« Dolphins fans putting $$$ into sellout | Main | Miami's curious offense? Dan Henning responds »

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.