Miami Dolphins excited by new offense, but execution a work in progress

The Dolphins expect to overcome some early camp miscues and thrive under new coordinator Bill Lazor’s constantly evolving offense.

07/29/2014 2:40 PM

09/08/2014 8:00 PM

Each night, when much of America is plopping down in front of the TV, Bill Lazor is doing his own one-man show.

And it’s never a rerun.

“Every single day, he comes in with a new play, [and] he’s excited about the play,” Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace said. “When he gets excited, we’re automatically going to get excited. It’s fun. It’s a fun offense to play in.”

Through four days of training camp, much about the Dolphins’ offense is new under Lazor, the team’s first-year coordinator. There’s creativity in formations, shifts and route trees unlike anything seen under previous coordinator Mike Sherman.

And yet, much is the same, too. Mainly: the team still struggles to get into the end zone and still makes some egregious errors. Ryan Tannehill had as many touchdown passes in team drills Tuesday as he had snaps sail over his head: one.

There’s a sense within the locker room, however, that these early camp struggles are simply growing pains, instead of a sign of what’s to come.

“It’s pretty dynamic,” left tackle Branden Albert said of Lazor’s offense. “He has a lot of things in his offense that will help us.”

Added tight end Charles Clay: “You have to know everything. Nobody’s waiting for you.”

That’s how coach Joe Philbin wants it. Since the day he was hired, he has stressed playing with pace.

At Dolphins camp, “play speed” and “tempo” are uttered as often as “ball security” — another Philbin trope.

But for two years, it has been just talk. His offense has been run at essentially the same speed as that of his predecessor, Tony Sparano, who preferred to ground and pound.

On Tuesday, Philbin explained why. The short answer: the Dolphins haven’t been good enough to play at the speed he desired.

“Part of it, I think, is you have to get some first downs to generate [tempo],” Philbin said. “I mean if you throw an incomplete pass or you’re third-and-long, you get sacked, it’s tough to generate the tempo that you’re looking to create.

“So I think part of it has been a function that we haven’t been super productive on offense. And let’s get that out on the table. That’s a fact. And so I think it’s hard to really generate the type of tempo you’re looking for when you’re not getting a lot of first downs.”

The numbers back that up.

With Lazor on Philadelphia’s coaching staff, the Eagles ran 53 more plays than the Dolphins last year, even though Miami had control of the football for an additional two minutes per game.

Put another way: Philadelphia had nearly an entire game’s worth of more offensive snaps than Miami, even though, on aggregate, the Dolphins’ offense had an extra two quarters of possession.

Here’s why: the Eagles had 77 more first downs than the Dolphins in 2013. That’s nearly five per game.

Granted, it helped that Philly’s quarterback, Nick Foles, was the most efficient triggerman in football. He threw 19 touchdowns before his first interception in 2013 and had just two interceptions the entire season.

“You’ve just got to put it together,” Lazor said. “You’re going to make mistakes. And you’re going to have good plays and learn from them.

“Usually you come out of practice with some good and some bad. A wise coach told me once that there’s no bad as long as you learn from it. That’s where we are.”

Lazor went on to praise Tannehill’s work ethic, accuracy and ability to get the ball out quickly, saying, “He has all the zip on the ball that you need.”

As for the personality Lazor wants his offense to develop, that must come from the players, he said.

“At the end of the day, I’m going to guide them and direct them, but it’s up to them,” Lazor said. “It’s got to be their team.”

Their team, sure — but his plays. And Wallace expects the Dolphins to use most every one of them between now and the New Year.

“A lot of playbooks, you put in lot of plays, but half of the plays, you don’t use them,” Wallace said. “I think, in this offense, we’ll use a lot of stuff. Coach Lazor loves throwing the ball deep. It just keeps everybody fresh. Everybody’s minds are excited about the new day.”

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