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Miami Dolphins: 1%

Playoffs.

For the first time since 2008 the Miami Dolphins are headed to the playoffs. After a 1-4 start rookie head coach Adam Gase has willed an injury plagued team to the post-season.

There should be nothing but joy in South Beach…Right?

Not quite. There is unrest in Dolphins nation. For all the challenges and obstacles this team has overcome the disrespect is real.

Often franchises will try to create the notion that it is ‘us vs them’ to motivate the team and their fans. It is an effective motivational tool. In the Dolphins case they do not need to create anything. Nation media seems to enjoy slapping them in the face. For some reason there are those who seek to invalidate the achievements of this season.

There is the NFL Power Index which in the final edition ranked the Denver Broncos ahead of the Dolphins even though the Dolphins made the postseason as a wild card ahead of the Broncos. Miami did not make the playoffs as the best team of a bad division(yes I’m looking at you Texans), they had to fight and claw ahead of the Broncos among other teams to make the postseason.  They had to sweep division rivals Buffalo and New York-teams who had owned Miami in recent years. They had to overcome injuries to Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins and most recently the loss of franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill to finish 10-6.

Critics will say that the Dolphins only beat one winning team on their way to the playoffs(Pittsburgh). The fact is you play the games in front of you. The 1-4 start hurts that is undeniable. That said the six game winning streak should not be discounted no matter who it came against.

Six games that started with the dismantling of Sundays opponent the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-15. They followed that with a game against the Buffalo Bills who were coming off a four game winning streak. A Bills team that the Dolphins had struggled against in recent years. Some of the wins were impressive in others they simply survived. At the end of the day how you win is less important than the final score.

And so here we are in playoffs once again and Espn’s Football Power Index says that Miami has a 1% chance, one percent. Actually that is not true. That is a lie, a fabrication. They give the Dolphins a .2% chance of reaching the Super Bowl.

They have written them off so much so that several times this week when talking about the playoff teams they leave the Dolphins out of the conversation entirely. Earlier this week ESPN could not even be bothered to create a graphic for the team when talking about teams chances in the AFC.

Respect has to be earned. You would think with all that the Dolphins have overcome they would get just a little respect. Apparently there is yet another hurdle for this team to clear. And if they win today the media will surely write them off again.

1%.

I think I will take this one percent over the other 99.

#FinsUp

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Miami Dolphins: The Good, The Bad

Sometimes the games are ugly. Sloppy. Throw in pouring rain and you the game between the Miami Dolphins and the Arizona Cardinals.

Somehow the Dolphins eeked out-and-out 26-23 win but it was not without cost(more on that later). As always there is the good and the bad.

The Good:

One name-Mike Hull. As soon as it was announced that he was starting for the injured Kiko Alonso I was in.

As those that know me will say…I love Mike Hull. While he is only 6′ and 230 lbs he makes up for it with great, great football instincts. Those were on display early on as he grabbed an early interception on a tipped pass from Carson Palmer. Throughout the game you could see him around the ball with regularity.

Hull was not perfect. Some of his drops into coverage were stiff and he bit on a few play fakes but that is understandable considering this was his first extended playing time of his career. With more experience these things can be cleaned up. His passion is undeniable.

Now I am not suggesting starting Hull over a healthy Kiko Alonso. That would be foolish. I would however find ways to get both Alonso and Hull on the field at the same time. Not to disparage Neville Hewitt or Spenser Paysinger, both solid players, however neither have the instincts shown again and again by our inside linebackers. Such a move could help our overall linebacking play tremendously.

The Bad:

After 77 games Ryan Tannehill went down to injury. The ironman finally fell. Tannehill was hurt on a low hit(some felt a dirty hit) by Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell.

Initially the worst was feared. Sunday night many on the team and in the media suspected he may have suffered a season ending ACL tear. Tests have shown it to be a ACL sprain. While that may seem like splitting hairs it is the difference between surgery and not.

So the Dolphins turn to back up Matt Moore to lead the push towards the playoffs. There is a (slim)chance that Tannehill could return to the field for the season ending game against the New England Patriots or the playoffs.

Personally the only way I play him again this season is if a playoff berth is on the line or in said playoffs.

