Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins offense might have a 'problem' unseen by team in years

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have many choices of players to pass to in 2018.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will have many choices of players to pass to in 2018. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins offense is trailing 21-13 with 13 seconds to play and the football on the 7-yard line.

So on second down, quarterback Ryan Tannehill takes the snap and searches the end zone for an open receiver.

And he's looking ...

And looking ...

And finally Tannehill gives up on the play by launching the football out of the end zone before the clock expires because, after all, there are other downs and opportunities to score.

On third down, Tannehill again looks for an open receiver in the end zone. And finding no one, now he's drifting right because the pass rush is getting too close.

Finally the Dolphins quarterback throws the football and it falls harmlessly after bounding to the ground after bounding off a crowd of players. Well, there's always fourth down, right?

No, because that third-down play took all eight seconds remaining on the clock.

Club owner Stephen Ross, watching from the sideline, drops his head in apparent disappointment. (Don't worry about him, he has a Manhattan redevelopment project, Hudson Yards).

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase speaks to the media after practice at Dolphin training facility on Tuesday, June 5, 2018.

The Dolphins lose on offense because no one got open, no one managed the clock very well, no one could make a play.

All this happened on Tuesday, the first day of the Dolphins' three-day minicamp.

"It was probably not one of our better practices," coach Adam Gase said of his offense minutes later. "We put a lot of new stuff in today, and we got to be a little quicker absorbing it, getting out there and executing it. It's a lot of the same concepts, but we're just moving some things around."

And this is where I normally tell you that the Miami offense that finished 24th in scoring two seasons ago and 25th last year has serious issues to overcome to keep that slide from becoming a three-year trend.

But that's not what this column is about. And it's not what the Dolphins are worried about because this offense has weeks before training camp even begins. And then there will be countless training camp practices. And then there will be preseason games.

And the thinking within the organization is that, Tuesday's practice notwithstanding, this offense has more playmakers than it has had in a long time. That this offense will have more options for getting big plays than it has had in a long time.

That perhaps a big problem (nonproblem) this offense will have is figuring out how to distribute the ball so as to keep all the players with an appetite for scoring touchdowns well fed.

"I feel right now that we legitimately have two groups of receivers that can play at a high level for us," Tannehill said. "So if we want to sub somebody out and keep fresh legs in there, or if someone goes down — whatever the case may be — I don’t feel like there’s really going to be much of a drop-off from production or ability with the group that we have.

"We have a really deep room right now."

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill speaks to the media after practice at Dolphins training facility on Tuesday June 5th, 2018.

Welcome to 2018, the year the Dolphins offense that has seemingly been run through Jarvis Landry for years, expands.

Last season, Dolphins quarterbacks completed 373 passes, and 112 of those went to Landry. So about one-third of every completed pass went to one individual. That kind of dependence on one player has ramifications:

It makes the offense more predictable.

It makes limiting the offense easier.

It obviously affects the offense's versatility.

That shouldn't be the case in 2018.

This season the Dolphins might as often throw it to Danny Amendola as Albert Wilson in the slot. They might go with intermediate to deeper routes to Wilson, Kenny Stills or DeVante Parker. They might throw deep or try bubble screens or slants with Jakeem Grant or Wilson.

They're going to use Kenyan Drake out of the backfield even if he becomes the early-down ball carrier. Frank Gore, with 443 career catches, is also an accomplished threat out of the backfield.

And I haven't even mentioned a tight end yet, but everyone's hopeful they will factor eventually.

This season the Dolphins will have choices of where to go with the football. Tons of them.

Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake is impressed with newly acquired running back Frank Gore longevity, Gore was in the league when Drake was in sixth grade.

"I think the hard part is keeping everyone involved and in the game," Tannehill said hopefully. "We have, like I said, a good group of guys. They’re not complaining. They’re not griping about not getting the ball; but when you do have talented guys, you want to get them the football.

"I think it’s a balancing act from Gase to myself of trying to get guys involved, finding them rhythms in the game and helping them be productive."

About that: Don't worry.

Gase knows how to distribute the football on offense. In 2013, his first year as the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator, he coached five players who scored 10 touchdowns or more.

This Dolphins offense has more speed than that Broncos offense, so much so that Grant, Stills, Drake and Wilson have been playfully talking about being the fastest player on the team because all have run sub-4.4 times in the 40-yard dash.

This doesn't mean this Dolphins offense will score points like Gase's record-breaking unit did in 2013. But the pieces are in place to allow for welcome versatility and even unpredictability.

"If we stay healthy," Gase said, "we should have a lot of guys that can make plays."

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero
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