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We come to the end of the 2014 season, one in which Dolphin fans hoped would be a playoff season for our 8-7 Miami Dolphins. But just as it has the last 5 years, Miami will once again be home for the playoffs after today's game against the 3-12 New York Jets in Miami.
As you all may know by now, the Dolphins have announced that HC Joe Philbin will be back along with GM Dennis Hickey for the 2015 season, but the coordinators status is uncertain. I have to believe that new OC Bill Lazor will be back in 2015. He has help QB Ryan Tannehill and the offense in general take a step in the right direction. The Dolphins are coming into the game today averaging 24.3 points a game, which ranks 12th in the NFL. Tannehill has improved his game as well and comes into the game completing 67.0% of his passes for 3,786 yards, 26 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions as we head into this last game. I though Lazor did a nice job of using Ryan's athletic ability will the read option and run game, as Ryan also has 311 yards rushing for the season. He got more out of WR Mike Wallace, who has 10 touchdowns and has a chance to break the 1,000 yard barrier with a game of 132 yards today. Miami used a wide range of weapons, from leading WR Rookie Jarvis Landry to TE Charles Clay. Miami had 5 players with 30 or more catches in 2014, and I see Lazor back in 2014.
DC Kevin Coyle leads a defense that will put up good numbers in 2014. The Dolphins are giving up 333.3 yards a game, which ranks 8th in the NFL. 211.1 yards per game passing, which ranks 4th in the NFL. But the Dolphins are also giving up 122.2 yards a game rushing, which ranks 24th in the NFL and rank 17th in the most important one to me, giving up 22.4 points per game. This has been a deffense that has not been CLUTCH. The defense had chance to win games against Green Bay and Detroit and gave up the winning score in both games in the last 20 seconds of the ball game. Miami had a double digit lead against the Broncos in the 4th quarter, but the defense could not get key stops, a theme for this defensive team in 2014. Championship defense get stop at key times. The numbers look nice, and Philbin and Coyle will likley point to the fact that this was a defense that was top 10 from a total yardage standpoint, but points allowed and getting key stops is how I measure great defense. This unit FAILS from that standpoint. Not sure if Coyle will be back or not, as he has the backing of his players. It will be interesting to see what owner Stephen Ross does.
Moving forward into 2015, areas that Miami will need to address is OL, LB, S, WR, RB, CB & DT. Getting OLT Brandon Albert back for 2015 will be HUGE. He came in and was a ROCK on the OLT side, and was all that the Dolphins thought he would be. The biggest issue for this Dolphins OL is the interior. ORG Billy Turner will be given an opportunity to earn the spot, but the Dolphins will need to fortify the OG spot. I think Mike Pouncey at this point is a better fit at OC. Rookie ORT Ju'Wuan James played well at ORT, but did have his struggles at OLT once Albert went down. That said, I thought he played well and had a solid rookie season. This unit showed improvement in 2014, but once Albert got hurt, it showed the lack of more quality depth that is needed and pieces that still need to be added. Championships are won in the trenches, and the Dolphins still need to build on this unit.
Miami has the makings of what could be a very good wide receiver group with WR Mike Wallace and Rookie WR Jarvis Landry. Landry is that guy that you can line up in the slot or even out wide and he will make a play for you. Tough as nails, he leads the Dolphins with 79 catches for 703 yards and 5 touchdowns, with sure, reliable hands. When you need that tough catch in the middle of the field, Juice is your guy. Wallace is that guy that teams HAVE to have a guy over the top for. He can take the top off of your defense, and while he and Ryan did not connect as much as you would like to see, there was progress made with the deep ball. Wallace has 67 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. He not that guy that has that big catch radius or the best of hands, but I saw improvement in Wallace, as he did a much better job of competing for balls and winning those battles, as he did agains the Patriots and Vikings the last 2 weeks. That said, a BIG WR that can be a threat in the Red Zone would be a nice weapon to have for Ryan, and I hopefully the Dolphins will look to add a player that fits the bill. WR Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are players I don't expect to be back in Miami.
RB Knowshon Moreno gave Miami that physical, inside run threat that they needed, and you saw what he could do in the very 1st game of the year against New England. Unfortunately for Miami, Moreno missed a majority of the season with an elbow injury and eventually tore his ACL. A physical, inside run threat to go with smooth RB Lamar Miller and Rookie Damian Williams would be a plus. Miller has done a nice job this year and I believe if Lazor would have gotten him the ball more, Miller would already have over 1,000 yards. He has a chance to get there today with 79 yards against the Jets. Williams has been a nice surprise as an undrafted FA that has come in and been very good out the backfield in the passing game. Moreno could be an option, but once again, he is coming off the ACL.
Defensively, the LB group for Miami leaves a lot to be desired. 2nd year LB Jelani Jenkins has been a pleasant surprise and is the leading tackler on the team. ILB Koa Misi has been solid for the Dolphins in his 1st year at ILB, but he has also had to battle injuries. OLB Phillip Wheeler has been a HUGE disappointment and I believe he is gone along with the other high dollar free agent that was signed 2 years ago, OLB Darnelle Ellerbe, who has been out most of the season with an injury. Rookie Jordie Tripp will be given a look next year and I think there is a good chance that Dion Jordan will be the starting OLB in 2015. He has the size and athletic ability to be a difference maker,and the Dolphins need their former #3 pick to become a factor. Many that believe that it is the play of this group that has a lot to do with the decline of the run defense for the Dolphins. It has to improve.
Brent Grimes is a rock and Pro Bowl player on one side, but Courtland Finnegan is talking about retiring and he missed time in 2014 as well due to injury. You finally got to see 2nd round pick Jamar Taylor contribute, and while he had his struggles, I thought he showed promise as well. His partner from the 2013 Draft, CB Will Davis got hurt and missed a good portion of the season as well. You can NEVER have enough good CB, and the Dolphins will need to add to this group.
