Quick Slant: Five Things Miami Can Do To Turn Things Around Against the Bills

Usually, the performance of a quarterback is the barometer for a team’s success. You don’t often see a team lose after their passer goes out and has an afternoon like Ryan Tannehill had. Well, the fact that Miami was unable to win that game indicates that there is something seriously wrong with this team heading into Week Three. Seriously, there has to be a change. Conveniently, I have proposed five changes in terms of schemes and game plan that could help Miami turn things around on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. X’s and O’s junkies, this one’s for you.

5) Be More Dynamic to Create Rushing Yards:

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The Dolphins have had absolutely no rushing attack through two games. The team cannot find a way to create holes in the defense, and the backs are not being given enough carries to properly establish their attack. Of course this is a vicious cycle. There is no way to keep running the ball if they aren’t gaining any yards. But, the Dolphins will continue to fail in terms of time of possession if they cannot find a way to open up gaps for runners in the defense.

This is where Bill Lazor comes in. The man is supposedly an offensive scheming genius. On Sunday, we got a glimpse of one way that Miami could try to establish a stronger attack on the ground. There was one end-around play in which Jarvis Landry sliced through the defense for a big gain. This would have been awesome had the play not been called back for holding. That being said, the Dolphins need to use creative methods like this to establish a running attack more consistently.

Use Kenny Stills as a rusher? Run the pistol with Damien Williams as an offset back and Lamar behind Tannehill? Continue to use Jarvis Landry in the running game? The answer really should be all of the above. The Miami Dolphins’ coaches are paid a lot of money to figure these things out, so it is time that the offensive staff uses some creative methods to create more opportunities on the ground and to allow the offense to form a more dynamic and threatening unit.

4) Don’t Leave Cornerbacks on an Island:

Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars

The Miami Dolphins have one of the most gifted defensive lines in football. That being said, the team is afforded the luxury of only rushing four men on most plays. So if four-men are being rushed, why are there cornerbacks playing pure one-on-one against receivers downfield?

I really don’t understand this one. Kevin Coyle lost me here. Against Jacksonville there were multiple occasions in which a cornerback was 40 yards downfield with a receiver, and there was a safety sitting with the entire play behind them, or not reacting in a timely manner. This could be on the play of the safety, but Coyle needs to find a way to provide help to Grimes, McCain, and Taylor.

It’s really alarming to see Kevin Coyle struggling with this team’s secondary, given that is his specialty. He became Miami’s defensive coordinator after serving as the Bengals’ defensive backs coach for years. The team has not had a truly “good” secondary since he arrived. Reshad Jones and Brent Grimes are having very good seasons, but it seems that Jones and Walt Aikens/Michael Thomas are being utilized in a strange manner. The Dolphins’ defense needs to find a way to provide help for the cornerbacks in coverage downfield, especially given the luxury they are afforded with the talent on the defensive line.

3) Quick Passes to Counteract Bills’ Pass Rush:

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The Dolphins need to help Ryan Tannehill stay upright against Buffalo. The most common sight in the meetings between these teams has been Tannehill on the ground, covered by Mario Williams. I do not expect Ja’Wuan James to be able to block him, or for Dallas Thomas to be able to handle Kyle Williams/Marcell Dareus. What I do expect is for Bill Lazor to play to the strength of his system and allow Tannehill to release the ball early and avoid taking unnecessary hits.

Expect Jarvis Landry to have a huge afternoon on Sunday. He will have plenty of opportunities, given that the Dolphins will have to call plenty of short routes. If they can establish the run early, play-action rollouts would help as well. But I am not overly confident that they will have any running game early against the Bills. Lazor will have to use the quickness of his offense to help keep Ryan Tannehill upright, especially given that he is banged-up heading into this crucial Week Three divisional showdown.

