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I asked Dave if I could wait until after the trade deadline to write this and the Miami Dolphins didn't disappoint by making zero moves while talking up the guys they have (hint, that is sarcasm). So much for giving me something to spice up this blog.

The Dolphins sit at 4-4 for the third time in Adam Gase's tenure. Injuries have a lot to do with this and I'm not going to dismiss the positives because of them. But, we now have a head coach maybe approaching the hot seat, a hopeful franchise QB more than likely on his last stretch as the team's starter and a defensive coordinator who is one bad call away from being fired. The only reason we aren't bringing an offensive coordinator into the discuss is because Gase assumes that role. Usually when this happens you are on the verge of a January reset.

After 8 games I see Gase's vision for the offense and it really isn't bad. In fact, it could be very successful if he trades out certain elements for a more balanced system. Yes, Miami can win 10 games if the players execute properly. Is this the foundation for an annual competitor? That is a different story and I think when we summarize this we realize Miami is built to make the playoffs but probably not travel deep into them.

The defense is fatally flawed right now and Gase's response about everyone just playing better tells you all you need to know. The scheme, the instruction, the coaches...nothing is going to miraculously save this unit and it is why the front office probably didn't try to acquire someone at the deadline.

 

So what has gone right?

The Dolphins have what could be a very good receiving group. Trading out Jarvis Landry for Albert Wilson (pre injury) and Danny Amendola certainly created more speed and big play opportunity on the field. Wilson was on the verge of a monster statistical season. When you had every receiver participating - Kenny Stills, Devante Parker, Wilson, Amendola, Jakeem Grant - we saw the results of what could be an awesome passing attack in the Oakland Raiders game.

The running game is also a positive, despite Gase's hesitation to lean on it. This is what I was referring to with adding balance. Too many 1st down plays are quick outs or screens for 2 yards. When Gase leans on Frank Gore to find a hole he comes through for 3 or 4 yards. Kenyan Drake showed the last two weeks that when he finds the edge big plays happen. Before injury Albert Wilson was using his elusiveness to add to the ground game. Both QBs, Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler, are very capable of gaining chunk yardage on keepers. It isn't too late for Miami to use this as the foundation of their offense, and, to also set up play action throws to the intermediate portions of the field where receivers can do damage.

 

Turnovers.

Miami's dreadful defense has been saved by turnovers and I like how the young secondary has ball hawks. Kiko Alonso has shined in this department for the linebacking crew.

 

What has gone wrong?

Well what hasn't? Gase gets too pass happy with his play calling and has made curious decisions about who should suit up on game day. Burke looks like he can neither scheme nor adjust his defense for any game. Tannehill seems stuck as a decent QB who flashes but will never be consistent or very good. The offensive line is once again injury riddled and is routinely pushed around by opponents. The defensive line...see the previous sentence. The defensive ends are not applying adequate pressure nor accumulating sacks. The linebackers are going through mega growing pains and struggle in coverage. The team in general just cannot get on the same page and lost the complimentary ball they were playing in Weeks 1 - 3.

I will add this about the defensive line - Miami went into the season banking on Jordan Phillips suddenly giving the required effort and a career backup in Akiem Spence being asked to replace Pro Bowler Ndomakung Suh, as the guys who can eat up the offensive line to present opportunities for the ends and linebackers. Sigh.

 

Guys who deserve kudos:

Laremy Tunsil is blossoming into a franchise left tackle. Xavien Howard is officially a Number 1 corner back. Minkah Fitzpatrick looks like a foundational piece of the defense. Prior to injury, Albert Wilson appeared to be a steal in free agency. Frank Gore is an ageless wonder who still has enough to carry the ground game. Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor continue to develop as solid defensive contributors. Linebackers Kiko Alonso and Jerome Baker are making plays every game and are the future of the unit. Matt Haack and Jason Sanders have been dependable kickers.

 

Guys on notice:

Ryan Tannehill is playing for his job and probably is done as a Dolphin. Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn are being paid a lot of money to take down the quarterback and neither are producing at a high enough level. Devante Parker continues to be the ultimate mystery and better embrace a large role down the stretch or he is done. Charles Harris tries hard but cannot replace William Hayes nor challenge to start. Cordrea Tankersley...honestly I could compile a very big list but we know who hasn't lived up to expectations.

