Before the season started, if you would have told me the Miami Dolphins would have a 3-3 record after 6 games, I would not have believed you. If you would have said they would also be in a 4 way tie for the lead in the AFC East, I would have told you how crazy you were. Well that’s exactly how things are right now. After holding off the St. Louis Rams at home on Sunday the Miami Dolphins are in pretty good shape heading into their bye week. If a couple more things had gone their way, they would be 5-1, and be the biggest surprise of the young NFL season.
With the help of a defense that is playing great, and a rookie QB that is growing every game right before our eyes, the Dolphins have put themselves in great position. After their bye week, they go to New York to face the Jets, then go to Indy for a showdown of Tannehill against Luck. After those two road trips the Dolphins host Tennessee, then have a short week and a Thursday road trip to Buffalo. They end November by hosting the Seattle Seahawks. That 5 game stretch will be key for the Dolphins, who could find themselves in prime position to make a run at the playoffs in December should they at least win 3 of those games.
The Dolphins aren’t winning pretty, they are winning with a defense that is stout against the run, and seems to come up huge when it matters. This is the defense we were expecting to see at the beginning of last season. The front 4 for the Dolphins is one of the best in the NFL. With Soliai and Starks plugging the middle, teams are not able to run the ball consistently. Those two are also opening things up for Cameron Wake, who leads the team with 6.5 sacks, which has him 3rd in the NFL. The secondary is also getting their hands on the football this season, picking off 7 passes which has them tied with numerous teams at 9th in the NFL.
The most tremendous stat for this defense is holding their opponents to 25.8% on 3rd downs. That is best in the NFL. The defense is getting off the field on 3rd downs which can only lead to good things in the long run. This defense is keeping the Dolphins in position to win games. Even when you look at the opening game against Houston, the game was a lot closer than the score indicated. 4 costly turnovers by the offense gave Houston the ball with a short field, and they did what elite teams do, they make you pay for turnovers.
Perhaps the best thing about the start to this season is the play of Ryan Tannehill. He has exceeded expectations thus far. He is still a rookie, and is making some rookie mistakes, but he is improving week to week. He is also doing this with limited weapons at wide receiver. Brian Hartline has been great so far, but teams will soon figure out how to keep him bottled up, much like the Rams did. Once that happens, I’m interested to see how this offense tries to move the ball. Against the Rams, we finally saw Reggie Bush used more in the passing game catching 5 passes for 44 yards. I have been waiting for him to be used like that, and he may be counted on more and more as a receiver as the season goes on.
After the bye week I’m looking forward to seeing how much of an impact Jabar Gaffney can make with this offense. He should know the offense by then, and I expect him to be playing against the Jets. If he can help take the coverage away from Hartline and Bess, it will really open up the passing game for Miami. Tannehill has show he can throw it when he gets the opportunities, and I’m looking for him to be asked to throw more coming out of the bye. I also think Michael Egnew will make an appearance on the game day roster in the next couple weeks. Philbin has said he is making good progress during practices. If he can come in and be the seam threat tight end this team desperately needs, the offense will get rolling.
Looking ahead to the schedules of the rest of the AFC East over the next few weeks, the Jets seem to have the toughest schedule. They go to New England, then host Miami before traveling to Seattle and St. Louis in back to back weeks. They finish that trip up by hosting the Patriots to end November. The Bills have the next toughest schedule. The host Tennessee before their bye week. After that they travel to Houston then to New England, then host Miami before they travel to Indy. The Patriots host the Jets this week then travel to St. Louis before they bye week. After that they host Buffalo and Indianapolis before traveling to New York to face the Jets again. l