Miami Dolphins: 5 Issues That Must Be Fixed

Jorden Bonanno@JordenBonannoCorrespondent IDecember 22, 2011

Miami Dolphins: 5 Issues That Must Be Fixed

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    The Miami Dolphins are having another one of those seasons. This time, however, it's different. After starting out 0-7, they have now been able to win five out of their last seven games, making them 5-9. This team is showing talent in many different areas on the football field and looks to have promise for next season. 

    With new additions such as Reggie Bush and Matt Moore on offense, and Kevin Burnett on defense, the Dolphins are making a case that they are a talented football squad. 

    Things are starting to look like they are finally coming together for Miami, although there are still some areas the Dolphins must do a better job in next season if they want to become part of the elite. 

Brandon Marshall Must Hold on to the Ball

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    Brandon Marshall is one of the most gifted receivers in the NFL. He is a very physical player and specializes in yards after the catch. It looks like this will be Marshall's best year with the Dolphins so far, since signing with them in 2010. He is in his second season and already has more yards and touchdowns than last year.

    Moore and Marshall have quickly created a great connection, which is something Marshall was unable to have with previous quarterback Chad Henne. He seems to be loving his life and is happy with his production on the Miami Dolphins.

    There is, however, one negative this year that Marshall has struggled with in the midst of a great season. That issue is dropped balls. According to NBC Sports, he is third in the league with 11 dropped passes, behind Greg Little of the Cleveland Browns and Roddy White of the Falcons, who each have 12.

    This is definitely an issue he must address in the offseason. It is very sad to see such a great receiver drop so many passes, especially when a lot of those balls would have gone for touchdowns. Let's just hope he fixes this problem by next season.  

Mike Nolan Must Coach Defense for 60 Minutes

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    Remember these games this season? Loss to the Browns Week 3, 17-16. Loss to the Broncos Week 7, 23-20 (OT). Loss to the Giants Week 8, 20-17 and finally loss to Dallas Week 12, 20-19.

    There is one thing all these games had in common—the Miami Dolphins were leading late in the fourth quarter before giving it all away. This is a frustrating feeling, to see a team playing well for most of the game before losing it all in the end. If the Dolphins had just stood strong and won those games, they could be 9-5. Even if they won two out of the four, they would be 7-7, with a slim chance at the wild card. 

    It's hard to forget about games like these. Some fault goes to the team, but primarily the blame is on Mike Nolan. Don't get me wrong, Nolan is a stellar three-quarter defensive coordinator—one of the best in the league.

    But when it comes to the fourth quarter, he seems to forget his whole defensive strategy. He stops blitzing, puts in second-stringers and plays conservatively. He even did this at the end of last week's game against the Bills. At one point the Dolphins were up 30-13 with only five minutes left in the game, and the final score was 30-23.

    I know many people might just say these are garbage points, and they probably were, but the reality is Nolan needs to play for 60 minutes of every game. I don't want to see the defense stop blitzing or playing more conservatively. That's not what a winning team does.

    He needs to fix this issue by next season. I don't see it being too difficult because he is a great defensive coordinator—he just needs to coach with the same intensity for all four quarters, 60 minutes of the game.   

Creating a Better 3rd-and-Short Strategy

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    The Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll loves running Reggie Bush or Lex Hilliard up the gut on a 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1 situations. It's gotten down to the point where everyone on the field knows that it is going to happen.

    From the beginning of the season until now, that play has never worked. Dropping Lousaka Polite in the offseason didn't seem like it was going to be that big of a deal, but boy would this Miami team love to have him now.

    Brian Daboll needs to rethink his strategy and start mixing it up a little bit. Tricking the defense with a pass every once in a while wouldn't hurt or maybe even a quick snap for a quarterback sneak with Matt Moore for a change.

    Third- and fourth-down percentage may not seam like a huge deal, but with a new set of downs comes a new opportunity to make a play.

    Overall, I like what Daboll has done with the offense this year. I just wish he didn't have a tendency to replicate the same play two or even three times in a row. He must work on that this offseason. 

Red-Zone Offense

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    Miami has struggled getting the ball into the end zone all year while its offense has been within the opponents 20-yard line. Tony Sparano was a big part of this issue with his fist-pump field-goal obsession. The Dolphins look to Brandon Marshall on almost every throw and Reggie Bush on almost every run while they are in the red zone.

    Gee, I wonder how the defense caught on? The Dolphins aren't fooling anyone. They need to be more creative when it comes to the red-zone offense and throw in a couple of different plays. 

    Between Marshall, Fasano, Hartline, Bess and Clay, or using Bush and Thomas as catch-out-of-the-back-field type of guys, the Dolphins have a talented offense. Miami must be more original than running the ball down the middle or throwing a fade route to Marshall every time.

    Let's hope by next year with a new head coach the Dolphins will stop settling for field goals and start scoring touchdowns.

Protect the Quarterback

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    Let's just say the Miami Dolphins offensive line isn't the best. It has allowed 42 total sacks this season, and there have been way too many accounts where Moore has had to throw the ball away because of the pressure.

    Moore has looked pretty solid for the most part as quarterback for the Dolphins, but with such an inconsistent offensive line, he is constantly getting bull-rushed by the opposing defense. When Moore has time in the pocket, he plays like a stud, but under extreme pressure he is just average.

    Miami should definitely be looking toward the draft for some new offensive lineman for next season. Whether it is Moore or a rookie QB under center, the Dolphins WILL play better with the right protection.

    If Miami can work on these five issues by next season, it will have a really good chance of making a run to the playoffs.