Fact or Fiction: What You Can Believe About the Dolphins’ First Two Games
Early in the season across the NFL there are plenty of conclusions drawn from a very small sample size. Especially considering the Dolphins’ slow start, fans have been seeking answers from anyone willing to provide them. Unfortunately, some of the answers being provided for the team’s struggles are untrue. In this article I will break down what is the truth about the 2015 Miami Dolphins, and what is not fully correct after just two games this season.
Fact: Tannehill has been much improved.
We are seeing a new Ryan Tannehill in 2015. He is making throws that he would not have attempted in seasons past, and he seems to be playing with much more confidence.
One play that exemplified this was a completion over the middle to Jordan Cameron against the Jaguars. Not only did Tannehill go through his progression, but he also hung in the pocket and threw the ball into a tight window. In previous years, he would’ve dumped the ball off to Jarvis Landry (running behind the line) immediately. Now, he stepped up and delivered a strike for a huge first down.
We are watching Ryan Tannehill grow up, and he continues to improve despite a shaky offensive line. Anyone who says that Ryan Tannehill has been a problem this season simply hasn’t watched the games. Based on the running game, and the struggles of the defense, Tannehill is actually the opposite of a problem. He could be the team’s only solution.
Fiction: The Dolphins’ Entire Linebacking Corps is an Issue
Yes, Kelvin Sheppard is awful. I mean really awful. Sheppard was not a popular choice as the team’s starter, but Kevin Coyle’s veteran bias handed him the job over undrafted rookie Zach Vigil. I am not trying to argue that Vigil would be better, but it’s hard to be worse than Kelvin Sheppard has been thus far. He appears to be unable to make plays or even take advantage of huge gaps opened up by the front four. On the play shown here, Sheppard gets stonewalled by the pulling guard, springing free Denard Robinson for a big gain.
It is however unfair to group Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi into the same category as Sheppard. Both of the team’s outside linebackers have been playing with more confidence, and have showed that their ability exceeds the reputation they have received as part of a group known to underachieve.
Jelani Jenkins could be the best surprise of the season. Last year he was known for making big plays in the backfield, but often got lost in coverage as a rookie attempting to digest a massive playbook. This year, Jenkins seems to be more confident and it has showed in his play. He can wreak havoc in the backfield, and has actually taken strides in coverage.
Koa Misi is still not a great linebacker. He has always been fairly average. However, this year he seems to be even playing past his own track-record. Misi is not an outstanding linebacker, and he does not jump out at you on film. But he consistently does his job. The reputation he has received is not proportional to how he has played. The Miami Dolphins have to be happy with the play of Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins at this point in the season, especially given the unfair reputation that the team has garnered around the league.
Fact: Reshad Jones is an Animal
Beast. Mad-man. Crazy person. Reshad Jones has been the best player on the Miami Dolphins’ defense this season. And it really isn’t close. Jones could be playing better than any safety in the league right now. With the struggles of Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas, he is holding up the unit singlehandedly. Jones hasn’t just played well in coverage; he has been a force coming up against the run, especially on the goal line.
Right now, Reshad Jones is also the most decisive player on the defense. While the rest of the unit often appears unsure of the offense’s plays, Jones is always flying to the football. It really is impossible to state how well he has played this season, and how much of an impact he has had on the Dolphins’ defense in their first two games. He has recorded 23 tackles and has several tackles for loss, two of which came in goal line stands. Currently he and Jelani Jenkins are tied for top in the NFL for tackles.
Right now, there is not a more crucial piece to this defense than Jones. He has been playing well above the expectations we had all set for him. We knew that Reshad Jones was a good player for the Miami Dolphins, but it now appears that Jones could become one of the best players on the entire football team.
Fiction: The Coaches Make Adjustments in the Second Half
The Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff has been abysmal this season. And one of the most common misconceptions about the group is that they are adjusting well at the half.
Bill Lazor continues to implement game-plans that do not work early on, and unfortunately he seems hesitant to change them in the second half. The offense can be finding no success, and he will employ the same methods in the second half regardless. Lazor is great in terms of scheme, and he has been a godsend in terms of helping develop Ryan Tannehill. But he really is not a gifted playcaller. This is one of the biggest issues for Miami’s offense, as Philbin and Lazor both struggle with play calling. Unfortunately it seems like we will just have to smile through the pain there.
The defense has been very hard to watch. Kevin Coyle’s unit appears to play better in the second half of games, but it is hard to play worse early on than the Dolphins’ defense has. It is especially concerning that the team gets continuously burned in the secondary, given that Coyle’s history is as a defensive backs coach (his position with the Bengals before he joined Miami). Coyle and his coaches seem unable to squeeze talent out of this year’s group early in games, and the team has been coming out flat after half time as well.
So far, the team’s coaching staff appears very one-dimensional, and is struggling to make the necessary adjustments needed on the field for the team to improve as games wear on.
Fact: The Offensive Line is Not Very Good
The problem isn’t just Dallas Thomas. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, Branden Albert seems far from 100%. We know this to be true now that he has gone down with another injury (a hamstring issue might keep him out this Sunday). Albert is working to recover from an ACL tear last season, and may have rushed himself back for the Dolphins. Obviously it takes time to regain full confidence after that type of injury, but the film has not been pretty for Branden Albert.
Pass rush has been a problem for Miami since Ryan Tannehill’s rookie season, and he continues to get battered. Jason Fox is Albert’s replacement, and might as well be a revolving door at the position. The Dolphins lack any depth on the offensive line, and don’t really even seem to have the starters necessary to be competitive in the passing game. Ryan Tannehill has been succeeding way past the potential of his protection, and has moved the offense despite a massive number of penalties and QB hits. Regardless of who the team’s coach is next season, the offensive line will certainly be rebuilt in the 2016 offseason.
Fiction: The Lack of Rushing Yards is Entirely The Offensive Line’s Fault
The offensive line has played badly. But Lamar Miller hasn’t been much better himself. This could be a product of the coaching, but Miller doesn’t seem fully comfortable carrying the ball this year. He is really a one-cut running back, and he hasn’t been playing to his own strengths.
There is a very fine line between patience and hesitation, and Miller has been siding towards the latter this year. He was never the type of running back to wait for holes to develop, but he at least used to hit the hole with confidence. It is obviously hard to hit a gap with confidence when the line is collapsing right as the play begins. Lamar Miller will have to rediscover himself, or the coaching staff will have to rediscover a way to utilize him going forward. Miami will have very little success if they can’t establish a viable rushing attack.