AFC East: Miami Dolphins

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

It is hard to criticize the Dolphins this week following a 38-14 blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders. Miami did nearly everything right and played a full 60 minutes of winning football for the first time this year. Most important, Dolphins third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill (278 yards, two touchdowns) responded with his best game of the season to quiet critics about his status as the starter.

But even with the big victory, the Dolphins remain sloppy with ball security. Miami had three turnovers -- two fumbles, one interception -- and still beat the Raiders in London’s Wembley Stadium by 24 points. The Dolphins (2-2) can get away with a trio of turnovers against the awful and winless Raiders (0-4). But Miami can’t expect sustained success when turning over the football, especially against the better teams.

Miami's three turnovers came from Tannehill's fourth-quarter interception and a pair of fumbles by tailback Lamar Miller and rookie receiver Jarvis Landry on punt returns. You're not going to bench Tannehill or Miller for making errors. But one potential solution is to replace Landry at punt return after the bye week. Landry's had two fumbles on punt returns, and the Dolphins have veteran returner Marcus Thigpen back on the roster.

The Dolphins have nine turnovers in four games. Interestingly, all of Miami's games so far have been decided by 13 points or more. Turnovers were a factor in the two losses to the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs, but were a non-factor in wins over the Raiders and New England Patriots.

According to data from ESPN Stats and Information, 36.2 percent of teams that start 2-2 make the playoffs. The Dolphins must reduce turnovers in order to increase that probability of getting into the postseason.

Dolphins' secondary finally steps up

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
LONDON – Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle had had enough.

According to starting safety Jimmy Wilson, Coyle called out the Dolphins' secondary Sunday morning before Miami's 38-14 blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Miami’s starting secondary had zero interceptions in seven games, which included three in the regular season and four in the preseason. There have been dropped interceptions, blown coverages and missed tackles during Miami's slow start, and Coyle voiced his displeasure before kickoff.

“He said we have way too much talent to not have any plays on the back end,” Wilson said. “Coming off two tough losses, when you don’t have any plays on the back end you feel like it’s your fault.”

The Dolphins' secondary responded. The group had three interceptions and one fumble return for a touchdown in an easy win for Miami (2-2) at Wembley Stadium.

Wilson, cornerback Brent Grimes and rookie defensive back Walt Aikens all had interceptions against the hapless Raiders (0-4). Cortland Finnegan also picked up a bad snap by Oakland and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. The four takeaways were a season high.

Miami spent a lot of time remaking its secondary this past offseason and it didn't pay dividends until Sunday. The Dolphins signed Finnegan and veteran safety Louis Delmas in free agency and drafted Aikens in May.

“As you guys know, sometimes they come in bundles," Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. "You don’t have any for a while, and then you get a bunch of them. It was good to see different guys make some plays out there.”

Wilson was particularly relieved to get his hands on the ball with a third-quarter interception. He replaced the suspended Reshad Jones at the start of the season with mixed results as a first-time starter.

“We’re brothers and we laugh and joke a lot, but it’s hard to laugh and joke when you’re not playing up to your potential, especially for me,” Wilson said. “I’m filling in for Reshad and I’m not making any plays. I’ve been taking it to heart.”

Jones can officially return to the team this week following his four-game suspension. That should only help Miami’s secondary, which gained much-needed momentum in London.
LONDON -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 38-14 win over the Oakland Raiders:

Everything just peachy: It was a wild week of questions for the Dolphins after losing back-to-back games to the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. But Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake described everything as "peaches" following Miami's blowout victory over the Raiders. "Did you see any turmoil today?" Wake responded in the locker room.

Moore proud of Tannehill: The Dolphins got a bounce-back game from starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill (278 yards, two touchdowns). One of the happiest people for Tannehill in the locker room Sunday was backup quarterback Matt Moore. "I'm so proud of Ryan with the way he came out and played," Moore said. "I'm proud of the whole team, but Ryan being my guy in the quarterback room, I thought he came out and played well."

Ready for rest: Several Dolphins players said they are looking forward to the bye week to rest injuries. No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace (hamstring), who sat in the fourth quarter, said he will take advantage of a week to rest. Starting safety Jimmy Wilson also said the same after being knocked out of the game with a hip injury. The Dolphins will return to the field Oct. 12 against the Green Bay Packers.

W2W4: Miami Dolphins

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
LONDON – The Miami Dolphins (1-2) are taking their show overseas this weekend when they will face the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3).

