December 11, 2014

Misi, Jenkins miss practice again but does it matter?

The Miami Dolphins linebacker corps hasn't gotten any good news this week as middle linebacker Koa Misi and outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins both missed practice again Thursday, the third time in three practices they sit out.

Their status for Sunday's game at New England is questionable at best.

And ... I shrug.

Look, it is never good when players are injured. But I remind you this situation should not be a built in excuse for the Dolphins failing against New England because, if you recall, the Dolphins beat the New England Patriots in the opener with an entirely unexpected and/or inexperienced linebacker corps.

In that September opener, Phillip Wheeler did not play because he was nursing a fractured thumb. Koa Misi went out after only 17 snaps in the first quarter with an ankle injury that cost him three games afterward. Dannell Ellerbe went out one snap later in the first quarter with a hip injury that ended his season.

And the Dolphins shut out the Patriots in the second half of that game with Jason Trusnik, Jelani Jenkins and Chris McCain as their linebackers.

Everyone thought the injuries would be a problem for the Dolphins. It was not. Jenkins turned out to be more active than Ellerbe had been previously. McCain had a sack that game. Trusnik was not any sort of weak link and comparing him to Misi now does not suggest a huge difference.

So frankly, with Wheeler healthy now, the Dolphins might actually have more projected starters from training camp in the lineup against the Patriots on Sunday than they had when that September game ended in a 33-20 Miami victory.

The Dolphins this week have worked Trusnik in the middle and Wheeler and Kelvin Sheppard on the outside.

Would not having Jenkins, the team's leading tackler, hurt? Yes.

But should it be considered a disaster?

Was it a disaster when he didn't start that first game against New England? Was it a disaster when Misi, Wheeler and Ellerbe played a combined 35 snaps that game?

The Dolphins may not field their entire LB corps Sunday. We've seen this before against the Patriots. It is not an excuse.

Ryan Tannehill: 'The season is not over'

Miami Dolphins fans have generally tossed in the towel on this season -- at least based on what I see on my twitter timeline and in my email inbox. And I would say there might be a player or two in the Miami lockerroom that has seen a shift in the way business is being done. One even told me Wednesday that "coaches are in self-preservation mode."

But quarterback Ryan Tannehill?

He looks out toward the horizon that offers a Sunday meeting against the New England Patriots and figures it is worth sailing toward, even following last Sunday's loss to Baltimore in what was considered a de facto playoff game.

“We didn’t play well in a big game for us, but the season is not over," Tannehill said Wednesday. "Obviously, it’s not fully in our hands now, but we can still control what we can control. That starts with this game on Sunday."

Tannehill went on to call the coming Patriot game "a big game for us."

"I’m excited about this opportunity," Tannehill added.

And what opportunity do the Dolphins have? Well, the math says the Dolphins have not been eliminated from anything. Yes, they dropped from being among the likely playoff teams to far back in the pack of teams chasing a wildcard berth following the Baltimore loss.

And, yes, they have tiebreaker issues working against them.

But stranger things have happened. (Work with me here, ok?)

"It’s a very, very important game, absolutely," coach Joe Philbin said. "You get an opportunity to play the New England Patriots. Your team is going to have to play extremely well to beat these guys, there’s no doubt about it. That’s what we told the team. They’ve seen the tape already. We practiced yesterday. We are going to practice here again [today]. On paper, they are a good team and, on film, they are a good team. We are going to have to play extremely well."

The opportunity the Dolphins keep talking about includes possibly ruining the Patriots' run a little bit. New England can clinch a division title with the win and a playoff berth, so there can be motivation in not allowing that to happen this week.

Not on our watch!

Something like that.

And, of course, coaches are trying to win to keep their jobs and players are trying to put good performances on tape to make sure they're employed next year as well -- if not in Miami, somewhere.

This game matters in the greater context. And it matters to individuals.

Consider:

For Dion Jordan it matters because he will likely get a chance to show off his athletic prowess by getting a few opportunities to cover tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"If I have to do it to help my team, then I’ll definitely do it," Jordan said. "This year, they’ve put me in position to cover other guys. I had to get ready mentally and physically to do it. If it happens this week, I’ll be prepared."

For Jarvis Landry, it is an opportunity to gauge his success now that he's no longer a secret. After last week, for example, Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees found Landry after the game to share his feelings about the rookie.

"He just said, 'You’re a great player,' " Landry said. "His job was to contain me a little bit and much credit goes to them. When you think about a Ravens defense, you always know they’ve had great defenses and great defensive coordinators, just took it as a compliment."

Yes, a great compliment. But you don't think a Bill Belichick defense will similarly take note of Landry? Yes, it will.

For Dallas Thomas, this game is an opportunity to get some redemption. Look, I think he deserves to be benched. I've seen enough. I'd play Jason Fox over him. But that apparently isn't happening because Philbin sees a lot of good in the very obvious and public bad Thomas has put on tape since becoming the starting right tackle.

"There’s a lot of pictures in the game where he pass protected well to be honest with you," Philbin said of Thomas. "There are a lot of good pictures in the game. There are a few that aren’t very good. I think in the run game he’s been productive, but you have to remember there are 50-some-odd plays in a game. We all sometimes get focused on the three or four bad ones, but there are a lot of good things."

By the way, Philbin is under the microscope now. He knows it. He talked Wednesday about the challenge he and his staff face. They beat New England in the season-opener. And here we are 13 weeks later and the Patriots (10-3) have a very good record and the Dolphins (7-6) do not.

So what does it say if a team is good enough to sweep the division leaders but not be consistent enough in the other games?

“I said about myself, our staff, how we are able to get these guys ready to play, it’s December 14 when it’s kickoff time in New England," Philbin said. "We are playing an outstanding opponent. We need to play our best football game of the year. You get paid as a coach to get your team to play up to their potential. That’s what we have to do."

The season isn't over. Yet.

December 10, 2014

Wednesday Miami Dolphins practice report

The Miami Dolphins linebacker corps is a concern now.

Jelani Jenkins, the team's most productive tackler, did not practice on Wednesday for the second consecutive day. Jenkins missed the most of the second half against Baltimore because of a foot injury.

Middle Koa Misi, who has been in and out of the lineup this year, missed practice for the second consecutive game. He had to leave Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.

Jonathan Freeny, who has missed multiple games with a hamstring injury, missed practice Wednesday for the second time this week.

 

Well, at least Phillip Wheeler practiced. He's the only starting linebacker who did. Backup Chris McCain, who missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury, also practiced today at least on a limited basis.

Jason Trusnik and Kelvin Sheppard were once again in next-man-up mode for the Dolphins at practice. 

