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The Good

Duke Johnson has been quite a find for the Dolphins. 117 yards on the ground and a touchdown. The Dolphins running game was very productive gaining 195 yards on the ground (38 of these gained by Tua).

Xavien Howard ends the season with a bang, picking off a Mac Jones pass for a touchdown.

The Bad

The offensive line was so bad in pass protection, that on obvious passing downs there was almost no hope that the offense would be able to convert.

The Ugly

The passing game started off well, but once Bellicheck figured out how to stop the short, quick passes, it went downhill. Obviously this is mostly a byproduct of the Dolphins offensive line being unable to consistently pass protect. It was clear on obvious passing plays (for example, plays with empty backfield) that the Dolphins offensive line would not be able to hold up. Conversely, you often (not always) saw Mac Jones get enough time to throw on obvious passing situations once the Patriots figured out how to counter the Dolphins pressure.

Overall

Two winning seasons in a row, but two season where we miss the playoffs. It is clear to me that the highest priority on this team is the offensive line. It doesn't have to be an elite offensive line, just an effective one. This offensive line is ranked 32nd in pass protection and 31st in run blocking (surprising there is one worse than the Dolphins at run blocking). Four out of the five players are replaceable. At one point in the season, the top three worst players in pressures allowed were Dolphins offensive linemen (Eich, Jackson, Davis). I'm not sure if that is still the case, but I am sure those guys are still near the top of the list.

If the Dolphins could field even an average offensive line, I believe the entire offense would be significantly more productive. The lack of pass protection severely limits the Dolphins passing game. Everything is based on RPO and short quick passes. At some point, to win a game, an offense must be able to run pro pass sets in obvious passing situations. The offensive line must be able to afford the quarterback a clean pocket from which to throw to in order to convert obvious passing third downs. The offensive line must open holes for running backs in obvious running situations as well. The RPO affords an effective but limited option to mask offensive line deficiencies. At the end of the day, a team needs to be able to block to win.

Unfortunately, all of the chatter points to the Dolphins going after a quarterback facing a significant number of sexual assault allegations (Deshaun Watson). As a back-up plan, there are rumors that they could go after a 34-year old stat-padder (Kirk Cousins). Instead of effectively addressing an issue that has plagued the Dolphins for over a decade, they will most likely throw money and picks at a high risk player that might not even suit up. I hope that turns out not to be the case. I would rather see Tua get an opportunity with better surrounding talent and draft competition for him.

Until next season....

The Bad

Well, really the entire team didn't seem to show up, but let's focus on the offense.

On offense, this loss starts with the worst offensive line in the NFL, that allowed 4 sacks and countless pressures while doing very little, again, in opening up holes for the running backs. Late in the season, when the weather plays a role, a running game becomes your best friend. The Dolphins gained 74 yards on the ground, the Titans gained 198. Until this team builds a running game that can be effective late in the season, it will continue being more of the same. You can literally chock up the difference in the game to which team had the better offensive line. Tennesee, missing the best running back in the NFL, still managed to run through a very good Dolphins defense. The Titans didn't win because Ryan Tannehill set the world on fire. They won because D'Onta Foreman (who???) did.

Which brings me to my next point. Duke Johnson had 49 yards on 7 carries. But Duke Johnson had 7 carries....???? Again, on a day when the weather played a huge role, Tua Tagovailoa was asked to drop back 42 times and the Dolphins ran the ball 16 times. Tannehill dropped back 19 times and the Titans ran the ball 40 times. Are we seeing a pattern here?

Tua Tagovailoa had his worst game of the season. Yes, dealing with the worst offensive line in the NFL against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Dealing with some extremely questionable playcalling on a day where rain and sleet was clearly impacting his ability to hold throw the ball. But he shoulders some of the blame for his decision-making. Throws into coverage, holding onto the ball at times.

Lastly, on offense, the wide receivers seemed to struggle getting open. Honestly, they should have a bit of an advantage on a wet field, but the Dolphins receivers continue to struggle getting separation, as they did last season.

The Ugly

On defense, the Dolphins were doing a good job early at containing the run and Ryan Tannehill was a bit off. But they eventually broke down in large part due to lack of help from the offense. There also seemed a lack of calling blitzes on 2nd and 3rd down, even though there were opportunities early to do so. Eventually, the Titans prevented the Dolphins from going into their zeo blitz by stuffing the run down their throats and getting 3-4 yards a pop on early downs. The second half defense appeared to be a team that had given up.

Overall

The Dolphins controlled their own destiny to make the playoffs. After clawing their way back from a horrible start, all that effort didn't pay off as they played probably their worst game of the season against the Titans. So a lot of questions still persist and they are all about next year and beyond:

1. What will the Dolphins do to address the offensive line situation. Right now, the only valuable piece is at right guard (and maybe should be at right tackle). Everyone else has proven nothing and some have proven they probably shouldn't be a starting offensive lineman in the NFL? With all of the cap room opening up, the Dolphins need to focus on addressing this unit once and for all.

2. What are the longterm plans at quarterback? Tua, much like Tannehill when he was in Miami, was not dealt a fair hand when it came to an offensive line. Almost any NFL quarterback would struggle behind this unit. Despite Tua being the quickest quarterback in the NFL at getting rid of the ball, three Dolphins offensive line were top 3 at allowing pressures in the entire league. Tua might be reaching David Carr sack numbers if he didn't get rid of the ball so quickly.

3. What about wide receiver? The current group does not provide a good compliment to Jaylen Waddle, who is obviously our future at the position. But with all the injury-proness at the position, something needs to be done to address longterm and provide some support to open him up.

4. Are Flores and Grier really safe? I say they are, though they may not deserve to be. But Flores needs to prove he can coach for a full season and Grier needs to prove he can actually address the offensive line. For all his hits in the draft, and yes of course some misses, he seems to miss a lot at offensive line and it is hurting the team badly.

Unfortunately, next week doesn't change anything and all we can do is wait for another offseason to see if anything will actually change.

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