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The Dolphins have to fix this if they are going to succeed in 2018 (Vol. 2)

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Miami Dolphins v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Earlier today, we took a look at the massive number of penalties the Miami Dolphins have sustained over the past few years. In 2017, the team was penalized 137 times, the second most flags thrown against a team for the season. That follows being second in the league in flags in 2016 and fourth in 2015.

We follow that up this morning with a closer look at the Dolphins’ 2017 penalties. All this information is via NFLPenalties.com.

Miami Dolphins penalties 2017

Week Opponent Off Penalties Def Penalties Total Yards
Week Opponent Off Penalties Def Penalties Total Yards
2 Los Angeles Chargers 2 3 5 23
3 New York Jets 3 4 7 51
4 New Orleans Saints 7 3 10 90
5 Tennessee Titans 1 2 3 23
6 Atlanta Falcons 2 2 4 42
7 New York Jets 5 3 8 76
8 Baltimore Ravens 2 4 6 43
9 Oakland Raiders 7 3 10 107
10 Carolina Panthers 3 3 6 57
11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 12 2 14 123
12 New England Patriots 1 5 6 52
13 Denver Broncos 4 1 5 85
14 New England Patriots 2 4 6 102
15 Buffalo Bills 3 3 6 60
16 Kansas City Chiefs 4 7 11 75
17 Buffalo Bills 7 7 14 145

Miami averaged 4.1 offensive penalties a game, 3.5 defensive penalties a game, and 72.1 yards given up in each game. That is not efficient football, and it goes back to the point that the Dolphins have to change their frequency of being penalized.

Miami committed 24 offensive holding penalties in 2017, along with 22 false starts, 12 unnecessary roughness, 10 defensive holding penalties, 10 neutral zone infractions, 9 illegal blocks above the waist, 8 defensive pass interference, 6 unsportsmanlike conducts, 6 face mask penalties, 6 offensive pass interference penalties, 5 defensive offsides, 4 illegal formations, 4 illegal use of hands, 2 delays of game, 2 encroachments, 2 roughing the passer, 1 illegal forward pass, 1 defensive 12-men on the field, 1 intentional grounding, and 1 illegal motion. The also had two disqualifications (note, NFLPenalties.com only includes one disqualification - the flag on Landry at the end of the Bills game in Week 17, but Kenyan Drake was also ejected on that same play).

Miami also had 24 penalties in 2017 that were either declined or offset, which are not included in these stats, but could be plays that remove large gains for the offense or key stops for the defense, only to have the down replayed.

Now, in comparison, the Dolphins did receive 67.3 yards per game from penalties against the opponent, with 3.9 of those flags coming from the opponent’s offense and 2.1 of those flags against the opponent’s defense.

The difference does not appear to be that great, but if Miami can start to bring down those penalties, and stop being among the top two teams in the league in penalties, then they will start to see those numbers benefit Miami, rather than putting them in a hole. Especially when there are games like the Week 17 contest against the Bills last year, where Miami was penalized 145 yards, compared to Buffalo’s 45 yards. That is an entire football-field advantage the Dolphins handed the Bills.

The discussion about penalties for the Dolphins has turned toward players like Mike Pouncey, Ndamukong Suh, and Jarvis Landry, all of whom seemed to be penalized a lot, and none of whom are now on the team. Where did they actually rank in the Dolphins’ penalty stats?

Miami Dolphins Top 10 Penalized Players 2017

Rank Player Pos. Penalties Penalties Per Game Yardage Yardage Per Game
Rank Player Pos. Penalties Penalties Per Game Yardage Yardage Per Game
1 Laremy Tunsil OT 12 0.8 78 5.2
2 Davon Godchaux DT 9 0.6 55 3.7
3(t) Mike Pouncey C 8 0.5 70 4.4
3(t) Xavien Howard CB 8 0.5 98 6.1
5(t) Kenny Stills WR 7 0.44 65 4.1
5(t) Ndamukong Suh DT 7 0.44 61 3.8
5(t) Jermon Bushrod G 7 0.7 60 6
8(t) Jarvis Landry WR 5 0.31 60 3.8
8(t) Cameron Wake DE 5 0.31 36 2.3
10(t) Ja'Wuan James OT 4 0.5 30 3.8
10(t) Ted Larsen G 4 0.5 35 4.4
10(t) Reshad Jones S 4 0.25 33 2.1
10(t) Sam Young OT 4 0.4 30 3
10(t) Alterraun Verner CB 4 0.27 32 2.1

[Editor’s Note: The original version of this table incorrectly calculated the average penalties and yards per game for each player. The source data was based on 16 games played for each player. The data is now adjusted to based on the actual games played for each player.]

There is some support for the Dolphins getting better, at least penalty wise, without Pouncey, Suh, and Landry. Pouncey will be replaced by Daniel Kilgore, who was penalized four times last year or 0.25 times per game. Suh will be replaced by Davon Godchaux, who will see more playing time from last year, but was already high on the list for the Dolphins. Meanwhile, the other starting defensive tackle, Jordan Phillips, was only penalized twice last year, giving up five total yards. And, while Landry was not the most penalized wide receiver on the team last year, he will be replaced, most likely, by Danny Amendola, who was only flagged twice last season, or 0.1 flags per game.

It is not a perfect comparison, because the Dolphins could see someone else jump into the lead for the Dolphins, or a rookie who is coming into the team could make up for the difference from individual players who have left the team. Not having Suh on the roster should see the encroachment and offsides penalties go down some, given how aggressively Suh fires off the snap. Not having Pouncey will, theoretically, decrease some of the holding penalties against the Dolphins. And not having Landry should help with some of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties - though those are not common as you would think, having only been called on Landry twice last year.

Ultimately, the Dolphins have to simply become a more disciplined team, limiting the number of penalties they have during each game. The coaching staff has to stress this in camp and in the preseason. The players have to buy into the idea of making penalties unacceptable. They need to limit the times where they give an opponent a free 100 yards.