Sunday, July 22, 2012

Under Philbin, Dolphins' new offense all about tempo

Photo: TR Roberts, Flickr 


If there's one word that will describe the difference between the Dolphins' 2011 offense and the 2012 version, it's tempo.

The coaches have been saying it all offseason, and after June's minicamp, the players are getting in line.

“No huddle. Very up-tempo and fast-paced offense. That’s the biggest thing right off the bat," veteran tailback Reggie Bush said in a recent interview with The Finsiders. "We’ve got to play fast and know the system; we can’t have split-second indecision because it could mess up a play or a whole drive.”

That's a good summary of the primary difference between Brain Daboll's pro style offense that Matt Moore ran effectively in the back half of last season and the West Coast scheme head coach Joe Philbin and new coordinator Mike Sherman are installing.

The West Coast offense emphasizes quick reads and decision-making and relies on speed and athleticism to create matchup problems for the defense.

As opposed to the traditional pro style offense that uses the running game to draw defenders into the box and set up the play-action pass, Miami will be using a short, lateral, and quick-paced passing attack to spread out the defense.

This will help open running lanes for the backs and create space for yards after the reception.

“We want to create mismatches… with our formations, our motion, our shifting,” Philbin said in a January interview with Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “We may line up with no backs in the backfield. Next play, we may have two tight ends and two backs. We want to play fast, make the defense adjust."

It's a formula that Philbin implemented to near perfection as offensive coordinator of the Packers for the past five seasons. He helped engineer a Super Bowl victory in 2010 and saw his QB, Aaron Rodgers, win the NFL MVP last season with a historic passing performance.

The bad news for the Dolphins is that currently don't have anyone nearly as good as Rodgers to line up under center. The good news is they have a young, talented quarterback of the future in 2012 first-round pick Ryan Tannehill, though he has proven little in minicamps other than that he needs time to develop.

Miami does, however, have a pair of serviceable stop-gaps in Matt Moore and David Garrard.

Moore's admirable play down the stretch last season should not be downplayed, but he isn't owed anything by the new regime. Moore's success last year was as a pure dropback passer, a significantly different style than will be asked for this season. He will have to prove himself (yet again) when training camp opens later this summer.

Garrard has all of the requisite tangibles of a West Coast quarterback and years of above-average NFL starting experience to hang his hat on. He's accurate, decisive, and is more athletic than his counterpart. He did, however, miss the entire 2011 season while rehabbing from back surgery and has not actually played in a West Coast offense since his college days at East Carolina. He must prove that his skills, and 85.5 career QB rating, can translate into Philbin's scheme and that he's fully recovered from his surgery.

Backs Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller, tight ends Charles Clay and Michael Egnew and wideout Davone Bess are ideal players for the system. Each is a tough matchup in the passing game and can make things happen after the catch.

The rest of the personnel, especially the receivers, are inexperienced and may struggle to adapt to the new system. Brian Hartline and Chad Ochcocinco are talented players, but the West Coast offense is new to them.

It's difficult to predict how Miami will perform on offense, but it will rely on the quarterback. The system requires capable skill players, but absolutely depends on effective quarterback play.

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