As we being the home stretch of the season I thought I would give a roughly 3/4 of the season assessment. This way, I can evaluate the majority of the season without the emotion of a playoff miss or make affecting my judgment. 13 games in we've certainly learned a lot about our new-look team, strengths, weaknesses, and all.
Well, this is certainly the most controversial of all the units I will talk about today because of one name: Ryan Tannehill. Franchise QB? Definitely not sure of either answer right now. Bust? Definitely not. Tannehill is pretty solid at reading coverages, his short to intermediate throws are usually very accurate, and he's starting to think of his legs as a weapon rather than a last resort. I may be incorrect for thinking this, but I also feel that his 14 interceptions make him sound more interception-prone than he really is, never really expecting him to turn the ball over much. An important factor to consider about Tannehil's season is the horrid running game, and how much it forces us to be one-dimensional on Tannehill's shoulders. Anyone watching this team knows that the only way we consistently move the ball is through the air. Even with a lead our offense is hopelessly dependent on passing the ball to keep the chains moving. Want evidence? Here's some:
5:36 left against Carolina game, with a lead: 5 pass, 1 run play.
3:39 left against Buffalo, with a lead, at midfield: 1 run, 1 pass play on 2nd down, Tannehill strip sacked.
3:58 left against San Diego, with a lead: 5 pass ,1 run
Yes, I know three samples isn't exactly the most riveting argument. But, if you've watched the games, you know we have 0 ability to run the ball when we NEED to run the ball. What does this have to do with the passing game? When you have a young QB whose offensive coordinator calls the 4th fewest running plays in football, and many times we're the ones with the LEAD in the 2nd half, it puts a ton of pressure on the passing attack to keep the chains moving and the clock running. Tannehill is not good enough to do that yet. Realistically, there probably aren't 10 QBs in this league who could be very successful with that kind of disparity in play-calling.
Yes, some will point to these things as "excuse-making" (eyes at you Omar Kelly) but in reality we're no longer caveman-esque fans screaming Win or Else. We know that many things go into making a football team successful. Look at Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, or even Tom Brady this year. Quarterbacks are GREATLY affected by their supporting cast and even the defense they are working with. Looking at the young successful QBs like Newton, Wilson, Foles, and RG3 last year, one thing they all have in common is top 5 rushing offenses. You CANNOT ignore the impact of that on a quarterback's performance. Frankly, Miami has neither a stable offensive line (although much improved) or a reliable running game helping Tannehill, and if you think these are just "excuses" you are simply ignorant. From the Seattle game last year, to the Atlanta, Cincinatti, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay (RT brought us back in a game we averaged 0.1 ypc!!!), and Steelers games this year, Tannehill has showed us he is a gamer and at the very least does not SHRINK from the moment by any means. No, I'm not completely sold on Tannehill yet, I don't think anyone in their right mind would be, but man if he had any semblance of a rushing attack and an adequate offensive coordinator I think he's a top 15 QB right now in this league.
For Wide Receivers, Hartline is still Mr. Reliable, Wallace REALLY has opened up the offense for everyone else and still managed to have some solid games, and Clay has emerged as a legit weapon. Rishard Matthews hasn't been quite as effective as Gibson sans his 100-yard game, but we haven't really missed a beat with him out. RBs still not being used at all in the passing game.
Well, I think I covered it pretty much in my last segment frankly. While replacements on the line Gardner and McKinnie have done a solid job shoring up the line in pass protection, they are both fairly inadequate in run blocking. Pouncey isn't having the kind of year he was last year, and neither Lamar Miller nor Daniel Thomas has stood out as an exceptional runner (although Miller has certainly had his moments). Save for the big Pittsburgh run where Thomas was virtually untouched until he was finally tackled, Daniel Thomas might be one of the least explosive backs I've ever seen. Despite 230 pounds he rarely runs through contact and suffers from that tendency to shuffle your feet when you see a tackler instead of making a decisive move. For a back with his kind of speed (or lack thereof), he needs to be a decisive one-cut back. However, with a line that can't consistently make holes, he has been somewhat important in making sure we get 2-3 yards for most runs.
This has to be the most disappointing unit of this Miami Dolphins team. Watching Bobby Rainey and the Buccaneers march all the way down the field with run after run, after the offense had just come all the way back from 15 down, was one of the most demoralizing experiences I've had as a fan. What an embarrassment. This D-Line has not been playing as advertised besides Vernon. For some reason Starks and Soliai don't seem to be the dynamic duo they were last year. The LBs certainly have not been as stingy as Burnett and Dansby in the run game, and frankly it doesn't seem like they have made up for it in many other areas. I thought last years LBs didn't make enough impact plays, these guys certainly haven't made much more. Please Coyle FREE RESHAD JONES to freelance so he can go back to being the promising safety we signed. He struggles mightily in man coverage, and was a subtly important piece in our run defense last year. Let him be our Polamalu, he has that kind of athleticism and instincts. He was ranked a top 100 player by CBSSports last year, and this year he doesn't even look like a good player. Scheme to your personnel, that's exactly what every good coach does.
It seems like the run and pass defense switched roles this year. Grimes has been the best signing of the offseason for any team arguably. Guy is playing absolutely out of his mind. When Patterson is in we truly have a formidable duo on the edge, but Carroll has actually been pretty solid as his replacement. I like Wilson as the nickel corner/safety hybrid. I still have faith that either Taylor or Davis (my bet is on Davis) will emerge as a viable secondary option as well. Reshad Jones has been SO disappointing due to being miscast. Clemons has been solid, even though I wasn't crazy about us re-signing him his continuity and experience in the defense has made him an effective player. Overall very effective unit, this weekend against the Steelers might have been the only weekend I really felt like we were vulnerable through the air (check that, Saints, but in the Superdome on Monday Night isn't the most shameful environment to come up short in).
Fields is the best punter in the game. Thigpen is not the same returner he was a year ago and I'm not sure why. Sturgis is very iffy. Not the biggest fan so far, doesn't seem calm and doesn't seem to have a ton of leg. Don Jones has been a MONSTER on coverage, and overall I would say the unit has been very good.
What a mixed bag of emotions I have about this coaching staff. Philbin's command over the locker room I think is underrated. I think the guys genuinely enjoy playing for him and he keeps guys focused and in check. Runs extremely efficient practices and I think he has been a good coach for Tannehill's maturation. However, our lack of halftime adjustments has been absolutely horrid. Every single game it seems like we are being outschemed in the second half. Sherman is an awful offensive coordinator. I know it is easy for fans to blame coordinators but his lack of commitment to the running game is absolutely inexcusable, regardless of their performance. He gets very timid in the second half, and whenever we have a touchdown or less lead I always notice we rarely take shots and are just looking to chip at the defense. Keep them on their toes! please! I would love to know how many deep shots to Wallace have been taken in the first half vs. second half. I bet the disparity would be very noticeable. Coyle, outside of miscasting Jones so terribly, has done a very solid job. This defense is the backbone of the team. If only our LBs could perform better and this could be a legit top 5 unit.
Hope you guys enjoyed reading, looking forward to your comments. Thanks!