The bye week is officially over for the Miami Dolphins, with the team starting to get back onto a regular schedule this week ahead of their game against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Of course, most of the last week has seen the team enjoying some rest and relaxation. But, what should we see from the team after the week off? Here are five thoughts on exactly that:
1. Healthy players - Despite all the talk of scheme changes, new players in the starting lineup, and ways for Ryan Tannehill to stop being sacked, the health of the team has to be the number one priority coming out of the bye week. Cameron Wake, Dimitri Patterson, Nolan Carroll, Chris Clemons, Dannell Ellerbe, Koa Misi, Jason Trusnik, Jonathan Freeny, Don Jones, Paul Soliai, Brandon Gibson. Those are the players who were either on the injury report heading into the game against the Baltimore Ravens, or were injured during it. This bye week, first and foremost, must be a chance for the Dolphins to get back most of those players at 100%, ready to play the rest of the season.
2. Pass protection fixes - Right behind getting back healthy player this year, the Dolphins have to find a way to prevent an injury to Tannehill. At the rate he is being sacked (24 in five games, projected 77 in 16 games), the likelihood the Dolphins' signal caller will be able to start and finish all 16 games this year. The problem is, the pass protection issues are not all the offensive line. They take the brunt of the blame, because protecting Tannehill is their number one job, but the running backs, tight ends, and Tannehill all have to do a better job as well. This week will tell us if the coaches are considering a personnel change, such as moving John Jerry to right tackle and sliding Nate Garner or Danny Watkins into the starting lineup at right guard, but they may look to keep the line the same, and get back to basics on blocking assignments, hoping that will work out as well. Whatever the choice, the team has to see better pass protection to keep Tannehill healthy and to find success this season.
3. Turnover battle - Remember when the Dolphins were all about winning the turnover battle? What happened to that? At this point, I'm beginning to think that it may be up there on the injured players list somewhere, but the Dolphins have got to find that again. The Dolphins are currently +1, with nine takeaways and eight giveaways, so they are on the right side of the equation, but the ball-hawking, fumble forcing energy with which they started the season seems to be dissipating. That needs to be corrected this week.
4. Running game - Any sort of running game at this point would be awesome. Nineteen. That's the average number of carries the team has per game this year. The team. Not Lamar Miller. The team. That's Miller, Daniel Thomas, Ryan Tannehill, and Charles Clay. That's not enough. The Dolphins are obviously a pass first team this year, and it's exactly what we as fans have been waiting to see from the Dolphins for a decade, but pass first does not mean pass only. The team has simply abandoned the run in multiple games this year. Part of the issue is the offensive line not being able to open up the running lanes needed, but the play design and calling is hurting the run game as well. The team loves the stretch runs, but does not do those well. Meanwhile, they should be able to run incredibly well behind Mike Pouncey, Richie Incognito, and John Jerry up the middle, but they don't do it. Run the ball, set up the play action, and give the offense a chance to be more than one-dimensional.
5. Chemistry - We've been talking about this since the offseason, but the Dolphins have to get their chemistry with each other figured out. The biggest example is of course Tannehill and wide receiver Mike Wallace, but it's also an offensive line thing and a linebacker thing as well. The team has to figure out some way to get a lot of new pieces from this offseason onto the same page as some of the incumbents, and with each other.
Honorable mentions: Drops - The wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs need to spend hours in front of the Jugs machines and try to find a way to end these drop problems that seem to be running through all of them.
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