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The More Things Change ....

Big Dave, Phinfever, Miami Dolphins... the more they stay the same? Well, offensively that seemed to hold true. Until Miami's last drive, you had the feeling that Miami's offense was not the aggressive offense that Coach Gase had promised but the "play-it-safe" offense of Tony Sparano. No kidding. 

Let's just say that Coach Gase's first game wasn't the kind of game that a new coach would like to have. The Seahawks defense is known as one of the best defenses that creates turnovers and takes it to the house. Offensive playcalling reflected a team learning a new offense and a coach still getting to know his quarterback. Midway through the game Tannehill tried to talk Gase into passing plays that were mid to deep. Finally, on Miami's last drive, Gase gave into Tannehill's advice, and the Dolphins went 85 yards for their only touchdown of the game ... and their first (and brief) lead of the game. Before this drive the Dolphins were 0 of 10 on 3rd downs. During that drive Tannehill was 4 for 4 on third downs. Very telling, eh?

My thoughts, based on Coach Gase's comments after the game, are that this is a good learning moment for the coach. I would rather learn these things facing non-divisional and non-conference opponents than against the big AFC East divisional games. Gase has the Patriots on Sunday afternoon. If he wants any chance to win this he will have to open up the offense. Playing games "safe" usually ends up with a loss in the fourth quarter. Eh, Seattle?

Adam Gase: "I was even mad at myself because I felt like I should have went to what we ended up going to earlier in the game. I kept talking myself out of it and (Tannehill) kept pressing me to get to basically what set up that drive with some of those plays, he kept pressing me to get to that stuff and I kept talking myself out of it. Then finally once I listened to him, then we marched the ball down the field. It was a great lesson for me as far as when he says to go to something, we’re going to go to it." link

 

Is the Defense For Real?

Phinfever, Vance Joseph, Miami DolphinsI have to believe they are real. Last year I called up Rich Rodriguez, our "Good, Bad, and Ugly" blog writer wanting his thoughts on the Dolphins. He was sure that the problems were not talent but coaching. I had to agree with him.

A hot defensive coordinator name this past offseason was the Bengles CB Coach Vance Joseph. The Broncos were denied an interview last year as he was under contract. Joseph did a very good job working with veterans and developing young talent at Cincinatti.

Most of us miss the 3-4 defense as the Dolphins have played worst each year since the change to the 4-3. Joseph looked at the talent and decided that the team now has talent for the 4-3 defense after 4 years of rebuilding it. I wish Philben had the brains to stay with a 3-4 because at the time we had a top 10 defense with 3-4 personnel.

Against the Seahawks we saw why he went with the 4-3 as Miami's attacking defense kept Russell Wilson on his heels until the last series of the game of each half.

Back in May, Joseph had this to say about his Dolphins defense. Keep in mind that they hadn't had a full practice yet.

"Both win .. And I've been a 3-4 guy most of my career. But when you come to a place like this and see the defensive personnel you've got, and, in my opinion, it's not broken, you can't all of a sudden go to 34 where you have to re-draft to a defense. That takes time. That takes too much time." link

 

“It looks like a defense that’s playing on their own terms. I don’t want to be a defense that’s reacting to the offense. I want to play on our terms. That, in my opinion, is the way players want to play. They don’t want to read and react. They want to attack. So in my opinion, we’re going to be an attack-style defense from every position — from the D-line, corners, safeties, linebackers. Every position.” link

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Suh, Russell WilsonIf there is an area of improvement then I would think that Joseph needs to tighten up his defense at the end of each half as the Dolphins gave up a field goal at the end of the field goal and a touchdown to lose the game with 15 seconds left in the game. That is 10 points right there in a 12-10 loss. What I saw on those two drives is a defensive line without key personnel to keep the pressure on Russell Wilson. Joseph gave a couple of defensive linemen a brief break at the end of the first half, and the Dolphins were without DT Earl Mitchell (now on injured reserve until week 8) and DE Mario Williams (concussion). That made the difference on that last drive as Wilson was able to find the time to attack our very young secondary.

