The Miami Dolphins enter the 2018 season with optimism, despite what the national media may tell you. While ESPN may rank them at the bottom, and Vegas sets their over/under for games won at 6.5, I believe there is much more reason to be optimistic (yes, I’m a little biased but that doesn’t make me wrong!)
Ryan Tannehill is back to 100% and although he isn’t an elite QB, he is more than adequate (and perhaps even better than that) in terms of helping this team win games. Yes, Landry and Ajayi were good (and pains in the ass) but look at our current RB and WR groups and you’ll see an upgrade overall, with less of an attitude. Barring injuries, our offense is poised to put up 24+ points per game. As with any team coming off a 6-10 record, we’re bound to have SOME holes and I address them below. Much of our success this year will be determined by how well we stop the run, specifically how our DTs and LBs perform. Suh’s departure will be felt (I won’t miss his penalties or price tag) and getting penetration up the middle will be paramount in terms of protecting our young linebackers. But I digress…
Although I could list a dozen keys, here are the BIG THREE, as I see them, to prove those national media “experts” wrong:
KEY 1: STAY REASONABLY HEALTHY
Although you could argue this is true for every team in the NFL, I’m not sure it’s as important to as many as it is to Miami. As I mention above, you can’t come off a losing record and fill every hole on the team… our glaring holes will be starting the season watching from the sidelines and let’s pray it stays that way. So, help me God if Tannehill goes down you’ll need to put much of our fan base on suicide watch.
Offense: I would contend that after QB, the most important positions in football are on both lines. Our starting offensive line is improved and gelling as a group thanks to practicing together every day (subtle shot at Pouncey there). Having said that, Lauren Tannehill (Ryan’s wife, as if you haven’t googled her), not to mention Kenyan Drake’s “significant other,” better be praying to whatever God they believe in that one of these O-lineman don’t go down. Tannehill will be running for his life if our backups see the field.
On a positive note, and although we don’t ever want to see injuries, we have solid depth at both the WRs/TEs, and RB positions.
Defense: We have zero, and I mean zero depth at both DT and LB. I’m already worried about the running lanes that could be available to opposing RBs with our starters in. If any backups at these spots see the field, you’ll see openings that rival Moses and what he did to the Red Sea. Many are also concerned about Cornerback opposite of Howard (I am as well), but this can help be alleviated by a good pass rush (see Key #3).
Fortunately, we do have depth at DE and S, but let’s hope it isn’t needed.
All in all, I truly believe our starting 11 on both sides of the ball, for the most part, can compete with most teams. The sad reality is our backups MIGHT be able to compete at the collegiate level. Say a prayer for our starters!
KEY 2: OFFENSE – LIMIT NEGATIVE PLAYS
If the preseason taught us anything, and they rarely do, it’s that this offense can move the football. What it also taught us is that although promising, it’s not yet good enough to recover from a 1st and 20 or 2nd and 15. As a hardcore fan, there are few things worse than seeing us settle for a 5 yard dump off on a 3rd and 15 because we shot ourselves in the foot a play or two before. We’re just not good enough to recover from stupid penalties or miscues on offense. Limit those and I think we’re going to put a lot of doubters to shame.
A coaching note here. I’d love to see some of our players, regardless of how good they are, get pulled off the field on their 2nd boneheaded penalty. I’m not saying forever but rip their ass a little and have them sit on the sidelines for a play or two. This would send a message to them as well as others on the team. Just a thought, Coach Gase!
KEY 3: DEFENSE – WIN 1st DOWN
You know what excites me more than a child at Disneyland? Watching Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn with their hand in the ground in passing situations. During times like these, keep an eye on the opposing QBs pant legs for a hint of urine. I’ll take these two men over any other two DEs in the league. We need to let them do what they do best, pin their ears back and rush the passer. My God it’s a thing of beauty watching those two do their job. QBs will have to limit their drops (how many steps they take as they back away from center), which will prevent passing plays from being able to develop very long, helping protect any inadequacies we have in coverage. Can you imagine Minkah, Reshad, and Howard tracking balls in the air that were thrown by a QB in desperation?
What a travesty it will be if we can’t at least slow down the run enough to force a throw. All that money, all that potential we have in our pass rush would be wasted. Keep your eye on how many yards we give up on 1st down. If it’s 2 or less, sit on the edge of your seat and grin as opposing teams feel the need to throw and our DEs feel the need to feast. Win first down and we probably win the game.
Say it with me now:
- Stay relatively healthy
- Limit negative plays on offense
- Win 1st down on defense (give up 2 yards or less)
Do a good job on these three and we could be looking at a 9/10-win season and a playoff berth. Wouldn’t that be something for this young team to build on?!?
What do you think? Given only 3 keys, what would you have chosen differently?
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