Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reader Question: What happened against ATL?

To recap that mess of a game on Sunday, I'll just get right to a reader's question:

What happened to the Dolphins offense on Sunday? They were horrible. The defense did its job, just the offense couldn't move the ball hardly at all. They did have a few opportunities to put some points up, just couldn't capitalize. I hope that a better Dolphins team shows up for the Colts game. If the team that played Atlanta shows up its going to be a long day.

Well, you're absolutely right about the Dolphins offense. They played like absolute crap. But the defense made plenty of mistakes as well, so I'm not letting them off the hook.

But let's start with the offense. The name of the game is turnovers. Miami was so successful last year because they turned the ball over at a historically low rate. No one should have thought that kind of production would be the norm going forward. In fact, Miami's playoff game against the Ravens was somewhat of a correcting force in that matter and it certainly brought the team's season-long numbers back into reality. So more turnovers are to be expected. Of course, that many turnovers in a game is more than just a regression to the mean - it's just poor, sloppy play.

The good news is that the guys who committed the turnovers (Pennington and Fasano) don't have a track record of playing sloppy. I don't expect that kind of carelessness from them to become a trend. If it does become a trend, get ready to say hello to a top ten draft pick next year.

The offense was also put in awful field position all day due in large part to horrendous blocking on kick returns. Miami's average starting position was the 22 yard line.

The offensive line also deserves a huge chunk of the blame. They played like crap, pure and simple. I'm not really worried about Jake Long at this point. I am worried about Jake Grove though.

Some people are blaming the use of the Wildcat and Pat White packages as another reason why the offense stalled, but I'm not buying that. We should all know by now that the Wildcat (and I'm assuming the Pat packages) are the home run plays. They're like Adam Dunn and Ryan Howard - going to hit a bomb or strike out trying. And I'm fine with that because this offense is going to have a hard time finding its big plays elsewhere. So if we want the huge plays that come with these packages, we have to be prepared to accept it when they gain little or nothing.

Now, as for the defense, I want to give huge props to the run defense, and Phillip Merling in particular. It's a shame Merling doesn't put on the same display in practices as he does in games, otherwise the coaches would be more comfortable starting him and getting him more game snaps. But he's proven to this point in his career that he plays better than he practices. Hopefully, with more experience and added maturity he can begin to show the coaches more in practice so that they have more confidence in him come game time.

But the problems on defense came from the secondary, particularly the safeties, and particularly Gibril Wilson. I do not trust Wilson as a coverage safety whatsoever. I know how incredible he is in the run game, but he's a free safety now and is being asked to do less of what he's good at and more of what he's bad at, which as we saw against Atlanta is covering tight ends and wide receivers down the field. This defense is going to have quite a hard time getting off the field on third downs when even long third downs are hardly a challenge for the opposing offenses.

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