After a brutal 37-3 loss, Dolphins fans may be re-clamoring for “FIreland” and to “blow it up and rebuild”. Not so fast.
While Tannehill struggled, his issues are not unexpected and can still be corrected over the course of the season. The running game needs to step up, and the offense has to solve all of the concerning variables. And despite ending a 23 game very impressive streak, I’m not too nervous about the run defense. Plus, the Dolphins travel to Buffalo on Thursday night in what should be a nice rebound game.
Ryan Tannehill Still Unfinished as Quarterback, Issues with Throwing Lanes
After riding the Ryan Tannehill train HARD these past few weeks, I had forgotten a key ingredient in starting a rookie quarterback: he’s just a rookie. While I didn’t expect him to rapidly progress each and every week, I did expect him to take himself to the next level. And in the Colts game, he started to show signs he’d made the jump past rookie.
But that’s what rookie quarterbacks can do. They ooze of inconsistency. And that’s what happened to Tannehill and the Dolphins. He couldn’t consistently get in a rhythm on offense, didn’t consistently transition off his initial read as well as in weeks past, and most importantly, is still have issues when defenses alter obvious throwing lanes.
We saw those throwing lane issues in college, in Week One against the Texans, sporadically throughout the season, and in the game against Tennessee. Two of his three interceptions is him not completely seeing through his throwing lane before uncorking the pass. That’ll come with time, and it’s been a bad habit of his in not seeing short coverage linebackers and stunting defensive tackles as he delivers a throw.
That’s a very correctable issue for Tannehill moving forward, and the fact that the running game wasn’t clicking and the defense was allowing a consistent stream of Chris Johnson certainly didn’t give Tannehill a great chance to bounce back.
Tannehill will improve, as will this whole team. Will a better running game help? Sure will, had in the past few weeks. And how about adding some legitimate receiving options after Hartline and Bess? That’s a must do for his development. Tannehill’s time will come. But we’ll have to deal with the ups and downs for now.
Reggie Bush and the Running Game Not Rolling Anymore
In the pre-season, Reggie Bush made it well known that he wanted to lead the NFL in rushing this year. And after an electric 1,000 yard season, it didn’t seem overly farfetched that he could contend. And while injuries have certainly derailed that dream, even when he has been healthy as of late, he hasn’t been going much of anywhere.
Outside of one big 10+ yard run, he was basically held in check. He only ran for one first down in this game, and Daniel Thomas had another. Just two rushing first downs for the Dolphins. While the passing game focused first down approach has taken over, they certainly need to do a better job of consistently driving the chains. As a whole, the Dolphins were 2-for-13 on 3rd downs, and that blame can’t lay in Ryan Tannehill’s hands, especially early in the game.
Looking back, I can’t pinpoint what the issues in the running game quite are, but it seems as though it’s a team effort. The interior linemen aren’t pivoting and opening up holes consistently. The running backs aren’t asked to get into a rhythm with ample amounts of carries. The offense is changing personnel at a rapid race so few (minus Hartline and Bess) can get into a rhythm.
Just 15 rushing plays isn’t enough. Just 54 rushing yards is not enough. The team needs to do better. From the work in the week to the pre-game plan to the play-calls made throughout the game to the execution on the field by the runner and blockers, it’ll take a team effort to get this running game back on track. A .500 record may depend on it.
Chris Johnson (Frustratingly) Ends the 23 Game Sub-100 Yard Rusher Streak
While the initial reaction I had is “man, what a shame the streak ended”, it should’ve been “how the hell did they last 23 games?”. Facing some of the NFL’s top rushers and top rushing attacks over the course of a season and a half, the Dolphins were able to hold each and every one of those teams back in the running game.
Only two teams in that time period ran for over 100 yards, and even then, it was spread out and based around 2-3 big plays.
But maybe the worst part is that it was against Chris Johnson. A runner who has been so wishy-washy the past two years. A speed back that, while we’ve had issues with his types in the past, had been indecisive in his cuts. The Dolphins always took advantage of runners like that. But not this past weekend.
Johnson ran in every single gap effectively, and with numbers like he put up, it’s clear that it wasn’t just a single defenders or a group on the defense’s fault. I thought the defensive backs did a good job getting involved and preventing the big play as much as possible. The linebacking corps could have done a better job in filling their gaps and not overpursuing initially off the ball. The defensive ends, mostly Odrick and the rotational guys, struggled mightily to pinch inside or break outside to contain Johnson.
This isn’t something to really worry about in the future though. Johnson is a talented back, one of the most talented in the NFL, and this streak very well could start back up again after this defeat. This sin’t a baseball hitting streak or a basketball 20+ point streak. It’s a team achievement, and by playing poorly one week doesn’t mean it’ll carry over to the next and in the future.
Week 11 Preview
Travelling to Buffalo in Week 11 for a Thursday night match-up, the Dolphins catch the Bills that have lost five of their last six games. Possibly at home, the Bills could turn in around, as Ryan Fitzpatrick played well for much of the Patriots game loss and the pass defense has been fairly solid the past three weeks.
However, the Achilles heel for the Bills all season long is the running game. They’ve allowed 5 running backs to gain 100 yards in the past six weeks, as that’s how most teams have controlled the game against them. While that should be good news for the Dolphins, they’ve had running issues of their own.
Tannehill NEEDS the running game to click again, as the Bills have lost every game they’ve had had their leading rusher be out-rushed by the opponent. While it should be expected that the Dolphins defense can contain CJ Spiller, that’ll need to be the case after giving up a ton of yards vs. Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush not as expectedly effective. If they control the run game, the Dolphins will get back to .500 and still have an outside shot at the playoffs.