A look at the 2010 Cleveland Brown’s offensive stats would certainly not give Miami Dolphin fans a comforting feeling coming into the lockout impaired 2011 season. The hiring of fired Browns OC Brian Daboll after his offense was 31st in points, 29th in total yards, 29th in passing and 20th in rushing last season certainly seems curious. Dan Henning’s offense was roundly criticized and while not spectacular by any means the Dolphin offense ranked higher statistically in every category. So why hire Daboll and what can we expect?
The biggest difference may be in the use of formations. Dan Henning was an old school coordinator who followed the mantra that if every player did their job, a hat on a hat, then a play should work without a lot of formations or motion. In the past this may have been true but NFL defenses have undergone a transformation in the last several years in response to rule changes designed to promote scoring, most notably in the passing game. Teams have been gradually going away from the 4-3 defense in favor of the 3-4 because it allows them to have more versatile LBs and Safeties on the field instead of DL.
This has given defenses more options, enabling zone blitzing schemes and multiple coverage schemes making it harder for the offense to dictate play. Modern offenses have responded by adding a wide range of 3, 4 or even 5 wide formations coupled with motion. All of these twists designed to force the defense to show its hand. An offense that does not have any of these nuances is less likely to dictate to the defense and more likely to fall victim to turnovers and negative plays.
It is probably a tribute to the Miami Dolphin players that they were able to produce much at all given the constraints of the Henning scheme. The changes most likely to be seen with Daboll will come from the use of formations and motion designed to create mismatches and to force the defense to show coverages or blitzes. The scheme will be more QB friendly because it will isolate defensive keys that indicate pressure or coverage.
The lockout has hurt teams like the Dolphins who have new coaching staffs or OCs and DCs because they will be starting from behind the established staffs. One thing for certain, receivers may actually be open and in some cases wide open, which has not seen in Miami for a long while. For too long defenses have dictated the game to Miami but with the use of formations and motion there is hope the Miami Dolphin offense will be more like Green Bay and less like Cleveland.
Considering Daboll came from Cleveland Coach Sparano has certainly taken a leap of faith. What do you think?