I have to hand it to Bill Lazor. And I have to hand it to Rex Ryan.
Lazor, the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, has been asked to keep the offense rolling even after the team suffered what was a potentially disastrous injury to left tackle Branden Albert.
That injury didn't mean that Ryan Tannehill's blind side was now exposed because rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James moved over to the prime spot and has done excellent work in pass protection. Indeed, James has been a revelation as a pass protecting left tackle.
The problem came in that the Dolphins had to then fill the void at right tackle and Dallas Thomas was asked to take over. And Dallas Thomas, bless his heart, is not a good pass protecting right tackle by any definition.
So how has Lazor taken on the assignment of keeping Ryan Tannehill alive lest Thomas allow Mario Williams or Von Miller or Terrell Suggs or perhaps Elvis Dumervil to knock out the Dolphins quarterback with a well-placed hit?
The Dolphins are throwing short. The Dolphins are helping Thomas with tight end Dion Sims chipping or even double-teaming the defender. The Dolphins are sliding protections to the right side. The Dolphins are even using maximum protections at times, keeping seven men in to form and protect the pass pocket.
And that's where Rex Ryan came into the picture this week. Whatever you think of the New York Jets head coach, this much is certain: He can coach defense.
And he did a very good job against the Dolphins on Monday night. The Jets mixed looks up front. They brought zone blitzes that only rushed four men but confused the heck out of Miami's blocking scheme. They brought regular blitzes that tilted the balance of power on a play toward the New York front. Sometiimes they overloaded to one side. At times he played it straight, relying on their guys simply being better than Miami's guys. And at times Ryan rushed only three (big mistake).
And behind that pressure, Ryan dared the Dolphins to protect Tannehill well enough, long enough to beat him deep because his secondary is atrocious. And the Dolphins could not answer the challenge.
Ryan gambled that he could give up short passes to the Dolphins and his linebackers and defensive backs could tackle well enough to limit the damage while he attacked the pocket up front.
Obviously, if the Dolphins had been able to protect well enough, long enough to go over the top of the coverage, Ryan's plan would have fallen apart. But the Dolphins weren't able to do that.
They stuck with their short passing game. And they came away with 16 points.
I watched the film of the game again Thursday night.
One picture I saw? The Jets zone blitzing and not rushing the man over left tackle Ja'Wuan James. Tight end Dion Sims was left in to block on this particular fourth down. But as James' man bailed into coverage, Sims simply stood there without anyone to block. James went down the line looking for someone to block and did just that. But there was an overload of three rushers coming from the right side and guess what? When Tannehill felt pressure from the right, he rolled right into the pressure instead of going to the left where there were no defenders. Incomplete pass.
Another picture I saw? New York nose tackle Kendrick Ellis bull rushing and carrying center Samson Satele backward into Tannehill, whom Ellis then simply grabs for a sack.
Another picture? On a third-and-13, Satele simply whiffs on Quinton Coples, who does a Dwight Freeneyish spin move past the Miami center and then plants Tannehill as soon as the QB gets off a hurried throw that falls incomplete.
Obviously, the Dolphins did complete a couple of intermediate passes. Take the 20-yard completion to Dion Sims in the second quarter. The Dolphins didn't keep Sims or running back Lamar Miller in to block that play and yet Tannehill had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and let the play develop downfield.
The offensive line did an excellent job blocking on this one. But that comes with a caveat. The Jets only rushed three. So Miami's five linemen beat New York's three rushers.
The very next play, however, from the New York 25, the Jets come with a zone blitz. And while only four men are attacking the pocket, the Miami protection that includes running back Daniel Thomas (six guys) is in total disarray. Three guys -- Satele, right guard Mike Pouncey and right tackle Thomas -- are blocking one guy. Actually, Satele isn't blocking anyone but he's over there ready to help if needed, I suppose.
James is single blocking and Shelley Smith is single blocking. Both are winning. The fourth Jets rusher runs right up the middle past Thomas for the sack on Tannehill.
But while Thomas is obviously partially responsible for the sack, it might have played differently if he had help from Satele who is part of a curious triple-team away from the play and doesn't even lay a glove on anyone during the play.
There is also a picture where the Miami front does an excellent job against a four-man rush. But that is when both Sims and Miller stay in for maximum protection. The play still resulted in an incompletion because intended target Jarvis Landry wasn't open on the left sideline and Tannehill also didn't deliver a very well timed or well placed pass, anyway. The ball sailed out of bounds.
What's the point?
The reason the Miami Dolphins don't throw deep is because the offensive line is generally not able to protect long enough to do it. Even on some short pass completions, Tannehill often gets knocked on his back.
So the Dolphins are working short passes, trying to cover for the problem.
But they ran into a coach who figured that out and limited the damage of the short passing game while daring Miami to hit a few deep or intermediate shots downfield. The Dolphins could not do it with any consistency (couldn't go deep at all, actually) for multiple reasons: They had poor protection, Tannehill not throwing on time or accurately, Mike Wallace dropping an apparent TD because he lost the ball in the lights.
The point is one defensive coach has figured out a counter to the counter Bill Lazor instituted for the Buffalo game when it became obvious the loss of Branden Albert would have multiple negative ripple effects.
Don't be surprised if defensive coaches, particularly the good ones who saw what Ryan did, simply defend the short passes, attack the pocket violently, and dare the Dolphins to throw deep -- something they obviously believe the Dolphins cannot do.
Your move, Bill Lazor.