Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”
So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed:
- Jay Cutler and Miami’s anemic offense can’t create big plays. It’s almost as if Cutler, coach Adam Gase and the Dolphins offensive players are playing within an invisible electric fence that extends 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Miami has played four games and in each game, their pass plays of beyond 15 yards has decreased from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. In the defeat of Tennessee, the only “long” pass play was a 17-yard completion to Jarvis Landry. Against the Saints, DeVante Parker (21 yards) and Julius Thomas (23 yards) made a few “big” plays. Against the Jets, Cutler had three passes beyond 15 yards (Parker for 26, Kenny Stills for 17 and Stills for 17). And against the Chargers, Cutler had four pass plays beyond 15 yards (31 for Parker, 31 for Parker, 29 for Stills and 18 for Landry.) Miami’s offense is trending in the wrong direction. Last season, the Miami offense, led by Ryan Tannehill, began to create more and more explosive plays as the season progressed. The Dolphins have three offensive touchdowns in four games and no run of longer than 20 yards in 93 tries. Miami also has one “long” touchdown catch, Stills for 29. This is the opposite of a big-play offense. Gase must figure out a way to get more explosive plays in the run game, in order to give Cutler some play-action opportunities, where so many of Tannehill’s downfield bombs were completed last season.
- Oh, so this is why the Dolphins didn’t cut Lawrence Timmons after the disappearance. This was vintage Timmons. Attitude. Hunger. Desire. Timmons showed really good recovery and foot speed in this game. In the second quarter, Timmons was moving right but realized a tight end was about to head in the other direction. He planted his feet, turned back and covered five yards in a manner that belied his age. This is exactly what Miami’s defensive corps lacked last season. He is an aggressive thumper. This linebacker corps has been completely revamped. Experience. Speed. Aggressiveness. Nasty demeanor. Timmons leveled rookie tight end Jonnu Smith and then talked trash in his face. This was lacking last season. This defensive group is not soft. It is the opposite of soft. Once again in the fourth quarter, Timmons showed surprising speed and change of direction. On this play, he was headed right and saw the tight end about to catch the ball to his left. Timmons was eight yards away but closed fast and demonstrated an excellent form tackle.
- Credit first-year DC Matt Burke for varied formations and aggressive blitz packages. There was a notion last season that Miami “should” be able to get enough pressure with their well-compensated front four. And perhaps that may be the case. But the best defenses are also willing to bring pressure from anywhere at any time, and Burke pulled all the right strings on Sunday. Burke has so many blitz-capable weapons at his disposal, including Kiko Alonso (who was phenomenal on Sunday), Reshad Jones (who was tremendous on Sunday) and Timmons (already covered). In the first quarter, it is easily recalled that Alonso drilled Matt Cassel to cause what was ruled a fumble and a Reshad Jones scoop-and-score. But do not forget that on the play, Burke called a very well-disguised late blitz by Alonso and slot corner Bobby McCain. They both assaulted Matt Cassel in unmolested fashion from Cassel’s right. Alonso absolutely rocked Cassel.
- Jay Cutler was let down by his receivers, but he’s still a hot mess. It is true that embattled tight end Julius Thomas needed to bail out Cutler on a third-and-one in the third quarter, dealing with a somewhat catchable ball. It is true that Jarvis Landry could help himself and Cutler and the team with a reasonably tough catch a few minutes later. It is also true that Cutler continues to throw without set feet and continues to display frustrating and disconcerting inaccuracy. Also in the third quarter, Cutler, while backing up, without his set feet, threw an off-the-mark pass to Kenny Stills. No, the pass protection Cutler is receiving is not satisfactory. But neither is Cutler. It’s just not good enough. He’s holding the ball too long. He’s particularly struggling on passes outside the hashmarks. And he’s not shown any ability to drive the ball down the field with confidence. At some point, the volatile Landry, whose emotions seem mostly bottled up at the moment, may explode (on or off the field) about what’s occurring in his contract season.
- Credit Reshad Jones for the heads up scoop-and-score, but did you notice William Hayes on that play? The best part of Miami’s defensive touchdown by safety Reshad Jones was that he picked up the football and ran it in as 20 other players went all Jay Cutler-Wildcat-pose and idly watched Jones run it in from 37 yards. But did you notice the only other player to make a move on the play? It was impactful Dolphins veteran William Hayes, who turned around and shoved an unsuspecting Taylor Lewan to the ground. Jones may have been the only player in the stadium (other than Hayes) who didn’t think this was an incomplete pass by Matt Cassel. This is a play we’ve seen 100 times before, when the player seemed to be wasting his breath running after a play is clearly going to be ruled dead. But Jones didn’t view it that way. And neither did Hayes, who gives tremendous, relentless effort in both run defense and pass rush. What a stunningly good game from Jones. And what a sly move by the front office to steal Hayes from the Los Angeles Rams before this season.
- EXTRA POINTS. Imagine you’re an opposing quarterback and it’s third down and you scan from your right to left and you see along the line… Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Andre Branch and Charles Harris. Very intimidating. Very explosive. Very athletic. Very dangeroug…. Wake has improved against the run. DeMarco Murray exploded on an inside run in the first quarter, but Wake tackled him from behind. Miami has an extreme commitment to run stop and Wake is a part of it, now, too… Tennessee’s pass game is weak, but corners Xavien Howard and rookie Cordrea Tankersley were not heard from, which is a huge success. Howard rocked Murray near the sideline on a 2nd-and-7 for a 1-yard gain. Howard is a very good tackler and brings an attack mentality to the game. Howard also brings a violent shoulder to the game… We are reminded how fast Kiko Alonso is when he’s in clear space and can run free. For example, Alonso dropped Rishard Matthews for a three yard loss. Alonso also had a terrific pass breakup on a third-and-seven attempt for Delanie Walker. Alonso can cover tight ends. He can fill the hole as he did on the previous play, a stop of Murray for a gain of 1 yard… Rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux used a punch to force a fumble. Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are two outstanding late-round defensive line finds. Credit to Miami General Manager Chris Grier and scouts… This play is forgotten, but safety Nate Allen failed to cover and then failed to tackle Walker on a 59-yard touchdown overturned due to an offensive penalty. Miami was very, very fortunate for a phantom offensive pass interference call on rookie Jonnu Smith… I agree that Jay Ajayi is basically making the most of what’s available. But I still contend there are a few times a game when he hesitates and/or bounces it outside when the best, safer route it to just plow it inside. Ajayi looks a tiny, half-second less quick and decisive at the moment… Punter Matt Haack had a really strong game, solidifying his place. This kid has an insanely strong leg. He launched a key 50-yard punt with 5:51 left and Miami leading by 6… Miami’s overall run-blocking has not been good. But credit to Anthony Steen, Anthony Fasano, Mike Pouncey and Jermon Bushrod for key blocks on Ajayi runs at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter that sparked Miami’s long game-winning drive.
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