Gase, Dolphins Are Having Trouble Fixing Defensive Woes
By Sean Denison
While the Dolphins’ defense has progressively gotten worse the past three weeks, coach Adam Gase is having troubling pinpointing the problem.
On Monday night, the nation watched as the Miami Dolphins’ defense was gutted by the Carolina Panthers in a lopsided, 45-21, affair.
The Panthers, who gained a franchise-record 548 yards, showed no mercy, embarrassing the Dolphins for a third-consecutive week on national television.
“We had an eight-minute span there where the game got away from us and it just snowballed for us after that,” Gase said, via the Palm Beach Post.
At the beginning of the season, Miami’s defense was the strength of the team, ranking atop the NFL in rushing and scoring defense, respectively. The past three weeks, however, has been an entirely different story.
In every aspect, the Dolphins’ defense has steadily gotten worse over this time.
The Dolphins’ run-defense, a top-ranked unit at the beginning of the season, has surrendered 552 yards rushing (5.36 average) the past three weeks, including 294 yards on Monday night against the Panthers.
To make matters worse, the Dolphins continue to be terrible at tackling ball carriers in open space. This was on display Monday night.
Kiko Alonso, who is second on the team in total tackles (59), got embarrassed twice when attempting to take down rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. In both instances, Alonso’s inability to tackle in open-space resulted in a positive play for the Panthers. On one, McCaffrey scampered for 19-yards, converting on a critical third-and-eight. The other cost the Dolphins six points, a four-yard touchdown run.
The pass-defense hasn’t fared much better. On the season, only the Oakland Raiders (110.5) have allowed a higher quarterback rating than the Dolphins (104.8). The Dolphins’ secondary routinely gets caught out of position, leaving wide receivers wide open. We’ve seen this all season, and it’s one of many reasons opposing quarterbacks have had so much success against this unit.
In fact, we saw this on Monday night when a struggling Cam Newton, who came into Monday’s game throwing six picks in his last four games, finished with a 120.4 quarterback rating, converting 21 of 35 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns.
Another reason the Dolphins have had trouble defending the pass this season has been the lack of pressure they’ve put on opposing quarterbacks.
The Dolphins’ defensive line, despite loaded with talent and hefty contracts, has only registered 16 sacks, ranking them at the bottom of the league (No. 26) in that category. The lack of pressure can explain why the Dolphins’ secondary has trouble forcing turnovers. In fact, only the Raiders (0) and the Falcons (2) have fewer interceptions than Miami (3).
And with ample time in the pocket, opposing quarterbacks have been proficient against the Dolphins’ young secondary, completing 69 percent of their throws.
As expected, Gase can’t seem to pinpoint the team’s defensive troubles.
“Take a look at the tape and find out where we were not aligned,” he said. “Something’s not going as planned and we just have to go back and look at this. Is it the personnel? Is it the calls?”
“Sometimes just because a guy’s open you’re not really sure of the answer and you’ve got to go take a look at it and figure out where you need to make adjustments.”
As witnessed on Monday night, the Dolphins’ defense continued its downward spiral, which effectively has, as Gase put it, “snowballed.”
For now, it appears the Dolphins only hope to salvage their defense, as well as their season, is for the South Florida sun to work its magic and melt the curse that began riddling this team three weeks ago.