I’m getting tired of meeting like this. I guess anyone being honest with themselves knew a loss was practically guaranteed. If you’d have told me coming into this season that the Dolphins’ offense led by a backup QB would air it out on the defending champs to the tune of 275 yds and 2 TDs while the much vaunted defense laid down like a tiny dancer in sheets of linen, I’d have assumed you thought Jake Brisket was a real guy and a Pro Bowl quarterback at that. But you’d have somehow been right. I tell ya: Miami is a hard team to root for.
Someone at the Dolphins facility secretly reads the Phinsider
Liam Eichenberg at LT? Austin Jackson at LG? Myles Gaskin starting at RB and getting touches all over the damn place? Throwing downfield from the first snap? Crazy how that got us tied up 10-10 at the end of the first quarter. Maybe the Fins will take more of our advice until, finally, we reach that long sought mountaintop of two seasons in a row above .500.
Of course, this was going to be an uphill battle all the way, to say the least. But what a difference a few common sense adjustments make. Perhaps if the opponent was less of a juggernaut, the improvements could have had more of an impact on the final score. Regardless, the first quarter version of the Dolphins’ offense came out and lived their best life for the first time in a long time. I mean, they didn’t sustain it whatsoever in the 2nd quarter, getting spanked 17-0, or the rest of the game, really, but it’s still better than the disgusting mess we’ve become accustomed to over the early part of this season.
Brissett played his best football probably ever. He fought like hell to extend plays and find open receivers, mostly avoided mistakes, and did it all with a persistent hamstring injury sustained early in the game. His throw to Preston Williams (that ultimately resulted in a flag for PI on Richard “Sorry receiver like Crabtree” Sherman in the end zone) was fantastic. ‘Twas a magnificent ball that should have been caught and, even despite the drop, still earned the Dolphins a 1st down due to the penalty. Just another in a long list of examples that illustrate why we have to push the ball downfield in today’s NFL. His lone INT was 1000% Jaylen Waddle’s fault (with Jakeem Grant gone, I guess someone had to take up the mantle of causing turnovers with bad hands this week). Brissett gave everything he had and I applaud him for that. Too bad no one else got the memo.
And that’s about as positive as it gets. Anything more optimistic after a loss like this is kind of grasping at straws. I would, however, really like to reach for that little orange crazy looking one over that way...
We’re getting closer to the right offensive line combination
Peanut butter and jelly. Ice cream and apple pie. The Dolphins and an offensive line made up of Keystone Cops. Name a more iconic duo.
I can’t fathom why the coaches feel the need to overthink something as basic as playing their guys in the positions they play best. Our tackles have been a war crime all year and it took until Week 5 to go with the left tackle at LT. As soon as Robert Hunt replaces Jesse Davis at RT, that should do it. Every other remaining lineman on the roster can duke it out to be the Highlander of RGs. For this game, just simply moving the struggling Austin Jackson inside and putting Liam Eichenberg back to his natural LT position was a noticeable improvement. It could be beginner’s luck, I don’t know. All I know for sure is that they didn’t look entirely outclassed at every turn and that, believe it or not, is a plus.
It’s true, at one point in the 3rd quarter, Tom Brady had 13 rushing yards to Miami’s 10. Run blocking has been impossibly bad in South Beach since dinosaurs roamed the earth, so I’m trying to look at the positive angle that Brissett had a halfway competent pocket to throw from for most of the game. I’m not sure that Jackson has the ass necessary to play guard long term and he’d probably benefit from a mental pause on the bench for a minute. If it were up to me, I’d go with LT Eichenberg, LG Davis, C Mancz, RG Kindley, RT Hunt and leave it that way until the season ends or four of them are injured (so I guess Week 9, knowing our history). Deiter can replace Mancz when he’s back if they’re feeling froggy; just get the best tackles in place so we can stop watching edge rushers grind our QBs’ bones to dust.
