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Despite Blowout Win, Dolphins Seeking Offensive Identity

Dolphins seeking offensive identity JC Ruiz via Flickr


Dolphins Seeking Offensive Identity

It seems odd that after a blowout win there are more questions than answers within an organization. Unfortunately, the 35-9 dismantling of the Denver Broncos has not eased the concern of fans or coaches. There are few proven position groups on the team, and this very young squad is still finding their rhythm. The Dolphins seeking offensive identity with four games to go is a huge red flag.

A struggling Miami defense stepped up to the plate and hit a few home runs to assist the offense. Three interceptions — including a pick-six — three sacks, and 270 total yards is as good as a defense can play. However, the Broncos ran the ball relatively well and ran three more offensive plays than Miami. Jay Cutler returned from his concussion and tossed two touchdowns, along with two interceptions. Somehow, they seem to be getting better and worse at the same time.

Jay Cutler Provides Spark

Jay Cutler returning from his second injury of the year provided Miami’s offense with a bit of a spark. A bit rusty, he tossed two interceptions while putting up 235 yards and two touchdowns. Nonetheless, Cutler connected on multiple big passes that changed the flow of the game. Head coach Adam Gase finally figured out how to get his offense going. The running game was solid on Sunday, which took the pressure off Cutler so he could manage the game. When he needed to, Cutler stepped up in the pocket and delivered dimes downfield. Combine throws like this with a solid rushing attack and Miami’s offense becomes a pain to defensive coordinators.

This is the Jay Cutler that Miami needs him to be. Quick, decisive passes and make the deep throw when you need to. Unfortunately, the problem with giving the seasoned veteran too much free rein is his decision-making. Like clockwork, he follows up good throws with a mental error. Kenyan Drake comes wide open on a wheel route. However, a throw is made into double coverage, resulting in a pick-six that could have changed the game. The Dolphins seeking offensive identity isn’t new news, and it is definitely not good news.

Kenyan Drake Is Slippery

Walking into a matchup with the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing defense, this seemed like a real disadvantage for Miami. Be that as it may, Kenyan Drake apparently doesn’t care about rankings. With Damien Williams nursing a shoulder injury, Drake was the bell cow against Denver. Racking up 120 yards, 5.2 yards-per-carry, and a touchdown, Drake went to work on Sunday. This was by far his most explosive game of the season, especially against a solid front seven.

In addition to a 42-yard run, he also ran for 11, 9, 8, 8, 7, 7, 6, 5, and 5 yards. Topping it off with a touchdown, Kenyan Drake has put his stamp on this running back unit. This 42-yarder showcases his ability to move in the hole and make some absolutely disgusting cuts.

That’s not the only point of value he brings to Miami’s sputtering offense. Drake runs with attitude and intends to take the hit to the defender. While he has some weaknesses in pass protection, his strengths outweigh his shortcomings. Even when it seems that there are no yards to gain, Drake bounces the run outside or puts his nose down for extra yardage. The big difference between Ajayi and Drake is that the latter has quicker decision-making.

The Dolphins seeking offensive identity excludes the running back position. It seems Miami has found their true every-down back. Drake possesses the speed on first and second down, but can also catch the ball out of the backfield better than any back on the roster. He may not look very big, but he can pack a six-foot-one, 212-pound punch on third down.

Questions Still Remain

While I’ve made this seem like quite a bright spot, this is only Drake’s second good game, statistically speaking. Like a broken record, a lot of blame is shifted onto the offensive line. The Dolphins seeking offensive identity has a lot more to do with the offensive line than anything. That is a problem Miami just cannot fix until the offseason. The talent isn’t there, and you never know which version of the offensive line is going to show up on gameday.

Miami’s play-calling and effort on certain drives still leave a lot to be desired. The rushing game is red-hot, and suddenly a slew of passes ensues and gets Miami behind the sticks. Penalties and in-play mental errors are holding back this offense from being at least average. Miami routinely beats themselves and are set up for failure because of one bad play.

Since trading Ajayi to the Eagles, Miami is averaging 25 points per game. That has a lot to do with the new star running back in town. Kenyan Drake is the starter, but Williams or Senorise Perry need to prove they can handle quality backup snaps to shore up the running game.

The Dolphins seeking offensive identity is nothing new, but it can be easily avoided. Jay Cutler making better decisions in the passing game balances the entire offense, and things flow much smoother. Give him time in the pocket, and he can make some special things happen. The offensive line blocks and gets to the second level, the running game explodes. Penalties are scarce while effort is apparent. It’s the little things that win football games and make a team good. When the Dolphins do this, you see the result, albeit against a terrible team.