What Can We Take From Dolphins 3-1 start?
By Drew Cathey
One third of the Miami Dolphins season has gone by now and after watching Miami lose to New Orleans on Monday night it might be hard to remember what happened in the first three games of the season. However, Monday night was a tough situation for the Dolphins. They were going into New Orleans on a Monday night and it was the first home game all season. Just to pour more salt on the wound, it was Sean Payton's first game back as the Saints head coach. So, after watching what happened on Monday Night Football it could be easily construed that the Dolphins went right back to the team they were last year, but if we take a look at the season so far as a whole we can see that they are a much better team and seem primed and ready to win a good amount of football games this season.
1. One thing that Dolphin's fans must notice about them this year is that they are finishing games strong. In each of the first three weeks we watched them close out games, two of which were on the road, and come away with the victory, This shows that the team is learning how to win games. On this past night in New Orleans Jon Gruden even complimented the defense on how even though they were down by about 25 points at the time they were still making plays and finishing the game strong. This is a good sign going forward and it bodes well for them going later into the season when they start playing division games.
2. Caleb Sturgis has been a great addition to the Dolphins. Through four games he hasn't missed one kick and that is always great for an offense. To know that they can get into the red zone and not have to have the pressure of always scoring a touchdown is great. The rookie even has a leg that let's the Dolphins get into opponents territory and not have to consider punting right away because the kid can make it from a long distance as well. Moving down the road he might end up being a big factor.
3. Through the first four games the Dolphins have had 11 Red Zone attempts and have converted nine of those. Of those nine all of them have been touchdowns. This is a good sign going forward because despite the fact that they have a good kicker to rely on, you can't beat touchdowns. This means again that they are learning how to finish drives off and get points. The only problem that there is going to be going forward is how many times they can actually get there in a game.
1. The biggest problem the Miami Dolphins have right now is the fact that they can't protect Ryan Tannehill. He has been sacked 18 times already and they are on pace to give up with most sacks in franchise history. The offensive line must begin to protect him or it seems as though we are going to be seeing Tannehill on the ground a lot more. This seems to be causing Tannehill to feel as though he has to get rid of the ball a lot faster and is causing him to turn the ball over a lot. Collectively sacks and turnovers never bode well for a team and despite the Dolphins 3-1 record right now they need to cut down on both in order to keep winning late into the season,
2. Mike Wallace was the biggest free agent pickup the Dolphins had at least on offense. People expected him to open up the passing game and really add some downfield throws that the Dolphins lacked last year. It seems through the first 4 games that nothing has really changed. Wallace seems frustrated and at times even a little bit confused. In Monday's night game he was even letting the ball get to his body rather than using his hands to catch the ball. Gruden made the comment that sometimes it takes a reciever longer to get used to a new offense especially when he is expected to be the #1 wide reciever, but it can still be said the Wallace's performance has been very disapointing so far this season.
3. The Miami Dolphins run game only produced 3.3 yards per carry going into Monday night's game against New Orleans. To say that the Dolphin's run game has been consistent would be a lie, but they are improving. They have scored a touchdown on the ground in every game and at times have even pulled off some long runs, but the fact of the matter is that they can't get it done on a consistent basis. They have to be able to produce first downs on goal to go downs and short yardage as well. Take two examples from Monday night's game in which the Dolphins couldn't get the first down in the first quarter on a 3rd and short distance and late in the game when they were on a third to goal from the 5 and had to come out in a 5 wide receiver set because the confidence in the rushing game was not there at all. We all know that you have to be able to run the ball late in December to win games and the Dolphins must improve this if they want to be playing come January.
There is no denying that the Dolphins are a better team than they were last year. Some fans might have the sour taste in their mouth after last night's loss to the Saints, but the first three games can't be forgotten. They went on the road 3 out of the 4 games and came out with three wins (one of them being at home). Despite none of them being against division opponents, they were still quality opponents. However, even with those wins we have still seen things that the Dolphins need to improve on in order to win late into the season.
It is easy to forget that this is only Philibin's second season as a head coach and after those first three wins it seems as though fans might have gotten ahead of themselves and forgot that. This is a team that is still learning how to be a good team. The mistakes are still there and the fact that they are learning to win with these mistakes makes for an optimistic future for the team. However, if they don't cut down on these mistakes it might make for a difficult season as it goes forward.