Interestingly, Randy Starks, who practiced on Tuesday, sat out drills today with an unknown issue.

[Update: Starks practiced. I am convinced I saw him in basketball shoes and without a helmet, but the Dolphins insist he practiced. So I will take their word.]

Miller agent: 'Disappointing' RB doesn't get more use

Lamar Miller has not uttered one syllable of complaint about the fact the Miami Dolphins don't use him as much as seems logical. But his agent Drew Rosenhaus has.

Rosenhaus, who represents multiple Dolphins players including Miller, was on his usual Sunday night appearance on WSVN-7's Sports Xtra show when the frequency of Miller's use became a topic.

Rosenhaus said it was "disappointing" the Dolphins have not used Miller more. Rosenhaus went on to make a case why more use of his client seems more logical for the Dolphins.

Rosenhaus mentioned the idea that getting into rhythm is difficult for any back, including Miller, when he's getting only 10-12 carries a game. He made the point that at a time the Dolphins are struggling with their pass protection due to a troubled offensive line play, running the football more with Miller would be an easy way to keep defenders off the quarterback.

And all those points are valid.

The fact is Miller is No. 12 in the NFL with 782 yards. He's averaging a hefty 4.8 yards per carry.

But he's only carried the football 162 times, an average of 12.4 carries per game. The number of totes ties Miller for No. 16 in the NFL.

So why not maximize Miller? If 162 carries is good, wouldn't 182 be better at 4.8 yards a pop? Might that take some throws away from Tannehill? Maybe. Might that take some runs away from either Daniel Thomas or Damien Williams? Maybe.

I can live with that.

You must understand that at a time much of the NFL is bent on passing, passing, passing, the league's better teams have for several weeks been going in the other direction. The Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Packers can throw the dickens out of the football but for weeks they've emphasized the running game.

That running game makes it easier to get into the playoffs and tougher to bounce those teams from the playoffs.

But the Dolphins aren't on that course. Indeed, the Dolphins are going in the exact opposite direction.

Miami has run the ball fewer than the game before in three consecutive weeks. They've gone from 24 runs against Buffalo, to 21 against Denver, to 18 against New York, to 16 against Baltimore. Not exactly insistent and tough-minded December football, folks.

Fewer carries for everyone obviously means fewer carries for Miller because the Dolphins long ago decided they want to split the number of carries rather than rely on just one back. That's fine. A large majority of NFL teams divide their carries. It's part of keeping everyone fresh, I suppose.

My problem is the Dolphins are taking carries away from someone who needs more carries and giving them (not many, but some) to players who haven't shown they deserve more carries.

That's because what precious few carries Miller doesn't get in Miami's run-quantity-challenged offense go to Daniel Thomas and Damien Williams. And neither is setting the world on fire.

Thomas has 41 carries this year for 162 yards. Got your calculator? Punch the numbers. That's a 3.9 yard per carry average or about a yard less per carry than Miller.

Williams has 33 carries for 104 yards this season. That's 3.1 yards per carry.

Why are these guys getting the football at all when the better back is easily able to carry it more often and do it better?

I recognize the Dolphins have roles for each player. Williams, for example, has been getting a lot of work on third down. (He dropped a pass last week).

But there is nothing more frustrating than watching Miller get a carry for, say, five yards, another for 4 yards, another two or three plays later for 3 yards, and then he gets taken out of the game. How does that help him get his rhythm?

Sometimes Miller will have a really good series and not be seen in the next series. And the way these games sometimes go, the next time he carries the ball is sometimes a quarter later.

I know Miller isn't worn down. He is not tired. Why do the Dolphins do this?

I ask here because I've asked the Dolphins and the answer one gets is something about making decisions that are best for the team. Instead of clearing things up those kind of answers make me think of the IRS hearings when the dude insisted nothing was wrong after he announced all the emails had been lost.

It is frustrating.

Glad Rosenhaus made that obvious.

December 09, 2014

Tuesday practice report here [updated]

Bill Belichick gave his New England Patriots Monday and Tuesday off this week. The Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, are working today.

Well, most of them are working.

Cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Jamar Taylor -- both of whom have missed extended time because of injuries -- are practicing today. It is unclear if they are involved in the full practice or are limited. But Finnegan (ankle) and Taylor (shoulder) are working.

Taylor seemed to be wearing some type of shoulder harness, according to The Herald's Adam Beasley.

[Update: Finnegan, asked if this was the week he was back, told The Herald, "Absolutely."]

So it seems Finnegan is back versus the Patriots, as I reported here last week.

The linebacker corps is not working. Koa Misi, Chris McCain, Jelani Jenkins and Jonathan Freeny were rehabbing rather than practicing during the portion of practice open to the media. Misi suffered a hamstring injury vs. Baltimore, McCain suffered an ankle injury in practice last week and missed the Baltimore game, and Freeny has missed three games with a hamstring injury.

The only healthy starting LB at practice today was Phillip Wheeler. Kelvin Sheppard and Jason Trusnik are in next-man-up mode at practice today.

Offensive lineman Nate Garner, who has missed two weeks of practice and games because of an illness, was not at practice again Tuesday.

Is this OL worse than last year PLUS Salguero and PFF review of Miami Dolphins loss to Ravens

Is this year's offensive line as bad at pass protection as last year's?

That, my friends, is a serious question that should be pondered at this point because there is data coming through that suggests the offensive line the Miami Dolphins have been putting on the field at times this season has been just as bad blocking for quarterback Ryan Tannehill as last year's terrible unit.

Obviously, the statistic everyone knows as if by rote is that last year the Dolphins allowed an NFL leading 58 sacks. And advocates of the 2014 line would say sacks this year are down. The Dolphins have allowed 34 sacks this year and that suggests significant improvement, so end of discussion.

No. Wrong.

Let's look beyond the raw numbers.

This year's 34 sacks projects to 41 sacks allowed for the season. And yes, that is still way fewer sacks allowed. But now you have to understand why.

The fact of the matter is this year the Dolphins are allowing fewer sacks because, unlike last year, they have decided to throw fewer deep passes of 20 yards or more and almost none lately. Last year, even as the line was struggling, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman tried to continue running as much of his offense as possible and that included way more deep throws per game than what Bill Lazor is trying, which is almost none.

The numbers do not lie. Lazor's offense this season has attempted 33 passes of 20-plus yards -- an average of 2.5 per game. Sherman's offense last season attempted 58 passes of 20-plus yards -- an average of 3.6 per game

So the Dolphins are allowing exactly one less sack per game this year at a time they are trying about one less deep pass per game.

I don't think that is coincidental.

