It’s a pivotal year for the Dolphins, their head coach Adam Gase, their front office of Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier, and most importantly, QB Ryan Tannehill.
Miami is certainly taking a risk bringing back Tannehill off of missing all of 2017 with re-injury to his ACL. A risk, because they didn’t elect to make a play for a “quarterback of the future” in this year’s draft. This despite flirting heavily with the likes of Baker Mayfiled, and a player like Lamar Jackson being readily available for them, when they drafted at #11.
And, the Fins dealt away Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry for not much in return, because they didn’t want to pay him huge dollars. And then, with getting rid of fellow Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to save on the salary cap, the clear star or leader remaining is Tannehill.
And Tannenbaum, Grier and Gase are banking that he will be back to his 2016 pre-injury play of 2016 that put the Dolphins in position to make the playoffs.
Gase has made it no secret that they have made their decision and have built around Tannehill. As we wrote about early last month, the third year coach has repeatedly backed his QB, who’s about to play for his sixth season. Gase saying to SI.com’s Albert Breer last month:
“Just being around him (Tannehill), this being my third year, the guy competes as hard as anyone I’ve been around, especially at that position. And it’s a good feeling as a coach when we’ve got him back out there.”
And they hope to have at the level where he was, when he injured the knee in the week 14 home game with Arizona two years ago. Through 13 games, he had his highest completion percentage (67.5%), yards per attempt (7.7) and quarterback rating (93.5).
There are new veteran faces on offense like RB Frank Gore, and WR Danny Amendola, who both have years of winning and post season experience to bring to the huddle.
Still, in most NFL locker rooms, the QB is the “face of the franchise,” the leader and the one most scrutinized.
And Ryan Tannehill will be that for this fall.
He’s the foundation, for at least the start of this year, that Miami will try to build their fortunes.
Dolphins beaten up every way possible after latest loss in Green Bay
Make no mistake, the Dolphins season is not officially over at 5 – 5 headed in the bye week.
It just looks and feels that way.
Mostly, it does, because the Dolphins are banged up, not only physically, but also it appears emotionally and psychologically. So, much so, they don’t appear to have a whole lot left for the stretch run.
Let’s start with the actual physical injuries and that began Sunday with the inactives. The Fins starting offensive line was minus Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, which were not unexpected. However, after being able to practice some this week, former number 1 pick defensive end Charles Harris was not able to play against Green Bay today, either.
Then, as the game wore on, it was one Dolphin leaving after another. Whether it was Kenyan Drake with a shoulder injury in the first half or Bobby McCain with a concussion in the third quarter or when receivers Jakeem Grant and DeVante Parker both had to leave on the same Drive, it was tough to watch the Dolphins walking wounded.
The biggest fear is for the smaller but explosive Grant, who may have torn his Achilles in the third quarter. Grant was already suffering from Achilles tendonitis and came up hobbling right away on a slant pass and could not put weight on the foot. He was then carted shortly thereafter to the Dolphins locker room.
Coach Adam Gase offered no real update on Grant’s status other than that it’s a wait-and-see. As for Parker, same thing is being hoped, even though, the media reported him walking around in the locker room after the game with his left arm in a sling. You combine those injuries with Kenny Stills being slowed by a groin injury and Albert Wilson already out for the year having hurt his hip a few weeks ago, and the Dolphins may be looking for Mark Duper or Nat Moore to come out of retirement at this point.
Bigger than just the physical injuries, the Dolphins appear spent in the figurative sense as well. The frustration mounted as Aaron Rodgers continued to carve them up throwing darts all over the football field Sunday night in the Lambeau cold. He finished with only 195 yards passing, but did have two TDs. And, they marched on the Dolphins defense, whenever he wanted.
It was almost as if Miami was just helpless to do anything against him, and they are watching their season wind down.
Consider that backup quarterback Brock Osweiler was not able to spark the team for the third consecutive game. So poor is the offensive output, that Miami has not scored a touchdown in their last nine quarters dating back to the Thursday night loss in Houston.
The Dolphins aren’t playing with any confidence, at least from the guys that are replacing the injured players. Remember, with Miami at full strength early in the year they got off to a 3 – 0 start.
So, the bye week comes now and perhaps, starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill shoulder will be healed enough that he can practice in 10 days and maybe play at Indianapolis. It’s anybody’s guess as to who, out of the names above, will actually be healthy enough to help Tannehill and the Dolphins for the final six games.
Finally, even though Miami would appear by record to be very much in the hunt for an AFC wild-card spot, they don’t look like a playoff team.
No. They’re banged up and look like a team that will be watching the postseason like everybody else.
Gameday- Dolphins travel to chilly Lambeau Field
Who: Dolphins (5-4) at Packers (3-4-1)
When: Sunday 4:25 p.m.
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
Spread: Packers by 10 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Here’s what to watch:
Dolphins defensive coordinator Burke under scrutiny
It has been a tough few weeks for the Dolphins all the way around, but specifically on the defensive side of the ball, the struggles are mounting. And when you throw in a player pouting and essentially pulling a mutiny on the sidelines last Sunday, it’s not good for the defensive coordinator.
That’s what happened a week ago when Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones refused to go back in the game on two occasions during the second half of the Dolphins close 13 – 6 win over the Jets. It’s been a big topic in South Florida for the last few days, and it obviously has defensive coordinator Matt Burke having to answer for what’s going on in the defense of meeting rooms, practices, etc.
Dolphins Live: Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke meets with the media. https://t.co/2145Fq3uaU
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 8, 2018
As the press continued to poke at him about the Jones situation, you could tell that Burke is over it, as is coach Adam Gase, and they want to move on for this week. However, Jones didn’t make that any easier, when he basically refused to apologize for not wanting to play.
And, moving past it may also be easier said than done, when the opponent is All-Pro quarterback and former League MVP Aaron Rodgers at his house, Lambeau Field.
Yes, the Dolphins have some pass rushers, and that would include second-year defensive end and former number 1 pick Charles Harris returning to practice this week after a calf injury, and he may be able to play. Veteran Cam Wake came alive pressuring Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold repeatedly, and registering a couple of sacks.
However, the defensive plays have been few and far between, as the Dolphins have lost four of the last five games.
That brings us back to Burke, who was elevated after coaching the linebackers in 2016, when Vance Joseph left Miami to become Denver’s head coach. After spending his entire pro career as a linebackers coach, this is his first opportunity to be the guy in charge of the defense.
So, he and Gase can get aggravated with the questioning of what we’re seeing, but the bottom line is: if the Dolphins defense doesn’t continue to step it up, like they did last week, there is going to be much more scrutiny of him.
The oddsmakers have the Dolphins as double-digit underdogs to Rodgers and the Pack.
Now, let’s see if Burke’s unit will rally together, play solidly and give Miami a chance to win Sunday.
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