Friday, November 16, 2012

10 Observations from the Dolphins-Bills game

Remember when people looked at a stretch of schedule that included the Colts, Titans and Bills and thought "man, the Dolphins have a chance to make a run here." Yeah, that didn't really work out.

I was only able to watch the game off and on as I was working for NBA on TNT last night, but I did see quite a bit and I watched the condensed version of the game on NFL Game Rewind.

My day job continues to prevent me from going all out with my observations, but here are 10 things I saw in the game.

1. Ryan Tannehill has certainly hit a rookie wall and I know it's a bummer for fans to see him struggle with guys like Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson playing well and having their share of big plays. That being said, I think it's ludicrous to be down on the guy to early given how raw he was supposed to be coming out of college and given how little he has to work with. The Dolphins have played well at times this season, but lately his support has been absolutely nonexistent. Against Buffalo, the line was dominated and there was no running game to speak of, so I can't put all this on a rookie quarterback playing his first road game in the cold.

2. Speaking of the running game, what the hell has happened? The line is getting dominated and these backs have absolutely nothing to work with. It's interesting that Lamar Miller seems to be getting less work than he did earlier in the season, especially when you consider how Reggie Bush's play has fallen off and he may not be re-signed in the offseason.

3. Tannehill's receiving corps is easily among the league's worst, but I do love some of the pieces. Brian Hartline is great at what he does and continues to impress with his body control on the sideline, while Davone Bess is so sure-handed and made a few amazing catches last night. A running game and an elite No. 1 receiver would let those guys thrive in their roles.

4. The offensive line is a mess right now. Jake Long is playing well below his normal level and may be making the Dolphins' decision this offseason that much easier. Meanwhile, rookie Jonathan Martin (Long's potential replacement at left tackle down the line) struggled mightily with four pressures and a sack allowed in this one. The only sure thing right now on this unit is Mike Pouncey, and the rest of the group is regressing. I don't know if it's poor scheme fits or what, but this group is just getting manhandled right now and it's preventing the Dolphins from doing anything on offense.

5. I feel like a broken record, but once again Cameron Wake seems to be the only player on these defense that's consistently productive. He was all over the place and hurried Fitzpatrick a bunch, including one sack. No matter how the season turns out for the Dolphins, expect Wake to land a second Pro Bowl selection this year.

6. I shouldn't say Wake was the only good player last night, because Reshad Jones had a pretty good game as well. He wasn't a liability in coverage and was all over the place in tackling the ball-carrier. Jones has been one of Ireland's better mid-round picks and it's exciting that he's finally developed into a capable starter.

7. While Wake and Jones had good games, the same can't be said for many members of the front seven. Randy Starks and the rest of the defensive line couldn't do anything and the whole front seven took way too long and needed way too many guys to make tackles on C. J. Spiller. Kevin Burnett has been the most consistent of the team's linebackers this season, but none are playing well right now.

8. Nolan Carroll was rightfully flagged on a few plays, but a few others were horrible calls by the referees. What's worse, the Dolphins were also hit with some bad calls and non-calls on the other side of the ball, including a missed interference on Hartline and a weak offensive interference call on Hartline late in the game. I'm not normally one to say a team got screwed by the refs, but I felt the Bills happened to benefit a lot more from bad calls in this one.

9. Brandon Fields is a pure stud and that's all there is too it. The AFC Pro Bowl voting's leading punter right now had a beautiful/improbable punt from the back of his own endzone to the Bills' 33-yard line yesterday. (That's 65 in the air from scrimmage.) On the other hand, Dan Carpenter struggled again with a 50-yard miss off the right upright. I like him and I'm not overly concerned about his ability, but it's fair to wonder if he'll be back in 2013 at a salary over $2 million.

10. One of the Dolphins' few other pleasant surprises this season has been Marcus Thigpen, who has been a huge upgrade to the return game. His second return touchdown of the season last night was a think of beauty and once he turned on the jets there was nobody that could catch him. Thigpen's 29.4 average on kickoffs ranks him third in the NFL among players with at least 15 returns on the season.