It’s a little too early to call this season a disaster for the Miami Dolphins, but every week brings that possibility closer to reality.
Sitting at 1-3, with two losses within the AFC, one to a divisional rival, the Dolphins don’t have much more time to turn things around. That’s assuming they even can.
There are four key factors that will make the difference in the Dolphins season and could hold the key to saving this season.
While it’s not the easiest schedule, there are a ton of winnable games remaining on it, and the majority of them are within the AFC. That means they can make up the ground they’ve lost.
Starting with the Tennessee Titans this weekend, half of the Dolphins remaining games are against teams which have a sub. 500 record. Some of that will change in the coming weeks, and some of those teams—such as the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets—still represent real challenges, but the Dolphins should be able to win many of these games.
If they can improve in some of the following areas.
Flat out, Ryan Tannehill has to play better.
As written not long ago, the Dolphins are not in a position to move on from Tannehill right now, despite some very real struggles. Tannehill’s pocket presence continues to be shaky, his footwork falls apart at the worst moments and his mechanics follow right behind. He struggles when pressured struggling to know when to run with the ball and when to just dump it off or out of bounds.
Tannehill is on his third head coach and third offensive coordinator, and we know that this lack of stability can hurt a quarterback. At some point, though, there should be some improvement and we haven’t seen enough of it this year.
He’s the leader on the field, and his play impacts the rest of the offense. We’ve seen him at his best and if he can show more of that, this offense will be very hard to stop.
Here’s the thing, though. While the improvement starts with Tannehill, he needs some help, especially from his offensive line.
It’s hard to get on a unit which has had as many injuries as this one does. Left tackle Branden Albert has missed games, meaning rookie Laremy Tunsil had to kick over to left tackle earlier than planned. Center Mike Pouncey has yet to play due to a hip injury, though he might start this week. The backup center, Antony Steen, has also been out, which means the Dolphins were functioning with their third string center.
Credit where credit is due, though, backup Kraig Urbik was the only offensive lineman Pro Football Focus gave a positive grade to against the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
There’s not much to say about all this except that the line has to get healthy. The team needs Pouncey back on the field, and they need Albert back even more. As much as Tunsil has held up at guard, he’s not quite ready for the rigors of tackle, and on top of that, moving him from guard weakens the guard position.
Until the line can be back on the field, healthy and in position, this offense will struggle and we may not know for sure whether Tannehill can turn his own play around.
While the poor play of the offensive line is mostly due to injury, the play of the secondary is bad just because it’s bad.
Yes, there have been injuries, but the secondary has been a dumpster fire from the word “go” this season—injuries like Xavien Howard’s knee are just gas on the flame.
The defensive line has done good work up front, but because the secondary can’t maintain cover, quarterbacks end up getting the ball out too quickly for them to finish.
It’s worse when one or both safeties move up into the box to support the run defense, as the corners have yet to show they can cover anyone without extra safety help. And we’re not talking “hey AJ Green tore us up” bad so much as “why did we let Terrelle Pryor drop 144 yards on us?” bad.
If the secondary cannot find a way to improve, not only will they squander the hard work the front seven is putting up, but they will allow too many points and put extra pressure on the offense to either catch up or keep ahead of the opposition.