Armando Salguero

Dolphins searching for answers but say it’s not time to panic despite dismal start

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi leaves the field apparently in tears after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium in London.
Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi leaves the field apparently in tears after an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium in London. AP

The Dolphins offense was a mess on Sunday, but the sideline, which also was in disarray, was much more interesting.

At one point coach Adam Gase finished a talk with quarterback Jay Cutler and as he walked away he slammed something — who knows what — to the ground in apparent disgust.

Running back Jay Ajayi, eager to show his hometown how he’s arrived as the NFL’s first big star from the United Kingdom, was frustrated on the sideline and angrily going off on no one in particular — this because carry after precious carry was wasted on day he gained only 46 yards. When the Dolphins 20-0 loss to New Orleans was over, Ajayi walked off the sideline wiping tears of frustration from his face.

Coaches spent the first quarter of this whitewashing feverishly juggling flip cards or reading from makeshift wrist bands as a way to communicate with the offense because the coach-to-quarterback radio was out at Wembley Stadium.

(Interestingly, that first drive in which the Dolphins were communicating as if they were in the 18th century was the best of the entire game for Miami.)

Oh, did I mention receiver Kenny Stills, defensive back Michael Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas knelt on that Dolphins sideline during the “Star Spangled Banner?” After protesting during the American anthem, right there on foreign soil, they stood and showed respect for the UK’s “God Save the Queen.”

Yes, interesting place that Dolphins sideline on Sunday.

Too bad interesting doesn’t buy points. Or wins.

It just brings questions about where this team is headed after two consecutive losses in which the offense has scored a grand total of six points.

The questions? Is it quarterback Jay Cutler’s fault Miami was shut out for the first time in four years and are his days as the starter numbered?

“Everybody wants to point to the quarterback all the time,” Gase said after rightly dismissing the idea of benching Cutler. “I heard that last time I got here, and Ryan [Tannehill] is not here to blame this time.”

Yes, the coach was a little salty. He should be because the offense is broken, he runs the offense, and neither he nor anyone else apparently knows exactly how to fix it.

“Is it one thing that is slowing us up, multiple guys, play calls, the scheme?” Gase asked as if hoping for an answer. “We have to look back at these first three games and see what’s going on. We’re at a point where three games in, we felt like we would have had some better results.”

The Dolphins thought adding Cutler, experienced in the scheme after playing for Gase in 2015, to the rest of the roster of playmakers returning from last year’s solid group would help this offense.

But rather than soar because of its talent, this bunch is barely treading water.

“When you look on paper we’ve got all kinds of individual talent,” Cutler said. “But individual talent doesn’t really mean a whole lot on offense if you’re not working together. Offense is 11 guys with a common goal, doing what they need to do. It’s orchestrated chaos out there, and we have to figure out how to do a better job.”

Figuring out the problem would be easy if the Dolphins could identify the reasons they’re terrible right now. But when they left England late Sunday, they didn’t know any more than when they arrived days earlier.

So lacking an epiphany on their nine-hour flight, everybody gets blamed.

But that’s not exactly correct. Everyone is not at fault all the time. Individuals, inconsistent in doing their job every play, are the reason the Dolphins haven’t been scoring.

You have one receiver making a play, but another receiver getting called for a pick and erasing a first down.

You have the 6-5 Thomas losing a one-on-one match against a 6-1 cornerback on a fade route in the end zone that results in an interception.

You have that failed third-and-1 carry by Ajayi in the second half. He should be able to get a first down if he gets a crease and simply plows forward.

But there was no crease provided by any blocker — so some offensive lineman failed.

And Ajayi, who was among the leaders in broken tackles last year, got pulled down by one guy.

So no one is doing anything extraordinary. And that’s the case on play after play for these Dolphins.

“Someone has to make a play,” Ajayi said, frustration in his voice. “Whoever’s number gets called on, at any given time, you need to make the play. We need those moment-of-truth blocks where you need to hold on just a second longer so we can spring to the second level.

“Or if a guys needs to get off that defender to make a play, or if I need to do better and make sure I get the first down when it’s third-and-1, whatever it is, however the play is blocked up, I need to get that first down. I need to keep our drives running. Everybody needs to be held accountable on our offense.”

Despite the obvious urgency to fix what is wrong — like before the season is lost — no one within the Dolphins locker room seems to be panicking.

“It’s not time to panic,” Gase said, his words later echoing out of the mouth of multiple players.

Cutler suggested reporters are more panicked than he is. Yes, I know that doesn’t mean anything. Cutler is either the coolest customer on the planet or disinterested half the time. And if you don’t believe me, watch the tape of the quarterback lining up for Miami’s Wildcat formation in the first quarter.

There was Cutler lined up at wide receiver. Hand on hips. Showing no intention of participating in the play.

Not that this is wrong. It’s just Jay Cutler.

But that is seemingly how the Dolphins play offense lately: Laid-back. Kind of interested but not that interested.

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