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To be, or not to be

Gary Ramey, Phinfever, Miami DolphinsWill the real Miami Dolphins please stand up. The team that opened the season wasn’t terrible. They lost on the road to 2 teams expected to compete for their respective conference championships. However the team of the following 3 games was pretty lousy. The last game in that series against Tennessee was particularly putrid on both sides of the ball. Then we have the team of the last 2 weeks. It’s a smash mouth, physical group of players who look hungry to win. Let’s say I’m cautiously optimistic…lol. My heart wants to believe this team is over the hump and can go on a run. Their next 7 opponents all have losing records with the exception of the Cardinals who are .500. Go 5-2 in that stretch and they’ll be sitting at 8-6 and in the thick of the playoff race.  The hardest of those games will be @ San Diego whom should have a really good record but suffered 4 straight 4th quarter collapses. So what are we to believe? Who knows? I don’t. I would say that if the OL and Ajayi all stay healthy it is reasonable to think they’ll be at least 5-2 in that stretch. If not, there is little to no depth behind them and that wouldn’t be good for Miami. They are 2 OL injuries away from being 0-7 during that stretch. We’re back to being cautiously optimistic.

Ryan Tannehill – I’ve been accused of being a hater by just about everyone on the forum. I guess I just want to see the team return to dominance. The title of franchise QB means the team believes you’re that guy. Right now, I don’t think RT is the one.  I went into this season with the idea that he would need to prove he is the guy and not just the QB who can manage a good team or great team to the post season. He needs to be a guy who can pick the team up when things aren’t going well and make them competitive every time (not win every game but be in every game and win their share of them). Miami hasn’t had that since Marino retired. Tom Brady is that guy. There are a host of guys that fill out the next tier of play that make their teams competitive even when they’re not that good in many areas. I told people after watching Dak Prescott dismantle Miami in the preseason he was going to be great.  RT has the talent. He has a great arm. He has mobility….but so do a lot of young QBs coming out of college. RT seems to lack pocket awareness. He seems to not be aware he has dropped right into the path of the oncoming DE. 2 steps up and 1 to the right is the pocket….he fails to find it. He locks in on his targets and stares them down. Defensive linemen are coached to watch his eyes and get their hands up. He doesn’t have good field vision and often doesn’t see the wide open target.  Furthermore, he just won’t throw the ball if he thinks the WR is covered even if it is single coverage. All of these things add up to him holding the ball too long on many drop backs.  DBs are taught to just run with the WR, keeping the inside position and RT won’t throw it. If the back shoulder throw to Stills was truly planned, they need to a do a ton of that down the stretch.  The bottom line is I want RT to be the guy. He is likeable. He is tough. However, he has 9 games left to prove he has what it takes. He now has a punishing running game to keep the other teams defense on Ajayi. The Jets boast the leagues 2nd ranked rush defense. If Miami wins this game it will be on the arm of Ryan Tannehill. 

Btw, my blog always ends with this phrase

Go Tannehill

GD2 (Go Dolphins too)

A month ago I wrote about the 2nd quarter of the season telling us whether or not this team has promise or is a dud.  My focus points were on the coaches making changes, the OL gelling, the running game setting the tone, the defense finding consistency and finally the QB playing solid football.  The 2nd quarter offered 4 straight home games against mostly beatable opponents and a chance for Miami to be near .500 heading into the bye.  A few days later the Tennessee game happened and once again all seemed lost...

 

But here we sit at the bye week with the team pulling off impressive wins, finding something of an identity and suddenly in the discussion as a relevant force for the 2nd half of the season.  Jay Ajayi has emerged as the offense's top weapon and is burying defenders with yards after contact.  We have to give a tip of the cap to the offensive line because they are opening up highway lanes which he is bursting through.  It helps that all five starters have finally been on the field together and are playing with a confidence which we have not seen in a long time.  The defense has shut down two legitmate running offenses in the past two weeks.  The demotions of Jason Jones and Mario Williams have allowed Andre Branch to step up and Cameron Wake to finally log some serious snaps.  Donald Butler has been an improvement over the oft injured Jelani Jenkins as well.  This all equates to crediting the coaches for learning from their mistakes and making better decisions.

 

Start with the cutting of a few players.  Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas are gone from the offensive line where they had not developed as expected.  Perhaps they weren't bringing the right attitude, work ethic, focus, etc.  Whatever it was, Adam Gase saw enough and delivered quite the wake up call.  As previously mentioned, demotions on the defense also gave other players a chance to step up with more snaps.  Vance Joseph seems to be getting the most out guys who were previously backups or depth.  The play calling on offense has changed from pass happy to balance.  Using the power of Ajayi to both move the chains and set up the play action pass has been awesome.  OC Clyde Christensen joked that it gives Gase a rash having to call the same inside run plays over and over, but hey it works.  Kudos to the coaches for finding a winning formula and sticking to it.  Quick side note, it appears the the OL (Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey specifically) pressed Gase into going run heavy and he listened.  This is what we heard about Gase all offseason and its great to witness a coach who communicates well with his players.

 

This week is all about Miami resting, healing and diligently studying film to see what else they can clean up (penalties come to mind!).  The 2nd quarter ends a week from Sunday when they host the New York Jets.  This is a game the Dolphins cannot afford to lose.  The Jets are in QB purgatory, their running game has not been as advertised and their defense has allowed 23+ points in 6 of 7 games.  The worry is that the Jets' front seven has done a relatively good job of stopping the run - they are currently 4th in yards allowed with opponents only mustering 3.2 yards per carry.  If they are successful in slowing down the J Train can Miami counter punch?  I still believe Miami's defense will be the key by forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick (or maybe Bryce Petty) into multiple turnovers and 3 and outs.  But alas, it may come down to Ryan Tannehill producing a big game.  The Jets' passing defense is ranked 29th and is allowing nearly 2 TDs per game through the air.  After rumors of Miami looking beyond the Tannehill era he has a chance to build off a couple of solid games and deliver a knockout blow to a division rival.  Let's hope Miami concludes this part of the season with another impressive victory.

 

Go Phins!

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