The Dolphins’ offensive futility in 2012 was predictable.
They did little to replace wide receiver Brandon Marshall after trading him to Chicago and started a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, and the result was a measly 18 points per game, sixth worst in the NFL.
This year, Tannehill and coach Joe Philbin have some shiny new toys.
“Brandon Gibson, Dustin Keller, Mike Wallace — those three guys give us obviously some extra tools to work with,” Philbin said Tuesday at the NFL owners’ meetings.
And Philbin now has his fingerprints all over the roster after taking more of a backseat last season. When Philbin was hired in January 2012, general manager Jeff Ireland already had his plans for free agency and the draft. Philbin spent much of his early days building a staff and organizing his program.
But Philbin has been all football this offseason, and Ireland, Philbin and his coaching staff have taken a collaborative approach in building the roster. Philbin said his assistants are helping to decide which players the Dolphins should pursue.
“Jeff and I work closely together,” Philbin said. “His staff does a great job with their film evaluations. Our coaching staff, I think if you ask Jeff, worked their tails off both in their free-agent evaluations and the college draft process.
“Certainly I don’t discuss contracts. That’s not my area of expertise. They certainly take control, but I think we both decide that, ‘We like this player, we think he can help us, contribute to our success, let’s go after him.’ ”
The first player they went after was Wallace, signed away from Pittsburgh after scoring 32 touchdowns in four seasons. He gives the Dolphins a dangerous speed threat at wideout that they haven’t had in years.
On the other side will be Gibson, signed away from St. Louis. He was one of the NFL’s best possession receivers in 2012: 43 of his 51 catches (84.3 percent) went for a first down or a touchdown, the highest percentage in the league.
New at tight end is Keller, who provides even more speed and replaces Anthony Fasano after Fasano bolted for Kansas City.
Second-year pro Lamar Miller will replace the departed Reggie Bush at running back, and someone — either Jonathan Martin or a player not currently on the roster — will replace Jake Long at left tackle.
“Each one of them has his own unique skill set that he can bring to the ball club,” Philbin said. “Mike Wallace we felt brought a dimension to our offense that we didn’t have necessarily. And Brandon Gibson, we just thought this guy is a good football player.”
Philbin said he “absolutely” sees sixth-year receiver Davone Bess still having a role on the team, although Bess’ spot appears shaky after the signings of Wallace and Gibson.
The Dolphins also have several young receivers they like — Rishard Matthews, Armon Binns, Jeff Fuller and Brian Tyms. And of the five or six receivers on an NFL roster, two of them need to be core special-teams players.
“I envision us bringing 10 to 12 guys to training camp,” Philbin said of the receivers. “We’re going to let guys go out and compete, earn their spots and take it from there.”
Even if the Dolphins keep Bess, don’t expect their offense to transform into the second coming of the run-and-shoot. The Dolphins used their fullback and two-tight end sets a lot last year, and that likely won’t change.
“I wouldn’t rule anything out, but four wides, you limit yourself a little bit with balance,” Philbin said. “Maybe on third down a little bit, when everyone in the park knows we’re going to pass the ball anyway.”
Martin, last year’s second-round pick, gives the Dolphins flexibility. He started 37 games at left tackle at Stanford and four games there last year after Long tore his triceps, but he also started the first 12 games last year at right tackle.
Philbin said no decisions have been made about Martin’s position for next year, but he needs to get stronger. According to the website Pro Football Focus, the 47 quarterback pressures he allowed last season were the most among NFL offensive tackles. He also allowed six sacks.
“I think he’s strong enough, but hope, too, because of his age, that there’s still room for growth,” Philbin said. “He’s very quiet, but he’s a very hard worker. On the football field, it’s all business. He’s working on his trade.”