Adam Gase eyes O-line, not Jay Cutler, as reason for Dolphins' offensive struggles
Among the first things Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase told quarterback Ryan Tannehill last year, in the early days of their first season together, was that he’d always have his back. That’s still true for Gase’s quarterback, only now his name is Jay Cutler.
Although Miami’s offense has only averaged 8.3 points per game and has one touchdown in the past two weeks, Gase said Wednesday he isn’t worried about Cutler’s performance or knowledge of the playbook.
“He’s fine,” Gase said. “That’s the last person I’m worried about.”
The story is different, however, for Gase regarding the offensive line. He seems to put the bulk of the offense’s problems whether it’s running or passing on them.
The offensive linemen have taken their poor performance to heart.
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“Guys are pissed,” center Mike Pouncey said. “There were fights today at practice.”
But for the quarterback, the finger of blame is a long way away.
“That’s one of the reasons I came here,” said Cutler, the 34 year old who came out of retirement in August to sign with Gase, his offensive coordinator in Chicago in 2015, and the Dolphins.
“I knew that the quarterback position, [Gase] holds that relationship in high regard. You know he’s always going to have your back and he’s always going to do things game plan-wise and calling plays to help out the quarterback and the offensive line as much as possible. That’s never going to be a doubt or concern of mine.”
Gase said the big thing for Cutler (two touchdowns, two interceptions, 80.4 passer rating) is he doesn’t have time to pass, especially when it comes to throwing downfield.
“You only can make a throw if you’re upright,” Gase said. “There’s been a few times where we’ve called some things and we haven’t been able to get the ball off whether it’s some kind of pressure issue, or he’s had to escape from the pocket and he’s had to lower his eyes.”
Gase didn’t leave Cutler totally without blame, however. He pointed out Cutler, who often seems to throw off his back foot, needs to work on his mechanics.
“He’s not 25 anymore,” Gase said. “So those off-balance throws, they’re tougher. They’re not going to happen like they used to.
“And he knows that, and we’ve talked about being able to find that soft spot in the pocket, set your feet and make the throw.”
But Gase thinks that’s a pass protection problem.
“I think the biggest thing is we just have get him comfortable in the pocket,” he said of his quarterback.
“We’ve got to be able to let him set his feet. Really, that’s the No. 1 thing that we’ve just got to keep working on.”
But Gase also knows his running game, led by rugged running back Jay Ajayi, has also been inadequate. That’s a problem because it’s the base of the offense yet Ajayi, who had 28 carries for 122 yards in the season-opening victory against the Los Angeles Chargers has 23 carries for only 36 yards in the two games since.
Gase doesn’t seem concerned about Ajayi, a Pro Bowler last season.
“It’s very rare that he’ll make a mistake with his run reads,” Gase said.
Once again, it gets back to the offensive line.
Pouncey seems confident the offensive line, which allowed just 30 sacks last season, tied for 10th fewest in the NFL, and led a rushing game that was ninth in the league, can get things turned around this Sunday against Tennessee.
“It is one thing on this play, another on another play,” he said. “We’ve just got to start playing as a whole unit and once we do that, we’ve seen what that turns into, and that turns into our offense looking really good.
“We’ll get back on track this week and look forward to running the ball a lot more.”