Andy Cohen: Playmakers Finding A Nice Groove

Posted Nov 29, 2011

Have you noticed Reggie Bush lately? And Brandon Marshall? And Anthony Fasano? All stepping up. All making plays. There are a lot of reasons why the Dolphins are a vastly improved team over the past month. The way I see it, though, the conversation has to include the playmakers.

You can even throw in Brian Hartline after the way he played on Thanksgiving at Dallas. And Davone Bess is doing a good job, as always, of being Davone Bess.

See, earlier in the season, the players were learning a new offense and the lack of an off season program, due to the lockout, clearly had its lingering effect. This is a fact that can’t be downplayed. The more established teams had a huge advantage and you saw that in the opening weeks of the season.

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll introduced a new everything to this offense. New playbook. New terminology. New philosophy. As much as we’d like it to happen, you don’t just step on the field and learn this offense by osmosis. There are growing pains. It’s inevitable.

This isn’t an excuse for an 0-7 start. It’s simply a fact.

But as the season has grown old, this offense has grown up. How much of it is due to the emergence quarterback Matt Moore remains open for debate. Chad Henne was playing pretty well too before his injury.

But look at the players around the quarterback and, at least to me, that’s where you see the greatest difference.

Reggie Bush. Brandon Marshall. Anthony Fasano. All, ironically, in their sixth season. All finding another gear.

I’ve got to start with Reggie Bush because he appears to have come the furthest. It wasn’t that he was bad early in the season; it’s just that he didn’t seem comfortable. But now that has all changed. As I have watched Bush over the past month, I have seen one of the most versatile backs in the league. He runs up the middle. He races outside. He catches passes. He is productive in so many ways.

It is clear that Bush now has a firm grasp of this offense and the Dolphins are benefiting greatly. He has already answered a lot of his critics who wondered whether Bush could both be an every down back and stay healthy during the process. Affirmative response to both.

Bush is clearly in the prime of his football life. I expect him to continue this upward climb during the final five games of the season. The one thing he hasn’t done yet is electrify us with one of those 70-plus yard plays. I’ve got a feeling it’s coming.

As for Marshall, it was just a matter of time. The dropped passes were clearly a concern early in the season and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that happened. But over the past month, Marshall has contributed significantly to this offense.

His touchdown catch at Dallas might have been the signature moment of his time with the Dolphins. Marshall had no business catching that pass. He was interfered with for about the final 10 yards of his pass pattern. The flag was thrown. It could have ended with that. But Marshall somehow pulled down that Matt Moore pass in the end zone, the Dallas defender draped all over his back.

This is the Brandon Marshall the Dolphins had bargained for when they made the trade with Denver and this is the Brandon Marshall they have gotten over the past month. Marshall has accomplished so much in his career, you’d think he is older than he is. But just like Bush, the long-term possibilities are even more appetizing than the short-term prognosis.

Then there’s Fasano, yes also in his sixth season. While he may not have the flat out speed coveted in a big-play tight end, Fasano remains a significant contributor to this offense. He is tough. He is smart. He doesn’t drop passes. And the Dolphins are now looking his way with some regularity. He had two pretty special catches against the Redskins, which followed a two touchdown catch performance in Kansas City.

Reggie Bush. Brandon Marshall. Anthony Fasano. Who do you focus on if you are the defense? Against Dallas, that dilemma opened things up for Hartline, who had his best game of the season.

The challenge over these last five games is to develop more continuity in the red zone. This is the area that has troubled this offense much of the season. But with these key components on offense all playing well at the same time, the potential for success improves significantly.

There is no doubt this offense is a work in progress and more pieces are needed to reach the desired level. But there is a nucleus in place that can not be overlooked, a nucleus of legitimate playmakers, all in their sixth season, all now giving us a nice view of what it’s like when they all play well at the same time.
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