The Miami Dolphins got beaten today against the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45-17. The Dolphins made some strides on offense, but they aren’t going to win trying to match score for score in a shootout with anybody. However, what was supposed to be the team’s strength, the defense, had yet another disappointing performance. They are giving up too many big plays running and passing. They aren’t getting sacks on the quarterback and getting turnovers, like last year. The biggest thing is this team isn’t making stops when they have to. The Buccaneers punted once the whole game. I realize they have a lot of weapons in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, and others, so they can be tough to stop. However, if the Dolphins are indeed one of the best defenses in the league, then they should put up a better effort than what we saw today.
The truth is the Dolphins defense has regressed badly this year so far and today was the worst of the performances. The Dolphins have pretty much, for the most part, the same players returning from last year, so it’s natural to think the team would be just as good if not better than last year. I don’t know what it is. Maybe teams have caught up with them and know how to game plan against them? Perhaps the coaching staff is putting them in the wrong positions game plan-wise and need to shake somethings up? Or maybe this defense isn’t as good as everyone thought? I don’t believe that, but the Dolphins have to do something different to shake things up.
Last week I was critical of the offense play against the Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts because for three quarters in each of those games, they looked vanilla and conservative. Today they played differently and even shook things up on the offensive line moving Austin Jackson from left tackle to left guard while moving rookie Liam Eichenberg to left tackle and Jesse Davis to right tackle. The results were better, and Jacoby Brissett played much better, moving the offense. Maybe the Dolphins defense needs to do something like that in the lineup. Today was the first game in 26 games; they didn’t force a turnover. Now that streak was going to come to an end sooner or later, but last week against the Colts, the defense didn’t cause a turnover. The special teams got the turnover on a muffed punt.
The Dolphins also aren’t getting the sacks like a year ago. They are getting some quarterback pressures, but the opposing quarterbacks, like Tom Brady today, have been able to step up and make throws despite the pressure. The Dolphins have to find a way to keep getting after the quarterback without them getting a chance to step up. Speaking of pressures, I have been encouraged by the play of rookie Jaelan Phillips over the last few games. Now his snap total might not be too high in certain games, but he has gotten some pressure on the quarterback and today got his first full sack of his short career, and I believe he will continue to get better with each snap and game he plays.
Now the good news is this was the last of a tough part in the schedule, so things will lighten up starting next week against winless Jacksonville and then a 2-win Atlanta Falcons team. Having said that, nothing is guaranteed to the NFL. The Dolphins have to find a way to turn things around to get out of this 1-4 whole they are in. It’s not an impossible task, but if the defense doesn’t turn things around, it’s going to continue to be a long season for a team that was expected to take the next step and contend for the playoffs.