- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Miami Dolphins have lost two of their past three games.
Here is the latest look at whose stock is up and down in Miami:
1. Dolphin's playoff chances: The Dolphins nearly had a chance to pull themselves from the cluster of AFC teams by beating the Carolina Panthers. Instead, Miami lost 20-16 and is now the last-ranked team among the half-dozen clubs with a 5-6 record via various tiebreakers. The Dolphins have to go 4-1 the rest of the season to finish 9-7 and have a chance at the postseason. They have to sweep the New York Jets (5-6), starting with Sunday’s road game at MetLife Stadium, which will not be easy.
2. Joe Philbin, head coach: The Dolphins are being outscored 127-90 in the second half this year. Someone has to take the blame, and it starts with the head coach. The Dolphins too often are not ready to play in the second half. Opponents are making halftime adjustments that are beating the Dolphins in crucial games. Miami blew a 16-6 halftime lead to Carolina and a 17-0 halftime lead to the New England Patriots one month ago. The Dolphins will end up regretting both losses. Philbin must do a better job of making halftime adjustments in order not to be outcoached.
3. Dolphins running game: It's hard to win games when the quarterback is your leading rusher. Ryan Tannehill gained 36 of the team’s 52 rushing yards in the loss to Carolina. The Panthers dominated Miami’s offensive line on running plays. The Dolphins averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and had five tackles for loss. Miami’s depth also took a hit at tailback. Daniel Thomas, the Dolphins’ second-leading rusher, suffered a significant ankle injury and could be out for the season.
1. Mike Wallace, wide receiver: Wallace finally had the deep opportunities he’s been waiting for. Wallace had two receptions of 53 and 57 yards that nearly led to an upset over Carolina. He had a season-high 127 yards on five receptions Sunday. Wallace's deep speed is hard to counter. He's been open deep several times this year, but Tannehill has been unable to get the ball there. The pair missed on two other connections, but hitting on 50 percent of their deep balls isn’t a bad percentage.
2. Olivier Vernon, defensive end: A year and a half into his NFL career, Vernon is starting to come into his own. The 2012 third-round pick registered a sack Sunday on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. It was the second consecutive games Vernon got a sack. He is tied with Miami Pro Bowler Cameron Wake for the Dolphins lead with 6.5 sacks. Vernon had four tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss against the Panthers.
3. Nolan Carroll, cornerback: Opponents have indentified and picked on Carroll at various points this season. Starting cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Dimitri Patterson have both been more productive. But Carroll had perhaps his best game of the season, tallying three tackles, an interception and a season-high four pass defenses. Carroll's playing time has been up and down this season based on his performance, but Sunday’s game should earn him more confidence from the coaching staff.
3dEric D. Williams
3dEric D. Williams