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The players are back today and so am I. Had a chance to do some serious thinking about this football team over some off time during the bye week. Had to a chance to replay the first five games and evaluate where the Dolphins reside and where they could be going. Had a chance to meet an old man who put this football team in his own unique perspective.
So much to think about, so much to reflect upon, as the next challenge – the Buffalo Bills – quickly approaches Sunday at Sun Life Stadium.
• Just as you can’t discount the two dozen sacks and a terribly inconsistent running game, you also can’t ignore the victory at Indianapolis, it’s only loss of the season to date, or that dramatic comeback against Atlanta. Granted, the Falcons aren’t what we thought they would be. Nonetheless, these were two quality wins that, more than anything else, showed what the Dolphins are capable of when they keep the mistakes to a minimum and have some semblance of balance on offense.
• I am more encouraged than discouraged over the play of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Yes, he has missed on some passes. Yes, he still has a tendency to underthrow Mike Wallace on long passes. But look at his entire body of work and you see an improved player. Go back and watch that 46-yard pass to Brandon Gibson against Baltimore. In one five-second clip, you’ll see everything that is good about this second-year quarterback. The arm strength. The mobility. The touch. The confidence. It was all there.
• But Tannehill must now refine his pocket presence, his ability to sidestep pass rushers, some of those instant decisions when his primary receivers are covered. Great quarterbacks say they have an internal alarm clock. When it goes off, they get out the pocket as quickly as possible because they know trouble is looming. Tannehill needs that alarm clock working properly. Unfortunately, this isn’t a snap your fingers solution. It takes time and experience. But I still believe it will come.
• The defense needs to get whole. When Cameron Wake is healthy, when cornerback Dimitri Patterson is in the lineup, when all the pieces of this defense come together, it is a special group. We saw it in Cleveland and, even without Patterson, we saw it in Indy. But in the two losses against the Saints and Ravens, this was an injury-depleted group and decent depth can only take you so far. I believe the bye week came at the perfect time for this defense. I believe with the benefit of time off to heal, you’ll see the takeaways and sacks return. Healthy, this is still a Top 10 defense.
• What type of changes should we expect now that the coaching staff has had a chance to regroup? I wouldn’t be surprised to see some tinkering in personnel on the offensive line, at the very least opening a window of opportunity for some of the reserves. But keep in mind, with only nine offensive linemen on the active roster, there is only so much you can do. I also expect to see more rollouts called for Tannehill, more plays designed to take advantage of his mobility. He can’t continue to survive just standing back there in the pocket.
• And finally, a Dolphins story. I spent a few days out of town last week. One day I met an elderly man sitting by himself. He was wearing a Dolphins cap that looked like it was purchased in 1966.
“It WAS purchased in 1966,” said the man, through puffs on his cigarette.
So I sat down next to him and started talking Dolphins football. He is 89 years old. Moved away from South Miami 25 years ago. Spends his weekdays playing the horses and his weekends watching football. But Sunday is still special and the Dolphins occupy an important spot in his heart.
“Suffered a long time waiting for another Super Bowl,” he said. “Thought we’d get there every year with Marino. Loved that Griese kid, though. Smart as a whip. Youngsters today don’t remember Griese hooking up with Warfield. That was about as special as it comes.”
He took another puff of that cigarette and grinned when I told him I wrote columns about the Dolphins. “Hey, I like what they’re doing now. Still have a lot of work to do, but they’re heading in the right direction. I’m going to stick around on this earth until they win another Super Bowl. Got to head to heaven with a smile on my face.”
So add that to the list of goals for Joe Philbin and his staff: Make an old man smile.
On Tuesday, AC in the AM takes a look at the AFC East.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
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