Well, crap. This season really hasn't gone as planned. Although we are Miami Dolphins fans, so perhaps underachieving and underwhelming is the plan! Hey, I'm trying to stay positive here and look at the bright side at least? Let's take a look at our team's progress at the halfway point and see what is going right, and what is going very, very wrong.
Let's begin by talking about Ryan Tannehill.
Oh great! A topic which will surely not stir up vigorous debate here on the Phinsider!
Last year, Miami didn't really end up in the standings where we had hoped but it was apparent that Tannehill had taken a significant step forward and looked to continue that trend heading into the season. So far it's difficult to say either way, but one could make a point that Tannehill has regressed so far this season. He is on pace to throw for 200 more yards than last year, however he is also on pace to throw one less touchdown and 6 more interceptions than in 2014. His QB Rating is lower than last year, and so far he is dead last in ESPN's QBR Rating, which at 33.6, is the lower than any of his seasons in the league.
I'm not going to offer an opinion on Tannehill because let's face it, if you have one you aren't changing it at this stage in the game. Tannehill has his strengths- which continue to be the short and intermediate passing game, and he does that as well as any quarterback in the league. Everything else is up for debate. We still don't see Miami take significant shots downfield. Tannehill's pocket awareness still needs improving; he looks great passing on the run, but still seems to need work on making his reads and using his mobility as a weapon.
You may make a case to do it, but I'm not putting the 3-5 record on Ryan Tannehill's shoulders alone. However, I'm not going to let him get a pass as the team's captain, if Miami wants to be better they will need Ryan Tannehill to do better. Period.
Okay, that was bad. Let's promise NEVER to do that again, ok?
On paper, Miami's receiving core looks impressive. On the stats sheet it really hasn't translated, however. Jarvis Landry is one of the league's top young receivers and has been nothing short of spectacular in 2015. I commend the coaches atleast for trying to get him involved every week because he does make magical things happen. Rishard Mathews gets my vote for the team's most improved player, as he went from a WR5 riding the bench, to the team's best outside receiver. Besides that, every other receiving option so far has been underwhelming. Jordan Cameron had shown flashes with some great catches but hasn't been targeted enough, especially in the red zone. Kenny Stills has been inconsistent, although he has picked up his production as of late. Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker were brought in to be weapons but have just 14 combined catches on the year. The rookie has been battling injury so let's hope the Dolphins utilize him more towards the end of the year as his health improves and let us see what the kid is made of.
Ok here's the play: Juice take the snap, fake it to Juice, hand it to Juice, throw it to Juice. Profit.
This is a difficult unit to 'grade' because the execution of the running game is completely different from the utilization and actual attempts of the running game. It appears Miami is still struggling to find their identity on offense, and the running game is stuck on limbo until that happens.
The good news is that Miami can run the football. Lamar Miller is on pace for just about another 1,000 yard season and he continues to average over five yards per carry. His role as a receiver has improved as well and he has already broken multiple big plays. But for some reason he barely saw the ball during Philbin's tenure in the first four games and didn't do much on the field during the team's 1-3 start. But even despite all of that, he's still tied for third in the league in rushing touchdowns and is 16th in rushing yards, (despite being 27th in rushing attempts). Lamar Miller appears to be doing his job in the offense, and doing it well.
Miami has experimented with a few other backs as Miller's #2 but got a huge boost last week when rookie Jay Ajayi was activated off short term IR. He finished with 41 yards in his first start on only 5 carries. Although Miami got off to a dreadful start, I do appreciate Coach Campbell and Lazor starting to see the ball on the ground more. This unit has been better the last few weeks and is trending upwards, especially with the potential that Ajayi brings as a compliment to Lamar Miller.
I think folks have to be realistic when it comes to breaking down the offensive line this year. First off, we didn't sign any high profile free agents or top draft picks to play in the offensive line so you can't just expect every single issue to change. This is many people's main beef with the front office in general, but it is what it is at this point. The offensive line has been hit or miss for the most part this year. We didn't address the depth before the season and so far a few injuries have hampered our line's continuity. Both of our tackles have gone down at periods and our guards are often topics of conversation every week. The only guy we haven't heard from much is center, Mike Pouncey, and that is a good thing as he is one of the league's highest rated centers so far this year. Miami's O-Line continues to be poorly grated by Pro Football Focus, ranked 30th through 8 games, but look at the bright side; that is up 2 spots from the end of last year (PROGRESS!). So far I do not think the OL is the main reason for this team's struggles, but this is definitely a unit that could look to improve as the year goes on.
Dammit! Did you NOT hear me above? WTF you guys!?!?!
A tale of two coaches. There's not much to over-analyze here as our team came out completely flat and failed to get that strong start under coach Philbin that we desperately needed. After digging a 1-3 hole, Philbin was booted from the organization (about two years too late if you ask me) and herein entered: the man, the myth, the legend- Coach Dan Campbell. While Philbin got the brunt of the team's criticism, interim Head Coach Campbell got most of the praise after Miami looked like a completely different team in his first two games, beating up on a pair of AFC South teams. However, leave it to the Patriots to remind the Dolphins who the king of the division is. And that they did, bringing the Dolphins back to earth and knocking us below .500 in Week 7. While that may have been expected, the last week's game in Buffalo seemed to really let all the air out of the tank as far as the season goes. It will be a huge test of Coach Campbell to see if he can spark this team into playing hard at the end of the year and at least attempting to salvage it after a disappointing 3-5 start. I think people got too excited into #CampbellMania and need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Miami has the rest of the year to decide if Dan Campbell is the right man for the job.
