By: Asa Hedstrom
Let me start by apologizing to our readers as well as a few of my fellow DSR constituents. I defended this team from training camp, all the way up until that thrashing that was given by the Saints in London. Unfortunately, I can defend my ‘Fins no longer; this team is terrible, mighty terrible. Things will not get any easier as they take on the Tennessee Titans.
Now, this is not to say that Miami’s season is already over. It is not; they still have 13 more games to play. But unless Adam Gase and Co. find a way to make some major changes, the losing will continue. Instead of my usual ‘listed’ style of what Miami needs to do to win this week, I will be writing more of a ramble to let out my frustrations on this team. Welcome to my new ‘IMPROVE’ week preview as the Dolphins get set to host the Titans.
Even though this entire offense has been atrocious, the offensive line deserves most of the blame. The coaching staff slowly eased center Mike Pouncey through training camp to give him a better shot at playing a full season. The last time Pouncey played a full season, I had not even started college yet. Four long, grueling years of college, and those Philbin seasons did not help. Despite the long rest, Pouncey been disappointing. In fact, the entire o-line has just plain sucked.
We all knew that the guard position would be shaky, but I did not see three first-round picks (Pouncey, James, Tunsil) performing so poorly. Running back Jay Ajayi has been unable to get anything going the past two weeks, and I put all that blame on the offensive line. O-linemen…IMPROVE.
There is a lot to complain about on this offense, but a position that is hurting the performance almost as much the offensive line is tight end. I never understood the hype of the Julius Thomas trade. The man has never eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving, and most of his touchdowns came from Peyton Manning. Manning was great at padding people’s stats during regular seasons.
The Thomas that we are seeing resembles his performance in Jacksonville – useless. He cannot block most of the time, and he seems to have trouble locating the ball when it is thrown to him. See: Cutler’s red zone interception last week. I have no idea why Anthony Fasano is not getting more playing time. He can run block pretty well, and he made some nice catches during his earlier years in Miami. I am not sure what Gase sees in Thomas, but whatever it is keeps him on the field. Tight ends…IMPROVE.
I bet you think this next part will be about bashing Jay Cutler. Well, you are wrong. My next rant goes to bashing Adam Gase. For two weeks now, I have had to watch Cutler throw numerous dainty WR screen passes and a few 8-10 yards hook routes. I am not sure if Gase has become so conservative in play calling because the o-line is that bad at giving Cutler time, or if it is because he does not trust Cutler.
Did Gase suddenly forget how the offense moved the ball on the Chargers Week 1? Did he forget how Cutler climbed the right side of the pocket to deliver a 30-yard beauty of a pass to Kenny Stills? Speaking of Stills, did Gase forget that he re-signed the speedster to help spread out the coverage? Did Gase forget that Cutler was developing a connection with DeVante Parker, and he needed to let the big boy WR eat?
People who have begun bashing Cutler and demanding for Matt Moore once again seem to forget that Cutler had some nice improv passes against the Chargers. Cutler can play if he has reasonable time in the pocket and is able to be aggressive throwing the football. Adam Gase…IMPROVE.
Honestly, I have been content with our defensive performances the past three weeks. I remember before the season started, looking on Twitter and checking the sports news, reading how Miami’s defense would be the Achilles heel to this team’s playoff chances. Well, smart guys, did you know that Miami’s defense is currently ranked #2 in total yards allowed by a defense? To be fair, Miami is still a game behind everyone else due to the storm delay in the beginning of September. So, if Miami did have that extra game under their belt, they would mostly be out of that #2 ranking. Nonetheless, I would still expect this defense to be in the top-15.
If I did have to complain about something on defense, it would have to be about a few individual performances so far, rather than entire positions groups. Cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Maxwell have both been highly disappointing. Howard was supposed to step into the title of “shutdown corner,” and Maxwell was supposed to show off his physical presence to receivers at the line of scrimmage. Neither of the two has delivered. Maxwell was benched last week in favor of this year’s third-round pick, Cordrea Tankersley. Tankersley had some solid plays, and he almost was able to pull in an interception off Drew Brees. Maxwell will be gone next year, or maybe even traded before this year’s deadline. Howard is young, he still has time to fix things. Howard…IMPROVE.
Defensive end Andre Branch was given a 3-year, $24 million deal with around $17 million guaranteed. So, management was okay with giving this unproven player an average $8 million per year, but the did not want to pay Olivier Vernon around the same price? Bad move Dolphins, bad move. Branch has been a ghost out there. In my opinion, Charles Harris has been more productive than Branch despite his lack of been able to defend the run. If Miami wants a more complete defensive line, they need more production from that right side. Andre Branch…IMPROVE
This season is not over, but it is not saved either by any means. Miami is sitting in limbo right now and it is going to take a jumpstart of the offense to bring them out of it. If the offense can improve, the defense will continue to do their job and show how much they have been contributing. This is a make or break game for the Dolphins. If they win, we can start thinking about a winning season again. If they lose, I would say this season is a wash for them. I would love nothing else than to see my ‘Fins win, but part of my prediction is based off past performances. So, going by past performance, I do not see Miami winning unless we see a completely different offense.
Prediction: Miami-7 Titans-17