Through all the Dolphins offensive struggles this year, coach Adam Gase has remained steadfast in his support of quarterback Jay Cutler, laying most of the blame for his team’s lack of consistency and scoring on the play of the offensive linemen and wide receivers.
Linemen blocking the wrong guys and would-be pass catchers running the wrong routes were at the root of the problem early, said Gase, whose team has shown signs the last couple games of finally breaking out of its slump, albeit at the rate a baby chick breaks out of its egg.
That doesn’t mean the problems have all disappeared.
Though Gase was quick to acknowledge that the play of his offensive line and in particular that of left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Ja’Wuan James improved markedly last week, there are still some issues with his pass catchers that need to be addressed.
The biggest is simply catching the ball. By Gase’s count, Dolphins receivers have dropped 10 passes the last two weeks, including five in the Dolphins 16-10 victory over the Titans two weeks ago and five more in their 20-17 victory over the Falcons last Sunday.
Both of those were more or less comeback victories, the Dolphins bouncing back after blowing a 10-0 lead to beat the Titans and rallying from 17 points down to beat the Falcons, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that a few more caught passes might have erased the need for the rally.
“Yeah, I don’t know (what the problem is), we just haven’t caught them,’’ Gase said. “And that’s an area that we’re really stressing and need to improve on, obviously, because right now, I think we’re dead last in the league with catchable passes.’’
Not quite. The Dolphins rank 30th in the league in the percentage of catchable balls that have been dropped, allowing 20-percent to fall to the ground. No matter the ranking, the issue has clearly slowed the Dolphins attack, Gase said.
“I don’t know if they could be touchdowns, but right now, it’s all about first downs and putting ourselves in manageable positons,’’ Gase said. “I mean, I think we’ve got like 15 first downs of missed opportunities on the season. That hurts you. That’s time off the clock.
“That’s another chance to score, another chance to get in the red zone. And with us, if our defense is fresh and they’re out there and they’re able to play the way they’re playing and we keep them out of that 65-plus play range per game, that’s a good thing for us.’’
Dropped passes aren’t a good thing, especially for an offense that is averaging just 12.2 points per game. That is last in the league. There’s no debating that. But Cutler believes the problem is a temporary one that will soon be eliminated.
“I think we’ve got guys with really good hands that can make plays for us,’’ Cutler said. “Whether it’s lack of concentration or me putting the ball in a little bit different place for them, it’ll come. We’ll clean that stuff up along the way. If dropped passes are our biggest concern, I feel pretty good about that.’’