Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor wants his offense to play fast.
"I'm trying to get them out of the huddle faster," Lazor said. "And sometimes it's uncomfortable. Sometimes it's uncomfortable for the line to make the calls that quickly. The quarterback might want them to settle in and to make the calls.
"We don't want it. We want to go. Every single day it's a push. They know it, they understand it. They also understand it's hard, and they're trying. I'll keep pushing."
Lazor is charged with improving an offense that averaged 19.8 points per game last season, which ranked 26th in the NFL.
For years Dolphins fans have heard their team was going to play a faster, more exciting brand of football. Former coach Tony Sparano preached it, and so did coach Joe Philbin during his first two years. But it never happened, and Philbin knows the reason.
"Part of it I think is you have to get some first downs to generate (tempo)," Philbin said. "That certainly helps the tempo. I mean if you throw an incomplete pass or you're third-and-long, you get sacked, it's tough to generate the tempo that you're looking to create.
"So I think part of it has been a function that we haven't been super productive on offense. And let's get that out on the table. That's a fact."
So far the Dolphins' offense has been so-so at consistently getting first downs to keep the tempo high.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been efficient at short and intermediate passes so far in training camp, but his deep passes have been inconsistent, which was the case last season.
Lazor, Philadelphia's quarterbacks coach last season, brings an offense marked by pre-snap motion designed to get players in one-on-one situations with defenders. But more than anything they have to play fast.
"I think the No. 1 thing we want to do is play with great tempo," Lazor said. "There are a lot of different definitions of that....At the snap of the ball we want to be fast, that's including our offensive linemen coming off the ball in the run game. Part of it is knowing what to do and being decisive. In this league you've got to play fast and be physical."
Whether the Dolphins can satisfy Lazor depends largely on the offensive line, which will open the season with five new starters, and Tannehill. But Lazor made one thing clear: the personality of this offense is going to be defined by the players, not a scheme.
"It's got to come from the players," Lazor said of his offense's personality. "I'm going to stand up in front of the group, they're going to hear my voice on the practice field....
"At the end of the day I'm going to try to guide them and direct them, but it's up to them and they've got to take it and go with it. It's got to be their team. We can do our best as coaches to push them. The answer will be easier once we start going and we see the guys step up."
--Wide receiver Rishard Matthews replaced Mike Wallace (hamstring) in the starting lineup Wednesday. Matthews, the third-year undrafted player from Nevada, has been having a solid camp and blended well with fellow starting wide receivers Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. Add in rookie wide receiver Jarvis Landry and arguably the Dolphins' best unit looks really strong.
--Coach Joe Philbin, whose team was dogged by a bullying scandal last season, said he has grown as a coach from a year ago.
"I think I have a better rapport, chemistry, with the players on the ball club," he said. "I've spent more time communicating with them in a one-on-one manner and in team meetings. I've been doing the bed check every single night at the hotel and just knocking on their doors and making sure that they're OK, busting their chops a little bit if they're awake."
Philbin, 15-17 in two seasons, will probably never be classified as a "players' coach," but he seems to be mixing more with players during training camp so far.
Still, if he doesn't get Miami to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, he'll likely have to fight for his job.
--Defensive end Dion Jordan, who will serve a four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, has been impressive so far in training camp. Jordan added 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason and he has been better against the run, which was an issue last season.
"I noticed him a couple of times out there making plays," Philbin said. "He had a big pick the other day. We showed the whole team. We were talking about the night before creating turnovers, talking about getting your eyes and your hands on the ball. There was a great, great picture of it in practice the other day. So I think he's really been productive when he's been out here."
Jordan, a pass-rushing specialist, had a disappointing rookie season with 26 tackles and two sacks. He appears ready to far eclipse that performance this season. Jordan was practically limited to third downs last season because he wasn't good against the run. But in training camp Jordan has been playing on first and second downs.
"He's getting more accustomed to the fundamentals and the techniques," Philbin said. "But there will come a time where we're going to have to balance the fact that, OK, he's not going to be available for four weeks and other players will need certain reps. I don't think we're at that point yet, but it will come at some point."
--Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has a wish list to fill if he's to live up to the expectations of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
"At the quarterback spot it's a couple of things," Lazor said. "No. 1, it's accuracy, No. 2 it's decision-making, and then I think after that you've got to have a certain level of toughness."
--The Dolphins' defense, which was eighth in points allowed last season (20.9 per game), has been fairly dominant in training camp. The unit has recorded an impressive number of sacks and broken up pass plays. But the Dolphins haven't created a lot of interceptions or fumbles. And the offense is chewing off big yards on the ground at times. That's ominous because the Dolphins ranked 24th in rushing defense at 124.9 yards per game last season.
If the Dolphins' defense can stop the run and create turnovers it could be among the best in the NFL.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: RG Dallas Thomas vs. RG Billy Turner. These are a pair of third-round picks on a team desperately looking for offensive linemen. And it's a tight, albeit low-key battle. Thomas, the 2013 third-round pick from Tennessee who was only on the active roster for two games last season, had the first shot at the starting right guard job. But he has been disappointing. The Dolphins are even looking at him as a backup right tackle. Turner, the 2014 third-round pick from North Dakota State, needs seasoning. It's a close battle, but overall not a good situation for the Dolphins.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Brandon Gibson missed Tuesday's practice as a precautionary measure with his surgically-repaired left knee. He returned to practice Wednesday and seemed to be OK. But he'll be watched closely.
--WR Mike Wallace missed Wednesday's practice with hamstring soreness that cropped up late in Tuesday's practice. Wallace, who has been having a good training camp, is expected to return Thursday.
--C Sam Brenner, the backup, missed Wednesday's practice with an apparent right leg injury.
--RT Jason Fox, the veteran backup, took snaps at backup left tackle on Wednesday as the Dolphins continue to look at line at various positions. Fox doesn't appear to be an option as a starter.
--MLB Koa Misi, the former weak-side linebacker, has been active in his new position. If Misi can help improve the run defense the switch has been a partial success.
--DT Earl Mitchell continues to rotate with DT Jared Odrick as the starter. So far it appears Miami will have a strong rotation among Randy Starks, Mitchell and Odrick.
--RT Ja'Wuan James, the first-round pick from Tennessee, has struggled in training camp battles against DE Cam Wake, but that was expected. James will almost certainly be a starter but it's tough to tell how well he's progressing considering he goes against a three-time Pro Bowl selection in Wake.
--CB Jamar Taylor, the 2013 second-round pick, has been getting snaps at first team but he's not poised to battle Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes or veteran Cortland Finnegan for the starting job. And he's not battling S Jimmy Wilson for the nickel position. Still, Taylor has been active in practice and seems improved from his injury-plagued rookie season.
--WR Marcus Thigpen, who also serves as KOR/PR, is having a tough time breaking into the rotation from scrimmage. Miami is deep at wideout. And with roughly half of all kickoffs becoming touchbacks, Thigpen is relying heavily on his role as PR to secure a roster spot.
--RB Lamar Miller, the uncontested starter with Knowshon Moreno (knee) on the PUP list, has been among the training camp standouts. Miller has been hitting holes with authority and showing a small bit of finesse, too. He hasn't looked good in 1-on-1 pass blocking drills, however, and that was a concern last season.
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