Heads Or Tails? Quarter Report
By Brian Miller
For the Miami Dolphins, a quarter of their season has come and gone. The Jekyll and Hyde, heads or tails team sits at 2-2 and are surrounded by as many questions as they are low-light’s on what could have been high-light reels. In other words, this team is a mess. But no worries, there is still 12 games to turn this once promising start into something special. But they need to get their act together and they need to do it now because the next “quarter” could put this team out of serious contention if they don’t.
Here is a look at the Miami Dolphins first quarter and glimpse of the second.
It’s a one man show in south Florida with Chad Henne taking the snaps and setting the tone. In his first two games he looked solid and maturing and against the Jets in week 3 he looked as though he would turn a corner. Then, week 4 showed the tails side of the coin as he was picked three times and basically was not effective as a leader.
Decision: Heads – for now, Henne looks to be maturing as a QB and he has only had one really awful game but this team is riding on his arm and if he doesn’t get it together he may be replaced.
RB’s: Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are the featured backs in Miami and both have been sub-par in what should have been a league leading rushing attack. Both have fumbled the ball and instead of being at the top, they team is ranked 15th overall with a 3.9 yards per carry average for 428 yards. Part of the problem is the offensive lineman.
Decision – Heads. Even with the fumbles and Chad Henne’s INT’s, this team is a run first team and Brown and Williams are still working at getting the game moving.
Offensive Line: I will lump the TE’s into this group because frankly, they don’t do anything to warrant being logged with the WR’s. Across the line of scrimmage the Dolphins offensive line has been below par. When they can open running lanes they fail to pass block. When they have solid pass protection, they can’t run block. When they can do both, they get called for penalties. In other words, their inconsistency is a huge issue for what on paper was to be the best of the NFL.
Decision – Tails: Thus far the Oline has done little to show fans that they are anything close to what they were billed as.
WR’s: Brandon Marshall has been what you would expect. A sure-handed yards after catch man who has taken some of the pressure off the other Dolphins WR’s. Davone Bess has been the main beneficiary of Marshall’s presence and he continues to be the go to guy on 3rd downs. Absent however is 2nd year man Brian Hartline. While he has one touchdown catch his reception totals and yardage numbers are not very good.
Decision – Heads: The Dolphins WR’s are not the problem…for once.
Defensive side of the ball:
D’Line: The Dolphins looked good with Jared Odrick on the field and have looked worse without him. Could he be that good? Not this soon. The Dolphins also found so much confidence in NT Paul Soliai that they were able to move Randy Starks back to the end position. While the Dolphins are getting pressure on the QB, they are not getting anywhere near enough and the highly billed Mike Nolan blitz schemes are anything but surprising. The Dolphins line has also been a Jekyll and Hyde type unit as they have been solid for 3 quarters of play in each of their games stopping the run and then giving it up later in the game.
Decision – Heads: The unit has done a good if not spectacular job. They need to continue to work at closing the lanes and getting upfield more than what they are, but so far they are not the reason this team is losing.
LB’s: Koa Misi has looked both good and bad. When he looks good, he looks really good and fortunately when he looks bad, he looks like a raw rookie. Karlos Dansby has been everything billed and looks like a home run free agent pick-up. Cameron Wake on the outside is getting better each week but needs to improve on his rushing moves and his pass defense. Channing Crowder is set to come back in the next week or two as well. Will that improve the unit?
Decision – Heads. This unit is young and hungry and are keeping this team in games.
Secondary: Vontae’ Davis has been Pro-Bowl stellar and Jason Allen had two fantastic games and one typical Jason Allen game. The problem for this unit is their complete failure to stop opposing teams on 3rd and long. Something that should be rather easy. Outside of Davis, the run support has been atrocious. The bright spot has been safety Chris Clemons who seems to be wherever the ball is.
Decision – Heads. They have some issues that need to be resolved but overall they have taken the big play away for most of the first four games. But it only takes one big play to blow that all to hell.