ProFootballFocus.com measures a QBs time in the pocket in their signature stats. In 2013 Tannehill had an average of 3.80 seconds from the time he got the ball until he was sacked. This year he has had an average of 3.22 seconds from the time he takes the snap to the time he takes a sack hit.

So last year's awful line was actually giving Tannehill more time to throw.

The resulting strategy is the reason last year the Dolphins were 22nd in the NFL in yards per pass attempt and this year they are 28th in yards per pass attempt. The actual difference between last year (6.74 yards per pass attempt) and this year (6.6) is nominal. But when you factor that most teams have had their YPPA go up due to the focus by officials on rules that prohibit contact beyond five yards, it is sobering that Miami's stat has gone down.

And the inability to block up front to get those passes completed downfield is the reason for the decline as the only difference from a year ago to this year is a change in strategy -- a strategy forged to help the offensive line.

Understand that none of this looks at run blocking. I think it is fair to say this line is run-blocking much better than last year's line.

But unfortunately for the Dolphins, they don't run enough to take significant advantage of that improvement and the NFL happens to be a passing league. So the focus is on this line's struggles protecting Tannehill.

It definitely is so after a game in which the Dolphins allowed six sacks.

Anyway, the folks at ProFootballFocus.com sent me their initial grades and views on the Dolphins loss to the Ravens. I added some of my own, as always.

Consider:

 Offensive Summary

The entire offensive line struggled (all graded -1.4 or lower), but the right side had the most trouble with Dallas Thomas and Mike Pouncey each allowing 5 pressures. The fact Thomas gave up so much pressure isn't a surprise. The fact Pouncey did is an eye-opener.

Let's face it, Pouncey played better at center the past couple of years than he has at right guard this year.

Brian Hartline wasn’t hampered by the knee he tweaked against the Jets. He played the second-most WR snaps and caught a TD pass: Mike Wallace played 51 of 63 snaps, Hartline played 46 of 63 snaps, Jarvis Landry played 42 of 63 snaps, Brandon Gibson played 25 of 63 snaps, and Rishard Matthews played 13 of 63 snaps.

Lamar Miller obviously had the most running back snaps with 37. He was followed by Daniel Thomas (14 snaps) and Damien Williams, who played a third-down role and had 12 snaps.

Tight end Charles Clay returned after missing two weeks with an ankle injury. He started, but Dion Sims wound up with more snaps, 44-31.

Passing

The Dolphins attempted only one pass attempt of 20-plus yards on Sunday. Ryan Tannehill went 4-of-7 for 70 yards in the 10-to-19-yard range.

And so what is the problem? Again, the offensive line does not afford Tannehill any time. And because that is true, the Dolphins have simply lost confidence in calling plays that require them to hold their blocks for any extended period of time.

There were 22 drop-backs in which Tannehill was under pressure. He took the six sacks and was 10-for-16 for 114 yards on the other drop-backs. So Tannehill can still complete passes under duress. But he cannot complete passes while under a mass of defensive linemen bodies.

Rushing

Lamar Miller had success early running on the edges. Behind left tackle Ja'Wuan James and outward he had four carries for 25 yards. He carried only one behind right end for 11 yards.

Receiving

Tannehill was able to take advantage of rookie C.J. Mosley in coverage, targeting receivers against him 14 times. They came up with 11 catches for 108 yards.

Despite being picked on this season, the Dolphins were only able to target Lardarius Webb in coverage once. That was a serious flaw in the Miami game plan or an oversight in the in-game play-calling. Webb struggled and the Dolphins failed to take advantage of a cornerback who has struggled all year.

Defensive Summary

The Dolphins allowed 183 rushing yards only a few days after giving up 277 rushing yards to the New York Jets. The only Dolphins defender who played well on run defense for the second straight week was defensive end Derrick Shelby (+2.2). He had three stops on 18 run snaps.

Philip Wheeler played his second-highest snap percentage of the season, and highest since Week 4 as the Ravens used two-TE and two-back personnel on the majority of the snaps he played.

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins played the first 43 snaps, but he sat out the final 22 snaps with a foot injury.

Coverage

You remember that earlier paragraph about the Dolphins failing to target Webb? The Ravens did not commit the same mistake in failing to go after Dolphins cornerback R.J. Stanford.

Stanford was picked on mercilessly in coverage. He had an interception in the end zone so that was good. But he also allowed nine completions on 11 passes against him for 91 yards. He also got lost in the wash while chasing Steve Smith across the formation to give up a TD pass.

Wheeler was a liability in coverage also. He gave up two 20-plus-yard plays in coverage and 3-for-3 for 53 yards overall. On one of those long completions, Wheeler actually had decent coverage and could have limited the damage but he missed the tackle and gave up 12 more yards after the receiver shed his tackle attempt.

The Dolphins sent a blitz on 14 Joe Flacco dropbacks. So they recognized they weren't getting to him with a four-man rush and tried something else. Flacco threw his interception (by Stanford) on one of those blitzes. But besides that play, Flacco completed 9-of-13 for 70 yards and a score against the Miami blitz.

December 08, 2014

Harbaugh only real option to replace Philbin

The walls are closing in on Joe Philbin from all sides now.

Sunday's 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens makes this season look like it's headed toward the same mediocrity and failure to make the postseason as 2009 ...

And 2010.

And 2011.

And 2012.

And 2013.

And any number of years before 2008.

And so in my column today I ask owner Stephen Ross a simple question. Check out the column.

I am told Ross believes the Dolphins have playoff caliber talent. And because he believes there is enough talent to get to the playoffs, it is clear that if the Dolphins do not get in the playoffs, the owner may make a move to fire Joe Philbin.

After all, how can an owner sell to fans the idea that not making the playoffs three consecutive years is good enough to earn another season for Philbin? I suppose he could say, "Well, we've made incremental improvements and we think one more year will get us there."

And that will result in the stands being sparsely populated next season because my sense is fans are not in Philbin's corner anymore. 

Sources tell me Ross also believes the Dolphins are a very good job for any prospective coach now compared to a few years ago because it is a retooling and tweaking job rather than a rebuilding from scratch job. In other words, Ross believes that the Dolphins are a great coach and some minor moves away from being very good.

Have Philbin and his coaches done a great job at 7-6? Well, I'd say they've been inconsistent. They're really good some weeks. They're poor other weeks. They are, in other words, what their team is and what their team's record says they are.

Mediocre.

So make no mistake: In the final three games this season, Joe Philbin and his coaching staff are working for the right to keep their jobs next year.

I am told by sources Ross sometimes talks of how coaches can take a franchise to the next level. He mentions Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay -- a lot. I suppose he could also point to Tony Dungy in Indianapolis, among others. There are myriad examples of coaches taking good to mediocre teams and making them very, very good.