Here are four things to watch in this game from Miami’s perspective:

Tannehill’s response: It’s been a tough week for Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Last Sunday, Tannehill had his third consecutive subpar performance to start the season, and he didn’t receive a public endorsement from Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin this week. Tannehill admitted that it “doesn’t feel good.” But Tannehill knows he must turn it around quickly. This is the first sight of major adversity Tannehill has faced as Miami’s starting quarterback. For more than two seasons, Tannehill has been untouchable as a former first-round pick. Now, Tannehill appears to be playing for his job at any given week, and he must play well against Oakland to regain his confidence.

Fast start: The Dolphins have established an ugly trend of starting slow in games. Miami has been outscored 43-13 in the first half this season. The Dolphins have trailed all three games at halftime to the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Philbin said it’s on him to have his players ready to perform from the outset. In reality, Miami has only played one strong half in three games, which was the second half against New England.

Miller momentum: Miami starting tailback Lamar Miller is quietly putting together a good season. Miller is averaging a career-best 5.8 yards per carry and faces a Raiders’ defense that is ranked 31st against the run. Miller stepped up last week in the absence of Knowshon Moreno (elbow). Miller rushed for 108 yards on 15 carries, and it was Miller’s first 100-yard rushing performance since Oct. 31, 2013. The Dolphins and Miller should be able to take advantage of Oakland’s porous run defense.

Dolphins vs. Raiders preview

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26

Two struggling teams, the Miami Dolphins (1-2) and Oakland Raiders (0-3), traveled across the Atlantic Ocean for Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium in London. This is the first of three NFL games in London this season.

Both the Dolphins and Raiders are searching for answers and an identity. But only one can get on track in this Week 4 matchup.

Who will prevail? ESPN Dolphins reporter James Walker and ESPN Raiders reporter Bill Williamson discuss.

Walker: Bill, Oakland has played its best football on the road so far this season. How do you explain that coming from a rebuilding team?

Williamson: Really, James, the Raiders have been competitive only once this season and it was Sunday at New England. The 19-14 loss at the New York Jets in Week 1 was not nearly as close as the score indicated. At New England, the Raiders were more competitive on defense than on offense. Still, the team did have a chance to win this game late and there is a sense of confidence with Oakland. We will see if that translates into being competitive against Miami.

James, do you think the Dolphins, who have been struggling as well, have confidence going into this game?

Walker: The Dolphins have a lot of issues, Bill. It would be much easier if the team could say, "Let's fix this one problem and turn it around." But I can name at least a half-dozen issues that hurt the Dolphins the past two weeks. I wouldn't say their confidence is shot. That's probably going too far. But for the first time this season doubt is starting to creep in -- and it's only Week 4. It's questionable whether Miami is good enough to fix all its issues quickly to win enough games. The Dolphins need a win to erase some doubt internally.

I'm intrigued by Oakland rookie quarterback Derek Carr. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Williamson: His strengths are his leadership and poise. He is very comfortable in his role at the age of 23. Carr has not been great, but the Raiders are not 0-3 because of him and the job does not look to be too big for him. He has been solid on third down and has handled pressure well at times. But the issues are typical of a rookie. His accuracy hasn't been great, defenses stifle him sometimes and execution at times stalls. But I think Carr will get better as he gets more experience and more talent around him.

What have been Ryan Tannehill's biggest problems?

Walker: Similar to the team, leaks in Tannehill's game are springing up in several areas. That's why there are major questions if he can get everything fixed in time to save his job long term. If I had to pick two issues, I would say his lack of accuracy and the fact he doesn't make quick enough decisions in Bill Lazor's offense. Tannehill's footwork has been off and his ball placement isn't consistent.

Miami has a long trip to London, but Oakland has an even longer journey. What are the Raiders doing to make it work?

Williamson: I don't think this long trip will be an issue for Oakland, as the Raiders have been in England all week. They flew directly to London on Sunday night after the New England game. They have time to rest and adjust their body clocks Monday and Tuesday. They practiced (using their same time routine) during the week. I think the Raiders will be rested come game time.

What are the Dolphins' travel plans and how will it affect them?

Walker: The Dolphins took a different approach. Head coach Joe Philbin wants this game to feel as close to their normal routine as possible. They are considered the "road team," so that offered more flexibility and fewer media obligations in London. The Dolphins didn't leave South Florida until Thursday night. Therefore, they had practices at their own training facility Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Miami will have a light walk-through in London on Friday and meetings in the hotel Saturday, just like a normal game. The time change could be a factor traveling so late in the week. But we will find out on Sunday.

