Miami Dolphins Showing Weaknesses but Not Incompetence During Tough Stretch
The game with the Bengals is the last in an extremely tough stretch of games which I previewed near the start of it.
As that old headline alluded to, the stretch was a test. A test which, up to now, the Dolphins have failed miserably.
But the season is far from over, and there are certainly some positives to be taken away alongside all the negatives from the past four games.
The majority of people have been focused only on the negatives, which have really been brought to the forefront in Miami's past two games.
The issues really come down to a few simple things. The offensive line has played extremely poorly. It can be looked at as a personnel issue or a schematic issue, although the underlying nature of the problem is likely somewhere in the middle.
So the offensive line is really bad. That much is not up for debate. But two other things that have arisen from the offensive line's woes are worth discussing further.
Ryan Tannehill is not, at this stage of his career, good enough to overcome a poor offensive line. He is not bad by any stretch, but he has shown that he does not trust his legs to move the pocket and he does not take care of the ball very well.
He makes some errant throws at times when he could just throw it away, and he sometimes backtracks too long and ends up taking a deep sack. It happened during the New England game, resulting in a 46-yard field goal (which was missed) instead of an attempt closer to 40 yards.
He comes under a lot of pressure, but his tendency to fumble the ball has been a killer. He has already lost more fumbles this season (five) than he did all of his rookie year (four).
Even when he has had ample time in the pocket, he has not connected downfield with Mike Wallace (or any other receiver) with anywhere near enough consistency to really make opposing defenses respect the deep ball.
So defenses now have their game plan for Miami. They're going to step up and blitz heavy and often. This brings me to the other weakness, which has been exposed by Miami's poor offensive line.
Mike Sherman is not a good offensive coordinator. He has actually been an extremely bad offensive coordinator.
He simply has not been able to mask Miami's weaknesses and his play-calling has been rather abysmal.
The running game is his most obvious downfall. Despite having two very capable running backs who complement each other nicely, Sherman refused to establish the ground game throughout the losing streak.
When he finally did wise up against New England, the Dolphins ran for more than 100 yards in the first half. But he then inexplicably abandoned the run, and New England ended up with 37 attempts to Miami's 31.
Sherman has also not been able to protect Tannehill from oncoming pass rushes with a viable short-passing game.
Lamar Miller is a good pass-catching back who is quick in space, and they have not given him anywhere near enough touches on screens. Dion Sims was a very good pass-catching tight end in college who could be used as a big option on short routes over the middle.
Wallace is a speedy downfield threat who should be used as such. Bringing him over the middle is clearly not his strong suit, and he should not be forced there.
The Dolphins needed a big third-and-23 conversion late in the game against New England, and they ran a perfect bubble screen to Wallace who sprinted to a first down. These types of places which get Wallace in space need to be utilized more often.
Sherman, along with Joe Philbin, has also clearly not been able to instill enough confidence in his team to overcome adversity.
But things are not all bad. The team showed a lot of promise in the first half against New England, and their win against Indianapolis showed their potential.
Tannehill is still just a second-year quarterback working with a second-year coaching staff, and expectations need to be adjusted as such.
This game against Cincinnati is huge. There is no way around it: dropping to 3-5 would make it a really tough road back to playoff contention.
But fans (and the organization) should not be near full-panic mode yet. Yet.
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