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Dolphins must address defense to not lose season

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Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins’ offense has struggled this year. They are 26th in the league in total offense, averaging 334.3 yards per game, 23rd in passing offense with 226.3 yards per game, 17th in rushing offense with 108.0 yards per game, and 23rd in scoring with 21.8 points per game. They have been beaten up on offense, playing games with starters at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and along the offensive line. They have struggled to find a rhythm this year, and they are not the high-powered, speed based offense that was originally designed before the season.

But, that does not matter because a dominant defense will carry the team. Except, that dominant defense has yet to show up. This defense, where the only real preseason question was the linebackers, has turned into a mess with presumed starters falling off the map, Pro Bowl players struggling, and no one in the secondary seeming to know who to cover.

The defense ranks 27th overall, allowing 408.0 yards per game, 20th against the pass allowing 264.9 yards per game, 30th in the league against the run with 143.1 yards per game given up, and 27th in the league in scoring defense with 27.4 the average points allowed this year. Miami’s vaunted defense is quickly collapsing on itself.

“It’s not good on defense,” head coach Adam Gase said after Thursday night’s 42-23 loss at the Houston Texans. “I mean they did whatever they wanted.”

Miami allowed 188 yards on the ground on Thursday, with the Texans averaging 5.4 yards per carry. “Right now, I am going to have to look at everything,” Gase said of Miami’s inability to stop the run. “It’s about the only good thing about playing on Thursday night is it’s like an extra bye week. Go back this weekend and try to look through everything, see where a lot of the problems are and look at it as a whole, not just one game, and try to get an answer.”

Gase discussed his current trust level with the defense, explaining, “Well, I know those guys work hard, and they try to get everything patched up as fast as possible. I mean, these guys were hired because I liked them when we were coming into this situation we were in. When Vance [Joseph] left, I trusted Matt [Burke] to get this thing going in the right direction and prove from there before. There was a lot of good thing sthat happened over the last two years. We’ve just got to figure out what is our issues. I mean, it is players? Is it scheme? We have to evaluate that. We can’t be afraid to change if we have to.”

Gase has not ruled out anything - or anyone - being changed. Asked if he would consider any changes to his coaching staff, Gase answered, “I’m going to reevaluate everything this weekend. We’ve got the extended weekend. We’ve got to figure out how to get better on defense. We’ve got to figure out how to sustain drives and put it in the end zone on offense.” Directly asked if defensive coordinator Matt Burke’s position could be in danger, Gase did not definitively say no as he replied, “I haven’t even thought about that. In my head, I’m saying I don’t see that happening. We need to go back and figure out what is going on to where we’re giving up these massive amounts of yardage in the run game.”

Burke has - rightfully - taken a lot of heat from the fans and media as the Miami defense continues to collapse. Gase addressed if he feels he has to take more of a personal role with the defense, stating, “I’ll get to that after tonight. I’m not there yet.”

The Dolphins have to find a way to fix the defense. There are plenty of issues on offense, but the defense should not be giving up 188 yards on the ground routinely. Right now, it feels like that is the norm. It is not only the rush defense, as Miami gave up 239 passing yards with five touchdowns, but the ground game definitely feels like the most immediate issue to be addressed. If they do not find answers during this 10-day break, this season will go from frustrating to abysmal very quickly. Whatever those answers are - coaching, scheme, players - they have to make those changes now.