So is it coincidence Bush was not re-signed in the offseason and when this training camp opened Thomas was behind second-year player Lamar Miller in the chase for the starting running back job?
Addressing the turnover margin didn’t stop when free agency did and it doesn’t end with the corny decorations in the defensive meeting rooms.
Dolphins coaches make sure quarterback Ryan Tannehill is aware he threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) last year and led the team with nine fumbles and were pleased when Tannehill went five practices and a scrimmage without a turnover stretching to last week.
Coaches also make sure offensive players work on ball security early in every practice – an exercise that includes having people snatch, punch and claw at ballcarriers as they run a gauntlet of such people.
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
It doesn’t stop there. Coyle has shown defensive players tape of teams that succeed at causing turnovers so his players can learn how to play similarly.
“We’ve shown them tape from around the league of teams that cause the most fumbles, how they were caused,” Coyle said. “We’ve talked about sacks and sack fumbles. We got a lot of sacks last year, but we didn’t get a lot of sack fumbles.
“We’ve looked at the teams that created the most fumbles last year, it was New England, Chicago, and Cincinnati, and we’ve studied every one of those fumbles. We’ve showed them those things on tape, and hopefully it will start to translate onto our play.”
Last season Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman intercepted three passes and caused an eye-popping 10 fumbles. That feat made him one of the players to emulate for the Dolphins.
“We looked at about seven plays in a row of him making tackles as he got the ball out,” Coyle said.
The Dolphins also studied Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora who had 10 forced fumbles in 2010.
“Ten!” Coyle stressed.
So what does this focus on turnovers mean? Well, the Dolphins are in a division with the New England Patriots, who led the NFL in turnover margin last year at plus-25. The Patriots are typically good in this statistic because quarterback Tom Brady takes care of the football and coach Bill Belichick’s defense has been opportunistic.
That means the Dolphins can’t give up 10 more turnovers than they yield if they hope to compete with New England.
“Let’s flip it from one year ago,” Philbin said. “There is no specific numerical goal, but you want to be at least plus-one in every game. That means plus-16 for the season. I think that’s a great starting point to be.
“If you can win the turnover battle in every game, you’ve got a great chance of winning football games in this league.”