Winning a game that you shouldn’t win is not a rarity in the NFL. It certainly is not a rarity for the Miami Dolphins, last years season opener win against the Washington Redskins springs to mind. What makes this win hard to accept as a victory is the fact that the Dolphins almost lost to the third 3rd backup QB they have faced in just three weeks – even though Miami has a ton talent on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately the likes of Jarvis Landry, Brandon Albert, Devante Parker to name a few on offense couldn’t do enough to move the ball up and down. The defense had its own issues, again unable to stop the run, with the likes of Suh, Kiko Alonso, Cameron Wake, Reshad Jones. Having so much talent and at the same time an inability to control the game is the reason why fans should be shaking their heads. It is also the reason why rookie coach Adam Gase left the field dry as a bone without an ounce of gatorade poured on him after winning his first home game. Even the team knew they were just lucky, not good.
“We come out here in our first game at home to showcase to our own fans what we’re all about, and offensively we’re out there flopping around,” said Gase, who called the plays. “It irritated me a little bit. It still does.”
The only reason the Dolphins came out with a win this Sunday was due to Browns kicker Cody Parkey missing three field goals. The last one, a 46 yard attempt in the final play of regulation would have secured a place on the basement for the Dolphins in the AFC East.
Lets take a look at what we learned from this (ahem) win:
1. Ryan Tannehill – The most frustrating aspect of this football team thats for sure. I am sure there will be fans that feel he is not to blame in any way shape or form or even think that he did just enough not to lose and are happy about it. But lets be clear about one thing, he has no more excuses. First year, “he has no offensive line”, second year “he has no one to throw to”, third year “he has a new offensive coordinator”, 4th year “It was Joe Philbnin’s fault”. Now that we are in the 5th year with Ryan Tannehill there can be no more excuses for his play, or lack there of.
With two interceptions, first one to start the game and the second returned for 6, Ryan Tannehill looked worse than the three rookie QB’s he has faced this season so far. The one thing he really needs to improve upon is his accuracy and not just on the ones that fly above receiver heads but the ones that the Dolphins talented receivers catch as well. Both quarterback and receiver work together to get maximum results out of a play, weather it be a first down, or position for a game winning field goal. But when the QB forces the receiver to either change his route or stop his forward momentum to catch a ball, the result will inevitably end in a missed opportunity. During the Browns game I counted 14 misses (more on that when I post Tannehill’s “every throw” from NFL.com). This in unacceptable for a 5th year quarterback! Yes, I know what some of you will say, everyone misses, even Aaron Rodgers. There is a reason why QB’s are classified into elite, good, serviceable and bad. An elite QB will have misses, but only a few per game, but he wont depend on his defense to win the game. A good QB will have slightly more misses but he wont lose you a game, think Alex Smith. A serviceable QB knows all the throws he has to make but misses way too many and so he depends on a top 10 defense to keep you in the game or a top 5 to win you the game, think Ryan Tannehill. A bad QB, well, think Geno Smith, need i say more?
In the end, the dream that was Tannehill is about over unless he manages to fix his inefficiencies and the longer he waits to get it done the less likely the Dolphins will be the proud franchise they once were.
2. Offense – The Miami Dolphins offense lives and dies under wide receiver Jarvis Landry. When he is on he is unstoppable and when he is not he makes defenders still look silly. The guy is just everything you ever want in a receiver. From his ability to catch just about anything thrown at him to making defenders miss tackling him, he is the epitome of a football player with 7 receptions for 120 yards. He never gives up on a play and is always looking and fighting for those extra yards. Devonte Parker is silently coming into his own with 3 catches for 51 yards. Kenny Stills a respectable 5 catches for 76 yards. It is clear the Dolphins have a talented group that makes it hard for defensive coordinators to game plan against. What can be planned for is the lack of a running game by the Dolphins however. When it takes 4 running backs to only sniff 100 yards in a game, you have a problem. The Jay Ajayi experiment has yet to bear fruit even though he scored the winning touchdown in over time. Arian Foster is hurt, yet again. A rookie, a cast off and 3rd string backup is all the Dolphins have. Each have a special skill but not a single one is the complete package you want in a running back. Part of the blame can rest upon the offensive line, specially missing their pro bowl center in Pouncey and a rookie at guard. But to not even reach 100 yards against the 27th ranked rush defense in the league should leave you uninspired with this group. The o-line, which was an issue for years however, was actually pretty good, it has been good thus far. Against the Browns they only allowed one sack and kept Tannehill clean for the most part giving him an average of 4.8 seconds to throw the ball. All in all the receiving group and the offensive line (in pass protection) are the two brightest spots this offense has, but that’s just it.
3. Defense – Easily the most underrated defense the NFL. If it wasn’t for the Dolphins defense the first two loses would have been blown outs and the Browns would have looked like Super Bowl champions. Yes, they take risks, yes, they are aggressive leaving areas open in the middle, but at the end of the day, they keep the Dolphins in each and every game. Against the Seahawks they kept that explosive offense to just 12 points and held them to just 6 up until 3 minutes left in the game. Against the Patriots, sure they gave up 24 points in the first half but when it counted in the second half they limited the Patriots to just 7. What makes people underrate them is the fact that they are still scored on like the Browns did with 24 points but if you look deeper into it, what do you expect when the Dolphins offensive time of possession is 25:28, 23:14, and 26:25 (regulation time). Another way to look at it is that Dolphins have the second most punts in the NFL. If you don’t let your defense rest then eventually it will bend enough to let big plays through, sometimes even break.
4. Coaching – This one is hard being that it is only the third game of the season given all coaching entails but so far Adam Gase has been as expected. A methodical coach that is willing to change when required. He makes a game plan and if it doesn’t work he changes to something that does making the Dolphins a much better second half team than the first. Even though slow starts are big issue, the fact that he can adjust his game plan so effectively no matter the situation speaks volumes of his capabilities as a coach. As he grows into his own I expect the slow starts will be a thing of the past, that is of course if he can get Tannehill on board. Vance Joseph has also proven himself capable with a more aggressive style of defense even with sub par players in the secondary. He certainly is not putting out a top 5, or even top 10 defense but a respectful one that has to be planned for precisely.