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Andy Cohen: Big Focus On Big Plays
By on July 24, 2013 at 5:45 am

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Andy Cohen In The Morning will appear every Monday through Friday until the end of the season, except for the bye week. The column will be posted each day at 6 a.m.

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Numbers don’t lie and one statistic shouts a sobering truth for the Miami Dolphins. They were as bad as any team in the NFL last season at coming up with big plays on offense. In fact, only three times could they produce a pass play of 40 yards or more and that was tied for worst in the league.

Clearly, that has got to change.

And that is one of the missions of this training camp.

Go deep. Score the easy way. Get your offense off the field in a hurry. Figure out a way to put together one of those beautiful drives of one play for 80 yards.

This is the reason the Dolphins wasted no time signing Mike Wallace in the offseason. Why, Wallace himself had four pass plays of 40 yards or more last season and that was the worst big-play productivity of his career. The best came in 2010 when he had 10 plays of 40 yards or more. Think what that would mean for the Dolphins offense.

But it is more than just Wallace. It is Brandon Gibson in the slot and Brian Hartline on the other side. It is tight end Dustin Keller down the middle. It is a “go for it” mentality that this offense must possess and, I’ve got a strong feeling, will possess.

It should have been no surprise that the first offensive play of the first training camp practice last Sunday was a bomb to Wallace. Although the hook-up didn’t work, the message was clear: This is the dawning of a new day for the Dolphins. I believe the play-calling will reflect that. I believe Wallace will be running plenty of fly patterns on Sunday afternoons.

I asked Philbin his thoughts on one play, 80-yard drives. He just smiled. “Sure, we’ll take them.” You bet he will.

A year ago, the three 40-yard plus pass plays all went to Hartline: an 80-yarder at Arizona, a 57-yarder at Arizona and a 41-yarder against the Jets.

“It doesn’t have to be an 80-yarder,” Hartline says. “I’ll take a one-play drive for 50 yards or a two-play drive for 70 yards. The group we have now has the potential for some big plays. We’re growing and we just need to continue to grow.”

It all starts with Wallace. In all likelihood, he will be seeing double coverage much of the time. That means Gibson, Hartline and Keller will be seeing a lot of single coverage, which is exactly what they want.

“Hey,” Keller said. “Let them put two men on me because that means we’re going over the top to Wallace. Let the defense pick their poison. We have enough weapons on this team where we can adjust in a hurry.”

Long-time Dolphins fans surely remember the good ol’ days when Dan Marino let it fly to Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Every play, back then, had the makings of a long distance thrill show. But this year marks the 30th anniversary of Marino’s first training camp and those heart-pounding days are long gone.

It is up to this team, these Dolphins, to form their own identity and it is clear that Philbin and his staff were not satisfied with the results of a season ago.

You watch practice these days and you see Wallace and Hartline out wide, Gibson in the slot and Keller lined up with space to run. The same Hartline that saw double coverage last year will now probably face the opponent’s third or fourth best cornerback. The dynamics clearly have changed and changed for the better.

“I love those 80-yard plays,” said offensive guard Richie Incognito. “Get on the field and get off the field. Don’t get me wrong, the grind-it-out drives are nice too. But the big plays are always special.”

There are goals that have been set for this offense and its deep passing game. Nobody is saying exactly what those goals are, but you know that the confidence level is high with the group this staff has put together.

On the second day of practice, Tannehill hit Keller in full stride down the middle of the field. It looked so easy, so right. There was applause from the stands and some high-fives on the field. Keller looks so natural in that role.

“Hey, we’ve got the fastest guy in the league on one side (Wallace) and we’ve got playmakers surrounding him,” Keller said. “We still have a long way to go, but this has a chance to be a special group. Wait until we really start to jell.”

This is what training camp is all about. Establish an identity. Correct the failures of a season ago. Put together a group of players that can help take this franchise to the next level. The Dolphins have clearly done that with its deep passing game.

Now, it’s time to take that potential and turn it into productivity. Now it’s time, at long last, for the big play to return to this offense.

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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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