If you’re simply looking at the names on the Dolphins offense, the inefficiency bordering at times on ineptitude shouldn’t be happening.
The Dolphins have three first-round picks starting on their offensive line, three highly skilled receivers (Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills), a tight end who has put up big numbers in the past (Julius Thomas) and a former Pro Bowl quarterback, Jay Cutler, who has thrown for more than 32,000 yards during an uneven career.
And yet this offense ranks near the bottom of the league in every major statistical category through two games.
Miami ranks 30th in points per game (12.5), 32nd and last in yards per play, 28th in rushing yards per game, 29th in passing yards per play and 32nd in third-down efficiency.
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The offensive malaise dominated the conversation this week, and coach Adam Gase on Thursday revealed another reason why he was so dispirited about how the team has played.
“The defensive guys know I want the offense to be stronger than what we've been [dating to the end of last season],” Gase said. “I feel I owe that to them. I feel I haven’t come through for them yet. That's sometimes where a lot of frustration comes from on Monday because our offensive side, which I’m in charge of, isn't performing to the team's expectations.”
The frustration extends to the players and the assistant coaches.
“It’s been rare I felt the opponent had more juice than we did and the opponent was more ready to play and had more energy,” offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen said. “That was the case last Sunday [in the Jets’ 20-6 win]. We have to reverse that. The overall performance of the offense was dismal. I expect to see a team rebound. Embarrassed last week and come back with a vengeance” Sunday against New Orleans in London.
Among specific offensive problems that have arisen:
• Cutler’s inaccuracy. After playing well in the Chargers game, his misfired on several throws in the Jets game and missed Jarvis Landry on a potential touchdown.
Gase said Cutler’s arm isn’t tired.
“I feel good,” Cutler said. “I took a few shots this past game, but my body feels fresh. We’ve got to play better. That starts with me.”
• Mental errors. Those are what’s most galling to Gase, a player said.
“The mental errors are widespread; everyone’s were up a little bit,” Christensen said. Such as?
“We have had some alignment issues, some assignment issues,” Christensen said. “We do ask a lot of them. They also whipped us. It was a total wood-shedding.
“The thing that was disappointing was we really had a good week of practice [before the Jets game, though some players dispute that]. Somewhere from Friday to Sunday we lost our edge. That’s perplexing to a coach.”
• Poor blocking. Ajayi had only 11 yards on 16 carries Sunday because his blockers couldn’t create holes. Christensen singled out center Mike Pouncey and left guard Anthony Steen for playing well this season.
Right guard Jermon Bushrod was angry with himself for a couple of poor blocks Sunday. “I am so much better than a couple plays,” he said. “Out of character for me.”
Christensen said the Dolphins are seeing a lot of “eight-man fronts. We are getting people loading the box, which is no surprise. We didn’t block them well. They out-physicaled us. We need to reverse that and be efficient throwing the ball on first down. The ideal for us would be running the ball better and the play actions to come off of that.”
• Tight ends Julius Thomas, Anthony Fasano and MarQueis Gray need to give the team more, Christensen said.
“They would tell you they can play better than that and I agree with them,” Christensen said. “We have to play better and get some big plays out of those guys. They have to be able to pass protect defensive ends, block defensive ends and get open on safeties.”
Gase spoke of potential personnel changes on Monday, but his options are limited.
What about giving more playing time to receiver Jakeem Grant (who has played four offensive snaps in two games) and running back Kenyan Drake, who has played 22?
Gase said in the first two games, he installed packages for both second-year players but worried if inserting them would “throw us off” because “we didn’t have a great rhythm. Do we put different guys in there? Does that jump start us or hurt us?”
He said his other consideration is that it’s “hard to pull” Ajayi or the Dolphins’ top three receivers off the field.
“We have to figure out for us what’s the best way for us to get [Grant and Drake] the ball,” Gase said. “Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and hope guys execute it correctly.”
• Gase said he expects Ajayi, who has been nursing a knee injury, to play Sunday against New Orleans in London.
Here are my Thursday notes on the Dolphins defense, including coordinator Matt Burke opting not to give a public vote of confidence to his starting defensive backs.... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz