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Expect Chad O'Shea's Dolphins offense to emphasize playmakers

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DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins don't have a 2019 starting quarterback yet, but they recently started constructing their offense with hope of maximizing what they have on this roster.

There will certainly be a lot of Patriot influence, given that first-time playcaller and offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea has spent nearly half his coaching career in New England, but look for assistant head coach/QB coach Jim Caldwell to play a significant role in putting together a formula that works. A combination of O'Shea's matchup-based, week-to-week schemes and Caldwell's offenses in Detroit, Baltimore and Indianapolis could create a strong pairing.

"An important part of the offense is the ability to be multiple, to not be a specific scheme," O'Shea said. "But again, it goes back to we're going to do what the players do well, and what are their strengths? We always identify what they can do, not what they cannot do, and game plan or set up our offense according to that."

That word -- multiple -- has been circulating around Dolphins headquarters this month. It has become a bit of a cliché in NFL circles, but it's a modern way of saying we won't be predictable and we will value our players' strengths over a stubborn scheme.

Of course, nothing can be finalized until Miami picks its 2019 starting quarterback. O'Shea, Caldwell and the rest of the staff are saying the right things about Ryan Tannehill with him still on the roster, but the Dolphins are expected to move on from him this offseason. Meanwhile, as O'Shea awaits the quarterback to run his new scheme, he has begun figuring out the other important pieces of it.

One O'Shea theme is that the most valuable Dolphins offensive players will be the most versatile ones -- players who can transcend scheme and excel at more than one task. Look for Miami's offense and its roster as a whole to be shaped around that sort of player.

That's great news for Albert Wilson, Kenyan Drake, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker -- just a small handful of young Dolphins who fit that description. O'Shea has a difficult task ahead in improving the NFL's 31st-ranked offense while rebuilding, but he and his staff have made it clear the new scheme will be flexible and will emphasize playmakers.

Don't expect the Dolphins to be big spenders in free agency this offseason, and some of the roster could be torn down before it is rebuilt. But when looking at the rebuilding Dolphins, there are pieces to be excited about at running back and, to a lesser extent, receiver.

O'Shea's eyes widened when discussing running backs being utilized in the passing game. That aspect has been an evolving trend in the NFL this decade, and few teams have exploited that mismatch better than the Patriots. There was a resounding "yes" when O'Shea was asked if that will be a significant part of his offense in Miami.

"The back is an important part of the offense. The skill position, obviously, is something that is an important part, but the backs in particular. I think it's something that you look at the Dolphins' roster right now, [and] it's exciting to look at the backs," O'Shea said. "Competitively playing against those backs in New England that are in Miami now, it's been a group that has a lot of strengths, and I can't wait to work with them."

Miami looks prepared to hand the keys of the backfield to Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, two young backs who have shown flashes in the pass game and run game. Drake was expected to be Miami's feature back in 2018, but an impressive season by the ageless Frank Gore and former coach Adam Gase's frustration with Drake's boom-or-bust running style forced him into a committee. The 2019 Dolphins might be more willing to unleash Drake and Ballage.

"Backs have natural instincts. How much can you change it? How much do you adjust that? You take away what their God-given ability is," running back coach Eric Studesville said. "I want them to think about big plays."

Dolphins receivers coach Karl Dorrell also discussed the importance of dynamic players and noticed a few on Miami's 2018 offense. He singled out Wilson as a game-changer.

Wilson, who was used as a running back and wildcat quarterback, led the NFL in yards after catch and the Dolphins in receiving yards before he suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 7 against Detroit. His recovery is going well, and he's expected to be back on the field for offseason workouts.

"He was pretty dynamic, wasn't he? He's a very unique player. I'm really excited about him," Dorrell said. "You could tell when he was on the field, he had a number of ways to affect the defense and to make the defense really pay attention to where he is and things like that.

"The things that stick out to me is that they can make plays once they make the catch. I think that's a very strong quality in this league. It's hard to gain yards in the NFL. You have to beat them on scheme, but as you beat them on scheme, how do you extend that scheme to be a big play? I think there are some dynamic players [here] that can do that."

A combination of Wilson, veteran big-play threat Kenny Stills and explosive speedster Jakeem Grant is a versatile trio for Miami's receiving corps to start with, regardless of what happens with the uncertain futures of receivers Danny Amendola and DeVante Parker.

When the Dolphins gain pieces via the draft and free agency, look for them to continue to target this type of versatile playmaker.