According to the Sun-Sentinel, a source close the team has confirmed that Chad Henne will likely start Sunday against the Raiders. While this offense may miss Thigpen’s mobility given the struggles and health of the offensive line, let’s not forget that Henne was in the midst of one of his better performances of the season before he went down against the Titans. If these reports are indeed accurate, Henne will have a lot on his plate in Oakland facing one of the league’s top rated pass defenses with no Brandon Marshall, but his elite arm strength alone should give the Dolphins a better chance to consistently move the football.no comments
Doubtful: WR Brandon Marshall (hamstring)
Questionable: C Joe Berger (knee), QB Chad Henne (knee), LB Karlos Dansby (toe), WR Roberto Wallace (knee)
Probable: LT Jake Long (shoulder), RT Vernon Carey (knee), FS Chris Clemons (groin), S Reshad Jones (shin), S Tyrone Culver (ankle) no comments
Once you realize how unlikely a Dolphins’ playoff run truly is, it’s pretty obvious that the only hope fans can be clinging to is the idea of the Dolphins winning their final six games of the season. A long shot to say the least for a reeling team that appears closer to completely falling apart than coming together for a miraculous late season push.
Even more discouraging is the fact that the Dolphins have already lost control of their own destiny. Winning out doesn’t even guarantee them a playoff berth because if the Jets, Pats, Steelers, and Ravens all finish out 4-2 or better the Dolphins will be eliminated regardless of how they finish the year. In the event the Dolphins do improbably run the table, though, either the Jets or Patriots will have at least two loses considering the Dolphins still play both and both still play each other.
So if the Dolphins can indeed do the unthinkable, I’m confident they will find a spot in the playoffs. I’m just not so confident that they are even capable of pulling off that type of feat at this point, though.
But there are some winnable games on the schedule. They may be injury depleted and incapable of running the football, but their defense is playing well enough to beat the inconsistent Raiders and Browns these next two games and the bottom feeding Bills and Lions in Weeks 15 and 16.
That still leaves the two road hurdles in New York and New England. They may be arguably the two best teams in the league, but both appear as beatable as 8-2 teams can be, with the Jets getting lucky last minute wins against non-playoff caliber teams and the Patriots fielding one of the league’s worst defenses statistically.
But then again, we are just looking at these games individually. All are winnable, but on the same token, all are losable. And that’s asking an awful lot to have every single one of those games go the Dolphins way. They have nobody to blame but themselves for being in this situation, though. And we really have no choice at this point, but to try to conceive how exactly they are going to get themselves out of it and into the playoffs.
1. Find a way to become an average running team: The good ol’ days of Ronnie and Ricky being one of the league’s most dynamic running back duo’s is over, and there’s no way they’re coming back. The currently assembled offensive line just isn’t good enough, and honestly, Ronnie and Ricky just don’t have the same spring in their step as they did just a short year ago. With that said, this Dolphins’ offense desperately needs to find a way to run the football averagely. Like those offenses that don’t run it particularly well, but have enough success here and there to prevent becoming completely one-dimensional. Getting pass happy is especially risky when a third-string quarterback is under center. Hopefully Chad Henne returns this Sunday, but with no Brandon Marshall this pass-first attack isn’t capable of much without a go-to threat.
2. Get out of their own way: Even when it looked like the Dolphins were beginning to get a little momentum going offensively last Thursday night, they quickly put a halt to it with stupid mistakes. Brandon Marshall’s fifteen yard penalty for flipping the ball to Jay Cutler on the sideline and his two drops immediately comes to mind. But Tyler Thigpen fumbling the attempted handoff to Brian Hartline on the would-be end around on the game’s opening drive was surely a game-altering momentum killer. In a season hanging by a thread, one dumb mistake is all it could take to end the Dolphins already slim playoff hopes.
3. Create more turnovers: The Dolphins’ defense is quietly putting together a very solid season. Statistically, they have surpassed expectations as they currently rank 6th in total defense and 5th against the pass. In the likely event that the offense continues to struggle, though, the defense is going to have to manufacture some points. The best way to do that is create turnovers that either put the offense in great position to score, or get returned for touchdowns themselves. Currently, the Dolphin’ defense only ranks 25th in interceptions and are tied for the second fewest fumble recoveries.
4. Live up to their potential against the run: Perhaps the only thing standing in the way of the Dolphins’ defense taking the next step and emerging as one of the league’s elite units is their ability to stop the run. They currently rank 20th in that category, even though that ranking slightly blows things out of proportion. They actually rank 8th in yards surrendered per carry, giving up only 3.9 yards per rush. In my opinion, though, they have the potential to completely shut down most opposing running games. They have flashed brief spurts of dominating against the run, but usually are a few missed tackles and over-pursued angles away from doing so consistently throughout the game.
