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  Offense Has Potential to be Explosive
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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The Dolphin offense is not the sum of its pieces. Not yet. That much is certain.


This is what training camp and preseason games are for. You drill and drill, and drill some more, until you have a cohesive unit. Then, and only then, do you really know what youíve got.


Now you know why Iím usually reticent when it comes to making bold predictions early in the season.


But this year is different, especially in regards to the Dolphin offense. Things are clearer, more obvious this season. Anyone with a shred of football acumen can see that there is an abundance of talent now, and it is mostly deep. And there is a distinct cohesiveness that is starting to form.


Yes, I like what I am seeing from white-shirted side of the Dolphin practice pitch. I think theyíre going to be good.


Very good.


I know it is hard to think this way based on Saturdayís 74 play scrimmage, dominated by Mike Nolanís defense. But we shouldnít have been surprised by it; offense usually trails defense this early in camp. Hey, the same thing happened to Drew Brees and the Saints offense in their first scrimmage on that very same Saturday. I doubt anyoneís worried about them.


I think the most encouraging thing is how well the offensive talent is fitting together and complementing each other on the field. Chemistry is just so important in team sports, and the Dolphins seem to have paid a lot of attention to this in building the roster.


QB Chad Henneís talents seem well-suited to his receivers, especially Brandon Marshall. Granted, his touch passing is still a work-in-process. But the guy seems to have unquestioned command of the passing game now. He knows what heís doing out there, and his skills are making the WRs better (and vice-versa).


Likewise, the talents of the receivers are complementing the talents of the running backs both in blocking and in creating space at the next level through the respect they are now demanding from defensive backs. The running backs complement the style of the offensive line in front of them, a bruising physical bunch that enjoy football between the tackles. And the offensive line complements Henne with stout pocket protection, a very good thing considering that Henne wonít beat you with his legs. And on it goes.


Offensive coordinator Dan Henning knows he has his best roster as a Dolphin coach. He also knows that if the injury bug stays away, his guys have a chance to be good, perhaps elite. They could be very tough to defend.


Letís keep it simple for a moment. If the opposing defense moves eight men up to stop the run game, they risk getting burned by Brandon Marshall and friends. If they cheat the coverage over to stop Marshall, there are other good options at WR, TE (welcome back David Martin!), and RB to take advantage. A DB heavy alignment would be easy pickings for the run game. There are other permutations, but the Dolphins are clearly in a sweet place; football is a game of mismatches and the Dolphins will have them every week, no matter what the opposition does.


But as the scrimmage showed, thereís still a lot of work to do before that comes to pass. Most notably, the interior of the offensive line needs to be settled as Henning and boss Tony Sparano continue to play an interesting game of musical chairs with the guards and centers, trying to find the best combination.


So what have they learned from all the shuffling?


First, that Jake Grove is probably the best center on the team but isnít playing up to that ability on a consistent basis. Joe Berger and Andrew Hartline have been challenging him for his starting job. In the end, it would be shocking if Grove didnít eventually prevail. Itís a bit troubling, though, that this is even a debate.


Second, that guard Donald Thomas is probably the most talented pure guard on the roster but continues to have struggle with maintaining his technique and intensity on a consistent basis. Thomas is another head scratcher; his inconsistency has opened the door for rookie John Jerry and veteran Richie Incognito.


Third, that Jerry clearly isnít afraid of earning a starting job and hasnít disappointed the coaches thus far with his effort, even if he is making his share of rookie mistakes. This is why heís been running with the first teamers every day and looks certain to start the first preseason game at the right guard position; Sparano clearly wants to find out about him right away.


Fourth, that Incognito is a nasty, physical player but also a personal foul waiting to happen. Sparano and Henning have to decide whether or not they can trust him in critical situations. Iím not sure they can.

What I am sure of is that theyíll figure it out in end. Together with line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, no one else is more capable. But sooner would be better given that this team must get a fast start to the season.


There are other issues that still need solving, like naming a starter at WR opposite Brandon Marshall and getting the Wildcat rolling. It will all come in time, and when it does things should be very electric this season. This I am sure of.


For now, patience and persistence are the keysÖjust as long as it comes together before September 12.

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