There are a variety of reasons why the Miami Dolphins are number one at red zone scoring efficiency this year with an 87.5% touchdown conversion rate. The first reason is obvious and Brian Hartline describes it with just two words, “better players”. Miami’s three scores on the road against the Indianapolis Colts outline are proof of a more explosive line-up.
A bubble screen pass for an 18-yard touchdown, designed to either side, went to the self-proclaimed fastest man in the NFL, Mike Wallace, who runs a 4.21 40-yard dash. The most sought after offensive weapon in free agency took his talents to South Beach and is making an impact.
This year’s starter at tight end, Charles Clay, can also play fullback, and he surprised the defense with a one-yard touchdown run. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer says “dude is as versatile as any player in the NFL” and has him penciled in as a pro bowler if he gets listed on the ballot as a fullback.
On another drive Miami lined up with double tight ends on the left side of the line. Dion Sims is known as a good blocker, but Michael Egnew is more respected as a pass catcher, which may have played a role in how easily they were able to seal the edge on Lamar Miller’s 10-yard touchdown run. Miller replaced a great player in Reggie Bush, but has the look of being stronger, faster and a better runner. Pete Bommarito, who has trained many great NFL backs, calls him “the fastest running back I’ve ever seen”.
Richie Incognito agrees that “having playmakers,” has made a difference and sees play-calling as another reason for the success. “Having guys like Mike Wallace, Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline. It really kind of opens up things for the run game. And when we’re hitting them with the run game, it kind of opens up things on the outside. So I think we complement each other with our pass and run. We’ve got our screens going, so we’re kind of a triple threat down there.”
A look at the Atlanta game proves his point as the Dolphins displayed great balance. The first red zone possession was the result of a 19-yard reception by Brandon Gibson on 3rd and 9, which placed the ball at the 11-yard line. Daniel Thomas then rushed to the right for 6 yards and to the left for a 5-yard touchdown.
The next red zone opportunity was set up when Donnie Jones’s forced fumble on the punt return was recovered by long-snapper John Denney at the 19-yard line. Lamar Miller was featured on first and second down, gaining only one yard on a rush and dropping a potential touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball. Then, on 3rd and 9, Brian Hartline caught an 18 yard touchdown, becoming wide open because the Atlanta defense was worried about Brandon Gibson in the flat. - Cyrus
You can follow me on Twitter (@cyruslassus)