« December 12, 2012 | Main | December 14, 2012 »

3 posts from December 13, 2012

December 13, 2012

Dolphins need to get off rollercoaster, play to own ability

How does a team that beat Cincinnati on the road lose at Buffalo? How does a team that beat Seattle at home get blown out by Tennessee at home?

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Miami Dolphins.

They are nothing if not inconsistent. About the only thing they do consistently is play to the level of the opposition.

They gave the Patriots and 49ers good games the past two weeks. At no time did they seem totally out-classed.

Yet they lost to Arizona in the fourth week of the season and the Cardinals haven't won a game since.

What does that tell you about the Dolphins? What does it say when a team plays up or down to its competition?

Well, first of all, assume nothing the next couple of weeks when the Dolphins play horrible Jacksonville and terrible Buffalo. And don't discount Miami the final week of the season against elite New England.

Also, it says this:

The Dolphins are the ultimate rudderless team. They have mediocre talent which would suggest they be a mediocre team. But most mediocre teams play well against teams with inferior talent and cannot play well against teams with excellent talent because they're outgunned.

Yet -- again -- the Dolphins can stay with the Pats and 49ers and beat Seattle. But they get dominated at Buffalo and by Tennessee.

Reader Tyson Crowley suggests and I agree, this kind of rollercoaster performance depending on the opponent, speaks to poor leadership on the team. Teams with good leadership do not let down against inferior competition and play like that inferior competition. Teams with good leadership play to a certain level -- be it high or low -- and maintain that level most of the season regardless of the competition.

They don't lose to Buffalo and look terrible doing it one week and beat playoff-bound Seattle and look great doing it the next.

"Obviously, when you’re so up and down, it’s a little tough and obviously we’re all judged, at the end of the day, we’re judged by winning (and) how we win and the amount of games that we win," Reggie Bush said today. "Obviously, it’s not fun when you’re not winning and you’re not achieving the goals that you set out to achieve at the beginning of the season. So it has been a little bit of an emotional rollercoaster."

Oh, and teams with good leadership don't ride emotional rollercoasters. They focus on the process of winning a game week to week without major spikes or letdowns of emotion.

The Dolphins need to focus more on the process and less on the results. If they do that, maybe the results will come in more consistent manner.

Smallest crowd of the season on tap for Jacksonville

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin came to the defense of South Florida Dolphins fans this week.

“Our fan support has really been excellent," he said. "It’s a loud atmosphere down at this stadium, and we’re looking forward to playing well in front of our home fans this Sunday."

Interesting. The Dolphins have struggled to fill Sun Life Stadium practically every game except the home opener and the Patriots game (when there were 20,000 Pats fans in the house).

Otherwise, the paid attendance has been anywhere from 52,000 to 59,000 and the actual attendance lower than that.

This week it'll be worse. This week, with the simply awful and uninteresting Jacksonville Jaguars coming to town, the Dolphins could have the smallest crowd of the year. Their paid should be the typical 50,000 or so.

But the team is aware the actual "crowd" could dip into the mid 40,000s.

The only way this game won't have the lowest attendance of the year is if the Dolphins lose Sunday and even more disenchanted fans stay home next week when Miami plays Buffalo.

"I haven’t really noticed to be honest with you," Philbin said. "I got a couple other things to be concerned about.

"I think our fans are very passionate. The ones that I have interaction with love the Dolphins. They’re loyal and supportive and it’s been a good atmosphere at the stadium."

Despite this being the lowest actual attendance of the year, the Dolphins are still expecting to broadcast the game live on local television. It would take an unexpected last minute change of philosophy to allow the blackout to stand.

The club has broadcast the previous six home games despite not having sellouts by meeting the NFL threshold for showing games.

Dolphins tight end position needs urgent upgrade

While many people understand the Dolphins will be addressing the wide receiver position this offseason and I reported last month that everyone in the building knows the team needs a burner, I believe the Dolphins better address an equally important position for the sake of their offense and young quarterback.

The Dolphins need to urgently upgrade at tight end.

Currently, the team has five tight ends on the roster. Only two -- Anthony Fasano and Charles Clay -- have generated any statistics for the team. And while I don't think their statistics are impressive or satisfactory in any regard, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin begs to differ.

“Our touchdown production has been very good," Philbin said of the scoring production by Miami's tight ends. "I think Anthony (Fasano) has played well (and) made a great play in the game the other day. I think we’d like probably some more explosive plays out of that group. We’re starting to get some of them, but probably some more explosive (plays would be good).

"I think they’ve been good down in the red zone. We’ve gotten some touchdowns out of the group. I think, again, overall offensively and them, probably we’d love to see a little more production.”

Yes, coach finally got to the point after circling for a while. The Dolphins need more production out of their tight ends and (sorry coach) that includes touchdowns.


Fasano has 30 catches for 233 yards and has scored four touchdowns. Clay has 16 catches for 204 yards with two touchdowns. That's a combined 46 catches for 437 yards and six touchdowns.

That happens to be in many respects the worst of any tight end group in the AFC East.

At the top of that comparison are the New England tight ends, obviously. Let's stipulate they are basically in another league altogether. So much so, it's not even fair comparing them to the Dolphins. But for the record, Patriots tight ends have 94 catches for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.

Yeah, that's better than Miami.

But the trouble is even the lowly Jets and Bills in many respects are getting more tight end production than Miami.

Bills tight ends have 45 catches for 554 yards and eight touchdowns this season. That's one less catch than Miami's duo but 117 more yards and two more touchdowns.

Jets tight ends have 60 combined catches for 671 yards and four touchdowns. That's 14 more catches, 234 more yards, while scoring two fewer TDs.

I look at these statistics and look at Miami's tight ends and wonder, where's all this very good TD production? It's third in a four-team division.

Despite the sobering statistics that is not truly the reason I say the Dolphins need better tight ends.

This is:

The Dolphins want to utilize a go-fast offense that snaps the ball maybe 72-78 times per game and wears out the opposing defense, basically sucking their will to compete out of them. To do this you have to stay on the field and move the chains. You have to convert first downs.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins, they don't do this nearly enough and poor tight end production in that area is one major reason. Fasano has converted 14 first downs this year. Clay has converted eight first downs this year. The total of 22 first downs by Miami's tight ends is horrible.

The Patriots tight ends have converted 64 first downs. New York tight ends have converted 37 first downs. Buffalo's tight ends have also converted 37 first downs. All are better than Miami.

And, in fact, if you look around the NFL there are 20 individual tight ends that have converted more first downs than Fasano and Clay combined.

That means the tight end position is not, on most occasions, an outlet for quarterback Ryan Tannehill to extend a drive. Miami's tight ends don't help keep the offense on the field often enough.

Now, you might argue that's Tannehill's fault. Obviously, he has to take ownership in some of that. The passing game is the passing game and everyone is responsible for doing their part.

But Miami's receivers don't have this problem. They produce first downs. So I put it mostly on the tight ends.

Look, both Fasano and Clay fill a role. But if the Dolphins want to help Tannehill and make the offense more efficient and play as intended, the tight end position needs upgrading.