With the Jets getting set to head to Miami and take on the Dolphins, I was able to ask Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider a few questions on the state of the AFC East’s current holder of second place.
1. How good of a job has Brock Osweiler done this year filling in for Ryan Tannehill? On paper his numbers look decent with 6 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, and a 7.6 yards per attempt average. Has he been better than, worse than, or properly represented by those numbers?
He’s Brock Osweiler. He has had two solid performances and one Osweiler-like performance. He has those flashes of greatness then throws a pass that you have no idea why he threw or where he was looking. Every play, I am worried that we are going to see the Osweiler that played himself out of Houston and made them willing to pay a second-round pick just to have the Cleveland Browns take him away. The offense definitely feels like they have pulled the passing game down from the longer shots we saw with Ryan Tannehill, but Osweiler has not been bad either. Maybe properly represented is the right way to go out of those three options, but I am definitely not ready to say he is set to start even when Tannehill is healthy, no matter what Osweiler tells the media is his personal goal.
2. Let’s discuss Ryan Tannehill in particular. How likely is it that he suits up this week, and how cautious has the team been with their handling of the injury? Also, is Tannehill on any sort of “hot seat” at all in terms of needing to prove more throughout 2018 in order to completely secure his spot as the team’s starting quarterback in 2019?
Tannehill is not officially listed as “out” on the injury report, but heading into this week it was seen as a long shot for him to be ready, even with the 10 day break between Thursday Night Football and this Sunday. Adam Gase said in his Wednesday press conference that Osweiler will be starting, so Tannehill is out without being listed as out yet. I do not think the team is being cautious at this point more than it is simply the shoulder is not strong enough to play at an NFL level yet. He is practicing, but not throwing footballs as far as we can tell. Something happened that caused limited range of motion and strength loss in Tannehill’s right shoulder, and everyone says rest is the answer, so hopefully he will be able to return - because at some point, bad Osweiler will come back.
As for being on the hot seat, I think it definitely is starting to crank up. Tannehill, now 30 and in his seventh year, went from amazing durability to multiple injuries costing him multiple games of playing time. That is not a good status in what was supposed to FINALLY be his break out year. I think he still is the starter on this team, but with a salary cap number that balloons to over $26 million next year, he has to prove something this year or else the Dolphins may have no choice but to move on - in a bad draft year to have to try to find a new quarterback.
3. Adam Gase now has 40 regular season games under his belt and is a dead even 20-20. Is there any sort of growing pressure on him or does confidence remain that he can be the leader of a consistent contender?
There is definitely frustration with him, especially among the fans. His play calling continues to be the main focus, but as the team continues to see collapses on defense and anemic offensive play, the head coach definitely becomes a focal point. I think Gase is the right coach for this team, but still needs time to grow into the role and probably needs to shake up the assistant staff (again). I think Stephen Ross, who does not like to fire coaches, will give him 2019 to fix this year if the bottom does not completely fall out in the second half of this season. If it does, Miami could once again be looking for the next great head coach.
4. Since Week 4, only the Buccaneers and Raiders have allowed more points per game than the Dolphins have. What has caused the collapse on defense?
I really wish I could give you an answer here. Losing William Hayes for the year was painful, especially for the run defense, but Hayes is not a make-or-break, superstar player, so that cannot be it. It is just like everything has stopped working. The pass rush cannot get to the quarterback, the interior defensive line is not plugging holes, the linebackers are out of position, the cornerbacks - other than Xavien Howard - are struggling, and the safeties are not playing up to their full potential - not that Reshad Jones is playing poorly. It is personnel choices, like Minkah Fitzpatrick only playing about 50 percent of the snaps right now, and it is scheming, with not enough blitzing or creating mismatches to allow players like Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn to get into the backfield and disrupt the play. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke is definitely the focal point of the defensive frustration right now, and to be fair, a lot of young players are being relied upon to be major contributors, but someone has to figure out what this problem is and get it fixed now.
5. What are the biggest overall differences between the Dolphins team that went into Foxborough at 3-0 and the Dolphins team that enters the second half of the season as losers of 4 its past 5 games? Does it feel like this downfall is one the team can climb out of to return to a top-tier contender level, or does it seem like Miami is simply evening out to match its talent level?
I feel like my preseason predictions of 8-8 to 9-7 were about right for this team, and I still think that is about where they land - if the defensive issues are solved. I thought they were probably in the AFC Wildcard picture, and really, they are not out of it right now, but those seem so far away. I feel like we have not seen the best of this team yet, but that could just me trying to be optimistic - and assuming that Miami will eventually learn to avoid the injury bug, because it is ridiculous for the second-straight year.