The Miami Dolphins are 1-3 and have finished off their first quarter of the 2012 season. While 1-3 is nothing to smile about, if the Dolphins could have found a way to put the game away in the final 5 minutes of the 4th quarter against the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, then that 1-3 would be a 3-1 and these Miami Dolphins would be leading the AFC East. Alas, that didn’t happen.
While fans are still standing on edge, there has been a renewed sense of satisfaction from what has been seen thus far on the field. The boring methodical Dolphins of the last few years has been replaced by cheers and edge of your seat nail-biting as the clock winds down. Seriously, ask yourself when the last time you felt this good about a 1-3 start?
The reality is probably never. It’s safe to say that what was once a faint hope of a .500 season is now turning into something more of a reality. Fans may actually be disappointed with 8-8 instead of thrilled to see that kind of turnaround. There is a lot of season left and if the Dolphins can somehow break out of their late game dysfunctions, these Miami Dolphins may be looking at a divisional race or a wildcard mention in December.
Yes, a lot has to happen for “THAT” to happen but the Dolphins are playing good football right now. Better than just about anyone expected. So what exactly is different? Here are the top five reasons, in my opinion, that the Miami Dolphins may be one of the best 1-3 teams in the league and the 2nd best team in the AFC East.
5: Reshad Jones – Yes, you wanted to cut him. Jones showed flashes of ability over the last few seasons but without Yeremiah Bell roaming in the secondary, Jones has stepped up and has become a play-maker. The best part is he is continually getting better. If Jones can continue to improve and make an impact, he will lift a secondary that is struggling the passing game.
4: Reggie Bush – Bush has emerged as more than a running-back. He is a leader both in the locker-room and on the field. He not only leads vocally but with his actions. Bush is setting an example for the younger guys by staying after practice and working individually on his drills in order to maximize his opportunities during the games. So far it’s paid off. A nasty hit to the knee was a mild bruise that allowed him to not miss time. He can thank his conditioning for that. Bush has emerged as the collegiate athlete he was hailed as coming out of USC.
3: The Dolphins WR’s – What? I know, it may be pushing it a bit. The Dolphins WR’s are not free of problems but no one expected them to have any impact whatsoever, especially Brian Hartline who missed all of training camp. Hartline has easily become the go to guy for Ryan Tannehill and his production, even prior to his breakout game last weekend, was solid. Hartline and Davone Bess are the only sure handed WR’s on the roster, that is until Jabar Gaffney joined the squad earlier this week. Gaffney will bring a veteran presence to the field and legit option opposite Hartline. A spot that Legedu Naane failed miserably at. The Dolphins were supposed to have the worst WR corp in the NFL. It’s becoming a go to option in a system that works without premier names.
2: The offensive line – In week 1, rookie Jonathan Martin was schooled by the Houston Texans. In the four pre-season games he was obliterated and made to look like a fool and it wasn’t lost on the fan who watched HBO’s Hard Knocks that he had a long way to go. Something however happened between the Houston game and the Oakland game. He suddenly got “it”. Whatever “it” was. The Dolphins offensive line is leading the charge for the number 1 rushing offense in the entire NFL. They are giving Ryan Tannehill time to throw (most of the time), and are improving week to week. More important than anything else, they are playing like a unit that thinks like a team. They are picking each other up both figuratively and physically. While they still have bad plays, the fact that we are not swearing at one side or the other each and every play is a testament to the coaching they have received.
1: It’s a Tie!
B: Ryan Tannehill – No one expected Ryan Tannehill and his 19 college starts to be such an integral part of the Dolphins offense this soon. With each passing week, Tannehill takes another step towards righting a ship that tipped so long ago. While he is still throwing INT’s and turning the ball over, some his fault some not, Tannehill is giving fans something to cheer for. He is likable kid with a strong arm and confidence. Tannehill isn’t simply going through the motions, he is learning from each mistake and making the necessary changes week in and week out. Some work, some don’t. While he is still the QB of a 1-3 football team, he is one of the brightest stars thus far to come out of the NFL draft and has some expert analysts wondering if he will end the season better than any of the rookie taken ahead of him. For Ryan Tannehill, the one thing above all else that stands out is that he isn’t afraid to lead the team. Something the Dolphins fans haven’t seen since Dan Marino. There is no question that Tannehill is taking ownership of this offense.
A: You can’t have 1-5 without Joe Philbin. Sure, he called a TO to ice a kicker and the kick was blocked. When was the other ill-fated TO? By week 4 Tony Sparano’s first year, the TO’s were a weekly rolling laugh. Joe Philbin has made not glaring mistakes that have cost his team games. No 4th down TO’s that allow a team like the Saints to skip the FG and punch in a TD as time expired on the clock to end a half. No ill advised reviews that cost the team yardage. Joe Philbin isn’t making many mistakes with his game management and it’s evident that his coaching style and expectations for the team are improving the quality of play week to week.
The fact is that Joe Philbin took over a team with holes at safety, corner, wide-receiver, tight end, right tackle, right guard, questions at quarterback, and linebacker. While there are not definitive answers yet, the line is playing better than anyone could have hoped for this early, the safeties are improving, a franchise QB is beginning to take form, and the rest of the team seems to be following in line. Philbin has taken a team that many expected to be pushovers and made them believe they could compete. He has done this by coaching. Teaching these players how to play the game of football and more importantly how to play together as a team.
Yes, the Miami Dolphins are 1-3 but their play is not indicative of that record. If Philbin can “coach” this team to the next step, closing out games and learning how to win those game, this Dolphins team will be talking about this year and fans will be as well. Instead of once again talking about what next year might provide. This weekend, the Dolphins face the Cincinnati Bengals before hitting a series of winnable games. The Bengals will give the Dolphins yet another challenge. A victory here could turn the table on the rest of the season.
Special mention: Koa Misi – The Dolphins LB was written off by many fans but is emerging as a tackling play-maker.