5 Key Issues the Miami Dolphins Must Address During Their Bye Week
A bye week could not have come at a better time for the Miami Dolphins.
Now that they are through what is arguably the hardest part of their schedule, the Dolphins have 11 games left, including six divisional contests and five games against teams that are a combined 8-17 after Week 5.
It also gives the Dolphins a chance to directly address some of the larger issues facing the team—though most of these issues blend together in that one may lead to another or make another one worse.
Here are the five most important things Miami needs to improve upon during its bye week.
5. Mike Sherman's Play-Calling
Mike Sherman has this aversion to throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field.
Phins Phocus' Michael Serrania cited a couple of examples of Sherman's questionable play-calling from the New Orleans game:
In addition, the play-calling in the game upstairs by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman were suspect and head-scratchers for sure. Including abandoning the running game early, when it was clearly working and then on third and short on the Dolphins opening drive, not calling a QB sneak, but rather a stretch play left where Daniel Thomas, the slowest of the Dolphins backs, was blown up in the backfield.
Last week's loss against Baltimore had another decision that had many analysts and fans alike shaking their heads. Down by three, the Dolphins elected to spike the ball with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter. They had a timeout remaining, so the argument is that another play should have been run.
Hal Habib of The Palm Beach Post made a good point on the matter, writing, "As for allowing time to call a good play, sorry, but the time to do that isn’t at 3:59 p.m. on Sunday, but on Thursday in practice."
Although the call itself to spike in that situation was probably not the right move, the bigger issue is an apparent lack of preparation. There should not be a need to spike there. If you do your homework prior to the game, there should be a couple of go-to plays you can run quickly at the line of scrimmage.
At the end of the day, this falls on Sherman. Tannehill could take over and make that call himself, but he is still young and largely unproven in pressure situations.
4. Injuries on Defense
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (shoulder), defensive end Cameron Wake (knee), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (groin), safety Chris Clemons (hamstring), linebacker Koa Misi (knee), linebacker Philip Wheeler (hand), cornerback Nolan Carroll (ribs) all enter the bye week battling injuries of varying severity.
Patterson did not play last week against Baltimore and Ellerbe, Wake and Carroll all had to leave the game prematurely. Meanwhile, Omar Kelly of The Sun Sentinel reports that Misi and Wheeler have been limited during practices this week.
Kelly also reported that Ellerbe, Wake, Patterson and Clemons all sat out from practice reps this week.
The good news is that the injured Dolphins have another week to mend their injuries.
As a full, healthy unit, the Dolphins have the pieces to field one of the best defenses in the league. They rank eighth in total defense this year despite the recent injury woes.
3. Mike Wallace
Signed to a five-year, $60 million contract, offseason acquisition Mike Wallace was expected to be an offensive game-changer.
Despite the big bucks, Wallace's 22 receptions are currently fourth on the team behind Brian Hartline (five-year, $30 million contract), Brandon Gibson (three-year, $9.8 million contract) and Charles Clay (four-year, $2.1 million contract).
In one year, Wallace will make around $2 million more than all of them combined.
More glaring still is his efficiency—or lack thereof.
His fourth-most receptions look worse when one considers that he is leading the team with 44 targets. That means that when Ryan Tannehill throws a pass with the intention of completing it to Wallace, it only winds up in his hands half the time.
This completion rate of 50 percent is the worst on the team.
According to SportingCharts.com, the only other players in the NFL with at least 40 targets and a worse percentage are the New York Giants' Rueben Randle (49 percent), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson (42 percent) and the New England Patriots' Kenbrell Thompkins (41 percent).
Deep threats might be expected to have slightly lower efficiency than possession receivers—such as Wes Welker, who sports a completion rate of 74 percent—but Wallace sits at 56.2 yards per game, behind 58 other NFL players.
2. Running Game
Lamar Miller has the speed. Daniel Thomas has the power. Seems like the perfect NFL running back duo, right?
Unfortunately for the Dolphins this year, their running game has been virtually nonexistent. A lot of that blame can fall on the team's offensive line, which has seldom given the ball-carrier a gap to hit.
Sherman's play-calling also favors short passes as a sort of replacement of the run game. I assume it's because the short-pass philosophy, like the run, gets the ball out quickly and is relatively safe from turnovers.
However, threatening with the run and then baiting the opposition with play action might deserve a shot in this Dolphins offense—especially now that it has a real deep threat in Wallace.
1. Pass Protection
Pass protection has to be the biggest concern for the Dolphins during the bye week.
They lead the league in sacks allowed (24). Tannehill often has only two seconds before he has to decide to throw, escape or get sacked.
Some blame can be put on Sherman's play-calling and a bit can be put on Tannehill himself, but at the end of the day, this problem falls on the offensive line.
Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long left during free agency and was replaced by Jonathan Martin, who has had some struggles in his sophomore year in the NFL. The Dolphins picked up tackle Tyson Clabo from the Atlanta Falcons, and he has been just as bad at right tackle. Guards Richie Incognito and John Jerry have been participating in the porousness as well.
Chris Perkins of The Sun Sentinel suggests that Miami didn't have a whole lot of options in terms of free agents. Its chance was during the draft, but the team decided to pass on that opportunity.
Perhaps the Dolphins will be looking to make a move before the trade deadline to help bolster this weakness.