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Offensive Improvements

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I think something that's been a bit overlooked this year because of the defensive struggles is the fact that the offense is improved. Some nay-sayers will claim that the stats are deceiving because the most yards are coming during "garbage time" with the game already out of reach. I'd argue that by saying that it isn't like the opposition is taking their best players out of the game or something. Are they playing a bit looser? Maybe. No one can say for sure. To me, though, the stats through 8 games do mean something. So let's start out by showing the typical NFL offensive stats for the Dolphins over the past 4 years:

Year Yds/gm Pts/gm Yds/play 1st/gm 3rd %
2004 275.2 17.2 4.3 16.7 34%
2005 324.9 19.9 5.1 17.1 35%
2006 310.0 16.2 4.8 17.6 38%
2007 322.1 20.8 5.3 20.4 40%

As you can see, there is marked improvements across the board. The one anomaly here is the 2005 yards per game, which is 2.8 yards better than 2007. But despite that fact, the offense is still more efficient this year than in '05, as proven by the higher points per game, yards per play, 1st downs per game, and better 3rd down conversion percentage. That 2005 offense just had a couple more big plays courtesy of Chris Chambers.

The last two stats in the table are the ones I'm most impressed by. Picking up nearly 3 more first downs per game is a great improvement. As is the higher conversion rate on 3rd down. This shows that the team has improved in its ability to maintain drives more consistently than in the past. Let's hope for that to improve as the season goes along, though the absence of Ronnie Brown will surely hinder their performance.

Next, let's look at some offensive stats that fans don't generally use to analyze offensive efficiency. These stats are actually very telling stats when you look to compare offenses around the league:

(#) = rank among all NFL teams
Year Yds/drive Pts/drive TD/drive TO/drive
2005 25.69 (20) 1.55 (17) .168 (17) .147 (21)
2006 26.48 (22) 1.29 (28) .124 (29) .130 (12)
2007 30.68 (12) 1.95 (9) .210 (9) .198 (28)

As you can see here, this offense is surprisingly effective. They are gaining a whole 4 yards more per drive and have moved into the top 10 in the entire NFL in touchdowns per drive. However, you can see the big glaring problem and that is the turnovers. The turnovers are killing this offense. Few turnovers would have certainly resulted in more points generated by this offense. When you think about it, you can put a lot of blame on Cleo Lemon and Trent Green for the turnovers, meaning even a stronger case can be made to start John Beck. Perhaps Beck will take care of the ball better. If nothing else, the turnover problem couldn't get much worse, considering only 4 teams have a worse ratio than the Dolphins in that category.

The other case that can be made is that this defense is really killing us; even moreso than we originally thought. If they were able to hold on 3rd down more often and get this offense more possessions per game, than it would be fair to say that more points could have been scored. Think about this: the 2005 team totaled more yards per game despite averaging 5 yards fewer per drive. So it's safe to assume that the '05 offense was getting anywhere between 1 and 3 more possessions per game than the '07 offense is getting, and that is absolutely killing this team.

As with any statistics, take these numbers with a grain of salt. Numbers can indeed lie. But the one thing I hope we can all agree on is that this offense, for whatever reason (I know some don't want to give Cam credit), is certainly improved and is really the best offense this team has had since the 2002 season.