Joe Philbin fine with QB criticism

September, 25, 2014
Sep 25
DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is aware that many people -- including his own quarterback -- disagreed with his decision to not publicly endorse Ryan Tannehill this week. The Dolphins are starting Tannehill in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Yet, Philbin is dodging the topic publicly, which caused an unnecessary distraction for an already struggling team.

Plenty of people in South Florida, including former Dolphins greats Jason Taylor and Bob Griese, have voiced their displeasure with the way Philbin is handling his quarterbacks. In fact, it gets more and more difficult to find support for Philbin on this issue with each passing day.

Still, Philbin isn't concerned with critics and remains steadfast that he did the right thing.

"I think that's totally fair. I think everybody is entitled to their opinion," Philbin said of the backlash. "They certainly can feel free to express it, and just like you said, at the end of the day, I have to go to sleep and put my head on the pillow and do what I think is the right thing. I have no issues with any of that."

In other words, Philbin is not budging. He has turned down multiple opportunities to publicly support Tannehill. There is a good chance Philbin will continue to handle Tannehill this way, especially if the third-year quarterback continues to struggle in games.

Tannehill said he received clarity on the situation from Philbin behind the scenes. But it is curious that Philbin couldn't back Tannehill in front of the media.

How Philbin handles Tannehill going forward -- including Sunday's game in London against Oakland -- certainly is worth monitoring.
DAVIE, Fla. -- So let me get this straight: The starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins is claiming the coach caused a major distraction to the team, correct?

According to Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins coach Joe Philbin's unwillingness to endorse Tannehill as the starter this week was unnecessary for a team that already has plenty of issues. Miami (1-2) has lost two straight games by 38 combined points as it prepares for the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3) on Sunday.

Tannehill is 100 percent correct in his assessment. Philbin was simply wrong.

Philbin, like many coaches, has his stubborn ways. If you asked him who his starting left guard was this week, he probably wouldn't tell you. The same goes for the safety position or cornerback or linebacker.

But Philbin should have made an exception in order to preserve the confidence of his young quarterback. No one expected Philbin to bench Tannehill after three games. But Philbin's cryptic, noncommittal answers on multiple occasions has cast doubt among fans and maybe in the locker room.

So much so that Tannehill said he approached Philbin directly this week to get clarity on his standing. Tannehill was clearly bothered by the situation.

Philbin reassured Tannehill he's the starter Sunday against Oakland. So what was this all about?

It was a non-issue that Philbin made into a bigger story. That's on the coach.

Tannehill said Philbin "had his reasons" for not backing him publicly. But this feels like a situation where you're hurting the confidence of a quarterback whom Philbin and the team need if they are going to turn the season around.

It's Tannehill's job to go out Sunday, block out distractions and play the best game possible. But it has to bother him inside that the biggest distraction of the season so far was caused by his own coach.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins (1-2) continue their preparation for the Oakland Raiders (0-3).

Here are some notes and observations from Wednesday's practice:
  • Miami’s defense received some good news. Starting middle linebacker Koa Misi returned to practice from an ankle injury. Misi was injured in Week 1 against the New England Patriots and missed the past two games. Backup linebacker Jason Trusnik has filled in.
  • Dolphins starting defensive lineman Randy Starks was not practicing Wednesday in the portion open to the media. He also left practice early on Tuesday. Miami will release the nature of Starks’ absence later this afternoon. Also, guard Shelley Smith didn’t practice for the second day in a row. Smith missed last week’s game with a knee injury.
  • Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is on the hot seat, is making an emphasis on improving his footwork this week. Tannehill went through individual and position drills Wednesday concentrating on footwork to improve his accuracy. Tannehill currently has a career-low 56.5 completion percentage.
The results are in from more than 2,000 Miami Dolphins fans. According to our latest SportsNation poll in the Dolphins blog, Miami’s biggest issue during this slow start to the 2014 season is coaching, which garnered 44 percent of the vote at the time of this post.

There are various reasons why Miami is 1-2 and lost its past two games by 19 points each. We listed a few major explanations, such as mediocre quarterback play (27 percent), dropped passes (13 percent) and getting off to slow starts in the first half (10 percent).

However, a majority of Dolphins fans feel coaching has been the biggest reason Miami doesn't look like a playoff contender early in the season. Coach Joe Philbin and his staff have made consistent mistakes with play-calling and clock management.

The good news for the Dolphins is there’s still plenty of football left to play. Miami will travel to London to play the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3) on Sunday with a chance to get back to .500 before its bye week.

