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Dolphins assistants talk returns, Detroit offense and more. Plus injury report

The Miami Dolphins’ average yards per punt return ranks last in the NFL.

Their 2.1 average yards is 1.3 behind the next closest team — the Las Vegas Raiders — according to Pro Football Reference. Granted, Miami has only returned seven punts through as many games — a three-way tie for second to last in the league with the Houston Texans and New York Jets, ahead of the Seattle Seahawks with only four. The Dolphins’ longest return at 8 yards and total punt return yardage of 15 are both tied with the Seahawks for last in the NFL.

What needs to improve to generate more explosive plays in this part of Miami’s game?

“A lot of time it’s opportunities,” special teams coach Danny Crossman said Thursday. “There’s so many parts that go into it. The field position, the down and distance, the call, what we’re playing for. … Obviously when we do get opportunities, when we can get those opportunities, we gotta make more happen.”

When asked whether these numbers came from in-game circumstances or internal shortcomings, Crossman said it’s a combination of both.

Part of the issue can hardly be classified as such. Successful goal-line stands for the Dolphins defense is a “win for the team,” and Crossman would opt for that outcome “every single time,” he said. But starting a drive from the 2-yard line isn’t ideal.

How Detroit’s offense compares to Miami’s

Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said the Detroit Lions offense, whom Miami will face on the road Sunday, has stark similarities to the Dolphins.

“We’ll see, for sure, plays that we’ve struggled with against the Jets, Minnesota, Cincinnati,” Boyer said. “…They have a very good scheme. They’ll make it very game-plan oriented to the team that they’re playing. That’s why I would anticipate things that they’ve seen us do to Cincinnati, Minnesota, or the Jets, which all fall from the same tree. I think they’ll implement some of those things, or even look at some of the things that we’ve done going all the way back to 2020 playing the Rams.”

A few points of interest on the Lions squad are running back D’Andre Swift, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and quarterback Jared Goff.

Swift and Brown are particularly explosive, Boyer said, adding that the offense as a whole does a good job of getting players open and creating space to drive the ball down the field.

Even though Detroit got shut out at New England Oct. 9 and only scored six points against Dallas last weekend, the Lions’ 24.3 points per game still ranks ninth among scoring offenses in the NFL.

When it comes to evaluating Goff, Boyer will go as far back as watching film from 2020 when Miami had success against the then-Los Angeles Rams quarterback in a 28-17 win.

“You look at some of the things that you felt like you did good or that weren’t good,” Boyer said. “Then you look at the current film and go, ‘OK, this is the same.’ Or, ‘This is different.’ Or, ‘This was a good idea, but we did it because of the scheme, not necessarily the player.’ There’s always a give and take there.”

Injury report

Miami had near perfect attendance at Thursday’s practice. Only punter Thomas Morstead (illness) didn’t practice.

Left tackle Terron Armstead (toe), safety Clayton Fejdelem (groin) and outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (vet rest) returned to practice. Fejedelem and tight end Durham Smythe (hamstring) worked on the side.

Right tackle Austin Jackson (ankle) also wasn’t seen at practice. The Dolphins designated him to return from injury reserve on Oct. 12. His last practice came on Oct. 13, and his 21-day IR window closes Tuesday. Miami will then have to bring him to the 53-man roster or keep him on IR for the rest of the season.