When assessing the Miami Dolphins' prospects, one must view them from two different perspectives, in our opinion: the short term, which remains decidedly bleak, and longer term, which is much more favorable. This is a team that right now, just isn't very good, folks. We're back on the scene after a three day self imposed exile from the board, due to our mouth, and our keystrokes, having written checks which another part our anatomy couldn't cash. Let's be honest here; the Dolphins didn't beat, much less, pummel, the Browns on Sunday, so much as Cleveland's beleaguered placekicker simply handed us the game.
After three weeks, Miami's offense is ranked 18th and its defense 29th, including a run defense that is -- wait for it -- ranked dead last in the National Football League. This is an obvious by product of the team's front office refusing to select defensive players in the draft the past few years. Not that the offense is great, mind you, but having a horrendously bad defensive unit has never been a winning formula, in any sport. Another interesting statistic is that, through three games, weak side linebacker Jelani Jenkins is ranked as the worst 4-3 LB in the league, against the run, by Pro Football Focus. This should put to rest, once and for all, the notion that the Great Lost Draft of 2013 was somehow a success because 'we got two starters' out of it. Calling that draft successful is tantamount to saying that General George Custer did okay at Little Bighorn. Not to worry, however; someone will almost certainly suggest that the team bring in Neville Hewitt, Mike Hull or some other undrafted scrub which no other team wanted, to solve the problem. Draft a linebacker high ? Hell, no; that would be bad for our Fantasy Football lineup.
All of this notwithstanding, to say Miami doesn't have a chance on Thursday night, against the Bengals wouldn't be any smarter than saying last week that Cleveland didn't have a chance against the Dolphins. Cincinnati hasn't beaten Miami, overall since 2007 (0-3) and hasn't beaten them at Cinergy Field/Paul Brown Stadium since 2004. What's more is that the Bengals, whether at home or on the road, have not been a particularly good team in primetime games, although they did give the Dolphins all they could handle on Halloween Night, 2013 before losing in overtime on a walk off safety, when DE Cam Wake sacked quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone.
By now, it should be abundantly clear that the Dolphins aren't winning for one of two reasons: either because they don't draft defense, and for that matter, haven't drafted enough good players, period or because quarterback Ryan Tannehill isn't good enough to consistently lead the team to victory. Either, or some combination of both of those reasons. What isn't responsible is the coaching, though that remains a favorite excuse for many. While we've disagreed with him on some other issues, our colleague Chris is dead right about one thing: winning teams in the National Football League generally do one of two things in the first round of the draft; they either draft defensive players or offensive linemen. While Miami has drafted Pouncey, James and, most recently, Tunsil, in round one, they've avoided like the plague taking defensive players in the early rounds. Not surprisingly, the defense has avoided like the plague looking anything like an NFL caliber unit most of the time. As for Tannehill, his supporters, who are understandably loathe to the idea of the team having to start over at quarterback, argue that he'd be more productive if the line gave him more time to find his receivers downfield. Our response to that is, if the team could stop opponents' drives more often, the Dolphins wouldn't have to throw as much, and Ryan wouldn't face as heavy a pass rush. The 'Offense First, Always' crowd will predictably argue that if the Dolphins didn't go 'three and out' so often, the defense wouldn't be exhausted late in games. Our response to that is, if the defense could get off the field by forcing opponents to punt, they'd be better rested in the fourth quarter. The bottom line is that, right now, neither side of the ball is doing enough to help the other side.
You don't see teams like Pittsburgh, or New England, taking receivers in the early rounds. Until last season, you didn't see Baltimore doing so, either, although they did select WR Breshad Perriman and TE Maxx Williams in the first two rounds last year, and we can just about guarantee you that Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome wishes he had those picks back. Baltimore finished 5-11 last season and neither player has done much so far this year. When Miami starts going about their business the way successful franchises do, they'll start winning again, which brings us back to Thursday night. If the Dolphins hope to come away with a win this week, they'll need to play considerably better than they did against the other team from the state of Ohio. Hopefully, the team can catch fire Thursday night; you know, the way the Cuyahoga River used to.