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Miami's curious offensive view of the world

I am not a football coach. I never played the game beyond pickup games of touch. So I am certainly no Xs and Os expert.

But after 20 seasons of covering the Dolphins and three seasons of covering the Hurricanes during their dynasty years before that, I've picked up things here and there. And I sometimes feel a discomfort about Miami's offensive philosophy.

Here's the deal: The Dolphins are of the mind that more players involved in the offense is better. All those players don't necessarily do all things well. But coaches are very comfortable with their own ability to pick out the things certain "playmakers" do well, and then they put them in the game to do those specialized things.

“I think we are a unique offense in the fact that we use a lot of different personnel, use a lot of different guys to do different things in our offense," quarterback Chad Pennington said. "We have unique abilities if you look across the board. We are not typical in that you can point out ‘OK this is their No. 1 guy, this is their No. 2 guy and this is exactly what they do in the run game.’ "

"We are unique in that we have some guys that present some problems to the defense in certain areas and do some really really good things and have some real strong points about them and we are going to accentuate those strong points -- make sure we use every ability that we have out there. Then you throw in the Wildcat and things like that and hopefully it creates a recipe of success.

The Dolphins are also one of those offenses that "takes what the defense gives them." I hate offenses that take what the defense gives them, but more on that later. The Dolphins are very meticulous in seeing how the D is lined up and reacting to that, calling plays that best gives them chances to go to the defense's weakness rather than to its strength.

Consequently, if the defense decides to take something away from the Dolphins, Miami reacts by going away from that thing and picking on another area. Take Sunday's game at Atlanta. The Falcons decided they weren't going to allow Ted Ginn Jr. to get deep on them.

"I think Atlanta came into the game saying ‘Hey, we are not going to let these guys get behind us, especially Ted,' " Pennington said. "They played a lot of soft zone coverage if you watched the film, trying to keep everything in front of them."

Great. So that is the Dolphins telling you what their offense is about so far this season.

Now let me, as a total non-football guy, share my observations and, yes, frustration.

On the spreading the wealth deal: I hate it!

The Dolphins have five, maybe six, playmakers on offense -- Chad Pennington, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams, Ted Ginn Jr., Patrick Cobbs (surprising but true), and Greg Camarillo.

No, I did not include Anthony Fasano or Davone Bess or Brian Hartline or anybody else because I've not seen those players light up an NFL defense. They might have caught routine passes. They might have scored a routine TD here or there, but none have, to my recollection, done anything extra-ordinary.

The point I'm making is the Dolphins, in my estimation, are so busy spreading the wealth that they forget who their playmakers are.

It should be a MUST for Miami to give Ronnie Brown the ball 25 times on offense. Period. Get him 20 carries and five receptions. Get him 15 carries and 10 passes that go for 5 yards and feel like runs. Get the ball in his hands 25 times per game somehow. Maximize his opportunities to hurt the defense.

It should be a MUST for Miami to get Ricky Williams the ball 10 times per game on offense. Give him a chance to run downhill at defenders, which few runners do any more. And if he's having success, let him do it some more rather than throwing a pass to Joey Haynos. Let Ricky pound the defense!

And it should be a MUST for Miami to put the ball in Ginn's hands 10 times a game. Throw it to him deep even if the coverage says don't. Here's an idea, throw it to him short -- on a slant, or on a bubble screen. If the defense is going to play deep, do the other things to get Ginn the ball short. But get him the ball!

The Dolphins offense needs to indentify its playmakers and author ways of getting those playmakers involved. We shouldn't look back on a game and say, "Boy, Ronnie got 10 carries, we need to do better." Do better during the game. Force the action!

That brings me to the "take what the defense gives us" mumbo-jumbo. Great offenses attack, they don't sit back and wait to be dictated to by the defense.

Example: You think defenses of yesteryear didn't try to take away Mark Clayton from Dan Marino? You think defenses didn't try to roll their coverages to Jerry Rice's side?

You think defenses today don't try to keep Randy Moss and Tom Brady from going deep? Or load the box against Adrian Peterson?

Of course they do. But those offenses still try to put the ball in the hands of their playmakers regardless of the defensive strategy. Remember, there is always a response, another avenue, to accomplish the same goal.

If the Falcons are trying to take away Ted Ginn deep, hand him the ball on an end around (without asking him to throw, which he isn't good at anyway). Throw a screen to him. Throw a sideline pass to him. Throw another sideline route to him. Now you've set up a double move. And what's wrong with launching one just to keep the defense honest, if nothing else. Who knows ... maybe Ginn comes up with it.

