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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
I'm not abandoning my general concerns about the team after a win over Jacksonville. No flippity-floppity just yet. I will however give a tip of the cap to Thursday's win. The coaches wisely game planned to run the ball and set the tempo. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the receivers will get the credit but Myles Gaskin was the unsung hero in this game. He helped Miami jump to a comfy lead forcing Garden Minshew to have to throw Jacksonville to a comeback. Minshew Mania is the younger version of Fitzmagic. To quote both Forrest and Mama Gump, "ya never know what yer gonna git." The coaches went after Jacksonville's weakness in a manner that would make Brian Flores's mentor crack half a smile (that is all you get from Belichick). The defense settled down after disastrous showings in previous contests and at least played like a unit that can compete with more than the bottom feeders of the league. The coaches went in with a strategy, the players executed and Miami walked away victorious over a team that previously looked good versus quality opponents. Why is this important? Look at Miami's next nine games.
The Dolphins and we fans will more than likely come back to earth next Sunday against Seattle. Russell Wilson is playing on a level that is inexplicable and he is your clear leader in the MVP clubhouse. Miami is coming out as the underdog by 6.5 points per the odds from Sports Betting Dime, however, Seattle's defense is statistically unimpressive but they faced three high-powered offenses and have forced seven turnovers so far. After Seattle, Miami has a long list of winnable games.
San Francisco should not be easy but the injury bug has bitten them and it is difficult to say how strong of a team they are with victories over cupcakes like the Jets and Giants. They lost Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas for the year. Jimmy Garropolo, who would normally be a priority fantasy team starter against Miami, is nursing a high ankle sprain that doesn't simply go away after a few weeks. What should have been an L in the record column is suddenly a winnable game. Then you face the injury decimated Denver Broncos, a rookie led LA Chargers, an unpredictable Arizona Cardinals, and two teams struggling mightily in the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals. Not mentioned in that group are the Los Angeles Rams because I expect them, in their current state, to roll over Miami without an issue.
Everything can change in a flash and injuries could deplete Miami to the point of being a pushover. You also have the whole "Any Given Sunday" which is what makes this sport so much greater than its competition. But you cannot discount that Miami may have been gifted a streak of very winnable games from the usually evasive Lady Luck. If Miami can win six of those nine games then they would be looking at a 7-5 record after three-quarters of the season. That is not a typo, folks.
I really hope Brian Flores and company embrace this opportunity. Please do not go back to Fitzpatrick throwing the ball 30 plus times per game. Please put a huge emphasis on improving your rushing defense. Make these young, opposing QBs try to air it out. Let the big money secondary earn those dollars with interceptions and quality defended passes. Let the pass rushers pin their ears back. If Myles Gaskin gets banged up then get Matt Breida and/or Jordan Howard more involved. Finally, please start pursuing a winning attitude. I love that Fitzpatrick keeps his teammates loose and promotes having fun, I just worry that too much of it leads to complacency. Teams that get too loose suffer a lack of discipline and that will cost the Dolphins victories if they aren't careful. Have fun, but go for the throat and demand overachievement from everyone. As I said last week, this is no longer the band of merry misfits. Lady Luck is giving the Dolphins a chance to finally avoid the second year curse we witnessed under the Saban, Sparano, and Gase regimes. Let's go, Miami!
Ryan Fitzpatrick almost pitched a perfect game. He completed 90% of his passes and threw two well-placed touchdowns. He also rushed for 38 yards. Call it a "clean and efficient" game.
Devante Parker didn't have a staggering statistical game, but he toughed out a hamstring injury that in the past would have probably sidelined him for weeks. Good to see he has developed some toughness.
8 different receivers caught passes. So while the numbers on passing offense were not staggering, the versatility was.
Good to see 4 sacks out of this defense.
However..... the defense still struggled to stop the run. The only reason there were 72 rushing yards allowed was because Jax had to go to the pass to play catch up. Short yardage defense also loses more often than it wins.
While the offense line did a decent job of creating a pocket for Fitz, the run blocking didn't create any lanes for the running backs. This continues to be an issue. This offensive line is probably another season away from being a good unit.
Good job by the coaching staff on a short week. The Dolphins came in an thrashed the Jags in Jax. Next up is a tough game against the Seahawks. The Dolphins will need to build off their win to have a chance against the Hawks. The run game will need to get going against a tough run defense. It's a lot to ask given what we've seen so far.
