There was a time when the 2012 Miami Dolphins were one of the pleasant surprises in the NFL. They even were all the way up to the #5 seed in the AFC, and were a mere 1 game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East with 2 games still to play vs the Pats. All of that has changed. This article is one of 2 articles I have written about the ‘Phins massive decline on offense and defense (this is the offense article…the defense article is HERE)
For me, this team’s decline on the offensive-line, and subsequent issues in the running game, are the paramount issues for this 2012 offense.
Through the first 3 weeks of the season the offensive line was doing enough to keep Ryan Tannehill upright, and open legit holes for Reggie Bush to get going. That has regressed greatly.
The o-line has been very inconsistent, and have had far too few games where they put together legit play for the entire game.
In the past 7 games Richie Incognito was graded pretty well once, and that is the end of the list (plus Incognito grades negatively significantly more often than he grades positively which is a disappointment and an issue).
Jake Long has been decent-at-best. He has been no where near the reliable/dominant LT that has made the Pro Bowl in all 4 of his NFL seasons. This is surely the first time he will not be honored as one of the best LTs in the NFL. Long has allowed Tannehill to take big hits twice as much as any other o-lineman on this team (very surprising and disappointing).
Jonathan Martin grades negatively more often than positively too. Even in games where is good by his standards he is not necessarily good by NFL standards. Martin has been beat and forced Tannehill to hurry a throw a whopping 28 times this season. John Jerry (10) is the only other ‘Phin in double-digits for QB hurries.
Jerry has been decent-at-best too. He is another guy on this o-line that grades negatively much more often than we would consider acceptable. Martin and Jerry were question marks on the right side of the o-line coming in to 2012. They got off to quality starts, but they (like many players on this team) have regressed.
Mike Pouncey started very well, but even he is back down to earth. Overall I feel like Pouncey has been good, but he started (and has the potential to be) great. He has been one of Miami’s best players on offense (surely not saying much, but still he is deserving of some measure of recognition).
A declining o-line = death for a rookie QB desperate to develop. Many ‘Phins phans feel that the O needs a play-maker. There are major issues with that…A) the amount of true “play-makers” is very low and rare. Landing one is next to impossible…B) The Dolphins had Brandon Marshall for a long time and it did not translate to victories…C) Brian Hartline has been one of the top WRs in the NFL all season, and Davone Bess is an excellent slot-WR so I just do not think that the talent cupboard is bare. I do think that the plummeting run game is the best place to start.
Miami’s declining run game has them struggling greatly on 1st down and forcing 2nd/3rd and long waaaay too often. With Tannehill’s current skill-set this is a recipe for disaster. On 3rd down Tannehill has thrown 1 TD pass, but has been picked off 6 times (yikes). No run game hurts the pass game, and also takes potential weapons out of the equation (like play-action). Tanny has the ability to sprint out on p-action and throw on the run, but who is going to bite and be fooled by a Miami run-fake these days?
Tannehill needed a big contribution from Bush in order to allow him to properly progress. It has not happened. Since week 3 Miami is averaging a porous 69 rush yards per game. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the only team doing worse on the ground, and they lost their top RB some time ago. What is Miami’s excuse?
In that same time span the run-game is getting just 2.8 yards per carry. Yikes. Worst in the NFL. The push from the o-line is non-existent. On 3rd/4th and less than 2 yards Miami has been particularly underwhelming. Only 5 teams in the NFL convert at a lower % in those scenarios than Miami. Daniel Thomas and Jorvorskie Lane where supposed to provide the thunder to Bush’s lightning and be the short-yardage hammers. It has not happened. Miami has even gone to throwing on 3rd and short. Tannehill threw 2 INTs on 3rd and short in the Tennessee Titans game. I have never seen that before.
Since week 3 Bush is getting just 3.1 yards per carry, while Thomas is at just 3.4. A pass game that only throws short passes, plus a run game that is doing nothing = very little chance for Tannehill to progress.
Hartline and Bess line up on Tannehill’s right more often than not. Teams are focusing their coverage to that side and the results have been hurtful for Miami. Tanny has 1 TD and 6 INTs when throwing to his right (yikes II). Here again we see the team hurt by lack of a run game/play-action option. With the o-line issues I am disappointed that we have not seen more screens.
Tannehill was off to a great start vs the blitz, but with the o-line struggling teams do not need to send extra attackers. This allows teams to have their guys sit back and read the rookie QB. They know Miami has no run game, and are not even attempting deep balls so they are honing in to what Miami wants to do very quickly and often.
The regression can be attributed to a poor roster (Jeff Ireland) and a 1st year head coach trying to figure things out (Joe Philbin) and an offensive coordinator who is showing that he has been out of the NFL for years (Mike Sherman). Coming into this season a 4-6 start may have seemed acceptable, but when you see how the team has regressed for several weeks now it is very concerning.
Time for a RB combo of Lamar Miller/Thomas? ‘Phins phans are desperate at this point to see something positive happen with this team from now to the end the season (I cannot blame them).
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