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Omar Kelly: Mike McDaniel must make Dolphins offense in vogue

Omar Kelly, South Florida Sun-Sentinel on

Published in Football

Hearing that type of praise from his players, and his peers is cool. But we’ve heard this before.

Former Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was supposedly the innovative genius behind Mike McCarthy’s offense in Green Bay. You know, the one that helped future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers win his one and only championship.

That turned out to be a hoax.

Adam Gase rode the great Peyton Manning’s success in Denver to “offensive genius” status when he was named the Dolphins’ head coach in 2016. But that label turned out to be fraudulent too, with the exception of the 2016 season, where Miami rode tailback Jay Ajayi and a forceful offensive line to a 10-win season, and the team’s last playoff berth.

From there on Gase’s offense was a bottom-dweller until he was fired after the 2018 season, and replaced by Brian Flores.

Flores turned out to be exactly who he was advertised as — a leader of men, and defensive guru — but he was never capable of putting together the type of staff that could produce a reliable offense that would inject fear into opposing defenses.

This is where McDaniel, who is Flores’ replacement, could set himself apart from his predecessors. He’s responsible for building a run-heavy, play-action-based offense that’s custom made for quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — and if that doesn’t happen we’re likely looking at another wasted era.

Only two things can hold this offense back and keep it from reaching its potential after the massive makeover the Dolphins underwent this offseason — adding offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, receivers Tyreek Hill, Cedrick Wilson and rookie Erik Ezukanma, and tailbacks Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel.

The first is injuries, which every team faces.

 

And the second is the offensive line, which has usually weighed this franchise down over the past decade-plus, struggling.

Good thing that’s supposedly one of McDaniel’s specialties considering he’s worked his way up the NFL coaching ranks by establishing a reputation as a run-game specialist.

That explains why the focus this spring has been placed on the offensive line and improving Miami’s offensive trench play.

“As far as the offseason program is concerned, it’s almost built for our offensive linemen in terms of how to approach things because you need about two weeks of an hour-and-a-half, or an hour-and-45-minute meetings to digest, ‘Hey, we’re asking you to run off the ball, we’re asking you to have these landmarks, we’re asking you not to hesitate,’ ” McDaniel said, referring to Phase 1 of the offseason program. “Then in Phase 2, you can kind of drill it.”

Running the football isn’t stylish in today’s wide-open, pass-happy, fantasy football focused era of football. But coaches like McDaniel, who helped turnaround the 49ers franchise by helping them establish a physical rushing attack, could bring it back, making the ground-and-pound approach in vogue again.

But that only happens if the Dolphins manage to iron out the imperfections from what was leftover from last year’s dismal offensive line, and Miami produces a run-based offense that’s not only efficient and effective.

But a style the rest of the NFL admires, if not attempts to emulate.

Let’s see if he can go from being stylish, to being a trend-setter.

©2022 South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Visit sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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