Joe Philbin had to address two issues he likely wishes he did not need to on Monday -- Mike Wallace’s postgame unhappiness and Randy Starks’ obscene gesture -- while trying to address a more worrisome problem: the lack of a running game and inadequate blocking.
Wallace refused to speak at length after the game, leaving the impression he was upset about being targeted just five times and finishing with one catch for 15 yards. Wallace tried to diffuse the situation Monday, saying he was upset with himself and not coaches.
"I was mad at myself because I didn't have a good game," Wallace said. "It just wasn't a good day for me. Our quarterback made good reads. I was upset with myself. It wasn't really anything else having to do with anything. I'm always happy when we win. But from a personal standpoint, when you don't do well, you're upset. If you're not upset, you don't need to be on the team. I want to be a great player and I want to make plays. That's the only reason I'm here."
But Dolphins sources say he was upset about not getting more opportunities. "Everyone understands his frustration," receiver Brandon Gibson said. "You have to swallow your pride and continue to go about it."
Wallace said he spoke to coach Joe Philbin and "we had a good conversation. It was productive. We're ready to move on. I'm good."
Philbin declined to specifically discuss Wallace’s reaction beyond saying: “I want every player to want to make an impact and want to contribute and make a difference in the game.”
Philbin said there were a couple of additional times “we could have gone to him” but generally didn’t have an issue with Wallace not getting the ball more.
“We don’t have plays where we throw the ball to a certain jersey number just to do it,” Philbin said. “We throw it to the people who are open. Overall, our decision-making was good.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he “could have done a better job” getting Wallace the ball and spoke with Wallace on Monday.
“In no way did that bother me,” Sherman said of Wallace expressing his unhappiness. “Mike wants to feel a part of the game, as I would hope he would. He came here to be a factor in our success. Any great competitor would feel that way. The fact he’s disappointed he only caught one ball -- that’s expected. I have no problem with that. I don’t fault him for that.
“I told him he can communicate that to me anytime he wants – as long as he practices hard tomorrow… with a smile on his face, which he will and be ready to go next week.”
He said Wallace still “played a huge role” because coverage against him created “opportunities for other players.” Wallace said that pleased him: "I'm happy they had a great game," he said of Brian Hartline (9 for 114) and Brandon Gibson (7 for 77).
Sherman added: “We don’t target receivers necessarily. We go through progressions based on coverage.”
Asked if this could continue being an issue, Sherman said, “Mike will make his catches. Mike will make significant contribution to this season. He brings lot of energy to our team and practices. I love having him on the team.”
Wallace said he and Ryan Tannehill "do a really good job in practice getting chemistry going. We just have to keep that going. It will happen."
Meanwhile, CBS cameras caught Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks holding up his middle finger, while looking directly at the Dolphins sideline, after getting a sack Sunday. Two published reports speculated that Starks was giving the finger to the Dolphins' coaching staff because he lost his starting job.
Starks' agent, Tony Paige, said Starks "told me was joking with one of his teammates. It was not intended for the coaches."
Philbin joked the gesture was “probably” intended for “me directly” but then clarified that “I don’t have any reason to believe” that Starks intended that for the coaching staff.
Otherwise, Philbin refused to discuss Starks’ gesture beyond saying: “I am aware of it. It’s important for our players to act the right way on and off the field.”
Asked if he understands Starks’ disappointment about not starting ahead of Jared Odrick, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle responded: “Everyone wants to be the starter, everyone wants to show what he can do…. We’re blessed with three top level starters at the defensive tackle spot. Whoever starts one week may not start the next week.”
On Sunday, Jared Odrick played 58 snaps, Paul Soliai 43 and Starks 37.
“You have to set an atmosphere where the best players are going to play,” Philbin said.
The Wallace and Starks soap operas somewhat overshadowed the far more serious issue: The Dolphins’ inability to run against Cleveland. Miami had 20 yards on 23 carries.
“There’s times we didn’t block as well as we should have,” Philbin said. “Clearly, we have to do a better job. That’s not a good formula to have that much pass offense. We want to have better balance. This is not a good formula.”
He said the offensive line “did some good things, but we’ve got to get better. Our protection wasn’t up to our standards. We have to do a better job of run blocking.”
Sherman called the offensive line “a work in progress. John Jerry was out most of camp. Tyson Clabo is a new addition for us. We have a new left tackle [Jonathan Martin]. I believe in those guys. They work extremely hard. Yesterday wasn’t their best game. They will be much better this week than last week. It’s a good, solid group. They are extremely accountable.”
Philbin and Sherman both said tight end Charles Clay must improve his blocking. He played 62 of 68 snaps, and “that was probably too many for him,” Sherman said, while praising his work as a receiver.
The blocking from the receivers also wasn’t good enough at times, Philbin said.
And Philbin also put some responsibility on running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, saying they could have broken more tackles and “there was one or two where we thought there was a little more than they got based on a read. But let’s face it, there wasn’t a ton there.”
Miller played 36 snaps and Thomas 32.
If the Dolphins are having success throwing but not running, why not throw every down? “Coach Philbin is of that mindset,” Sherman said. “I don’t know that I’ve quite reached that mindset yet. I like to hand the ball off once in a while just to eat up some clock time and also to say, ‘Hey, we’re still going to run the football.’ Coach Philbin could possibly convince me otherwise.”
Positives offensively Sunday? “Ryan seemed very comfortable,” Sherman said. “Ryan is a born leader. Ryan is not an in your face leader but he takes charge. The players respect him for that. He seemed very poised to me. Just his poise was a noticeable difference than last year.”
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