That pretty much does it for the Dolphins 2021 season and it’s Week 7. For those who are purely results driven, there’s nothing to take from this game. We lost to the hapless Jaguars on a last second field goal, ending their eternal winless streak and our own year in one fell swoop. For the contingent who likes to look for growth amidst the arid wastelands, read on and I’ll do my best. At least it’s likely to be better than the Dolphins’.
Our coaches are out of their element
Brian Flores isn’t ignorant of the fact that the coaches shoulder the blame. Unfortunately, his response is the same sound bites week after week. I don’t know what it is about Miami’s coaching staffs and their inability to develop talent, call a game plan that makes use of the skills their players possess, or make in game decisions that give the team the best chance to win. Whatever the underlying cause, it’s the death and taxes of the NFL.
Billy Turner is the starting RT for the 5-1 Green Bay Packers. He was unusable during his time with the Dolphins. Remember Charles Harris? Everyone-hates-me-because-I-could-have-been-TJ-Watt Charles Harris? He has 4 sacks through 6 games for the Detroit Lions. THE DETROIT LIONS are getting better use out of a player than we ever did. I know Harris’ failing here span multiple coaching groups, but that’s kind of the point. It seems like no matter who we hire, what philosophy they bring, or what strategy they implement, we underperform our talent level. Former Fins are finding success in greener pastures while Jason Sanders has gone from our best weapon to an inconsistent contingency plan. The team has gone from the fewest to the most penalty yards in the league in one offseason. We had 6 losses all of last year and already have 5 in 6 weeks this season. It’s mystifying.
There are other factors at play, of course. Injuries, missed draft picks, and questionable decisions around free agency all play their role in building a bad team. But this team has players who can play (Parker, Gesicki, Waddle, Ogbah, Davis, Howard, and so on). These are guys with 1,000+ yd receiving seasons, double digit sack years, and NFL leading interception campaigns. A staff managing to drag them all down into mediocrity is nothing short of astounding. There have still been a few solid individual performances emerging out of the muck (Gesicki had his first 100 yard game of the year this week, for instance), but the fact remains: we lost to the 0-5, 20-games-in-a-row-losing-streak Jaguars.
You’re right; the refs didn’t do us any favors. The OPI on Mack Hollins that wasn’t. The personal foul on Jevon Holland that wasn’t, even more. The TD stealing miss on a touched punt return. All bad calls that had their place in steering the outcome of the game. As poor as the calls may or may not have been, the ultimate driver of the game is still the coaching and the coaching drove us into a ditch.
1st quarter: Miami has 1st and 10 at the Jacksonville 10 yard line. Salvon Ahmed (weird way to spell Myles Gaskin, I know) runs for 9 yards to the 1 yard line. Lifelong special teamer Cethan Carter is on offense. He gets called for holding to back the Fins up to the Jacksonville 20. 3 yard pass. 2 yard run from the shotgun. Short pass, incomplete. Field goal. Maybe someday the All-22 will work again and I’ll rewatch this (hahahaha) to see that someone was open for a TD on that 3rd down play. As it stands now, a player who didn’t do enough on past teams to earn a role on offense gets called for holding on our offense and the playcaller’s response to a surprise 1st and goal from the 20 is to choose a short pass, a run, and a short pass. That’s turrible.
It gets worse, but I don’t want to bog everyone down with depressing play-by-plays. Let’s just say: An inside handoff to our backup running back out of the shotgun on a must have 4th and 1 on the final offensive drive? GTFOutta here with that. Not understanding the situation on the final offensive play for Jacksonville and giving them a free 10 yards while playing for a nonexistent Hail Mary? GTFOut even further. All the way back across the pond and into the unemployment line. We’ll see the value of continuity when Stephen Ross waits until after the season to fire anyone (and pending even a near .500 finish, he’ll probably opt to fire no one), but I’d be looking to at least shake up the coordinator level after such an embarrassing showing.
The defense missed its veteran CBs, but has bigger problems
Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, two many-times millionaires thanks to the Dolphins, were on the bench this week. Facing a winless team with a rookie quarterback would usually be a simple enough task that being down some manpower would still be survivable. Not for the 2021 Miami Dolphins. 2020 first rounder Noah Igbinoghene got some extended playing time on the boundary and, in my opinion rendered solely based on the real time viewing of the game, looked better than he has in similar situations previously. He was in position on a few plays where the opposing receiver (I want to say Marvin Jones in every instance) just won a tough matchup. Would we have been better off with Howard or Jones in the same position? Yeah, obviously. Why do you keep asking such ridiculous questions?