 

Honorable Mention:

Say what you will but Brock Osweiler has proven to be a viable backup in Gase's system. His limitations will prevent him from being a consistent starter but he helped Miami beat a good Chicago Bears defense and made some good throws to keep the Detroit Lions game competitive. I'm not sure he is a bridge starter for whichever quarterback Miami drafts in 2019 or 2020, but he brings energy in a pinch.

So what is in store for the second half of the season? All hope is not lost. Yes, you read that correctly. Miami can still salvage a respectable season. The schedule offers weak opponents in Buffalo twice, the Jets, Indianapolis, and the suddenly imploding Jacksonville Jaguars. If Miami wins those five games they are 9-7 and squarely in the hunt for the playoffs. The following needs happen to secure this result: Tannehill comes back healthy and plays like a top 15 quarterback, the running backs (and quarterback) carry the ball 30 times per game, Devante Parker/Danny Amedola/Mike Gesicki/Kenyan Drake are featured receiving weapons, the defensive line gets penetration without overpursuing (what I think Gase was hinting at about improved play) and Miami moves Fitzpatrick to free safety with Bobby McCain returning to the slot.

Now will this happen? Probably not. The defense has some talent but too many young or mediocre guys being asked to play like legitimate starters. By many accounts Tannehill's shoulder is bad and if he cannot throw with velocity it takes away much of Gase's play designs. He simply isn't someone who sits in the pocket and dissects defenses. The offense will be pedestrian if that is the case. Finally, it all comes back to injuries, poor depth and bad schemes. Miami doesn't have the horses and the coaches seem to think their systems will overcome all problems.

 

In Sum.

The summary is the same as most other years by the midpoint...a promising start but not a lot of optimism for the second half of the season.

After a week and a half of preparation the Miami Dolphins host division rival New York Jets this Sunday at 1 PM.  The Dolphins are coming off a Thursday night embarrassment in Houston where the defense surrendered 42 points and 427 yards. The Jets have lost two straight leaving them at 3-5 and in the midst of a growing pains season for some of their young talent. Vegas has Miami as 3 point favorites with a 45 over/under.

The first meeting of these teams resulted in a Miami win which should not have been surprising. The Jets were way too cocky after beating down the Detroit Lions in Week 1 and ripe for a humbling experience. Winning in Miami shouldn't be easy for them but the Lions and the Texans have provided a blue print that I'm not sure Miami can counter. QB Sam Darnold is the future of Jets, but he has already thrown 10 interceptions this season while only completing 55% of his passes. Miami's secondary can hopefully force him into costly turnovers again. The Jets ground game is now without Bilal Powell so they'll offer either a RB by committee or feature Isaiah Crowell. Also, be on the lookout for UM standout TE Chris Herndon as TEs have been feasting on Miami recently. Expect a heavy dose of running and play action to attack the middle of the field.

The Jets defense is ranked 19th in points allowed and 24th in yards allowed, but they have produced 10 interceptions, forced 9 fumbles and recorded 17 sacks. Like Miami's defense they seem to rely on the big play to turn the tide...except Miami's defense has only recorded 9 sacks. Its looking likely that Brock Osweiler will start for Miami and a recent film breakdown shows that many of his throws beyond 10 yards are inaccurate and turnover worthy. Be afraid if the defense can get pressure on him. The Jets have allowed 126+ yards on the ground in 6 of their 8 games so its safe to say that should be Miami's focal point. Of course Miami only rushed for 42 yards in their previous matchup.

If Miami wants to win this game they need a ground and pound identity. Defenses have figured out these 1st down short throws and are limiting them to 2 yards gains. I've also noticed too many out routes where the throw takes the receiver out of bounds rather than give him a chance to get up the field with YAC. I'd rather see a steady diet of Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake hitting the hole for 3 or 4 yards to shorten up 3rd down. Osweiler has had several lucky breaks in dropped interceptions, and outside of his TD pass to Danny Amendola I can't recall very many intermediate throws that were on point. One of the things Osweiler has done better than Ryan Tannehill is throwing the ball away to avoid sacks. The Jets defense sacked Tannehill four times in Week 2 and forced some errant throws as well. Osweiler needs to avoid that.

I'm tempted to pick the Jets in an upset, but Miami has done a decent job against mistake prone QBs. They should be fired up and know this is a must win game for any shot at the playoffs. This has all the makings of a snoozefest where both QBs look shakey, the defenses get caught with their pants down (yet don't allow a lot of points) and we're all just happy to walk away with a win. Be warned, if Miami loses what should be a very winnable home game we will see heads roll next week. Not a lot of confidence in this prediction:

Miami 23
New York 19

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