Part of working towards a career as a sports analyst is to be able to have a certain amount of objectivity in your observations, and as tough as that is for me as a lifelong Dolphins fan, it's something that I have to work through. To make a long story short, the Saints exposed the Dolphins' weaknesses in Monday night's game and beat them down hard. Drew Brees was throwing touchdowns almost at will, while our offense looked flat out lost for most of the night. Keep in mind that my opinions are based almost solely on the second half, since I had a class last night that kept me from watching the first half of the game.
Observation 1: The O-line needs serious improvement.
Yeah, doesn't make a whole lot of sense to bring up something that literally everyone knows. Why state the obvious? Because it can't be stressed enough is why. Our O-line is once again the weakest part of our team. With an NFL worst 18 sacks given up, it only proves our total mediocrity in the trenches. Who are the biggest people I blame for this? Certainly not Mike Pouncey, he's the one stable player on our entire Offensive Line in my opinion.
As for the others...Tyson Clabo is not even close to living up to the hype he was given coming into the season, maybe he simply is still trying to make the adjustment to a zone-blocking scheme or something, either way, his performance thus far is unacceptable.
John Jerry is an average guard at best, but we all knew that. I'm still wishing that the butt behind the "butt-fumble" hadn't retired so we could make an inquiry into his return since he was one of the top guards in the league for several years.
Speaking of guards, Richie Incognito has dropped off significantly. He will not be worth the money he'll surely be demanding in the offseason, so I pray that Dallas Thomas will be ready to go in the next season.
And finally Jonathan Martin. He's been decent, so I think he can be salvaged with another season under his belt. Other than Martin and Pouncey, the O-line needs to be completely revamped.
Now, the only way we'll be able to do that it seems is through the draft, because looking at the possible Free Agents on the O-line for 2014, I'm not seeing any names that really pop out to me, so my plan would be to trade Matt Moore to a team like Jacksonville for maybe a 2nd round pick, depending on how desperate they are. Unfortunately, I don't see them being desperate, I see them waiting for the season to end so they can get the first pick in the draft and grab Teddy Bridgewater out of Louisville. The only way this proposed trade would work was if Jacksonville decided they wanted to draft Jadeveon Clowney with the first overall pick instead.
Assuming this trade happened, I would do what we did last year and trade up in the draft and get an elite-caliber lineman such as Jake Matthews out of Texas A&M. Ironically enough, Matthews played alongside Luke Joeckel from 2010-12, and when 5 NFL executives were asked about who was the better player, 2 of the 5 chose Matthews over Joeckel, which means he clearly has the necessary talent. He played RT while Joeckel played LT, and now he's playing LT in Joeckel's absence. So if Jonathan Martin somehow comes out and plays well, Matthews could play RT while Martin remains at LT, or they could flip, either way is fine.
Now that's the best case scenario of course. There's a lot of depth coming at us in this upcoming draft when it comes to the O-line, so it wouldn't be necessary to trade up for Matthews, but it'd be the ideal situation in my opinion.
Observation 2: The secondary is still an issue.
Nolan Carroll...what else do I have to say? To be fair, Carroll's been playing much better than he did last year, and perhaps I've let my personal biases get in the way of being objective towards Carroll...it's just very hard to give him the benefit of the doubt when he breaks your heart over and over and over again. Carroll gets picked on by almost every QB that gets him in his sights. Again, to be fair, he did manage to keep up relatively well with the arguably elite Julio Jones in Week 3, but it's still very hard for me to trust him.
But as hard as it is to trust him, I now trust Dimitri Patterson even less. Patterson beat Richard Marshall for the #2 spot in the Preseason, which led to Marshall getting the boot and landing in San Diego. Patterson started strong, getting two interceptions in the season opener versus his old team the Browns...and after that he got hit with a groin injury (along with the rest of the team apparently) and he's been out ever since. It's almost as if Patterson got revenge on his old team for dumping him, and then he's taken the last three weeks off. All Patterson is doing right now is reminding everyone why the Browns dumped him. He's got talent, but his durability and commitment seem to be in question.
