There wasn’t much to love about Sunday’s game against the New York Jets. There wasn’t even all that much to like, really. Unless you’re a Jets fan. In which case, you’re in the wrong place. The winner’s circle is over there.
The league over-corrected on the concussion protocol rules.
The obvious headline is the league’s first implementation of the new concussion rule around ‘ataxia,’ i.e. “an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements that is symptomatic of some central nervous system disorders and injuries and not due to muscle weakness.” This change was a direct result of the league’s investigation into the handling of Tua Tagovailoa’s injury against Buffalo in Week 3. If that rule were in place way back then, it would have been an obvious opportunity to apply it when Tua was stumbling about.
However, Teddy Bridgwater was hit on the first Miami offensive play against the Jets, and he was not stumbling about. A league ‘spotter’ determined that he might have stumbled (he didn’t) and, therefore, the new clause applied to him. That meant he couldn’t return to the game and can’t practice until this Thursday, jeopardizing his possible start against Minnesota next week.
The league’s ‘heart’ is in the right place as far as updating rules to better protect the players. Their implementation, unfortunately, is terrible. Watching the footage of Tua against Buffalo and Teddy against New York should make it readily apparent that there is far too much room for interpretation. ‘An inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements’ is not the same as ‘stumbling’. I stumble when the piling of my carpet is unexpectedly higher as I enter my secret lair. I suffer from ataxia when I’m mauled by the beast that makes its home there.
A spotter thinking that maybe Teddy Bridgewater stumbled is not sufficient to remove him from the remainder of a game and keep him out of practice for nearly a week. It’s yet another case of ‘you know it when you see it,’ and everyone who isn’t that spotter knows they didn’t see ataxia. Either the league fixes this loophole, or the Superbowl will be decided by practice squads gutting it out until they’re forced from the game, only to be replaced by the nearest fans. Sure, watching a bunch of nacho-covered bros in throwback jerseys run endless flea flickers would be entertaining, but not much of an indicator of the best team in the land.
Third string 7th round rookie quarterbacks need a hand.
Once Teddy was unceremoniously removed, the era of Skylar Thompson began. Thompson, a 2022 7th-round pick from Kansas State, was this year’s preseason darling. Alas, the preseason is not the regular season. Thompson did what he could, but he couldn’t do much. That said, it’s tough to put a lot of that burden on him. At his place on the depth chart, he doesn’t get very many reps with the starters. For players in his position, they’re likely to find success only when their supporting cast props them up. Sadly, Thompson’s supporting cast was more like Cats than Dolphins.
Receivers dropped passes, Jason Sanders missed a go-ahead field goal, and even the coaching staff got in on it with some questionable play calls. Penalties abounded just to round things out.
Undoubtedly, the two most successful contestants in the ‘leave the new QB out to dry’ sweepstakes were the defense’s inability to tackle and the offensive line’s inability to block. Miami’s defenders couldn’t bring down Pop Warner players, and Miami’s offensive linemen looked like the units of old (read: just so so so bad).
I think Thompson showed enough poise and potential for a 7th round flyer (which is exactly what he was drafted as) to hang on as a backup and, perhaps, be developed further over time. He had a great deal of rookie mistakes, but that should be expected for, you know, a rookie. He didn’t set the world on fire, but this was a total team loss. His teammates need to have his back and make his job as easy as possible, not dangle him over a sea full of sharks. Or Jets. Something something West Side Story. I don’t know; I’m just sad.
Defenders need to focus on tackling drills.
They need to take a lesson from Bobby Boucher.
That’s the last thing I’ll say about that.
Depth will be the Fins’ make or break.
Injuries are mounting early for Miami. Entering the Jets game, Tua was out (not sure if you heard), Austin Jackson was still gone, Terron Armstead was nursing a toe injury, Xavien Howard was out with a groin injury, and Byron Jones had yet to leave the PUP list.
By the end of the game, Armstead had officially left, Teddy Bridgewater was done, and Tyreek Hill was in a walking boot.
Great teams have great depth. I’m unsure if the Dolphins’ depth is great (or even good). Hell, for some units (looking at you linebackers), the starters aren’t great (or even good). Having ~$50 million of top-tier corners on the sideline is, let’s say, not preferred. Being down to the third-string quarterback by Week 5 is, let’s say, not recommended. Having two backup tackles blocking for that quarterback is, let’s say, a living nightmare from which none shall ever return to see the beauty of the sun.
The point is: the Dolphins are down some guys. If they can manage to get a couple back here and there, or if they can see some of their less-lauded players step up, they could squeak out some wins between now and the bye. If the same squad that came out Sunday takes the field again, I’m not overly confident. There’s a reason these guys didn’t begin the year at the top of the depth chart. Hopefully, they can just hang on long enough for the full contingent to return.
Miami is in a tight spot
If it sounds like I’m a bit pessimistic, that’s mostly thanks to how pessimistic I feel. I don’t think the Jets are particularly good, and they hung 40 points on Miami. Yeah; there are injuries, there was the mess with the protocol, some questionable penalties, etc. etc. All that considered, giving up 40 points to the Jets is ugly, no matter how much lipstick you slather on that pig.
At the same time, the Fins are still 3-2 and, when at full strength, have beaten some excellent teams. The problem is how not-at-full-strength they are and could continue to be in the near future. They need to find a way to win winnable games while under less-than-optimal conditions.
Teddy isn’t allowed to practice until Thursday. The coaches need to prepare a rotating room of backups for the potential of playing with either Teddy or Thompson while navigating the uncertainty as to whether a full week of practice for a rookie supersedes a truncated week of practice for a veteran. There’s also the possibility that Tua is cleared to play, which would be yet another variable to consider.
I’m not sure what I’d do in Mike MickeyD’s spot. Whichever way he goes, Miami’s likely going to need to put up some points to beat Minnesota in Week 6. Let’s all hope the team can rise to the occasion around whichever quarterback is behind center. Unless it’s Jay Cutler.
Do you think Miami will have Tua, Teddy, or Thompson for Week 6? Do you think the defense can find its tackling fuel? Do you think Jay Cutler’s gonna read this and be mad at me for ragging on him for no reason? Pile on in the comments below.