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Miami Dolphins: 5 Adjustments Coaching Staff Should Consider After Bye

Will Dolphins get creative with Mike Wallace this season?

If the 2013 NFL season ended today, the Miami Dolphins would qualify for the postseason as the AFC’s sixth seed. But to maintain that pace or, better yet, challenge the 5-1 New England Patriots for the AFC East crown, adjustments will need to be made.

The jury is very much still out on Joe Philbin and the rest of the Dolphins’ coaching staff after 21 games. Their grace period is coming to an end, however, and it’s time to see results. More specifically, more creative game-planning, more diverse play-calling and better in-game management.

Here are five changes the coaching staff should consider for Miami’s final 11 games:

1. More Dion Jordan

It’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why Dion Jordan — the Dolphins’ second most explosive pass rusher — has only seen the field on 25 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps this season. Jordan was dealing with a shoulder injury during the preseason, but the Dolphins deemed him healthy enough for an extensive special-teams role during the first five games.

If Jordan, who was the third overall pick in April’s draft, is healthy enough to cover kickoffs, he’s healthy enough to rush the passer at a much higher frequency. Jordan has been an effective rusher when he’s actually been on the field, and he forced a turnover in Week 5 that nearly gave the Dolphins a fourth win.

I’m not suggesting that Jordan should start — although I certainly believe that’s a viable option — but I am suggesting that he needs to be on the field more often in the remaining games, especially on passing downs.

Olivier Vernon has played 85 percent and Derrick Shelby has played 51 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps thus far. There’s no reason why Jordan shouldn’t see a significant increase in action beginning in Week 7.

With All-Pro defensive end Cameron Wake set to return as an every-down player after the bye week, getting Jordan and Wake on the field together as much as possible should be made a priority if the Dolphins hope to employ a dominant pass rush down the stretch this season.

2. More Lamar Miller

The Dolphins’ one-dimensional offensive approach came to a head in Week 5 versus the Ravens when offensive coordinator Mike Sherman dialed up a grand total of two rushing attempts in the entire second half.

Starting running back Lamar Miller has actually been fairly productive, averaging a solid 4.2 yards per carry, but the Dolphins abandoned him too often during the first five games of the season.

Only two teams have fewer rushing attempts than the 95 the Dolphins have managed thus far, and becoming so pass happy hasn’t done any favors for the most inept pass protecting offensive line in the entire NFL.

Without a running game to fear or, at least, account for, opposing defenses have been able to pin their ears back in order to get after quarterback Ryan Tannehill with an uninhibited pass rush. That approach has contributed to Tannehill being sacked 24 times through five games, which is a whooping six more sacks than the league’s second most frequently sacked passer has taken.

Becoming less predictable on offense could help combat Miami’s pass protection issues some and would get the football in the hands of a runner with big-play potential in Lamar Miller more often.

3. Less Daniel Thomas on passing downs

Daniel Thomas is off to another disappointing campaign in 2013. He’s only produced 71 rushing yards through five games on a measly 2.6 yards per carry.

Most discouragingly, however, Thomas has stole many of Lamar Miller and Marcus Thigpen’s reps on passing downs because of his supposed pass blocking prowess. Thomas has struggled protecting Tannehill at times this season, though, and Miller and Thigpen have higher ceilings as receivers out of the backfield.

Thomas has played 40 percent of the Dolphins’ offensive snaps thus far, while Thigpen has only played six offensive snaps all season. Two of those six snaps resulted in receptions for Thigpen, however, including a 50-yard catch and run against the Saints in Week 4.

Thomas should still have a role as the Dolphins’ goal-line back simply because he’s their only capable option in short-yardage situations. But Miami should consider getting its playmakers at running back on the field more often from here on out.

4. Utilize Ryan Tannehill’s ability to throw on move

As a rookie, quarterback Ryan Tannehill excelled at throwing on the run. And now that the Dolphins are having such a difficult time protecting him, it only makes sense for offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to feature a steady dose of bootlegs and rollouts to get Tannehill outside of the pocket and passing on the move.

But through five games, the Dolphins have almost exclusively attempted to counter a consistent rush with quick passes from Tannehill.

Take the Dolphins’ final drive versus the Ravens in Week 5 for example. On fourth and ten from Miami’s own 20-yard line, a busted play forced Tannehill to scramble out of the pocket and to his left late in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t by design, but Tannehill was able to hit wide receiver Brandon Gibson deep for a 46-yard gain that put the Dolphins in field-goal range to potentially tie the game.

The drive stalled there and rookie Caleb Sturgis went on to miss the kick, but that pass to Gibson was an example of what Tannehill can do on the move and a reminder that the Dolphins should look to draw up more rollouts in future games.

5. Move Mike Wallace around

Every team the Dolphins have faced in 2013 has moved its go-to receiving target all over the field in hopes of exploiting favorable matchups in Miami’s secondary. The Dolphins, however, have kept Mike Wallace split out wide to the right of their offensive formation for most of his 285 offensive snaps this season.

That predictable, unimaginative game planning has made covering Wallace a more manageable task and has taken the pressure off of the defense to make adjustments.

The Dolphins should look to force opposing No. 1 cornerbacks to play outside of their comfort zone by shadowing Wallace on both sides of the field and in the slot or matching him up with No. 2 and nickel corners throughout the game.

It could be the spark Wallace, who is only on pace for 900 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2013, needs to resurface as one of the league’s most explosive playmakers.

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One Response to “Miami Dolphins: 5 Adjustments Coaching Staff Should Consider After Bye”

  1. Kyle says:

    I agree with everything! Mike Sherman needs to go if we dont see a more creative offense next week

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