Miami Dolphins: Week 16 And 17 Final Thoughts/Observations


Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets kicker Nick Folk (2) kicks a field goal as Miami Dolphins safety Jimmy Wilson (27) tries for the block during the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. The Jets defeated Miami 20-7. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Well Miami Dolphins fans, the loss today to the New York Jets officially ended Miami’s 2013 season, dropping their final two games to AFC East rivals. Miami took fans on a bit of a roller-coaster ride this season en route to an 8-8 record.

Miami was pummeled by the Jets today 20-7, and was wrecked by Buffalo 19-0. I know, I know, “Press the reset button”, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Here are some observations I was able to conclude from the final two games this season:

NOTE: I didn’t write an observations article last week because, well, I honestly couldn’t find a single thing that went well. I figured I could couple these past two weeks together since, well, Miami looked like shit.

—- QB Ryan Tannehill still doesn’t get it. Tannehill still struggles with touch throws, proper mechanics, and many more important skills a “franchise” guy needs to possess. In today’s game, Tannehill actually threw together a solid first half, even though his 10 of 22 statistic didn’t really show that. He had a few miscues with WR Brian Hartline, who missed the majority of the game with a knee injury, and a ton of dropped passes including a nicely thrown ball to WR Rishard Matthews which would have been a big gainer just before the half. Miami’s entire offense really struggled in the second half today to get anything going, and, well, last week they really had nothing going all game long.

The kid has a lot of maturing to do, still. He can be “the guy”, but he needs some proper coaching this offseason, and a new offensive coordinator to help design an offensive scheme which fits his playmaking abilities. Let’s face it, Mike Sherman has never been that guy.

—- Miami’s run game is still the most inconsistent piece of this offense. Miami couldn’t get a single thing going on the ground against Buffalo, an average run defense. But against NY, they were able to pound it inside for 92 yards on 22 carries. RB Lamar Miller has potential, but he really struggles with consistency which concerns me. Miami will definitely be in the market for a running back this offseason, and a guy like Lache Seastrunk from Baylor would be a solid fit to compliment Miller.

And find a damn fullback….please.

Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Rishard Matthews (18) reacts after making a catch as New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) defends during the second half of the game at Sun Life Stadium. The Jets defeated Miami 20-7. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

—- The receivers played too spotty for my liking over the past few weeks. Obviously they played like shit against Buffalo, but we saw some good and some bad things today. WR Mike Wallace ran some good routes today against rookie DB Dee Milliner, but he struggled with catching the football AND it concerns me that he does not fight for the football very well. Wallace doesn’t attack the football at it’s highest point, he lets it fall into his hands. WR Rishard Matthews has done enough this season to earn consideration for the team’s 3rd or 4th receiver spot next season, but he needs to continue to improve in many areas. Mostly: Consistency. WR Brian Hartline has gained 1,000+ for the second consecutive season, losing Hartline to a knee injury today was clearly a big loss.

This team should be fine at the receiver position next season having a healthy group of Hartline, Wallace, Gibson, Matthews, Moore, Binns, etc. Tannehill has no reason not to succeed.

—- TE Charles Clay deserves Miami’s most improved player award, and perhaps deserves their MVP award this season. He’s done a great job this season, but tinkered off in the final three weeks. If Miami decides to take a chance on TE Dustin Keller again next season, which I have mixed feeling about, it could give Miami a very nice one-two punch at the tight end position.

—- Miami will clearly be looking for three or four offensive linemen next season, I don’t think that will surprise anyone. The bright side about Miami finishing at 8-8, if there really is any, is that they’ll be in prime position to either take a top offensive line prospect where they lay in the first round, or they can trade back into the tail end of the first to grab some more picks to load up that offensive line….it’s a solid group this season in the top three rounds. Mike Pouncey is the only guy who should be starting next season for this team that ended as a starter this season. Everyone else should be on the outs.

