Thursday, October 10, 2013
Five suggestions to improve Dolphins
By James Walker
The Miami Dolphins (3-2) are stumbling into their bye after two straight losses. However, it’s a long season and there are plenty of games left.
This bye week is a golden opportunity to self scout and fix some of Miami’s issues. Here are five suggestions to make the Dolphins better:
No. 1: Add to offensive-line rotation
Analysis: The Dolphins’ offensive line cannot play much worse after five games. Miami is 28th in rushing and has allowed a league-high 24 sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami’s coaches are taking the approach that they will stick with what they have, and that’s a mistake. There are at least two backups on the bench -- Danny Watkins and Nate Garner -- who should get more playing time. Neither player has to start. But it makes sense to add at least one of these players into the rotation for 10-15 plays a game to provide fresh legs and a rest for the starters, who are underperforming.
The Dolphins have used Dion Jordan in a limited role so far this season, as the rookie defensive end has only seven tackles and one sack in five games.
No. 2: Move the quarterback pocket
Analysis: If the pocket isn’t clean for Tannehill, it’s time to move it. The Dolphins need to call more designed rollouts to protect their quarterback. Tannehill is a good athlete and a terrific passer on the run. His fourth-down completion to receiver Brandon Gibson against the Baltimore Ravens was a perfect example. Tannehill usually doesn’t lose zip or accuracy when on the move, which is a strong quality for a quarterback. Yet, the Dolphins underutilize this strength. Miami cannot roll Tannehill out every play, but several designed rollouts a game would keep defenses off balance and decrease the amount of shots Tannehill is taking in the pocket.
Analysis: It’s time for the coaching staff to take the kid gloves off Jordan, who only plays as a situational pass-rusher. Jordan hasn’t played a lot. But he is making impact plays in limited opportunities. He had a key tip on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco that caused a pick-six in last week’s loss. Miami is afraid Jordan won’t hold up well against the run. Therefore, he only plays on third down. But Jordan has more potential and a higher ceiling than fellow defensive ends Derrick Shelby and Olivier Vernon. The Dolphins’ defense will be more dynamic if they raise the rookie’s snap count after the bye.
No. 4: Stop stretch plays and plow forward
Analysis: It’s time for Miami to stop running so many stretch plays, which has been a staple in Mike Sherman’s offense. Every game that play is getting stuffed for a short gain or negative yards. The Dolphins simply do not have the personnel on the offensive line to consistently run outside. Miami needs to focus more on becoming a power running team after the bye. Guard John Jerry and Richie Incognito are maulers. They are not guards who can run sideline to sideline. Defenses are beating Miami’s offensive line to the spot and tackling the running backs at or behind the line of scrimmage too often. The Dolphins need to use their size to their advantage and plow forward. Basic lead running plays could get Miami four yards more consistently.
Analysis: Miami’s running game also will improve if they give the ball more to Miller and less to backup Daniel Thomas. Miami’s coaching staff has spilt playing time between the two and continue to wait for one tailback to emerge. The Dolphins’ infatuation with Thomas has been a mystery since training camp. He’s not dynamic or a powerful back. Thomas is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry. Miller is much more of a home-run hitter and can produce big runs if he gets enough opportunities.
If the Dolphins follow these five steps, they can be a better team after the bye. Miami will host the Buffalo Bills (2-3) on Oct. 20 in its first AFC East division game of the season.