Offensive Thoughts Before Raiders Game

The Miami Dolphins offense isn't explosive but it has been efficient for most of the season
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It should be pretty clear by now that the 2020 Miami Dolphins' push for the playoffs has been driven by the team's defense and special teams.

For anyone needing evidence, the Dolphins rank first in the NFL in fewest points allowed and their special teams have been among the best, led by Jason Sanders' remarkable (though not fully appreciated) performance.

While it has played more of a supporting role, we can say the offense has been efficient.

The Dolphins have found a way to make key plays at key moments, there was the breakout performance by the running game against the New England Patriots last Sunday and there has been good ball security.

The truth is the offense has been better than its ranking of 26th in total yards would suggest.

While going 8-2 the past 10 games, the Dolphins have turned the ball over only 11 times. They have committed more than one turnover only once in the past seven games, that coming in the 20-3 victory against the New York Jets on Nov. 29 when Matt Breida and Patrick Laird each lost a fumble.

The Dolphins offense has not been explosive, but the truth is that's not what's been required.

The beauty of this Dolphins team is how well it plays situational football, and the situation more often than not has called for the offense to play it close to the vest and let the defense and special teams do the heavy lifting.

And that's fine because the bottom line is the Dolphins are 9-5 and staring at a playoff berth if they can win their final two games.

As they say, hey, whatever works.

-- Of course, in the middle of this discussion is the role that Tua Tagovailoa has played, and that's been the role of game manager. What he's been asked to do is be careful with the ball and play to the game circumstances, and he's done that very well for the most part. But this role is why it's unfair to compare his passing numbers to those of fellow rookie first-round picks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, who have been allowed to be gunslingers. On the flip side, it's also unfair to compare records as a starter because Tua plays for a much better team right now than either Burrow or Herbert.

-- The return of Myles Gaskin from the COVID list will present the Dolphins with an interesting dilemma because he looked good in his last outing against Cincinnati in Week 13 and Salvon Ahmed obviously looked very good last week against New England. It's a pretty cool story that the former University of Washington teammates are likely to split carries at the NFL level.

-- Even with Gaskin's return, Patrick Laird is going to continue to have a role on offense as a third-down back because of his pass-catching ability and because he's probably the most dependable back when it comes to picking up blitzes. Laird is one of those players who'll never be flashy but will be around for 10 years because he's dependable and does all the little things.

-- We've said and written the same thing before about Isaiah Ford, who'll be playing again Sunday after being elevated from the practice squad. Ford is not necessarily an impact player, but he's also dependable and it's good to have him back in Miami — particularly since the Dolphins got a free 2022 seventh-round pick for him spending a month in New England.

-- Shame that the Dolphins will be without Solomon Kindley for the game against the Raiders (and maybe against Buffalo in Week 17) because the rookie fourth-round pick is probably the team's best run blocker. 

-- Lynn Bowden Jr. declined to talk much about his brief time with the Raiders when he's spoken to the media this season (he did not speak this week), but human nature suggests that you just know he wants to stick it to that team for giving up on him so quickly. Whatever the reason for his departure from Las Vegas, getting Bowden to move down from the fourth to the sixth round with one pick was an absolute steal. Bowden will need to play a big role depending on the status of DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant.

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-- There are mixed signals about the availability of both Parker, Grant and Mike Gesicki for this game. On the one hand, Brian Flores said all three came close to being able to play against New England last Sunday, which would suggest an extra week should have them ready to go against Vegas. But on the other hand, they have not practiced on more than a limited basis over the past two weeks, which doesn't bode well. And regarding Flores' previous comments, it's not like NFL head coaches are above playing games when it comes to discussing the health and availability of their players.

-- We close with an appreciation for Durham Smythe, who's one of those players who will never get much national recognition because he's not flashy but pretty much catches every pass thrown his way and does good work in the running game. In a way, he's the embodiment of the 2020 Dolphins, a no-nonsense group whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.