5 Keys to Resurrecting the Miami Dolphin Offense

Talk in Miami is centered around the regression of Ryan Tannehill and the stagnation of the Dolphin offense.

The Miami Dolphin wide receivers cannot get off press coverage. Miami does not have physical receivers and secondaries are pressing tight on the line of scrimmage, taking away Ryan Tannehill’s bread and butter quick throws. The culprit has been easy for defensive coordinators to pinpoint and Miami does not have an answer.

Initially, Houston timed up Tannehill on three step drops and were able to bat balls in the air leading to INTs and broken plays. Tannehill overcame that by finding throwing lanes and not staring down his intended target. Defensive backs were giving enough cushion for Davone Bess and Brian Hartline to release from the line on quick slants and back shoulder sideline routes.

Not knowing the Dolphins tendencies caused defenses to play honest early in the season, but much has changed in the past month. By applying physical press coverage, defenses have taken away the three step drops. By bringing an eighth man into the box, defenses have added an extra run defender. These two changes have virtually shut down the Miami offense.

Ryan Tannehill’s inexperience has him reverting to the same audible calls against known defensive alignments. By presenting Tannehill with certain packages, defenses know the checks he will call and move defenders to take away the play after the snap.

These are the keys to Miami coming out of the offensive funk and using their own tendencies against defenses. 

1. Drive off press coverage by throwing medium to long range on 1st down.
a.       Play action off typical 1st down run.
b.      Two receiver route to max protect.
c.       TE and RB slide to flats for second options after blocks.

       2. Load the field with 4 and 5 WRs early in the game on early downs.
a.       Mix with option number 1 above, using the same personnel.
b.      Split TE and RB into slot.
c.       Use pick slats on 3 step drops.

       3. Use a fast tempo offense in 4 and 5 WRs formations to pull the 8th man out.
a.       2nd and 3rd down run the plays fast and furious.
b.      Do not allow the defense to set.
c.       Script plays for faster tempo.

       4. Use the QB draw early in the spread formation to initiate a defensive spy.
a.       The Draw is a called play, delayed draw.
b.      Sprint draw.
c.       Spread option, wildcat back in motion.

       5. Change Tannehill’s routine audible calls into play fakes off the old favorites.
a.       Play action off plays normally called.
b.      Self scout to see tendencies and play off them.
c.       Keep changing; don’t fall into same tendencies during the game.

Following these five keys the Dolphins can force defenses out of the box and dictate tempo.

One of the biggest problems for Miami has been allowing the defense to control the line of scrimmage. It is not always the fault of the linemen because when an offense becomes predictable defenses shoot known gaps. The problem for defenses, like offenses, is these can be exploited by using the motion to leverage defenders in the direction they are already moving.

The Miami Dolphins have been making the fatal mistake of not taking their own tendencies one step beyond the fix. Many times teams will know what they tend to do in certain situations, but the fix is not the obvious first response. Like a great chess player, the team must be one step further ahead. When adjusting for an obvious tendency, the team must anticipate the defensive adjustment as well and go one step further.

Adjust for the fix of the tendency... The concept is foreign to those not inclined to the chess board, but for those with understanding of the age-old game, the strategy is well known. Think a little further ahead than just the next move. Anticipate what the opponent will do to adjust and attack the adjustment.

Joe Philbin gives the impression of being one of the more cerebral coaches the Dolphins have seen since Don Shula, but he has issues that have been hard to overcome. The last two weeks have been quick turn around games with a rookie QB not 100% healthy. There has been little time to install layers in the schematics and Miami has been caught unprepared.

These are double rookie mistakes; one for the coach not recognizing the need to use the bye week to install another layer to the offense and two by a rookie QB being limited in his ability to absorb and process the extreme amount of data. When a QB has two off-seasons and one year as a starter under his belt he has seen three times the number offensive situations as Ryan Tannehill. This is the issue with an inexperienced rookie on a young team.

There is the sentiment that if Andrew Luck can do this and Tannehill cannot than Tannehill is not in the same league as Luck... Wrong! Luck started 37 games at Stanford. Over a full NFL season's worth of games compared to Tannehill's 19. That's the reason most NFL personnel people say a QB should have at least 30 collegiate starts. The game experience is invaluable and cannot be simulated.

Tannehill showed the abilities required for quarterbacking in the NFL, but simply does not have the experience and it has caught up with the Dolphins. He is too easy for defenses to scheme around and unfortunately there is little the Dolphins can do but have patience and spoon feed him situational football.

With ten days to prepare Miami should come out against the Seahawks with some new wrinkles, but Seattle is a tough physical team. A receiver corps that is not good at getting off press coverage represents a huge problem against Seattle. The Seahawks have perhaps the most physically daunting secondary in the NFL and it will prove a mighty challenge for the Dolphin offense.

Much of the media and fan chatter has begun to fall on the legitimacy of the personnel in Miami. Jeff Ireland enjoyed a reprieve while the Dolphins won three consecutive games, but the bulls-eye is refocusing on the Miami GM. Once again this is misguided, the talent level is simply not that much different between teams in the NFL with a few very exceptional exceptions.

It all centers around the quarterback. When there is exceptional performance from this position the entire team plays well. When there is mediocre performance at this position the team plays mediocre and when it is bad, it is bad... That does not mean Ryan Tannehill is bad or was not a good draft pick for the Dolphins. It means, he has the skill for the position but is seriously lacking in the experience and it is coming to light as the season progresses.

There is no choice Dolphin fans... Endure these rough times as Miami fans have learned to do and realize, there are better days ahead when Ryan Tannehill has about 40 games of experience.

Looking at the team and the QB in these terms sets a time-line realistically aligned with expectancy. The Dolphins are a couple years away, again. It seems to Miami fans as the never ending story, but the kid has the tools and the coach has the smarts.

It may seem impossible for fans to fathom, but things are looking up in Miami...