When the Miami Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel back in February, I had a lot of questions because it was his first time being a head coach at any level. One of the biggest questions I had was how his team would respond to him when they lost a couple of games in a row or went through a rough patch in the season. Well, here we are. The Dolphins have lost two in a row and are 3-2 after a 3-0 start. To call this a must-win is probably overstating it, but the Dolphins are starting their 3rd string quarterback in Skylar Thompson with Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater in concussion protocol. There is no telling when either will be cleared, and things seem bleak, but this is the type of game that will show the character of this team and coach McDaniel. 

McDaniel has hit most of the right buttons this year, and players really seem to respond to him and the coaching staff. The team came back in week 2twofrom a 3-touchdown deficit on the road against the Baltimore Ravens to beat them. Then the following week got outplayed by the Buffalo Bills, but the team found a way to win the game. Those are all excellent signs this team could be very good this year, but the test comes now with the team losing two in a row. 

With the team down to Thompson at quarterback, most feel this team will struggle and lose again. Plus, the team has a rash of injuries at other key positions, such as the offensive line with Terron Armstead’s nagging toe injury and cornerback with Xavien Howard, the team’s best defensive player, having a bad groin injury that has bothered him the past few games. McDaniel is going to have to scheme and coach these guys up. 

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The Dolphins’ defense could have the most significant problem if Howard doesn’t play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. They have talent at the wide receiver with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. The Dolphins pass rush has been nonexistent, and with Howard and Byron Jones out, they haven’t been able to blitz as much with inexperience in the secondary. The secondary should be fine if the pass rush can get going. I’m not as concerned about the offense with Thompson because McDaniel has brought an excellent structure to the offense, and with a full week of practice, Thompson should be much better as long as everyone helps him out.  

The Vikings are a good team, but they can be very up and down. They blew a 21-3 lead against the Chicago Bears last week only to come back and hang on to a 29-22 win, so they aren’t a juggernaut. The game is at home, and the Vikings can struggle on the road. This will be the Dolphins’ first home game in a few weeks, so it will be good to have the home crowd behind the team. 

Every team will go through the up and downs of a 117-game NFL season. You learn more about your team in defeat than you do when they win. You typically know the teams that aren’t good within the first five games of the season. The Dolphins, I think, are a good team, but this is the first time they have gone into a slide losing two in a row. If they lose another game, it will be 3 in a row, and people will talk about how the 3-0 start was a fluke, but a win gets them back on track with the quarterbacks hopefully getting ready to return to action. I’m not going to call this a must-win or a crossroads game, but a test of how the team will respond to our first-time coach in the middle of a two-game slide. It’s time to find out more about this team.

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