- Mike Tannenbaum hired... ...as Dolphins' executive VP of football operations
- Philbin retained Coach Philbin was given a contract extension
- Fins season ends on low note Jets down the Fins to end their season 8-8
- CB Will Davis out for season Miami placed CB Will Davis on the IR, ending his season
Dolphins-Chargers Game Observations
As the Miami Dolphins tend to do, they followed up Week 10’s pathetic loss to the previously-winless Buccaneers with a solid home win against the Chargers, bringing them to 5-5 and right in the thick of the AFC Wild Card hunt. Here are my observations from the team’s Week 11 performance…
- I thought Ryan Tannehill was good but not great in this one. He still held onto the ball too long at times and his accuracy wasn’t always on. He was solid on short and intermediate routes, but he once again continues to struggle with the deep ball. He had Mike Wallace for an easy touchdown and once again underthrew him and caused an incompletion. I also worry at times about Tannehill’s velocity, because he seems to throw a lot of passes on comeback routes that get jumped or close to it.
- I was pleasantly surprised with the running game in this one, as the backs got surprising help from our patchwork line and were able to move the ball on the ground. Daniel Thomas was the standout here, averaging 5.7 yards onten carries in what was easily one of his best performances with the Dolphins. I know people hate the guy and he’s far from the guy you want as a starter, but he did show what he’s capable of when he gets help up front.
- There isn’t much to speak of from the wide receiver perspective, as Rishard Matthews predictably came back down to earth, Brian Hartline is solid but not spectacular, and Mike Wallace continues to be a square peg in a round hole in Miami. Charles Clay, on the other hand, had a very nice game and his bulldozing touchdown was a thing of beauty. He’s never going to be Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates, but he’s got ability and his versatility is invaluable. He’s certainly shaped up as one of Jeff Ireland’s best late-round selections.
- Perhaps the Dolphins’ offensive line took last week’s dismal rushing performance personally, as they should have. They were much better in this one, with John Jerry and Tyson Clabo leading the way. Jerry did have two false start penalties, however, and the pass protection was not as good with Clabo allowing three hurries, left guard Sam Brenner allowing a sack and left tackle Bryant McKinnie allowing two. Part of the issue is on Tannehill for holding the ball too long and not making good decisions, but talent on the line is also an issue here and will unfortunately be one for the rest of the season.
- One other note on the line: with Mike Pouncey out at center, Nate Garner predictably moved to that spot as he has in the past. But my question is this: why is Sam Brenner, an undrafted rookie guard/center out of Utah, starting at left guard (replacing Garner who was replacing Richie Incognito) when our third-round pick, Dallas Thomas, has been listed as the backup left guard all season? Thomas actually made his NFL debut yesterday, seeing one snap at right guard (not sure when), but it blows my mind why our third-rounder can’t grab a start over an undrafted rookie fresh off the practice squad. Brenner actually held up fairly well in the game, but to me it just isn’t a good sign that Thomas didn’t draw the start.
- The pass rush took a while to show up in this one, but they certainly came through when it counted. Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon both came up with huge sacks and the defensive line got a few key pressures late in the game to thwart a Chargers comeback. It’s hard for me to criticize the Dolphins’ defensive end rotation because it worked well in this one and I do like things about Vernon and Derrick Shelby‘s games, but I don’t like seeing Vernon out-play Wake (52 snaps to 49) and I don’t like seeing Dion Jordan only get 22 snaps (though it was an improvement on the nine snaps vs Tampa). Jordan was even off the field to start the final drive, despite the Chargers being an obvious passing situation, and he always seems to make an impact when he’s in, so put him in more!
- The defensive tackles continue to excel for Miami, and they continue to be let down by the linebackers (more on that in a bit.) Paul Soliai had a stellar game and made a few tackles downfield that were just ridiculous for a man his size. Jared Odrick’s breakout season continues as well and I’d love to see those two as the starters next year with Randy Starks‘ imminent departure. That is assuming, of course, the Dolphins can re-sign Soliai.
- Philip Wheeler rebounded with a strong game after a horrendous performance against the Buccaneers. He was the one linebacker that made good tackles and wrapped up well. Dannell Ellerbe just seems to get worse every week, taking bad angles and getting dragged by ball carriers. He’s shaping up to be a terrible free agent bust, but his contact is near-impossible to get out of for a few years and Miami is stuck with him for quite some time.
- What else can you say about Brent Grimes? The bargain free agent always has excellent overage and is around the ball even when he allows the occasional reception. He made a great play on an early interception and sealed the game with a nice tip on the final play. It’s a bummer Dimitri Patterson can’t stay on the field because both of them have been extremely impressive this season. Nolan Carroll, on the other hand, struggled in this one and Jimmy Wilson has clearly supplanted him as the nickel guy. At this point, I’d love to see Jamar Taylor (one defensive snap since Week 5) or Will Davis (zero defensive snaps this season) get a look, but of course that would go ahead the coaching staff’s bizarre rule of not playing their draft picks.
- I cannot explain what has happened with Reshad Jones, but he looks nothing like the guy we saw break out in 2012. The Dolphins aren’t in a position to replace him, nor should they be looking to at this point, but it’s growing more and more concerning as the situation fails to remedy itself and the staff really needs to get to the bottom of it.
It’s great that the Dolphins are in the playoff picture and not forcing us to talk draft in November, but the Dolphins still don’t look like a playoff-caliber squad and things will need to get a lot better if they’re going to make a serious push, not to mention have any kind of chance in a wild card game. Tannehill needs to vastly improve despite his offensive line’s issues and the defense cannot be so reliant on the line for its production. It’s great we have a reason to cheer for now, but this team is so up and down I don’t know what to expect from one week to the next.