Simply dodging the ACL tear-bullet should be a sigh of relief for Dolphins fans and especially one Ryan Tannehill.

 

 

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Miami Dolphins: Clean It Up

Five games.

Five wins.

The year was 2008 last time the Miami Dolphins won five straight games. That was also the last time the Dolphins reached the playoffs.

Will they find a way to return to the postseason this year?

Not so fast. There is still a lot of work to do. So many things to clean up. Penalties, defensive breakdowns…all the little things.

While the win last Sunday in Los Angeles was great it was also frustrating. The Rams defense held our offense in check for fifty-five minutes, while our defense just barely contained Todd Hurley and rookie quarterback Jared Goff. The most frustrating play could have broken the game open much earlier.

After Kiko Alonso force and the recovered a fumble(Kiko continues to impress) the offense tried to strike quickly. Going for a deep passing touchdown after a turnover is what you always hope for. It is an aggressive move which pays great dividends when successful.

When Successful…

It was not. Ryan Tannehill launch a beautiful deep ball towards Devante Parker in the left front corner of the end zone just like it was drawn up.  All Parker needed to do was time his jump and put his 6’3 frame to work. Touchdown right? Wrong. Parker jumped a step or two early and the ball flew just out of reach to be intercepted by Rams safety Maurice Alexander.

The timing was off by just this much…

My first reaction to the play was: “Seriously!?”.  A combination of frustration and disbelief. It was born not of anger because of the turn over but of shock. I had seen this movie before. We all had.

A nearly identical play Tannehill to Parker for a missed touchdown turned interception…that is how the week two game against the New England Patriots ended. Thankfully this time the Dolphins managed to recover to claim victory from the jaws of defeat. Even so this is something that needs to be cleaned up.

A play like that can be such a weapon if they can just get it right. Timing takes time. And repetition. And more repetition.

Get it right and the offense can be explosive. You have a threat to score at any time. It makes the entire offense better. More room for Jay Ajayi to run(as if he does not create enough on his own), more opportunities for Jarvis Landry to exert his will on the defense. It can build confidence on both sides of the ball. It opens up so many possibilities.

So clean it up…and see what transpires.

 

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Miami Dolphins: Back From The Dead

The season looked done. After competitive losses to the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots, the Miami Dolphins began to flounder. After winning a game against the Cleveland Browns that they should have lost(Cleveland missed three field goals), the Dolphins looked lost against the Cincinnati Bengals and were run over by the Tennessee Titans.

While injuries have taken their toll early this did not look like a team built to win this season. I admit I was starting to dig into college tape for  players that may help us in next years draft…before game six. I was checking out running backs, tight ends, linebackers, cornerbacks and yes even taking a look at possible quarterbacks to be taken early in next years draft.

Then the Steelers came to town.

This should not be a good thing. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a good team. A well coached team. They have offensive stars in LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown. None of that mattered. Not on Sunday. The Miami offense pounded the ball with second year back Jay Ajayi to the tune of 204 yds and two touchdowns. Ryan Tannehill made plays when it mattered(receivers dropped two touchdowns). The much maligned defense actually showed up. Outside of a few missed assignments it looked dominant.

The Dolphins got healthy for at least one week.

The resurrection is not complete yet. Today division rival Buffalo Bills come to town on the heels of a four game winning streak. The Bills have been a nightmare in recent years but this is a new regime, a new team.

Exactly how new remains to be seen.

A win today can save the season. A win can show that this is a different team.

Just Win.

 

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Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill-too many questions.

Mike Pouncey.
Brandon Albert.
Koa Misi.
Jelani Jenkins.
Jordan Cameron.
Arian Foster.
Anthony Steen.
The Miami Dolphins were without the services of all seven starters for last Thursday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Add to that the short week and facing a playoff quality opponent things did not look promising for a young, struggling team.

The 22-7 loss should not have been a surprise. And it was not. But results do not tell the entire story.

That first drive. Two plays punctuated by a long touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Stills. That drive gave hope, it turns out false hope.

After an audacious start the offense sputtered and stalled for the rest of the night. Fairly or unfairly much of the blame is heaped upon beleaguered quarterback Ryan Tannehill. No matter what is seen reviewing.. film about why the offense failed Thursday night many will place it on Tannehill’s shoulders.