The more significant issues were the poor tackling, absence of pressure on Trevor Lawrence (who has already proven to be turnover prone at this point in his short career), and boneheaded playcalling. I feel like the Madden NFL video games share some blame these days. Hear me out. They’re responsible for introducing the Hit Stick, whereby I can flick the joystick at the right time and use my player’s shoulder to decapitate my opponent. I saw more Dolphins players trying to lay the boom on Sunday than I saw successful stops with good form tackling. Someone needs to teach them the importance of bringing the ball carrier down over trying to get on Jacked Up, especially since that segment hasn’t existed for years. Speaking of teaching, I don’t know if Cam Wake has any interest at all in coaching, but I’d be begging him to teach my pass rushers how to make an impact. Lawrence is still so new that any sustained pressure likely would have resulted in multiple picks. He’s thrown some of the most preposterous INTs of the year so far and we made sure there was no risk of that against us. Finally, someone should teach Josh Boyer how to call a better game. We left an 8 yard cushion on the outside repeatedly when the Jags were in short yardage situations. Hard to believe, but they converted them. The final Jaguars offensive play was clearly the blue ribbon winner as we allowed them to nab a free uncontested first down to get into field goal range instead of, you know, literally anything else. Flores was regarded as a defensive minded coach coming to Miami, yet his defense is really letting the team down. And that’s saying something when your offense is the Dolphins’.
Tua mostly did his job
PFF can feel free to disagree, but I saw two blatantly poor decisions by Tua: One was to throw an incompletion between two open receives rather than taking a free 1st down run on 3rd and 2 in the 2nd quarter. The second was his interception straight into the heart of a defender. Absolute Pain Train of a pass. Neither mistake managed to cause a lasting impact, however. The incompletion on 3rd and 2 was followed by a 4th down conversion to extend the drive anyway and the interception resulted in the Jags turning it over on downs and Tua driving 91 yards for a touchdown on the next Miami possession. He didn’t look like vintage Peyton Manning out there and he didn’t look like Ryan Leaf either. He finished the game with a stat line of 33/47 329 yds 2 TD 1 INT and a rating of 95.1. Returning from a stint on IR with likely still sore ribs and putting up those numbers is good. Unfortunately, it was against a terrible team, which diminishes its success in some people’s eyes and, more unfortunately, it still resulted in a loss to a terrible team. Which makes us a terrible-er team. Wins and losses are team stats, starting with the head coach and going all the way down to the waterboy. The quarterback is the player most often directly responsible for swinging the pendulum one way or the other simply by virtue of touching the ball nearly every snap, but this game is a fine example of the concept of “can’t do it alone”. It’s a team sport. Tua held up his end of the bargain enough that it should have been a win. That doesn’t make him a franchise quarterback or the second coming or anything else. It just means that his defense and (moreso) his coaches didn’t do their part. I’ve said it before, but bad teams need to play well in all facets of the game to start becoming good teams. Tua stringing together more games like this (minus the two major goofs) would be a good first step for the future.
Gesicki needs to be resigned
Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written since we drafted Mike Gesicki knows I’m so far on the Mike G train that I have the little conductor hat and everything. I’m as biased as they come and I don’t care that you care. That being said, each week he seems like the only guy out there consistently trying his hardest. He catches whatever’s thrown his way, fights for first downs, and (whether or not you agree with his timing based on the score) tries to fire the team up. I’m going to quote frequent Phinsider commenter Francesco, who I think will admit to not being a big Gesicki fan when he was first on the team. He said: “The only player who have character in the offense is Gesicki ... Thats why they dont want him.” And Fran, you couldn’t be more right.
We blew our wad resigning Jerome Baker just for him to be sucked into the void of regression instead of giving that money to Gesicki. All is not lost, however. We aren’t poor. We aren’t Seong Gi-hun. Gesicki will be a free agent next year and the Fins are projected to have ~$79 million in cap space to work with. His Spotrac Market Value is $10.5m per year. With how he’s been underutilized in Miami, I doubt he gives any sort of hometown discount if he hits the market. If I’m the GM (Grier or otherwise), I work to sign him now with a fair deal structured with some incentives. Or pay him $79m, IDGAF.
We should look at adding Marlon Mack
Since the outcome of the games is already essentially worthless to us for the remainder of the year, the next big milestone is the trade deadline on November 2nd. For my money, I’m hoping the Dolphins try to throw some of theirs at Marlon Mack of the Indianapolis Colts. Mack was a 4th round pick in the 2017 draft out of USF, so he’s not going to wilt in the Florida heat. In his two full seasons as the lead back in Indy, he ran for 908 yds 9 TDs and 1,091 yds 8 TDs. He recorded 17 and 14 receptions respectively those years (2018 and 2019), so he isn’t prolific in the passing game, but we’ve got two backs in Gaskin and Ahmed who can handle that piece. Injuries cut short his 2020 season and the Colts opted to draft Jonathan Taylor in the 2nd round to take over. With Nyheim Hines serving as the third down back, Mack was relegated to an afterthought. He requested a trade this year and the Dolphins should be calling to upgrade their RB room. I know, I know. How much good can a running back do with a bad offensive line? Not much, but if Mack is a Dolphin and our new GM (just assuming on that one) manages to actually improve our line heading into next year, we could have a valuable running game to balance our offense. Mack is only 25 and should come cheap. So look for him to run roughshod over the Dolphins as a member of the Patriots, coming to a theater near you.
Who should the Dolphins look at before the trade deadline? Just want to watch Squid Game instead of the rest of the Fins season? Me too. It’s great and we aren’t. Be my gganbu and binge it all tonight.