Ten Dolphins Goals For The Last Four Weeks


Also on the list of things to do… teach Ryan Tannehill that while we love the effort, flying through the air asking to get drilled by a defender is not the best idea… Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a strange but fairly successful season for the Miami Dolphins thus far in 2012.  The young roster has shown flashes of brilliance surrounded by an inconsistent offense and a bend-but-don’t-break defense from which the team can build on in future years.  But with an organization as raw as Miami’s, no regular season games should ever go wasted.  Each presents a developmental opportunity from the top to the bottom of the roster and right through to the coaching staff.

While the team’s playoff chances may be minimal at best, the last four games will be the final image both fans and coaches have about the organization heading into the future.  And thus, without further ado, here are ten items I feel should be goals for the organization over the next four weeks and the likelihood of them being accomplished:

  • Continue to develop Ryan Tannehill – Obviously from the moment Tannehill beat out Matt Moore and David Garrard in training camp, the entire season has been about his development as the Dolphins signal caller for the next decade.  Nothing has changed on that front.  Tannehill has been given the opportunity to play in every situation and should continue to learn and expand his repertoire; every regular season snap is valuable.  While it would be nice to fast-track his development by providing him some more weapons, the Dolphins will have to settle with just getting him four more games of regular playing time… Probability of Tannehill continuing to be developed: 100%
  • Determine viability of Jonathan Martin at LT – While the season ending injury to Jake Long last weekend is not something the Dolphins were hoping for, it will provide 4.5 games worth of game tape on Long’s potential replacement at the position should he leave in free agency.  While Martin was expected to be the long-term solution at RT, Long’s relatively poor performance this season and his proficiency in getting hurt in recent years make his long-term status as the line’s anchor precarious at best.  If the front office is entertaining any thoughts of parting with Long after the 2012 season, they need to see Martin at the position now.  If they have no such thoughts, than perhaps Martin will stay at the position he was thought to be staying long-term in RT.  I think the front office has to at least entertain the idea of Long leaving, so I think Martin will stay at LT for the rest of 2012… Probability of Martin being at LT for the rest of the season: 90%
  • Wherefore art thou, Olivier Vernon? – Remember the amazing three game streak the man they call OV had in Weeks 6-9?  The two sack game against the St. Louis Rams on a bum ankle, including the sack that knocked the Rams out of field goal position on the final drive.  The blocked field goal and punt block return TD against the New York Jets followed by another blocked field goal the next week in Indianapolis.  Well since then OV has been MIA – a man who was looking like he may be a pass rushing steal from the third round of last year’s draft has instead been invisible.  A return to his impact-making ways would be a promising sign for the future… Probability: 50%
  • Adjustments from Kevin Coyle and the defense – Coyle has done a lot of productive things for the Dolphins this year, but with the exception of this past week’s game against the New England Patriots, the Dolphins have consistently been beatable in the same ways.  Screens and misdirections have continually plagued the Dolphins and as opponents have caught on, the Dolphins have been used and abused on these plays an alarming amount of times per game.  While any pass rushing team is susceptible to a well-blocked screen play, the league’s best find a way to adjust in game.  The Dolphins have yet to do so this season, and finding a way to accomplish this would go a long way toward making the D more formidable; unfortunately, if Coyle had the ability to make the adjustments happen, we probably would have already seen it… Probability of major defensive adjustments: 20%
  • Get young players on the field – With Reggie Bush likely gone in free agency, the Dolphins appear set to go with a Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller backfield into the future.  While Miller has shown flashes, he has also been inactive on certain occasions as his pass blocking has not been up to NFL quality.  If he is to be a big part of the future, the Dolphins need to get him on the field now to work out his kinks.  Charles Clay is another young player with a unique skill set, as evidenced in his big performance against the Seattle Seahawks, but he also does not seem to get enough looks.  Rookies Rishard Matthews, Kheeston Randall, and Derrick Shelby also would be best served on the field; if even one of the three becomes a large contributor it would be huge for this team.  As playoff contention becomes more far fetched, it seems logical these guys may get more time… Probability of more playing time for the young guys: 50%
  • Avoid the rookie wall – The Dolphins have a young roster, and with a young roster often comes end of season fatigue, as many of these guys have never played a full 16 game season.  Joe Philbin worked the guys hard in the pre-season, and the final four weeks will be a clue as to whether that built conditioning or simply wore out the players before the season even started.  My money is that it built conditioning and the rookie wall will be largely avoided… Probability of no rookie wall: 80%
  • Get Davone Bess, Brian Hartline to 1,000 yards receiving – Alright, so this one isn’t so much a long-term team oriented goal, but sometimes seemingly meaningless statistics serve as a worthy reward for two guys who have put up surprising seasons this year.  Hartline has made the jump to a solid number 2 receiver masquerading as a number 1 this season despite some pundits thinking he was a candidate to get cut this preseason.  With 891 yards at this point in the year, he is almost guaranteed to get to 1,000 and could possibly challenge 1,200.  Bess, despite a few drops in the Patriots game, has continued to be his reliable, consistent self.  As a slot receiver, his chances at 1,000 yards year-to-year are slim, so while he is slightly behind pace right now at 728 yards, it would likely be a nice once-in-a-lifetime reward if the team could find a way to get him there… Probability of both achieving 1,000 yards: 40%
  • Beat one of the two premium teams on the schedule – The Dolphins schedule leaves them with two of the dregs of the league (the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars) and two Super Bowl contenders (the San Francisco 49ers and the Patriots).  Believe it or not, the Dolphins are actually a decent matchup for both of the elite teams that remain.  The Dolphins are similar to the Rams, who have given the 49ers fits this year, and thus could very well play a tight game in San Fran.  The Patriots already struggled with the Dolphins D once this year, and they have done so historically as well.  While it may not matter for playoff purposes, stealing a win against one of these foes would be a big confidence boost for 2013… Probability of stealing a win against one of these opponents: 30%
  • Dish out a beat down – The two lesser teams the Dolphins face, the Bills and the Jaguars, are the kind of opponents the Dolphins need to roll over in future years if they want to become a contender in the AFC.  Playing close games every week is a good start for a developing team, but eventually you need to put some games away early.  The Dolphins did this once against the Oakland Raiders earlier this year, but it would be great to see them do it again.  The Bills and Jaguars have improved from their early season misery, but a good trouncing would be another sign the Dolphins are building something good… Probability of a blow-out win: 20%
  • Finish 8-8 – Overall, facing two teams they should beat and two teams that they shouldn’t, the Dolphins are likely staring at a 7-9 finish.  That one extra win against a premium team would do wonders and would allow a .500 finish to what has been an adventurous but productive year.  Ultimately, that’s what this team’s most reasonable goal is at this point.  Two wins over the teams they should beat and one vulture win from the league’s elite would do it… Probability: 20%