Previewing the Miami offense is hard.
Not because it's complex -- it isn't.
Not because it's nuanced -- not in the least.
Not because they are loaded with playmakers and it's hard to key on any one guy -- because that's an outright lie.
It's hard to preview their offense because, well, they barely have one.
That's especially true right now. Starting running back Arian Foster has been injured for a while. Same with tight end Jordan Cameron. They have two good wide receivers, a solid number-two running back, a quarterback who has, if anything, regressed since his rookie season, and an offensive line made up mostly of guys you've never heard of outside of rookie left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Who, by the way, is hurt and won't be at 100 percent this week after he allegedly fell in the shower.
This team is becoming a carbon copy of the Cleveland Browns.
Once I realized that, it actually made it a lot easier to preview the offense: it's not about what they do well, it's about the mistakes they make trying to overachieve.
The goofs have been plentiful this year, so what you are about to see are merely examples -- and they illustrate how fine the line can be between winning and losing in the NFL today.
It's hard to nit-pick a Hail Mary. I get that. But this is a play they practice all the time. And this one violates the fundamentals of the play's concept.
It's not a long throw, so it's hard to get the right arc on the throw to have it come mostly straight down. But this is still a poorly thrown ball. With the safeties playing as deep as they are, the ball has to come down near the front of the end zone. Where quarterback Ryan Tannehill puts it only gives one player -- the deep safety -- a shot at making a play on the ball. Wide receiver Devante Parker's turn would have been right in time had the ball placement been better, but with that deep of a throw, turning where he did just slowed him down and completely took him out of the play. It's not his fault, though; he had no way of knowing Tannehill had just overthrown him on the game's decisive play.
If you want to give the quarterback the benefit of the doubt on a go-for-broke play, though, that's understandable. The next play, however, will change your mind completely.
This is just plain bad. The defender, cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris, spends the entire play in roughly a five-yard by five-yard box. He doesn't leak into someone else's zone. He doesn't start by showing blitz and then flow into his zone. He played straight-up zone that was obvious from the pre-snap read. Tannehill simply made a horrible decision, and even worse throw, here. Whether he didn't see the defender, or he was trying to get it over him, it was bad. Had it gotten to the receiver, it would have been low and well behind him. There's simply no reason for even attempting this throw, especially since it was 1st and 10, and the running back was wide open in the right flat. If Tannehill goes to the back, instead, he has at least 10 yards of running room, since every single defender in coverage has his back to him.
Just to prove it's not all Tannehill, though, the final play we will review looks at offensive line play that falls somewhere between dreadful and abysmal.
I'm trying my best to be professional here, I really am. And I have to acknowledge that the Steelers once played Jonathan Scott at right tackle, and most of his plays there probably looked like this, to one degree or another. I am confessing in advance to being fully aware of that.
So, what happened?
Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan is lined up in what could be described as either a wide 5-technique, or kind of a 6i-technique, though he's shaded a little further inside than is typical for a 6i. It's clear that, at the snap, right tackle Branden Albert is anticipating an outside rush from Morgan. That's not at all unexpected from the alignment. What he does poorly, though, is react to the inside move. In addition, his initial kick-slide takes him way too wide, making the inside move inevitable. These are the sorts of things good edge rushers recognize and react to; they are also the sort of things disciplined tackles simply don't do. Had Albert stepped backward rather than toward the outside, he would have been in position to protect versus either an inside or an outside move. By kicking so wide with his first step, he took himself completely out of position to stop -- or even impede -- the inside move from Morgan.
Maybe getting creamed on this play was the Karma Boomerang for what Tannehill did in the previous two plays. I dunno.
Football is, as they say, a game of inches. The difference between good teams and bad teams is simply that good teams have the talent and training to make more of those inches work for them than against them. In the case of these plays, and many, many others so far this season, the inches are revolting against the Dolphins' offense. With several missing starters and two new faces on the offensive line, don't expect that to suddenly change this weekend against the Steelers.