The Film Don't Lie: Dolphins

September, 23, 2014
Sep 23
A weekly look at what the Miami Dolphins must fix:

The Miami Dolphins have a lot of issues. But one silent killer has been dropped passes by wide receivers and tight ends, and it needs to stop immediately when Miami (1-2) travels to London to play the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3).

According to Pro Football Focus research, the Dolphins are second in the NFL with 11 drops after three games. Only the Baltimore Ravens (12) have more dropped passes. Miami had three drops in Sunday's 34-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs all the help he can get. He's on the hot seat and struggling with his accuracy (56.5 completion percentage) early in the season. On Sunday, Tannehill threw the ball well in the first half, but tight end Charles Clay and receivers Brian Hartline and Jarvis Landry all failed to bring in receptions that could have moved the chains early and potentially put points on the board.

Miami’s sloppiness on offense early led to a 14-3 halftime deficit against Kansas City, and the Dolphins weren’t able to overcome in the second half. The best solution is for receivers and tight ends to continue to do extra work during and after practice catching the football. It’s a group-wide issue -- not just one or two players -- so lineup changes wouldn't work.
DAVIE, Fla. -- It could be nothing now. But it could mean something later.

That was my general takeaway from Monday’s cryptic news conference by Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. Miami’s coach -- on four separate occasions -- declined to answer whether quarterback Ryan Tannehill will remain the starter.

In all likelihood, Ryan Tannehill will be the starting quarterback this weekend when the Dolphins take the field in London against the Oakland Raiders. Miami is 1-2 and has a chance to get back to .500, which would put it back in the mix entering its bye week. Making a quarterback change to Matt Moore in Week 4 would be drastic and knee-jerk. It also should be noted that Philbin rarely answers questions about his starting lineups.

"We’re going to get our 46 best players in the game, and we’re going to utilize them the best way possible," Philbin said.

But what if this is a prelude to something? What if Tannehill, who is 16-19 as a starter, is rapidly running out of time? In many ways he has regressed in his first three games this season. Tannehill’s statistics are on pace for career lows in completion percentage (56.5) and passer rating (74.1).

The Dolphins might not pull the plug on Tannehill this week. But if he struggles for the fourth straight game and the Dolphins cannot beat the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3) in London, anything and everything should be on the table, especially entering the bye week.

Philbin is entering a must-win Year 3 in Miami. Tannehill has been pretty much untouchable in his first two seasons as a former first-round draft pick. But Philbin cannot afford to stick to that approach this season if Tannehill can’t turn things around.

The kid gloves are off. It's now or never for Tannehill.
videoMIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline was trending on Twitter in the third quarter of their 34-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs for the wrong reasons.

Following an important touchdown catch that cut the deficit to 14-10, Hartline celebrated with a golf putt as teammates Mike Wallace, Ryan Tannehill, Dallas Thomas and others joined in. Group celebrations result in a 15-yard penalty.

That helped set up a score by the Chiefs on the ensuing drive where Kansas City took a 21-10 lead. Miami was never able to get much closer and fell to 1-2 on the season.

“It is what it is; I will learn from it and I made a mistake,” Hartline said afterwards. “Hopefully my teammates will forgive me.”

Hartline said the touchdown celebration was unplanned and he was surprised it became a group thing. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, as expected, wasn’t happy about it.

“I can’t make any excuse, I’m disappointed -- very disappointed ,” Philbin said. “It’s uncharacteristic of us. I don’t think we’ve had one. It’s a poor reflection of me. It’s not good.”

Hartline didn’t want his head coach taking blame and reiterated it was his mistake.

“Nah, that’s silly,” Hartline said. “I think he’s just taking blame for something nothing he had no part of. I had a misunderstanding. I didn’t think I was putting myself in a compromising position, [but] I did.”

Had the Dolphins won the game one 15-yard penalty wouldn’t be in the spotlight. But the Dolphins are struggling mightily during this two-game losing streak -- losing both by 19 points each -- where mistakes like these often are highlighted.

Offensive malaise continues for Miami

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- There was a lot of hype and hoopla surrounding the Miami Dolphins' new-look offense this offseason.

First-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who came from the Chip Kelly school of offense, was expected to bring an innovative style to Miami that was up-tempo and able to quickly put points on the board. Even Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said in training camp that he viewed 25 points per game -- or 400 points in a season -- as a successful bar for his team.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeProtecting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was again an issue for Miami in Sunday's loss to the Chiefs.
But after three games, the Dolphins’ new offense is mostly firing blanks. As a result, Miami (1-2) suffered a 34-15 blowout loss at home to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs (1-2).

