Will Dolphins' offense improve on third down and in red zone?

The Miami Dolphins’ offense on third down and inside the red zone last season often was an exercise in futility. Miami ranked 30th in the NFL in third-down conversions and 27th in scoring at just 19.4 points per game. The combination was a major factor in the team’s disappointing 6-10 finish.

This offseason, the Dolphins put in a lot of work on improving in those two areas in organized team activities and minicamp. New head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen both have a history of leading prolific offenses with the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts, respectively.

Both coaches know an extra touchdown per game could be the difference between a winning and losing season for Miami.

“I think that’s the fastest, quickest way for us to improve is third down and red zone,” Christensen said during OTAs. “So many of those games, the difference [between] a field goal and a touchdown is four points. Most of these games come down to four points. We’re planning on being in a lot of close games and being in some close games that second half of the season. Those red zone snaps are a huge deposit we want to make right from the get-go.”

Miami’s offense will have a much different look under Gase and Christensen. Two of the biggest changes involve a faster tempo and much more freedom for fifth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

The Dolphins plan to move the ball quickly and get more snaps per game. That puts pressure on defenses, but it also requires Miami’s offense to be successful on third down to keep its defense off the field for extended periods of time. Last year the Dolphins converted on just 30.7 percent of third downs. Only the San Francisco 49ers (30.5 percent) and Los Angeles Rams (25.9 percent) were worse.

In practices open to the media, Miami worked on red zone offense more this spring than at any point in the past few years. The Dolphins are aware that this will be one of the major keys to the regular season.

“Gase and I found out the same thing: When you’re up-tempo like this, you have a lot more red zone snaps,” Christensen said. “There are some times when our red zone snaps have been up near 350. That’s a chunk, so we took and made it a little more quantity of red zone snaps in our practice. The percentage, get that up, because when you do hurry-up, the ball tends to move and all of a sudden, bang, you’re in the red zone quickly, and there tends to be more snaps in there.”