Upon hiring new head coach Joe Philbin, the Miami Dolphins undertook an offensive overhaul during the past offseason. Arriving with a degree from the Mike McCarthy University of West Coast offense, Phillbin was largely expected to bring the aerial acrobatics that are prominent in Green Bay.
The hiring of former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman only fanned the flames of the expectations. Then they drafted Sherman’s pupil at Texas A&M, the athletic and raw talent Ryan Tannehill, a former wide receiver. But a funny thing happened with the Green Bay offense.
They look just as much Gruden as Green Bay.
Although the Dolphins do occasionally line up in the spread-out empty sets that McCarthy and Philbin used in Green Bay, or Andy Reid in Philadelphia, the Dolphins more often line up in the I formation. Their wide receiver corps is severely lacking, with Brian Hartline being the marquee receiver of the group. The Dolphins instead focus on their talent in the backfield.
Their three-headed backfield of Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller is like a generic-brand version of the Giants’ 2007 “Earth, Wind and Fire” group. Throwing aside their performance against an unrelenting Texans defense, they ran for 263 yards against Oakland in Week 2 and 185 yards against the Jets in Week 3. When the Dolphins do spread the field, all three can line up as a receiver, with Bush being a better slot receiver than many around the league.
In Week 4, Tannehill had a coming-out party of sorts against a very talented Cardinals defense. Even without Darnell Docket, Calais Campbell and company can shut down the run. The Dolphins focused on the passing game, and Tannehill displayed the timing and anticipation that could make him a franchise quarterback.
Even though Tannehill is wildly inconsistent, the Cardinals cornerback duo of Patrick Peterson and William Gay is a tough one, and Tannehill was able to hit his wide receivers despite their lack of separation in route running.
The Bengals will face many of the same challenges that they have seen this year in a zone-running team that features slashing running backs who will make them pay for overpursuit and lazy tackling. Though he played poorly last season due to an injury, left tackle Jake Long has a powerful punch and sufficient agility to challenge Michael Johnson. Rookie right tackle Jonathan Martin is improving with every game, but Carlos Dunlap would have to be encouraged by the way J.J. Watt abused him in Week 1.
The match-up that must have Bengals fans squirming in anticipation is Geno Atkins against Richie Incognito. For years, many players have accused Incognito of playing dirty. And he does, in fact, play very dirty football. But he is unathletic and will have a very long day against Atkins.
As far as offensive scheme, let’s look at some concepts that will look familiar from both the Green Bay and Gruden playbooks.