Year two under head coach Adam Gase has officially begun in Miami, and the Dolphins look for back to back playoff appearances for the first time since the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Going 10-6 in your first year with a playoff appearance is great, but everyone knows that adaptation must occur in this league in order to stay at the top.
The Dolphins will look to keep improving but questions still remain. How is Ryan Tannehill and the knee doing? How will the new additions, especially on defense, blend with the old? And just who will emerge as the backup running back?
Tannehill was arguably having the best year of his career before going down with a knee injury ending his season. He threw for 2,995 yards and 19 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. He also had a career best 67.1 percent completion percentage and QBR of 93.5. The question is how ready is the rehabbed knee? Gase has warned the media not to ask Tannehill how his knee is feeling. He’s throwing and running just fine, and Tannehill has said much of the same. Time will tell everything and the fans and media will be eager to see just how well he plays against live competition in the preseason.
The Dolphins continued their swim to adaptation by adding a couple of rookies and a few veterans to the defense. Rookie Charles Harris will look to learn from veteran linemen like Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, while Raekwon McMillan will learn from former Steeler Lawrence Timmons. McMillan will probably have a better opportunity to make an immediate impact thanks to the injury and departure of Koa Misi.
Back to Harris. He showed flashes of being a great pass-rusher in the spring. But how will he look as the Florida temperatures begin to rise, the practices get more physical by day, and the tempers begin to flare and egos collide? Also, newly signed corner Alterraun Verner will look to carve out a role for himself and may be Miami’s starting slot corner, when the season starts. Let’s not forget he is a former Pro Bowler. Verner has all the capabilities of beating out his competition but at the same time could also be cut when all is said and done
The Jay train was in full effect last season with Jay Ajayi running for 1,272 and 8 touchdowns in break out season. The Dolphins will want to see him take on some more carries and in turn become a little more consistent. With that being said just who will emerge to back up the work horse to be?
Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake were both on the team last season and both made some impacts. Drake is very quick and a great pass catcher, while Williams was great in the red zone. Of the two it looks like Drake may have the first crack at being the next man up. Don’t forget about rookie free agent De’Veon Smith, who begins camp on the PUP list. Though, a solid camp from Smith could leave him as the 4th back on the 53 man.
Gase and company will look to build on their 2017 playoff appearance and it all starts now. The more questions you can answer and holes you can fill in July and August lead to more important games being played in December and January.
Jon Gruden’s returns to Florida already in coaching turmoil
It may be premature to say that the “second honeymoon” for Jon Gruden with the Oakland Raiders is already over, but another defeat Sunday, and it likely is.
The Raiders are clearly struggling after dropping their second straight game last week in heartbreaking fashion against the Broncos in Denver. Oakland controlled most of the game and Derek Carr was outstanding, completing 23 of his first 24 passes on the day.
However, in the end Case Keenum rallied the Broncos and when Brandon McManus’ last-second field goal went through, the smirking critics of “Chucky” were already “sticking their chests out” about his NFL return.
Without question, some of this is self-inflicted, as Gruden clearly did not want to pay and therefore keep, linebacker Khalil Mack for the Raiders. And yes, they got a bounty of draft picks in return, but Mack has been nothing short of sensational as a pass rusher in two games in Chicago, and the Raiders defense is again mediocre-at-best.
So, that brings us to Sunday. And even though Gruden has been living in the Tampa Bay area while doing Monday Night Football for ESPN, this is the first time that he’s back coaching a game in the state since the final regular-season game of 2008. That day, ironically his Buccaneers lost to the Raiders completing a four-game losing collapse and costing his team a playoff spot-ultimately Gruden his job with the Bucs.
Now, the Raiders have come all the way East to Miami to play the 2 – 0 Dolphins. And while Gruden is in absolutely no jeopardy of losing his job, at least not until year 3 or 4 if it’s not working, owner Mark Davis didn’t make this shockwave multimillion-dollar hire to have the Raiders be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Clearly, there was going to be some learning curve for Gruden with his new staff and new players. However, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback like Carr the belief was the Raiders would be solid, if not a wild card playoff contender.
