It’s no secret: the Miami Dolphins need a good wide receiver. More than one would be nice, but right now the team should be happy if they could get one.
Yet despite all the clamoring for a dependable receiver, close to nothing has been done by Dolphins management, and it hurt the team in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the New York Jets, a game Miami was winning at halftime and very well could have won on a couple of occasions.
Yes, Dan Carpenter missed two field goals that would have won the game. Yes, head coach Joe Philbin tried to ice the kicker when the defense blocked Nick Folk’s first attempt at the game-winning kick. Yes, Reggie Bush was injured and sat out the entire second half.
Had those things gone differently the Dolphins could have won Sunday’s game. But this issue isn’t about one victory; it’s about setting the team up for failure for at least the entire season.
The Dolphins are 24th in the NFL in receptions (54). They are last in the league in receiving touchdowns, the only team in the entire NFL with only a single touchdown reception. The team has had eight different players catch passes but only three of them are wide receivers.
That touchdown reception was by tight end Anthony Fasano, a solid player that looks like he is becoming rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s safety blanket.
The players at the wide receiver position, for the most part, have done a poor job.
Brian Hartline is the team’s leading receiver with 13 receptions for 202 yards. He’s 30th in the league in reception yards. Hartline is good for one big play a game, but against the Jets that was it. He had one catch for 41 yards against the Jets despite being targeted nine times.
Hartline’s tendency to disappear should come as no surprise to Dolphin fans. Last season, in his final 10 games, he recorded one or no catches six times.
When rosters were cut to 53 right before the season, the Dolphins' “big” move at improving the position was signing Anthony Armstrong, who was cut by the Washington Redskins. For the Dolphins, Armstrong has three receptions in two games for a grand total of 12 yards.
Against the Jets, Armstrong had two catches for nine yards. He was targeted six times. In the fourth quarter, Armstrong allowed a pass to go right through his hands and hit him on a third down play that could’ve extended the team’s drive and help them preserve the victory.
Former Carolina Panthers receiver Legedu Naanee—who last season had the best season of his five-year career—was signed in April. He had a very disappointing preseason, dropping a number of passes, and in three games has yet to catch a pass in 2012.
The only other receiver even worth mentioning at this point is Davone Bess. The former Hawaii receiver is in his fifth season in the NFL and is solid if not spectacular. He was the team’s leading receiver Sunday, hauling in five passes for 86 yards on seven targets. He is most dangerous as a slot receiver but is being counted on by the team to do too much because of the lack of depth at the position.
Once Reggie Bush was injured in the second quarter the offense began to stall. Bush is not only a very good runner but he does a good job catching passes, too, and Tannehill and the Dolphins have relied heavily on him.
Without the Jets defense keying on Bush, they were able to really shut down the Dolphins offense, especially their passing attack. In the second half, Tannehill threw his only interception. The team still regained the lead but when the defense stopped the Jets offense and forced a punt, the Dolphins failed to capitalize.
The Dolphins had four possessions in the final quarter. On two of those the team went three-and-out, gaining a total of two yards on back-to-back possessions. They gave the ball back to the Jets and allowed them to take the lead.
If the Dolphins are going to be competitive, and if the team is going to let Tannehill start developing, then the wide receiver position desperately needs to be improved. The guys the team signed and put their faith in this year—especially Armstrong and Naanee—are not even close to getting the job done.