CHARLOTTE — Cam Wake was saying he is lost, was saying he is baffled, was saying his mind is blown.
And he’s a Miami Dolphins player.
Imagine how hard it is for an observer to parse through all the reasons why the Dolphins have lost three in a row, why their strong defense is suddenly disintegrating, why they’ve been outscored overall worse than almost all other NFL teams this season.
That the Dolphins have lost games 20-6, 20-0, 40-0 and now 45-21 to the Panthers on Monday Night Football is perplexing.
Three of those games were on national television, for all the world to see, and mock.
In losses at the Jets, the Saints and the Ravens, Miami’s offense floundered, to the tune of six total points.
And now in losses to the Ravens, Raiders and Panthers, all, again, on national television, Miami’s defense has been stunned to the tune of 40, 27 and 45 points allowed, an average of 37 points per game.
[PHOTO GALLERY: Amazing images from the Fins’ embarrassing loss in Carolina]
“Any time there is someone running untouched in this league, that’s not figured out,” Wake said of the suggestion that opposing offenses have deciphered Miami’s defensive scheme. “That’s usually a mistake on the opposing side. Guys don’t run free. That’s not the way defenses are set up. That’s a miscommunication or somebody slipped. Because everybody is big, everybody is fast, everybody is strong. So it’s usually guys make plays, but they’re contested, an inch here, a foot there, but to have guys running free or blown plays, are completely out of character to me. That’s more self-inflicted, than something that they’ve done.”
In this loss to the Panthers, everybody ran free.
It didn’t matter if their mother named them Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Cameron Artis-Payne, Devin Funchess or Christian McCaffery, they all embarrassed the Dolphins. They all got their names in the paper.
This type of loss is not one easily digested.
This type of loss calls into question every single player, every single coach and every single scheme.
“Is it the personnel?” Dolphins coach Adam Gase asked. “Is it the calls?”
Gase has taken personal responsibility for Miami’s early-season offensive woes. Surely defensive coordinator Matt Burke will do the same, now that is appears he is scrambling for answers to stop the bleeding.
Miami’s defense struggled badly last season. And it does not go unnoticed that former defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who shares a scheme with Burke, has had his own share of struggles in Denver.
It is hard with the somewhat myopic perspective of, generally, covering one team, to know if there is a discrepancy between the perceived talent level and the actual talent level of a club.
While the season-ending loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill (and rookie Raekwon McMillan and cornerback Tony Lippett) surely have a negative impact, there on the surface seems to be enough talent to compete at a level closer to last year.
Here are some Dolphins who have been Pro Bowlers: Mike Pouncey, Jarvis Landry, Jay Cutler, Jermon Bushrod, Julius Thomas, Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Reshad Jones, Lawrence Timmons.
It is fair to ascertain that these players are beyond their prime: Pouncey, Cutler, Bushrod, Thomas, Wake and Timmons.
Miami may or may not bring back Landry and while Suh and Jones are highly skilled players, why does it seem like they’re not more directly impacting the results of Miami games?
It is too early to wonder if Adam Gase, now 14-12 since his arrival (including a playoff loss) has lost any of the luster of his unexpected rookie playoff run. It is not too early to wonder if or how a 6-10 finish, for example, could set back his program.
Even without Tannehill, the Dolphins clearly still were built for a playoff run this season (if not a deep run.) But as that seems less likely now, it is fair to wonder if and when the team re-loads for a championship run, how many of these core players will be a part of it?
It would have been hard to know, even a few games into this season, that Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi would be jettisoned.
Is anybody safe?
It’s amazing how quickly narratives change in the NFL. Narratives based in truth. And results.
And really, results are all that matter. Right now, the Dolphins are not a good team, not a very good team at all.
So yes, perhaps the Dolphins beat the Bucs to improve to 5-5 and even beat the Broncos in a few weeks to even up at 6-6, and it will be mentioned how technically, the team is still in the playoff race.
But what is the longer-view perspective? Is is that only a few free-agent tweaks will be needed, that the return of injured players like Tannehill and perhaps a relatively high draft choice could re-launch Miami in Gase’s Year 3?
Or is it that these last three games are actually major alarms that the roster needs a more serious reconstruction?
Consider that some of the players Gase endorsed the re-signing or signing of this off-season (Kenny Stills, Andre Branch, Jermon Bushrod, Julius Thomas, Kiko Alonso) have not been as dominant as anyone involved would like.
Consider also that second-year corner Xavien Howard has not have the jump many projected, Laremy Tunsil has not played anywhere near the Pro Bowl level many think he’s capable of and so on and so on.
It is one game. It is one loss. Of course, it’s now three games. And three losses.
No, the sky is not falling, as Gase often likes to say.
But there is good reason to look up at the sky and wonder, “What the hell is going on up there?”
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