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Miami Dolphins: A "drastic change" in store as offense plans on "opening it up"

As this lockout continues to drag on, there's not really much for us to discuss other than to rehash and over-analyze some of the critical questions facing the Miami Dolphins in 2011. And outside of the team's quarterback situation - which has been beaten to a pulp by fans and the media alike - the second hottest topic is probably how new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll plans on utilizing the pieces he has inherited on offense.

By the mid point of last season, we all pretty much knew Dan Henning was on his way out. There may have been a riot at Sun Life Stadium if the aging offensive coordinator didn't step down from his position after the season. We had all grown tired of his overly conservative play-calling and philosophies - though it's worth noting that Henning isn't solely to blame for the conservative nature of this offense.

Regardless, Henning's system just wasn't getting the job done. It was stale. It was predictable. It was ineffective.

The Dolphins finished the 2010 season ranked 21st in overall offense, averaging 323 yards per game. The Dolphins were also 30th in the league in scoring, averaging just over 17 points per game. Something was obviously broken. While the players deserve their fair share of the blame, there's no doubt it was time for Henning to do. Too often did his offense take the conservative route. And too often did Henning's play-calling leave us scratching our heads.

Enter Brian Daboll, Miami's new offensive coordinator after spending the last two years in Cleveland as their offensive coordinator.

Unfortunately, it's easy to see why many fans were left scratching their heads after this hiring by Miami's front offense. Daboll's track record isn't exactly sparkling. In fact, his offense in Cleveland was even worse than Miami's, averaging 36 fewer yards per game than the Dolphins. Despite having less talent to work with, though, his offense in Cleveland put up just two fewer points over the full 16 game season and averaged an identical five yards per play.

More important than his production in Cleveland, though, are his offensive philosophies. Many fans worry that Daboll's power running offensive system will be too similar to what we've had to endure recently under Henning. But offensive tackle Lydon Murtha disagrees, telling 640 AM's Orlando Alzugaray that things will be different with Daboll calling the shots.

"We're opening it up this year. It's going to be a great time," Murtha says. "Some of the things we're doing will definitely be a drastic change. You'll see, come game day."

So is Daboll conservative?

"The opposite of conservative. He's the man. He's the risk taker when it comes to that," says Murtha. "He knows you got to be able to open up the whole field on game day. And that's exactly what he's going to do. He's motivated and he's on fire and he's ready to roll and he can't wait."

I already mentioned back in January that the Browns, with Daboll calling the shots last year, used at least four receivers on over 40% of their pass plays. The Dolphins, meanwhile, went with at least four receivers on only 20% of their pass plays. And please don't use the excuse of the Dolphins not having four receivers worthy of seeing extended snaps. Do you think the Browns were any deeper at receiver? Their top four receivers were Mohamed Massaquoi, Chansi Stuckey, Brian Robiskie, and Joshua Cribbs.

Digging just a little deeper, you'll see that the Browns did open it up and air it out a little bit more often than the Dolphins did in 2010. Cleveland quarterbacks threw 11% of their passes more than 20 yards down field while Miami quarterbacks only attempted passes of 20 or more yards on 8.6% of their pass attempts. Over the course of a 500 pass attempt season, that's a difference of about one deep shot per game.

While these numbers don't exactly show Brian Daboll as an aggressive play-caller by any means, it shows that he's more willing to allow his quarterbacks the opportunities to make plays down the field - whether it's by going long or by spreading out the defense by going four or five wide. And with the suddenly deep receiving corps the Dolphins now have - assuming rookie Edmond Gates can come in and contribute right away - we could be in store for a more exciting offense in 2011.

Or whenever games are finally played.