Now, don't get me wrong. The defense played outstanding. This loss hangs on our offense for the conservative playcalling, the dropped touchdown by Stills, and the missed field goals by Franks.

 

Mario and Devante should play Sunday

This is outstanding news because if I see Stills out there dropping a beautifully thrown deep pass (let's just call it what it is ... a BOMB) from Tannehill, I'm going to leave the Sports Bar and drive my SUV into the first car with a Patriots logo on it. Devante Parker is our deep threat and he needs to quit sabotaging his season by not taking care of his body. Parker is a hard worker and pushes his body hard, but if he doesn't keep himself hydrated and eating well he is going to continue to suffer hamstring injuries. Coach Gase actually called him out on it publically last week, and let's hope that it sticks this time.

As far as Mario Williams, he still has plenty left in the tank. He was disruptive last week and made a big difference in Miami's attacking defense.

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Mario Williams

 

Earl Mitchell out, Chris Jones back in.

Losing Earl Mitchell hurt us last week, but I have to believe that Mitchell is one of those guys that we should have replaced in the offseason His play has been on the decline the past two years and our run defense has suffered. Next to Suh last year his play should have elevated as Suh constantly gets the double and triple teams.

It is time for Jordan Phillips to earn that high 2nd round draft pick status that we gave him last year. In fact, several teams had him rated in the late first round. Last week against the Seahawks, Jordan played better than he did last year. That means he is showing improvement. That is a very good sign for inside of our defense.

The Dolphins resigned DT Chris Jones. He was a starter with the Patriots at the position in 2014, injured all of 2015, and then signed by the Dolphins after being cut early in the offseason this year. He made it until the final cut.

Who thinks that he will not have a chip on his shoulder this weekend facing his former team that gave up on him?

 

Pro Football Focus Stats vs Seahawks.

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Anthony SteenTop offensive grades:

  • QB Ryan Tannehill, 78.0
  • C Anthony Steen, 76.4
  • WR Jarvis Landry, 75.7
  • LT Branden Albert, 69.4
  • RG Jermon Bushrod, 56.5


Top defensive grades:

  • S Isa Abdul-Quddus, 86.3
  • S Reshad Jones, 83.9
  • DT Ndamukong Suh, 82.5
  • DT Jordan Phillips, 77.6
  • LB Kiko Alonso, 75.2

 

This Week's Attaboys.

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Isa Abdul-Quddus, InterceptionA big attaboy goes to C Anthony Steen. PFF rated him as the 6th best center last week and rated better than Jets Nick Mangold, Panthers Ryan Kalil, Cowboys Travis Frederick, Jills Eric Wood, Ravens Jeremy Zuttah, and Steelers Maurkice Pouncey.  After seeing the Dolphins whiffing on offensive line veterans, draft picks outside the first round, free agents it is such a welcome surprised to actually add an offensive lineman who is an outstanding starter. Of course, it is only one game, but he did a good job in the preseason as well. We shall see. Should we trade Pouncey now? What a crazy thought that is. Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center and is actually a natural guard. Steen can play guard as well. Let's not forget that if Branden Albert goes down, Tunsil can slide into his natural position at LT, Steen can play LG, and Pouncey will be at Center. Depth along the OL is key if you are to win in the NFL.

How about an attaboy for rookie Laremy Tunsil? He was rated Miami's best run blocker this week and that was facing the Seahawk defensive line. He had some issues in pass blocking, but there is a learning curve for him as he had never played guard at Ole Miss. He's a natural LT. In fact, I would say the entire OL needs to work on pass blocking as they fell apart when facing the blitz.

Abdul who? If you didn't know who safety Isa Abdul-Quddus is then you do now. He had an outstanding game as he only allowed a 9 yard reception, and he picked off the only other pass in his direction. He did a fantastic job against the run as well and was rated PFF's highest rated safety for week 1.  He and Rashad Jones are an excellent 1-2 punch at the safety positions.

 

Get off the field.

To the four Dolphins who kneeled during the national anthem, I say that we bench them or cut them. I know two are starters but not kneeling during the Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Protestors, Doofusnational anthem disrespects every person who has fought and/or died for our country. I come from a family of 3 retired military people, so, I know what I am talking about. My brother, a huge Dolphins fan, cancelled his Direct TV.

