Miami Dolphins defense becoming a bigger issue than quarterback

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 25: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans scores in the fourth quarter as he beats Bobby McCain #28 of the Miami Dolphins to the pylon at NRG Stadium on October 25, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 25: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans scores in the fourth quarter as he beats Bobby McCain #28 of the Miami Dolphins to the pylon at NRG Stadium on October 25, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Miami Dolphins quarterback concerns have been an ongoing concern in South Florida, but it’s been the defense that has been the major disappointment these past few weeks.

Brock Osweiler did not play very well Thursday night against the Texans as he showed that his accuracy issues have been the biggest letdown throughout his career. Despite the misses, the Miami Dolphins still managed to put up 23 points, and stayed in the game for the most part of the game. The real problem was that each time Miami scored, the defense gave the points right back to Houston.

When it was all said and done, the Dolphins allowed the Texans to put up 42 points on the board, and with relative ease. Many of Houston’s scoring drives were done on just a handful of plays. It was another overall ugly performance by this defense, and it really doesn’t matter who your quarterback is when your defense is giving up 42 points.

The hot topic this morning has been whether or not the Dolphins should fire their defensive coordinator ahead of next weekend’s game against the Jets. Following last Thursday night’s game, the Arizona Cardinals immediately fired their offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, the next morning after they were blown out by the Denver Broncos.

Dolphins fans may want the same type of treatment done to Matt Burke, but there is a strong chance that Adam Gase may elect to stick with him for the remainder of the season. However, as our editor here at PhinPhanatic, Brian Miller, pointed out, the Dolphins defense needs to be shaken up, and it starts at the coordinator position. Personally, I think it should be done sooner rather than later, but it probably wouldn’t make much of a difference whether it’s now or later, at least in terms of their record.

The Dolphins may be 4-4, and still statistically in the running for a playoff push, but they are far from a playoff caliber team, and the season is merely a loss at this point. They could elect to fire Burke now, and bring in an interim coach, but unless it is someone they could see sticking around long term, they’re likely going to be looking for a defensive coordinator next season either way. There’s even the possibility they may be looking for a new head coach overall because Adam Gase cannot be considered safe the way this team has been playing.

It’s long been known that the Dolphins need to do something about their quarterback situation. Even some of the most die-hard Ryan Tannehill fans are beginning to think that after seven seasons he may not be the answer. Heading into the season, it was widely agreed upon that at worst the Dolphins should’ve done more to address the backup situation, particularly with Tannehill coming off of a torn ACL. The coaching staff and front office practically ignored it, however, and that’s how we ended up with Brock Osweiler.

With Tannehill currently out with a shoulder injury, there hasn’t been that much of a drop-off in quarterback play with Osweiler as the starter. His accuracy is horrendous, but Osweiler is not the reason Miami is losing games. Even so, we all know that the Dolphins need to address quarterback in next year’s draft, and probably free agency too, with Tannehill possibly on his way out. That is next year’s issue, however, and right now Miami needs to do something to fix their defense.

Unlike the offense in which Miami can move on from a bunch of players following this season, the defense primarily consists of young players, and those in long-term deals. It is expected that the young players will go through some growing pains, but there are those not living up to their billing or already showing signs of regression.

Charles Harris has yet to show his worth as a first round talent since Miami drafted him in 2017, and he has now missed the last three games with a calf injury. Cordrea Tankersley has been Miami’s biggest disappointment after a promising rookie season. He’s regressed so much in a short period of time that he can barely get on the field, even considering the number of injuries Miami has sustained in their secondary. Raekwon McMillan, virtually in a rookie year after a torn ACL cut his 2017 season, has often looked slow and out of position. For McMillan, these are part of the growing pains, but you hope that he can turn things around quickly. His college teammate, Jerome Baker, has played well for the most part, but this was supposed to be more of a developing year for him.

As for the veterans, T.J. McDonald continues to take some of the worst angles imaginable, and you have to wonder what the front office was thinking when they extended him to a four-year deal before he even played a regular season down for Miami. Cameron Wake, unfortunately, is starting to show his age, and the Dolphins may want to consider moving him prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Robert Quinn has been relatively quiet so far, and not what the Dolphins were hoping for when they traded a 4th round pick to the Rams to get him. Bobby McCain returned from a knee injury last week, but one has to wonder if he is still hurt, because he has not looked good in either game thus far. Even Reshad Jones, who I can consider the glue of the defense, didn’t play well last night in Houston.

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Many of the players are changing, but the issues remain the same. The 5 Reasons Sports Network laid out an interesting stat this week on their podcast regarding Miami’s linebackers over the years. In 1996, under Jimmy Johnson, the Dolphins drafted Zach Thomas in the 5th round. Thomas would go on to have a stellar career, obviously. He was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times, and many believe (including myself) that he is a future Hall-of-Famer. 5 Reasons pointed out that the Dolphins have drafted 26 linebackers since then, but none of them have ever been selected to a Pro Bowl. Amazing.

A large part of that is because it seems like an eternity since Miami had a linebacker that can cover in the open field, but in addition for the past several seasons, is their inability to stop the run. Immediately following Miami’s preseason game against Tampa, I wrote that the Dolphins run defense was still a major area of concern. For the first couple games of the regular season, Miami did fairly well defending the run, but they have been atrocious the last five weeks.

The Dolphins thought they were going to solve their run defensive problems back when they outbid themselves to sign Ndamukong Suh, but it never happened. Without him, it’s been just as bad, if not worse. Last night, Houston rushed for 188 total yards, led by Lamar Miller‘s 133. Against Detroit, they allowed 248 yards, with Kerryon Johnson leading the charge with 158. They now rank 30th in the league against the run at 143.1 yards per game.

At the end of the day, however, what matters most, is keeping teams off of the scoreboard. To start the season, Miami’s defense was a doing pretty good of keeping teams out of the end zone. Teams were able to move the ball against them, but the Dolphins had a bend, but not break appeal to them. They were holding teams to field goals instead of touchdowns, and created a ton of turnovers in the process.

In these last two games, however, they have zero turnovers, and it’s shown just how much they rely on them because of their inability to get off the field with 3rd down stops. It seems no matter what the down and distance is, teams find a way to keep drives alive against this defense.

In the last five games, Miami’s defense is giving up 30.6 points per game, and that’s not including Ryan Tannehill‘s two turnovers against Cincinnati that resulted into touchdowns. Some may continue to argue that they are still 4-4, and that the playoffs are a possibility, but that’s not a playoff type of defense by any means.

The season is a lost cause, and it’s time for Miami to start making some necessary changes. All signs show that it starts with the firing of Matt Burke, and to probably make a trade or two ahead of the deadline. If Gase, and the front office continue to stay stubborn, however, it will just prolong the process for a fan base that has grown impatient for the better part of two decades.