Are you over the shellshock of what occurred this past Sunday? The absolute destruction of a potential “changing of the guard” or any other media narrative that was being held on to this past week? If not, then let’s go through a quick review, and then turn the page on that gruesome week together.
If you’ve read along in previous weeks, then you know I typically begin with an intro, followed by areas for improvement, and closed off with the “good” from the previous week.
This week will be different, and I think you can easily estimate why; because there is truly not much “good” to speak about. Instead, this will be a look at the clear areas of improvement, and why or why not, this team will be able to overcome the Foxborough thumping.
Areas for Improvement
1. Early down failures
Sunday was a perfect film study on how to get absolutely manhandled by any team; and by any team I truly mean it, the Dolphins could have played your local high school team and still have struggled. Here is why: the following were the yards to gain on the offense's third down plays: 12, 10, 8, 8, 12, and 8.
Fans tend to get mad at third down conversion rates for this team, or the playcalling on third downs. DON’T. Get mad that the offense is continually put in a position where they need to gain 8+ yards just to get a first down.
Where does this come from? Penalties are a good place to start. Take your pick: pre-snap, holding, etc. The penalties this team put forth on Sunday are the most bitter cocktail of how to lose in the NFL. Now, I’ve previously said that it is tough to place this on Tannehill or Gase, after all, it is the lineman causing the 1st and 15’s or 1st and 20’s, but at some point Tannehill and Gase either have to compensate for this, or eliminate it all together.
This is where my criticism for Tannehill comes into play, we often see him compensate for bad protection, but we rarely see him compensate for bad third down scenarios. Part of this will come from playcalling—make no mistake about it—but part of it comes from being timid with the ball and wary of turning it over. When your team has more penalties than first downs at any point throughout the game, you know you’ve already lost.
2. As the team crumbled, so did Tannehill
Similar to the Jets game, we again saw the OL play as the worst unit in the game…and we again saw Tannehill be unable to compensate for it.
Now before anyone calls me unrealistic or a hater, let me be clear: I am aware of how ridiculous it is to expect him to play top level football when the OL is in shambles, our running backs do not eclipse TEN yards in rushing at various points throughout the game, and when your back-up center throws a dart past you in an off-cadence snap, leading to a fumble.
I promise you that I hold that context in my mind when writing this, I really do, but I needed him to do more.
In the miracle snaps where he was given time, he overthrew his receivers, and in the small percentage of plays where the receiver was open—because the Patriots weren’t holding them—he missed the read.
What I am trying to point out here is the following: everyone was awful on Sunday, no one deserves to be held responsible above others, but the captain needed to do more too, and for the first time in a while, he didn’t.
Where does improvement come from?
I explained in the introduction that we wouldn’t have a “good” section, because there wasn’t much to show (other than the first pass in the game, which was a beautifully spotted 20+ yard pass, yet also led to us not throwing it that deep again, for whatever the reason). Instead, let’s talk about what changes need to happen to yield improvement.
1. Running game
The old adage is that defense and a running game are the QB’s best friends. Yes, yes they are. But currently, the Miami running game is Tannehill’s worst enemy. The Miami Dolphins have gained 352 yards on the ground this year; 74 of those have come from Tannehill.
This leaves a whopping total of 278 yards coming from the backfield in Miami through four games. That type of running game is music to the ears of opposing defenses, and is exactly what the Patriots feasted on this past Sunday.
They dropped 7-8 men into the defensive backfield, and took away Tannehill’s ability to throw. They then limited Drake and Gore to only 56 yards rushing, of which a large amount occurred once the game was already decided and QB1 was on the bench preserving his health.
You cannot and will not win football games in the NFL when you are one-dimensional. This running game must improve if the Dolphins want to see continued growth in this offense and in Tannehill.
2. Injury concerns
All-Pro Josh Sitton? Out for the year. Captain Daniel Kilgore? Also on injured reserve. Parker? Welp. Derby? Hurt. Those on the offensive line that remained? They played their worst collective game of the year on Sunday. Run blocking? Absent. Pass protection? Minimal. Penalties? Too many. You get the point.
Our players are hurt, and those that aren’t hurt were playing like they were. It’s easy to put too much weight into one game (just take a look at #DolphinsTwitter), but one game is only one game and that is all this Foxborough thumping is…one game.
However, the exception to that rule is when that one game bleeds into the rest of the season via the form of injuries and chronic penalties. The point here is simple: injuries happen to every team, but not every team responds well to them. Which one will Miami be?
When asking yourself if you believe in this team’s ability to improve, make a note that the real answer lies in the following: will this team find an offensive identity? Through four weeks, the only assured identities are penalties, no running game, and an offense predicated on passing success and atypically schemed play development.
You cannot win with penalties, and if you are going to be entirely ineffective at running, then you need to open the passing playbook. The Dolphins playcalling works when they play complimentary football. When the defense needs to defend the run, the quick throws and speed-kills developments work. But when the defense can drop 7 or 8 to counteract your speed, you’re left with this past Sunday.
Miami needs an identity on the offensive side. You wanted it to be running? Well where is that coming from? Where are the holes or the playmakers? You wanted it to be passing? Fine, but where is the opened playcalling. Miami is choosing to run a scheme predicated on running effectiveness, and then asking their passing unit to do the impossible, when every run is stopped within two yards.
It will not work against smart defenses and coordinators. Either learn to run or open up the pass game. It’s not as easy as it sounds, it’s not going to change in a week, but something needs to be done, and this part lies squarely on the shoulders of Adam Gase.
4. The Miami Dolphins are 3-1
With all the negative involved in this article, please stay aware that I have not lost grasp of the fact that Dolphins are in first place within the AFC East, and that they have three wins to one loss. Second, that the quarterback and offense are still 7th in Rating, 5th in Touchdown Percentage, and 5th in yards per attempt. And third, that the New England loss does not erase the positives from the previous week.
And make no mistake about the following: the season will be decided in the next four games, NOT by this New England loss. The team, their futures, their contracts will be resolved by how they respond to the loss, NOT by the loss. This team is as good as their 3-1 record, regardless of what detractors want to tell you; the NFL isn’t designed to be easy and will continue to adapt. The Miami Dolphins weren’t gifted three wins thus far, they earned it. Now let’s see if they can earn one in Cincy.
Week 4 Overview
47.9 Quarterback Rating
11 for 20 on pass attempts
100 Total Yards
5 Yards per attempt
Overall Quarterback Grade: D (Only thing not making this an F is how atrocious everything around him also was, but make no mistake, the Dolphins all collectively Failed)
This story was written by Daniel Martinez. Follow him on Twitter: @all_right_Miami
Latest Dolphins News