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With four games in the books and a 2-2 record to show for it, the Miami Dolphins have disappointed thus far.
The two teams they beat, the Bills (0-4) and Vikings (1-3), both look like bottom dwellers and the two teams they lost to, the Jets (3-1) and Patriots (3-1), place them in a AFC East hole.
Take into account both losses came at home with games at New York and New England coming in December. No bueno. Let’s break down the team through week five.
Week 1: @Buffalo – Won 15-10
Week 2: @Minnesota – Won 14-10
Week 3: New York Jets – Lost 31-23
Week 4: New England – Lost 41-17
Week 5: Bye
Week 6: @ Green Bay, 1:00 PM EST
Although the Dolphins offense ranks 13th in average yards a game, they rank 28th in average points (16.5 Points). That latter statistic must improve. Unless the defense plays lights-out every week, the team will not win by routinely putting up 16 points.
Chad Henne‘s leash now has a length similar to that of a newborn puppy. After four interceptions at home within the division the last two weeks, many are calling for his head.
Not so fast. If you yank him, that’s it. His confidence would be completely shot and you will have to ride it out with either Chad Pennington or Tyler Thigpen. I say ride Henne through the season and pray he learns to finally start looking off his receivers. He has shown glimpses, he just needs more consistency and a supportive rushing attack.
Pennington has a bum shoulder and is absolutely not the long term answer while Thigpen can still be looked at in the future. Why not give Henne a full legitimate shot?
Running backs Ricky Williams (4.7 YPC) and Ronnie Brown (4.1) have respectable numbers on the ground out of standard sets. However, from the Wildcat they have struggled. The offense could use a speedster out of the backfield to provide a change of pace from their bruising styles.
Brandon Marshall (27 REC, 340 YDS) and Davone Bess (21 REC, 245 YDS) have been the top two targets in the passing game this year and both have played exceptional. Still, Miami could use a deep threat with no current receiver on the roster averaging more than 12.7 yards per catch.
The offensive line has been steady in pass protection and okay in the running game. They don’t blow the defensive line off the line of scrimmage like they did so frequently last year. This group is more finesse and the play-calling needs to adapt to that. That means more pulling sweeps, draws, and counters.
The return of rookie guard John Jerry will help.
The defense needs to improve in two areas. They rank 21st in rushing yards per game (117.8) so the run defense clearly has to get better. Outside of Karlos Dansby, no linebacker is playing consistent in that area. Channing Crowder has returned to practice and hopes to give this unit a boost.
They also give up too many big plays via the air. Jason Allen, after dominating the Vikings in week two, has regressed ever since and has been picked on by every opposing quarterback. Vontae Davis has been a bright spot in the secondary and is already one of the league’s best corners.
Cameron Wake has put pressure on the quarterback often (3.0 Sacks), which is no surprise. He needs to get better against the run, but has shown the ability to be a star.
The defensive ends need to do a better job at filling holes and containing the running game at the point of attack. Randy Starks has been the only standout from that unit thus far. The good news is rookie end Jared Odrick is close to 100%.
Special Teams F
It’s not often you can blame one unit for blowing an entire football game. However, that accurately was the case with the Dolphins special teams in week four against the Patriots. Their miscues (They gave up a blocked punt, blocked FG for a touchdown, and a kickoff return for a touchdown) put Miami ten feet under and blew any chance of Miami making a game out of it.
Let’s see if firing the coach can even make a difference. Don’t be shocked to see regular starters playing in special teams situations. The kicking and punting game has been solid as expected.
The offensive play-calling needs to get better. The Wildcat might be on its way out. They can’t just pound the ball up the middle and expect consistent success with the current line’s makeup. This line doesn’t have the look of a smash-mouth group anymore.
Defensively, they look great at times and sour at others. Containing the run would be a nice start.
Expectations rose in the offseason with the acquisition of Marshall and Dansby. Until Henne takes his game to the next level, this team will be no better than average. With a hurting Packers team up next the Dolphins desperately need a win with the Steelers and Ravens coming soon.