Monday Night Football again a winless team should have been exactly the medicine the Miami Dolphins needed to make people forget, at least temporarily, about the Jonathan Martin allegations of player misconduct that has been swirling around the club for the past two weeks. Instead, a deplorable effort left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with their first win of the season, Dolphins fans in a frenzy, and a team with more questions than answers.
Head coach Joe Philbin has to find those answers, and find them fast, if the team is going to have any sort of success this season. Somehow, the Dolphins are still the first team outside the Playoffs, just one game back, and could, theoretically, make a push for the postseason. But, with a fan base ready to revolt and a team that cannot seem to do anything well right now, this season could slipping away would be a much easier, and a much more likely, outcome than figuring out the problems and making a change.
Unfortunately, the "change" should not be singular. Change-s must be made. As in more than one. As in many.
The Miami offense is stagnant. They simply cannot run the ball, as a two-yard rushing performance against the Buccaneers proves. If that isn't enough, the Dolphins ran the ball 14 times (seven from Lamar Miller, one by Ryan Tannehill, two from Charles Clay, and four from Daniel Thomas), for their two yards. That works out to 0.1429 yards per carry, or 0.4286 feet per carry, or 5.143 inches per carry. The Dolphins averaged five inches per carry on Monday night. Five...inches.
The team relies almost exclusively on the pass, and they are not exactly lighting the world up there, either. Oh the irony of two years ago, us as fans screaming that we needed to throw the ball more and stop trying to win by the power running game.
To be fair, Tannehill out performed rookie Mike Glennon on Monday. But, there's not a "rookie" qualifier in front of Tannehill's name; he should be outperforming a rookie. Tannehill was 27-for-42 for 229 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, giving him an 84.3 passer rating. He has a higher passer rating and a higher completion percentage than last year, and has shown improvement. But, it's not enough. Tannehill cannot carry the team, yet, and the play calling is not helping him. How many third-and-long passing routes can the team run three yards down the field? Then again, when Brian Hartline does get to the sticks, Tannehill bounced the ball to him, so maybe there's a reason the Dolphins are running short routes.
The strength of the Miami franchise, however, is clearly the defense. The defense that allowed 140-yards rushing last night, giving up an average of 8.2 yards per carry to Mike James before he was injured. The defense that gave up 5.6 yards per carry to Bobby Rainey. The team that gave up a receiving touchdown to an offensive tackle. The defense that got two sacks - one on a cornerback blitz from Nolan Carroll and one from linebacker Dannell Ellerbe because he happened to be the closest player to Glennon when the quarterback ran out of bounds.
Where was Cameron Wake? Where was Dion Jordan? Why are they standing on the sideline? Why have the Dolphins decided they need to rotate an All Pro defensive end off the field? Wake played 43 of 66 defensive snaps. It's not enough. The third overall draft pick, Jordan, played nine. Why? Yes, I am a big advocate of letting a rookie grow, and I trust that the coaches will put him in the best places to have an impact. But, are you seriously saying that the coaches could only design nine plays that would have allowed Jordan to have success?
Oh, but the special teams is strong, so that will save the Dolphins. Except when they run out of bounds voluntarily, causing a penalty. Or, Marcus Thigpen fair catches a punt on the five yard line. Or, Brandon Fields blasts a 55-yard punt, only to allow a 52-yard return.
Everything is going wrong for the Dolphins, both with the off-field things and the on-field performance. While we all have to wait for the off-field issues to clear, the coaches have to fix the on-field performance now. Excuses are not going to cut it. Deplorable performances like last night are not going to cut it.
Changes have to be made. How deep, how many, and how fast, are the remaining questions.
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