Tony Sparano is now only three days away from arguably the biggest make or break game in his coaching career.
A win will keep hope alive in Miami and temporarily take some heat off of Sparano’s seat. If the Dolphins fall to the Browns a 0-5 start to the season will become likely and Sparano’s fate will be all but sealed.
Fortunately for Sparano and the Dolphins, however, Sunday is surely a winnable game and on paper they are probably a better team than the Browns.
But in order to preserve the season these Dolphins are going to have to dial up that “road warrior” mentality that enabled them to go 6-2 away from Sun Life in 2010.
Here’s what needs to happen for the Dolphins to earn their first victory of the season.
Contain Josh Cribbs
It’s no secret that poor special-teams play has haunted this regime over the past couple years. It hasn’t gotten any better this season as Dan Carpenter missed two “gimme” field goals last week and returners have been a block away from taking one back to the house on more than one occasion through two weeks.
Enter the second most feared kick returner in football, Joshua Cribbs. The Dolphins may outperform the Browns on both sides of the ball on Sunday, but if they concede a big return they could easily still fall to 0-3.
The Dolphins’ coverage teams need to stay disciplined in their assignments and fly to the football. Of course, if Dan Carpenter could just utilize the new kickoff rule and boom some footballs out of the endzone like many kickers have been able to do consistently, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
Tony Sparano is now only three days away from arguably the biggest make or break game in his coaching career.
When I was young all my childhood dream was two play for the Miami Dolphins. Now 21 years of age I realize that my shot to play for the Dolphins has probably passed me by but I also realized that I went for the wrong approach to join the Dolphins. CLEARLY there is only one way of going about being about trying to fulfill your dream if you want to play for the Miami Dolphins and that is try and make and get cut from the Dallas Cowboys.
If you played for the Dallas Cowboys in the past 10 years the odds are VERY high that you will find yourself on the Miami Dolphins roster at some point.
This continued yesterday as the Dolphins brought in two veteran former Dallas Cowboys. Dolphins brought back ex- Dolphins and Cowboy corner back Nathan Jones and DE Igor Olshansky (Super Jew), letting go Larry Johnson and TE D Rosario to make the moves.
Sparano is clearly trying to collect as many DE’s as possible because for some reason it makes him a very happy man. Olshansky also joins a group of Jewish Dolphins which has included Jay Fiedler, Sage Rosenfeld and probably more that I am forgetting.
The move to bring in Jones was a no brainer after how poorly the Dolphins secondary has been and Vontae Davis has struggled to stay healthy early on this year.
Okay so 0-2 wasn’t exactly what everybody had in mind. Two games behind every team in the division, the Buffalo Bills included, was definitely not what everybody had in mind.
Losing the first two games of the season at home, where this franchise is desperate for success following the 1-7 disaster a year ago and a rapid free fall in ticket sales is a nightmare beginning to the 2011 season.
It’s sent the majority of the fan base into panic mode. Frustrated fans have already started the “Fire Sparano” groups on Facebook while others have attempted to get #FireSparano trending on Twitter.
It’s safe to say these are ugly times for a franchise that’s seemingly been on a downward spiral for the past decade. But rock bottom is still a ways down.
Panicking after losses to the Patriots and Texans- probably the best team in football and a virtual lock to win the AFC South- may be a slight overreaction. But there’s no overstating how vital Sunday’s trip to Cleveland will be.
A win preserves the season, this regime, and any fragments of hope remaining in Miami. With a loss you might as well kiss this season goodbye, kick off a coaching search, and seriously entertain the possibility that these Dolphins are in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.
But let’s not venture down that path any further. They haven’t lost yet and beating the Browns is a very reasonable task. Let’s evaluate the matchup.
Dolphins’ ground attack vs. Browns’ run defense
Lost in an ugly performance against Houston was the fact that the Dolphins may have found themselves a running back and an interior offensive line that’s beginning to come together.
Daniel Thomas was brilliant, outside of that one costly fumble of course, in his rookie debut, taking his 18 carries 107 yards on nearly 6.0 yards-per-carry. Mike Pouncey and Vernon Carey were solid in the trenches, finally igniting some hope for a running game that was abysmal in the preseason.
The Browns have surrendered 124.0 yards-per-game in the season’s first two weeks, ranking in at 24th in the league. I would say establishing the run early will be a priority for Brian Daboll against his former team.
It’s hard to label the second game of the season a make or break game, but the Dolphins desperately need to find success at home this year. And starting 0-2 in this conference, in this division is almost a death wish for any team with playoff aspirations.
Let’s see who the “experts” are taking tomorrow. I’ve also included Daniel’s pick and my prediction at the end. Feel free to give us your final score in the comments.
0-5. Zero wins and five losses. Heart-breaking defeats by one, two, three, one, and seven points.
For some reason, even when Miami has been the better team, the Texans have had the Dolphins’ number since their inauguration less than a decade ago.
