Monday, April 15, 2024

Behind Enemy Lines: Our Own Worst Enemy

Welcome to a special edition of Behind Enemy Lines: Our Own Worst Enemy edition.

Our Miami Dolphins are going into week seven with a record of 1-5, and to make matters worse, those five losses have been the last five consecutive result. Two of those losses ended up as blowouts and one of them involved a scoreless offense in our own stadium. One of the losses was in overtime after a questionable fourth down decision to kick, whilst another was in London after a poor decision to run on 4th and inches with time running out.

It has involved a Tua Tagovailoa injury as well as injuries to Will Fuller, Devante Parker, Xavien Howard and Byron Jones amongst others. It has involved questionable play calling from a committee of both our co-offensive co-ordinatiors and rookie QB Coach, not least a decision to throw the ball into our own endzone which ended in a safety in a game that ended tied and going to overtime.

Our Offensive Line have been just that… Offensive! They have been regularly shuffled, dropped and moved, allowing the most QB sacks and pressures, with certain members of the line allowing more pressures than some teams! The poor protection has led to an invisible run game and a very visible QB injury.

Off the field, things aren’t much better, owner Stephen Ross looks visibly disappointed, angry and deflated after every game. A lot of the draft picks of our GM Chris Grier have underwhelmed to put it lightly and Coach Flores has been accused of losing the dressing room and being hard to talk to and discuss things with.

His press conferences have been rehashed versions of each other as he sounds like a broken record without an idea and his offensive staff seem unable to support him and find any answers. The one idea that keeps coming back is the very definition of desperation, a MEGA trade for controversial Quarterback DeShaun Watson. A man who refuses to play for his current franchise, who has called out his owner and GM publicly and who has been accused of 22 accounts of sexual assault that are currently under investigation.

A trade deal involving multiple players and 1st and 2nd picks for someone who quits on a franchise when the going gets tough and who could very well be suspended or worse as a result of this investigation screams of desperation.

So with all this take into account, the main question I have is this… While we have lost to five different franchises this year, really, did they actually beat us, or are we beating ourselves?

In this special edition of Behind Enemy Lines, I look at our OWN fan base to go behind enemy lines, because as a team, staff and franchise, we may just be our own worst enemies in this current situation. I have spoken to good friend, the King of Phinland (@KingOfPhinland) to discuss these troubles and issues with a fellow Dolphins fan…

Afternoon mate, finally we get down to do something formal together regarding the Miami Dolphins. I just wish it was under more positive circumstances. We have been connected and talking for a while now and discussed podcasting and all sorts, now we have a chance to dissect our current situation together, but first, as always introduce yourself to the fanbase a bit more, how did you become a Dolphins fan in the first place?

Sure thing, great to finally get to put something together with you! My name is Ben Jamison, but most Dolphins fans who know me know me as the King of Phinland. I am a college student from Kentucky who has been a Dolphins fan his whole life. My dad grew up in Ohio and was a Browns fan, but eventually became a Dolphins fan because of Dan Marino- and also because of how bad the Browns were.

He passed that fandom on to me. I played wide receiver, running back, cornerback, punt returner, kick returner, and holder for my high school football team and actually won a state championship my senior year. Football has always been something that I have been very passionate about and wanted to learn more about. I made this Twitter back in March to try and connect with more Dolphins fans and just have a little fun and I never expected to gain the kind of following that I did so quickly. I am very grateful to all of Dolphins Twitter.

Wowzers, that is quite the resume mate! Played some UK football along the way so far in my years, but never played a snap of American football. Although I did once do a Fan Combine at an NFL exhibit in New York haha! Had to do a 40 yard dash, cone drills, vertical jump etc. Got a little receipt print out thing that said I graded as a Third Round Offensive Lineman” haha! I know its just a gimmick thing, but Ill be clinging onto that whilst I live in an offensive linemans body shape! Haha.

But back to the Dolphins now eh? Its been pretty bleak hasnt it. That record 1-5 is weighing heavy around the necks of staff, players and fans alike. How do you view that 1-5’ mate? Is it a fair reflection of how weve played or does it show us in an unfair light?

I think it is somewhat of an unfair light, this team is better than 1-5. I think there are a lot of unfortunate factors as to why we have fallen to this abysmal record that go beyond the play on the field. I am of the opinion that coaching is a big part of the reason we have struggled this severely. The offense is currently playing to not lose games.

They are playing for field goals when they should be attempting to score touchdowns and in the Colts game and the Raiders game it was like they got the lead and decided to just sit on it. That is not how you win in the NFL; you have to play to win. I believe this team is good offensive play calling and Tua not getting injured away from 4-2. That may seem optimistic, but we lost three very close games (LV, INDY, JAC) that we had early leads and squandered them due to no offensive contribution.

