are many questions flying across Dolphinland this week in the wake (and it sure
feels like a wake) of the Dolphinsí disappointing 0-2 start. Two games that
could have been won, two games lost mostly to self-inflicted wounds.
disturbing is that different areas of the team have failed at different points
along this early journey, completely counter to what we saw last season from
essentially the same bunch. Itís certainly inconsistent with what we were
the offensive line and defense, for example. Against Atlanta, the line couldnít block your
grandmother while defense kept bailing out the boat. Against the Colts, the roles
were reversed! The line dominated while the defense looked like something out
of a Tom Olivadotti horror flick.
can this be? This is supposed to be a disciplined divisional champion! There is
solid veteran leadership on both sides of the ball and in the front office, so they
had to know that opponents were going to be bringing their A-games. Surely,
they knew they had to show up each and every week, that there would be no sneak
attacks this time around.
itís inconsistency and, yes, lack of preparation that plagues the 2009 Miami
me put it bluntly: the Dolphins, players and coaches, didnít come out of the
preseason ready to play live action football. At times they look stuck in
mid-August, struggling to get into a consistent groove, working to get organized.
Whatís worse, there is a cavalier attitude that is settling on different parts
of the team at different times.
lack of discipline and urgency is why they are 0-2 today.
good news is that it isnít a talent issue, for the most part. Weíve seen enough
to know that the running game and defensive front seven are good enough to
stand with anybody. These are two core elements of a championship team. But NFL
history is littered with talented teams that simply squandered that ability by
not coming prepared to produce each and every week.
weíve seen glaring and shocking consistency issues that have cost the team both
Week One, it was Jake Long and offensive line sleepwalking against the Falcon
defense. We saw TE Anthony Fasano fumble balls away that he normally secures.
We saw Chad Pennington display an uncharacteristic lack of field vision and
pocket awareness while turning the ball over twice, things he just doesnít
Week Two, it was the mid-to-deep passing game, together with the two minute
offense, that cost the Dolphins a win. WR Ted Ginn Jr., who pulled in 11
catches, many for 1st downs, missed two long touchdown passes that
top notch receivers come down with. Simply going 1 for 2 would have been the difference
in a Dolphin win, but Ginn misjudged both passes.
coordinator Dan Henning fell on his sword in claiming responsibility for the
disorganization in the two minute offense. Thatís fine, but it doesnít tell the
was not forceful enough in driving the tempo of the offense. Thatís the
quarterbackís job! Yeah, Sparano and Henning both crow about getting off 14
plays in 3:13, but everyone watching that drive knows that they left A LOT of
time on the field. When Pennington saw that he didnít have the right guys to do
what a play called for, he should have taken matters into his own hands and
called a different play to make the best of the situation. Time is king, and
Pennington failed to manage it well. Passing it off to coaches and players was,
in my opinion, lame.
just is not right with Pennington this year. Last season, he was much more on
top of his game and was smart in how he managed the offense. Thatís mostly a
subjective statement, I know. But his passer rating is down 20+ points from
where he was last season.
canít answer that question in specific terms, but I am very suspicious of some
of the hits he took in the preseason. In particular, the wicked shot he took
from the Bucsí Louis Holmes back on August 27 concerns me.
had pirouetted away from several pass rushers and, just after releasing a pass
to Fasano for a touchdown, Holmes cracked Pennington very hard. Pennington came
off the field with a brave expression on his face that seemed to betray pain. Did
something happen there (or on another hit) that Pennington is trying to play
what I know. Up until the moment of the Holmes hit, Pennington looked primed to
have a monster year, ready to build on his NFL MVP runner-up season. Everything
about his play up to that point screamed it. But he just hasnít been quite the
same since that hit. Again, I admit this is a very subjective observation that
could be totally wrong. But there it is.
course it isnít all about the quarterback. Defensively, the run stoppers are
solid (7th in NFL), but the pass rush is inconsistent. And while the
pass defense dodged some bullets against Matt Ryanís Falcons, they couldnít do
the same against the Colts. Peyton Manning does have a Marino-like way about making
defenses pay for mistakes, doesnít he?
course much has been said and written about the starting safeties, Yeremiah
Bell and Gibril Wilson. Itís true that neither man has distinguished himself
particularly well. Both guys have been abused in successive weeks by tight ends
Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark, with Antonio Gates now on deck. Yes, Gonzalez
embarrasses a lot of safeties, so in a way you tip your cap and move on.
the thing to do when facing guys like Gonzalez, and is there really anyone as
good as him over the years, is to get the man on the ground when he does make
the catch. We know Bell
can tackle and takes good angles; his work in pass coverage and run support
over the years proves that. But Wilson?
Heís looking more and more like this yearís Ernest WilfordÖa highly paid free
agent who isnít justifying his contract. He canít tackle, canít catch, and is
shaky is pass coverage. Tyrone Culver, anyone?
Dolphins are now off to San Diego
for a ďmust winĒ game as a loss will all but mathematically kill the teamís
playoff hopes. Thatís the inescapable reality of starting a season 0-3,
especially with the tough stretch of opponents coming up.
know the talentís better than last year. The time has come for the team to play
up to it. So far the Dolphins have committed turnovers, blown assignments, failed
to tackle or catch consistently, and have managed games poorly.
Don Shula would say, thatís failing to get the job done.