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Mel Kiper (ESPN)

I stood up, screamed something appropriate at the T.V. and, in my fit of frustration, tore off my Ryan Tannehill jersey and threw it on the floor.

I had just watched some guy that plays for the Browns (the BROWNS, for the love of football!) named Lemonaid (or something like that) blow by Ju’Wuan James to strip sack Ryan Tannehill, with the fumble being recovered by Cleveland to set them up with a sure-fire game winning field goal at the end of regulation.


This jersey means a lot to me. A former student of mine whom I was especially fond of gave it to me as a gift at the end of her eighth grade year. This was meaningful to me because I know that jerseys such as this aren’t cheap, and I also know that she comes from a family where money is extremely tight. It was a sacrifice for them to get this jersey for me, one which I appreciate dearly. It was an act of love on the part of that student and her family. I treasure that jersey.


And I tore it off and threw it on the floor.


That’s what this game does to us fans sometimes. It makes us do things, say things and post things that aren’t really a good reflection of who we are and what we value. It can make us crazy, especially after all the mediocrity and painfully bad decisions that have been made by ownership, general managers and coaching staffs over the years. I won’t bother making a list… it’s already forming in your minds, if you’ve been a fan for more than a year.

I read Jammer’s blog yesterday and immediately agreed with his statement that “The home opening victory may have been one of the most uninspiring wins we have seen in a long time.” It was empty. Hollow. So how do we sift through this and find reason to hold onto hope? It’s difficult, but there were some things to hang onto.


1. Cam Wake. The man got significant playing time, and helped to force Cleveland’s right tackle into an embarrassing number of penalties. He was disruptive. He was relentless. He was, well, Cam Wake. I don’t know if he can keep this pace up for a whole season, but man it was fun watching him dominate again. The guy is straight up one of the best defenders we’ve been privileged to watch in a Dolphin uniform, a once in a generation type player along the lines of Jason Taylor. Sunday gave us reason to think we might get to see that again this year, which was never a given after his catastrophic injury last year.


2. Reshad Jones. A man among boys. Jones was everywhere. He was intense. He was in the backfield stopping running plays for a loss. He showed why this front office needs to… HAS to make it the top priority to sign this guy to an extension while the opportunity to do so is there. When was the last time we got consistent play from the safety position at this high a level? Do we really have to go back to Jake Scott? He’s another special player. We can only hope that his intensity and work ethic rub off on the rest of the secondary.


3. Dion Simms. Okay, he’s not going to be confused with any of the top TEs in the league anytime ever. But… he may be the best choice to play starting TE for the Dolphins this year, in spite of the fact that Jordan Cameron seems to deserve that status due to his reputation as a pass-catching threat. Why? Because Simms quietly graded out as the top run-blocking tight end in the league in this game, and also pulled down 4 catches for 46 yards. While he might never be an elite seam threat, he can help uncork the Miami running game. I would say that is a reason for hope.


4. Kenyan Drake. So I didn’t really know what to expect from this guy, since all I had seen from him so far this season was his name on injury reports. Maybe that will be the trend from this point forward, as his reputation indicates. But… while he was in there, it seemed like the game was not too big for him. He ran hard, once moving the pile to pick up a first down. He showed soft hands, nifty moves and a burst that is missing with Ajayi. I can’t say I count on him yet, but he showed reason for hope.


5. Adam Gase. His game planning sucked. The team was not motivated. There’s soooo much room for improvement, yet… he responded to this game by simultaneously owning his own need to do better, while holding players accountable in a very visible way that hasn’t been present since, well… Jimmy Johnson. Ju’Wuan James got benched in overtime, and the message has been sent. Shots fired. Do your job, or lose your job. AMEN, brother. Preach.


Winning at Cincinnati will take good game planning (hasn’t happened yet), a fast start by the offense (hasn’t happened yet) and the ability to control the damage done by an elite wide receiver (we haven’t seen one yet.)  Against those seemingly unsurmountable odds, I say this.


We have reason for hope. We can win this game. I can imagine any possible outcome happening on Thursday night except one.

I could see us winning a close one.

I could see us losing a close one.

I could see us getting blown out.

I will be very, very surprised if we blow out the Bengals.

But oh, my… what that would do for the team. What it would do for the fan base.

It would help us find the thing we want so desperately…. Gold. A reason for hope.
And maybe, (just maybe) I can keep my jersey on this week.

No beating around the bush on this one, Miami needs to come out with their game faces on against Cincinnati.  The home opening victory may have been one of the most uninspiring wins we have seen in a long time.  Coach Adam Gase, who himself needs to step up, isn't kidding around any more.  He has put his players on notice - status and talent do not equal playing time.  We may very well see some lineup changes or decreased snap counts for some guys on Thursday evening.

 

Last year Miami played their Thursday night game in New England after trouncing the Houston Texans.  Coach "Dude" Dan Campbell had at least emotionally inspired his squad for a couple of games against inferior opponents, but in New England it was like lambs to the slaughter.  I should know, I was at that game.  We were hoping it would be a statement game, a protest to Philbin and a message that the talent was there.  My oh my were we wrong.

 

Once again Miami enters a short week needing a victory to turn the tides.  There will be no misplaced confidence or emotional high for this game.  From head coach to backup long snapper, everybody knows this team isn't fooling anyone right now.  The keys to victory are the same redundant messages we relay every week - the offense needs to start faster, the defense needs to tighten up, the QB needs to get into a consistent rhythm, the trench play needs to be stronger and at some point there has to be a rushing attack.  It is ridiculous that after three weeks Miami's leading rusher is Ryan Tannehill with 54 yards.

 

Cincinnati brings something Miami has yet to face - a true alpha receiver.  A.J. Green is going to be a major problem for the secondary, but it's possible Miami could take him out of the game or at least limit him with a good pass rush.  As Mark Grimm (Swerve13) pointed out on the boards, Cincinnati's line play has been as bad if not worse than Miami's.  Believe it or not, they are actually ranked below Miami in rushing yards and have allowed QB Andy Dalton to be sacked at an alarming pace.  If Miami's defense can get after the QB and clog up the lanes, they have a puncher's chance. 

 

After watching the highlights from Sunday's game against Denver, I noticed Cincinnati's CBs were getting beat deep on several occasions.  Tannehill needs to take advantage of this with Devante Parker and Kenny Stills.  Another thing that is becoming more obvioius every week is that the passing game needs to keep using play action roll outs.  It buys Tannehill extra time and he's moving the ball down the field.  Sprinkle in some read options and half back draws to really keep that weak Cincinnati line guessing.

 

This game is winnable.  Cincinnati looks to be more of a paper tiger than a solid foe.  But this weekend proved Miami went from a tough out to a potential laughing stock.  Will we see the team that went down to the wire against Seattle and New England, or will they embarrass themselves in the national spotlight?  It is a tall order for a short week, but if they want to take a step forward it has to start on Thursday night.

 

Go Phins!

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