2) Cut Down on Mindless Penalties:

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This one is simple. The Miami Dolphins cannot shoot themselves in the foot with penalties. The scary part about this issue is that the Dolphins aren’t usually a team hampered by these issues. Having players like Olivier Vernon throw someone down onto the field and draw a personal foul in a crucial fourth-quarter situation is really alarming. The most worrisome penalty Miami had called on them frequently was holding. It seemed that on every play the Dolphins were moving back 10-yards. For example, Jarvis Landry’s big run on a surprise end around that would have pushed the Dolphins into good field position was called back for a hold. That would have been a huge momentum shift for Miami. Even plays in the red zone drew holding flags.

Joe Philbin usually leads a disciplined group, so it is scary to see him fading away from one of his strengths. Miami is not usually a highly penalized group, so this turn for the worse is interesting. The coaching staff needs to make sure their team doesn’t slip in one of the areas that was once one of their strong-suits.

The Dolphins will need to capitalize on all of their opportunities against Buffalo. Hopefully Philbin, Coyle, and Lazor can work with their respective units to eliminate some of the penalties, because I feel that was one of the sole reasons our team lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and would make for an even worse game against the Bills.

1) Employ 3-4 Defensive Tactics to Add Edge Rush:

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The Miami Dolphins have plenty of talented pass rushers, but mysteriously no pass rush. Interestingly the Dolphins have been unable to generate pressure in the first two games of the season and failed to register a sack against the Jaguars last week. I am going to preface this argument with a statement of the obvious: Kevin Coyle knows more than me. Everything I am saying, I am sure he and his extensive staff have considered. But, right now my confidence in Coyle is at an all-time low, and I feel that he is not doing enough to be creative in generating a pass rush. So here is my idea: incorporate some 3-4 techniques.

Olivier Vernon and Cameron Wake both fit the mold of 3-4 outside linebackers. That position is actually where Wake had the most successful season of his career. When Kevin Coyle arrived the team switched to a 4-3 system, employing the two defensive tackle system with Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. Undoubtedly out defense has gotten better inside on the line, but has fallen off substantially from the Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett days. Now, the team needs to find a way to help generate some pressure on the edge, and create a more dynamic situation on defense to cover up our lacking linebacking corps. It would also allow for the team to open up room for Jelani Jenkins, their best young linebacker, to clean up shop.

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The Dolphins could line up in their normal formation, then catch the offense off guard by immediately shifting into a 3-4. Wake or Vernon could go off of the line and rush from a standing position, and Suh could shift over for that play and be the defensive end. This would allow Earl Mitchell or Jordan Phillips to be the inside presence, with four linebackers including either Wake or Vernon as an outside rusher.

This would allow either Wake or Vernon to play a position that might be more natural, and could give the team a better group at linebacker. Yes, an easy argument to make is that we shouldn’t take depth away from our strongest positional group (the defensive line). However at the same time we would be adding strength to our linebacking corps, which completely lacks any pass rushers. Seriously, Koa Misi should be playing inside, and Kelvin Sheppard shouldn’t even be near the field. If the defense employed this system in which they shift into a 3-4, it would allow Misi and Zach Vigil to play inside, and Jelani Jenkins to be an outside linebacker with one of the other players coming off of the line. This could help improve the Miami Dolphins’ pass rush.

The name of the game is really to surprise offenses at this point. The Dolphins pulled out the Wildcat against New England, and caught the perpetually prepared Bill Belichick with his pants around his knees. Now, the Dolphins need a similar punch to allow themselves to rebound and catch the Buffalo Bills off guard in a major way.

The Skinny:

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There was plenty that went wrong for Miami against Jacksonville, but fortunately it all can be built off of. The team needs to cut down on penalties, which should be easy given that Philbin’s teams usually are disciplined. They need to find more creative ways to generate pass rush and gain leverage in the running attack, both of which can hopefully be done before the team’s season slips away from them. Also, Miami will have to work to establish the stout defense they believed that they would have heading into the season. It will be a tall order for the Miami Dolphins to turn things around after a disappointing start, but Sunday appears to be the perfect time to do so. The Dolphins will have to be ready for their divisional debut, as their home opener happens to coincide with a huge matchup against the Buffalo Bills.

Fins Up, Miami- lets hope the team can get the ship upright by the time Philbin and Rex Ryan march their teams onto the field at Sun Life Stadium this Sunday.

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