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Lack of speed one reason for Dolphins' offensive woes

DAVIE, Fla. -- A lack of an offensive punch has hurt the Miami Dolphins, especially in their past three games when they only scored a combined 34 points.

Now out of the playoffs, the Dolphins (7-7) are fighting to salvage a winning record as they head into Sunday's home finale against the Detroit Lions.

The plan is to see what can be done against the Lions and the following week at New England to send head coach Tony Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning into the offseason with optimism about the direction of the offense.

That might be a difficult task. Henning said the team this season hasn't had more than three dynamic plays on offense out of "about 800 or so." The Dolphins offense ranks 22nd overall and 31st in scoring.

"On our football team overall, we're missing dynamics," said Henning, who was the architect of the Dolphins' offense in 2008 that helped Miami win the AFC East for the first time in eight years with an 11-5 record.

He said there are other things missing from the Dolphins' game, including dynamic kickoff or punt returns that give the offense excellent field position or an interception return for a touchdown.

Despite having the same coaches from the 2008 team and even having some players on the current roster who are more dynamic than previous Dolphins personnel, Henning said there is a difference between this season's team and the AFC East winners.

"As a team, we're not as efficient, consistent or effective as we were in 2008," he said.

Henning said the team needs speed. One reason behind the offense's lack of speed has to do with the hand injury second-year wide receiver Brian Hartline suffered in the 13-10 home loss to Cleveland on Dec. 5.

"I would just tell you that some of our speed is sitting on the sideline right now and in the locker room in Brian Hartline," Sparano said. "You don't have to be a coach to figure that out, I mean, he runs fast and he's been behind people probably the most out of any player that we've had. ... Now of course we haven't executed some of those plays."

Speed has been a difficult issue for the Dolphins without Hartline this season. Brandon Marshall -- brought in via trade with the Denver Broncos in the offseason because of his size and ability to run after making a catch -- only has three touchdown catches and has been slowed by a right hamstring injury. Slot receiver Davone Bess is tied with Marshall with 71 receptions but doesn't have breakaway speed.

Sparano previously has noted other hurdles with the offense, including that the Dolphins running game struggled with second-level blocking and that red zone efficiency was a concern.

Marshall deferred to Henning's opinion on the speed of the offense but became defensive when reporters questioned his game.

"I don't know. I guess I'm not good enough no more," he said. "I don't know what you want me to say. Nothing is missing in my game, nothing at all."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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