They will insist they ‘know’ what he is and that Thursday’s performance is proof of that. That is untrue. And that itself is the frustrating part.

We do not have answers to what the ceiling or floor of Ryan Tannehill is. We do not know if he is another journeyman quarterback or if he can raise himself to a higher level. All we have are more questions.

Can he finally become consistent?
It is not talent that is the issue. We have seen enough to know he has the ability. The problem is putting entire games together.

Why does he not use his athleticism?
He was good enough to play wide receiver at Texas A&M when they needed him to. He has shown a great ability to run and throw from the run. You would think we would see this more often. Especially with an offensive line falling apart.

Why is there a disconnect with the play calling?
This is not on the quarterback but on the new staff. The flow of the game is missing. Former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was famous for scripting his first twenty offensive plays. Does this staff plan out what they intend to do or are they simply throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.

It is still early in the season. No matter what Tannehill’s critics may insist he is not a bad quarterback. The biggest question. The only important question is:
Can he be a great one?

This season will answer that one way or another. By the last day of the season he will either swim or…We will be starting the clock on someone new.

On that day not before.

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Miami Dolphins: Growing Pains

I have never been a fan of moral victories. As Herm Edwards(who I love) once said:

“You play to win the game!”

Even in a hard-fought game like the Miami Dolphins played against the Seattle Seahawks that moral victory ring hollow. I know they are tough to beat at CenturyLink Field. I understand they were favored by, what, ten points. Losing a close game 12-10 just tells me that we should have won. The Dolphins let them up off the mat.

Mistakes were made. An incredibly bad drop by Kenny Stills. A blocked field goal. Ill-timed penalties. You simply cannot have that on the road against a team like the Seahawks.

That is not to say there are not positives to take from a close loss. There are always things to learn from.

We learned that at least for one game this Dolphins team is not going to be bullied by physical teams.

We learned that the secondary is not the horrible black hole of sucking some fans feared it would be. In fact I thought rookie Xavian Howard looked very good in his first game(especially considering he missed most of the preseason).

We learned that first time head coach Adam Gase has some stones. While some criticized his going for it on fourth and one instead of kicking the field goal I applaud him for it. That is the kind of playcall that changes a teams culture. And next time(and there will be a next time) they will get that first down.

There will be growing pains, there always are. But these first tentative steps were promising.

Now the hard part. Going cross-country to face the Patriots in Foxboro. Things do not get any easier. Time to see what they learned.

Time to grow.

 

 

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Miami Dolphins: Bang the Drum

Two weeks into preseason and what do we know?

Nothing. That is what we know.

Did you really expect anything more?

There is very little you can truly tell from limited snaps and vanilla schemes. Seeing the players competing is nice but it is best not to get too excited about anything you see. You should also not hit the panic button either.

So leading up to the third game what is there to do?

Bang The Drum

Every year we see players in the preseason that excite us. Players that we want to succeed. It does not necessarily mean they ascend to the starting lineup. We just want to see more.
We bang the drum for them. Much like during the draft there are players we would stand on a table calling for in preseason we all pick players we would pound the table, bang the drum for them to just be given the opportunity to impress.

I have two. One on offense, One on defense.

On offense it was actually real easy for me to decide. While many fans have fallen in love with Jakeem Grant I am not quite there yet. He is exciting and shiny but I still need to see more. My pick on offense is running back Isaiah Pead. He may have started as just a camp body, expected to be churned by the first cuts, but he refuses to go away. While it is a small sample size Pead has been more impressive than any other back on the roster. More chances with the ones are expected and if he continues to impress he can guarantee a roster spot. He may even work his way into the starting rotation.

Anyone who has read my columns over the last few years or who follows me on twitter should have a pretty good idea who my next pick is. Mike Hull. Second year linebacker from Penn State. Much like Isaiah Pead, Hull has looked better than most of the rest of the linebacking corps. Yes he is playing against the backups and he is still a little raw. That is true, but he is also making plays everytime he is given a chance. He deserves the call up. He should be the first linebacker off the bench and in time I believe he will be.

This Thursday in Orlando(and I will be there) I will be banging the drum for each of these men. What about you?

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