3 Glaring Reasons It’s Officially Time to Panic for Miami Dolphins Fans Everywhere

Brian Flores Bill Ingram-Palm Beach Post

The Miami Dolphins have gotten off to a very rough start this season, having lost their past four games after winning their season opener against the New England Patriots.

After going 10-6 last season and just missing out on a playoff spot, Miami has so far failed to live up to expectations this season.

The Dolphins currently have a 1-4 record after getting blown out by the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

If Miami wants to save its season, which already seems to be hanging on by a thread, its Week 6 matchup against the winless Jacksonville Jaguars is now even more of a must-win game.

Miami has played very poorly this season, and while there are still many games left to play, here are three reasons why it is time to panic for Dolphins fans everywhere.

1. A strong regression on defense

Byron Jones and Mike Evans

Defense was the Dolphins’ brightest spot last season. It nearly carried the team into the playoffs. This season, however, the team’s defense has taken a step back.

Miami has regressed in just about every aspect on defense this season. Realistically speaking, this defense has been one of the worst in the NFL during the 2021 campaign.

Dolphins defense 2020 season: 367.9 yards (13th), 21.1 points per game (27th)

Dolphins defense 2021 season: 422.2 yards (3rd), 30.8 points per game (3rd)

After his team gave up 45 points and 558 yards to the Buccaneers on Sunday, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores didn’t mince words.

“I’m concerned,” Flores said. “We’re out of sync in a lot of ways. Run defense, pass defense, pass rush. We’re a little bit of a step behind, I would say. We’ve got to make a lot of corrections. [There’s] a lot of things we need to address, and we’ll do that. We’ve been doing that. We’ve addressed some things, but we’re not seeing the production on Sundays. Really, that’s all that matters.”

The defense has many talented players like Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jerome Baker, Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis. It could just be that teams are a lot better than last year, and it could also be that teams have now figured out how to pick apart the Dolphins.

After another poor performance from the defense on Sunday, Flores shouldered the blame while trying to explain what happened.

“We try to play team defense,” Flores said. “We didn’t get it done as a unit. As a coaching staff we need to put them in a better position.”

One has to wonder if the team’s defense is going to improve in the upcoming weeks. The Dolphins will play the Jaguars in Week 6.

Jacksonville is currently averaging 18.6 points per game this season and has a rookie quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. Miami needs to have a strong defensive showing in London in order to gain some momentum on that side of the ball as the season moves on.

2. Zero offensive identity

Jacoby Brissett

Anyone that has watched the Dolphins this season has noticed how much they have struggled on offense. The team is currently 30th in the league in total yards and 31st in the league in points scored.

The passing game has certainly been subpar this season. Miami also averages the least amount of rushing yards per game in the entire league.

Could it be the players? Is it the coaches? Maybe it’s a mix of both. The play-calling definitely hasn’t been the best.

NFL analysts recently expressed confusion with what the Dolphins are doing on offense so far this season.

“Someone has to tell me what the Miami Dolphins’ plan/identity is on offense,” said ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky.

“Who is calling the plays? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the things they do. It looks like they are guessing plays out of a hat and just calling anything to see if it may work?!”

Former Cleveland Browns general manager Mike Lombardi is critical of Miami’s decision to have co-offensive coordinators this season.

“When you have co-coordinators [on offense], it doesn’t work,” said Lombardi. “It’s been proven it doesn’t work. You need one guy who’s going to call plays and set up the game plan based on the personnel.”

The offense actually saw a solid improvement against the Buccaneers. Due to Tampa Bay sporting the best rushing defense in the league, Miami abandoned the ground game and really opened up the playbook. It was great to see these calls from Miami’s staff.

Jacoby Brissett had a very solid showing against the Bucs, completing 27 of his 39 passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The interception wasn’t his fault as rookie Jaylen Waddle dropped a pass, which fell right into the hands of Jamel Dean.

Sunday’s game allowed running back Myles Gaskin to show out. Although Gaskin only carried the ball five times for 25 yards, a solid average actually against the Bucs’ run defense, he also caught 10 passes for 74 yards and two touchdowns. Miami will need to continue to get him heavily involved in the coming weeks.

Although there were some positives to take from Sunday’s offensive showing, one has to wonder what made the coaching staff wait this long before opening up the playbook. Did the coaches not believe the players could execute? Are these types of calls only going to show up in certain games or will they happen in every game for the rest of the season?

Miami’s 11-play, 87-yard drive towards the start of the third quarter that ended in a Gaskin touchdown was probably the best the team has looked on offense all season. The Dolphins need to continue to be that type of aggressive team. They certainly have the personnel for it, so nothing should hold them back now.

Fans can only hope that once Tua Tagovailoa returns from his rib injury, the team will continue this type of approach. Tagovailoa’s return could be the spark that the offense needs in order to continue progressing. He is reportedly expected back in Week 6.

3. Subpar offensive line play

Jesse Davis and Michael Deiter

Every Dolphins fan will surely admit how hard it has been to watch this team’s offensive line this season. During the 2021 campaign, Miami has allowed 16 sacks, the fourth most in the league.

Week 5 saw a little improvement for the offensive line as Austin Jackson, who has struggled mightily this season, moved to left guard while Liam Eichenberg and Jesse Davis moved to left and right tackle, respectively.

However, it remains to be seen whether those changes alone will fix the issues. In five games this season, the Dolphins have used five different starting offensive line combinations. Five linemen need to separate themselves from the rest so they can build chemistry together.

Jackson is certainly one of the offensive linemen that is hoping to find his footing this season. Throughout his NFL career, Jackson has seemed overmatched at left tackle. Maybe a change to left guard is what the former first-round pick needs.

The Dolphins have also had to deal with an injury to starting center Michael Deiter, who has graded out as one of the team’s best offensive lineman this season.

Greg Little, who was acquired from the Carolina Panthers in August, has yet to make an appearance for Miami this season. Could he help the offensive line? That’s surely something fans are wondering, but there’s probably a reason why he hasn’t played for the team yet.

Miami has a fairly young offensive line, which could be another explanation for why it has not played well this season.

 

However, Dolphins offensive line coach Lemuel Jeanpierre seems to believe that being young isn’t an excuse for poor play.

“We’re an NFL offensive line,” said Jeanpierre. “We have to get it done. Robert Hunt said it perfectly. We don’t want to hear anymore about us being young. Being young is elementary school. You’re in the NFL, you’re a starter. That’s not young. We have to find a way to get it done. If that means being here later, earlier, we’ll get it done. If that means more reps, we’ll get it done.”

One can only wonder if things would be different had the team kept players like Jermaine Eluemunor or Ereck Flowers. The team released Eluemunor before the regular season started and traded Flowers in April.

Miami even paid Flowers a $6 million signing bonus in order to complete the deal with the Washington Football Team. The 27-year-old would easily be one of the better offensive lineman on the roster.

Quite simply, the offensive line will need to improve its play if the Dolphins want to win some games and get their season back on track.

Everything starts with Miami’s game in London against the Jaguars. A win there could jump-start the team as three of its next four games are very winnable ones. However, with how the team has looked this season, there’s a big chance those games turn out to be losses. Dolphins fans everywhere really should be worried.