The defense has taken a big chunky step back
There’s not a lot of sugar around for coating this one. What a pathetic showing. This looked like a Pac-12 defense and that’s not a compliment toward Pac-12 offenses. They played so well that Blaine Gabbert got reps and he made completions. Giovanni Bernard was carving them up. I think I saw Butterbean out there running free. We knew the run defense was suspect. With Raekwon Davis back, I hoped they’d have a return to form of sorts. Alas, they gave up lane after lane for a total of 122 yards on the ground. Jerome Baker has become an absolute liability in coverage and he was picked on all day long. Go back in time and give his contract money to Mike Gesicki for me. Xavien Howard has had a precipitous dropoff from being the league’s top ballhawk to the league’s top paid CB you forgot was playing. It seems to me like he might have a bad motivator. I understand it’s an opposing offense led by the most decorated QB of all time surrounded by the best weapons he’s ever had, but I didn’t expect the supposed strength of the team to be shredded more thoroughly than a rich man’s tax returns. They snapped their turnover streak, (though I’d argue it was lost last week when they only had a Special Teams fumble), which was the best thing they had going. When you’re a bad team, as the Dolphins are, you have to have all phases working together to earn wins. Getting only one group off the ground, although better than the none we’ve been seeing as of late, just isn’t enough. And I think it still circles back to the coaching.
It appears that the lack of identity issue has manifested across the full roster now. There are bright spots individually if you reaaaaally squint (Preston Williams looked his best in years, for example), but we feel like a disparate collection of players instead of a team. Flores has tried to bring the Patriots’ defense to South Florida with mixed results over his three seasons so far. The same New England defense he loves so much held the Buccaneers to 19 points just a week ago, yet Miami’s version gave up 45. It’s like a copy of a copy of a copy that eventually stops being recognizable as the original it came from. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks a little like the team has stopped buying into the ‘New Patriot Way’. Unfortunately, I’m not sure the coaching staff has a ‘New Dolphin Way’ waiting in the wings to replace it.
Tua’s return will dictate the rest of the season
Brissett almost kind of made it interesting with his performance this week. If he could play at this level with consistency, his career might have taken a much different trajectory. Regardless of the toughness he put on display in Tampa, I expect Brissett to concede the starting job back to Tua as early as possible (which sounds like next week in London), pending Tua’s removal from IR. Once Tua’s back behind center, the coaching staff needs to let him put on his big boy pants and go H-A-M. Anything less is a waste. We’ve seen him run their timid offense that doesn’t complement our defense and we’ve seen how the offense can look when the QB is slinging it with his facemask turned backwards. I want to see Tua given opportunities to chuck it downfield to our big-catch-radius receivers. I believe he can do it. Against the lowly Jags, he has to prove me right.
Barring a barrage of miracles, the Dolphins might already be on the outside looking in at the playoffs. That makes the rest of this season’s primary objective evaluating whether or not Tua can play to a high enough standard to remain the starting quarterback going forward. Best case: he comes back and helps elevate the team out of its pit of despair and makes them competitive for the rest of the year. Worst case: he gets hurt again and we watch Brissett and/or Reid Sinnett teach us nothing about the future of the starting quarterback position. I’m hoping for the best because the Dolphins really need it right now.
Tony Romo is still by far the most enjoyable broadcaster
Sure, he spends a little too much time acting like he’s on stage at the Comedy Store. Plus, he refers to Tom Brady as “Tom” with a doe-eyed inflection like they have lunch dates every Tuesday afternoon. I can look past those quirks in exchange for actual football insight, though. He mentioned ‘alignment, assignment, key, technique’ and that seems like a mantra that the Dolphins’ staff could do well to instill in their team. He’s great about not only the analytic side of the game, but also in being objective about what should happen on a given play, especially when referencing quarterback play specifically. In the 4th quarter of this game, he even gave the Dolphins’ front office credit for their draft capital management, while also rightly calling them out on how disappointingly they wasted it. Someday I’ll write about all of the different accouncers the NFL subjects its fans to, but until then, Romo remains my favorite.
Would you rather listen to James Lofton than Tony Romo? Not unless you’re James Lofton. Are you James Lofton? Show yourself in the comments, James.