The Miami Dolphins made a litany of moves during the offseason, but one of the best additions the team had was bringing in Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach Bill Lazor to be the new offensive coordinator.
From the moment he agreed to come to Miami, fans envisioned an explosive, run-and-gun offense similar to what we saw in Philadelphia.
With that in mind, let's create the blueprint for the optimal offense for the Dolphins this season, taking a look at how Lazor's system can maximize the talent of each player.
However, before doing that, we first have to look back to 2013 and see where the offense failed.
Regardless of where you want to put the blame—after all, there was plenty of it to go around—there's no question that the 2013 offense didn't play up to its talent level.
The important number to look at is 26, which is where the Dolphins offense ranked in points per game. Miami averaged just 19.8 points per game last year, scoring at least 25 points in a game just two different times. In comparison, 11 different teams in the league averaged at least 25 points per game.
The Dolphins running backs averaged just 3.8 yards per carry—ranking 26th in the league—and the offensive line allowed a league-high 58 sacks.
Despite these problems, there is good news when it comes to the 2014 season.
With the overhaul of the offensive line combined with the addition of playmakers like Jarvis Landry and Knowshon Moreno, the talent on offense is clearly improved.
So now the task falls on Lazor to ensure he can get the most out of each unit.
Here are a few things that he can do to ensure success.
Last season the Dolphins had one of the most predictable and vanilla offenses in the entire league.
There were very few rollouts and minimal pre-snap movement.
The receivers would line up in the same position on nearly every snap and you could often tell what play the team was going to run based on their formation.
It became so predictable that even the fans at home could decipher if the Dolphins were going to call a run or a pass based on the snap count. In case you were unaware, "go-go" was a run, while "go" was a pass.
As Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel points out, it happened quite often:
Confession: I keep waiting for a GO play to be a run, and a GO-GO play to be a pass. It has been 3 games. Still waiting. SMH— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) October 22, 2013
Fortunately, you can throw all those concerns right out the window, as the 2014 offense will be far more innovative and unpredictable.
Sometimes he's put in motion. Sometimes he's in the slot. During Monday's practice he ran a double-reverse for a 20-yard gain, which put the Dolphins' defense in a state of panic. Wallace was also lined up in the backfield for a couple plays.
'[Defenses] can't key on me. Last year they knew where I was every single play. I was there every game, in the same spot,' Wallace said, referring to his role lining up on Tannehill's right side. 'When you move around it is harder for the defense to know where you're at. Harder for them to adjust.'
Lazor will also do similar things with the rest of the wide receivers, moving players around so the defense can never get comfortable with one specific formation.
He will also run with far more dual-back formations and two-tight end sets than Mike Sherman ever did.
You can also expect a more uptempo offense with differing formations and a large number of designed quick passes and rollouts, intended to accentuate Tannehill's strengths and mask his weaknesses.
Balance the offense
Another big change you can expect for the Dolphins this season is a far more balanced offense.
Not only did the Dolphins running backs rank 26th in the league in yards per attempt, but as a team they were at the bottom of the league in rushing attempts as well.
Put simply, if the running game wasn't working early on, it would quickly be abandoned, and it would then be solely up to Tannehill to throw the Dolphins to victory.
This is why they ranked top 10 in the league in pass attempts with 594 and 29th overall in rushing attempts with just 349.
It's also why it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why Tannehill was abused all season by opposing defenders—he was asked to throw far too often behind a porous offensive line that struggled in pass protection.
Now compare that to the Eagles, who were one of the most balanced teams in the league, throwing the ball 508 times while running it 500.
Obviously, that is largely due to the fact that they had LeSean McCoy toting the rock and not Lamar Miller, but either way, the fact is that consistently using the running game will help to open up the passing game regardless of who the running back is.
With Moreno and Miller as the two primary backs, the Dolphins will go back to being a very balanced offense.
They will take advantage of the speed of Miller in draws, quick screens and outside runs while also using Moreno for short-yardage and passing situations as well.
Protect Ryan Tannehill
The biggest key to any offense is keeping your quarterback upright, and the Dolphins are certainly no different.
As you can see in the following video, the Dolphins as a team did a horrendous job in doing that last season and lost a lot of games because of it.
Obviously, the offensive line is the most to blame, but there were also others at fault as well.
For starters, a major part of that problem was the play-calling of Sherman, who had a knack for drawing up plays that took far too long to develop.
For whatever reason, he also refused to call the one type of play that could protect Tannehill while also allowing him to thrive—the designed rollout.
Among Tannehill's 661 dropbacks, just 28 were rollouts. However, in those 28 plays he completed 63 percent of his passes for 253 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
His average time to throw before getting hit also skyrocketed from 2.48 seconds in a standard dropback to 3.31 seconds in the rollouts.
|Dropback||Amount||Sacks||Atts||Comps||Yds||TDs||INTs||Time to Throw|
Pro Football Focus
At the same time though, it will also be up to Tannehill to get rid of the ball quicker.
According to Pro Football Focus, among quarterbacks with at least 400 dropbacks in 2013, Tannehill ranked just 15th in pressure percentage (the percentage of plays he gets pressured compared to the rest of his dropbacks).
However, he was tops in the league in sack percentage, a statistic that measures the percentage of plays a quarterback is pressured that turn into a sack.
In these instances, Tannehill was sacked on 26 percent of his dropbacks—a full five percentage points higher than Cam Newton, who was second on the list.
What is the biggest key for an improved offense in 2014?
What this says is that when pressure comes, Tannehill has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long and/or fails to move effectively within the pocket or scramble away from collapsing protection.
It will be interesting to see the type of effect that Lazor can have on Tannehill's presence in the pocket and ability to quickly decipher when and where pressure is coming from.
Either way, with an improved offensive line, Moreno replacing Daniel Thomas combined with running more two-tight end sets and rollouts, Tannehill's sack number should be nearly cut in half.
In 2013, the Dolphins finished just one win shy of a playoff berth and concluded the season with an 8-8 record—the fifth straight season they finished at or below .500.
However, after adding a number of key pieces and revamping the entire offense, as long as the team follows this blueprint, fans in Miami have every reason to be optimistic that the Dolphins will finally get over that hump and earn their first playoff berth since 2008.