P is for Pivotal and Other Thoughts
By Kevin Dern
Well Dolfans, it’s been a long time coming, but how great was it to see that defense step up and shut down the Bills after that 1st drive in the 3rd quarter? Down 16-7 and we were able to come back and win the game. Big, no HUGE win there! Turns out the sky is not falling after the Texans and Ravens games.
Normally, I’m pretty much a realist when it comes to these Dolphins. Like so many, the team has been a let-down so many times over the course of the 16 years I’ve rooted for them. My 15th birthday fell on that dreaded 62-7 loss to Jacksonville, I’ve seen Terrell Davis carve us a new one, Tory James single-handedly shut us down in the playoffs, and we haven’t made it back since I was 16…ouch!
I remember my high school coaches always stressing to look at the schedule one game at a time; which for my team was a little tough to do because we were so used to success we pretty much didn’t get too amped up until week 8 or 9 because we knew who we’d face in the playoffs (which in Ohio is a big thing – I’m sure Floridians can relate).
Chad Pennington stressed that this team was still getting used to winning yesterday in his post game presser, and rightfully so. This team is still pretty much a mystery. Is it a team that’s really 2 plays away from being 5-2 (Jets & Texans) or is it a team that somehow only manages to beat opponents that it should lose to on paper and lose to ones it should beat? Who knows? I for one do not…
Nice thing is – we’re going to find out this week. This Buffalo game reminds me of the game at Chicago in 2006. We were off to a rough start and beat the Bears, who were undefeated at the time, badly 31-13 in their house and proceeded to rip off four straight wins, and for a while, at least until the Jacksonville game, we could sniff the wild-card race. We all know how that season ended…someone went to Tuscaloosa.
I offer you this Dolfans, and I hate myself doing it – I’ve got a cross nearby, knocked on wood, and am in the process of eating garlic bread to protect myself from Halloween Football God Vampires…but I’ve got to do it. I’ll attempt to look ahead. I won’t prognosticate or anything, but I promise to leave you some food for thought.
Here goes. Everyone knows how NFL coaches divide the season up into “quarters”, you know, four games at a time, blah, blah, blah. As it turns out, the Dolphins, with a win in Denver this upcoming weekend (won’t be easy mind you) can get to the halfway point of the season at .500 with a 4 – 4 record. We’ve already re-discovered what a real NFL QB looks like; experimented with the ghost of Pop Warner; Joey Porter has found the 3-4 again; and Ronnie Brown has looked good when the O-line has produced. The Dolphins formula for winning is simple, based on results, hold opponents under 20 points, don’t turn the ball over, and make 1 or 2 big plays on defense.
Looking at the next or 3rd quarter of the season, the Dolphins are at home for 3 straight weeks with a roadie to St. Louis to cap it off. Two of those home games, on paper at least, should be wins (Seattle and Oakland). I don’t think New England will be fooled by any Wildcat offense the second go ’round but they also aren’t as strong offensively with Maroney out for the year. St. Louis is dangerous, but if the Dolphins remain focused, there’s no reason a 4-0 month of November should be out of the question.
This is why the Denver game is PIVOTAL. They’ve got a QB who can move and sling the ball all over the field; and if our track record of covering big, athletic WR’s is any indicator, Brandon Marshall will have a field day. If we can contain him in a similar manner to what we did with Lee Evans yesterday, the Dolphins can overcome this deficiency and can go into Denver and win. I cannot stress enough how important it will be to re-establish the running game this week. That’s our meal ticket this week. Ronnie and Ricky need to control the clock and move the chains.
And here’s the kicker. IF the Miami Dolphins get to 4-4 with the schedule coming up in November, it is plausible (can’t believe I’m typing this…) that the Miami Dolphins can go into the second Buffalo game (the Toronto Showdown or whatever it is) with a record of gasp…7 wins and 4 losses! Knock on wood, say the lord’s prayer, spit on the floor and spin around three times, whatever you need to do, but being as optimistic as I can possibly force myself to be, 7 – 4 isn’t out of the question; but it all starts with the Denver Broncos this weekend. Here’s hoping Sparano gets the boys focused up again.
Were Jason Allen and Ted Ginn finally producing? Some misalignment of the planets must be working in our favor.
We have to run the football better – the interior of the O-line needs to step up. Oh Donald Thomas, why did you get your foot hurt?
How does Ronnie Brown not get a single carry in the 2nd quarter of the game after averaging 4+ yards in the first (6 for 26)?
Never too early for the draft
Well, barring the expected (at least my version of it) the Dolphins somehow sneak in the playoffs, however, in my last article, I predicted 4 or 6 wins which is probably somewhere being slated to pick between 8-14 in the draft. I’d love to add a FA CB like Chris Gamble or Nnamdi Asomugha so we don’t have to use the first pick on either Vontae Davis or Malcolm Jenkins, both of whom are having pretty spotty seasons to date.
Here are some prospects to keep an eye on:
Brian Orakpo - DE/OLB Texas – physical freak, who much like Chris Long, didn’t start putting up huge numbers until his senior season. He’s been a physical freak so far on the field and might be able to play the SOLB spot. Joey Porter is going to be what, 32 before the draft and Matt Roth, while serviceable, can be upgraded with a guy like this brought in. It’s also noteworthy that Ireland added Anthony Spencer to the mix while DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis were both on the roster.
Greg Hardy – DE/OLB Ole Miss – pretty much the same mold as Orakpo, but 3 years younger if he declares this year. He’s a SOLB type who put up very impressive #’s in the SEC as a sophomore. He’s very athletic having played basketball for the Rebels as well as lining up at TE and WR from time to time.
James Laurinaitis – MLB Ohio State – I’d hate to have to use a first round pick on 3-4 inside linebacker, but I guess depending on Crowder’s contract situation, we might have to. Rey Maualuga, while quite the hitter, reminds me exactly of Crowder, a free lancer from time to time without great instincts. Hence, why I’d go for Little Animal over him, but if I had my way, this position wouldn’t be addressed in the 1st round.
William Moore – S Missouri – this one really doesn’t need much explanation. Our secondary sucks, plain and simple. Hill and Bell are both pretty mediocre in the pass game, while Bell is able to add a play vs. the run from time to time, his coverage skills and injury history are concerning. Moore is a big guy who could really help the problem we have of covering the middle of the field.
Vontae Davis – CB Illinois – the DB we’ll need if we can’t address it via free agency. I’d really love for Jason Allen to step up and become a starter opposite Will Allen. Speaking of Allen, I still find him to be no more than a nice #2 option at CB – maybe it’s just me, but his lack of ball skills are alarming (though he did get a pick yesterday). I’d only draft Davis or Jenkins if we can’t add a FA CB. Remember how nice Will Allen was in the slot under Saban…I’d love it if we had say Jason Allen and Chris Gamble on the outside and use Will as our nickel.
Well, there’s the latest of my Dolphins ramblings. I hope we can go into Denver and right this ship back to .500. The Seahawks and Raiders would be a nice remedy to get above .500 if we win this week, which would be something to see since we haven’t been above that mark this late into a season since the end of 2005.