A narrow, but victorious Week 1 effort over the New England Patriots seems like a long, long time ago for the Miami Dolphins. Following a Tua Tagovailoa injury and three consecutive losses, the Dolphins have quickly found themselves in a three-way tie for the rights to occupy the cellar of the AFC East. Despite a potential “get-right” game against the winless Indianapolis Colts staring them in the face, Sunday was the most recent display of substandard football for head coach Brian Flores’ unit.
With Tagovailoa on the shelf for at least one more week, the Dolphins have handed the keys to veteran journeyman Jacoby Brissett to run the offense. While it’s been all downhill after Tagovailoa exited Miami’s matchup after just nine snaps in a Week 2 shutout loss to the Bills, Brissett has welcomingly taken the brunt of the blame just four weeks into the campaign. Although his stat line contained limited negatives, finishing the afternoon 20-of-30 for 199 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, the box score proved misleading as Miami’s offense was invisible for much of the afternoon. And although Brissett had a few spot throws at the beginning of the game, including his orchestration of a 12-play drive to put the Dolphins on the board in their first series, there were more than a few moments where Brissett had opportunities to extend plays off-script but often threw the ball into the ground or toward a ranging Colts defender.
It’s been a consistent lack of production for Brissett, whose pressure to put points on the board through the air has become the penultimate narrative of the Dolphins offense with absolutely zero punch in the run game. And while you’d expect the six-year vet to show moxie and lead with his play, his inability to process an internal clock has seen Miami allow the fourth-most sacks per game in football (3.2), along with the second-worst yards per game average (252). With weapons aplenty, there isn’t one outlying issue, but many, many knots for Miami to untangle on the offensive side of the football as they prepare for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5.
It doesn’t get much better on the defensive side of the football.
Last fall, Miami’s defense was heralded for its efforts, proving to be one of the league’s most opportune groups when presented the chance to make a play on the football, tying for the league-high in interceptions with 18. Through four games this fall, the Dolphins have managed just two picks and are the fifth-most penalized unit in all of football. A complete flip of the script from last season, the Dolphins have allowed at least 27 points the last three weeks, while also allowing their opponents to score on 45.5% of all offensive drives, fourth-worst in the league.
A group expected to be led by a secondary tasked with providing the skeleton for Miami’s defensive structure, the Dolphins have failed to establish an identity, and despite a potential glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel via upcoming matchups against the Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 6) and Atlanta Falcons (Week 7) before a rematch with the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park on Halloween, it’s become increasingly difficult to project the Dolphins’ future defensive success if they continue to find themselves on the football field for a majority of the ballgame. While it’s easy to look at a depth chart and denounce success for a unit, contrarily, when a group finds itself under live fire week in and week out with limited breathers, it’s not possible to serve as a defense that’s able to rush the passer at a consistent clip, and in turn, cover for increasingly long periods of time. The issues on both sides of the ball go hand in hand.
While injuries can’t be predicted—and Tagovailoa’s longevity remains a massive question—it’s a next-man-up league and the best teams are able to flex their depth as seasons wear on. For Miami, a franchise frequently dealing with recurring issues under center, they’ve once again found themselves a long way away from the answers to their most pressing questions.
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