What a difference that one week has made in the minds of Miami Dolphins fans. Everyone (who’s not living under a rock) knows by now that the team went to New England last week and got absolutely molly-whopped. Between the shellacking the Patriots gave us and all the injuries that have been piling up, it’s all too easy for the fans of this team to throw up their hands and say, “Same old Dolphins”. Remember this line from the Miami Dolphins Fan Credo; “I know that it can get worse, even if it seems it cannot possibly get worse.”. But, I for one am not freaking out just yet and I’d like to provide a little bit of encouragement to a currently beleaguered fan base.
Before I attempt to spread a little optimism, I obviously need to point out the bad hands that the Dolphins have been dealt thus far in 2018, particularly the mounting list of injuries. Before the regular season even started, we unfortunately lost a versatile tight end that we’ve seen do allot of different things in this offense in Marquise Grey. Then after our week one victory over the Titans, we lost our starting left guard for the rest of the year when Josh Sitton tore his rotator cuff. In week three at home against the Oakland Raiders, we lost our best run defender for the year when defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL trying NOT to put his body weight on Raiders quarterback Derek Carr while he was sacking him. For that one, I put the blame squarely on the NFL. There have been some rule changes made this year that have been a source of major consternation amongst players and fans alike and these rule changes are seeing players get injured trying not to get flagged. Not for nothing, but even the completion committee isn’t happy with the new rules and I would expect these new rules to be tweaked a little bit in the weeks and months to come. The team has also been bitten by some short term injuries as well.
First and foremost, the Reshad Jones shoulder injury needs to be discussed. The fact that it’s a shoulder that Reshad is dealing with right now is particularly troubling, given his history of shoulder injuries in 2015 and 2016. The other reason that Reshad Jones not being on the field at strong safety should be a cause for alarm is the fact that the defense has looked very different and pretty poor without his presence in the secondary these last two weeks. The injuries and current lack of depth on the defensive line are also becoming a problem.
This team isn’t just thin on the defensive line, they’re downright anorexic there right now. In the short term, the loss of defensive end Andre Branch has been having an ill effect on the pass rush and the run defense, but thankfully, he’ll be back soon. The possibility of heading into Cincinnati without defensive end Cameron Wake on the field is also very concerning and Charles Harris will need to step his game up in a very big way. I was thoroughly disappointed in his performance against New England. It was the most playing time that Charles Harris has had in the pros thus far and I feel like he squandered the opportunity. As a Missouri native who watched him play at Mizzou, I KNOW he can do better than what we’ve seen from him to this point. It’s only his second year and he’s already looking like a bust. However, I know he has quite a bit of potential and I’m still hopeful that he plays up to it while he still has the chance. He might not get another one, unless somebody ahead of him gets hurt. There’s one more short term injury that definitely bears mentioning.
The loss of cornerback Bobby McCain for a few weeks is a big blow to the defense. Every year, I make an off-season checklist of the ten most pressing needs that the Dolphins need to address. There are two items on my list that remain unchecked and they’re both hurting the team right now; cornerback and offensive line depth. I’ve been saying since May that the Dolphins need another starting caliber cornerback, because I didn’t and still don’t trust anyone else presently on the depth chart to start opposite of Xavien Howard. Bobby McCain belongs in the slot and Minkah Fitzpatrick belongs at free safety. The Dolphins had chances during training camp and the preseason to address this and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they didn’t once they realized that Cordrea Tankersly has majorly regressed. If I had to guess, I would say that thanks to our old pal, Mike TannenBUM, that they didn’t have the cap room to make that type of move when they needed to make it. I have no idea what’s happened with Tankersly, but if he doesn’t get it turned around and fast, he won’t be around much longer. Now, it’s time to explain why the glass is half full.
We’ve seen a major purging of some pretty big names over the past year and for good reason. This past week, another “Me first” type of player was handed his one way ticket out of Miami; defensive tackle and former second round pick Jordan Phillips. As thin as this team is at defensive tackle right now, I’m not shedding any tears over this one, he had to go. The main knock on Jordan Phillips since he was still playing college ball at the University of Alabama is that he’s lazy and that he needs constant motivation in order to play up to his full potential. Four years later, none of those knocks on him have proven to be wrong, not a one of them. Have fun freezing to death in Buffalo, Jordan. And to the Bills I say, good luck with this guy, you’ll need it.
Shipping players out of town in October is definitely nothing new for Adam Gase and company. In 2016, three offensive linemen were cut within the space of two weeks and rightfully so, they weren’t producing. Last year, running back Jay Ajayi was traded to the Eagles, mainly due to a perceived attitude problem and cornerback Byron Maxwell was given his release because he wasn’t performing up to snuff. Jordan Phillips is now the latest casualty and he deserved to be. Has anyone noticed that with the exception of Byron Maxwell, everyone that Adam Gase has gotten rid of in season are all guys that came before Gase was here? It’s no coincidence. These moves may seem foolhardy on the surface, but they were also needed and part of a bigger plan. Moving on from Jordan Phillips is just one of the reasons that I’m still optimistic, as odd as that sounds.
Obviously, things in Dolphin land are looking pretty bleak right now, but there are still some silver linings to be found here. For one, the team has two games in a row that no one is expecting them to win, which means they have two weeks to figure some things out, and the guys on the injured list have some time to get healthy. The playcalling in New England was atrocious, without question. But, I also believe that the playcalling will improve rather soon. Adam Gase is stubborn, but he’s not dumb. Our ground game has been downright awful for the last two weeks, however the team still has a couple thoroughbreds in the backfield in Frank Gore and Kenyan Drake. I would be paying close attention to the run game, the team WILL get it going. The linebackers will continue to improve also as McMillan and Baker adjust to the NFL game as the season goes on and Kiko Alonzo keeps ballin’.
Everyone I’ve listened to this week has been freaking out over what happened in New England. Everyone is selling their stock in the Dolphins, so to speak and giving up on the season already. Everyone just calm down a little bit. We’re still only one quarter of the way through the season, the team is still 3-1 and sitting alone atop the AFC East, and there’s just no quit in this team (much unlike last year). Here’s a thought that most probably haven’t thought of yet; the trade deadline. The trade deadline comes the Tuesday after week eight ends. If the Dolphins keep fighting and pushing through adversity like I know they can and are still above .500 at the trade deadline, this team should definitely be a buyer. The Dolphins can still make a trade to address one of the positions of need and don’t be surprised if they do. The bottom line is that hope is not lost, we’ve hit quite a few bumps on this road that is the 2018 season, but for once, I’m NOT hitting the panic button just yet. That’s a very fresh thing for me. Normally, I’m about as reactionary as it gets when it comes to the Miami Dolphins, but not this year. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this just feels different than it has in years past. I could be completely wrong and I might end up feeling like a total idiot in two months from now, but everyone needs to just take a deep breath and ease off that panic button…for now, at least. If I of all people can stay calm about Miami’s chances this year, so can the rest of the Phins Mafia. Did you notice that the world hasn’t ended and the sun is still shining today?