I can’t believe the Dolphins have played 4 games in the 2012 season already. Before you know it, it will be time to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving and wrap presents for Christmas. Depending on what your expectations were for this team at the beginning of the year, you may be somewhat happy with what you have seen so far this season, or you may be ready to jump off a cliff and take Jeff Ireland with you. I am on the side of the former, and am really optimistic about the future of this team.
I know how the saying goes, you are what your record says you are. The Dolphins are in fact 1-3, there is no denying that. They lost 2 games in overtime they should have won, and as frustrating as that may be to most fans, there is a silver lining to both of those games. Let’s take a look at these first 4 games and what we should expect going forward.
Once training camp ended and the Miami Dolphins decided to go forward with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, the expectation level for this team this year should have dropped. Older players were released, younger players were kept, and the rebuilding process began. To expect this team to make the playoffs was a stretch. This coaching staff was going to use this season to coach and then judge the players on how well they played in November and December, not in September. The goal for this team was to become better as the year went on.
With that mindset, how can you not be impressed with how well Tannehill has progressed this season? He has that ‘it’ factor that people look for in a quarterback. You can see it when he’s on the field. He knows the offense better than anyone else on the team, and he is coaching them during the games to make sure everyone gets lined up right. He is also directing the protection of the offensive line and making play call adjustments as he sees fit. He lacks talent at wide receiver and tight end, yet he is still giving this team a chance to win late in games by putting the ball where it needs to be for his playmakers to make plays. The bad thing is, the playmakers just haven’t came through yet. There are a number of players on this team that you can blame for the 1-3 start, but Tannehill should be near the bottom of that list. I’m surprised at how well he has played, and am really excited about the future for the Miami Dolphins at quarterback.
I am also impressed with the offensive line thus far. Sure, it’s not the best in the league, but it is definitely not the worst either. The right side has played well, the running game is doing good, and Tannehill isn’t getting killed every time he drops back to pass. This line will only get better as the season goes on, and that is going to be huge for this team moving forward.
The wide receivers still have a ton of room for improvement, and that may have taken place today. Out is Legedu Naanee, and in is Jabar Gaffney. Naanee just wasn’t getting it done. Gaffney brings experience in a west coast system and a great veteran presence. He will greatly improve the passing game. Brian Hartline is playing beyond expectations, and Davone Bess is having another solid season. What is really lacking is a seam threat tight end. Charles Clay has not been dependable thus far, Anthony Fasano doesn’t have the skill set to be the seam threat type, and the development of third round pick Michael Egnew is still taking place. Egnew is still a few weeks away from making the game day roster.
On the defensive side of the ball, the front 7 is as good as any. Miami hasn’t allowed a 100 yd rusher in 18 games. Cam Wake had his beak out game of the season, sacking Kevin Kolb 4.5 times this past Sunday. If they can keep playing consistent, the defense will keep the Dolphins in a lot of games this season. The secondary still needs to improve, but they played well enough to win until the last 30 seconds of the game. Sean Smith had 2 picks for the first time of his career, but also allowed the game tying touchdown in the final seconds of the 4th quarter. The major problem with the defense is giving up big plays at some point during the games so far. I the defense can figure out how to not let this happen, wins will start showing up.
The 1-3 record thus far could have easily been expected. This season is clearly about the development of Ryan Tannehill. What hasn’t been expected is how competitive the Dolphins are. This team is two overtime losses away from being 3-1 and in first place in the division. There is still time for this team to put a run together. In 2008 the Dolphins were 2-4 before going on a run that would end with an 11-5 record and a division title. That my be a little far fetched for this team, but it was also a little far fetched for the 2008 team as well. The schedule begins to soften up a little over the next month, facing the Bengals on the road, then hosting the Rams before their bye week. After the bye they travel to New York to face the Jets.