After the Miami Dolphins lost to the New York Jets on Sunday, it put an end to a season in which at times looked very positive. Miami at one point had an elite defense and a quarterback who was having a breakout season, along with a running back who proved he can get the job done. Ryan Tannehill posted over 4,000 yards and was the first Miami quarterback to do so since Hall of Famer Dan Marino. Lamar Miller totaled over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, along with 8 rushing touchdowns.
With those accomplishments in mind, what went wrong for the Dolphins? Let's look at their struggles and problems throughout the vast majority of the season.
Losing pro bowler Branden Albert was rough and rookie Ja’Wuan James was asked to move from right tackle to left tackle. Replacing Albert, he played fairly well for the position he was in but it wasn't good enough. Against the Jets, there was no excusing giving up seven sacks. It will help having Mike Pouncy return to his center position and getting Albert back. With a healthy offensive line, quarterback Ryan Tannehill might go from good to great.
Miami's defense looked great through about 12 games when the Dolphins were a playoff team with a 7-5 record. Soon after, the defense began to fall apart and struggle throughout the rest of the season. Miami's defense allowed 28, 41, 35 and 37 points in the last four games of the season and on Sunday, they made inept quarterback Geno Smith seem like a polished NFL quarterback.
“I feel like there definitely needs to be a change,” linebacker Phillip Wheeler said. “I think we should change some of the ways we do things. [Defensive coordinator Kevin] Coyle is a solid coach. I think we got solid players. I believe in what we can do. “But at times, even Coach Coyle will say we’re not in the best defense. At times it’s us as players not executing well. It might be the way we’re learning.”
It's obvious from that quote that Wheeler feels like some of the blame is on the players, but he also mentioned it could be the way they're learning. With a defense with so much talent, you do have to question the whole scheme. A head coaching change was already dismissed, however, should that mean the Dolphins shouldn't explore change in other areas? This Miami Dolphins team was definitely the most talented in the Philbin era and to come out with the same mediocre record as usual is troubling.
“Man, I’m part of this team and this organization,” one player said. “And I don’t understand how the [heck] some decisions that get made around here get made. And I ain’t alone, neither.”
Frustration within locker room has reached its peak, including Mike Wallace's, who was benched after having words with the coaching staff during Sunday's game against the Jets. Wallace's frustration could have mounted from Tannehill's inability to connect with him on deep passes all year.
Although I wont argue that Tannehill needs to address that part of his game, I do believe with a healthier offensive line, there would have been more targets for "deep threat" Wallace.
All issues aside, I believe this team had the talent to make the playoffs, and whether it was the lack of execution from players, injuries, lack of leadership, or the coaching staff who deserves most of the blame, there's still no more room for excuses. Miami has to decide what changes need to be made to get this team to play up to their potential in 2015.
This column was written by Justin Lemanski. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidJTL