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AC in the AM: Offense Must Pick Up Where It Left Off

Posted Oct 20, 2017

Last Sunday’s victory over the Atlanta Falcons told us so much. But this Sunday against the Jets could tell us even more.

Was the Falcons game a blip on the radar or a real indication that this team has found its way? Can the offense build off of those 20 straight second half points? How much has this team improved since losing to the Jets 20-6 only four Sundays ago?

That’s what Sunday’s game at Hard Rock Stadium is about. Doing it on offense two weeks in a row. Showing the consistency that quality teams need to display. Building on all the good things that happened against the Falcons. If the Dolphins can accomplish this, if they can make it three wins in a row by beating the Jets, if they can finish their first six-pack of games with a 4-2 record, then that impressive second half against the Falcons game suddenly becomes far more significant.

We can break down all sorts of reasons why the Dolphins lost that first encounter against the Jets, how the offense could generate just one touchdown and how the defense was far too kind to quarterback Josh McCown who completed all but five of his 23 passes. Or, as Coach Adam Gase simply put it, “they were more physical than we were.”

But that’s yesterday’s news. The challenge Sunday is not only to relocate the level they reached against the Falcons, but try to go one step further. With better execution. With less penalties. With even more of a balanced attack. With a sense of urgency throughout. Those are the things that will help determine whether the Dolphins can reverse what happened four weeks ago in New Jersey.

The AFC East right now is a logjam, each team having shown vulnerability, yet each with at least a .500 record. It’ll be five weeks before the Dolphins play another AFC East team, only adding importance to getting this right against the Jets.

The defense has almost become a given, the way it has performed week in and week out. This is clearly the strength of this team. May not dominate every game, but you clearly see the pieces are in place to do just that. It’s the offense that continues to be the biggest concern and that’s certainly understandable.

One quality half can’t define a unit. As promising as things looked in that second half against Atlanta, it needs to be put in its proper perspective The Dolphins are still ranked near the bottom of the league in just about every major offensive category, having scored just five total touchdowns this season.

It is imperative to demonstrate against the Jets that what we saw against the Falcons wasn’t merely a brief reprieve from those struggles, but a clear message that things were finally heading in the right direction.

“Now we can look at the film and say, ‘Hey, guys, this is an example of how it’s done,” said quarterback Jay Cutler.

Now they need to show how it’s done once again. You want specifics? Here’s five things this offense needs to do against the Jets, in no particular order:

• Get another solid performance from Jay Cutler: No, he doesn’t need to own the stat sheet. He just needs to play smart, hit on the majority of throws and avoid major mistakes. We have yet to see the best of Cutler. Wouldn’t it be nice if it happened against the Jets? “We’re close,” Cutler said of the offense, though he could have been talking about himself as well.

• Give Cutler time: This is so important. When Cutler does have time, when he has the ability to survey the field or even step up in the pocket, his success rate dramatically improves. At this exact moment, there is some uncertainty whether center Mike Pouncey will be cleared off of concussion protocol in time to play. If he can’t go, Jake Brendel needs to play the way he did against the Falcons. That should be good enough.

• Don’t drop passes: The Dolphins have had 10 drops over the last two games, far too many. Even Jarvis Landry, with perhaps the surest hands on the team, has had more than his share. “We have to improve on that very quickly,” Gase said. It isn’t easy to pinpoint why this is happening, but a concerted effort was made during practice this week to give the receivers extra time catching passes. This offense simply can’t afford those types of mistakes.

Jay Ajayi and more Jay Ajayi: There is no great mystery to how this offense can best succeed. When Ajayi gains 100 yards, when he carries the ball at least 18 times, good things almost always happen. This was the formula against the Falcons and it needs to repeat itself against the Jets. When these two teams last played, the Jets limited Ajayi to just 16 yards on 11 carries, one of his worst days as a pro. I’m sure he’ll be the focus of their attention once again. How the Dolphins respond in general and Ajayi in particular will have plenty to do with the final score.

• A strong first quarter: We’ve been saying this all season with little success. This offense simply hasn’t been productive early. In five games, the Dolphins have scored just one first half touchdown and have been outscored 43-13. Change the pre-game routine? Start the game with a fourth quarter mindset? Try something bold? The Dolphins have been evaluating just about everything, hoping to come up with some answers. The best answer would be something like a 12-play, 80-yard drive on their first possession, the same type of drive they opened the second half with against the Falcons. Indeed, it’s time for this team to become early risers.

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by our columnists and bloggers represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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