DAVIE, Fla. (AP/CBS) — The Miami Dolphins’ fourth training camp practice had just ended Tuesday, and new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor stepped before a media throng to address the state of the offense, his voice hoarse from hollering.
He hadn’t been shouting a bunch of compliments.
“A wise coach told me once, there’s no bad as long as you learn from it,” Lazor said. “That’s where we are.”
Lazor was hired to upgrade an offense that kept Miami out of the playoffs last year, and while players rave about the system he has installed, there is much work yet to be done. A search remains ongoing for starters at three offensive line positions, and it’s unclear how quickly quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the unit can become comfortable with the new playbook.
Lazor has added more motion, shifts and formations. He wants to be more wide-open while deploying players in multiple positions more often. Most of all, he wants the offense operating at a faster tempo.
“My voice is like this because I’m yelling, ‘Tempo!'” he said. “I’m trying to get them out of the huddle faster. They’re going as fast as they can go, and it’s my job to show them they can go faster. It’s my job to take them places maybe they didn’t think they could get to. Every time you do that with a player, his eyes widen and he’s like, ‘I can be better.’ That’s what we’re looking for.”
But tempo’s tough to achieve when a team’s going three-and-out, which happened all too often in Joe Philbin’s first two years as coach.
In 2013 the Dolphins ranked 27th in the NFL in yards, gave up a franchise-record 58 sacks and saved their worst of last. They scored once in their final 24 possessions while losing twice to blow a potential playoff berth.
“We haven’t been super productive on offense,” Philbin said. “Let’s get that out on the table. That’s a fact.”
In January, Philbin fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and hired the 42-year-old Lazor, who had been quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and helped develop second-year pro Nick Foles into the NFL’s top-rated passer.
The Dolphins’ expectation that things will be different under Lazor begins at the top.
“I’m very excited about Bill Lazor and what he brings to the team,” team owner Stephen Ross said. “That’s probably a major improvement.”
A former Cornell quarterback, Lazor has coached under Chip Kelly, Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs and Mike Holmgren. He describes himself as a difference-maker, which is what Philbin needs after going 15-17 in his first two seasons.
“That’s not to point the spotlight on me,” Lazor said. “It’s more to put the responsibility on me. I’m here to do positive things, provide leadership and help with the expertise. I choose to walk into a job and say, ‘This is what we’re going to make the situation.'”
The buzz about Lazor is such that news photographers and cameramen are restricted to tight shots at practice, an attempt to keep the full scope of the new offense under wraps.
Fans will see what has changed soon enough, Tannehill said.
“It’s a completely different system,” he said. “We have some new concepts, some things we haven’t done in the past, pushing the ball downfield in many different ways. Spreading the field is going to be a big key.”
Receiver Mike Wallace said Lazor adds a new play every day, and anticipates more diversity in the approach. Unlike last year, Wallace will line up on both sides of the field, and he’ll also be targeted over the middle more.
“You’re liable to be anywhere,” Wallace said. “Everybody is playing everything. You don’t have this job or that job; you’ve got all the jobs. That keeps you excited. It’s new for me, and it’s fun.”
Even so, the offense has often looked ugly during the first week of camp, with practices marked by fumbled snaps, blocking breakdowns, wildly errant passes — and screaming coaches.
“We have a whole team of guys who try to do it exactly the way we ask them to do it,” Lazor said. “They’re not perfect. They don’t get it all right. But they’re working hard to get it right.”
The season opener is less than six weeks away.
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