Miami Dolphins Progress Report: Where Does the Team Stand Headed into Week 11?

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Miami Dolphins Progress Report: Where Does the Team Stand Headed into Week 11?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Are the walls closing in on the Dolphins?

Fins down.

Excitement was heating up for the Miami Dolphins for the first time in a long time, but that heat was doused in a 37-3 bucket of water at the hands of the Tennessee Titans.

The Dolphins don't have a lot of time to turn it around, with a big game coming up on Thursday Night Football against the Buffalo Bills.

Where do things go from here for Miami? How do the Dolphins get back on the right track?

Here's a progress report on where the team stands headed into Week 11.

 

Primary Talking Point

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The offense has to pick it up eventually.

The defense can only carry the burden for the Dolphins for so long.

They have done it time and time again this season already, and this past Sunday against the Titans, they couldn't stop the onslaught and it wasn't even their fault. 

The Dolphins only stand a chance to win when they don't turn it over, because they're not creating many explosive plays on offense. They have just 24 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season and five rushes of 20 yards or more. 

 

Injury Updates

The Dolphins have a lot of players listed as probable, nursing smaller injuries, but the only prominent name listed as questionable is Jabar Gaffney. 

The Dolphins have been fortunate to be healthy this year, notwithstanding the leg injury suffered by Reggie Bush in Week 3 against the Jets, which slowed him down for a few weeks. He is no longer listed on the injury report.

 

Stock Up

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Brian Hartline: With eight receptions for 79 yards, Hartline continued the hot start to his season. He has already set career-highs in receptions and yards. He and Ryan Tannehill are building a relationship that could have a long, bright future if the Dolphins choose to keep Hartline beyond this year. Either way, he's playing his way into a nice contract in the 2013 free agency market.

Daniel Thomas: The second-year back got a much bigger opportunity than he's used to, with 10 touches (five rushes, five receptions) for 55 yards. His increased workload came at the expense of Bush, who was taken out after a fumble.

 

Stock Down

Joe Philbin: Speaking of that Bush fumble...it's not excessive to bench a player for a fumble, teams around the league do it. Take him out for a series or two. But to bench the best player on offense for over 30 minutes when he's made it a point to improve his ball security since joining the team? It's hard to justify that. By the time Bush got back in the game, it was well out of hand.

It was a big mistake, but he can learn from it. Treating players equally is one thing, but taking such drastic measures on the best player on your offense is another. 

Ryan Tannehill: Three interceptions, two of them bone-headed throws.

His 73.2 passer rating is the fourth-worst among full-time starting quarterbacks. That's a result of his picks, but also his struggles to get the ball into the end zone; his five touchdown throws are the fewest of any starter. He has thrown three interceptions in two separate games just nine games into the 2012 season.

Tannehill's evolution is an organic process; it won't be a constant trend upwards, there will be some bumps along the road, but it's about how he responds to those struggles. The coaching staff praised his character and mental makeup after they drafted him, and thus far this year, that holds up. Will it continue to hold up? That will determine his trajectory going forward.

 

Stats to Build On

80.1

That's the Dolphins defensive passer rating, which makes them one of the top 10 units in the league.

Their pass defense is not without its flaws; it has given up 37 pass plays of 20 yards or more this season, but its low completion percentage of 56.3, along with an average of seven yards per pass attempt allowed has helped the Dolphins to field a formidable pass defense.

34.51

That's the Dolphins defensive third-down conversion percentage, the sixth-highest average in the league.

The Dolphins haven't been able to create a lot of turnovers, with just 11 on the season, but their ability to get stops on third down (and in the red zone, where they rank seventh with 41.94 percent touchdowns allowed) helps them compensate for an offense that struggles to score points.

Which helps me transition perfectly into...

 

Stats to Improve On

-0.01

That is Ryan Tannehill's expected points added per pass play, according to Advanced NFL Stats. That is the sixth-lowest in the league and is only better than Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, Matt Cassel and John Skelton. That's not good company to be in.

But how do the Dolphins improve on this? The first answer is to score more touchdowns and throw fewer picks (thank you, Captain Obvious), and that comes with play design and better decision making. 

On this throw, for example, Tannehill has already wound up to throw and misses a receiver coming open on the other side of the field. The pass would ultimately be dropped by Davone Bess.

Who knows how different this game would have been if Tannehill had seen the receiver. One thing is for sure: Tannehill and the Dolphins aren't a good enough offense to overcome leaving points on the field.

7.1

That's Ryan Tannehill's yards per pass attempt. It currently ranks 21st in the NFL.

Not only are the Dolphins not getting the ball in the end zone regularly, they're not getting very many explosive plays in the passing game at all. Tannehill goes downfield on 8.6 percent of his throws, according to ProFootballFocus.com, but the Dolphins have one of the higher averages in yards per completion, meaning they're getting some explosive plays out of the passing game.

Apparently, not enough.

 

Outlook

The prognosis is not nearly as good as it was when the Dolphins were 4-3, riding high off a 30-9 win over the Jets.

Now, at 4-5, the Dolphins have a tough schedule coming up with two games against the Patriots along with games against the 49ers and Seahawks before the season is over. 

How many wins will the Dolphins finish with in 2012?

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There are still winnable games left: two against the Bills and one against the Jaguars. But the Dolphins will have to beat some tough opponents if they're going to make a serious push to the postseason.

With a game against the Bills on Thursday night, the Dolphins get an opportunity to wash the taste of the 37-3 castor oil they drank against the Titans. If they come out looking as flat as they did in that game, though, it will be tough for them to make a case for the playoffs.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained via team press releases.

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