Tell me that you have free speech on your job, and I'll call you a liar. During the game they are on the job, so, quit the stupidity. I salute everyone else who stood for America, and I will not focus on the four idiots.

 

 

 

 

Go Fins!

Big Dave

After going 6-10 and finishing in last place in the AFC East division during the 2015 season, the Miami Dolphins seem primed for improvement by the end of the 2016 campaign.

 

Last year, the team’s selling point was its defense, which wasn’t very good overall. Miami ranked 19th in points allowed per game.

 

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill

 

 

Three big free-agency pickups—defensive ends Mario Williams and Jason Jones, along with safety Isa Abdul-Quddus—should help them combat the departures of defensive ends Olivier Vernon (New York Giants) and Derrick Shelby (Atlanta Falcons). And finishing in the middle of defensive integrity isn’t the end of the world—provided you have a good offense, which, this time around, the Dolphins should.


Though they were 27th in points scored per game in 2015, they have started 2016 with a far more intriguing group. Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Davante Parker make for a legitimate three-headed receivers corps, and tight end Jordan Cameron is once again on everyone’s “Potential Breakout Candidates” list.

 

phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Mario Williams

 

 

Losing running back Lamar Miller will sting, but the Dolphins did well to scoop up Arian Foster. He has played in all 16 games of a season just twice, and his health has been particularly bad over the last three years. But he’s a touchdown machine at full strength, and the Dolphins have an offensive line that helped them rank ninth in yards per rush attempt last season.

 

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, of course, is the key to everything. He had a so-so season last year. He threw for a career-high 4,208 yards and kept his interception rate right at two percent, but both his completion percentage and touchdown rate dropped a tick. Some of that had to do with the personnel around him; a lot of it was the product of questionable decision-making and an offensive system that placed more trust and stock in its backfield than the man under center.

 

That’s all different this season.

 

Gone is the speculation about Tannehill’s poor leadership skills and entitled demeanor. In comes talk of him carrying himself differently, with more confidence and sensibility.

 

Consider what Cameron, who figures to be among Tannehill’s favorite targets, said of his quarterback to SI.com’s Ben Baskin:

 

“I think it’s subtle, but it’s just the way that he carries himself and the way he talks in the huddle. Even his demeanor on the field, it is just more confident. It’s not like a, “He is doing exactly this, and that is why he is more confident.” It’s hard to even describe what exactly it is. I know everyone uses the word ‘swag’ and I think it’s a terrible word, but he has more of that this year, whatever you want to call that. And that has definitely been noticeable for us as a team. It’s just more of a feeling, more of a vibe, that is different. But you can just feel that energy.”

 

Elite quarterbacks can make a franchise, and Tannehill has shown flashes of broaching that echelon of flamethrower in the past. Take the 2014 season. He was one of only four quarterbacks to throw for more than 4,000 yards, post a touchdown percentage of 4.5 or better and notch an interception rate of two or lower, according to Pro-Football-Reference.

 

His company?


Oh, just some dudes by the name of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.

 

Phinfever, Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill

 

 

That performance cannot just be thrown by the wayside because the Dolphins struggled as a whole on offense. Tannehill was culpable in their demise last season, but he was not the sole reason for their warts. There’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll be very good, if not extremely great, for the duration of the current campaign.

 

None of which is to say the Dolphins are patented Super Bowl contenders. We have to be realistic. Bovada lists their chances at +7500, tightly tethering them to the bottom caste of teams. And that makes sense, if only because the Dolphins play in an incredibly tough division.

 

The New England Patriots will be fine—especially when Tom Brady returns in Week 5. The Buffalo Bills and New York Jets are wild cards, but they’re more likely to join the nine- or 10-win club because they have discernible identities on both sides of the ball.

 

And that’s the Dolphins’ goal in 2016—not to contend for a Super Bowl title or even a playoff berth, but to figure themselves out offensively and defensively, and then see whether their correct move is to rebuild with a different core or retool around the one they currently have.