It all started in 2003 when the heavily-favored Dolphins fell to the Texans 21-20 thanks to four Kris Brown field goals and a 78-yard touchdown from David Carr.
After a three-year hiatus, the Nick Saban led Dolphins fell to Houston 17-15 in 2006 on a failed two-point conversion attempt with less than two minutes to play.
The following year, the Dolphins’ first victory of the season was spoiled by Kris Brown’s leg on a 57-yard field goal as time expired.
In another last-second defeat, the Texans topped the Dolphins who were in the midst of a resurgence 29-28 on a three-yard Matt Schaub touchdown run with under five seconds to play in 2008.
And in their most recent meeting, the Dolphins’ rallied from a 27-3 deficit early on to come within seven points in the fourth quarter. Chad Henne threw for over 300 yards, but ultimately it was just too deep of a hole to dig out of and the Dolphins’ comeback bid fell short 27-20 in 2009.
In summary, it’s been one heartbreak after another in this series for Miami.
Dropping another game to the Texans on Sunday would give them a demoralizing 0-2 start at home after the 1-7 fiasco a year ago. I think it’s safe to say Week 2 will be as much of a “must win” game for this team as any game this early in the season can be.
With trips to San Diego to play the Chargers and New Jersey to play the Jets on the slate in Weeks 4 and 6, an exceedingly bleak outlook for the Dolphins will begin to unfold. That’s the worst-case scenario for a team that needed CBS affiliate WFOR, Bud Light, and themselves to buy thousands of tickets this week in order to avoid a blackout, which would have been the result of the first non-sellout in over 13 years. no comments
Covering the Tight Ends
I could list you all the stats in the world and tell you how Miami has failed to cover tight ends for the past
couple of years but all you have to do is watch recent history and last week's Monday night game vs. New England.
Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined to accumulate 13 catches for 189 yards, two touchdowns, and four plays went for over 20+ yards.
Week 2’s opponent has similar weapons at TE, as Owen Daniels and Joel Dreessen can stretch out the defense.
The Dolphins struggled all last year covering the tight end and it looks like it’s a trend that has continued this season. Newly acquired ILB Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby are going to need to up their game if Miami wants to come away with the W.
Starting up the running game
Reggie Bush got off to a solid start Week 1 but it wasn’t good enough. The Dolphins can’t have Chad Henne as one of their leading rusher. The Dolphins need to form a respectable running game and soon. Hopefully the Dolphins ground attack will get a boost now that Daniel Thomas and Charles Clay have been practicing this week and should be able to play.
The Dolphins are getting no break by playing Matt Schaub and the Houston Texans and they will need to make sure that they own the time of possession and make sure Schaub is off the field as much as possible.
Control Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson is going to do what he does best. You can’t prevent that but you cant let him run up and down the field at will. Andre is the leagues best receivers but the Dolphins D must make sure he is controlled.
Not settling for 3 and getting 7
The Dolphins' offense did pretty well Week 1 however they need to make sure when they are playing offenses with firepower of New England and Houston that they don’t settle for field goals and are able to punch it in for 7. The goal-line offense needs to be much improved.
We’re now two days removed from witnessing what we thought would be a top five defense get torched for over 600 yards. That’s the type of loss that sticks with you for awhile and to be honest, I had to drag my feet getting back to blogging today.
But the beautiful thing about the NFL is that it was only Week 1. It doesn’t matter how many yards the Dolphins surrendered on Monday night, it counts as just one loss all the same.
But this team needs to move on. Back-to-back losses at home after the 1-7 home debacle a year ago may be too rocky of a start to handle for these Dolphins.
Beating Houston will be no easy task on Sunday. The Texans boast one of the league’s top offenses, giving a suddenly questionable Dolphins’ defense another tough test after getting exposed against Tom Brady and the Patriots.
We should have a more accurate feel for this team on Sunday night, however. We should find out if Tom Brady and the Patriots are that good or the Dolphins’ defense was just that overrated.
Let’s see how the Dolphins and Texans matchup.
Dolphins’ ground attack vs. Texans’ run defense
As expected, the Dolphins weren’t able to produce much on the ground against the Patriots. Well, actually they were when you consider Chad Henne ran for a shocking 59 yards, but I’m talking about the conventional running game.
Miami was playing from behind for most of the game, though, and Chad Henne was finding so much success through the air that Brian Daboll wasn’t inclined to unleash a balanced attack. But Reggie Bush only averaged a measly 3.5 yards on his 11 carries.
Daniel Thomas should reportedly return to the lineup this week and if the Dolphins can manage to play a little defense we should get a more accurate gauge of where this running game stands.
The Texans’ transition to the 3-4 defense has been a success so far, but dominating a Colts’ offense with no Peyton Manning was expected. They held Joseph Addai and Delone Carter to just 64 yards on the ground, but thanks to Indy playing from behind and so many three-and-outs they only saw a combined 15 attempts.
This is a matchup that could go either way, but until we actually see the Dolphins move the football on the ground consistently, I’m going to have to give the edge to the defense.