During the summer, Dolphins players spoke of fielding an offense that would wear down opponents and play at a faster pace.
The pace has improved, but the results haven’t. And so 10 games into 2012, the Dolphins have averaged fewer points per game (18.7, 26th in the league) than they did last season (20.6).
After a two-day break, the Dolphins returned to work Monday, hoping to fix an offense that has slipped to 29th in yards and produced just one touchdown in its past 30 possessions.
But coach Joe Philbin said solutions likely will not include any lineup changes.
During his weekly press briefing on Monday, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman acknowledged his unit’s struggles — “my goal is for us to be better than we are, which isn’t very good” — but disputed any notion that the Dolphins have become predictable and aren’t adjusting to the tweaks made by opposing defenses.
“We’ve gone with different personnel groups,” Sherman said. “Two weeks ago, we played three [wide receivers together]. The week before, we were almost exclusively base. We mix it up quite a bit. … Somebody’s got to make something happen.”
Myriad issues are hampering the Dolphins — a largely ineffective running game, breakdowns in run blocking and pass protection, personnel limitations in the passing game and the worst two-game stretch of Ryan Tannehill’s career.
After posting quarterback ratings of 42.4 and 46.9 in the losses to Tennessee and Buffalo, Tannehill has dropped to 30th in the league in that category among qualifiers, his 70.8 ahead of only three quarterbacks.
“I don’t think he’s regressing,” Sherman said. “He’s made very few bad decisions. Opportunities haven’t arisen enough where we’ve been able to say, ‘That’s a great job.’ We’ve had some communication errors on the field.” (This includes one with Davone Bess that resulted in the first of two interceptions late in the Bills game.)
Sherman said what irks him most is a running game that is producing just 3.6 yards per carry, which ranks 26th, and mustered just 2.5 yards per attempt (24 for 60) against a usually porous Buffalo run defense. The Bills played their defensive ends wider against Miami than some teams do, which made it difficult to get outside on runs, Sherman said.
“We should be better than that, and we will be,” he said. “I figured we would break one or two, and we never [did]. If you can run the football, you can throw the football.”
Sherman downplayed the possibility of giving more playing time to speedy Lamar Miller, who has averaged 5.4 yards on 27 carries.
“When you’re not functioning like we’re not functioning, it’s hard to take a Reggie Bush out or a guy that has experience, Daniel Thomas, out,” Sherman said. “But I really like Miller. He’s going to be a very good player. I’m excited when he gets in the game. But only one of those guys can play at a time, usually.”
Philbin said: “What kills the running game first and foremost is penetration. That’s the No. 1 thing hurting our running game. Can the backs at times read some holes better? Yes. But it’s not like there are huge creases and we’re running the opposite direction.”
As Sherman said: “We need to displace people a little bit better than we are. Eight guys in the box, we have seven, that isn’t an excuse. People are able to run against those looks. But it has caused a bit of congestion and made it tight holes.”
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, among others, has said the Dolphins are handicapped by their lack of speed and big-play explosiveness at receiver.
Several Dolphins regard Marlon Moore as their fastest receiver, and rookie Rishard Matthews displayed decent speed in his regular-season debut Thursday. Sherman spoke of continuing to use both, as well as veteran possession-type receiver Jabar Gaffney.
“Sometimes the fastest guys aren’t necessarily your best pass-catchers or route runners,” Sherman said. “I would never take Davone Bess or Brian Hartline out of the game for that reason. Maybe at some point we’ll feel comfortable enough that we can go with four receivers [at once].”
Sherman also said the Dolphins “need to get the ball more” to tight end Anthony Fasano. “That’s as much my fault as anybody’s.”
Sherman was asked whether he is running the type of offense he ideally wants to operate or if he is limited by personnel deficiencies.
“The first year in your system, it’s never as far along as it would be in your second or third year,” Sherman said. “I wouldn’t say the personnel necessarily, but the time and limitations you have on exposure.”