Right now, the collection of Dolphins receivers available to practice is not better than the one that finished the 2014 season.
But that will presumably change in the coming weeks, when newcomers Kenny Stills (calf) and DeVante Parker (foot) heal.
When they do, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor could find himself grappling with an all-too familiar issue: How to keep all those receivers happy when there’s only so many passes to be caught.
“We’ll see if we can schedule more games,” Lazor said Tuesday. “I think we have to check with the players association.”
Bad news, Bill. Like last year, there are just 16 games on the schedule. And with at least four receivers and a versatile tight end good enough to start for most teams, somebody is bound to get their feelings hurt at some point.
That was the case a year ago, when Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace had issues with Lazor’s play calls. Hartline’s targets dropped from 127 in Mike Sherman’s final year to just 62 in Lazor’s first; the receiver’s unhappiness led to a rift with quarterback Ryan Tannehill that might have hastened Hartline’s departure.
And yet, Lazor was adamant that personal considerations will still not be a factor in determining the Dolphins’ offensive game plan.
“It really starts with what do we need to do to win the game and matchups,” Lazor said. “I think in this league, especially when you get to passing situations, matchups are so critical. It really starts with that.”
Lazor continued: “There are times, maybe after a week or two, this guy really hasn’t touched ball a lot, but we think we are a better team when he does get it some, then I think you’ve got to find a way to make sure he gets it. It’s got to start with what helps a team win. We’re all adults. We understand what we have to do what it takes to win first.”
But even adults have egos, and dysfunction in the receiving room ultimately proved untenable.
As a result, Wallace, Hartline and Brandon Gibson are gone. Stills, Parker and Greg Jennings have taken their place.
Have they brought a more selfless attitude with them? It’s far too early to know, but Joe Philbin is encouraged with what he has observed.
“I like the attitude so far, sure,” Philbin said. “The No. 1 thing offensively is to score points. ... I think the biggest thing is you have to have guys that are team players and first and foremost want the team to succeed.”
Lazor’s offense scored 388 points in 2014, the most since 1995. Still, Philbin wants more. His goal is again 400, which would average to 25 per game.
How does Lazor plan to get there? By continuing to reinvent.
“It has changed,” Lazor said of the playbook. “I can’t give you the percentage, but when you don’t grow, you end up dying off at some point. ... There’s a constant adaptation. We study some of the teams in the league that are the best statistically at what they do and you take the emotion of the weekly game plan out of it, you really look at it and you really evaluate what do our players do best?”
Other takeaways from Lazor’s first interaction with reporters of camp:
▪ Lazor praised left guard Dallas Thomas, saying he is “a much improved player from what we saw last year.” It has helped that Thomas can focus on just one position this summer, as opposed to last year, when the Dolphins moved him all over the line.
▪ Free agent guard Evan Mathis remains a curiosity as the Dolphins’ offensive line continues to struggle. But Lazor, who was in Philadelphia with Mathis in 2013, declined to say if Mathis would improve the Dolphins.
“Lobbying isn’t my job,” Lazor said when asked if he would make a case for adding the lineman.
▪ When discussing the pace of the offense, Lazor said: “We’re going to go as fast as Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey can go. The other guys got to keep up.”
▪ Lazor said the three-man battle for the No. 2 running back job “might be more fun than the guard job to watch.” Damien Williams, LaMichael James and Jay Ajayi have all looked good in spurts, but Williams and James appear ahead of the rookie.
“There’s not one guy who’s out of it,” Lazor said.
DOLPHINS TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
▪ Wednesday, Aug. 5, 8 a.m.
▪ Thursday, Aug. 6, 8 a.m.
▪ Friday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m. (at FIU Stadium)
▪ Sunday, Aug. 9, 3 p.m.
▪ Monday, Aug. 10, 12:30 p.m.
▪ Tuesday, Aug. 11, 8 a.m.
▪ Sunday, Aug. 16, 8 a.m.
▪ Monday, Aug. 17, 8 a.m.
Note: All practices will be held at Doctors Hospital Training Facility in Davie except Aug. 7.
Call 954-452-7004 for more information.