Since Dan Marino retired, there has been little to get excited about with Miami Dolphins football. They’ve paraded in veteran player after veteran player. Too many times “go big or go home” was their draft strategy and fans would’ve much preferred they went home. While some of the draft’s talent panned out the team never seemed to gel. Looking at this season’s teams, be prepared for a few red flags.
Gambles don’t pay off
Fans grumbled at the Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, Mario Williams moves. Others took the wait and see approach. One things for certain, they were huge gambles or necessary risks if you will. Each individual struggled with their previous team and could use a fresh start. In Miami it’s usually the opposite, players often struggle and look for a fresh start elsewhere. Wes Welker is a prime example. From a football standpoint, all these players were low risk/high reward moves if they pan out. The key word being IF. Kiko Alonso at times showed his rookie form last year, but was never 100% the player Philadelphia thought they got. Mario Williams will benefit from a dominant supporting cast, but gave up on his Buffalo teammates. Byron Maxwell is the lone solid veteran at corner the Dolphins have, but struggled in coverage. Adam Gase and company could be laughing their way into the playoffs if each move works out. He also could join the long list of coaches who average only 2 years with the team if they don’t.
Old injuries creep up
In the NFL, injuries are going to happen. In a perfect world your favorite player would be able to play all 16 games. It would be nice, but it won’t aways happen. Miami spent a lot of off-season dollars on adding depth to their 53 man roster. Something it had lacked the past few seasons was one of their top priorities. The biggest challenge they face however is injuries. Miami has a whole new cast of coaches and coordinators which bring new systems. When you bring in all new players and coaches it takes time for a team to gel. Can the Dolphins hold off the eventual injury bug long enough for the journeymen and rookies to know their parts? Can players with a history of injuries stay healthy long enough the rest of the starters have gelled? Miami doesn’t have to look far to see how injuries derail a team. It seems as if every year their division rival Buffalo Bills hot start is quickly off the tracks due to a key injury. Hopefully youth is on their side this season and bodies don’t break down as fast come midseason’s chill.
Can’t convert on key plays
The biggest hole the Dolphins offense last year was being able to convert. They couldn’t convert on 3rd down and short. They were on 3rd down and long so much you would think it was part of their formations. Even when they were fortunate enough to move the chains, converting in the redzone was a chore. To paraphrase a Madden-ism “You can’t win games if you don’t score points.” The Dolphins seemed to avoid the endzone as if it were haunted. The majority of their camp should be spent in redzone situations, teaching how to create separations, and finding ways to wrangle in passes from being tipped or intercepted.
Youth and Discipline
Offensively the Dolphins have one of the youngest units in the league. A fact that can both benefit as well as harm a team. It may be true, once you play the game it stays with you for life but the NFL is a different beast. Players often get caught up in the heat of the moment and make ill-advised decisions, on and off the field. For this very reason, teams always try to bring in veteran leadership to guide youth in the right direction. Too many times last year Miami got caught up in the heat of battle where a shove here, a slam of a punter there, or an unsportsmanlike penalty cost them crucial yards. There’s one thing for having passion for the game, but age and experience puts the team before your own personal emotion. Hopefully, the Dolphins can keep their attitudes in check this season when push comes to shove.
Many would say it’s odd kicking/special teams would make or break a season. Unfortunately for Miami, they’d be wrong. In the battle of field position, games are often won or lost by the yard. Give your offense the shorter field late in the game, you beat the clock. Start deep in your own territory and time is not on your side. Miami may have considered this when drafting a 5 ft 7 in, 170 pound (ish) wide receiver, Jakeem Grant. While he’s anything but average in size for an NFL wide receiver, his speed and skill set show Miami is exploring every option. The same could be said of the kciker/punter. Miami needs consistency out of these two positions as well. Your punter needs to pin teams deep in their own territory. Teams like the New England Patriots will march their way downfield as if uncontested. You have to make them use every inch and every second you can.
Fans have been all in on the Miami Dolphins for years. “This could be our year” seems to echo with every coaching change. Another big name up, another firing a couple of years later. It’s hard to believe the once “cursed” Boston Redsox have three championships since 2000, and the Dolphins can’t make the playoffs. The Chicago Cubs were even in the world series last year! C’mon Miami, you don’t want to join the list of longest championship droughts.