MIAMI GARDENS—After three quarters of some of the ugliest offense the Dolphins have played in a long time, they finally broke through with a late touchdown drive to escape the Titans 16-10 at Hard Rock Stadium today.
It wasn’t easy, and it probably should have been. Tennessee was coming off a week in which it gave up 57 points to the Texans and had to go with washed up quarterback Matt Cassel because of an injury to Marcus Mariota. The fact that the Dolphins (2-2) didn’t cruise to a decisive victory is discouraging.
Here are five quick takeaways from the win:
1. Adam Gase is out of moves.
There wasn’t much Gase could do when he suggested personnel changes might wake up his offense. The only realistic switch he could make was starting someone else at tight end ahead of Julius Thomas, and he did that with Anthony Fasano. While Fasano played well, it ultimately didn’t make much difference. Going forward, don’t expect much more. Jay Cutler is completely secure, they’re already playing their best skill players and there aren’t viable options on the offensive line.
2. This team couldn’t wait to get Reshad Jones back.
Jones stands at the top of the list for players who aren’t to blame for Miami’s slow start. He was a monster Sunday against Tennessee with two fumble recoveries, seven tackles and half a sack. On one of those loose balls, Jones was the only one heady enough to realize the play was still live, scooped it up and ran 38 yards for a touchdown. On a day when the Dolphins’ defense was excellent overall, Jones stood out as particularly great.
3. The Dolphins don’t have another DeVante Parker.
Miami’s been craving a breakout season from Parker, and it appeared to be happening until he exited with an ankle injury. That’s a brutal loss considering he averaged six catches and 76.7 yards over the first three games. And while Jakeem Grant has showed promise at receiver this year, trading a rangy 6-foot-3 target for one that’s 5-foot-7 isn’t ideal. If Parker’s out long term, the Dolphins are going to need a lot more from Kenny Stills. He caught nine balls in the first three games and had one catch for 13 yards Sunday.
4. The scariest thing of all for the Dolphins is that their schedule gets tougher now.
A visit to the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons is certainly not the cure for Miami’s woes. As tough as the travel schedule was in September, that represented possibly the lightest three-week stretch of opponents on the Dolphins’ schedule. After going to Atlanta next, they still have games against Oakland, Carolina, Kansas City and New England (twice). Unless there are a bunch of injuries, this doesn’t set up as well as last year’s schedule for a late-season run.
5. Cutler isn’t going anywhere.
The fans can boo and tweet and complain all they want, but Cutler is Miami’s quarterback unless he gets hurt. Gase won’t turn on him, and he knows it. The Dolphins made it clear as soon as Ryan Tannehill went down that they weren’t content to proceed with Matt Moore as their starting quarterback, and Gase isn’t about to make that move now. When Cutler goes 12 of 26 for 92 yards and a 52.1 passer rating as he did Sunday, he knows it doesn’t actually jeopardize his job.
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