Armando Salguero: Miami Dolphins’ offense undergoing a renaissance
09/30/2013 12:01 AM
03/14/2014 2:40 PM
It has been dark a long time around here but now, after three games this NFL season, there’s a hint of sunshine rising over the Dolphins.
A new day might be dawning before our eyes, and what light we already perceive is definitely shining on the Miami offense.
Remember the Miami offense?
It has been a while since this group was relevant. It has been a long time since Dan Marino’s passing exploits and Don Shula’s innovations made the Dolphins both interesting and entertaining to watch. Indeed, the 20-year-old going to Miami home games now probably doesn’t remember ever attending a game in which Marino played while Shula coached.
Yes, the dark age lasted too long.
But now we’re seeing signs of a renaissance.
The Miami offense, free of a run-first, talent-starved dungeon experience, is scoring again.
The Dolphins are averaging 24.7 points per game. And while that isn’t the stuff of records or heart-stopping legend, that kind of point production is good enough to win a championship.
Just ask the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, who averaged 24.9 points per game last season.
Just ask the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers who, averaged 24.8 points per game last season.
A little more than three touchdowns a game doesn’t guarantee a Super Bowl ticket for these Dolphins, but compared to their recent struggles on offense, three touchdowns a game qualifies as something of an epiphany.
It also suggests good and perhaps great things ahead.
“That,” receiver Mike Wallace said, “is the plan.”
The Dolphins are 11th in the NFL in points scored, and that’s a startling improvement from the No. 27 rank of a year ago. They’re scoring 6.7 points more per game than in 2012, and that touchdown difference is attributable to added talent (receivers Wallace and Brandon Gibson and right tackle Tyson Clabo) and clear improvement by quarterback Ryan Tannehill and other youngsters who already were on the roster.
The offense has done enough good work that even in their own locker room there’s respect from defensive players that previously had to play near-perfect games in order to tow the team to victory.
“They’re coming up big,” defensive tackle Randy Starks said. “They came up big the last two weeks. They won the game for us last week. They’re doing a good job right now. They’re helping out and it’s paying off for everybody.”
The real payoff won’t come until much later this season when playoff berths are decided. But for the moment it’s notable that even as the Dolphins and Patriots have been wrestling for the AFC East’s top spot, the Dolphins have been outproducing New England.
The Patriots are averaging only 19.7 points per game — and although it’s true Tom Brady lost a lot of weapons and Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola haven’t been completely healthy — none of that changes the fact something different is happening.
The Dolphins haven’t scored more points than the Patriots in a season that Brady was the starter. Even when Brady was injured and the Dolphins won the division in 2008, the Patriots still scored more points than Miami.
The last time Miami scored more points than New England was in 2000.
A cynic might argue the season is still young. The Patriots might get healthy. The Dolphins will face better defenses such as Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh later this season.
All that’s valid. But balanced against those facts is the Dolphins’ belief they are not nearly the offense now they’ll be later this year.
“I don’t feel like we’re that good yet,” Wallace said. “I feel we can be pretty good. I think we’re making some good plays now. But we still haven’t put it all together.
“When I look at our offense and see how we practice, I look at what we can be. I feel like we’re just touching it. We’re really just starting out. We’re nowhere near what we can be or want to be.”
What was that?
Oh, yes, Patriots, Bills and Jets fans are saying the Dolphins might also go in the opposite direction and their teams — each on the schedule twice later this season — will have a say in the matter.
And to that Clabo answers with a promise.
“I know we haven’t played our best football game yet,” Clabo said. “We’re definitely still a work in progress. If we continue to put the work in towards becoming the offense we could be, even though no one knows what will happen, we will put points on the board.”
It’s a new day.
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