With 45 penalties for 370 yards, the Dolphins are showing a vast improvement over recent seasons. Players know why.
DAVIE — In a season that hasn’t provided much to celebrate, this stands out like a beacon. Checking the NFL rankings in critical statistics, you see the Dolphins hovering around No. 28 or worse too often.
And then it jumps out at you: No. 1.
Yes, the Dolphins are more skilled at something than any other team in the league, able to thumb their noses at even the New England Patriots if they wanted to.
The Dolphins are the least-penalized team in the NFL.
Think about how often in recent seasons you’ve groaned at a good play wiped out by a mindless pre-snap penalty. That’s not happening anymore, not with the Dolphins being penalized just 45 times for 370 yards, with both statistics being the league’s best.
“That comes with paying attention to details, understanding that people know you have a job to do,” safety Bobby McCain said. “It really comes from discipline — just being disciplined throughout practice.”
Last season, the Dolphins ranked 25th in penalty yards conceded, 978, so they’re on pace to improve by 238 yards this year. Longtime Dolphins fans can recall how the Don Shula-coached Dolphins had a streak of consecutive seasons leading the league in fewest penalties, but recent seasons have seen just the opposite. Too often, players would make mistakes in practice, yet the workout would continue as if nothing happened.
“You don’t want to skip over it because at the end of the day, it’s going to show up on Sunday,” defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said.
Thank coach Brian Flores and his dreaded wall for the change. He had “TNT” — takes no talent — painted on a wall in the corner of the practice field. Players who commit penalties or mental errors are told to run to the wall and back. Sometimes, their entire unit has to run. Sometimes, their position coaches run, too. It’s a key reason for the vast improvement.
“One hundred percent,” Godchaux said. “Especially in training camp, there isn’t anybody who wants to touch the wall. I think it’s a big factor. It’s all about being disciplined and locked in.”
The Dolphins have nearly half the penalty yards as the worst team, the Raiders. After getting nailed for nine penalties for 64 yards in the opening game, the Dolphins have “won” the penalty battle in every outing since.
And it’s not just being sent to the wall that players dread. Once you get back, you have to run the play until you get it right.
“And you’re already tired,” Godchaux said.
Players are split on what’s worse: running to the wall alone or running with coaches.
“So all of them, they’re pissed, too,” Godchaux said.
But going solo?
“You know all the coaches are sitting back there (bleep-bleeping) you,” offensive lineman Jesse Davis said. “You’re more disappointed in yourself and what you’re going to hear on the way back.”
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