S Louis Delmas played pretty well for Miami, but he tore his ACL in the New England game and he was signed to only a 1 year contract. S Jimmy Wilson is a HUGE liability in my eyes and he is a FA as well. Reshad Jones came back from his 4 game suspension to begin the season and was ROCK solid and is a playmaker for the Dolphins, but he needs a running mate. Addressing the safety position and addind depth will be a priority.
There is talk that DT Randy Starks will not be bought back, as his play against the run suffered in 2014. DT Jared Odrick is a FA, and I believe the Dolphins will resign Odrick. A big body added to the defensive front could not hurt. While I do beleive the LB play has hurt the run game, I thought the DL got manhandled at the end of the key game the Dolphins lost to Baltimore. Miami had a stretch of games against the Jets, Ravens & Broncos where they gave up 180 yards or more rushing. It not all on the linebackers. Repeating what I said about the offensive line, Championships are won in the trenches.
Disappointed in having to write this blog knowing the Dolphins are out of the playoffs again, but there is hope for 2015. While I would not have mind Philbin being gone, I can understand the thinking in regards to having continuity. To have QB Ryan Tannehill having to learn another offense after coming off such a solid year and making solid improvement would have been a step back in my mind. I thought GM Dennis Hickey did some solid work in regards to adding pieces via the free agency and doing a very good job with the draft. He will have to have a repeat performance for this team to continue to move forward. As Dolphin Fans, we have to HOPE that this staff and management will continue to build to what is a solid, young talent base.
Let's end 2014 with a win and momentum going into 2015. 9-7 sounds better than 8-8, and sending the reeling Jets to another lost is ALWAYS A GOOD THING.
Let's Go Miami.
The 7-7 Miami Dolphins, coming off a 41-13 lost to New England in Foxoboro and having lost their last 2 games welcome in the 6-8 Minnesota Vikings, coming off a 16-14 lost at Detroit. Miami's playoff hopes are on life support and they need a LOT of help to hope to have a chance of making the playoffs, but they have to do their part and win their last 2 games today at home against the Vikings and next week in Miami against the Jets.
Let's take a look at how these teams matchup.
Offensively, the Dolphins come into the game generating 337.2 yards of total offense, 224.1 in the passing game and 113.1 in the run game, which ranks 12th in the NFL. The Dolphins are also averaging 23.4 points per game, which ranks 12th in the NFL. They face a Vikings defense that is giving up 339.9 yards per game, 216.0 via the pass, which ranks 6th in the NFL. They are giving up 123.9 yards in the run game and 21.2 points a game, which ranks 11th. The total yardage ranks 10th in the NFL.
QB Ryan Tannehill comes into the game completing 66.3% of his passes for 3,390 yards and 22 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions, while adding 316 yards rushing, which ranks 2nd on the team. RB Lamar Miller leads the Dolphins with 829 yards and a 4.7 yards per carry average and 6 touchdowns. Rookie WR Jarvis Landry leads the Dolphins in catches with 71 catches for 672 yards and 5 touchdowns. For Minnesota, S Harrison Smith leads the Vikings in both tackles and interceptions with 4.
The injuries to the offensive line has started to effect the Dolphins, as ORT Dallas Thomas and been invisible and OLT Ju'Wuan James has been struggling the last few weeks with his move from ORT to OLT after losing OLT Brandon Albert. Interior OL issues are still evident, but with that said, this group has to play better for the Dolphins to have success. OC Bill Lazor has not gotten Lamar Miller over 20 carries the entire season and you wonder why. Balance will be key, but teams have had success running against the Vikings, as they rank 22nd in the NFL and their safety is the leading tackler. Use the run to setup the pass game today.
Defensively, the Dolphins come into the game giving up 331.6 yards per game, which ranks 7th in the NFL. 209.2 yards of that is via the pass, which ranks 3rd in the NFL, and 122.4 yards via the run game, which ranks 21st. The Dolphins are giving up 21.5 points per game, which ranks 13th. They face a Vikings offense that is generating 312.9 yards per game, which ranks 28th in the NFL. They are generating 201.1 yards via the pass, 111.7 yards in the run game, which ranks 15th in the NFL. They are scoring 19.8 points a game, which ranks 24th.
Even though he did not play last week, Jelani Jenkins is still the leading tackler and CB Brent Grimes leads the secondary with 5 intercpetions. Jenkins is questionable for the game with the foot injury and LB Koa Misi, who also missed last week game with a hamstring is probable. Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater is completing 63.5% of his passes for 2,451 yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. RB Matt Asiata leads the Vikings with 421 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns while WR Greg Jennings leads the Vikings with 53 catches for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Miami is facing a rookie QB, so the game plan is pretty obvious, although for Miami, it could be difficult. The Dolphins now rank 21st against the run, although they did do a better job against the Patriots last week. Until then, the Dolphins had given up 3 consecutive games of over 180 yards rushing. The Vikings will look to run the ball to take the pressure off their young QB. Can Miami stop the run and indeed get a chance to get after Bridgewater, that is the question that needs to be answered.
Here we are again in the home stetch and the Dolphins are doing exactly what they did in 2013, FOLDING. The defense has not been able to get key stops when needed, although that has been the case all year long. The offense has struggled the last few weeks with the injuries that have savaged the offensive line. And while QB Ryan Tannehill has improved a good bit in 2014, he still has a tendacy to try to force balls into tight coverage and it has cost him. This team has a small margin for error, and turnovers are starting to emerge the last few weeks. For Miami fans, this is an all to familar trend that we are seeing, and it has grown OLD.
Let's Go Miami.