Biggest Takeaways from Miami Dolphins' Week 14 Loss
It's official: With three games left, the Miami Dolphins once again cannot finish with a record above .500.
The New York Giants handed the Dolphins their eighth loss of the season, and their fifth loss in the past seven games, in a 31-24 contest on Monday Night Football.
This is the sixth straight season in which the Dolphins will finish at or below .500, and with so much already changing in Miami, it's safe to say the changes have only just begun. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross shouldn't stand for mediocrity, so expect to see some housecleaning taking place over the next few months once the season is over.
And as that housecleaning process begins, the Dolphins will be evaluating everyone on the roster. So let's take a look at some of the biggest takeaways from one of the last four games of this current Dolphins regime.
Big Changes Are Coming
Nineteen days remain between now and Black Monday. It is at that time that the Dolphins will start making decisions regarding their head coach, front office and personnel.
The front office is likely to see some changes. General manager Dennis Hickey and Dawn Aponte, executive vice president of football administration, are likely to be shown the door. But it obviously won't stop there, since the Dolphins will probably also be looking to make a change at head coach. And with those two changes come sweeping changes to the roster.
Mike Tannenbaum, Miami's executive vice president of football operations, is probably safe for now. But it will be his responsibility to decide on the fates of many of the most prominent people on the roster and the coaching staff.
Lamar Miller Just Can't Catch a Break
For two months, Dan Campbell has preached that he wants the Dolphins to have a balanced offense that relies equally on the running game and the passing game. That has been a problem for the Dolphins for the past couple of years, but so far this season, they've only gotten back to the balanced approach a handful of times.
Usually, when they've been balanced, the offense has been effective with this approach. For some reason, in a tight game on Monday night, the Dolphins felt it necessary to completely abandon the run despite the fact that neither team ever held a lead of more than seven points at a time.
They also abandoned the run despite the fact that they averaged 5.8 yards per carry on the game. Miller got 20 carries last week for the first time in two years, and a week later, the Dolphins went right back to ignoring his strong performance. Lamar Miller averaged 7.4 yards per carry, but only had 12 carries for 89 yards.
Imagine what would have happened if he had broken 20 carries for a second straight week.
I wouldn't blame Miller if he wanted to go somewhere else where he might get more opportunities to run the ball. Perhaps the Dolphins will bring in a coach who can truly commit to a balanced approach. Unless that happens, Miller might be justified in exploring his options.
Jarvis Landry Is the Centerpiece of the Offense
Whether it's by design or Ryan Tannehill is simply locked in on his favorite receiver, Jarvis Landry is the centerpiece of the Dolphins offense.
On Monday night, he finished the game with 18 targets and 11 receptions for 99 yards. For context, no other Dolphins pass-catcher had more than five targets, three receptions and 50 yards. He accounted for nearly half of Tannehill's targets and receptions and more than a third of the receiving yards by the Dolphins on Monday night.
Landry has shown explosive playmaking ability at times, but for the most part, he is a possession receiver. In fact, Landry's 9.7 yards per reception is the fourth-lowest over the past two seasons for any wide receiver with at least 50 receptions. The question, though, is whether that kind of receiver should be the centerpiece of an offense.
The New England Patriots have made it work in the past with Wes Welker as Tom Brady's primary target, but aside from the fact that Tannehill is no Brady, the Patriots also had the likes of Randy Moss from 2007 to 2010 and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez from 2010 to 2012, all of whom were making big plays while Welker ate up the underneath areas.
Simply put, the Dolphins need to find an explosive element in the passing game to help complement Landry's skills. They can hit big pass plays every now and then, but unless it happens on a more consistent basis, the Dolphins are always going to be one-dimensional in that respect.
Brent Grimes Continues to Struggle
It's official: Brent Grimes is having one of the worst seasons among any starting cornerback in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Grimes has the third-lowest average cover snaps per target, the third-lowest cover snaps per reception and the third-highest yards per cover snap.
Basically, that means that not only is he targeted more often when he is on the field than almost any other cornerback in the NFL, but he also gives up receptions more often than almost any other cornerback. On top of that, he gives up more yards on those receptions than almost any other cornerback in the NFL.
On Monday night against the Giants, Grimes gave up seven receptions on eight targets (87.5 percent) for 87 yards and two touchdowns. Over the past month, Grimes has given up 24 receptions on 31 targets (77.4 percent) for 306 yards and four touchdowns, grabbing one interception and allowing a 133.9 passer rating, according to Pro Football Focus.
Regardless of who ends up being the general manager and head coach, the Dolphins are almost certainly in the market for a new No. 1 cornerback this offseason.
For Once, the Offensive Line Was Not the Problem
It seems like every week, we find ourselves talking about lackluster play from the Dolphins offensive line. This week, that unit actually fared well, aside from the four penalties by Dallas Thomas (2), Billy Turner (1) and Jason Fox (1).
Ryan Tannehill was under pressure on 16 of his 40 to dropbacks (38.1 percent), according to Pro Football Focus, but he was only sacked once. The Dolphins also ran the ball effectively when they elected to run, racking up 128 yards on 22 carries (5.8 yards per carry) and two rushing touchdowns.
There are some pieces to work with on the offensive line, but there will probably still be some changes to the unit this offseason. Thomas, Turner and Jamil Douglas have taken turns struggling at guard at various points throughout the year. Look for the Dolphins to scrounge for guards in the draft and free agency this spring.