—- The defensive line rotation could get a little interesting next season, potentially losing a great duo of Randy Starks and Paul Soliai. Honestly, with $17M I would think long and hard about bringing both guys back next season. It’s likely going to be Soliai, who will command less money than Starks, but either one will be a big blow to this defense.

I was impressed with the play of Olivier Vernon this season, but he fell off during the last three weeks of the season, which was quite disappointing. Miami needs him to pick up his play a bit.

It’s sad to think about, but it’s seeming that Cameron Wake’s tenure with Miami will be ending in the next two or three seasons due to Vernon’s progression and the ability of Dion Jordan. Could a smart coaching staff make it work? Yes, but we have to remember that Wake is aging quickly.

—- Miami seriously needs to consider biting a bullet to re-work their linebackers. Koa Misi is fine, in my opinion. He played well today against New York and deserves a longer look. Why not a move to the middle backer spot? Dannell Ellerbe sucks and would be cut right now if I had anything to say about it. The most embarrassing play of Miami’s season would be NY QB Geno Smith over-powering Ellerbe for a touchdown. Downright sad. And, of course, Philip Wheeler, who is about as inconsistent as they come. I like Wheeler, and always have ever since his Georgia Tech days, but he’ll never be a good linebacker. A solid back-up and that’s it.

I like Jelani Jenkins, and I think he could be a solid backer, but he’s not ready yet. He played well filling in for Wheeler over the past few weeks, but was completely owned by TE Kellen Winslow today in coverage. Kellen Winslow? He’s still around?

—- The corners really struggled during these past two games, and I honestly think Kevin Coyle is to blame. I’ve struggled with this guy’s play calling this season. I didn’t like it and I thought it was quite predictable overall, as did many others. New England really showed that the quick slants worked well against Miami. So what did Buffalo and NY do? They ran quick screens and slants to beat Miami’s corners. That’s on Coyle.

Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin prior to a game against the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The hope is that Brent Grimes will return next season (3-4 years or tag?) and that the two rookies – Will Davis and Jamar Taylor – will come into their own next season to give this secondary a boost. Miami has some decisions to make in the secondary, especially with CB Dimitri Patterson who played well this season when healthy, and that was not too often.

—- Chris Clemons needs to return next season, while Reshad Jones needs to return to his 2012 form next season. A new defensive coordinator could turn these two into quite a pair. I’m not really too concerned with these two.

—- Miami’s special teams unit will likely remain the same going into next season. Caleb Sturgis should continue to grow, while Brandon Fields shall continue to be such a boss. Miami will likely look into bringing in some competition for Marcus Thigpen at the return position. Dri Archer anybody? Please!

So let the debate begin. Let the speculation begin. Does Miami retain the entire coaching staff? Does Stephen Ross decide to dump Joe Philbin? Mike Sherman (please)? Kevin Coyle? Jeff Ireland?

Here’s my take:

I think Ross should kick Sherman and Coyle to the curb. And that really shouldn’t surprise anyone. I already went on a bit of a rant about Coyle, and Sherman, well, I think that’s self-explanatory.

But, Philbin is the one I am uncertain about. I think the guy did a solid job keeping things together within his locker-room after the Incognito-Martin situation. That being said, I don’t know if he’s the guy that can really lead this team back to glory. It’s his job to get this team to succeed, and they didn’t this season. They were in position to grab that final playoff spot, and they didn’t. They lost their final two games against sub-par teams, who are also divisional rivals, who also blew Miami out of the water allowing Miami to score just 7 points in two weeks.

Joe Philbin, he needs to go.

Ireland, Ireland, Ireland……I’ll give him another season. The guy has done a solid job over the past few seasons of giving Philbin and “the field-goal-fist-pump” talent to work with on their rosters. It’s the general manager’s job to load the roster with talent. It’s the coach’s job to put the talent in proper positions to succeed. Neither guy did that consistently. That doesn’t fall on Ireland. I’ll give him one more season to find some offensive linemen to plug into this offense.

8-8 is not a successful season, especially given the circumstances during the final two weeks. Miami has some decisions to make, specifically Stephen Ross.