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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
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.
Well, that was a really bad one.
I haven't seen the offense look this bad since the Chad Henne years. Believe me, it was unwatchable. The pass protection was terrible and Ryan Tannehill couldn't get the ball into the hands of his receivers. I promise you that many Dolphins fans tv's turned off at some point in the 4th quarter.
Everyone wants to focus on the quarterback position, and rightly so, but let's look at the offensive line for a moment.
With all the injuries to our offensive line, they will never jell to learn each other's tendencies. The Dolphins have 4 first round picks along the offensive line, and last week only two of them were playing. The biggest loss is All Pro center Mike Pouncey. The center is the leader of the offensive line and sets the tone. Steen and Urbek have played decently, but they are not Pouncey. I will give Tannenbaum an attaboy for having decent backups ready to step in at the center position.
Losing LT Branden Albert was a big loss, but the good news is that Tannenbaum invested in Laremy Tunsil as his first round pick last year. Tunsil was able to slide over from guard to LT and take over last week and did a decent job considering that he's been playing the guard position since he was drafted. Coach Gase was smart enough to give him snaps in practice at LT in the preseason, and it payed off.
RT Ju'Wuan James is our 4th first round pick along the offensive line, and he's been getting a lot of heat due to the fact that Ryan Tannehill was hit 3 times in the last 2 games from pressure from James' side. All three of those hits resulted in turnovers. Did James get beat on those plays? Yes, but it cannot be all on James. On all of those 3 hits Tannehill seems to have no clue that the right side was collapsing. If it were his back side I would understand, but this is to his right side. Aside from all of this, James did not have a good game against the Bengals. I never thought that James was first round talent, but we needed a right tackle ASAP and the Dolphins GM Dennis Hickey made the call.
When I look at the tape, the biggest weakness along the offensive line last game were the guards. Bushrod, a converted tackle, is not getting it done. How does he allow himself to get picked up and pushed into Tannehill like a rag doll? There are definitely communication issues between he and Ju'Wuan James. Perhaps with a little patience Bushrod will get a better feel for the position. There is no one who would be effective filling the position as you have Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas as the backups. You will remember they are third round draft busts. This is where our current GM Tannenbaum has failed the Dolphins as he once again looked for a cheap option rather than to grab a good guard in free agency. Tunsil has played the left guard position, but everyone knows that he could be our left tackle starter as early next year ... this year if Branden Albert gets injured. This is no real plan for either guard position.
Tannehill gets "incomplete" grade, but ...
Now, calm down. You've heard me say many times that at the moment Tannehill's problems are due to pressure he is getting due to a lack of blocking from his offensive line. It's hard to grade a QB if he isn't protected. I do not know of any quarterback that can take getting hit as often as he does and have it not affect their play. Marino hated pressure, and we've seen Tom Brady do poorly when facing pressure. If you look back to any game that we've beaten the Patriots, it was due to pressure on Brady.
Tannehill definitely has his faults. He doesn't have that sixth sense that all good quarterbacks have when feeling pressure. He also does not step up in the pocket properly to avoid that pressure. He has also been taught to play it safe his entire NFL career so much that he could be damaged goods. Perhaps that is why he does not move the ball consistently until he gets in 2 minute offense mode. When he gets in gunslinger mode he is much bolder with his throws. Gase is going to have to decide at some point to continue to force his offense to learn his system, or to go with their strengths.
Unfortunately, in learning this new offense he has thrown more interceptions than he normally does. I say to give Gase and Tannehill time to figure it out. A lot of fans are irritated that Gase does not call Tannehill out, but the quarterback position is a position that requires confidence. You want to build a quarterback's confidence rather than tear it down. I am not opposed to benching him late in games if he isn't getting it done. On Thursday he was getting the crap beat out of him every time he stepped back to throw. I would have put Matt Moore in there midway through the 4th quarter. Everyone gets benched at some point. Of course, the media would have been all over it and it would have been the only thing everyone talked about.
So, I still give Tannehill an "incomplete" but let's not forget that if you get an "incomplete" in school, it turns into an F. By the end of this season, Cinderella's chariot will turn into a pumpkin if things do not get better (orange uniforms ... pumpkins. Did you catch that?;). His salary jumps after this season and the Dolphins will have to make a serious decision on whether to stay with Tannehill or go in a different direction. Gase has a great track record of working with quarterbacks, so, my advice is to bite on a stick and be patient. The offense may just "click" at some point. While I do believe that a team can go into the playoffs with Tannehill, I would be happy to move on.
Adam Gase: Not everybody was on the same page. All of a sudden (Tannehill) looks like he doesn't know what he's doing.
Jay Ajayi. You have to like the tough running that we saw from Jay Ajayi for the past two games. The Bengals dared the Dolphins to run it by taking away our passing game, and Ajayi responded well. He even caught some passes and is looking much improved in that area. Don't blame him for missing that third down pass. It was a tough catch and Tanny rifled it. I would love to see a balanced offense if we could get the offensive line to open up the running lanes, but as I've said, they have to all get on the field together to develop that chemistry.
Matt Darr. Once again our MVP is our punter. Matt Darr is punting lights out and has nailed 10 inside the 20 yard line. In fact, he was key to our victory over the Browns as he pinned the Browns deep in overtime. He gets a Big Dave Attaboy. Matt, feel free to pay yourself on the back and say it was from Phinfever.
Kiko Alonzo. Who is our best middle linebacker since Zach Thomas? It was Karlos Dansby until we traded for Kiko Alonzo. While his pass coverage needs improving, his run stopping ability and his ability to pursue has made him very exciting to watch. Unfortunately, aside from Alonzo, Tannenbaum did not do much this offseason to give the Dolphins good depth. With Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins struggling, I am not sure what we will do when Alonzo goes down ... and you know he will at some point this season. It is who he is.
Rashad Jones. Extend his contract during this season. He's a super hero out there.
Big Dave's Crap List
DE Terrance Fede. Nice job of knocking down their punter, boneheada. It's one of the worst penalties that I've ever seen. Unbelievable. He may lose his job over it. Miami's ST Coach Darren Rizzi about had a stroke on the field. Check it out in the image to your left. I can't stop laughing at him. I love Rizzi's passion.
RG Jermon Bushrod. He was not only whiffing on blocks, but he was picked up and pushed right into Tannehill. I am still shaking my head about it.
CB Tony Lippett. He actually didn't do a bad job, but he whiffed majorly on a tackle on AJ Green. It was comical.
Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph. How do you have a defensive scheme where you make your young cornerbacks cover AJ Green one-on-one without help? How??? I'm just glad that I am not facing anyone that has AJ Green on their fantasy roster this week: 10 catches, 173 yards, 1 TD (aka a whiff by Lippett).
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