The point is if you are going to wave a white flag on using one of your better players merely because the defense wants you to, you are defeated already unless you have a ton of other playmakers. And the Dolphins do not have a ton.

The strange thing is the Dolphins didn't fall into this trap last year. They ran the Wildcat package even when it wasn't surprising people last year. They did what they did no matter what.

Now the Dolphins look like an offense with no identity because it wants to have many identities. Bess and Fasano are nice complimentary players. But sound offensive football is about using your feature players, not the guys from the background.

And sound offensive football is more often about taking from the defense that which it does not want to give -- the end zone. It is not always about taking what the defense is giving you.


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You said it Armando..Well said...I sure miss the Marino to Duper and Clayton days...

I couldn't disagree with you--and your cheering, negativity-loving sycophants here--more. Bess and Fasano weren't playmakers last year? Yes they were!

What you don't seem to see, 'Mando, is we don't have all the horses to get the job done yet. If we had all the horses, we would play more to our best players. Problem is, it's a team game.

Our unpredictability on offense has been part of our strength, which plays to our quarterback's strengths.

You want to know our real biggest problem? The inability to convert on third down. We don't often keep the ball long enough to find a rhythm on offense--and keep the defense on the sideline where they belong.

best article ever by salguero. what pisses me off about most fans is theyre all saying "run more". The problem sunday wasn't that they didnt run enough. It was that they ran too much, more specifically too predictably. The whole game (except last drive) was run, run, pass, punt. I kept yelling at the tv to throw on first down, or try something creative on first down. The defense knew what they were gonna do the whole game cause it was rediculously predictable. Ronnie and Ricky didnt have many carries because they came on first and second down, which gave us third and longs, and then we had to punt. Ofense could never get into a rhythm. The only drives we actually threw more than once were:

-last drive which resulted in a TD.
-the drive with the camarillo catch, and the ronnie toss back to pennignton who threw to haynos. Then was the throw to fasano which got us to the 10 yard line. Of course he fumbled but it was the closest we got to he end zone up to that point.
-the only other drive was the one that ended with the int, but again we got there by throwing.

My point isnt that we need to throw every down, its that we cant be so predictable with the play calling. The Patriots game last year started with us throwing on the patriots which surprised them and we scored right away. We then did the wildcat, and we all know how that worked out. Run, run, pass, punt was wandsteds specialty. Every team in the league knew what was coming.

Great article, Armando. I'm never shy to call you out on stuff I consider crap. You certainly deserve to be lauded when you are absolutely correct. Keep this stuff up.

Congratulations Armando,if there is a Pulitzer Price for Great post, you already won it.What a very simple(for us the readers),deep and wide analysis of the Miami Dolphins Offense.

Merril Hodge is at Dolphins practice and he tweeted out that Jake Long and Justin Smiley were horrible in practice and the only way Dolphins offense can generate big plays is via a gimmick play during practice.

Armando makes a great point. The 4/5 teams that scored 30+ points last week are listed below and all of them had scores of over 50 yards. The Ravens are the other 30+ point team.

Minn - AP had a 64 yard run
NO - 39 & 58 yard passes
Dallas - 42, 66, & 80 yard passes
Philly - 85 yard punt return.

The point is that elite offenses score quickly from anywhere on the field. You have to get these cheap touchdowns to be successful. Guys like Fasano and Bess are not explosive enough to score those TD unless it is from trickery.

Well let me throw a few acorns out there for eveyone to chew on.
When we had Dan Marino and were 1 deminisional we made it to the 1st round of the playoff bacially after his 2nd year and were 1 and done.
When we had Ricky Williams really running the ball and were 1 deminisional we were 1 and done in the playoffs.
Last year Sporano first year along with Chad Penningtons as a Dolphin and guess what we make the playoffs after a 1-15 season.
Pennington even as s jet spread the ball around that was and is his strenght as a QB.
I am sure if you threw Henne in there you would see more deep balls thrown opening up the field for a lot more running but a lot less short and intermediate routes. Henne locks onto recievers so spreading the ball around on shorter routes gives them an advanage with him as QB as the DB's can jump his routes.
I would agree with most every post about running the ball more with Ricky and Ronnie and I believe they would like to except our OL has not found the correct combination wether its coaching or personel to get the job accomplished. Last year it was because of the lack of the ability to run the ball by the phins that IMO created the Wildcat.

Other fact : Ginn, Bess and Camarillo are small receivers.

Patrick Turner could be a red zone threat.

