James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer 291d

Dolphins' Adam Gase must fix offense, Jay Cutler before it's too late

Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase had harsh words for his offense last week. He called the play of his group "garbage" in public and, according to starting quarterback Jay Cutler, had even stronger words behind closed doors.

Gase challenged Miami’s offense and, instead of showing improvement, they were shutout for the first time since the 2013 season in Sunday’s 20-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The response by Miami’s offense is concerning. Many of the same issues popped up for the second straight week, which include penalties, lack of energy and players not winning one-on-one matchups. The Dolphins are 2-of-20 on third-down conversions the past two weeks.

The Dolphins (1-2) have averaged 8.3 points a game this season. They are lucky to have one win with the way they’re playing on offense. The Los Angeles Chargers missed a last-second kick in Week 2 to help the Dolphins to their only win of the season.

“It’s not time to panic,” Gase said. “We’ve been through way worse than this. So we want to figure out what’s going on and then fix the problem. That’s really the only thing we’re concerned about.”

It is up to Gase to fix Miami’s offense before it is too late. Last year Miami started 1-4 before getting hot and winning 10 games. However, each season is different and the Dolphins can’t rely on the same formula, especially with the fifth-toughest strength of schedule in the NFL.

One big difference this season is at quarterback. The Dolphins are relying on Cutler, who replaced injured starter Ryan Tannehill (knee) in August. Cutler is at his best when he’s aggressive throwing down the field. However, the Dolphins are being conservative thus far and making Cutler focus on short throws, which is not his strength.

Gase knows this better than anyone. He must take chances and be more imaginative with Cutler.

Cutler was praised for his performance with Gase as his offensive coordinator in 2015 with the Chicago Bears. Cutler had one of the most efficient performances of his career, but a fact rarely mentioned is Cutler was 6-9 as a starter in Gase’s offense.

Cutler is now 7-11 as a starter with Gase when you add in this season. Overall the 12th-year quarterback hasn’t played winning football throughout his career (69-73). That was one of the major risks the Dolphins absorbed when they invested $10 million in signing Cutler.

Changes are needed with Miami’s offense, but most of it is with scheme and playcalling at this stage. This is a group that lacks confidence and smooth execution, not talent.

In terms of offensive personnel, the Dolphins are pretty much stuck with what they had. The roster lacks quality depth on the offensive line and at most skill positions to make significant changes.

Gase is correct in saying it is much too soon to consider a quarterback change from Cutler to backup Matt Moore. The Dolphins must stick with their decision to convince Cutler to come out of retirement for now. But Miami is already at a critical point in its season where Gase, Cutler and the offense must all do a better job to win games.

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