The past week, I had some thoughts as the Dolphins head out of the bye week. I have been pleasantly surprised to this point in the season. All offseason to this point, I have stated that this season is a process. Miami needs its in new coaching staff and young QB to grow. Other players need be seen to see how they fit with they new systems. Seeing progress is the most important thing even though we want them to win every game.
However, there are some areas that need to improve if the Fins are going to show additional progression let alone continue to be in the discussion of a possible playoff team
Thoughts and Challenges:
* Ryan Tannehill must continue to improve. He has been outstanding. Poised, intelligent, athletic, accurate, improving, arm strength...I run out of words to describe his work. However, the staff and team around RT must continue to put him in positions to succeed. Tannehill himself must continue to progress and learn from his mistakes.
* The running game must improve. It was fantastic early in the year. Teams are loading up against it and forcing the passing game to step up which it has. However, taking the running game back to where it was in September will be a huge factor. It keeps pressure of Tannehill by keeping the team in reasonable down and distance and allows for play action. Also, with the Jets, Colts, Titans and Bills all coming it would be a great time to the running game going. Likewise
* Pass protection. If you watch closely, like many of you do, RT has taken more and more hits in the last few weeks. The O-line and TE's'/RB's need to do the deed in pass pro.
* Jake Long needs to have a big, final ten games. I want to sign him long term. I am Long defender. However, if he can play at an elite level, the running game might come alive and justify paying him mega-dollars.
* Will a third receiver step up? I figured Gaffney would be active after the bye just because of the date he was signed (perhaps he should have signed earlier). However, I was impressed with Marlon Moore last week. Some one needs to be another factor in the passing game. Perhaps it is Charles Clay or Reggie Bush. Bush has looked good coming out of the back field on some routes or screens. Whoever it is, someone needs to help give a jolt to the offense.
* The pass D must tighten up. I blown away by the fact the Fins are best on 3rd down in the league. Also, their team completion % is not bad. However, the total yards is awful. Too many chunk plays. Perhaps the personnel is not there. However, subtle improvement would go a long way. Also, the Dolphins have not faced many elite QB's to this point.
* Oliver Vernon might be an X-Factor the D needs. Pass rush opposite of Cam Wake is necessary. Vernon has shown outstanding athleticism the last few weeks. Perhaps, he can give a kick to the pass rush.
* The Miami Dolphins, if they want to win big, must start winning the turnover differential by plus 2, 3 or 4. Turnovers come in bunches and almost did last week. The defense needs to start coming up with more forced fumbles and interceptions. This team still might not win being even or plus 1. If they are in the negative, they have no chance. There is not enough firepower to overcome such a deficit.
* I am interested in seeing what improvements and adjustments the coaching staff has made coming out of the bye. They gave the players a nice amount of time off over the bye which is needed. However, the Dolphins have shown nice halftime adjustments which demonstrates good coaching and coachable players. Through effective coaching and self-scouting how will the Fins improve?
* I hope the bye week did not kill momentum for the Fins. I think the bye came at the right time in that the Fins needed a rest after playing a few physical teams and some team adjustments were needed. The extra time will help in those regards. However, with that being said, the Fins had won two in a row and some good feelings going. They cannot come out flat next week versus the Jets.
* The lack of depth on this team is alarming. I keep beating this into the ground, but the point should not go away. Injuries will eventually come. The staff has done a good job saving on the players' bodies in practice. The strength and conditioning staff has also done its job. However, that can only go so far. Players in depth roles need to be ready best they can and the staff needs to have effective plans to utilize their positive attributes.
* It is vital to remember that this season is a process. The Fins are in good hands right now with this coaching staff. The progression of Tannehill has been awesome. Under the new system, many others have shined as veterans for the first time in the NFL along with rookies. While the Fins have been good enough for fans to "scoreboard watch", I think it is important to remember that what is most important is the needle is point upward for Miami. Continue to show progression.