Monday, September 24, 2012

Dolphins-Jets Game Observations

You could just feel this one coming. As soon as the Dolphins' showed some promise in their decisive 35-13 victory over the Raiders in Week 2, the Dolphins failed to take advantage of a weak performance by the Jets in Week 3, losing in overtime by a score of 23-20.

I'll get into my long-term thoughts a bit later, but here are my specific observations from the Dolphins' loss to the Jets...


Offense

  • As has been the case the last two weeks, I'm fairly happy with what I've seen from Ryan Tannehill. He never really looks rattled or like the game is too big for him and he seems to have a good command of the offense. This wasn't his best day and he was certainly off on some throws, with the pick-six being just a terrible decision. I didn't think the play-calling did him any favors, either. I'd really like to see the Dolphins roll him out more and let him throw more medium passes, because it seems like their either abandon the pass altogether or let him throw these long-shot deep passes when it's too late.
  • Reggie Bush picked up right where he left off in this one with 10 carries for 61 yards in the first half. He continues to show good vision and burst as a reliable starting back. Unfortunately, we suffered a bit of a scare when he suffered a knee injury just before the half. (I should say I don't blame the coaching staff for this—the Jets had two timeouts and I have no issue with running the clock out and seeing if you happen get a big gain. Bush did come out of the locker room and was running on the sideline a bit, so hopefully this is something he'll be able to return from in Week 4.
  • I've been a big defender of Daniel Thomas lately, which means I took a lot of crap from today's game. There was no excuse for his fumble and he seemed to have a far higher percentage of "nothing" carries than either Bush or Lamar Miller. I did find it interesting that the Dolphins stuck with Thomas late in the game, and I'm glad they didn't bench him entirely for his one mistake. Miller certainly showed promise though and Thomas will need to step his game up if he wants to remain Bush's primary backup.
  • Just awesome to see fullback Jorvorskie Lane score his first NFL touchdown after the road he took to the NFL. What an incredible story and hopefully he continues to develop in Miami.
  • This game was a prime example of the Dolphins' issues at wide receiver, as the team got almost no production from the group aside from Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano. After a huge day against Oakland, Brian Hartline didn't notch a reception until overtime when he made one of his patented diving/falling/toe-tapping numbers. Then you had Legedu Naanee, who was invisible in 18 offensive snaps and Anthony Armstrong, who had two huge drops that could've changed the game. This receiving corps and the play-calling is certainly not helping Tannehill do his job, which just makes the rookie quarterback's performance this season all the more impressive.
  • I thought the offensive line did a very good job in this one in all facets. They consistently opened up running lanes for Bush and the other backs, and the pass protection was spot-on as Tannehill wasn't taken down once and was hardly pressured that I recall. I'm especially happy with Mike Pouncey, who is rapidly becoming one of the NFL's best centers.


Defense

  • The Dolphins' defensive line continues to be a Jekyll and Hyde unit. One one hand, they are tremendous at stopping the run and the interior linemen are top-notch. On the other hand, this team is absolutely horrible at getting pressure on the quarterback. Either opposing passers somehow muster insane pocket awareness when they play the Dolphins, or Miami is just constantly late at getting there. Cameron Wake has played better than his numbers indicate, but it's insane that he's sack-less through three games and even without any help he's got to get to the quarterback more than he does. Combine that with the very underwhelming Jared Odrick and Olivier Vernon (who actually shared a sack yesterday but really didn't play well) and the Dolphins may very well be the worst pass-rushing team in the NFL.
  • The Dolphins got a major lift with tight end Dustin Keller out of the game, making things much easier on the linebackers. Nobody from this unit really stood out to me yesterday, although Shonn Greene certainly makes it easy to look like a quality run defender solely because of how bad he is.
  • Sean Smith was beaten numerous times only to be bailed out by Mark Sanchez's ineptitude, and it's hard not to come out of this game feeling like a good quarterback would have shredded this secondary. Richard Marshall made a nice play on the early interception and was on the receiving end of some very ticky-tack penalties, but he didn't have his best game, either. Chris Clemons, too, didn't have a great game but did end up with an interception thanks to a terrible fade throw by Sanchez.


Special Teams

  • It's easy to blame Dan Carpenter for his two missed kicks, and obviously that could have changed the game significantly. But I'm not going to sit here and blame one of the team's most consistent players for messing up when the Dolphins should have won this game decisively.
  • I thought Brandon Fields did a nice job handing a low snap in the end zone and drawing contact on a play that ended up giving the Dolphins continued possession. He was backed up in his own end zone and didn't crumble with a bad snap.
  • Marcus Thigpen remains solid on kickoffs, though he needs batter blocking up front if he's going to get that average farther from 20 and closer to 30.
  • Don't ice the kicker. Just don't do it. First, statistics show a kicker is more likely to make a kick after a timeout. And secondly, only icing the kicker gets people second-guessing you if you screw it up. If you don't call a timeout and the guy makes it, oh well. But if you call a timeout and the guy misses on that null play, you look like a jackass. So don't ice the kicker.


Conclusion

For at least a half of this game, the Jets were a joke. Sanchez and Greene was terrible as usual, the defense was a shadow of its former self, their players were dropping from injuries left and right. On a crucial third down they threw an OUT ROUTE TO TIM TEBOW THAT DOINKED OFF HIS HELMET.

And that's the team Miami lost to. More than anything else, I came away from this game feeling as if the Jets constantly tried to give this game away, and Miami constantly just gave it back and failed to capitalize. The early second half turnovers killed any momentum the team had, and that was follow by terrible offensive play-calling and some bad coaching decisions.

I come away from this game happy with individuals like Tannehill, Bush and Pouncey, but this game also makes me realize just how far they have to go to be a consistent winner. We all saw what they did against Oakland in Week 2, but the reality is they can't put that performance together on a regular basis, or even in back-to-back weeks. I've said it a handful of times in the last 24 hours, but it's still true: a good team beats the Jets by 30 yesterday.

The Dolphins have a lot of holes to fill in their roster and most cannot be filled during the season barring a handful of breakouts. But what they can do is work on their consistency, correct the play-calling and limit coaches' mistakes.