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    Nothing is wrong in Miami. Miami played two games on the road in Seattle and NE where their combined home record is 17-4 since Sept 2015. Miami, if they’re living up to expectations would have played competitive in those games but lose them. .. and they did. They then win ugly at home against Cleveland and lose again on the road, on a short week to Cincinnati. FTR they were pretty banged up along the OL in the last 2 games and if you were to ask any Dolphin Fan what area of the team would least likely to be able to weather injuries…OL would be right up there at the top. This is a brutal opening 4 games for Gase and the morale of the team is something that bears watching.  He was brought in to change the losing culture on this team. If he loses their confidence, fans are looking a long rebuilding project that would take years.  That brings us to TN.

     If Miami wins big against TN, assuming the game is even played due to Hurricane Matthew, all will be mostly back to normal in fansville. Lose the game or win another ugly game where TN just gives them the win and the discussions surrounding the coach, QB, OL etc will continue on.  Tennessee has a solid rushing game DeMarco Murray is having a solid start to his season. He is their threat on offense.  The second thing they have to do on defense is quit giving up the 5-10yd pass so easily. Their CBs are tall and physical but are slow out of the back pedal and transition. Playing them 10yds off the WR is an automatic 7-9yds on first down. Miami does this a lot in their base defense and needs to stop. The other puzzling piece is how they seem to be coached to take away the outside of the field instead of the inside. Every successful throw underneath has the CB on the outside of the WR. This is a recipe for disaster in today’s quick throwing NFL.

    On Offense Miami needs RT to have a good day. That will start up front with the OL. Miami appears to get both Pouncey and Alberts back which will be huge. They’re a decent team with all these guys on the field. Tennessee’s defense is middle of the pack and they’re slightly better against the pass than they are against the run. I keep calling for Gase to throw out of the base package more and also to keep RT in the gun more because he seems to be a lot better back there when he is surveying the defense. The long play fakes where he turns his back to the LOS almost always end up in disaster.

    You don’t use the words “must-win” usually until about November….but Miami has to win this game if they’re plan on having a winning record. If they lose this game, it is curtains on the season. Shula was once asked the secret to being in the playoffs so consistently. His answer was “beat the teams you’re supposed to beat”. It really was that simple. Shula didn’t win them all but he rarely lost when his team was supposed to win. Gase has to start there. Tennessee is one of those teams Miami should beat. 

I read a tweet the other day stating that the next 4 games will really tell us what we want to know about the state of the Dolphins.  After some reflection, I happen to agree with this idea. 

 

Think about it - rookie coaches implementing new schemes, players who've never played together looking to gel, a brutal schedule mostly on the road...we should have expected a 1-3 record with plenty of growing pains.  So what do we know so far?  Adam Gase and Vance Joseph are suffering from rookie mistakes as first time coaches.  The good thing is they have admitted it and stated they need to do a better job.  The previous regime would just tell you to "trust the system and all will work out."  Ryan Tannehill has not progressed overall.  There are things about his game that have improved at certain points (4th quarter play for one), but he's still an inconsistent, average signal caller.  Something is up with a few guys on the offensive line.  Guys on the discussion boards are coming up with every theory possible (coaching, brain farts, injury, etc.) but the fact is they are playing sub par football.  The defense has moments, and has kept the team in both the Seattle and Cincinnati games.  But there are still questions at every level minus the play of a few notable names.

 

So how will the 2nd quarter of the season be any different?  First and foremost, Miami plays every game at home.  That's right, the next 4 games are at home and at least 3 of them should be winnable if you are a competitive team.  Last year home field advantage meant very little in most cases.  This time around, if Miami cannot put away a bad Titans team and hold serve versus the like of the Bills and Jets then we are in for a very rough next few months.  Its also time to get over the "newness" of the playbooks.  The coaches have 4 games worth of film to show them what does and does not work.  They need to begin adjusting their gameplan to hide inefficiencies in the trenches, getting the ball out of the QB's hand faster and making sure the WRs/Secondary are being more crisp in their routes/coverage.

 

The first thing Gase plans to address in the running game.  He admitted his 4 back rotation was bad coaching on his part.  Its time to see if Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake can provide some sort of 1-2 punch.  As Gary Ramsey (NFL Junkie) pointed out, the running calls have to be less predictable.  Use 1st down passes to set up the run, and further build that into play action opportunities.  Right now Miami ranks 29th in the NFL with 77.8 yards per game.  That is unacceptable unless you have the likes of an elite QB who can put the team on his back...even still, look what has happened to Drew Brees and Philip Rivers without consistent ground games and defenses.

 

Speaking of the QB, he best elevate his play because he is on notice.  There are already rumors swirling at the national level that Miami could be looking beyond the Tannehill era.  For the first time this year I just read on Walter Football mocking a QB to Miami in the top 10.  Look, these are just rumors, but you cannot deny that eery feeling that maybe Tannehill just isn't the guy.  There are things the coaches can do to help.  Moving the pocket, quick throws, more designed dump offs to the running backs...anything beats watching him get clobbered from either holding the ball too long or watching the offensive line blow assignments.

 

On defense, it sounds like some changes are coming.  There has been discussion of getting Michael Thomas more time at safety.  Chris Culliver can be added to the secondary mix in a few weeks.  I also wouldn't be surprised to see more snaps for Cameron Wake as he continues his quest back to old form.  I'm not sure there is much more you can ask from guys like Suh, Jones and Alonso.  All have done their job so far.

 

I'm not arguing Miami needs to win all 4 games and play lights out.  This is the NFL and it is an Any Given Sunday reality.  But we need to see more consistency from the offense to prove that both the coaches and players are capable of improving.  We also need to see the defense stop shooting itself in the foot at inopportune moments.  Put up 20+ points per game that don't all come in the late 3rd/4th quarter, cut down on the turnovers, FORCE a turnover or two per game and stop with the mental mistakes that kill chances on both sides of the ball.

 

Go Phins!

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