So this again tells me the owner would consider "upgrading" from Philbin if the Dolphins don't get in the playoffs this year.

That leads me to Jim Harbaugh. Any report that suggests Stephen Ross doesn't want Harbaugh or wouldn't consider Harbaugh or, indeed, would not chase Harbaugh if he's in the market for a coach is dead wrong. That would be the first place Ross begins a coaching search.

The Dolphins, looking for a head coach the day after the NFL season, would join the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes.

(Ironically, former Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and his Raiders beating Harbaugh's 49ers Sunday might be the final straw that makes Harbaugh available after this season).

Ross identified Harbaugh as a target in 2011 and tried to hire him then but failed. And since that failure, Harbaugh took the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC title game in 2011, took them to the Super Bowl in 2012, and took them to back to the NFL title game in 2013. (Dolphins fans would offer body parts to have their team in the conference title game three years in a row).

And Harbaugh did this with a team that was 6-10 the year before he arrived. 

Oh, did I mention Harbaugh went to Michigan? And Ross went to Michigan? Yeah, that's a thing for the Dolphins owner.

Yes, there are obstacles to getting Harbaugh. Harbaugh's wife is reportedly not a fan of the East Coast. The Raiders, just across the bay in northern California, offer the Harbaughs a viable counter to being with the 49ers. And the Raiders are very interested in Harbaugh or will be.

But ...

The Oakland Raiders job is a coaching death trap. Everyone in the NFL knows it. Harbaugh must know it. So the Harbaughs might prefer to grit their collective teeth and sacrifice in cold, ugly, uninviting, gray, South Florida for a handful of years and take a stab at winning big with a roster that seems good enough already to win on a smaller scale and certainly is better than the Raiders nucleus.

It is true the Jets will also be interested in Harbaugh. But why would he go to New York if Miami is an option?

This is speculative but do the exersise: Do the Jets have a better quarterback? No. Is there less pressure to win in New York than in Miami? No. Do the Jets have a better roster than Miami? No. Can Woody Johnson pay more than Stephen Ross?

Hell to the no!

I am also told that one thing that has stung Ross about his ownership stint is that he failed to land Harbaugh back in 2011. "He has remorse about that," is what I was told. So the Jim Harbaugh possibility is real for the Dolphins if Philbin does not right his ship the next three weeks.

One final thing: There was a New York Post report over the weekend that strongly suggested outgoing New York Jets coach Rex Ryan would be a candidate in Miami if Philbin is fired. I was told by sources this weekend that Ryan to the Dolphins is not likely.

Ryan is beloved by most of his players. He can coach the dickens out of defense. And yet, the Jets are 2-11. So all that love and great defensive scheming is not all it is cracked up to be. Ryan has also never really been able to hire an offensive coordinator that ran a 21st century NFL offense.

Let's be real. If Stephen Ross finally grows tired of the mediocrity that has characterized his tenure as owner, the first and perhaps only stop he's going to make toward upgrading his coach is Jim Harbaugh. Period.

December 07, 2014

Louis Delmas done for the season [Updated]

Louis Delmas appears to be done playing in 2014.

The Dolphins are awaiting MRI test confirmation, but the belief is Delmas tore the ACL in his right knee on Sunday during the 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

[Updated 12:30 on Monday: The MRI this morning confirmed Delmas tore his ACL. He is being placed on injured reserve. He is done for the remainder of the year.]

Delmas, 27 years old and in his sixth season, had started 12 of 13 games for the Dolphins and played in all of them and was not only a cog to the team's pass defense but to the run defense as well.

Delmas the past two weeks against Denver and the New York Jets had collected 18 tackles as both those opponents had tried to run against the Dolphins. Delmas, a tough-minded and physical strong safety, often was used to overload the tackle box to augment the run defense.

Losing Delmas will mean the Dolphins will probably use Jimmy Wilson at strong safety along free safety Reshad Jones.

[Update: The injury to Delmas is not problematic beyond the ACL. No other ligaments were involved so a source tells me he should be ready to go for the start of training camp in 2015. Delmas was on a one-year contract with the Dolphins so it is uncertain what team's training camp he'll be in next year.]

Delmas went down in the second half against the Ravens while trying to make a play on a running play. Although there was no contact on his knee, he seemed to plant awkwardly and went down in a heap.

Delmas left the game on a cart after multiple teammates had come to his side to wish him well.

Delmas was in his first season with the Dolphins. If/when the MRI confirmation comes, Delmas will become the third significant free agent addition from the offseason to go down with a season-ending knee injury, joining Branden Albert and Knowshon Moreno. 

Baltimore defeats the Miami Dolphins, 28-13

There will be complaints about the officiating. There can be excuses about injuries -- as the third-string cornerback R.J. Stanford got picked on all day, backup right tackle Dallas Thomas gave up multiple sacks and Louis Delmas was lost for the remainder of the season.

But none of that changes this fact:

The Miami Dolphins 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens for intents and purposes eliminates the Dolphins from a playoff hunt. And this season, that includes a trip to New England next week, is starting to look at lot like last season.

And 2012.

And 2011.

And 2010.

And 2009.

Mediocre. Not good enough. Not able to answer the call in big moments. Unfulfilling. Disappointing. And, of course, likely out of the playoffs.

I do not get this team. Sometimes they start slow. Sometimes they cannot finish. Often they simply do not have what it takes.

They had it going well in the first quarter. They turned away the Ravens on their first three drives while building a 10-0 lead.

And then they collapsed in the second quarter. The Ravens got physical. They imposed their will. They won at the line of scrimmage.

Oh, about the line of scrimmage. Dallas Thomas needs to be benched. Everyone with eyes knows this. And yet he stayed out there pass play after pass play, letting Elvis Dumervil pad his sack stats.

Dumervil finished with 3.5 sacks.

At one point it is no longer Thomas's fault. The fault lies with coaches, who continue to put an overmatched player out there. Jason Fox should have been in there in the second half today. And yet coaches stuck with Thomas as if sacrificing him into a volcano.

There was no challenge of a potential safety. There was no resolution to a terrible run defense, as Baltimore shredded the Dolphins on the ground -- the third game in a row that happens.

On the Baltimore side, meanwhile, the game seemed to turn on a fourth-and-one situation from their own 35 in third quarter. The Ravens, turned back multiple times on third-and-one, went for it.

They made it.

And never really looked back.

And that leaves us with very little to look ahead to the rest of this season. I'm sure the Dolphins will say they still have a shot.

Doesn't feel that way.

Live blog: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

No surprises this morning.

This huge game demands players that have been failing to step up, as I write in my column. That's the only way the Dolphins can take the next logical step in their development.

Tight end Charles Clay will get the opportunity to shine. He plays today.

