Here are my game notes for this disappointing loss:
1. Wallace can’t be the focus of the offense. Through the first few games, the offense moves more consistently with Tannehill using Gibson and Hartline and Clay as the main weapons and Wallace as someone who pulls defenders away to allow the other 3 to have single coverage. When the Dolphins try to force it to Wallace, the defense stalls, either through incomplete (or dropped) passes to Wallace or by Tannehill taking a sack to have Wallace come open. More Hartline/Gibson/Clay in the passing game and less Wallace.
2. The Dolphins won’t go far in the playoffs with their current offensive line. The unit is broken and the backs and tight ends and the poor pocket awareness of Tannehill makes the situation even worse. Unfortunately, there really is no remedy for this except better play calling and hopefully some more cohesiveness in the unit as the year moves forward. Jerry and Clabo will definitely not be resigned next year and Incognito is 50/50 depending on how much he will ask for. First pick of the draft for the Dolphins in 2014 – OT with Martin moving back to the right OT position. I wouldn’t be surprised also if the biggest FA pick-up of the off-season will be an OLinemen as well.
3. Sherman is not impressing with his play calling. The 3rd down sweeps to the outside are mind-numbing in their craziness, and have cost the Dolphins dearly. Even more confusing is the unwillingness of Sherman to call a bootleg or similar in the passing game to get Tannehill out of the pocket occasionally during the game. At least give the DLinemen something to think about – DE’s aren’t even worried about Tannehill moving the pocket to the outside so they are just collapsing the edge at full tilt. Tannehill needs to run 4-5x a game and throw out of the pocket 3-4x a game as well – currently the defense doesn’t have to defend against anything but rushing to the QB who will be exactly 3-7 steps behind the center every pass play.
4. The defense is missing Cameron Wake unlike anything the team could have expected. Compare the pass rush in the first two games with the last three – unbelievable. The other injuries to Patterson, Ellerbe, Wheeler, Misi, Carroll, and Soliai have hurt the team at times, but missing Wake just is killing the defense. I’m convinced that Wake and Soliai are the two most important defensive players on the team – both of them require the offense to scheme against them in the run (Soliai) or pass (Wake) game.
5. Wallace is quickly approaching Brandon Marshall 2.0. So many drops. Where Clay has improved from last year to this year, Wallace has quickly become the Dolphins most slippery handed player. After 5 games he has at least 10 dropped balls. Ughh.
6. Caleb Sturgis is human after all. The out of bounds kick-off was huge against the Dolphins. No excuse for this blunder, which just completely tipped the field position to the Ravens. I don’t fault Sturgis for the missed 57 yard FG (although it was a really poor kick), I blame that on Tannehill for the crappy spike of the ball with over a minute remaining (wasted play) and the stupid sack (umm, what is the one rule in the two minute drill while you are in FG position….don’t take a sack?). Just a horrible end to a crappy 2 minute drill (with one really, really, really lucky play as the only positive out of 7 full plays before the FG attempt). You have to be better than 1-7 in a 2-minute drill.
7. Two of the worst pass interference calls I’ve seen in awhile against the Dolphins at the start of the 3rd quarter. Carroll is doing a really good job out there and had a great play on the ball – just no way that should have been a PI penalty. And Grimes – wow. Perfect position on the ball with the receiver completely climbing on his back and head and everything – I had no doubt that was an offensive PI penalty. That drive was 15 yards by the Ravens, 55 yards in penalties by the refs, 7 points. Tough stuff.
8. Things to work on in the next two weeks: A. Get Wake and Patterson healthy. Get the other players who are nicked up some rest to have them back at full strength. B. Work on play calling to help the OLine. Better calls on passing plays with some variety, less passes to Wallace, and better short yardage plays should be at the top of the revamped offense. C. The team is a really good but not great team. Playoffs can be had if the Dolphins just play consistently and beat other good teams, but they can’t do it with the multitude of bone-head plays they have made in the first few games, especially the last 2. Go Dolphins!