A look into Bill Lazor offense


For two years now the Miami Dolphins have run a version of the West Coast offense, ran by then offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. That will continue this year with now offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Although there are some differences in how they will run the West Coast offense, they all use some of the same general principals. Here are some of them and how they relate to the Dolphins and their offensive weapons. 

What each position needs to be able to be successful in the West Coast offense:

  • Quarterbacks need quick decision making, an accurate arm, ability to choose correct read from multiple options, and preferably be mobile.
  • Running backs need to be able to choose the right hole and hit it quickly, have good hands coming out the backfield, and to be a good route runner.
  • Wide receivers need to be precise and have good timing on their routes, have run after catch ability, and because this offense stretches the field more horizontally than vertically, they don’t need to have great straight-line speed.
  • Tight Ends need to be able to be possession type receiver with the ability to run block as well, and be able to catch passes in traffic.
  • Offensive lineman need to be quicker and agile so that they can be able to move the pocket for the quarterback and be able to pull during running plays.

1. The West Coast offense is designed to stretch the defense, both vertically and horizontally

When hall of fame coach Bill Walsh was the offensive coordinator for Paul Brown of the Cincinnati Bengals in the late 1960’s, Walsh had to figure out a way to help compensate for his weak-armed, yet mobile and accurate quarterback that he was given. His solution was to move his quarterback around in the pocket and move him out and stretch the defense more horizontally to be able to take advantage of the strengths that his quarterback had. This offense utilizes a lot of crossing, comebacks, quick in and out, and deep in cuts and out cuts. The majority of West Coast Offense routes occur within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. 

2. The West Coast offense is designed to keep the ball for an extended period of time through a short passing attack that acts as an extension of the running game.

Another key to this offense was being able to keep the ball in the offense’s hands and wear out the defense. The longer the defense is on the field, the more success the offense will have in the second half. Being able to execute precisely and wear the defense out leads to a more successful offense later in games. Having a short passing attack stretches the defense out and allows the offense to run more effectively.

3. The West Coast offense is designed to create mismatches based on size, speed, personnel groupings or even unpredictability in the play calling.

One of the main keys in a successful NFL offense now in “pass happy” league nowadays is taking advantage of mismatches that the offense can create. The West Coast offense does this very well my matching up receivers and tight ends on linebackers and safties to be able to take advantage of the slower linebackers in coverage. They also take advantage of mismatches be using multiple shifts and motions in the offense to confuse the defense and cause miss-communications that lead to big plays for the offense. Finally another thing this offense can take advantage of is the unpredictability in the play calling, passing on any given down and distance in any particular part in the game. Unpredictability causes the defense to be honest and prevents them from catching on to tendencies that may come up in a game. 

 What this means for the Miami Dolphins.

  • The Dolphins don’t have the needed personnel to be able to run this offensive scheme right now. 
    • Quarterback wise, the Dolphins is able the only position that the Dolphins might not need to make a change in, in the coming years. Ryan Tannehill is an accurate and mobile quarterback, and it progressing in making quicker decisions, although he still need improvement in that area of his game.
    • Running backs is a position that the Dolphins need more production from. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas only produced 41 catches out of the backfield last year, and contributed to a rushing attack that was ranked only 25th in the NFL. 
    • Wide receivers are essential to the West Coast offense and the Dolphins don’t have the right guys to run the offense correctly. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, the Dolphins two starting receivers, do not fit the scheme very well at all. Wallace a vertical threat that does not do very well with going over the middle and making the tough catches. Hartline has virtually no run-after-the-catch ability, which is key if this offense is going to successful.
    • Tight ends is a position that the Dolphins aren’t in desperate need of in terms of the West Coast offense. Charles Clay definitely fits the mold for the West Coast offense type wide receiver and he showed a lot of promise this past year.
    • The offensive line needs to be completely rebuilt. Aside from Mike Pouncey, the offensive line does not fit the mold of a West Coast offense, not to mention they were terrible regardless of offensive scheme. The Dolphins have the potential have four completely new starters come 2014 NFL season. This is very troublesome for them

Now that you have a general idea of what the West Coast offense does and what it should like, you can obviously see that the Dolphins have plenty of work to do to accomplish what they want to do offensively in the future. And when the Dolphins start to make free agent signings and draft picks, you can start to have an idea if they will be able to fit into the scheme that the Dolphins want to run. They had a major problem of not using their personnel right last year and it was because they had players that did not fit into the scheme that they wanted to run. If the Dolphins are going to be successful this year, they will need to either adapt the West Coast system to better fit the talent they already have or acquire talent that better fits what they want to do.

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  • Black Bart

    After reading some of your comments I have to wonder if you’ve ever watched the Dolphins play before. You are are correct in some aspects, but you are totally off on others, especially about Brian Hartline, he runs very well after the catch when the ball is placed where it should be, it’s when he has to adjust all over the place that the YAC goes away. So blame that on Tannehill not Hartline.

  • Rich L

    Can Wallace become a west coast type receiver? I hope so! I do think you’re selling Hartline short! Bess was the one who almost always went down immediately after the catch, often sliding!

  • Brian H.

    Well this is going to be a failure. Tannehill couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn 7 out of 10 times if his life depended upon it. He constantly either under threw or over threw his targets all season long. Miami left so many points on the field when Tannehill couldn’t get the ball to Wallace when Wallace had his man beat.

  • Random Shrapnel

    Proofread your stuff dummy. I’m tired of trying to make sense out of the stuff you people write. When your spelling or composition is erratic – your facts are in doubt. Good luck with the new job. No comment on your take on the West Coast offense.

    • Dewbert

      I concur.