While the Miami Dolphins have plenty of talent on the team, there is plenty of room for improvement this year. Also, there is room for improvement on the coaching staff as well, seeing as that this team had more than enough talent to make the playoffs last year and squandered their chance by losing their last two games miserably. So what exactly are some of the areas that the Dolphins need to improve on?
1. Offensive Play Calling
Last year, the Dolphins were plagued by inconsistency from the offense, but mainly from the play calling of former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Even though everyone knew that the offensive line was a weakness of the team, Sherman continually called plays that did not help the offensive line at all. He would consistently call for empty set formations when the offensive line could not handle it. He would call for zone blocking plays when the offensive line was clearly not built to be playing that style. A zone blocking scheme requires athletic offensive lineman that can get to the second level easily, and last year they struggled with that.
Also Sherman did not use his offensive weapons correctly either. Mike Wallace is a speed, stretch-the-field type receiver and instead of trying to move him around and get him better matchups against the defense, he was used exclusively on the right side of the offense as a possession type receiver. That clearly does not fit with who he is. Sherman also misused Lamar Miller as well. He used him almost as a smash mouth type running back instead of getting him in space and utilizing his speed and shiftiness. Miller is suited more as a scat back and receiver out of the backfield, and instead he was sat on the bench on passing downs.
With new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor coming in with his brand of the west coast offense, with a heavy influence of Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense, Lazor should be the right guy to fix these types of problems. He is known to fit his offense around his players instead of shoving his players into his system, i.e. shoving a round peg into a square hole. In the offensive system he was in last year, they did a very good job of getting their weapons into space, and providing them one-on-one matchups against defenders. Plus with the offensive line overhaul, it looks as if the Dolphins finally have the pieces to be able to run a true zone blocking scheme this year. The Dolphins should have an improved offense from last year, with more explosive plays and more points.
2. Run Defense
The Dolphins had a lot of issues with defending the run last year as opposed to previous year. One of the main reasons for this issue was the releasing of veterans Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett and the signings of Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. With the signings of Wheeler and Ellerbe came inexperience and learning a new defensive system. They struggled with filling the right holes and staying disciplined with their assignments. The defense allowed 125 yards per game last year, with a 4.1 yard per carry average allowed. Those two stats are very below average and need to change this coming season.
In order for the Dolphins to improve on their defense, a few things need to happen. The first is everyone needs to keep disciplined in their assignments. Their defense had consistent problems with this. The second is getting a better push from up front. With Paul Solia gone now, new signing Earl Mitchel and Jared Odrick need to step in and pick up the slack. The keys to a good run defense, is a penetration on the defensive line, discipline and filling gaps from the linebackers, and good run support from the safeties. With hard hitting safeties Louis Delmas and Reshad Jones on the back end, that should be a big help.
With the all the offensive weapons like Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Jarvis Landry, Charles Clay, Knowshon Moreno, and Lamar Miller in place for Ryan Tannehill in place, the Dolphins offense should continue to improve, assuming these issues get worked out. And for the defense, the pass defense was solid last year, getting a 41.4 overall pass defense rating. If the Dolphins can be stouter against the run and build on what they did against the pass last year, then their defense should be very solid and give Tannehill and the offense plenty of opportunities to excel next year. But this is all just off-season talk if the Dolphins are unable to recognize their problems and fix them.