Dolphins Prepare Not To Be Tennessee
By Brian Miller
Jul 24, 2013; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins jerseys and shoulder pads are seen during training camp practice at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
We break from our normal Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito soap opera to bring you breaking news. The Miami Dolphins play a football game tonight. They will take the field in Tampa Bay and try not become the next Tennessee Titans. You know the team that lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. The team that until Sunday had not won a game all year. Tampa Bay hasn’t won a game either and the Dolphins will, no, they NEED to make sure that is the case come Tuesday. A swirling media circus (the Dolphins actually piped in ‘circus’ music after practice the other day when the locker room was open to the media…I love it!) has descended on Miami like nothing the NFL has really seen before. Aaron Hernandez was an 0ff-season problem and “bounty-gate” was an off-season problem as well. By the time the games rolled around it was football business. Not so with the Dolphins who have dealt with the distraction now for almost three full weeks. A source within the Dolphins told one of those media circus guys that the team is ready and focused and “galvanized” thanks to all this talk. According to a player on the team, they are pissed off. That’s good because tonight will not be an easy task. The Buccaneers came close to knocking off the Seattle Seahawks last week opening up a 21-3 lead before losing it in the second half. A feeling Miami knows all too well. Miami may be pissed right now, but Tampa Bay is embarrassed. With Jacksonville winning on Sunday, the Buccaneers don’t want to have that egg in their win column another week. For the Dolphins, the only real question is not how much the off-field distractions have hurt the team but how much losing two starting offensive lineman will. Last week they beat a very good Cincinnati team on Thursday night without Jonathan Martin and they lost Richie Incognito to a neck injury early in the first quarter before his suspension. Hard to believe this soap opera isn’t even two weeks old yet. Without Martin or Incognito the Dolphins line still played well using a sixth lineman to help protect QB Ryan Tannehill. They are expected to do the same tonight. It’s not unfamiliar to the team as past years Miami has kept in a TE to serve as that sixth lineman for blocking. The Dolphins can still run four wide sets or three wide with a RB. Mike Sherman will need to get more creative, something he has yet to show capable of, in order to mask the Dolphins line issues that are glaring to everyone in the league. Tonight’s game is as close to a must win game as the Dolphins can have mid way through the season. Key losses on Sunday put the Dolphins in prime position to once again control their own destiny. Losses by San Diego and Tennessee moved Miami up to the 7th conference seed. A win tonight will put them tied with the New York Jets at 5-4 but Miami won’t move up due to the Jet’s better division record. It makes the oncoming date with the Jets that much more important. In addition to the losses by the Titans and Chargers, the gap with Indianapolis and Cincinnati dropped a game as both teams lost on Sunday. It’s the division that Miami needs to keep their sites on though. Both New England and the Jets spend the weekend on a bye and a win tonight will move Miami back into a second place tie in the division and two games back of New England who posts a seven and two record. Playoff football in November? You bet. A loss tonight will not “mathematically” eliminate the Dolphins but given the locker room disarray and media hounding of the Martin fracas, this team, nor their coach or GM, may survive without a strong push to the end. That needs to start tonight. For one team it’s “nothing to lose” football and you can expect the Buc’s to take a lot of chances they normally wouldn’t. The other team has everything to lose and not taking chances may cost the game. The Dolphins have to be physical and forceful in their approach. It’s a game they have to look at as a nail in the proverbial coffin. Hopefully the player inside is right and the team is fired up and pissed off…let’s hope they feel that way when the game starts.