Now, what's the possible solution? Well, we could look to the draft again, but that would mean we're giving up on Jamar Taylor and Will Davis already. I see those two becoming great sometime in the future, so I'm willing to wait on them for a while. But for this year we need a stopgap. We all heard that Antoine Winfield retired after getting cut by the Seattle Seahawks during the final cuts...but what may not be common knowledge is that Winfield is considering a return to the NFL. He's already worked out with the Houston Texans and there are swirling rumors that a return to Minnesota is imminent. Reportedly he's waiting for the "right situation", which I assume means a team in contention for a playoff spot. Brent Grimes has already solidified the #1 spot, and there's no doubt we'll be paying him for his performance in the years to come. For this particular year, I would not be opposed to giving the veteran Winfield a one-year deal.
Observation 3: We're trying too hard to be a pass-first team
Interestingly enough, this part I didn't actually observe myself because of my class, but rather I'm taking into account the observations of my fellow Phin fans. From what I've heard we were actually having some success running the football before Brees started piling on the points and forced us to go to the air all night.
But it seems to me lately that Mike Sherman is getting all too predictable and is putting a little too much faith in Ryan Tannehill. I'm all for passing the ball more but not at the expense of the run game altogether. That's what seems to be happening lately. Lamar Miller is a very good running back with speed to spare and if he gets a hole you can guarantee he'll burst through it. For whatever reason, we aren't willing to give him the chance nearly as often as I feel we should.
It's almost as if Sherman and Philbin are trying to send a message to the rest of the league that the Dolphins have a QB who's just as good as theirs. Yes, we beat Andrew Luck, we destroyed Brandon Weeden, and we came back against Matt Ryan...but to go toe-to-toe with an elite QB in Drew Brees? It just doesn't make any sense.
The solution is an easy one. We need to run the ball more, plain and simple. Personally, I would love to see more Read-Option, after watching Tannehill scramble for those yards in the second half, I got a huge reminder that the man used to play WR before transferring to QB at Texas A&M. TANNY CAN RUN, we just have to let him. The ability to use his legs would make him as potentially dangerous as the likes of RG3 at full health or Colin Kaepernick or even Russell Wilson.
Now I dunno about the rest of you, but having a QB like those three sounds pretty appealing to me. But what makes them so dangerous? Simple, it's their ability to run with the football. I want Tannehill to run more, I want him to show off the athleticism we all know he has just like he did early last year.
And for those of you who are worried about Tannehill getting hurt by taking a hit in the open field...uh...he's already been taken down 18 times in the pocket, and that's not even counting the several times he's been hit without a sack being recorded. As far as I'm concerned, if he's gonna get hit, I'd rather he got hit going forwards, not backwards.
Observation 4: Tannehill and Wallace still have work to do
The first week of the season we beat the Cleveland Browns...but someone wasn't happy. Mike Wallace made it known that he was disappointed (whether it be because of himself or his coaches is up for debate) that he only got one catch. In the following weeks, it was revealed that Wallace's route tree was expanded tremendously, allowing for more opportunities for receptions.
The only issue...or at least...the only one we can see is that Tannehill and Wallace can't seem to sync up with each other. They're doing ok given the circumstances, we are 3-1 after all. But Wallace was our biggest acquisition and supposedly our biggest upgrade. I would hate to imagine that Wallace could become another failed Brandon Marshall experiment, and it's far too early to go to that extreme, but so far Wallace isn't making as big an impact as we were hoping.
Perhaps this solution is also a simple one. Wallace was constantly accused of being a one-trick pony, only being able to run fly routes straight up the field...and then dropping it once it got there. But it seems to me that now he doesn't run that route nearly enough. Opposing defenses aren't looking out for a possible bomb anymore and so they're keeping everything crowded in one area. It's time for Wallace to catch the defense off-guard...and try to be more like people expected him to be before the season started.
Observation 5: We've still got a long way to go
One loss does not a season destroy, we're still very much in the running for the playoffs after this first month of football, and after Joe Flacco's miserable performance against Baltimore, it's pretty clear that the Ravens are not the powerhouses they claim to be. It's quite probable we could go into the bye week at 4-1. Even if we don't win the division, if we keep going the way we are, we could very easily find ourselves in a Wild Card spot against some other semi-decent team.
And even by some horrible fluke we don't manage to make the postseason, all it means is that we'll be in a greater position to put together the final touches to make our team an unstoppable force in 2014. If we can do this now, I can only imagine what we'll be able to pull off after Tannehill gets yet another season under his belt and we can fix the O-line. We'll be invincible! Oops...broke objectivity there for a second...heh. Well anyways, that's my take on the situation, if you wanna take me up on a discussion, be my guest. I relish the conversation.