After a monumentally disappointing Week 4 showing against the Buffalo Bills, Dolphins fans were Daniel Jones-ing for a return to form against the New York football Giants.
Miami is starting to carve out an identity
Looking at the box score, the Dolphins dominated. The final tally was 31-16 in favor of the Fins with Tua tossing the ol’ tater (?) for over 300 yards, the running back group combining for more than 200 yards on the ground, and the defense holding the G-Men to 268 yards of total offense.
That’s all good stuff.
And all that good stuff is starting to look more familiar each week. Unlike totally one dimensional teams of the past, this version of the Greatest Show on Surf (credit definitely to someone else more clever than I) is balancing the offense between the two-headed rushing attack of Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane and the continual rise of Tua Tagovailoa behind center.
Of course, in traditional Fins fashion, Achane, who has been otherworldly over his first few weeks in action, is slated to miss time with an injury. Jeff Wilson is due back soon from his IR stint, so maybe he helps soften that blow, but there’s no denying it will be near impossible to replicate what Achane has brought to the team so far in his short career. He’s been so electric, he could be in line for a larger role once he returns.
With Achane out, Mike McDaniel needs to be careful not to fall back into old habits and start hucking the ball up 60 times a game as if Captain Fitzmagic came out of retirement. We all know that’s not a recipe for sustained success. I get the temptation to lean on the pass game, however, especially since:
Tua is so close to reaching his ceiling
QB1. T2. The Tuinator. Tuinator 3: Rise of the Machines. I don’t know; it’s been a long week.
No matter what (objectively awesome) nickname you give him, Tua has been playing well up to this point in the season. Yet despite the numbers he’s put up, Sunday’s game highlighted one area that’s still holding him back from being his absolute best: brief lapses in his Tuinator 2: Judgment (Day).
His late 2nd quarter interception to Jason Pinnock (returned 102 yards for a pick 6) was emblematic of the ocassional ‘WTF mate’ throw he makes. Whether it’s due to misreading a defense, panicking under duress, or maybe even overconfidence in his ability to thread the needle where he really can’t, his tendency to pepper a couple mind-melting passes in to most games is just about the only aspect of his game that’s not firing at 100%.
His accuracy is elite, his pocket presence is improving, his knowledge of the offense is complete. Even the offensive line is helping keep him off the ground. Whatever he can do to minimize that handful of ill-advised throws would take him to the top of Tua Mountain.
Once he’s there, he might find some companions from the other side of the ball too, since:
The defense flashed its potential
While it’s true that the New York Giants don’t possess the mightiest offense in the land (especially when Saquon Barkley is sitting out), someone still has to play the game. Miami’s defense went out and played and they played quite well.
They kept quarterback Daniel Jones in check, limiting him to 119 yards passing and only 24 yards rushing before he was replaced by Tyrod Taylor after suffering another neck injury on a hit by Andrew ‘If only EgregiousPhilbin had predicted I’d be the team’s sack leader this season, he wouldn’t look like such a dummy all the time’ Van Ginkel.
They held the Giants collectively to 85 rushing yards and generally stifled much of what New York attempted to do on offense. It was a nice bounce back performance from a unit that got embarassed the week prior.
Staff needs to take the right lessons away
The Giants are bad. Their offensive line is very bad. Miami notched 7 sacks (6 against Jones, 1 against Taylor) over the course of the game. And that was without Jaelan Phillips. By those numbers, the average citizen might think that the Dolphins have corrected their pass rush woes and established a formidable front.
I would argue: nah.
Playing the exact same scheme against good teams with actually good offensive lines will not result in 7 sacks. It will look a lot more like the Buffalo game. The Giants line can’t handle a basic four man rush, so assuming that this game is evidence of a successful long term scheme for dialing up pressure against higher level competition is a mistake.
The Fins need to continue working on ways to generate meaningful pressure with their front four, with stunts, extra rushers, cover 0: whatever. The Giants are not a good litmus test for improvement in this particular area, so hopefully Vic Fangio continues to evolve the way the defense gets after the opposing quarterback so that Miami can wreak havoc against the teams who’ll need to feel it the most.
Speaking of teams and schedules, football, sacks, and other. Transition!
Miami’s schedule is working in their favor
The Fins are 4-1 right now, heading into a Week 6 matchup with the league worst 0-5 Carolina Panthers.
They should get another chance to spruce up the little things, maybe not throw any head scratching passes, maybe design some fancy new blitzes, and maybe win comfortably enough to get a few starters some rest.
Anything less than that would be cause for concern. And what a place that is to be as a fan.
Week 7 and 8 bring the undefeated (as of now) Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Taylor Swifts. Those two games will give the team a chance to really show how they stack up against the league’s best.
In the meantime, let’s hope Tua and teammates can terminate another opponent.
Think Tua should be dating Madonna so we get some of that sweet music industry hype? No one knows who Madonna is anymore? I have one foot in the grave already? Lament the ever-onward marching of time in the comments below.