The Dolphins have averaged just 12.5 points per game in the past two weeks. The "new look" is showing some of the same old mistakes that were made previously under former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.

Many people in Miami have their jobs on the line this season, and the Dolphins can't win many games with the offense unable to consistently move the football.

Why is the offense struggling? There are myriad reasons. Here are a few worth noting:

  • Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is not making the proper strides in Year 3. Lazor is asking a lot of Tannehill, and so far he’s proving to be unable to carry the team. Tannehill currently has a career-low completion percentage of 56.5 percent in three games. His passer rating of 74.1 also is a career low. The Dolphins can only go as far as Tannehill can lead them, and so far it’s not looking promising. "It's still early in the season, so I have confidence that we can get this thing turned around," Tannehill said. "But it has to happen now. I said that last week and we didn't get it done."
  • There have been questionable play calling by Lazor and poor clock management by Philbin. On Sunday, the Dolphins called passes on second-and-1 and third-and-1 early in the fourth quarter, which resulted in an incomplete deep pass to Mike Wallace and a quarterback sack. Miami had the running game going -- Lamar Miller rushed for 108 yards -- and went away from it at a curious time. The game went downhill from there.
  • The offense has been unable to sustain scoring drives. The Dolphins' longest touchdown drive was for 19 yards, which followed a Chiefs turnover. In fact, 12 of Miami's 15 points were set up by the defense and special teams. Defensive tackle Jared Odrick forced a fumble on Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith to set up a short touchdown. Miami's defense also got a safety and rookie Jarvis Landry returned a kick 75 yards to set up a field goal.
  • The Dolphins had three drops in the first quarter, which killed any momentum in the first half.
  • Pass protection, which was the offense's biggest issue last season, remains a problem. The Dolphins allowed four quarterback sacks for the second week in a row. Tannehill has been sacked nine times in three games.

There are no easy fixes. Leaks are springing up in various areas and Philbin said "everything" is on the table in terms of making improvements.

The good news is Miami will play another winless team, the Oakland Raiders. The game will be played in London, where the Dolphins hope to find their identity.

"We have to determine what we're going to do," Philbin said. "We have to go back to work. We gotta go across the Atlantic Ocean and we have to play better."
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Miami Dolphins' 34-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:
  • Wake
    Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Wake described the loss as "unacceptable." Wake added that he doesn’t believe panic will set in with Miami (1-2). But the Dolphins must turn things around quickly.
  • Overall, it was a somber mood in Miami’s locker room, as expected. It was as quiet a locker room as it has been all season, and many players left quickly.
  • Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin admitted the offense isn't playing well and "everything" will be considered. Miami is averaging 12.5 points per game on offense the past two weeks. A lot must improve.

Rapid Reaction: Miami Dolphins

September, 21, 2014
Sep 21

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- A few thoughts on the Miami Dolphins' 34-15 loss at Sun Life Stadium:

What it means: The Dolphins (1-2) are in the middle of a two-game losing streak and lost to a previously winless Chiefs (1-2) team. Miami’s offense is struggling. The Dolphins are averaging just 12.5 points per game the past two weeks. There are major questions brewing on that side of the ball. Miami’s defense also didn’t play its best game and suffered from missed tackles and blown assignments.

Stock watch: Dolphins linebacker Jelani Jenkins' stock is on the rise. In his second career start, Jenkins recorded 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Jenkins also was credited for a safety in the third quarter. Jenkins led the Dolphins with 14 tackles in Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills. With the way Jenkins has played since replacing the injured Dannell Ellerbe (hip) in the starting lineup, the Dolphins might be on to something.

Slow starters: The Dolphins have an ugly, recurring trend of slow starts. Miami trailed the Chiefs 14-3 at intermission and gave a winless team confidence on the road early. The Dolphins have been badly outplayed in the first half this season and trailed at intermission in all three games. Miami has been outscored 43-13 in first and second quarters this season.

Game ball: Dolphins starting running back Lamar Miller took the reins for the injured Knowshon Moreno and ran well for Miami. Miller rushed for 108 yards on 14 carries. It was Miller’s first 100-yard game since Oct. 31, 2013.

What’s next: The Dolphins will have their longest road trip of the season in Week 4. Miami will travel to London to play the winless Oakland Raiders (0-3). Oakland lost to the New England Patriots 16-9 in Week 3.