September 11, 2012

Lack of scoring a serious concern for Miami Dolphins

After an ineffective performance on Sunday, the Dolphins are looking for ways to improve their offense.

A reporter pointed out to Dolphins coach Joe Philbin on Monday that no receiver, other than Davone Bess, caught a pass until the fourth quarter of Sunday’s season-opening 30-10 loss to Houston.

“That’s a good stat,” Philbin said. “I did not know that.”

What Philbin does know is this: The Dolphins need more “chunk” plays — to borrow a phrase used repeatedly by Tony Sparano and tossed out by Philbin on Monday. They need better work from their offensive line. And they need fewer tipped passes from their rookie quarterback.

A day after the Dolphins netted just 275 yards of offense and converted 2 of 10 third downs, Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman addressed several issues:

• Philbin wants more opportunities for the receivers and more production when they get the chance. Last year, Dolphins receivers (led by Brandon Marshall) averaged 145 receiving yards per game. They combined for 98 Sunday.

According to Pro Football Focus, only seven of Tannehill’s 36 passes traveled more than 10 yards in the air, and only one more than 20 — a 34-yard completion to Brian Hartline.

The Dolphins got contributions from Bess (five receptions in seven passes thrown to him, for 45 yards) and Hartline (three of eight, for 50 yards), but both of the passes intended for Legedu Naanee were intercepted (one on a tip). And Anthony Armstrong caught only one of the three passes thrown to him, for 3 yards.

“We would like to get better distribution,” Philbin said. “We had 11 [completions] to running backs and tight ends and nine to receivers. You would like to have more chunk plays. You would like to get the ball down the field and complete passes to your wideouts. We need to get that going a little bit.”

Bess played 55 of the 63 offensive snaps, with Hartline playing 37, Armstrong 35, Naanee 27 and Marlon Moore none.

Philbin said Hartline, who missed the preseason with a calf injury, did “some things from a technique standpoint that weren’t quite right yet, which isn’t surprising.”

Philbin did not directly answer when asked whether he believes his front office needs to add another free agent receiver (or cornerback). “Jeff Ireland and his staff consider any player at any time,” he said.

• Philbin said “there is culpability across the board” on Tannehill’s tipped balls. Sherman said he counted six of them.

On “one or two, he needs better eye control,” Philbin said. “Sometimes he’s got to maybe hold his footing a little bit and unload the ball, find the right throwing lane.”

He said the offensive line bears responsibility on “a couple” of the other tips on three-step drops: “You’ve got to take guys on firm at the line of scrimmage.”

Tannehill had 19 passes tipped or batted down last year at Texas A&M, eight of which resulted in interceptions. But Sherman, who coached Texas A&M before joining the Dolphins, insisted Monday that only three of those 19 were Tannehill’s fault.

Pro Football Weekly’s draft preview noted Tannehill’s “release point often drops low, resulting in too many batted passes.” But Sherman said Tannehill doesn’t need to change his release point.

“It’s something we’re looking at hard and checking where he’s putting his eyes,” Sherman said. “J.J. Watt has a history of knocking balls down. It’s something he’s going to have to work through, and he will. He will be much better this week. He hasn’t had a problem with it in practice.”

• Philbin said Tannehill’s accuracy was “OK. Maybe five throws could have been a little better.”

Philbin said Tannehill, who finished 20 for 36 for 219 yards and the three picks, should have thrown into the end zone on a fourth-and-8 from the Texans nine instead of dumping a 3-yard pass to Anthony Fasano, who was immediately tackled.

But “it wasn’t like we saw a ton of bad decisions,” Philbin said.

Said Sherman: “The next game will be huge for him. One thing I know about Ryan is he’s accountable and fixes things. He’s conscious of what he needs to work on.”

• Philbin said the offensive line play was merely “average” but singled out center Mike Pouncey for playing “an excellent game. He did some things I hadn’t seen a lineman do in this league in a long time.”

Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin allowed a sack and on “one of the tipped passes, he didn’t get out there quick enough to get his hands down,” Philbin said, calling his day “a relatively good first performance.”

Miami failed to produce an offensive touchdown for the first time since Game 5 against the Jets last season. The Dolphins’ only touchdown Sunday was scored on Marcus Thipgen’s 72-yard punt return.

“We let our defense down,” Sherman said.

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