So much for my football hiatus. Just like Michael Corleone, when I thought I was out the Dolphins pull me back in. We are two games into a weird season and the results are not good. If you're riding the excuses train I suggest you stop reading at this point.
Plenty of teams overcome slow starts and have successful seasons. But for those trying to compare this version of the Dolphins to last year, or even Adam Gase's 2016 squad, I don't think this is the hill you want to die on by screaming "Patience!". Last year Chris Grier took a moderately priced sedan and stripped it down to the frame. He then asked Brian Flores to drive it through a 16 game season thinking Miami could secure the 1st overall pick for Tua Tagovailoa. I respected Flores giving the brass the double bird and winning five games. Those wins plus Tua's injury must have had Grier channeling Chevy Chase when he punched Wally the Moose's nose upon realizing the park was closed after a grueling odyssey in Vacation. This year Grier purchased the decent sedan and opted for a sun roof, shiny rims and a few extra bells and whistles to improve the journey. Well...
I don't need to rehash the details of the big free agent contracts. You guys can read them in any article from a local Miami paper. We all know Miami spent a pretty penny on the likes of Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah. Top 15 pick Christian Wilkins is back along with big money Xavien Howard, stat piler Jerome Baker and overachievers like Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe and Nik Needham. This isn't a defense starting UDFAs and 7th Round castoffs like last year. They are a lucky fumble away from giving up an average of 30 points per game. You cannot counter with hypotheticals about an injured player being why they lost to Buffalo. The Patriots had several key defensive players opt out of the season and Buffalo was missing two impact starters on Sunday. This defense has no excuse for looking like a dumpster fire two weeks in a row. They should at least be a top 20 unit given the money and draft picks spent to address it the last two seasons. Top 20 is not a compliment by the way.
On the offensive side of the ball you can make similar arguments. Miami drafted a 1st Round left tackle in Austin Jackson, gave big money to guard Ereck Flowers, acquired decent running backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida, and have some very talented guys like Mike Gesicki and Devante Parker catching passes. Ryan Fitzpatrick is who he is and while I admire his work ethic and energy it loses its luster when he becomes the infamous Fitztragic. He'll get lucky and carve up an arrogant defense from time to time, but defensive coordinators have notes as thick as War and Peace on how to game plan for him. Why are they asking him to throw Miami to victory? History proves he cannot consistently do that. This offense needs an identity because they can no longer parade around as a merry band of misfits. There is too much talent to waste this season. Either commit to the run and grind teams out, or hand the keys to Tua and see if he can maximize the talent around him. We've watched his peers Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert exceed expectations with similar surrounding casts.
As for the coaches, I am tired of the cliches. Look, I can't call a play for a team of six year old flag football kids. I'd dial up go routes while my 4 ft tall QB gets two feet of distance on his throws. I realize Brian Flores, Chan Gailey and Josh Boyer are intelligent guys who see things none of us could decipher. But I don't want to hear "It starts with me. I need to do a better job preparing our team." Then the QB says, "It starts with me. I need to make the throws." And then we get every player saying, "It starts with us, we need to execute." We get it guys, you've mastered the art of saying nothing in interviews. You go 16-0 in that department every season. But it doesn't fly this year. You have talent to optimize. You've been through the same abbreviated offseason as every other team. You have guys logging significant snaps who played in Miami last season so spare me the not gelling argument. You have veteran additions who played at high levels on winning teams. You're going to continually say these redundant remarks and before Thanksgiving the playoffs will be out of reach.
I don't blame anyone who doesn't have a shred of excitement after what we have watched so far. We've been spoon fed hope and patience since Mike Tannenbaum made way for Grier and Brian Flores was hired. Culture, hard work, discipline, yadda yadda yadda. We've heard it before. After two weeks this looks like the same inconsistent product we have witnessed for 20 years. At it's current pace they could be staring down a 1-7 or 2-6 start. Unacceptable. Something has to improve in a timely fashion. Banking on cupcake victories over cream puff opponents or claiming moral victories only masks the true identity of a bad team. This should not be a bad team given the resources spent to assemble the roster. Miami needs quality wins in the not too distant future to change the narrative. It is not time to panic, however in my opinion this team no longer as the luxury of excuses or patience if the losses begin to pile up.