DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — A goal-line interception at Miami Dolphins practice Monday prompted shouts of delight on defense and a collective sag of the shoulders on offense. There was no expression of either celebration or frustration by coach Joe Philbin, who instead impassively looked at his shoes.
"The initial reaction," Philbin said later, "is that from an offensive standpoint, we've got to do a better job. Conversely, on defense it's fantastic."
Improving turnover differential is Philbin's top priority in training camp. Defensive players are encouraged to take frequent swipes at footballs hanging from the walls of team meeting rooms, and many of Miami's offseason moves were made to increase takeaways or reduce turnovers.
The Dolphins tied for fourth-worst in the NFL last year with 16 takeaways, and also ranked in the league's second division with 26 turnovers. That differential of minus-10 tied for eighth-worst.
"If you ask me why we were 7-9 last year, I would say minus-10," Philbin said. "That's the starting point of everything. It's the starting point of our offense, and it's the starting point of our defense."
The Dolphins have endured four consecutive losing seasons, and during that span they're minus-36 in turnover differential, worst in the NFL. Miami chases reigning AFC East champion New England both in the standings and in turnover differential, where the Patriots led the league in 2012 at plus-25.
In an attempt to gain ground, the Dolphins parted with running back Reggie Bush, cornerback Sean Smith and linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. Bush was benched during one game last year for fumbling, Smith dropped too many potential interceptions, and Dansby and Burnett combined for zero interceptions and fumble recoveries.
The Dolphins added linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, defensive end Dion Jordan and cornerback Brent Grimes. The Dolphins believe Wheeler, Ellerbe and top draft pick Jordan will create more turnovers with their speed and blitzing ability, while Grimes has 13 career interceptions.
Friday's exhibition victory at Jacksonville hinted at progress. Miami's defense recovered two fumbles and made two interceptions, while the offense committed only one turnover. Last year the Dolphins enjoyed a turnover advantage in only five games — and won them all.
A year of experience for Ryan Tannehill should help. He started all 16 games as a rookie last year, and was the only passer among the top 30 to finish with more interceptions (13) than touchdown passes (12).
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