The Miami Dolphins lost - again - this weekend, dropping them to 1-4 on the season and turning a year of expectations into one of questions and frustration. While there is still a lot of football to be played this year, the Dolphins have dug themselves into a deep hole and have yet to stop digging. Miami has been outscored by 75 points this year, the worst point differential in the league as of Monday, a full 16 points worse than the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars’ negative 59-points differential.
The Dolphins have so many questions surrounding them, but they have to find the answers now, The problems for the Dolphins spread across all aspects of the team, offense, defense, and special teams.
Miami started making changes and looking for answers on Sunday, adjusting the offensive line with Liam Eichenberg moving to left tackle, Jesse Davis to right tackle, and Austin Jackson to left guard.
“We just felt that was the best move, to move Austin inside, put Liam outside,” head coach Brian Flores explained after the game. “I thought they both had a good week of practice in there, With Austin inside and Liam outside. Might have to look at the film and see what that really looked like. But, my initial looking at it, it looked like it was ok. But I’ve definitely got to watch the film and take a look. I thought we did some good things offensively. So, hopefully, [there are] some things to build on there. But as a team, we have a lot of things we need to improve on.”
The offense seemed to have found some rhythm on Sunday, with quarterback Jacoby Brissett looking deeper in the passing game earlier in the contest. The Dolphins were able to put together scoring drives of their first two possessions. They were looking like a team that could compete with the Buccaneers - probably not win, but at least compete - until they started, once again, getting in their own way. Drops and tipped passes leading to interceptions crushed an offense that needs everything to go right to stay in rhythm.
The defense, whether it is being worn down by an offense that cannot stay on the field or if it is just them being outplayed, has struggled as well, especially on Sunday. Maybe it has been a scheduling thing, with Miami facing teams like the Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are going to come out firing with their offenses, early in the year. Whatever the case, Miami’s defense was supposed to be the strength of the team, and they have not been performing to an expected elite level.
“I think collectively, as a defense, we just didn’t do enough,” Flores said. “I think there is a lot that goes into it. We didn’t get enough rush. We didn’t get enough disguise. To put it on just two guys, we try to play team defense here and we didn’t get it done as a unit. As a unit, as a coaching staff, we need to put them in better positions. We didn’t, and they executed. They made some plays as well, so give them credit. But we’ve got to play better.”
He continued, adding, “I’m concerned. We’re out of sync in a lot of ways. Run defense, pass defense, [and] pass rush. We’re a little bit of a step behind, I would say. We’ve got to make a lot of corrections. [There’s] a lot of things we need to address, and we’ll do that. We’ve been doing that. We’ve addressed some things, but we’re not seeing the production on Sundays. Really, that’s all that matters. But I would say we are a little bit out of sync.”
That last line, a simple statement, is the heart of the problems in Miami right now. They are out of sync. They have to play better. They have to coach better. They have to execute better. They have to plan better. Miami has to be better if they are going to turn this season into anything other than bitter disappointment.
The schedule has not been kind to the Dolphins early this year, but it does ease up a little over the next few weeks. Miami faces the Jaguars next Sunday in London. Then they visit the 2-3 Atlanta Falcons. After hosting the Bills in the second half of the annual home-and-home series, the Dolphins then have a game at the 1-4 Houston Texans, followed by a Thursday night game in Miami against the 3-1 Baltimore Ravens. They then face the 1-4 New York Jets in New York, followed by three straight home games - with their bye week in there as well - against the 3-2 Carolina Panthers, the 1-4 New York Giants, and the second Jets game. There are some tough games in this stretch, but there are winnable contests as well. Can Miami turn around the season?
The first step toward salvaging the season may be the return of starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. After being placed on injured reserve after sustaining fractured ribs in Week 2, Tagovailoa is believed to be on track to return as early as this week.
“Tua is doing everything he can to get back,” Flores replied when asked about Tagovailoa’s availability for this week. “Like I have said in previous media sessions, he threw Wednesday. He threw Friday. He’s making progress. Let’s see what he looks like after we activate him and practice him this week. We’ll see what the week of practice looks like. Obviously, he’s still dealing with the fracture of the ribs. So, that will definitely be something from a pain-tolerance standpoint he’d have to deal with. So, we’ll just see how he does with that and just take it one day at a time.”
The Dolphins have so many questions to answer, so many problems to fix, and they only have a short time in which to do it all. If this season is going to be anything other than a disappointment, Miami has to play better, coach better, execute better, and get back in sync.