GRADE: Incomplete (I)
The more I analyze this team the more I begin to notice a trend. Unfortunately for Miami, the trend is showing that Miami's struggles are largely in part of them not being able to stop the run. Only Cleveland is worse in rush defense this season, as Miami's 31st rush defense just hasn't been able to get it done. Last year, we all saw this team start with a top run defense. As the year went on and injuries started to accumulate, the team's success in being able to stop the run took a nosedive, and by the end of the season it was no wonder why we were losing games when we were giving up 150+ yards on the ground every week. Much of the same has been the case this year, and signing Ndamukong Suh was 'supposedly' the answer. While Suh looks to be doing his job, the rest of our guys are not quite getting it done. Our linebackers seem to be a huge liability against the run and in coverage. There may not be an easy fix here as Miami has already lost all-pro defensive end, Cameron Wake and their once deep DL unit now appears to be "Suh and a handful of other guys". Olivier Vernon is in a contract year and hasn't done much at all, and our defensive tackles besides Suh seem to be invisible as well. The most impressive opposite tackle looks to be rookie, Jordan Phillips, and Miami would be wise to up his playing time and see if this second round pick can supplant himself in a permanent role next to Suh. So far, however this unit is 31st ranked in the league which earns them a failing grade; run defensive appears on the surface to be this team's biggest weakness at the moment.
Miami's passing defense is best to break down in three separate parts: the pass rush, the linebacker coverage and the secondary.
The pass rush is best not to think about. After being completely invisible the first four games, Coach Campbell unleashed
the Kraken Cameron Wake who reminded us all how incredible he was as a player. Two weeks later, he was done for the year after his tearing his Achilles. His future as a Dolphin is in jeopardy and I don't think I can talk any more about him without starting to tear up a little. The remainder of our pass rush has been underwhelming. Olivier Vernon has been VERY quiet and Miami's best pass rusher now is probably Suh, and he often has to fight off double teams, holds and other blatant penalties just to try and pick up sacks. This unit desperately needs to improve for the rest of the season, it's a shame that Wake is out for the year but Miami needs to find some guys who can be productive, and fast.
Next time a quarterback gets slammed to death, that's on you ref.
The linebacker coverage may be even worse. I can't truly think of one spectacular linebacker play this entire season. Jelani Jenkins is quietly having himself another great year but he hasn't gotten much help and he's not at an elite enough level enough to pick up slack for the other LB's. Reshad Jones has played like this team's best linebacker. He is a safety. Miami's linebackers need work in both run stopping and pass coverage and if I were GM I'd be looking to completely revamp the linebackers next year, primarily via the NFL draft.
The secondary has surprisingly held it's own considering our inconsistent pass rush and linebacker play. Our defensive backfield is made up by Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones and not much else. Despite getting torched all day by Sammy Watkins and the Bills, Grimes has been solid this year. Although he may have lost a step and doesn't look 100% healthy, he is far and away this team's best corner. Jamar Taylor has been the best of the remaining corners, though that's not saying much. Reshad Jones has been the best Miami Dolphin on the field, and has looked like he could make a case to the best safety in the entire league. He should be awarded his first pro-bowl birth and gets my vote for team MVP through 8 games. The loss of Louis Delmas in the preseason seemed to hurt us a bit more than we expected, as his consistent play would be greatly welcomed at this stage. Michael Thomas has played a bit more consistent than Walt Aikens, however the FS spot still has been average.
Reshad Jones has played like this team's best linebacker. He is a safety.
Despite each unit having their fair share of question marks, Miami's pass defense has been adequate in my opinion. They have played tight in some scenarios, however they have also given up way too many big plays, more so than in the past. They are bottom 10 in passing yards per play and opposing QB rating but at the same time are 8th in opposing completion percentage and 13th in passing yards allowed per game. Miami's hot and cold passing defense needs to find some consistency, and would greatly benefit by our rushing defense being able to stop the run, which would likely force more throws into coverage. Miami isn't generating enough turnovers this season.
Surprisingly, Miami's special teams have been alot better than expected, and way better than last year's rankings, where we put the 'special' in special teams. Our special teams MVP has got to go to punter, Matt Darr, who won the job from fan favorite Brandon Fields this offseason, and is currently second in the NFL (to Baltimore's Sam Koch) with a 49.1-yard average per punt. He has been booming the ball and so far it looks like that decision is paying off.
Have you been wondering where Andrew Franks has been? I feel like I haven't seen him all year. Of course, that may have to do with the fact that Miami is DEAD LAST in field goal makes and attempts. Franks is 6/8 and is only averaging one FG attempt per game. Tony Sparano is crying somewhere. The jury is still out on Franks but Miami could start using more points in the second half of the season, any way they can get them. Either way he gets a boost for being better than Caleb Sturgis, though that really isn't too hard to do.
Miami's return game has been the Jarvis Landry show. The Dolphins are top 5 in total punt and kickoff return yardage, with the majority of that coming from Juice. He finally got his first return TD of his career, Week 1 versus Washington, and would like to add to that total for the rest of the year. Miami's return defense has looked pretty solid as well, and has been one of the bright areas of this team so far this year.
Miami's 2015 season so far, in one image.
Turtle's Mid-Season MVP Rankings:
- 1 Reshad Jones (D MVP)
- 2 Jarvis Landry (O MVP)
- 3 Matt Darr (ST MVP)
- 4 Rishard Mathews
- 5 Lamar Miller