R.J. Stanford and Jimmy Wilson get a chance to shine today. They will play at cornerback in place of the injured Cortland Finnegan, who is missing his fourth consecutive game.

 As for the inactives: Jamar Taylor, Finnegan, LaMichael James, Jonathan Freeny, Chris McCain, Nate Garner, and Billy Turner.

There is a live blog. Join the folks below:

 

Live Blog Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens: Dec. 7, 2014
 

December 06, 2014

Keys to the game: Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

Sunday's game between the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens promises to be a struggle of two teams with angry defenses. The Ravens are peeved about the last-minute comeback they allowed against San Diego last week. The Dolphins are peeved about giving up 478 yards rushing the past two games.

And yet ...

This game offers many matchups that favor the possibility of big plays.

Consider that Raven quarterback Joe Flacco has one of the best deep-ball arms in the NFL. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Flacco tries to go deep 10 percent of the time. And on those passes of 20-plus-yards, he connects 53.7 percent of the time.

That is tied for third highest in the NFL.

Combine that with the fact the Dolphins again will be down an experienced cornerback in Cortland Finnegan and instead will be covering up with the combo of R.J. Stanford, Jimmy Wilson and perhaps even Walt Aikens and you have the recipe for some fireworks.

On the other side, we all know the Dolphins have struggled to get their deep passing game on track. No matter because their short and intermediate passing is solid. How else would quarterback Ryan Tannehill complete at least 70 percent of his passes in five of the last six games?

Then this: Baltimore's CB situation is more dire than Miami's. At least the Dolphins have Brent Grimes. But the Ravens are without Jimmy Smith, who is out for the year, and every other CB on that roster has allowed a QB rating of at least 109.7 when being targetted this season, according to PFF.

What does that all suggest? Fireworks.

Here are the rest of the matchups:

When the Ravens pass the football: Joe Flacco is not Geno Smith. Unlike the embattled Jets quarterback who could not threaten the Miami defense with the pass last week, Flacco is accomplished and more than able to get hot – as his five-touchdown performance against Tampa Bay earlier this year proved. The Ravens are averaging 27.5 points per game on the road this season and this offense’s balance is a big reason. But Flacco is without security blanket Dennis Pitta, who was lost for the season with a hip injury, and although WR Torrey Smith will play after missing the entire week of practice with a knee injury, he cannot be at full speed. That leaves 35-year-old Steve Smith Sr. as Baltimore’s most accomplished wide receiver. He’s an alpha and that could be an issue because the Dolphins will be without Cortland Finnegan for a fourth consecutive week. ADVANTAGE: Baltimore.

When the Ravens run the football: When Ray Rice was suspended the Ravens expected Bernard Pierce to be the primary back with Justin Forsett as a change of pace. But Forsett took off on a career year and hasn’t looked back. Forsett has 1,009 yards in 12 games and is averaging a hefty 5.46 yards per rush. The problem? Forsett did not practice all week because of a knee injury. So Pierce may get more work than usual. The Miami run defense has been bad the past two weeks, allowing over 200 yards against Denver and the New York Jets. That has included poor play on the inside and missed tackles all around. The question is what level of pride Miami defenders will have to change the tide of 200-yard games? ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Dolphins pass the football: The Miami offensive line, particularly the right side, and specifically right tackle Dallas Thomas, has struggled in pass protection. The Dolphins often help him with a tight end or a back but Thomas simply loses as often as he wins (perhaps more). No wonder the Dolphins are trying to remedy the situation by throwing quickly, attacking with short passes and short pass patterns. So continue to expect the bubble screens to receivers, the quick slants to Jarvis Landry and the fast in-cuts to Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson. The Ravens secondary has been decimated by injuries this year, although Asa Jackson (on injured reserve with designation to return) is hoping to get back this week. The best defense against the pass for Baltimore is pressuring the QB and OLBs Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs are an outstanding combination doing that. ADVANTAGE: Baltimore.

When the Dolphins run the football: The same Miami line that struggles in pass protection is generally proficient in run-blocking. As has been the case much of the season, the success of the run game lies in quantity as much as quality. The Dolphins simply haven’t run the ball enough to get into a rhythm as an offense or allow running back Lamar Miller to get a feel for the game as an individual. Miller doesn’t complain but the issue is obvious. The Ravens’ run defense suffered a major loss when the NFL suspended defensive tackle Haloti Ngata for four games after he violated the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. Despite that loss, the Baltimore run defense is more than good. The Ravens are No. 4 in the NFL against the run, in part because of its depth, in part because its linebackers are very active. ADVANTAGE: Baltimore.

Special teams: The Ravens have arguably the best kicker in football. Justin Tucker has connected on 59 of his past 60 FG attempts from under 55 yards and ranks as the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker with a 91.2 percentage. He is, however, not as accurate from 50-plus this year compared to past years. He is 4 of 7 from that range. The Ravens Jacoby Jones is one of the NFL’s dynamic returners, as his kickoff return TD in the Super Bowl years three years ago proved.  Caleb Sturgis has continued to be inconsistent as he had a miss in four kicks last week. Punter Brandon Fields has improved his gross punt average to middle of the pack status but the Dolphins are 23rd in net punting. ADVANTAGE: Baltimore.

Coaching: John Harbaugh has to get his team to recover from a stunning last-minute loss to San Diego at home and a stunning midweek loss of Haloti Ngata to NFL suspension. Those two setbacks will test the coaching staff’s ability to quickly right a bad situation before a season-defining game. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin successfully got his team to survive a potential trap game last week against the last-place New York Jets. Now the question becomes can he raise his team’s level of play against a high-caliber opponent. The Dolphins coaching staff also has to figure out why the defense suddenly cannot stop the run. ADVANTAGE: Baltimore.

December 05, 2014

Finnegan, Garner, McCain doubtful for Ravens

Cortland Finnegan is likely to miss his fourth consecutive game on Sunday, this one against the Baltimore Ravens, as are offensive lineman Nate Garner and linebacker Chris McCain.

All three Miami Dolphins players were listed as doubtful for the big game with playoff implications and the chances of them actually making up the 75 percent chance they could play by Sunday is practically nil.

Finnegan had been looking on course to play earlier in the week, but as I wrote here, the post-practice word on the cornerback after Thursday's practice was not great.

Finnegan will miss his fourth consecutive game. The Dolphins remain hopeful he can be ready by the New England game on Dec. 14.

The Dolphins do have good news in that tight end Charles Clay is questionable for Sunday's game but has suffered no setbacks this week with his hamstring, which has kept him out of the lineup for two weeks.