The team often looks confused on the field on both defensive assignments and offensive route running- that is coaching. The team is significantly less disciplined this year and penalties have killed us- that is coaching. There are players who have struggled and have to be better, but I think it is definitely unfair to blame this record on the play on the field by the players. They are not being put in situations to win.

I get you, can’t disagree. I also think there has been an element of ‘Moneyballing’ our current roster which is adding to the situation. We have signed players like Malcolm Brown, John Jenkins and Duke Riley to fill the gaps in our roster, to play a role on the cheap in the hope that our draftees start to shine around them.

Whilst the logic could be there, when you build a roster that way, you HAVE to script games perfectly and be completely in control of the scheme and roles and play calling so these guys are set up to play their role. In our situation, we have cost cutting veterans littered through the squad who are being poorly guided and schemed, which is a recipe for a 1-5 start for sure. There is equal blame on players and staff, like you say, but until one group steps up to inspire the other, we will struggle.

Were we blind as fans do you think pal? We had such high expectations and such optimism, but do you think there was already warning signs that we missed through our optimism? Should or could we have seen this coming?

I think there were some warning signs of regression that we chose to ignore for sure. Our defense last season was predicated on getting turnovers, which we all know is very hard to keep sustainable. We also took away some veteran players at key positions and replaced them with rookies, there is going to be some negative side effects to that in the beginning. The team hired two position coaches and an inexperienced quarterback’s coach to run the offense on a team with a defensive minded head coach.

The recipe for regression was right there, but I also don’t think it was something we should have expected. There is always the possibility that moves will not work out. I think we should have been more open and prepared for the possibility of regression because, to be honest, most of us were not even considering it.

I do not think there was any reason for us to expect this kind of regression though. This is a further fall then anyone should have expected this team to take because even if some of those moves do not work out you still had a 10-6 team who gained more than they lost in players- no way it should have started this bad.

Yeah exactly!! I have seen and heard and even held some of those arguments and views over the last few weeks, but those alone dont take you from 10-6 to 1-5 that fast. There has to be more to it! Christ, if we lose this week we will have as many losses in 7 games as we had all last season, thats rough that, and dare I say it, its New York Jets style form!

But forgive me, but I really dont believe it is all doom and gloom. Some of our rookies have looked good you know? Amongst all of this negativity that is rightly held, Phillips and Waddle have started to show some really good stuff. Not perfect, but as rookies, theres plenty to like. And then theres Jeavon Holland who looks like a BALLER. I can feel myself falling for him haha! Will be waxing lyrical about him for years, can feel it coming already. Any of that giving you hope too?

It definitely gives me hope. I have wanted Jaylen Waddle to be a Miami Dolphin since his freshman year at Alabama. I remember watching him and being enamoured by his skill set, so I was ecstatic about that pick. His year has been up and down, but I think you can clearly see the talent and potential. I believe he is going to be amazing for a long time. I feel the same about Jaelen Phillips.

The biggest plus that gives me hope from Jaelen Phillips is that he has shown no signs of concussion issues so far. Coming out of college, there was no question as to if Jaelen Phillips could play. The question was will he stay healthy. If he had no injury questions, Phillips would have been a top 10 pick. He looks healthy out there and dangerous, I believe he has the 2nd most pressures by any rookie so far. Jevon Holland also looks like a star. He is another guy who easily could have gone higher. If he did not opt out in 2020, I believe he would have been a top 20 pick. I think the Dolphins got some really great long term contributors there that give me tons of hope.

Yeah exactly man, thats exactly how I feel. Some of our diamond draftees seem to be showing signs of being fantastic players. You left our my boy Holland haha, but thats OK, I know what hes about. You check his stats and hes holding his own with well established veterans with years of experience, even while hes on a losing team. Imagine if the team he had around him was better, if his offense kept him off the field longer, his stats would be off the chain. I cant wait for him to get his first pick man, Ill be bouncing! Ill probably have ordered a jersey before full time! Haha.

But theyre rookies, they cant carry this team! How much do you feel that the lack of veteran players and presence has been effecting us this year. I mean look at our offensive line, one of our worst performing groups. They lost Karras and Flowers in one summer and left behind maily rookies and 2nd year players. Add in Bobby McCain, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson and more and that’s a lot of veterans culled in one go. Reckon thats having an effect?

I think this is one of the lesser talked about issues that this team is having so far. This is significantly impacting this team in my opinion. I do not think the defense has been able to be as creative schematically because you replaced a guy who had been here for years, knows the system very well, and knows the players very well with a rookie signal caller.