It hasn’t shaped up that way as of yet.
The good news for Raider fans is: no one is going to outwork Gruden at trying to get it right.
The bad news is: the Raiders may not have enough overall talent to overcome that above-mentioned learning curve and digging themselves an 0-3 hole start 2018.
And the Fins, may be about to deal “Raider Nation” their latest lost Sunday.
Dolphins got contributions everywhere in Sunday win
There were a lot of questions and plenty of reasons to doubt the Dolphins roster makeup, as 2018 was getting underway.
However, two games in, the Fins have been impressive, and earned their way to an unbeaten start. Their latest effort Sunday at The Meadowlands against AFC East rival Jets saw numerous players new and old step up.
Whether it was TJ McDonald’s early interception of New York rookie QB Sam Darnold, or Kenyan Drake weaving through the Jets front seven for the early score a short time later, Miami set the tone.
And then, when Kiko Alonso knocked the ball free from Jets receiver Robby Anderson and Raekwon McMillan recovered it, it was new free agent receiver Albert Wilson capitalizing here:
Can't catch @iThinkIsee12
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 16, 2018
It went for a 29-yard touchdown from QB Ryan Tannehill and Miami had command at that point at 14-0.
Tannehill spread the ball around to seven different receivers, and even found reserve A.J. Derby for a 19 yard touchdown, as the lead ballooned to 20-0 nothing.
Darnold ended with some decent yardage and a couple of second-half touchdowns, but the Dolphins registered four sacks and had three total takeaways to help put this one away.
Even ageless veteran Frank Gore got into the act. This as, the 35 year old moved into fourth place on NFL all-time rushing list trailing only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
And late in the game caught a dump off pass from Tannehill and weaved through the Jet defense to pick up 3rd and 19, move the chains and allow Miami to run the clock out.
So the 2018 Dolphins don’t have Jay Cutler, Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and some of the others from a team that struggled last year.
However, their new faces stepped in and stepped up Sunday on the road.
And Miami is now 2 – 0 for the first time since 2013, and in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
Gameday- Dolphins renew rivalry with Jets in New York
Who: Dolphins (1-0) at Jets (1-0)
Where: Met Life Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Spread: Jets by 2.5 (Courtesy Vegasinsidercom)
Renewal of the Rivalry
There are no longer names like Shula, Namath and Marino, but the storied rivalry of the Dolphins and the Jets is five decades old. As AFC East Rivals since the early 1970’s, these teams and fan bases are familiar with each other for generations. Yes, grandads, dads and in some cases, great granddads have watched these two play. The Jets hold a 54-50-1 record all time, and that includes a decisive win in the Meadowlands last year. The Fins, however, won the rematch (Cutler at the helm) later in the year at Hard Rock Stadium.
Now, they play right away in 2018 and the winner maintains at least a tie for first in the division.
Tannehill looks to build on week one
It was a bizarre game last Sunday in the opener with Tennessee, as there were two lightning delays that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours. So, it’s tough to judge everything completely. However, QB Ryan Tannehill, off his ACL tear last August, was effective for a lot of the game (despite two picks) finishing 20-28 for 230 yards and two TDs. One was a second half 75 yard bomb to WR Kenny Stills as the Dolphins prevailed 27-20.
Will the Jets 3-4 defense be able to rattle him? Will Tannehill handle the pressure and be accurate. It’s not the only key, but a big one for the Fins.
Finally, will the Jets look like they did Monday night?
In a remarkable win on the road on Monday night, rookie Sam Darnold overcame a pick six TD in the first :20 of his NFL career to play effectively in the blowout win over the Lions. Darnold who was 16-21 with two TDs, will have to be solid in this one for the Jets.
The Dolphins pass rush led by Robert Quinn and Cam Wake will try to fluster him and create those bad throws from the USC rookie.
The Jets defense and special teams came up with big plays also against Detroit, as they pulled away in the second half for a 48-17 win. That included an interception and punt return TD in the second half.
Miami will need to keep the Jets from making the big play Sunday.
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