You can tell the Phins are getting better because EP’s articles are becoming more serious.
— Phin is the Word, 9/29/2022
I wish I could prove that sentiment wrong with a rip-roarin’, rootin-tootin’, stoopy-poopy-scaredy beaver, absolute laugh riot of an article here. Sadly, despite the Dolphins stumbling for the first time this year, there wasn’t a whole lot of levity to be found last Thursday night.
I was there. I was there 3,000 years ago when Miami travelled to Cincinnati to face the underperforming Bengals.
This afforded me an unimpeded view of a game I’d have rather not seen.
Thursday Night Football is a bad idea
The football week begins on Tuesday and looks a little something like this:
Thursday: the NFL
Friday: High schools
Sunday: the NFL
Monday: the NFL
For the Rhodes scholars out there, that’s a 3:1 ratio of the NFL:everyone else. That, in and of itself, isn’t an issue. It becomes an issue when the odd-man-out day (read: Thursday) results in an abbreviated rest and prep period for the teams involved.
I understand the NFL is a business. My closet full of officially licensed merchandise totally gets it. But the NFL is also a business predicated on producing a premiere product and loves to espouse the concept of parity. When teams come into games banged up, having to sit starters (and/or stars), and working from a rushed game plan, not only do the players suffer, but so does the precious product.
Obviously the health of the players is more important than ratings and revenue. Unfortunately, despite what it says out loud, the league’s actions don’t align with player safety being a priority by having games on Thursdays. I can offer a simple solution: Replace Thursday Night Football with a second Monday Night Football game. Expand the season to the league’s wet dream of eighteen games, add a second bye week, and only play Sundays and Mondays. Fewer players will get hurt over the season and week-to-week and the competition will be reflective of the teams at their full capability more often.
It can be argued that if fans don’t want Thursday Night Football, then they should just stop watching. The reality is that those same fans would just as happily watch that Thursday night game any other time. They’re tethered to their team, not the format. No one’s foaming at the mouth with rabid lust for a game because it’s on a Thursday.
I’m not going to wade into the debate as to what was or wasn’t wrong with Tua from the Bills game onward because I’m not a medical professional and, even if I was, I wasn’t there with him. Whether his injury(ies) from the Buffalo game had any bearing on his injury from the Cincinnati game is immaterial from the fan perspective. Let the doctors and lawyers sort that ugliness out. What matters is that Tua’s injury from the Cincinnati game was serious and I hope he comes out of this situation as best he can. That being said:
Tua should sit for a while
Again, not a doctor. But watching that injury live made it clear enough to me that the team should take their time getting Tua back on the field.
If we’ve learned anything in the sports universe over the last decade or so, it’s that brain injuries aren’t something to be taken lightly. From that point of view, I can see Tua not coming back this season, or, in the most extreme case, choosing to retire.
On the other hand, Tua’s a competitor and makes his living playing football. By that token, I can see him coming back as soon as he clears concussion protocol.
I’m just a guy typing up balderdash on the internet to keep all of the voices at bay. I can’t weigh in on what’s best for Tua medically or personally. As a fan, I hope he comes back and leads the Fins to 19-1. As a person, I just hope he does whatever is best for his future.
Defensive pass rush needs to find a spark
Now on to more football-y stuff.
The Dolphins pass rush was junk against the Bengals. Cincinnati’s offensive line is not great. They surrendered 15 sacks in the first 3 games, yet Miami could only get to Joe Burrow a single time. Putting pressure on the QB is the name of the game when the QB is good (and Joe Burrow is good).
The still Byron-Jones-less secondary was doing a decent job holding down the Bengals’ dominant wide receivers until Xavien Howard’s groin injury popped up, causing him to give up some big plays to Tee Higgins. Their main threat, Ja’Marr Chase, had barely 50 yards receiving until late in the 4th quarter. Imagine how stagnant that offense would have been if Burrow didn’t have all day to throw?
Miami has to find a way to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. It seems like the impact of the lack of pass rush is creeping higher every week and, against the Bengals, it was at the top of the defense’s problems.
Offensive playcalling needs to stay aggressive
Thus far into his short coaching career, Mike McDaniel appears to hedge toward more aggressive playcalling. That is, with the exception of some key moments in Cincinnati.
It’s the 2nd quarter, down 7-6 on the road, 4th and 1 on the opponent’s 34 yard line. I know Jason Sanders can hit a 52 yard field goal (even if he didn’t, since it was blocked). I want to see the team be aggressive there, analytics (that I’m certain were consulted) be damned.
Similarly, now in the 4th quarter, down 17-15 (still on the road, by the way), 2nd and 3 on the Miami 32. Chase Edmonds carries for 2 yards, bringing up 3rd and 1. I understand that Theodore E. Bridgewater, esq. is in the game. I want to see the team be aggressive there and come up with something better than another inside run (this one stonewalled for -1 yards, ending the drive and any momentum Miami was building).
I’m sure there’s data driven decisions behind some of that. And I get that Teddy Bridgewater hadn’t had many reps with the first team (see: his interception on the next drive). I still want the offense go for the gold when they have the chance. There were opportunities to be had, even with a backup QB coming in cold. Speaking of that backup QB:
Miami can probably be .500 (or better) with Teddy
This statement assumes that Tua is back this season. If Tua comes back as quickly as inhumanly possible, Miami would only have Teddy starting against the Jets next week (which he’s already confirmed to be doing). Teddy can beat the Jets. If Tua stays out until the Bye in Week 11, Teddy’s opponents would be:
Teddy (and the great group around him) can be most, if not all, of those teams. He’s a former 1st round draft pick (albeit #32), has a career completion percentage of 66.4%, and a TD:INT ratio of 72:44. That’s good enough to win games.
If Tua ends up being out longer than the Bye, it’s anybody’s guess. All I know is that, whoever’s behind center, I’m still excited for this year’s team to make some noise. If they can weather this storm and dominate like they did at the start of this season, my articles will eventually just be Werner Herzog films. And I’d be so happy.
Are you a Bengals fan thrilled to be 2-2 after barely beating a backup QB at home? Are you a Dolphins fan thrilled to be 3-1 after being barely beaten behind a backup QB on the road? Are you a general human being who realizes that Who Dey is the worst thing in professional sports? Bring it on down to comment town.