Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins seeking a spark: Some possibilities

Jay Ajayi was a significant spark for the Dolphins offense last year.
Jay Ajayi was a significant spark for the Dolphins offense last year. Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have had a mixed message this year when it comes to recalling last season. Earlier, the mantra was. “last year is a memory and doesn’t count this year.” But lately I’ve heard references to last year in that the team started 1-4 and still saved the season, so this year’s 2-2 start is much better and great things can still happen.

So for our purposes here, let’s forget that last year is a only a memory and really means nothing.

Let’s recall last year. Let’s examine how last year might have meaning this year ...

When things suddenly turned around last year after that 1-4 start we saw obvious reasons for the change. The team made significant changes and those served as sparks for a winning streak.

Spark 1 was center Mike Pouncey finally getting in the lineup. It happened in Game 4 and the line seemed to solidify. The Dolphins were 4-1 in the games Pouncey started.

Spark 2 was running back Jay Ajayi finally winning the starting RB job in the fifth game against Tennessee. It didn’t show up that week, but suddenly the following week he had a 200-plus-yard rushing game and off he went the remainder of the season.

Spark 3 was the coaching staff realizing Cameron Wake was better than Mario Williams so Wake got his first start of the season against Pittsburgh and started every game after that. The defense raised its play.

Spark 4 was the promotion of Andre Branch from part-time player at defensive end to starter. That also happened in the Pittsburgh game.

Spark 5 was Dolphins head coach Adam Gase basically dumbing down the offense. He took out a lot of the options in the routes receivers ran. He simplified in other areas. The players began to play faster, without thinking.

There were so many sparks for the Dolphins last season they could have powered a Tesla.

This season the team again needs a spark, particularly on offense -- a unit that is last in the league in points per game, third down efficiency and first downs per game.

The problem is there is no obvious spark coming.

The team has had an outstanding week of practice, per club sources. So there is hope practice performances will translate to game days. The problem with that is practices have been good in past weeks and haven’t translated to the game.

And receiver DeVante Parker, who hasn’t practiced all week because of an ankle injury, is officially doubtful for the game thus unlikely to play.

So, again, where is the spark?

I like to think perhaps Kenyan Drake could be a spark. He runs a 4.3 time in the 40. The club has been trying to include him more as a third-down kind of back aside from his special teams duties.

But lineup changes? Not happening this week.

Tweaks? Well, maybe Jakeem Grant or Leonte Carroo who would play if/when Parker cannot can make a big play here and there or simply not drop passes at the same unacceptable rate the other skill players have been.

The Dolphins are hoping a week of repetitions in practice can make a difference for those players.

“Absolutely,” coach Adam Gase said. “With those two and you can throw Drake in there, too when Jay doesn’t practice, getting those guys as many reps as possible they get used to playing with the quarterback. It helps those guys so much because they don’t feel like they walk on the field, don’t get a rep in practice and suddenly have to get that rep in a game. Being able to have as many reps as they’ve had this week is always going to be helpful for them.”

The point here is that there is no magical spark the Dolphins have up their proverbial sleeves to bring to Sunday’s game.

If the team is going to improve, particularly on offense, it’s going to have to come from the same players having better practices, better execution and working harder see that labor translate on game day.

Sorry, no Tesla.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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