 

To that end, more than 75 percent of the NFL’s teamed can be looped into a certain category, one where any of the inclusions could finish somewhere between 6-10 and 10-6. That’s how a league with a small regular-season sample size works.


The Dolphins are under that umbrella, which is better than unequivocally existing within that next tier, the last tier, which is reserved for teams with limited to no upside. And the Dolphins, for all their flaws, certainly have plenty of upside—particularly on offense.

 

 

          We Dolphins Fans are drinking the Kool-aid of a close game against Seattle to help us get through the week. Let's hope Seattle wasn't looking past Miami as an early bye week. In any case, we won’t know the truth on whether Miami is that bad on offense, good on defense, or somewhere in between until about game 4. The defense, if I were to make a guess, is the real deal. They held the #4 offense in the NFL last year to 12 points. The sad reality is they squandered a great opportunity to shock the NFL on Sunday and it really was a game in which they found new, and old, ways to lose.

           As I watched Ryan Tannehill on Sunday I saw the same guy I’ve seen for the last 2 years.; Someone who is afraid to throw the ball to anyone not wide open.  Then I watch young guys like Garoppolo and Wentz come out like gunslingers and just throw with confidence….even when the pocket breaks down and their WR is in tight Coverage. Wentz lobbed 2 TDs on Sunday that I don’t think I’ve ever seen RT throw. They were great touch passes over the top in tight coverage. The two stories are very telling. On the one hand you have a converted WR with a somewhat, telegraphed, slow delivery trying to make it as a QB. His biggest fault:  hanging onto the football too long in the face of obvious pressure. He also lacks pocket awareness which is related to the first part. When pressure starts to come, most QBs “feel “ it and either bail, throw it, or slide in the pocket to buy time. RT just sits there and takes the sack. I guess to summarize it: He is afraid to fail. He plays so cautious and appears over focused on not turning the ball over that Miami lacks any big plays on offense. The fault is always on the WR or OL. Stills had the obvious drop but in the late 4th he got behind Seattles Secondary again…only to be overthrown by 10yds…an RT hallmark.

        Gase: - I wrote about this in the preseason. Although I praised excellent gameplans by Vance Joseph, I was left hoping that the offense was better than the product being displayed. Now that the season has began, it is more obvious the offense is worse than last year’s group. That isn’t easy to do as last year’s group was 26th overall in production. I was completely underwhelmed by the constant force of the run on early downs in the 2nd half. Miami desperately needed first downs and putting RT in consistent 3rd in longs isn’t the way to get them against a defense licking its chops. Gate’s over use of the read option was very Lazor-like in its approach while his constant run up the middle on first down was very  Sparano-like. In a tight game against a playoff team on the road, you take the FG every time early in the game. A lesson I hope he has learned.  

                Special teams is one third of your team. A missed chip shot FG and simple things like knowing to take a knee when you’re out of TOs on the kickoff in the endzone are little things that make a big difference. Although STs weren’t glaringly bad Sunday, they did make a few mistakes at critical junctures.

 Bill Belichick is a master at stopping the early run by bringing up the safeties. He lives in no fear of Miami’s ability to get the ball downfield. RT can throw it, the WRs can catch it, but rarely do they accomplish that feat together … which is why this weekend will be miserable to watch. You will see Garoppolo moving the ball with short passes. You’ll see RT frustrated by having to pick up 3rd and 6 or longer. BB will then use his created blitzes to make the day tough on RT. You have to run the ball on the Patriots, but if you get stuck on stupid with constant first down rushes, 2nd and 3rd down will be 8 yards or more. 

Here’s the other issue with Miami next weekend. 0-2 is a legitimate threat and will be difficult to overcome. The season is a marathon, but shooting out 0-2 would be like twisting your ankle on the first mile of a 26 mile run. 1-1 will make the fanbase and the team, rest a little easier.

          Finally, I had high hopes this season would bring 10 wins. I’m still hopeful they can accomplish this but the offense needs to get a lot better and the self destruction would need to go away. NE will either cement the offense as a dog, or see it wake up and fulfill its potential

Go Tannehill,

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