Quick Slant: 5 Things We Learned During the Dolphins’ 18-12 Loss to the Colts
On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins were defeated by the Indianapolis Colts, a team that also struggled to live up to the hype they garnered ahead of 2015. The 18-12 defeat came in one of the sloppiest games in recent memory, a matchup during which neither team seemed that they even wanted to win.
This piece gives five observations from the game, prior to film review. These are thoughts collected during the game, as opposed to those gathered while watching tape from the game. Here is what we saw upon the first viewing of Colts VS. Dolphins.
5. Jay Ajayi might be able to shoulder a greater load next season.
The Miami Dolphins are at a crossroad regarding their backfield. They could let Lamar Miller walk after the 2015 season, following a successful four-year tenure with the team. However, that would mean that they would have to add running back to their laundry list of needs this offseason.
In fact, Jay Ajayi could provide them with an out in that difficult decision.
There is no question that Lamar Miller is the best running back on the team, and is truly an elite talent. However, the Dolphins are strapped for salary cap space. The team will need to trim fat before deciding if they can resign Miller. If they find that they cannot, Ajayi could be the man for the job.
Ajayi only had nine carries for 23 yards, but his running style says more about his potential than his numbers do. He is a very talented player who provides another dimension for the offense. He is powerful, and has the ability to attack defenders and play with tenacity. We saw this in the red zone against the Colts, as Ajayi was used to power the team down onto the goal line in the third quarter, before Miller punched it in.
Ajayi may not be entirely ready, but his physicality was on display today. His potential is becoming more evident each week and, despite not posting flashy numbers this week, it appears that Ajayi is making progress as a young player.
4. DeVante Parker has arrived.
Ready does not mean finished or developed. DeVante Parker is neither of those things. Many of the things he did poorly in college, he continues to struggle with in the NFL. He needs to work on his routes, the sharpness of his breaks, and his concentration when catching the ball.
However, he has shown flashes of what could be in recent weeks. Parker has been starting for the injured Rishard Matthews, and we have seen just how good the Landry-Parker tandem could be in 2016. Ryan Tannehill has already shown great trust in Parker, and the two are developing a strong rapport.
Parker’s physical presence has made him Tannehill’s primary option on deep passes. Kenny Stills might be the speediest option, but DeVante Parker knows how to high point the football and beat defenders when attacking the ball in the air. We saw this again against the Colts, as Parker hauled in a deep pass during the first quarter.
Parker still needs to develop, but the chemistry he has showed with Tannehill, as well as the new dimension he adds to the offense, should allow the team to comfortably move on from Rishard Matthews and run head-strong into the Parker-Landry era.
3. Lamar Miller is not a shotgun running back.
Just because a player practices within a scheme and learns a scheme, does not mean that the scheme best utilizes them.
The Miami Dolphins operate primarily in the shotgun. This means that holes take longer to develop and, with Miami’s offensive line, often do not develop at all. This actually suits a patient back, and one who can move laterally until a hole develops. While Lamar Miller tended to dance in the backfield early on in his career, he has become a ball carrier that can cut with strength and decisiveness early, hit a hole, and gain important yards.
Lamar Miller really is not best suited for this shotgun offense. He would work much better under center, where the holes develop quicker. While many would argue the opposite, it is important to recognize that just because he is a speedy back does not mean that he is the type of agile runner who operates well when asked to dodge players in the backfield.
Miller has become a one-cut speed back. He has enough strength with his added bulk, and his speed becomes evident in a straight line. He does not dance; he picks a lane and runs head strong into it, at full speed. That being said, he would benefit from being in an offense that operates more with the quarterback under center, as it allows for the running back to see holes develop more easily.
2. Ryan Tannehill NEEDS help.
We have arrived at the point of abuse. The hits Tannehill is forced to endure every Sunday now fall under the category of torture. He is left hanging out to dry on every play, and he is paying the price.
Tannehill was sacked six times, and suffered a leg whip from a Colts defender that left him limping to the sideline. He is beaten, battered, and truly defeated. The team has failed to add any help for the fourth-year passer, and he is starting to pay a great physical toll for their lack of progress.
Reports from the Miami Herald revealed that Ryan Tannehill actually found blood in his urine this week, and decided to play (in this meaningless game) despite the fact. Tannehill is a warrior, and a true competitor. That is an admirable quality to have, but eventually the team needs to realize that there comes a time when he won’t get up from one of these hits. Eventually, the season will come to an end when Tannehill is injured by a whiffed block by Dallas Thomas or a missed assignment by Jason Fox.
Yes, Dolphins fans, it’s bad. At this point, it’s also only going to get worse. The team needs to get protection on the offensive line for Ryan Tannehill before they can truly be competitive and work towards winning seasons.
1. The offense will be an easier fix than the defense.
With Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, and Reshad Jones, many would think that the Dolphins’ offense would be the more questionable unit. However, when Cameron Wake went down with an Achilles injury, it was revealed just how poor the Dolphins’ defense really is.
The offense is a simple fix for 2016. Branden Albert, Ja’Wuan James, Mike Pouncey, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Tannehill will all return. The team will in all likelihood make a push to resign Lamar Miller. After that, they will likely need to replace Jordan Cameron (whose contract is exorbitant for his lack of impact), and sign two interior offensive linemen. That should get Miami through 2016.
The defense? Far more complicated.
The Dolphins desperately need a new inside linebacker, another cornerback, and another defensive end. Olivier Vernon will almost surely leave Miami. The team could also cut Brent Grimes due to his high salary and lack of impact, and might even move on from veteran Cameron Wake. Wake will most likely stay due to the fact that Vernon and Derrick Shelby are both free agents at defensive end. However, the team should be rebuilding the linebacker corps and secondary entirely.
In a perfect world, Miami starts 2016 with two new cornerbacks, two new linebackers (returning Jelani Jenkins), and another defensive end opposite Wake. However, Wake’s health will be a factor, and it is incredibly difficult to fill that many needs in one, or even two offseasons.
Sunday showed a complete lack of pass rush, an inability to tackle, and very poor play from the majority of the defense. Cameron Wake is the team leader in sacks, and only played seven games. Miami needs to entirely reconstruct the defense before 2016, while allowing the offense to remain a much closer unit to being able to succeed.