Special Teams –
Decision – I tossed the coin in the air and it hit the floor, rolled out my front door, “UP” my drive way, down the street, and into the gutter. Seriously, how screwed up is that? It’s as screwed up as the Dolphins very un-special teams unit. Since I can’t find the coin and for that matter the existence of a special teams I can’t write anything about it.
While special teams cost us two games on their own the real onus for the 2-2 record is the coaching.
Tony Sparan0 – Sparano basically manages the game and while he hasn’t been horrible, it is his responsibility to get the team to play with some enthusiasm and sense of purpose. Instead, the two home games have been played as though the team was allowed to stay up late with the family the night before and waddle into work hungover. Ultimately, they are playing lethargic and that is Sparano’s responsibility.
Dan Henning – Henning is at the center of Hurricane “Fan”. From total collapse on his play calling to even worse decisions to run the “Wild Cat”, Henning has shown zero ingenuity and has yet to take the reigns off their young starting QB. There has been no flow to any of the Dolphins drives in both their wins and both their losses. While the team has moved the ball well at times, Henning can’t seem to allow what works to continue and instead gets cute and puts the offense back into a spin. Won’t work in this division.
Mike Nolan – Where is the Mike Nolan blitz schemes? We saw a glimpse against Buffalo and a lot against the Vikings. Then it all but disappeared after the first two series in both losses. The Dolphins seem to move into a prevent mode more often than attack mode. This may be an edict from HC Tony Sparano as Nolan has never been the type of coach that softens his pressure late in the game. If so, it was the same issue in Denver last year that led to Nolan leaving the team.
Decision – Tony Sparano and Dan Henning are both on tails and Nolan’s coin still hasn’t settled on a side just yet, spinning in circles much like my head. The fact is this, Sparano is coaching not to lose instead of coaching to win. This is classic WannyBall and if there is something we all know is this. You don’t win by playing WannyBall.
2nd Quarter preview:
Did you think that the first quarter of the season was bad? Wait until you see the second. Many fans would have been thrilled with a 2-2 record after the first four games and in some respect they are. It’s simply the manner in which the two losses were taken. Both games were completely winnable making the next four that much harder and that much more important.
Green Bay – The Packers have a very stout defense but have struggled late with losses to Chicago and Washington and near disaster against the Lions. While they are susceptible to giving up a lot of yards, their offense can explode even without a running game. This week the Pack may be without Aaron Rodgers but New Orleans thought the same thing about back-up QB’s when they faced Arizona on Sunday. Oh, and it’s in Green Bay.
Pittsburgh – Coming home to face a Steeler team that looks like a Super Bowl contender only gets worse with the return of Ben Roethlisberger. Maybe he will be rusty. The defense of the Steelers will pose a significant challenge to the Dolphins offensive line and their entire game-plan. But don’t worry, Dan Henning should fittingly send in the Wild Cat often to keep them laughing honest.
Cincinnatti – The Bengals suddenly are not as imposing as they were before the season started even with the addition of Terrell Owens, but that doesn’t mean the Bengals won’t pose a huge threat to the seasonal record. The game is up in southern Ohio which means if the Dolphins can hold form, should be a road win. But they will need to keep Chad OchoCinco and Owens from having any part of the game-plan.
Baltimore – The Dolphins home games in quarter two are going to be low scoring affairs. At least for the Dolphins. The Ravens will bring their top 5 defense to Miami and will try and keep the Dolphins out of the win column. Joe Flacco has already at least one TD into the end-zone on a QB draw and he loves running that play against the Dolphins.
Decision – While you can’t really predict the future, you can at least look at what you have as a team and what you don’t. This second quarter looks horrible on paper and could be worse on the field. The Dolphins will be in good shape if they can come out of this four week period 2-2 as well. 3-1 would mean this team has turned a corner. Anything less than .500 and the Dolphins will be fighting up hill the rest of the year.