Somebody please get this blog post to Tony Sparano

Patrick Turner sucked at USC. I'm not sure who thought he'd be good in the pro's. When that pick was made McShay and Kiper almost went into cardiac arrest because they both believed he should have gone undrafted.

to hell with Merril Hodge. there's no reason this team should not produce with its base offense.

Excellent post Mando. Best this year.

I love this blog, but trust me, I think you're clueless about our offense.
Miami Dolphins are rebuilding on the fly, so this team simply doesn't have enough talent to play as you wish. In order to compete as you describe our #1 receiver should be superior to beat any defensive back trying to stop him and our passer should have the arm power for any throw.
As today, even when our running tandem is so good, our o-line is not enough talented to compete with most d-line in the league, so running attack requires distraction in order to execute.
Then this team is playing knowing their limitations. They don't have any Tom Brady nor Larry Fitzgerald and o-line is still molding.
So please be patient and enjoy their actual style of game, aka "The Replacements" style.

The Dolphins are not rebuilding.

wonderful article, the phins need to go for the throat, stop screwing around and get some offense running! I love Hartline BTW he needs to get some deep balls asap.

Good Post, I agree with Brown needing more touches to get a feel for the game. Wiliams and Cobbs as change of pace is good. Ginn doesn't get enough separation at the line to hit the slants, haven't you noticed how he cringes going across the middle? I love the guy's speed, but if you are going to be a star in this league you have to be a able to going down the middle.

I totally disagree with you about Bess, whenever he is in the game is manages to get open and gets us first downs.

As for the coaching staff, we have to remember this was a 1-15 teams that is still being overhauled. I like Sparano and his hard-nosed style of coaching! However, the one thing you missed, if you are going to critique the offense is the OC. Henning was the Jets' OC and he had a penchant for going away from something when it was working. The guy has 30 years of football experience, however, he is a drive killer!!!! HE GOES AWAY FROM WHAT'S WORKING.

Armando, offensive football is about execution… There are only a few true impact players in this league and unfortunately none of them play for the Dolphins. As football coaches we create a game plan based on the tendencies of the opponent. We don’t go into a game waiting to see what the defense will give us. We already know where the mismatches are and we try to exploit them with different packages and formations. If we wait until game day to understand our own game plan then we have already lost. The idea is to exploit the weaknesses by being aggressive but in a sense take what the defensive is giving in the way of mismatches we already know are there.

The bottom line is still execution. The Dolphins did not execute well against Atlanta especially on the OL and that caused Pennington to hurry his throws and left few gaps for running, still, take away a couple plays and a couple turnovers and the game should have been won. The bottom line is to use your weapons to exploit weaknesses, but know what those are in the form of a game plan and go in there and execute it. The Dolphins did not and they lost the game. If they execute this Monday the chances are they will win the game… Intensity is another matter for another blog.

Wow! I think this is the most aggressive tone in a pieace of writing by Armando I have ever read. I like it and I think you should write like this more often. I also agree with you on the offensive strategy that the Dolphins should take except with the part of giving Ronnie so many carries. To be completely honest I have never been sold on Ronnie Brown and I dont believe he is the answer. I also do not believe that he will be a part of this team after this season but who knows. As for Ricky, he has been running alot better than Ronnie thus far so I would go with what is working and thats Ricky pounding the ball.

Shouldn't the coaches get the same treatment as the players when they are wrong?

If a runningback misses a blitz pickup or fumble he should do pushups. If a receiver runs the wrong route then more pushups.

Why shouldn't the coaches do pushups when they have a crappy gameplan.

Now the Saints who are a great passing team then use the pass to setup their offense and that opens up their running game.

Now the Bread and butter of the Dolphins should be to establish the run and that should set up the pass.

I am so sick of the first down carry gaining 2 or 3 yards and then they go right back to passing. Run the ball again and maybe you get pennington into a managebale 3rd and 3 etc.

Unless they start the game ripping off 5,6 or 7 yard runs they are way to quick to abandon the run. It is sickening. Ronnie should get at the minimum 20 total touches.

Pennington is limited physically and they need the rest of the offense to make things easier on Chad.

Agreed. my only disagreement is that I believe bess will lead this team in receptions this yr. RONNIE MUST GET THE BALL 20+ TIMES A GAME!!! sick of this 10 carry garbage, he is our best playmaker by far. Ginn can be effective if we find easy ways to get the ball in his hands...

and by the way.... Camarillo a playmaker?? cobbs lightin up defenses?? c'mon now, I like the fins too but lets be real here. Pennington is a "take what u can get QB," but I would like to see more aggression in the play calling.