I love Holland as much as you bro, and I think as a player he is already better than McCain, but the signal calling is going to take a little longer for him to get proficient at it- especially because he only played his freshman year at Oregon as the safety in the post. I think this is why we have seen the offensive line regress as well. You have 4 guys starting that are all still trying to develop, and that is hard to do without veterans around them like Flowers and Karras. Miami got too young too quick and underestimated the value of having tenured guys starting while the young guys develop.

Too young too quick! What a statement! What a fantastic summation of why we are in this position. I think that extends to our coaching staff as well as our roster too you know, look at all the Charlie Frye news that has come out, such inexperience in such a prominent role. Brilliant way of phrasing where we are as a franchise right now.

How do you think we compare to other under-performing franchises? You look at the Giants, The Eagles, The Lions, The Pats all of those teams fans had higher expectations than their current records have achieved. How do we compare against those teams do you think?

I still believe that we are in a much better situation than all of those teams. We have a good, young core and no bad contracts. We have top of the league spending power in 2022 as well. This team is not a very complicated fix. They look so far away, but I still think that the roster is really close. Those teams all feel like they need a total rebuild in order to reach success, the dolphins do not need a total rebuild again.

They have to use their assets and make their decisions very efficiently, but I think it can be done because it does not feel very complicated. I guess that’s the difference between us and them, we still feel a few moves away.

I like that attitude pal. Although 1-5 and the current coaching and play calling doesnt half feel like were a long way away. Especially if the rumours about some of our players no longer wanting to be here. And say, if we do change our staff, they may want their own players and their own roster. But your point provides a lot more realistic one I think, a lot of the pieces that were cause for optimism just a few weeks ago, are still there with the same upside but that just hasnt clicked in unison with each other yet. If we can harness the good and eliminate the destructive practices, then maybe youre right.

But that comes down to the staff, and I worry at times that they are too stubborn. How much of this is on them in your eyes? Is there a way out of this without going through yet another staffing overhaul?

I really believe that the majority of this is on the coaching. I think most of the actual issues are on the positional coaches and coordinators rather than Flores himself, but he is the one who put them in those spots, so he shares that blame. Having two guys who have only been position coaches in the NFL be your offensive coordinators that develop the young offense is a bad decision.

Having a first- time offensive line coach try and develop your extremely young offensive line is a bad decision. I think the offensive coaching is really struggling, and Flores is having to allocate more time than he would like to that side of the ball which means less time on the defense, special teams, discipline, takes no talent aspects of coaching which he is better at and that is why you have regression in all of those areas.

I will say it again, Miami got too young (too inexperienced) too quick in not only the players but also in the coaching. Everyone in this organization is trying to develop and they have very little veteran guidance to help. Flores has to get the personnel right or he is gone, even though I still think he is a good coach outside of that.

Your right about Flo I think. While I put little of this DIRECTLY on his shoulders, it comes onto the shoulders of his offensive staff in the majority of cases, and like you said, he put them there. I honestly think Coach Flo’s biggest flaw is his lack of ability to know what an offensive staff should look like. We have has such a mad turnover of staff on that side of the ball if you look back over the Flores era and none has really clicked.

This particular set up seems like a real Jekyll and Hyde situation and we get the destructive play as a result. Jim Caldwell was initially hired as an Offensive consultant type role, I see why, Flores needs that kind of advisor and MY GOD do I feel like that was needed and is now missed.

But if its going to change I dont see them making changes mid season, theyre much too stubborn. So if its going to change for them it has to start somewhere. How about this week, as good a time as any. So looking at the Falcons, what do you make of them? Should we be worried about them and if so, who should we be looking out for?

I do not think we should be worried about Atlanta; I think we should be worried about ourselves. The Falcons are not a good football team. Neither are we right now. We are fully capable of beating them and I think we have a better roster than them- the coaches just have to take the handcuffs off of this team. The sad part about this game is that it should have been a no brainer winnable game, but after losing to the Jaguars nothing is a guaranteed win.

I think someone we should look out for is Cordarrelle Patterson. He has someone who has been in the league for a little while now, but really come into his own in Atlanta. They have finally figured out how to use him and he has been extremely explosive this year. He is a guy the Dolphins should be worried about defending because they can use him in such different ways. If Xavien Howard does not play, we really should worry about Calvin Ridley as well. He has been quiet this year but has all the talent in the world. We would hate for his 2021 arrival game to be against us.

Urgh yeah, Patterson worries me you know. Our run defense has really struggled, especially when they get past the Defensive line, our linebackers have really found it difficult and with a bit of ex- Patriot in him too, Patterson could well be fired up to come off his bye week rest with a bang! I hope Im wrong but if you look at how Taylor did for the Colts, how Robinson did last weekend, Patterson could be a problem for us.

