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The Red-Zone Inefficiency of the Miami Dolphins

It feels good to be back to my regular posting routine. With training camp just around the corner (rookies report July 22), these are some exciting times. However, for Chris Chambers, they may be too exciting. Either way, now is a good time to take a look at just how horrid Miami's red zone offense was last season.

First of all, let's just look at the basic numbers. Here are the red-zone stats for the Dolphins in 2006:

Poss. TDs FGs Score% TD%
46 20 15 76% 43%

Alright, that's pretty terrible. These numbers placed the Dolphins in 24th overall for touchdown percentage and 29th overall for scoring percentage. How can an NFL football team fail to score 24% of the time they get into the red zone? If you think about it, failing to score 11 times in the red zone over a course of a season can mean anywhere between 10 extra points to 70 extra points. Without a doubt, that could mean the difference in at least one or two extra games. That's dreadful!

Sadly, however, this is something Dolphin fans have learned to deal with over the past few years. In fact, since 2004, the Dolphins have scored a touchdown in just 43% of their red zone trips and have failed to score 24% of the time. That's good for DEAD LAST in the entire NFL over that span. Teams like the Lions and Cardinals have been more efficient in the red zone than the Dolphins. In fact, only 3 other teams fail to score in the red zone over 20% of the time. Those are Green Bay (22%), Oakland (21%), and New Orleans (20%).

In contrast, the Chargers (Cam Cameron's old team) have scored touchdowns in 69% of their red zone trips since 2004. That's just 7% less than the number of times the Dolphins have scored at all!! Also over that span, the Chargers have failed to score in just 7% of their trips inside the 20. Now, needless to say, San Diego's personnel is far superior to that of Miami's over that same span, but it's still something that, regardless of personnel, a professional team needs to be good at (producing in the red zone) if they expect to win football games.

So who is to blame? The players? The coaches? In my opinion, you blame everyone. You blame the head coach, the assistants, and every player out there on offense, from the QB to the kicker.

I went back and broke down every red zone trip for the Dolphins in 2006. And here is the bottom line: the Dolphins averaged just 3.15 yards per play in the red zone. It's no wonder you can't score points when you can't pick up yards and first downs. I also learned that play calling is a huge deal in the red zone.

The play calling by Mike Mularkey last season in the red zone was terrible. The Dolphins ran 133 plays in the red zone in 2006 and 82 of them (62%) where passes. That's not how you put points on the board inside the 20, especially when you have inept QB play. How inept was it. Here's the combined numbers for Miami's QBs inside the 20:

Comp Att Pct Yds YPA TDs Ints Sacks
36 75 48% 284 3.78 13 4 5

That's right. Miami's QBs only completed 48% of their passes in the red zone and threw 4 picks. In fact, there was a 2-game span (vs NE and at Buff) where Miami's QB did not even complete a red zone pass. How can an offensive coordinator call 62% pass plays when his QB, and his passing game as a whole, can't get the job done?

Well I'll tell you how. It's because the running game couldn't get it going either. Inside the 20, Dolphin running backs carried it 51 times for just 135 yards (2.64 ypc) and 6 TDs. Now, obviously ypc aren't going to be as high in the red zone because of how short the field is, but you still need to avarage over 3 yards per carry. Of course, that's still no excuse to run the ball just 3 times per game in the red zone, especially when your best offensive weapon is Ronnie Brown. But even Ronnie can't do anything when the line blocking for him isn't opening up holes and is allowing defenders into the backfield, causing the ball carrier to get hit prior to the line of scrimmage. So really, every aspect of the offense needs drastic improvement in the red zone.

But there is hope. Cam Cameron's offenses have been very successful in the red zone. Now, like I said earlier, I'm aware that this Dolphins team doesn't have the personnel that his Chargers' teams had on offense, but personnel isn't everything when you talk red zone offense. If it was, then there would be no way teams like the Lions, Bucs, Browns, and Titans would be more efficient inside the 20 than the Dolphins have been, in terms of both TD percentage and scoring percentage. Coaching, preparation, and play calling have a huge impact on this aspect of football and is why I believe that there is no reason the Dolphins won't be much more efficient inside the 20 this year. I mean, they have to improve. They have nowhere to go but up.

Now let's quickly talk about what we have coming up this week. Tomorrow, Travis Wingfield checks in for the first time in 2 weeks with his latest piece. Then on Wednesday, we will begin breaking down the roster position by position in preparation of the start if training camp. Then on Friday, "Around the AFC East" returns, discussing all 4 AFC East teams with the bloggers who cover them. And as always, I welcome your e-mails, as a new edition of "Ask The Phinsider" is around the corner. You can send them to