The funny part is Sparano said he saw nothing wrong with the play calling after the falcons game. So that means we can expect to see this all season

some how where's a tough sport media you will find the champs .


When i red armando's post i felt like i am reading an article in the boston media .very good writing b/c it makes sense and evoke every one to think .

When was the last time Pennington didn't lock in on one reciever, one location (short), the pre-season he never looked down the field, so Ginn can run a route to perfection and Penny dosen't even notice he is to busy finding someone to lollipop the ball to.

i dont get it?? what do people see in ted ginn? what kind of threat is he? i have seen him in every dolphin game, and he goes down with a strong wind. If a defender runs near him, he curls up and down he goes.

Good one Mando...

How many td has Ted Ginn caught has since he became a dolphin ?

Best blog I've seen from you yet Mando. Incredible, agree with every word.

Oh my Gosh! I am in agreement with Armando! What a sad day!

"You think defenses of yesteryear didn't try to take away Mark Clayton from Dan Marino? You think defenses didn't try to roll their coverages to Jerry Rice's side?

You think defenses today don't try to keep Randy Moss and Tom Brady from going deep? Or load the box against Adrian Peterson?"

But we don't have a Mark Clayton, Dan Marino, Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Tom Brady or an Adrian Peterson.

the bills game was funny I can't believe thar happened but it was that kind of weekend from the blessed wolverines to Miami hurricanes to oh my god Ohio state blew it again as for my beloved dolphins pass right short pass left short now that will scare a defense big time monday nigth win or lose will tell a lot about planning our sundays


Ask of everything and you shall recieve nothing.
Ask of nothing and you shall recieve everything.
You have to take what the defense gives you and all great coaches and teams do.

Case in point you have a stud Wr in Randy Moss and yet the Patsy's have yet to win a championship with him. The WR the patsy;s had when they won three SB pale in comparison to Moss. But it is the ability to take what the Defense gives and spread the wealth to all players is directly responsible for those championship.

The late great Bill Walsh had the same philosophy and by spreading the wealth around he was able to get Rice his touches and then some. But he still spread the wealth and took what the defense gave them. The 49ers had talent at all positions. And used them all.

The Pat's run of three SB's this decade, Brady distributed the ball to 8-9-10 recievers, backs and tightends. The days of lining up and throwing to one stud reciever and or soo are gone.

We (Dolphins) have only been put together for a seasona and one game, we've improved from the horrible 1-15 season the year you predicted 10-6 for the Dolphins. To winning the division during our first year in a rebuilding/championship run. Now one game into year two and your actually questioning the coaching staff as to our offensive philosophy.

I'm sure the Dolphins philosophy is not predicated on what some repoter or fan or anyone else says but on experience and knowledge of the game. Armando, your right in one thing your experience and knowledge of football pales in comparison to Henning, Parcells or Sparano's finger nail.

Yet you still say he's (Henning) wrong. Well its good for water cooler joke's. LOL

I haven't read Henning's response, so I have no idea what he said, but I will go on record as saying I think Armando is right in the gist of what he's saying, which I take to be that the really good offenses make no secret about what they're going to do, and they just challenge the opposing defense to stop them. Typically, what these offenses do plays to their strengths, obviously. I think about the '73 SB. Minnesota knew exactly what we were going to do, and we did just that, and beat the crap out of them.

Obviously we don't have a roster like the '72 & '73 teams. In Armando's defense, I think he named names of our current playmakers to illustrate his point, not to argue that we have the kind of playmakers we need to be a truly great offense. It is the difference between a philosophy and execution of that philosophy. This is where I also agree with what Armando implies, that is that even if we don't yet have the playmakers we need to be that dominant offense, we should instill that philosophy on the team now.

I also think this is one of your better posts Armando.

You get part credit on this one. You say great Os attack instead of taking what is given but I have to mention that the O is not great yet. It is headed in the right direction but the reason it won last year was because they kept other teams off balance by mixing in Cobbs, Bess, Williams, Fasano, etc. I do agree that Ronnie needs to be given the ball more as does
Ricky. When they average over 4 YPC every year why not run first and pass when needed? Pounding the rock wears Ds down and opens the deep threat.

As For Ginn and sideline passes I say no. Keep him away from the sidelines until he shows that he prefers staying between them rather than outside of them. Ginn will be a good receiver but he may have to be forced to toughen up.


Armondo, cheers! Seems that you are right on target. Succint.

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