DAVIE — The numbers add up, even if they don’t quite compute.
The Dolphins were among the most effective teams in the NFL last season on offense.
Trouble is, they weren’t on offense that much.
The Dolphins averaged 5.8 yards every time they snapped the ball in 2016. If your instincts tell you that’s good, your instincts are correct. The Dolphins tied for seventh in the league.
Mere inches separated them from the Patriots.
The catch: The Dolphins were last in the league in the number of plays they ran, with 912. That explains how they could gobble up yards but still finish so far down in the scoring rankings (17th).
As you could imagine, addressing this inequity is a priority this time of year for coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, who have broken down films and tendencies in search of solutions.
“The glaring thing is third downs and I think penalties,” Christensen said. “You just can’t stop drives.”
Actually, you can, and they did. They were ineffective on third down (25th) and penalties (third worst). Result: They were next-to-last in first downs.
“It is hard to come back from first-and-25, first-and-20, end up being third-and-14,” Christensen said. “That’s a low-percentage way to play football.
“Almost everything we did as far as studying the offense this offseason went back to, ‘We did some good things. We just didn’t have enough drives in the red zone,’ or, ‘We didn’t have enough snaps,’ or, ‘We didn’t have enough carries.’
“If you multiplied them out to a decent number of snaps, they all multiplied out where you were probably better than what we thought we were. But they didn’t. We didn’t get those snaps, so it wasn’t good enough.”
There’s no denying the importance of third down. In their 1-4 start, the Dolphins converted only 28.6 percent. In the next six games, the number soared to 40.0 — and the Dolphins won all six.
Although the Dolphins finished 10-6, they were far too generous over the course of the season, possessing the ball an average of just 28 1/2 minutes. Only four teams gassed their defense more.
Penalties, though, involve a balancing act. Christensen said he’s more of the conservative, old-school coach who hates penalties. Gase isn’t enamored with them but is reluctant to dial things back too far out of fear of shackling aggressiveness.
For comparison’s sake, Atlanta led the NFL in yards per play (6.7) and matched it with a league-leading 33.8 points per game. The other Super Bowl team, the Patriots, were fifth at 5.9 yards per play and third at 27.6 points per game.
The only team close to the Dolphins in terms of wasting all the good work they’d done is Gase’s old team, the Bears (5.9 yards, 17.4 points).
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