Quick Slant: Five Things that the Miami Dolphins Need to Change After Week One
As we all know, the Miami Dolphins won their season opener against the Washington Redskins this past weekend 17-10. As we also know, the team didn’t look quite as dominant as we had expected them to appear. Some of the same mistakes that the team made in 2014 seemed to pop up, and there were plenty of miscues. While many of the team’s early struggles could be attributed to jitters, there are some changes that could be made heading into week two in order to help the team finish the game in a more decisive fashion. Here is my breakdown of what Miami needs to change before facing off against the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday.
5) Play to Strength of Defensive Backs
The Miami Dolphins need to accept one simple fact when game planning for their defense: they really only have two good players on the back end. Yes, Brice McCain and Jamar Taylor are serviceable, but Reshad Jones and Brent Grimes are the only two players who are capable of really being exceptional on the field for Miami. That being said, it is important that Miami utilize their players in an appropriate fashion.
There is no reason to commit abundant safety help over the top to the side that Brent Grimes is playing on. The team knows that he is one of the league’s top cornerbacks. That being said, it is important to allocate some of the help to Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain using Reshad Jones and Walt Aikens. The team needs to allow their safeties to contribute on the right side of the defense, and allow Brent Grimes to dominate on the left. Think back to how Washington attacked Miami, and the ball did not flow to the left side of the defense. It was consistently placed in the middle against linebackers, or against McCain and Taylor on the opposite side. Before the team faces off against Jacksonville, I believe they would benefit from bringing Reshad Jones down to play in more shallow coverages, and using the safeties to support McCain and Taylor while Grimes does his work locking down the opposing receiver.
4) Use Athleticism of Offensive Linemen:
Late in the game against Washington, we saw Bill Lazor call plays that allowed Mike Pouncey and Jamil Douglas to block downfield, and use pulling techniques to create holes in the defense. This needs to happen earlier against the Jaguars. Miami doesn’t have a group of linemen who can just maul people off of the line. They have more nimble and athletic blockers. That being said, the appropriate way to utilize players with that skill set is to let them move downfield.
If I have a Toyota Camry, a Ford F-150, and a 45-foot boat on a trailer sitting in my yard, which car will I use to tow the boat? Why would you utilize the Camry in a way that doesn’t fit its design? Using Jamil Douglas to move across the field and allowing him to make plays is the best opportunity for the young guard to shine. The Bill Lazor offense is supposed to create space with zone blocking techniques, but early in the game against Washington the team was simply trying to move people and not move into different protection shifts. The Miami Dolphins’ offense would benefit greatly from allowing the lineman to move downfield and pull across early in order to open up holes and utilize the speed of Lamar Miller how it is intended to be used in the Bill Lazor zone running system.
3) Substitute Less on the Defensive Line:
We saw this same situation last season, in which Cameron Wake was coming out of games on crucial third downs to rest. The team needs to utilize the depth of their defensive lineman properly, and that doesn’t mean pulling Ndamukong Suh for six plays at a time. If Suh needs a rest, let him take a rest. He is not a rotational player, and should be on the field for 90% of the snaps. I do not have an exact snap count from last week’s game, but I do know that Suh would be out of the game for several plays at a time while we watched Alfred Morris slam the ball down our throats.
No, I do not think Suh and Wake should be expected in on every play. And yes, I saw that CJ Moseley and Jordan Phillips played well when in the game. But players need time to get into a rhythm. Let the defensive linemen stay in long enough to get into a groove as rushers, and allow Ndamukong Suh to wear down the opposing offensive linemen. Eventually, he and Wake will break them. It is just a matter of when the exhaustion truly sets in for those tasked with stopping the two monsters.
2) Use Jordan Cameron Up the Middle:
I was very disappointed with the limited use of Jordan Cameron in the team’s week one offense. Washington was notably weak in terms of coverage linebackers, and I expected the team to exploit that more with Cameron up the middle. While he did make big plays and show Miami how good he can be, I did not see the versatile play calling I assumed Bill Lazor would employ.
Lazor’s innovative history on offense led me to believe that a 6’5, 240lb. pass-catcher would get some very creative use within the offense. I am sure that Lazor has schemed up plenty of sets in which Cameron can be utilized, but we have to see them early. Tannehill would benefit greatly from being able to exploit the middle of a defense deep. His current strength lies in intermediate throws, so being able to place a 20-yard pass over linebackers and beneath safeties would fall well within his skill set. However, if we can use Jordan Cameron’s ability to help pick up chunk yardage then we should, as it is an area in which the team desperately needs to improve.
1) Run Early to Control the Clock
What changed in Miami during the second half of the game against Washington? The three fundamentals in which they were being clobbered began to shift their way. Turnovers, third down conversions, and most notably time of possession began to tilt in the Dolphins’ favor. The team did a great job of creating turnovers, and was better (but still need to improve) on third downs in the second half. Miami’s offense however still needs work on time of possession.
The defense gave the offense every opportunity they needed to generate points and go on long drives. At times, it seemed like the offense couldn’t get on a roll, most likely due to the lack of a running game. The Dolphins’ offense needs a more steady dose of running plays to help control the clock and create opportunities for the team go on long drives. Really the hardest part of the game for me was watching Miami only possess the ball for three plays in the entire first quarter. That is unacceptable for any offense.
The only way to improve this issue is to feed Miller the ball early and allow him to get into a rhythm. Running backs need a consistent number of carries to establish a groove, and if Lamar Miller can get into that groove he is lethal. If the Dolphins can run the ball more early on, it will open up the passing game and allow the team to bleed some clock. Against Jacksonville, I hope to see Miami go on long drives early, and open up with a solid lead in terms of time of possession.
A win is a win. Plain and simple. Road wins are tough for any NFL team, and they are even more difficult this early in the season. This article is not a condemnation of the team’s performance. It really isn’t even a criticism. I believe that they played well in the second half, and due to the ease of schedule early in the year have enough time to work out some of the issues in their play. By the time the team enters their gauntlet of difficult games to close out the season, I believe that the coaching staff will have a better handle on how to utilize this team. It’s similar to learning how to drive your car. The test drive is one thing, but when you get it out on the open road it’s an entirely different experience. Thankfully, the Dolphins’ have an easy stretch of road to start their journey. Hopefully the coaching staff can make the changes and adjustments needed to maximize the potential of this year’s Miami Dolphins team.