The play call this past Sunday was inspired, as brilliantly conceived as anything the Dolphins have run this year.
Jarvis Landry begins the play by going in motion in one direction. Then he reverses, at the last minute, and runs the other way.
No Atlanta Falcon follows him.
Jay Cutler tosses a pass to a wide open Landry, who strolls into the end zone for a seven-yard touchdown.
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“ I was excited every time [Adam Gase] puts that one in,” Landry told me this week. “Sometimes it gets called in the red zone, sometimes it doesn’t; but I was excited when he put it back in. It was in last year. It’s one of those plays that you’ve got to tip your hat to coach for designing and we made it work.”
He said he wasn’t surprised he was wide open because, as Landry said, “I’m telling you, every time we ran that play, it’s been wide open just like that. I tried not to drop it. That was the hardest part.”
Landry said “it’s going to be tough” to ever stop that play because “there’s a lot of options on that play and every week we do something a little bit different with a different guy depending on the defense and how they play in the red zone. You never really know who’s going to pop out from somewhere or how it’ll happen.”
My point here is not to relive a six-day old play as much as it is to make this broader point: With the Dolphins offensive struggling for most of the season, with Gase seemingly not trusting his blockers to hold protection long enough to throw more deep balls, Gase needs to come up with more of these types of plays, more creative wrinkles to jump-start a unit that needs to be nearly perfect over an 8 to 15 play drive to score points.
Gase already has proven his acumen as an assistant coach and head coach in multiple ways. He can elevate the play of young quarterbacks, as he showed with Tim Tebow and Ryan Tannehill. He can keep a team centered and on track through patches of adversity, as he has done this season and last.
But one of the biggest ways Gase can make a difference with this team is keeping defenses off balance in his role as a play-caller.
Maybe that means creative ways to use Kenyan Drake (who got just one offensive snap last week) or Jakeem Grant. Maybe it’s an occasional reverse. Or maybe it’s something as unique as the Landry call.
You don’t win games in the NFL with a bunch of gimmicks. But the Landry score, which trimmed Atlanta’s lead to 17-14, shows the value of genuinely creative play-calling.
And with an offense lacking a top 20 quarterback or an elite offensive line or high-end tight end, creativity becomes all the more important.
So is that Landry play something the Dolphins cannot use for a while now because it’s on film for opponents to see?
“You never know,” Landry said. “We’re going to just put it in the bag and we might find a way to hide it and bring it back out again.”
A few other notes:
• Gase, incidentally, said Friday he sometimes scripts plays in advance: “It depends. Every once in a while you start that way and then it goes off-kilter, you scratch it and start over in the middle of the game. Every game is different.”
• With DeVante Parker listed as doubtful and unable to practice all week, the Dolphins are still looking to get something from Grant or Leonte Carroo. Grant wasn’t targeted in the Falcons game and Carroo didn’t catch any of his three targets.
Do they understand the offense as well as Gase wants?
“I think the understanding is there,” Gase said. Now it just comes down to less thinking, more reacting. I think you can see occasionally where Carroo looks smooth and everything is fluid and easy for him. Then occasionally, if something changes where he’s never seen something before – you see a coverage that you haven’t really practiced against – the wheels start turning. You’re trying to figure out ‘What’s my adjustment? What am I supposed to do?’ That’s where you can slow yourself down and you lose a little bit of focus. You don’t catch the ball or you’re not in the right spot.
“I think Jakeem is in the same boat where when we get him to where he plays as fast as he can, that’s when he has success. We try to keep everything fairly tight with him so he can be a playmaker for us.”
As far as their route-running goes, “They’re better than what they’ve been. I know Carroo has made a lot of strides,” Gase said. “He’s really worked on it hard. Kenny Stills has spent a ton of time with both of those guys making sure they understand what they’re supposed to do and some of the details of the route. They’ve gotten into that a little more.”
• One critical area Sunday is not allowing tight end Austin Sefarian Jenkins to find holes in Miami’s defense. His 23 catches are the most by an NFL tight since he came off suspension in Week 3.
• If the Dolphins don’t protect Jay Cutler Sunday, there’s no excuse, considering the Jets have seven sacks in six games; only Tampa Bay has fewer. Miami has 12.