For the Ravens, they have spent the week managing knee injuries to running back Justin Forsett and receiver Torrey Smith. Neither practiced Wednesday or Thursday.

But Smith went through an entire practice Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday's game. Forsett was limited in practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Center Jeremy Zuttah (ankle) also missed practice Wednesday and Thursday but practiced Friday and is probable.

Ryan figured out Lazor's counter move that may require yet another counter move from Dolphins OC

I have to hand it to Bill Lazor. And I have to hand it to Rex Ryan.

Lazor, the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, has been asked to keep the offense rolling even after the team suffered what was a potentially disastrous injury to left tackle Branden Albert.

That injury didn't mean that Ryan Tannehill's blind side was now exposed because rookie right tackle Ja'Wuan James moved over to the prime spot and has done excellent work in pass protection. Indeed, James has been a revelation as a pass protecting left tackle.

The problem came in that the Dolphins had to then fill the void at right tackle and Dallas Thomas was asked to take over. And Dallas Thomas, bless his heart, is not a good pass protecting right tackle by any definition.

So how has Lazor taken on the assignment of keeping Ryan Tannehill alive lest Thomas allow Mario Williams or Von Miller or Terrell Suggs or perhaps Elvis Dumervil to knock out the Dolphins quarterback with a well-placed hit?

Simple.

The Dolphins are throwing short. The Dolphins are helping Thomas with tight end Dion Sims chipping or even double-teaming the defender. The Dolphins are sliding protections to the right side. The Dolphins are even using maximum protections at times, keeping seven men in to form and protect the pass pocket.

And that's where Rex Ryan came into the picture this week. Whatever you think of the New York Jets head coach, this much is certain: He can coach defense.

And he did a very good job against the Dolphins on Monday night. The Jets mixed looks up front. They brought zone blitzes that only rushed four men but confused the heck out of Miami's blocking scheme.  They brought regular blitzes that tilted the balance of power on a play toward the New York front. Sometiimes they overloaded to one side. At times he played it straight, relying on their guys simply being better than Miami's guys. And at times Ryan rushed only three (big mistake).

And behind that pressure, Ryan dared the Dolphins to protect Tannehill well enough, long enough to beat him deep because his secondary is atrocious. And the Dolphins could not answer the challenge.

Ryan gambled that he could give up short passes to the Dolphins and his linebackers and defensive backs could tackle well enough to limit the damage while he attacked the pocket up front.

Obviously, if the Dolphins had been able to protect well enough, long enough to go over the top of the coverage, Ryan's plan would have fallen apart. But the Dolphins weren't able to do that.

They stuck with their short passing game. And they came away with 16 points.

I watched the film of the game again Thursday night. 

One picture I saw? The Jets zone blitzing and not rushing the man over left tackle Ja'Wuan James. Tight end Dion Sims was left in to block on this particular fourth down. But as James' man bailed into coverage, Sims simply stood there without anyone to block. James went down the line looking for someone to block and did just that. But there was an overload of three rushers coming from the right side and guess what? When Tannehill felt pressure from the right, he rolled right into the pressure instead of going to the left where there were no defenders. Incomplete pass.

Another picture I saw? New York nose tackle Kendrick Ellis bull rushing and carrying center Samson Satele backward into Tannehill, whom Ellis then simply grabs for a sack.

Another picture? On a third-and-13, Satele simply whiffs on Quinton Coples, who does a Dwight Freeneyish spin move past the Miami center and then plants Tannehill as soon as the QB gets off a hurried throw that falls incomplete.

Obviously, the Dolphins did complete a couple of intermediate passes. Take the 20-yard completion to Dion Sims in the second quarter. The Dolphins didn't keep Sims or running back Lamar Miller in to block that play and yet Tannehill had plenty of time to stand in the pocket and let the play develop downfield.

The offensive line did an excellent job blocking on this one. But that comes with a caveat. The Jets only rushed three. So Miami's five linemen beat New York's three rushers.

The very next play, however, from the New York 25, the Jets come with a zone blitz. And while only four men are attacking the pocket, the Miami protection that includes running back Daniel Thomas (six guys) is in total disarray. Three guys -- Satele, right guard Mike Pouncey and right tackle Thomas -- are blocking one guy. Actually, Satele isn't blocking anyone but he's over there ready to help if needed, I suppose. 

James is single blocking and Shelley Smith is single blocking. Both are winning. The fourth Jets rusher runs right up the middle past Thomas for the sack on Tannehill.

But while Thomas is obviously partially responsible for the sack, it might have played differently if he had help from Satele who is part of a curious triple-team away from the play and doesn't even lay a glove on anyone during the play.

There is also a picture where the Miami front does an excellent job against a four-man rush. But that is when both Sims and Miller stay in for maximum protection. The play still resulted in an incompletion because intended target Jarvis Landry wasn't open on the left sideline and Tannehill also didn't deliver a very well timed or well placed pass, anyway. The ball sailed out of bounds.

What's the point?

The reason the Miami Dolphins don't throw deep is because the offensive line is generally not able to protect long enough to do it. Even on some short pass completions, Tannehill often gets knocked on his back.

So the Dolphins are working short passes, trying to cover for the problem.

But they ran into a coach who figured that out and limited the damage of the short passing game while daring Miami to hit a few deep or intermediate shots downfield. The Dolphins could not do it with any consistency (couldn't go deep at all, actually) for multiple reasons: They had poor protection, Tannehill not throwing on time or accurately, Mike Wallace dropping an apparent TD because he lost the ball in the lights.

The point is one defensive coach has figured out a counter to the counter Bill Lazor instituted for the Buffalo game when it became obvious the loss of Branden Albert would have multiple negative ripple effects. 

Don't be surprised if defensive coaches, particularly the good ones who saw what Ryan did, simply defend the short passes, attack the pocket violently, and dare the Dolphins to throw deep -- something they obviously believe the Dolphins cannot do.

Your move, Bill Lazor.

December 04, 2014

LB Chris McCain on crutches [updated]

Chris McCain was not on the injury report Wednesday but it seems pretty clear he'll on the injury report when it comes out in a couple of hours today because he is clearly hurting.

Although McCain began practice today without any issues, he apparently suffered some sort of foot/ankle injury during the work.

I saw McCain limping badly in the locker room to the point he could not get from his locker stall to the door. A trainer brought him a pair of crutches to help him complete his exit.

McCain has had foot issues this season and has been inactive three times this year, and has not played a couple of those times because of the foot issue.

[Update: The Dolphins injury report is out and McCain is listed as having participated on a limited basis due to an ankle injury. Of course he was limited if the injury happened during practice. He probably stopped working at the point he got hurt.]

McCain this year burst onto the scene by blocking a punt and sacking Tom Brady in the regular season opener. He's had only two tackles in limited playing time since the opener.

