In a league that has been defined by an offensive explosion over the past few years, teams have hit a bit of a wall in the 2023 season.
Ten weeks into the season, teams are averaging 21.77 points per game, which is the lowest mark since 2017, according to TruMedia. The league’s 5.2-yard average per play is the lowest since 2007. And the explosive play rate — the percentage of passes that gain 16 yards and runs that gain 12 yards — is its lowest since 2007.
But the Dolphins, returning from their bye week, remain the NFL standard on offense. Miami leads the league in yards per play, passing yards per game and red zone efficiency, and is second in rushing yards per game. The Dolphins’ big-play offense also leads the NFL with an explosive play rate of 15.7 percent.
“It’s the effort of everyone making this offense come to life,” said quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who at his news conference Wednesday ditched his curly fade look for cornrows. “If you look on the film, a lot of what we do with our actions and whatnot, we can’t go and find that film from another team. No one’s necessarily running the top actions that we run as much. It’s really all based off of training, the fundamentals, the techniques that we’ve been going over every week in practice and going out and trusting what you see and executing them.”
Tagovailoa, whose 19 passing touchdowns are tied with the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen for the most in the NFL, remains among the favorites for the Most Valuable Player award. Tagovailoa has the fourth-lowest odds behind the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts and Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson.
When asked if he wanted to win the award, Tagovailoa said his focus was on getting the Dolphins a Lombardi Trophy.
“I just want to help our team win a Super Bowl,” he said. “I think that that would be the greatest deal. When everything’s said and done, no one can take that away from you.”
The next step for the Dolphins in that goal begins Sunday when they host the Raiders at 1 p.m. Despite an in-season coaching change and struggles on offense, Las Vegas’ defense has held up. The Raiders give up the fifth-lowest rate of explosive plays in the NFL.
“It’s not a team to sleep on and we’ve got to be ready for whatever they have to throw at us,” Tagovailoa said.
Achane rounding into form
Rookie running back De’Von Achane participated in his second straight practice after the Dolphins designated him to return Monday. Coach Mike McDaniel has not committed to him returning to the field Sunday, but McDaniel said Achane “checked all the boxes ... doing ball handling, and he didn’t forget his assignments” Monday.
Though Achane’s work this season has essentially been limited to three games, he’s been a tremendous boost to an already potent offense. The Dolphins lead the NFL with 7.1 yards per play and that figure increases to 9.8 when Achane is on the field. Despite missing the last month, he’s tied for the league lead with six carries of at least 20 yards.
“We’ve all seen the things that he’s done for our offense,” Tagovailoa said. “He’s an electric player. He’s phenomenal. He understands the game. He understands where he goes. He understands his assignment. It’s going to be good. And it’s not [just] him. We’ve got a lot of other guys that are starting to get healthy again and hopefully are going to see the field this weekend.”
OL injuries mounting
While Achane’s return is imminent, the Dolphins could be preparing to play without two more interior offensive linemen.
Right guard Robert Hunt (hamstring) and left guard Robert Jones (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday after sitting out Monday’s walk-through, throwing their availability for Sunday’s game further into doubt.
McDaniel said Hunt, who did not play against the Chiefs in Week 9 and was seen working on the side Wednesday, remains “week to week.” Hunt has not had a setback, McDaniel said, but the team’s focus is ensuring the injury does not linger.
With multiple injuries along the offensive line, the Dolphins worked out a trio of veteran guards — Andrew Norwell, Colby Gossett and Wes Martin — but did not sign any immediately.
“That’s part of the process,” McDaniel said. “You try to get in front of things that could potentially happen. We all know that we can’t control injuries in this game. We all know how many that we’ve sustained during the course of the year and so we have to be prepared if that whole pattern continues. So that’s what that was.”