Armando Salguero

Dolphins offense filled with vets in Year Two playing as if scheme is new to them

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to have gotten some good protection at least on this quick pass in the third quarter of the Dolphins loss to the New York Jets.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler seemed to have gotten some good protection at least on this quick pass in the third quarter of the Dolphins loss to the New York Jets. adiaz@miamiherald.com

This is Year Two of this Miami Dolphins offense.

Every single player who has started on offense for the Dolphins so far this season has played at least one year in the offense Adam Gase installed when he arrived in Miami. All of them. One of them -- tight end Julius Thomas -- previously played two years under Gase in Denver so he’s in Year Three of his time with this offense.

Jay Cutler, who arrived in August as a late and desperate fix to the broken quarterback position left when Ryan Tannehill injured his left knee, played under Gase for the 2015 Chicago Bears. So this is his second year in this offense as well.

So 11 starters on offense. And all of them have played at least one year under Gase’s offense before the 2017 season began.

That’s good experience. That’s a lot of downs played.

So why is everybody screwing up so much?

And I do mean everybody ...

“It was all around,” Cutler said of the Dolphins offensive woes last week in a 20-6 loss to the New York Jets. “Myself, we had a few breakdowns up front, we had some stuff outside, everyone kind of took their turn (making mistakes). As a whole, offensively, we’ve just got to play better. That starts with me, so I’ve got to get back to work and help everyone stay on time and be efficient offensively.”

Fine, let’s begin with Cutler. He should be better than he played Sunday.

But the fact of the matter is he got kind of squeamish after he got hit early in the game. Soon, the 34-year-old who doesn’t love to get hit, was getting out of the pocket when he felt pressure and then looking to make plays down the field. The way it should be done is for him to climb the pocket -- allowing the pressure to go past him -- while looking to make plays down the field.

“He got hit early a couple of times,” Gase said. “I think he was trying to get out of the pocket a few times, maybe instead of pushing up, he started to escape. A couple balls didn’t come out as good as he wants. The first play of the game, that was really on me. I should have had him set up sooner and we would have been in good shape and he would have been able to throw a better ball.

“The guy was coming right at him and he kind of threw it off his back foot. Some of it is just timing. We’ve just got to keep getting better and keep working on stuff. I felt good going into the game with what we were doing passing game-wise and how we were throwing the ball around. Even though Jarvis (Landry) and DeVante (Parker) missed some time in practice, I still felt good about it; but we just weren’t crisp. We weren’t clicking.”

That would ordinarily be frustrating because, The Miami Herald has learned, the Dolphins do practice. They’ve been working on this stuff. Walking through this stuff. Holding meetings about this stuff. Correcting this stuff.

And yet when the lights came on and the game began, all the stuff that got practiced and walked-through and corrected still resulted in mistakes.

And the mistakes were by, well, everybody.

The offensive line mistakes were more physical than they were mental. Oh, there were mental mistakes up there as well. But the offensive line was mostly manhandled by the New York Jets on Sunday.

And that basically shut down the running game that features Jay Ajayi.

And that made the offense one-dimensional, relying almost exclusively on pass plays.

That would be fine if that one dimension -- the Dolphins passing game -- was humming on all cylinders. If all the receivers were recognizing the zone coverages they could find open spaces. But the receivers didn’t seem to do that quickly enough.

And when a defense isn’t forced to abandon its zone coverages, which the Jets were not forced to because the Dolphins didn’t win often enough, then the tight end becomes something of a non-factor in both the passing game and running game.

That means big-time offseason addition Julius Thomas has become a non-factor.

“We haven’t gotten the coverages that make him a difference maker,” Gase admitted. “It might be part of the reasons why we’re not getting it. When you flex him out and you put a safety or linebacker on him, that’s an advantage for us. But we really haven’t seen that. We’ve seen a lot of zone coverage. If we’re more efficient in the passing game, maybe we start seeing some things where it’s too high and now we can get Jay (Ajayi) going.

“It seems like a lot of times we’re still running against an eight-man box or seven-man box, depending on the personnel. We just have to do a great job. Weve got to win our one-on-one matchups and find some ways to pop some guys free and try to find some consistency.”

So it’s been two games. And the Dolphins are averaging one offensive touchdown per game.

(One offensive touchdown per game means a 4-12 record this year).

The Dolphins are averaging 12.5 points per game, which is 30th in the NFL. That’s also last in the AFC East.

The Dolphins are averaging 70.5 rushing yards per game, which is 28th in the NFL. That’s also last in the AFC East.

The Dolphins are averaging 210.0 passing yards per game, which is 21st in the NFL. Hey, at least they’re not last in the AFC East in this statististical category.

The point is none of this is good enough. None of this suggests playoff team.

The unit on which most of the players have been together for years is not playing together. The players who have been in this offense for at least one year are acting like all this stuff is new to them.

So when does it get corrected?

“It could be this week,” Cutler suggested.

Then again ...

“It could be next week,” he added. “I don’t know. We’ve got the guys in the room. We’ve just got to make sure that everybody’s doing their job each and every play. Offense is a little bit tricky, because it’s going to take eight, nine or 10 guys each play for the offense to really go off, and that’s consistently throughout the whole game. We’ve got some young guys and we’ve just got to make sure we get everybody on board and everybody understanding that.”

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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