[Update 2: The rest of the injury report shows Nate Garner missing with an "illness" for the second time this week. He missed last week's game due to an illness. Charles Clay, Cortland Finnegan, Brian Hartline, Samson Satele and Mike Wallace also were all limited with various injuries.]

I expect all those players with the exception of Garner to be available versus Baltimore.

Interestingly, neither WR Torrey Smith (knee) nor running back Justin Forsett (knee) has practiced this week for the Ravens.

Cortland Finnegan looking good for Ravens [Updated]

Miami Dolphins cornerback Cortland Finnegan seems likely to play against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, barring a setback in practice today and tomorrow.

Finnegan, who has missed three games, practiced Thursday for the second consecutive day. He took repetitions at his usual spot with the starters on defense. It is unkown if Finnegan was limited at any way, as practices are closed.

[Friday morning update: Finnegan went through practice Thursday but wasn't satisfied with his quickness or cutting ability, per a source. Coaches also were not convinced he's ready to compete on Sunday versus Baltimore. So much for the good news.]

Finnegan was certain to play the Dec. 14 game at New England but he has been on a stringent treatment program for his injured ankle and that has apparently paid off to the point he is looking at a return against Baltimore.

[Update: Read the Friday morning update. Baltimore now seems uncertain if not unlikely.]

In other practice news, tight end Charles Clay and receiver Brian Hartline practiced today at least on a limited basis. Clay has missed two weeks with hamstring and knee injury. Hartline missed the second half on Monday night against New York due to a knee bruise.

Hartline is expected to play.

December 03, 2014

Ryan Tannehill and Joe Flacco about the same QB

I've said this to my friends privately for two years and I'm going to share it with you now: I do not believe Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will ever be a Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers or the second coming of Dan Marino. I also don't believe he'll be on the same level with Andrew Luck.

Those guys were, are, or will be elite.

But Joe Flacco?

Yes, Ryan Tannehill can be someday and perhaps already is Joe Flacco.

Now, before the Tannehill man-crush gang loses its collective mind, you should understand what this means. This means good things for Tannehill. It means Tannehill will occasionally reach levels of outstanding play. It means Tannehill may become a candidate for the Hall of Good but probably never the Hall of Fame. It means Ryan Tannehill can be good enough to win a Super Bowl.

In other words, in my opinion, Tannehill can do just about anything Flacco can do or has done. Because, as you must know, Flacco has indeed been good enough to win a Super Bowl, can indeed be great in spurts, and, after those spurts of greatness, often reverts to a lesser level.

Ryan Tannehill more or less equals Joe Flacco.

So why am I telling you this now? Because the Dolphins and the Ravens will gather at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday and basically go at each other for a chance to remain in the AFC playoff picture. As it looks now, the loser of that game will likely not make the playoffs. Players are aware of this likelihood:

“It’s tough not to look at it that way," Flacco said Wednesday.

And in that game that for all practical purposes is a playoff elimination bowl, the Dolphins will match Ryan Tannehill against Baltimore's Joe Flacco.

Two like quarterbacks.

Tannehill comes to this game with 20 touchdown passes, and nine interceptions.

Flacco comes to this game with 20 touchdown passes, and eight interceptions.

Tannehill has thrown for 2,817 yards.

Flacco has thrown for 2,989 yards.

Tannehill has completed 282 of 404 passes for a 66.5 completion rate.

Flacco has completed 256 of 406 passes for a 63.1 completion rate.

Tannehill's quarterback rating is 92.1.

Flacco's quarterback rating is 93.5

Flacco is the better deep passer. He is way more accurate in that regard. Tannehill is the better athlete. He can make plays with his feet that Flacco simply does not do.

The statistics are astoundingly similar. Both have gifts. Both have holes in their game. Both men have very strong arms, as the football simply explodes off their hands.

And this surprises me in no way whatsoever because, as you've just read, I believe Tannehill and Flacco will ultimately be considered in the same group of quarterbacks a tier or two below elite level.

Tier 1: Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Peyton.

Tier 2: Luck (he'll eventually move up), Roethlisberger, Rivers, Romo.

Tier 3: Flacco, Ryan, Stafford, Wilson, Palmer, and eventually Tannehill.

I will say to you the fact Tannehill and Flacco currently have about the same statistics suggests Tannehill actually has a higher ceiling than Flacco because we are comparing a quarterback in his third year to one in his seventh.

But an apples to apple comparison suggests Tannehill is similar to Flacco now and similar to what Flacco was early on in his career:

Joe Flacco through his first 44 games: 820 of 1325 (61.8 completion percent), for 9,572 yards, with 54 touchdowns, 32 interceptions. His QB rating at that point was 87.2.

Ryan Tannehill through his first 44 games: 919 of 1496 (61.4 completion percent), for 10,024 yards, with 56 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. His QB rating at this point is 82.8.

These numbers tell me Tannehill is on a similar arc early in his career to what Flacco was in his. Hmmm ... If Tannehill continues this trend, he'll more or less be Joe Flacco.

 

Injury update: Dolphins back on the practice field today

The Dolphins are working today in preparation for Sunday's playoff elimination bowl against the Baltimore Ravens. (Yeah, when the loser of the game basically stabs the heart of its playoff chances with a sharp knife, I can call the game a playoff elimination bowl).

Anyway, the big news first: Cornerback Cortland Finnegan, who tried practicing early last week but shut it down later in the week, is trying to practice today but as this is only a walk-thru one should recognize he would be limited in a regular practice. He has missed three games with an ankle injury.

Finnegan's status for the Baltimore game Sunday remains uncertain. A source told me today it is most likely Finnegan will be 100 percent by the Dec. 14 game versus New England. That doesn't mean he won't be trying to be ready by this Sunday, it just means there is more certainty about the New England game. 

Cornerback Jamar Taylor is not practicing today as he continues to treat the shoulder injury he sustained against Denver. Nate Garner, who missed last week's game with an illness, also is not practicing today.

Linebacker Jonathan Freeny, who has missed two games with a hamstring injury, also is not practicing today.

[Update: The Dolphins have ruled both Taylor and Freeny out for the Baltimore game.]

Receiver Brian Hartline is working despite the bruised knee he suffered against the New York Jets on Monday night. Hartline may be limited some in practice this week but is expected to be available.

Tight end Charles Clay, who has missed two games mostly because of a hamstring injury, is working today as well.

PFF and Salguero review of Miami Dolphins victory over NYJ

Let's start with the news: Receiver Brian Hartline, who left Monday night's game with a knee injury is going to be fine. He has a bruise, per a source, and should be fine to play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

As for the weekly ProFootballFocus.com and Salguero film review of the Dolphins game, let's just say it is kind to some and not too kind to others, particularly some folks on defense.

