Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins try to clean up their dirty laundry

The Dolphins did something darn near impossible on their second offensive possession Saturday night.

They gained 22 yards. Yet somehow, still went three-and-out.

Even the most rudimentary mathematician knows something is wrong with this formula. The additional variable: Miami’s inability to get out of its way.

Penalties have replaced turnovers as the offense’s peskiest drive-killer as the preseason has progressed. In Saturday’s loss to the Texans, the Dolphins were flagged six times for 46 yards — not great, but not terrible.

What was more troublesome: the players committing the fouls came from the top half of the roster, in critical spots.

Take, for example, the second drive. On the first play, Lamar Miller had an 8yard gain erased by a hold on tight end Michael Egnew. Then before Ryan Tannehill could take the snap on the next play, tight end Charles Clay jumped offsides.

The 1999 Rams would have had trouble converting a first-and-24, let alone the Dolphins, whose first-string offense had just one scoring drive in its first nine preseason possessions. Miami ultimately fell 2 yards short and had to punt.

“As an offense you can’t come out and have a penalty early in a drive and put yourself in a first-and-20 situation,” Tannehill said. “It just makes everything tough.”

He continued: “So I think that’s the one thing we have to take away from this is don’t beat ourselves. You know, when we play clean we can move the ball effectively, but when you get put in long yardage situations it makes it tough.”

It’s important to note, however, that such sloppiness has been out of character for Miami’s preseason.

The Dolphins have been, on average, flagged fewer than five times per game thus far. That’s an improvement from a year ago, when they were called for nearly six penalties per game in the regular season.

Still, the mental errors were worrisome enough Saturday for Tannehill and Joe Philbin to call the team out for them.

Special teams was particularly mistake-prone. Early on, R.J. Stanford interfered with a Houston returner trying to field a punt. Miami even got flagged at one point for too many men on the field — on an extra point, no less.

“I didn’t think we played as clean as we have to," Philbin said.

One player doing most everything in his power to get in Philbin’s doghouse: Jimmy Wilson, who was called for personal fouls in each of the past two games. The backup safety was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct while covering a punt Saturday.

A silver lining: At least the Dolphins haven’t messed up as much as their opponents. They have been penalized 90 fewer yards through three games than teams they have played.

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