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Back in June I lacked faith in Miami amounting to anything better than a six win team.  New coaches, new schemes and roster of prove-it young guys mixed with serviceable veterans.  There are Pro Bowl caliber talents as well, but I can count them on one hand.  I never expected Miami to win either of their first two games let alone be very competitive is such hostile environments.  The evidence suggests I and maybe many of you underestimated what this team is capable of accomplishing before the  year is over.  I believe this team going .500 would be a modest success given the overall situation (new coaching, suspect roster, tough schedule).

 

Here is what we know: Ryan Tannehill can keep this team reasonably competitive;  There isn't a running game worth mentioning;  The receivers are pretty good as a whole but desperately need Devante Parker to step up;  The blocking can't open up running lanes and has left Tannehill running for his life too often;  The defensive front seven is capable of getting to the QB but struggles against the run;  The secondary is decent, with Xavien Howard exceeding expectations to this point;  The coaches are still green and their gameplanning shows it.

 

As I re-read what I just wrote I wonder if that is a recipe for disaster?  Well there are a few things to keep in perspective when evaluating the current state of the team.  Miami faced two of the better defenses in this league and exceeded expectations in both cases, at least in clutch time.  They have not quit on their coaches and recognize that being close isn't enough.  They aren't buying into false hype or whining that they are close (remember Dave Wannstedt pleading to the media, "Guys, we're almost there!"  They know they are devoid of talent at several positions and cannot rely on 4th quarter glory drives every week.  At least there is an awareness of needed corrections, but as GI Joe used to say, knowing is half the battle.

 

Several posters have pointed out that Miami needs to implement schematic changes if they want to succeed.  So if Miami knows they need to change a few things they better get it done sooner than later.  It is obvious that putting Tannehill in charge of the up tempo, no huddle offense yields the best results.  Don't wait until the two minute drill in the 2nd quarter to accomplish that.  It is also obvious that teams recognize Miami's strength is rushing the passer, so they are going to gameplan quick throws and large doses of a ground game.  Stop having the secondary play 10 yards off the receivers and don't bull rush one side of the field leaving the other side completely vulnerable to a running back pitch.  The coaching needs to have better planning and faster adjustments going forward.

 

This week Miami finally gets a cupcake opponent starting either rookie QB Cody Kessler, or recently signed Passion of the Christ stand-in Charlie Whitehurst.  Cleveland appears to be playing for the right to draft Deshaun Watson or DeShone Kizer.  If Miami cannot beat these guys by double digits in a home opener then I might start drifting back to the pessimistic side.  I expect Tannehill to carve up their secondary (he plays better against 3-4 defenses) and the defense to force a lot of three and outs. 

 

The bye comes in week 8 and by that point we should know whether my new found optimism is real or another Miami mirage.  After hopefully demolishing the Browns, Miami has a short week at Cincinnati, and hosts Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Buffalo before catching their breath.  They need to be at least 3-4 by that point, or cross your fingers, 4-3 with an upset win over Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.  Yes, that means I expect home victories against Cleveland, Tennessee and Buffalo.

 

Go Fins!

The Good

 

The passing game started clicking in the second half. Some will say these were garbage time points, but it isn't garbage time if you still have a chance to win. Some will say they padded their stats against a soft defense, but the Patriots were completely crowding Dolphins receivers at the line of scrimmage and forcing the Dolphins to throw downfield. And the Dolphins were able to do that. If not for an inept defensive scheme, the Dolphins tie this game. More on that later.

 

The no-huddle offense worked well late against Seattle and worked even better against New England. When the Dolphins start the game running a conventional offense, it doesn't work so well. Gase needs to take the handcuffs off and let this team open up with the no-huddle so they can establish a rhythm.

 

Jarvis Landry (10 catches, 137 yards) and Devante Parker (8 catches, 106 yards) both had productive games.

 

The Bad

 

The entire team was terrible in the first half. But no unit was worse than the defense. The Dolphins were going up against a young, inexperienced QB starting his second game and a bunch of slow, white receivers. Their defensive philosophy against this inexperienced QB and those slow, white receivers was to play off coverage so the QB could make quick, easy throws. And of course, this being the Patriots bread and butter, that's exactly what they did. Additionally, late in the game, when the Patriots had to roll out a 3rd string QB who had never thrown in the NFL, the defensive philosophy seemed to remain the same. Instead of stacking the box to stop the run, the Dolphins seemed to run the same defense. The result was that the Patriots literally ran left over and over again and the Dolphins couldn't stop it. Also, perhaps someone should remind Vance Joseph that the other team has a tight end and they use it. It is one thing to be unable to outfight the tight end for the ball. It is another when no one seems interested in even being near the tight end.

 

It seems that last week's defensive performance against Seattle was a mirage as Seattle continues to struggle on offense. Right now, the zone concepts the Dolphins love to run look a lot like the concepts they were running under Kevin Coyle. Read and react versus seek and destroy.

 

The Ugly

 

Ryan Tannehill and Adam Gase need to get on the same page. Right now, it seems that Gase continues having a hard time letting go and giving Tannehill more control. When he does, Tannehill and the offense play better. This needs to be the approach for now to get this offense on track. Tannehill also needs to start hot. He has notoriously been a slow starter that needs time to get into the rhythm of the game. For two weeks now, he doesn't seem to get going until it's too late. He showed some heroics and made some great throws against the Patriots late in the game to get the Dolphins within striking distance. It would be nice to see that from the start of the game.

 

Overall

 

Many predicted an 0-2 start but the shame of it is both games were winnable. At the end, it was a tired defense that had spent too much time on the field that couldn't make one more play to set up the win. It's been dropped TDs and turnovers on offense that interrupt the flow of the game. Missed tackles and poor coverage that keep the defense on the field. These things need to get addressed soon if the Dolphins want to turn this around. The defensive schemes need to change, especially in the back 7. These coverages aren't fooling inexperienced QBs.

 

Right now, coaching/lack of preparation seem to be the main causes of this slow start. These guys better catch up quickly or it will be another long, lost season.

Next Game

Week 4: Miami Dolphins at Cincinatti Bengals (8:25 pm on NFL Network)

 

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