To wit:

Offense

Left tackle Ja'Wuan James returned from his Week 12 stinger to play all 60 snaps against New York. He did not allow a pressure of any kind against the Jets. Let's face it folks, this kid is a major find.

He was more than meeting expectations as the starting right tackle but after Branden Albert's injury, he has been very good at left tackle, which is not the position he played in college. Now, there are things he can improve.

And the offseason will help him change his body around some if he gets in the weight room. But he is a legitimate NFL starting tackle.

Hartline left the game after 9 snaps, leaving Brandon Gibson to pick up the slack. The final WR snaps: Wallace 56, Gibson 52, Landry 48, and Matthews seven.

Shelley Smith (32 snaps) and Daryn Colledge (35 snaps) again rotated at left guard, until Samson Satele was injured. Then both played guard and Mike Pouncey moved back to center. Satele did return to the game, however.

It should be noted the Dolphins have something of a competition at the left guard spot. At least that's how I see it. Perhaps coaches are simply saving Colledge (doubtful). Perhaps they are working him back in slowly but deliberately after he missed multiple games with a back issue.

But the point is the team's confidence in Smith has grown to the point he's getting significant playing time. That suggests Smith has continually improved since training camp when, frankly, he left a lot to be desired.

Running back Lamar Miller played his highest percentage of snaps since Week 8 in that he took 47 snaps. Daniel Thomas picked up all but one of the other 13 RB snaps and Damien Williams had the remaining snap.

Passing

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was nearly perfect throwing behind the line of scrimmage and within 10 yards, going 18-for-20 on those throws. That's how he's forged multiple 70 percent-plus completion percentage games this year. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is giving Tannehill some confidence-building and high percentage passes.

The downside of that is short passes don't deliver chunk yardage. Of those 18 completions, Tannehill's passes gained just 97 yards. That's a modest 5.3 yards per completion.

On throws over 10 yards, Tannehill was 7-for-15 for 138 yards.

The Jets blitzed Tannehill on five of his drop-backs, but had success: he was 1-for-5 against the blitz.

Receiving

Three of Tannehill's seven completions of 10-plus yards were to tight end Dion Sims.

This is interesting because Sims has the body to be a seam threat. He is a more traditional tight end threat. So the question becomes what do the Dolphins do when Charles Clay gets over his hamstring and knee injury that has kept him out the past two weeks.

Of course, Clay will play. But coaches have to figure out how to let Sims continue his development.

Defensive Summary

Despite just 15 pass rush opportunities, Cameron Wake produced three hurries, a hit, and a sack.

Cornerback R.J. Stanford played 46 snaps at right cornerback, with Walt Aikens chipping in with 9 (Stanford logged 26 total snaps in 2013). Interestingly, the Dolphins opened the game with Jimmy Wilson as the cornerback opposite Brent Grimes.

And then they switched, putting Wilson back at his familiar slot position.

Of Geno Smith's 12 targeted passes, four went at Stanford, so he did “attack” him in a manner of speaking as 33 percent of his targets went at the recently re-signed CB. But let's face it, folks, Smith wasn't attacking anyone in the passing game on Monday night. The Jets game plan was to run and pass only if necessary.

Opponents' Rushing

The Jets had 25 runs in between the tackles and 19 of those went to the right.

The Jets had 13 runs outside of the tackles for just 31 yards.

What does that tell us? The Jets had the most success running between the tackles into the heart of the Miami defense.

Special Teams

Don Jones made an instant impact on special teams, recording two tackles in the kicking game only a couple of days after being claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots.

December 02, 2014

Coyle: Giving up 277 rush yards was 'like a bad dream'

You know the Miami Dolphins run defense was flattened for a second consecutive week by a team bent on running the football.

The Dolphins gave up 201 rushing yards against Denver and then 277 rushing yards against the New York Jets Monday night and that was "like a bad dream," Miami defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said today.

Coyle said stats could be twisted any number of ways. He said the rush yards allowed is an issue, primarily because he said there were too many missed tackles. But Coyle also pointed out, "at the end of the day, we gave up only 13 points."

That's good. But it won't be good enough against Baltimore, the Dolphins' opponent on Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.

The Ravens obviously have an ability to run because they are the NFL's No. 5 ranked rushing team. (The Jets are the NFL's No. 2 ranked rushing team).

And, yes, the Dolphins were better against the run in the second half Monday night. Coyle said he made adjustments at halftime and the Dolphins gave up 67 rushing yards after allowing 210 in the first half.

But here's the problem: Once the Dolphins set eight guys in the box, and even seven guys against three wide receiver sets, the Jets could not throw the football. The Jets simply stink at passing.

The Ravens do not.

The Ravens are able to run and pass. They have a more complete offense with a quarterback who is a veteran and can beat you passing as well as handing off. So stacking the box against him will not work the way it worked against Geno Smith.

If the Dolphins have to resort to stacking the box against Baltimore, that team will respond the way Denver responded: Letting the quarterback throw.

The point is the Dolphins have to find a way to fix what the Broncos and Jets exposed as a weakness in the run defense when they are in base. They have six days to do it.

The good, the bad, the ugly, and the playoffs

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- So there was good and there was bad in this 16-13 Miami Dolphins victory over the New York Jets.

As I wrote in my column the Dolphins will more than happily accept this victory. It vaults them into the playoff picture as the No. 6 seed currently in the AFC. But it will take a better effort than this to get in and stay in the postseason. And it starts next week, folks.

The problematic signs are right here.

The things you can be encouraged about?

Ryan Tannehill is now the only quarterback in the NFL this season to record five consecutive games with a 70-or-better completion percentage. Additionally, his seven games completing 70-or-better percent of his passes are tied for the most in the NFL this season with Saints QB Drew Brees and Chargers QB Philip Rivers.

So that's good. Of course, you saw Tannehill again struggle with a couple of deep passes. And, as I point out in the column, Mike Wallace didn't help his QB, either, on one pass that could have gone for a score.

The defense?

The Dolphins have to get with stopping the run better going forward. The Broncos rushed for 201 against Miami. The Jets rushed for 277 against Miami. You think the Ravens will try to test the Miami run defense?

I will say linebacker Jelani Jenkins was great against the Jets, collecting 16 tackles with two of those for losses. It was his third game with at least 14 tackles this season.

And, believe it or not, the defense actually held a fourth-quarter lead on the final drive for the first time this season, having failed previously against Green Bay, Detroit and Denver.

So that's progress. But, honestly, I assume we all know it must be better in the coming weeks, particularly against Baltimore and New England.