DAVIE—The Dolphins are in a five-game losing streak, and that kind of rut can do damage beyond the standings.
Look at the chaos with the Giants, for example, where management at the coaching staff seem to have lost their credibility in the locker room. If those people are retained, the effect will last well past this season. Or look at the 2015 Dolphins under Dan Campbell, when some players now say it became “every man for himself” at the end.
That isn’t happening under Adam Gase, at least not now. While Miami is teetering on the edge of being eliminated from the playoff race as it goes into Sunday’s home game against the Broncos, there’s no indication of dysfunction or a lack of effort.
“We’ve got good leadership here,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Gase does an amazing job of making sure we’re all sticking together and staying positive. That’s the biggest thing.”
Gase has said repeatedly willpower is not the issue with his team. While there certainly have been mental lapses and some of the personnel has proven not good enough—or not as good as the team thought going into the season—he hasn’t seen players give up.
“I don’t think I’ve been around a group that does as good a job as these guys do as far as focusing on the next game,” said Gase, whose previous stops include the Broncos, Bears, 49ers and Lions. “If you talk about (the previous game), they really have moved on from it and they’re trying to get things right for this week. That’s been impressive.
“When I watch in practice—The day that we actually translate practice to Sundays will be a good day for us. It’s really one those things where you just want it to click on game day. I think we’ve had moments, but we haven’t had it consistent enough and we haven’t had it at the right time.”
It must be straining for veterans like Cameron Wake and Mike Pouncey to see injuries decimate what was initially thought to be a strong starting 22.
Miami has placed 12 players on Injured Reserve (Ted Larsen returned) this season, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill in August. That group includes fellow starters Nate Allen, Raekwon McMillan and Ja’Wuan James, as well as key backup William Hayes. Gase kicked Rey Maualuga off the team after an arrest last month. The Dolphins are also going without right guard Jermon Bushrod (foot), running back Damien Williams (shoulder) and veteran backup quarterback Matt Moore (foot).
Through all those setbacks, each of which thrusts a less-proven player into the lineup, the team hasn’t wavered.
“I have pretty good confidence that everybody here is professional and they come here and they focus on doing their job,” Wake said. “If you’re focusing, again, on four games ago, then you’re not focusing on what’s important, which is the next game. I think we have a group of professionals here and I think the mood is good.”
It helps that most of these players were here last year, when Miami started 1-4 and looked like a train wreck in Gase’s first month on the job. The season turned, though, and the Dolphins went on a six-game winning streak to vault themselves into the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
When the team went from 1-4 to 10-5 just a year ago, it’s easy to understand why players still believe they have a shot to win out, as Landry mentioned, and rally from 4-7.
Gase believes, too. It’s not merely bluster. His faith is rooted in seeing players do the job right, particularly in practice, and awaiting the day that they all do it right at the same time. There’s been no dropoff in enthusiasm at practice, and Gase thinks if they maintain that effort level they’ll eventually see results on Sundays.
“Sometimes it’s just about us making a play and being in the right spot at the right time,” he said. “It seems like we do the wrong thing at the worst time. Early in the season, there was a couple games where it was the opposite. Last year a lot of it was the opposite; we seemed to always have the right guy in the right place at the right time.
“That’s why I just believe in keep focusing on what you’re doing, get better every day, keep doing it in practice and it’s gonna translate into games.”
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