But lets get back to the positives, there was some of them at some points of our conversation, Im sure haha! Who do we have who should worry them? If we are going to turn this round, which of our current roster is going to make the difference for us on Sunday?

Jaylen Waddle is a player that the Falcons should be terrified of. He is coming off of his 10 catch, 70 yd, 2 TD performance and he looks sharp. If the Dolphins ever decide to let it loose, he could put up huge numbers against a lacklustre secondary like the Falcons. I think Eric Rowe is another guy, who if he has a big game, can really spin it for us to win. That is going to be a high-profile matchup of Rowe vs Kyle Pitts.

It will bode very well for Miami if Rowe comes to play and shuts down the rookie tight end. This defense has to get back to creating turnovers as well. Matt Ryan is still a really good quarterback, so turnovers may not be easy to come by. That is why winning that battle is so crucial. 

You’re right about Rowe, when he struggles, we struggle. We have seen that a few times in the last couple of years. But if he can use his veteran smarts to hold Pitts to some modesty, that takes a huge weapon from them. Then if Howard can hold off Ridley like you alluded to earlier, that could also help us.

Waddle you are BANG on about! He and Tua have had two games together, Waddle has been a threat in both and combined for 3 TDs in those two games. Watching first hand in London, their connection was unlike any other on the Dolphins roster, they could be key to each others success in Dolphins colours for sure. And while I’m on this subject, I have to ask, where do you stand on Tua? What are your thoughts on our current QB1?

I think Tua Tagovailoa has a lot of potential to be really good in this league. I thought his performance last week was encouraging. He had a few really bad mistakes that he needs to clean up, but he played pretty well. One of the underrated things about his performance last week was the offensive line allowed 20 pressures, yet Tua was not sacked once. One of the biggest knocks was that Tua has no “wiggle”. People said he is not athletic enough and takes too many sacks. Tua did a fantastic job of evading pressure and getting the ball out quickly and efficiently.

I do not think the team should trade for Watson. This team is not DeShaun Watson away from a Super Bowl. There is too much uncertainty around Watson as well, and I think that he will be available next offseason. Let Tua play this year and see if at the end of the year you still think you need Watson. By then, there will be more clarity I am sure on his situation. I do not think Tua will ever be a top 5 quarterback in the NFL, but I think he can be a top 10 QB. You can win with a top 10 QB.

I think the Dolphins need to use their assets to fix the holes on the roster rather than trade them all away for Watson. I am excited to see how Tua develops this year and I think he can still have a really good season!

Yeah Im the same man. Tua does have enough to be a winning QB. He threw a poor INT but every QB does that from time to time, heck if we go back 1 year, Patrick Mahomes had 3 INTs against us AND took a sack to Jerome Baker for about 30 yards! Now I dont mean to compare Tua and Mahomes, that would be stupid. But my point is even the best make mistakes at various times and on various plays. No QB has a completely flawless season, if Tua can find last weeks level consistently and we tidy up the roster around him, then I think we win more games than we lose.

Finally then, while on the topic of wins and losses, how do you see this weekend going King? What’s the prediction looking like over there from Phinland?

I think the Dolphins are going to rebound. They have always played their best as the Cinderella team that everyone counts out. This is about that time where they turn it around and make a decent little run. I think they go out and win this game pretty convincingly. My prediction is Dolphins 30 Falcons 17. That is very optimistic, but I really think this team is going to look a lot better and open up a lot more because now they can play like they have nothing to lose.

Maybe that is me just being too hopeful, but Brian Flores has seemed to always coach better when the stakes are not as high. That is an area he has to improve; he gets too conservative. There is no reason to be conservative in this game, so I think that is why they win.

I like the optimism man, and boy do I hope you are right!! I feel like we get win #2 tomorrow too, but I dont see us hitting 30 points in the next couple of weeks. A couple of Tua TDs will help us, one to Waddle, and I feel he may run one in himself. He seems to be getting more confidence on the ground, and broke for a couple of first downs in London. I am feeling a 24-17 win I think, Tua plays well and this week does enough to win. Parker coming back will help and of course there will still be questions from some and Its only the Falcons” from others. But is has to start somewhere and I think this week at least, we get the win.

Thank you so much King for being part of this, our collaboration has been a long time coming and heres hoping to more in the future!

So there you have it, a view from within the fanbase of the team that has beaten the Dolphins more than any other team this year, the Dolphins themselves. I think this was fair and objective from two passionate fans hurting for the current state of our franchise, but hopeful for the future state of our franchise. I am sure there will be many who disagree with the view points made and many may have more optimistic or pessimistic views on what we have discussed, but one this is for sure, Sunday is gameday, and we all want to win on gameday!

Fins Up!

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