A four-game losing streak. A frustrated star player (Mike Wallace) again seeking the ear of the offensive coordinator to voice those frustrations. Other players privately questioning some of the team’s personnel/lineup decisions. Players complaining about Mike Sherman's play-calling and the direction of the team’s offense.
Your best offensive lineman (Mike Pouncey) being subpoenaed to speak in a gun trafficking investigation. And now news that starting right tackle Jonathan Martin is in treatment for emotional issues.
It couldn’t have been a worse stretch for the Dolphins, whose season teeters in danger of derailing even though the AFC’s second wild card spot is still very winnable.
Lose Thursday, and you’re 3-5 with plenty of landmine games on the schedule: consecutive mid-November home games against Carolina and San Diego, at Pittsburgh, two Jets games, at Bills and Patriots here. The Dolphins likely would be a SIZABLE favorite only in the game at Tampa, based on the way both teams are playing.
It’s difficult to see Miami going 6-2 with that schedule, which would be required to compete for a wild card spot if Miami loses Thursday. The second wild card spot could still require 10 wins.
### When Martin returns, I wouldn’t expect teammates to immediately start using the nickname they gave him after he was drafted: Big Weirdo.
Teammates have enjoyed poking fun at him for his intellect and serious demeanor, and Martin had always been a good sport about it, before flipping and throwing his lunch tray aside over a prank in the team’s lunch room Monday, as detailed earlier by Fox’s Jay Glazer and in a Miamiherald.com story on the sports home page.
Martin admitted last week he’s disappointed how he has played at times --– he said he looks at the tape and says “That’s not me” –-- but this issue is believed to run deeper than his performance or a practical joke. Teammates have offered support, while trying to give him his space.
Though Martin said in training camp that he was happier at left tackle, he insisted last week that he honestly doesn’t care where he ends up, and that merely playing in the league is now enough to satisfy him.
### Mike Mayock, who works Dolphins-Bengals on NFL Network, made some interesting comments in a chat with WQAM’s Joe Rose Wednesday: “The Dolphins’ passing game inside is efficient. Their pass game outside is inefficient. Teams are doing a good job with [Mike Wallace] at the line of scrimmage, jamming him. The Brandon Gibson loss is a huge loss.”
He said Ryan Tannehill’s numbers are “eerily” similar to last season, including his 6.8 average yards per attempt, and “you would like to see those numbers improve in year 2.” He suggests pass protection is impeding Tannehill’s growth because “if you get hit enough, your eyes start to come down and you’re not as good as you should be.”
Mayock questioned the Dolphins’ play selection in the second half of the New England game. “Up 14-3, 17-3, you’ve got to keep running the ball,” Mayock said. “You made it too easy for them.”
He said Cincinnati is “not real deep or good at cornerback,” and Miami should try to exploit that.
### Al Golden said he isn’t using the fact Miami is a 22-point underdog to FSU as motivation for his players. Why? “I don’t want to use a point spread now, and then when we’re favored, we don’t use it.”
But Kirk Herbstreit, who is working the game for ABC with Brent Musburger, believes Golden should be making an issue of the fact that “nobody thinks we’ve got a chance” in order to get his players “really angry.”
### Biggest UM lineup surprise of the past two weeks? Tyrone Cornelius beating out Thurston Armbrister and Alex Figueroa for a starting linebacker job. “Cornelius has always been very gifted in his acceleration, pass defense, but now he’s a more complete player,” Golden said.
### FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, asked what Duke Johnson does well: “What doesn’t he do well? We would have a shorter conversation.”
### UM oral commitment Brad Kaaya moved into ESPN’s top 150 (at 128) and is on a roll: He completed 10 of 13 passes for 377 yards and four TDs last week and now has 14 TDs and three picks this season. UM’s other QB oral commitment, Malik Rosier, has 12 touchdowns through the air (compared with four picks) and also has run for 16 touchdowns.
### Eric Spoelstra, on the stunning 114-110 Heat loss in Philadelphia, in which Miami was outscored 29-16 in the fourth: “We earned it. You generally get what you deserve in this league, and we earned that loss. We did not come to compete."
### With Dwyane Wade out, Spoelstra opted to use Roger Mason Jr. and Rashard Lewis instead of James Jones or Michael Beasley, neither of whom played.
Lewis had 11 points and 5 assists in 20 minutes and was a plus-9. “Rashard played well every time we’ve called his number,” Spoelstra said. “He did it for us last season. Those minutes were productive” tonight.
But Mason was a minus 6, with two turnovers, in 15 minutes. Spoelstra said he played Mason instead of Jones because Mason can play two positions, “but it could have gone either way.”
### Nationally, Heat-Bulls was viewed in 3.3 percent of U.S. homes with TV sets, the highest opening night TNT rating behind only the first game of the Big Three era, against Boston to open the 2010-11 season. The game did a 17.1 here (barely behind the 17.5 for Dolphins-Patriots) and an 11.5 in Chicago.
TNT’s Steve Kerr cautioned not to read much into the result because: “Indiana with Roy Hibbert and David West made Miami uncomfortable and forced them to play big. Brooklyn can do that this year, as well. Chicago can’t force Miami to play big and that allows the Heat to stay in their comfort zone. As versatile as Chicago is defensively, they lack that versatility on the offensive end.”