SportsGeek

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

Standard
SportsGeek

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.

 

 

Standard
SportsGeek

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.

 

Standard
SportsGeek

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.

 

Standard
SportsGeek

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.

Standard
SportsGeek

Miami Dolphins: A New Dawn

There is a thought that as every dawn rises it washes away the day before. Gives us a fresh start. Resigns our history to where it belongs in the past.

We currently reside in that dead period in the NFL offseason. Smack dab between the NFL Draft and the start of summer OTAs, training camps and eventually preseason. Very little actual news comes out.

All we have is speculation and reflection.

That is difficult for a team like the Miami Dolphins. Hiring a new coach, a first time coach leaves many more questions than answers when trying to predict the future of the team.

As far as reflection. All that gives you are the reasons why a new coach, a new regime was needed.

Adam Gase was not here last season, neither was Vance Joseph or Clyde Christensen. In case you are wondering those are the names of the new head coach of the Dolphins along with the defensive and offensive coordinators. Many players are new. Besides the draft picks; Kiko Alonso, Jason Jones, Byron Maxwell and Isa Abdul-Quddus are all entering their first year with the team(and that is just on the defensive side). These men should not have to pay for the sins of the past.

Just because players struggled here in the past does not mean they will struggle again. These are new coaches, new schemes. It is a new day. As fans we often forget these players are the top 1% of the top 1% of American football players on the planet. That is all that makes it to the NFL level. There is a reason they are here.

I watched tape on the offenses that Adam Gase and Clyde Christensen have run. I have watched tape on the defense Vance Joseph came from. What they have said they want to run seems to match up with what I saw on tape.

Vance Joseph said recently he wants to run an attacking defense and I believe him. I know we have all heard that before. However the players that have been brought in seem to fit that more than whatever you want to call the dumpster fire that was run in Miami for the last season and a half. It gives me hope.

Gase has said he likes what he has seen up close out of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the various weapons available in this offense. And we have no reason not to believe him.

I do not suggest blind faith. As with any new coach there is a learning curve. Just give them that time.

As a writer I have had the mantra:

Show, Don’t Tell

drilled into me from day one.

Time to open our eyes and see what the dawn shows us.

 

Standard
SportsGeek

Miami Dolphins: Replacing ‘The Don’

Every team, when around long enough, has its legends. Those members of it history without which you could not tell the story of the franchise. Their names are spoken with a sense of reverence.

These men, they cast pretty big shadows.

Every single time a linebacker wanders into the Miami Dolphins training camp the questions come. Is this the next Zach? This speaks to the desire for the overachieving, undersized giant of a man Zach Thomas was for years down in south Florida. Drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft he was an instant fan favorite. Even though the Dolphins have a long history of impressive linebackers Zach’s star shined a little bit brighter.

‘The greatest pure passer in the history of the game’. That is how I describe one Dan Marino. Honestly I do not think that title will be taken any time soon. With a flick of the wrist Marino rewrote the record books in a time when you could actually hit the quarterback, never mind mugging the wide receivers. Ryan Tannehill is the latest quarterback to try and fill his shoes. I do not think anyone could ever replace him.

Then you come to ‘The Don’. Don Shula’s shadow is the longest. As it should be. Winningest coach in NFL history. Perfect season. He won games with a staunch defense, power running and a conservative passing game. Then he turned around and won on the golden arm of Marino.

Bum Phillips once said of Shula, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”

So once again the Dolphins looked to find a new coach, more importantly they looked to find the next ‘Don’.

On January 9th, 2015 the Dolphins made Adam Gase their new head coach. Last season he was the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears.

Adam Gase will never be Don Shula. That is asking far too much. If he won ten games a season he would need 35 years to break Shula’s NFL record 347 wins.

What Gase can be is very good. While he only has 3 years experience as a coordinator he has an extraordinary amount of experience for a 37-yr old. He started his career as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban. Thing is Saban was not the coach at Alabama at the time, he was not coaching LSU either. He was an assistant for Saban way back in Michigan State. Gase was also the only assistant Saban took with him to his next stop. Gase has impressed at every stop of the way. He has called plays, developed quarterbacks and worked with some of the best in the league(Peyton Manning and Jay Cutler).

His first job in Miami will be figuring out whether Ryan Tannehill should be the quarterback going forward.

He is not the ‘Don’ but I believe he is up to the task.

Standard