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.



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.



Miami Dolphins: Foster is Coming

The Miami Dolphins finally have their back.

After an off-season of searching the Dolphins signed running back Arian Foster to a one year deal.

A very team friendly deal, $1.5 million with another $2 million he can make in incentives. The Dolphins have made deals like this in recent years. Prove it deals for veterans coming off of injuries.

The most noteworthy of these deals were for Brent Grimes and Knowshon Moreno. With differing results.

While for some Knowshon Moreno’s tenure with the Dolphins may have been a disappointment-he only played in three games before injuries ended his career. But that first game, that first game was a revelation. Twenty-four carries for 134 yards and a touchdown in the first game of the 2014 season against the New England Patriots. Lamar Miller would take over the running duties for the rest of the season right up until he left in free agency this year.

For Brent Grimes it was a career resurgence. Coming to Miami from the Atlanta Falcons following an injury the season before no one knew what to expect from Grimes. The undersized corner played among the elite during his three seasons with the Dolphins providing 13 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. While his last season was not up to his previous standards he still showed the ability to start in this league. His departure from Miami may have had as much to do with his wife’s outspoken nature as his diminishing skills.

Arian Foster could follow either of these paths. There are obvious injury concerns as he has not played all 16 games in a season since 2012. Him suffering another setback would not be a terrible surprise.

Foster is not being asked to be the bell cow back though. While he may end up as the starter the Dolphins are also very high on second year back Jay Ajayi. Ideally there should be some sharing of duties so that if injury does strike disaster should not follow.

One of the better parts of Foster joining the team is not simply his running or catching the ball but in how he can show the young backs how to be a pro. That part is simply invaluable.

In whatever way Arian Foster does contribute I look forward to watching it play out over the next few months.





Miami Dolphins: Sophomore Season

As we work our way through the endless NFL offseason much of the conversation is about who was or was not signed in free agency and of course the never-ending debates about who will be picked by which team in the upcoming NFL Draft. These things do matter but it leans into this very human thought:

‘New is always better.’

It does feel that way at times. However in doing so we forget about the new toys we had this time last year. Those draft picks and undrafted free agents prepare to enter their sophomore season. They spent a year getting stronger, getting healthy and most importantly, they spent a season learning how to be pros. Now they have a chance to take that next step.

Jay Ajayi, RB: Ajayi missed the first seven games of the season but towards the end of the year he showed promise for the future. While only running for 187 yds in relief of departed running back Lamar Miller, he did have several runs of over 20 yds. A healthy season should give him the opportunity to compete for the starting job.

DeVante Parker, WR: The 2015 first round pick finished strong after missing several games with injury. When in the lineup he showed the skills that made him a coveted wide receiver just a year ago finishing the year with a 19-yd per reception average and 3 touchdowns. Like Ajayi, a full healthy season should pay dividends.

Jamil Douglas, G/C: Douglas struggled at times when thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie but a year of seasoning and a new coaching staff could allow him to grow into more than a backup.

Jordan Phillips, DT: Serving as a reserve tackle Phillips contributed just two sacks but he did manage four timely pass deflections.

Neville Hewitt/Mike Hull/Zach Vigil, LB: the trio of undrafted free agent linebackers(each was expected to be taken in the late rounds of the draft) combined for just 44 tackles last season but each has the ability to play at this level. Hewitt played some outside linebacker when Jelani Jenkins was out of the lineup. Vigil shared time in the middle early in the season. I feel of the three Mike Hull, the former Penn State star, has the best upside.

Bobby McCain/Tony Lippett, CB: Once they let him on the field Bobby McCain showed he had what it takes to at worst be a slot corner if not outright competing for a starting spot this season. Lippett on the other hand is a raw prospect. A converted wide receiver he has earned rave reviews for how quickly he has made the transition to corner. If he continues to progress his length will be a welcome addition to the secondary.

Perhaps the biggest jump in ability for any player occurs between the first and second year. These are nine players that may make a jump going into their sophomore seasons. Add to that the potential that the new coaching staff may get more out of all of the players on the roster than the previous regime did and there is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming season.