Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings embodied the Miami Dolphins’ newest team slogan:
“Your Miami Dolphins: Providing just enough hope to extract the maximum amount of pain from the fanbase since before you were born.”
Skylar Thompson exceeded expectations while Teddy Bridgewater stayed in neutral.
Rookie 7th-round quarterback Skylar Thompson got his first career NFL start at home against the Vikings. In the Dolphins’ style of late, he exited the game with an injury. This marked the third week in a row that the quarterback who started the game wasn’t the same one that finished it. I don’t have any punchline here. That sucks.
Thompson looked sharp early on, despite the best efforts of his teammates to drag him down. He made some nice looking passes and didn’t shy away from pushing the ball downfield. It was obvious that a full week of practice as the starter gave him a valuable boost in confidence. Then, in the second quarter, he smacked his throwing hand off of a defender’s helmet, causing some unpleasantness to his thumb, and left the game.
Hence, the return of the non-concussed concussion-protocol-passing passer Theodore ‘Ghost of Jay Cutler’ Bridgewater. That’s a bit harsh (and I kinda like Jay Cutler), but Teddy is getting a sort of reputation, warranted or not, for being uncaring on the field. I personally don’t mind a reserved leader, but sometimes when the team is obviously flailing, it takes a little more pizzazz to get them going.
Early on with Teddy, the team was obviously flailing. He looked out of sorts, uncomfortable in the pocket, and ill prepared. In his defense, the concussion protocol made it so that he was, in fact, ill prepared. Still, he’s a long time veteran and he can do better. For one, he needs to learn to climb the pocket more and not circle back into pressure, a feat he accomplished a few times against the Vikings’ pass rush.
For another (and I’ll lump all Dolphins’ quarterbacks in here together): SLIDE. GO DOWN. THROW THE BALL AWAY. Teddy getting decked on 3rd and 2 while Thompson was in the locker room is the dumbest thing possible. The coaches need to engrave this into our passers’ brains with a soldering iron (my medical license recently expired) until they learn self-preservation.
It wasn’t all bad for Bridgewater. He settled in after a bit and helped usher in big statistical days for Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Mike Gridsicki, who finally had his first impact game under Mike McDaniel Day Lewis.
Alas, it wasn’t enough as the team made enough mistakes via penalties, turnovers, and general disarray, to drop their third straight.
The argument can be made that Thompson should get the QB2 spot over Bridgewater going forward. That very well may be, but I think the quarterback position, despite its volatility of late, is taking a back seat to another area of the offense in terms of importance in avoiding looking like total jamokes on the field:
The offensive line is quickly slipping back into liability territory
Maybe ‘slipping into’ is generous. They were squarely in liability territory on Sunday. I’m pretty sure Greg Little notched a 1.5 pass-blocking grade per PFF, and that’s not out of 2.
I realize both starting tackles were not in the game, but the interior let them down too. When linemen weren’t blocking, they were ruining drives with penalties. There were plenty of open routes underneath throughout the day, but the QB was forced to move or take a hit so quickly they couldn’t be utilized.
Austin Jackson received little love in his early career from fans, but getting him back along with perennial Pro Bowler and perennial IR participant Terron Armstead should make a massive difference. Miami’s lines have historically fallen off a cliff any time injuries crop up, which *checks notes* is every single season since I’ve been alive. The starting o-line was shaping up nicely early on, but lose one guy here and another there, and we’re back to the days of letting free rushers maim our quarterbacks to their hearts’ content.
A quick aside: I’m not in love with all the toss plays. They provide a head of steam for the running back, sure, but with a bad line, it sometimes steams him right into a wall. Why start the play 5+ yards behind the line of scrimmage if you don’t have to? I know they have their place, but Miami seems to run them a lot.
While the offense had its fair share of difficulties on the day, the defense was another story.
The defense held up its end of the deal.
Miami’s defenders (led by Josh Boyer, in case you didn’t hear Jonathan Vilma the first 40 times) came out swinging and did their damnedest to play the often elusive ‘complementary football.’
They forced five (!) 3-and-outs in the 1st half and five (!) more in the 2nd. That’s a lot to work with if your offense is functional.
The secondary locked down, for the most part, even with injuries (including a season ender to Nik Needham, which is a huge bummer). Noah Igbinoghene (pronounced Ig-fa-geen-EE-na-NUH if you’re the Fox announcers) had his first good game as a pro, breaking up a couple passes while covering Adam Thielen. Jaelan Phillips showed some and the Fins’ pass rush made the Vikings’ line look almost as bad as ours (there’s no way it actually is, of course).
Then, after all that hard work, the defense gave up a monstrous momentum shifting run to Dalvin Cook to practically seal the game for Minnesota. It was precipitated by an uncharacteristic back breaker of a fumble by Jaylen Waddle, but that doesn’t excuse it.
If the defense can play as lights out as it did through the bulk of this game on a regular basis, hopefully a Tua-led offense won’t leave them out to dry.
Penalties were heinous
Miami had 10 penalties for 97 yards. The majority of them were valid. Some were ticky tacky and, if you’re going to call them on one team, they should be called consistently, (the reality of which is always debatable), but they were absolute momentum crushers.
The Dolphins’ drive near the end of the first quarter was so ridiculous that it became funny. There were five penalties on that single drive and it ultimately ended with a 4th and 28.
There are always missed calls that could go for each team (a few hits on Thompson and Bridgewater looked eerily similar to some rOugHinG tHe PasSer calls that were handed out last week), but Miami needs to clean that nonsense up. Good opponents don’t need your help to win. Stop giving it to them.
Injuries can’t get worse, can they?
There are no two ways about it: The Miami Dolphins made a wish at a Zoltar machine in the ‘50’s and it backfired. I don’t know how else they’ve experienced so many injuries to key players this early in the season.
Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgwater, Skylar Thompson (that’s all three quarterbacks, if you’re counting), Durham Smythe, Terron Armstead, Austin Jackson, Trey Flowers, Andrew Van Ginkel, Byron Jones, Xavien Howard, Nik Needham, and Kader Kohou have all been bitten by the injury bug already. Since that was from memory and the other tabs are all the way over there, I’m sure I missed some.
That’s a lot of pain and suffering.
People love to tout ‘next man up’, but the Dolphins have proven (again) that their next men are often significant departures from those they’re replacing. Some of it comes down to bad luck. Some of it comes down to signing players with known injury histories. Regardless of the root cause, missing impact players makes a major difference on game day. Miami needs to figure out a way to get their stars healthy and improve the depth behind them or they could find themselves struggling through a very winnable stretch of games.
13 three and outs between both teams’ offenses? 10 penalties for 97 yards? Hope being dangled right in front of your nose only to be ripped away by self inflicted stupidity? If you don’t love this, you don’t love Dolphins football. Celebrate the decades long tradition in the comments below.