Texans vs. Dolphins: 7 Things We Learned from Miami's 24-13 Loss
Sunday's loss marked Miami's eighth home loss in their last nine attempts, and recurring themes continue to smuggle this team's chances at competing. Home-field struggles, special teams, red-zone struggles and questionable coaching decisions have dragged the 'Fins down for the past two seasons, and it looks like those worries have leaked into 2011.
On the bright side, Daniel Thomas had an extremely impressive debut, Brandon Marshall continues to shred opposing secondaries and the Dolphins' pass rush was unstoppable.
Miami had opportunities to win this game, which bodes well for the rest of the season, but if they cannot soothe those recurring concerns, they will fall into the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
Jake Long Is Not Healthy...Perhaps Not Even Close
Throughout the preseason, we stressed over a slew of concerning matters, namely Chad Henne's outlook, Daniel Thomas' struggles and the offensive line's instability.
Oddly, we never got worked up over Jake Long's extended absence. Miami's cornerstone left tackle has been nursing a shoulder injury for months, and his return for last week's season opener was in doubt.
Long has boldly returned, but his play has slacked. He has surrendered an uncharacteristic 1.5 sacks over the team's first two games, and it's time to start wondering if the 'Fins should shelf him until he returns to 100 percent health.
Miami's Special Teams Are Still Futile
Understandably, some topics will recur week after week. But no topic should recur year after year.
Since Tony Sparano inherited the Dolphins' head coaching gig, the team's special teams have been absolutely abysmal. Special teams have cost this team multiples games, most notably last season against the Patriots.
Despite multiple coaching and personnel changes, things have not improved—and perhaps that lack of continuity is the main problem. Against the Texans, Dan Carpenter missed two field goals (including one block), and gave up big kickoff and punt returns to Danieal Manning and Jacoby Jones.
Miami Needs to Give Daniel Thomas Carries and Establish a Rushing Attack
So much for slapping the bust label on Daniel Thomas.
Miami's second-round pick, drafted to replace Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, struggled through a horrendous preseason, but he enjoyed a memorable NFL debut. He shredded Houston's defense for 107 yards on 18 carries.
Thomas' success is exciting, but we should tame our expectations until he faces some stout run defenses. Regardless, the Dolphins need to emphasize their bread 'n butter and feed Thomas.
The 6-Offensive-Linemen Scheme Needs Work
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll garnered a reputation for innovativeness during his days in Cleveland. On Sunday, he introduced another unorthodox formation, trotting a six-man offensive line onto the field.
Nothing substantial came out of it, and Houston ably overpowered this bolstered line with a heavy pass rush—one of which resulted in a sack. It also failed to aid Reggie Bush's quest to run effectively between the tackles.
Perhaps the Dolphins still have something up their sleeve, but this experiment should be scrapped unless they reveal it soon.
Sean Smith Is Better Than Vontae Davis
The debate over which Dolphins cornerback—Vontae Davis and Sean Smith—is better has been raging for months now, but a temporary verdict may have been reached on Sunday: Smith is better.
Davis was burnt a handful of times (most notably by Jackie Slater) against the Patriots and struggled with Andre Johnson on Sunday.
There's no denying Davis is a budding star, but Smith exerts superior consistency and overall skill. He contained Johnson and locked down Chad Ochocinco last week.
The Dolphins' Red-Zone Struggles Are Beyond Bad
Similar to their special team woes, the Dolphins have been plagued by red-zone struggles since last season.
Miami's offense stalled inside of the red zone endless times in 2010, they and re-lamented those struggles on Sunday when they went 1-for-4 in the red zone.
Tony Sparano Will Be Lucky to Survive the Season
Because so many of these slides trace back to Sparano, it's becoming increasingly difficult to see him coaching this team in 2012. Sparano had more than ample time to overhaul this roster and build a contender, but he has failed.
The Dolphins have now lost eight of their last nine home games, and attendance issues are becoming a major problem. Moreover, Stephen Ross has shown no hesitations to upgrade this organization when possible.
Sparano's teams have shown flashes, but his failure to land a franchise quarterback and construct a deep roster might have him out of a job after this season.