Dan Campbell went through his coaching Rolodex during the Dolphins’ bye week, reaching out to allies for advice.
The message was basically the same, regardless of the source:
“Be yourself and change it up.”
When players returned from their weekend off, they discovered a transformed locker room — literally.
Their lockers had been moved. Instead of randomly placing the players throughout the room, they will now sit by position group (linebackers with linebackers, quarterbacks by quarterbacks, etc.).
“I went to my spot and Zach Vigil was in there,” tight end Jordan Cameron. “I was like, ‘What is this guy doing?’ ”
Ja’Wuan James joked that his first reaction was that his locker had been cleaned out.
Now, this wasn’t change just for the sake of change (although when you’re 1-3, there’s something to be said for that, too).
Campbell’s rationale for the switch: players often start talking football the minute they walk in the door. They might as well sit with their own group so those talks will actually be productive.
We can’t continue to live in the world we’ve been living in. That’s the bottom line.
What remains to be seen: just how much these aesthetic tweaks will mean to the bottom line.
The Dolphins still need to block better, cover tighter, tackle more soundly and throw more accurately.
But Campbell clearly believes it’s all connected. Take, for instance, the overmatched offensive line. Campbell said he played on teams with less talent than this line, but those groups had an edge.
“We need a lot nastier attitude,” he added.
Still, a change in attitude only goes so far. The Dolphins’ coaches, through four games, haven’t put their players in the best positions to succeed. And so X’s and O’s will be tweaked, too.
Campbell mentioned a couple of areas that will change:
▪ Technique on defense, both up front and in coverage.
▪ The scheme on the offensive line, so blockers have more help and aren’t caught on an island.
▪ And possibly the Dolphins’ starting lineup, although Campbell wouldn’t go into specifics.
Campbell added that these alterations “absolutely” will be in place for Sunday’s game against the Titans.
And yet, anyone expecting wholesale changes to the system will be disappointed.
“We’re not going to run away from what we do, from what we know we’ve had success with,” Campbell said.
The interim coach did seem to agree with the premise that the Dolphins have been too pass happy, and that they need to do a better job running the football.
The Dolphins have the most skewed pass-run ratio in football, throwing the ball nearly 74 percent of the time.
But Campbell said that statistic is more a function of reality, not philosophy. The Dolphins have been outscored 37-3 in first quarters this season, forcing the team to throw more than it would prefer.
“Two things have to happen: Either we have to get off to a fast start early or if you do end up a little bit behind, you have to stop the bleeding somehow, whether it’s on offense or defense,” Campbell said. “We can’t continue to live in the world we’ve been living in. That’s the bottom line.”