"Biggest Areas of Need" slideshows are generally reserved for the beginning of the offseason, the stage before the draft or in the preparations for free agency. However, after the Miami Dolphins' ugly loss to the New England Patriots on Monday night, an in-season session is in order.
The Dolphins defense, heralded as a potential top-five unit, surrendered a record-shattering 622 total yards to the Patriots, including a whopping 517 passing yards to Tom Brady.
Meanwhile, Reggie Bush mustered up a measly 38 rushing yards, Chad Henne was sacked four times and dubious coaching calls littered the night.
Miami may have accrued an impressive 488 yards of offense and stayed competitive throughout the night, but there is reason to be worried—very worried.
Benny Sapp spent much of his night chasing Patriots receivers
For months we anticipated the debut of Miami's 2011 defense. The unit quietly ranked sixth in the NFL last season, returned all but one starter, added Kevin Burnett, retained Tony McDaniel and Paul Soliai, and got Jared Odrick back from injury. While the rest of the nation bashed the Dolphins' outlook, we stood fervent in our excitement for this defense's infinite potential.
But after last night, nearly all hope is lost.
Sure, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are budding stars, but they can't cover everybody. Tom Brady and his army of weapons completely undressed Benny Sapp and Nolan Caroll. If these two remain such massive liabilities, Miami will be scarily vulnerable to any potent passing attack.
It might be time to bring Will Allen back.
Free safeties Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones battled for the starting job throughout training camp, but Jones won the ultimate affection of Miami's coaching staff with his aggressive, ball-hawk style of play.
However, the Dolphins' decision to start Jones came with a major and well-documented caveat: His aggressive nature often becomes a liability—and this is exactly what transpired last night. Jones was torched countless times and looked largely responsible for Wes Welker's 99-yard touchdown grab.
The Dolphins will likely replace Jones with Clemons next week, but what if the coaching staff's initial assertions were accurate? What if Jones is better than Clemons? It's a scary proposition.
Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had a field day against Miami's overwhelmed linebacker corps
Every team has their own respective Achilles' heels, but for some reason, the Dolphins always seem to have the same exact weak spots. Quarterback is the most notable, but their struggles covering tight ends have been astronomically horrendous over the past few seasons.
Last night, Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez shredded Miami's defense for a combined 13 receptions, 189 yards and two touchdowns.
Kevin Burnett was supposed to help alleviate this sore spot. Instead, things have gotten worse. After last night's debacle, it's difficult not to second-guess Miami's decision to cut A.J. Edds.
Despite the absence of a potent pass rush, the Patriots managed to rack up four sacks against the Dolphins offensive line on Monday night.
Surrendering four sacks doesn't warrant panic, but it's a very disconcerting sign considering New England's recent pass rush struggles. However, add those pass protection worries onto an 11-carry, 38-yard night for Reggie Bush, and we clearly have a problem on our hands.
We have to start wondering if Tony Sparano's latest offensive line shuffle has backfired, and if this might be the time to bring in Shaun O'Hara. However, the Dolphins must decide if they want to work out the kinks and stress continuity or bring in a veteran like O'Hara as a potential upgrade.
One of the most pressing concerns prior to Monday night's game was Reggie Bush's ability to serve as an every-down back. Critics nationwide took jabs at Bush, and while he responded with a respectable 94-total-yard performance, he reinforced those between-the-tackles doubts.
Reggie rushed for only 38 yards on 11 carries, and the Dolphins coaching staff showed an obvious hesitation to use him in any short-yardage situations. Instead, Sparano and Brian Daboll looked to Lex Hilliard who was able to convert a 4th-and-1, but also failed on a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
Hilliard definitely deserves more carries before we disregard him, but where was Larry Johnson? And sure, Daniel Thomas might have helped, but not only was he ineffective during the preseason, he is not a power back.
Miami resorted to some very uncharacteristic play calls around the goal line (Henne's head-scratching fade to Brian Hartline), and they need to find somebody who can replace Lou Polite and convert these short-yardage situations.