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Dolphins have to make changes soon to salvage 2021 season

Indianapolis Colts v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

The 2021 NFL season is 23.5 percent complete for the Miami Dolphins. There is still a lot of football left to be played, but the 1-3 Dolphins have got to make some serious changes if they are going to salvage was what supposed to be a season with a potential playoff berth. This team, as it has performed over the past few weeks, is not what was expected, it is not was is acceptable, and it is not what is going to get the job done.

The Dolphins averaged 4.1 yards per play on Sunday in an embarrassing 27-17 loss at home to a previously winless Indianapolis Colts team. What makes it worse is, the 4.1 yards per play and the 17 points are no where near indicative as to how poorly the offense played throughout most of the game. Of Miami’s 203 yards of offense on Sunday, their final two possessions accounted for 129 of those yards on 14 plays, leading to 14 of the Dolphins’ 17 total points. On those two drives, Miami’s average yards per play jumped to 9.2 yards.

Prior to those two possessions, the Dolphins’ offense averaged 2.1 yards per play. Miami’s offensive performance on Sunday was so paltry, they could not reach on average 10 yards - a first down - on four plays. They averaged just over six feet a play. Six feet. Like the height of most of their players. In fact, at 2.1 yards per play, the Dolphins were averaging six-feet-3 inches, or just eight inches more per play than Jakeem Grant’s height.

Where is the explosion? Where is the mismatches and speed of the offense?

“Offensively just couldn’t get anything going,” head coach Brian Flores said immediately after the game. “Got it going a little bit late, but, you know, too late, and it’s not enough, so we got to do a better job earlier in the game, which we’ve talked about, but we’re not — we’re still not able to do it.”

Why did it take being down 20-3 for Jacoby Brissett to finally remember DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki were on the roster?

In the first half, Parker was targeted three times with no receptions. Gesicki once with no catches.

In the third quarter, Gesicki caught his first pass of the game with 16 seconds remaining in the period, picking up eight yards. The next play, which ended the period, Parker caught his first pass, picking up seven yards. Neither player had another target in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, Gesicki caught four passes on four targets for 49 yards and a touchdown. Parker caught three passes on five targets for 70 yards with a touchdown. Every time Brissett targeted Gesicki, Miami averaged 12.3 yards per target. The offense averaged 14 yards per target when Brissett looked to Parker in the fourth quarter.

Yes, the Dolphins were trailing big and having to take shots down the field - but why are they not taking those shots earlier in the game?

Here are all of the completions Brissett had during the game (20-for-30 for 199 yards, 2 touchdowns). The line separates the final two possessions of the game for Miami. There was also a 28-yard completion to Will Fuller on Miami’s first possession of the game, but it was nullified by an illegal use of hands penalty on Austin Jackson, so there was no official play.

Brissett to Jaylen Waddle - 5 yards
Brissett to Durham Smythe - 2 yards
Brissett to Waddle - 18 yards
Brissett to Salvon Ahmed - 4 yards
Brissett to Waddle - 10 yards
Brissett to Ahmed - 8 yards
Brissett to Waddle - 6 yards
Brissett to Smythe - 4 yards
Brissett to Jakeem Grant - (-7) yards
Brissett to Wilson - 11 yards
Brissett to Gesicki - 8 yards
Brissett to Parker - 7 yards

Brissett to Gesicki - 4 yards
Brissett to Gesicki - 22 yards
Brissett to Parker - Incomplete but 21 yards on pass interference
Brissett to Parker - 25 yards
Brissett to Gesicki - 1 yard, Touchdown
Brissett to Parker - 42 yards
Brissett to Gesicki - 22 yards
Brissett to Brown - 7 yards
Brissett to Parker - 3 yards, Touchdown

Where was any sense of urgency prior to the fourth quarter? Any sense. The Dolphins do not need to come out chucking the ball 20 to 40 yards down the field every single pass attempt. They do need to have that threat, however. Brissett - and this may be play calling, offensive line issues, or Brissett’s style of play - cannot check down to a four-yard pass every single time he drops back.

“I know early on there was definitely some shot plays there that ended up getting checked down. We need to do more of it,” Flores stated.

“There are definitely opportunities,” Brissett said after the game of being able to take more shots down the field. “Sometimes when we call them, they really just push back and they forced us to throw the ball underneath. I think towards — we started to find ways or tried to, but it will come. Whenever they come, they’ll start coming in bunches because we have the guys to push the ball down the field.”

Something has to change with the Dolphins, and Flores knows it. “I think we have to take a look at everything,” he said. “We will take a look at everything, but I would say it’s really across the board. Offense, defense, special teams starts with me, coaching. I got to do a better job. I know I say that every week. I don’t want to come up here and say that every week, but I got to do a better job of figuring out a way to help us play better than that, but we also got to play better, and we’re out there taking turns making mistakes in all three phases, and it’s not enough. It’s not good enough.”

He continued, “I think it’s a lack of focus, a lack of concentration, a lack of attention to detail, a lack of – I think it’s all those things, and that starts with me and getting these guys to understand how important those little things are. The little things are important in this game. They’re very important. The details are important in this game, and if you don’t get them right, then you’ll have a false start penalty when you don’t need them, you’ll have a drop when you don’t need them, and those are momentum-shifting plays that if you don’t make them and they do, you don’t get the result you want so that’s what we have to do. We got to focus on those little things, those details, and play a smarter, more disciplined football game because we’re not doing that right now. We’re not doing that. That starts with me.”

With a game to be played tonight, a game that features the top ranked offense in terms of yards per game (Las Vegas Raiders, 471.0 yards per game) and the ninth ranked offense (Los Angeles Chargers, 394.7 yards per game), the Dolphins are 31st in the league in offense. They are averaging just 252.0 yards per game, only ahead of the Chicago Bears at 237.0 yards. In passing offense, Miami is 30th at 173.8 yards per game; they are 28th in rushing offense at 78.3 yards per game. Their 15.5 points scored per game ranks them 31st, only ahead of the New York Jets (11.8).

The offense is simply not getting the job done.

Yes, this is an offense playing without their starting quarterback for at least another week. But, the offense is simply not getting the job done.

Yes, if Tua Tagovailoa can come back for the Jacksonville Jaguars game in London in two weeks, the offense may find more rhythm. But, it might not. Something is wrong with the offense. And something needs to be changed.