the same playbook, same coach/quarterback mentorship and more importantly 5 Superbowl championships.
How does Gase start building chemistry, well he’s leading by example. His first action showed that, when Vance Joseph left to become the coach of the Denver Broncos, Gase didn’t fret, instead he promoted within and stated that this is the Dolphins Defense. It’s not about a coordinator, rather how the team is built.
This helps the defensive unit tremendously as the players are now in the 2nd year of their existing playbook, rather than going back to the drawing board and learning a new system. The gap will only apply to the new players on the team. The most important aspect will be in the secondary – what does a healthy Reshad Jones look like with Nate Allen or TJ McDonald? Two new incoming safeties that need to learn how to read and re-act to their teammate. Repetition, time and more importantly chemistry will resolve this concern.
On the other side of the ball, Gase wanted to keep his core in tact. The biggest concern is the return of center Mike Pouncey and the impact of his communication to his new guards. An offensive line that has played together for years, understands the little things, signs during a game, recognition of defensive formations and players tendencies. Pouncey hasn’t played with this unit for a while (and that’s being nice) how will they re-act to his zone and blitz picks ups, especially since Gase has stated that practice and scrimmage might be limited to him.
Furthermore, looking at the quarterback position, we can’t help but notice the brace that is part of Ryan Tannehill. Ryan has continued to stay that his knee is fine, which it could be, but does that brace limit him in anyway? How does his playaction bootleg look like in terms of his accuracy to his wide receiver? Does he have to put a little more zip on it? What happens, when he doesn’t have a red jersey on him (meaning no contact)?
Gase started this offseason understanding the importance of chemistry. He now has to continue to build on that, as the team that he is chasing, has a 13 year advantage on him.