5. Get a little luck: The Dolphins obviously don’t have much control over this one, but getting some luck is probably essential if they aren’t going to lose another game. Luck is something they haven’t had much of lately with all the injuries that have plagued this team. Either the injury bug truly is contagious, or the Dolphins are the league’s most unlucky team this season. Either way, the Dolphins need to get healthy and stay healthy. They just don’t have enough depth on the offensive side of the ball to hold up when so many guys have gone down. Outside of injuries, the Dolphins need to catch on to whatever the Jets have been doing lately. And what I mean by that is have the ball bounce their way every time late in games and benefit from opponents just refusing to close them out. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little bit, but seriously.
On that note, have a Happy Thanksgiving! I know one thing, that turkey would sure taste a lot better if the Lions and Bengals can find a way to upset the Pats and Jets.no comments
Reports stemming from this morning’s practice have mostly been positive. Joe Berger was back working as the starting center, Karlos Dansby returned despite his injured elbow, Jake Long continued to work as the starting left tackle, and Chad Henne reportedly split reps with Tyler Thigpen on the first-team offense.
However, Brandon Marshall has still yet to practice since injuring his hamstring versus the Bears. We should know more about the extent of his injury when the Dolphins release their injury report later on today, but some are beginning to speculate that Marshall could miss more than just this Sunday’s game. no comments
I don’t think that Dolphins fans envisioned that the season would be hanging by a thread ten games in. Even those analyst that weren’t giving the Dolphins much of a chance to sneak into the playoffs, at least thought they would probably be right in the thick of things right up until the last couple weeks. But here we are. Ten games into the 2010 season, and this Dolphins team can’t realistically afford to lose another game.
You could easily use the excuse that the injuries the Dolphins suffered these past couple weeks are just too much to overcome, pack it up, and say “we’ll get em’ next year,” but only the Dolphins are to blame for letting their season become vulnerable to the injury bug. If they hadn’t missed so many opportunities at home early on in the season, more specifically the Jets and Patriots’ games in Weeks 3 and 4, they might have been able to withstand all the adversity that has hit the health of this team.
But as it is, the Dolphins are left with one option: run the table, finish 11-5, and get a little bit of help in order to squeeze into the playoffs in the loaded AFC. Because unfortunately for the Dolphins, most of the league’s elite teams just so happen to reside in the conference.
Even If they do actually pull this off and finish out the season 6-0, it’s going to take the 8-2 Jets or 8-2 Patriots to finish at least 3-3 and hope the Dolphins get the edge in the tie-breaker or the 7-3 Steelers or 7-3 Ravens finishing 3-3 (remember both have already beaten Miami). And that’s also assuming that one of the 5-5 teams from the AFC West or 6-4 teams from the AFC South don’t snag that last wild card spot.
So as you can see, even if it doesn’t officially eliminate them mathematically, one loss is all it’s going to take to end the Dolphins’ playoff hopes.
Is running the table even possible for these injury depleted, uninspired Dolphins, though? If you have asked me a few weeks ago if these final six games were all winnable, I would have responded “absolutely.”
No, these games won’t be as easy as they once appeared on paper, as teams like the Raiders and Browns have played very well in stretches, and other teams like the Bills and Lions are suddenly very dangerous offensively, but they were still lining up to be games in which the Dolphins would have likely been the favorite in.
Of course, I’m leaving out the oh-so -important divisional road games against the Jets and Pats. Games which were very winnable a couple weeks ago, but now seem like complete long shots.
The injuries at the quarterback position and along the offensive line are obviously the main reason for such of drastic change of circumstances. With the banged up offensive line, the Dolphins went from a poor running team, to arguably the worst running team in the league.
There isn’t a team in the NFL that the Dolphins can run on right now if Thursday night was a sign of things to come. Even the healthy version of this year’s O-line didn’t create much push and didn’t pull well enough to get to the second level of the defense, but whatever we saw line up across from the Bears on Thursday night left us all completely void of any hope for this offense.
The strength of the Dolphins’ offensive line has been their ability to protect the quarterback. But giving up six sacks to a team who recorded fewer sacks per play than any team in the league entering Week 11 is more than a cause for concern; it’s a cause for panic.
If this offense can’t run the football, or give the quarterback sufficient time to throw to a slow group of receivers, we are going to see a few more of those lackluster zero to one score offensive performances before it’s all said and done.
Although, Tyler Thipgen gives this offense some mobility, which in theory should offset some of this O-line’s sudden protection issues, he just takes too many risks and just doesn’t have the arm strength to bail out his poor decision making.
That’s why fans should be hoping that Chad Henne is healthy enough to start against the Raiders on Sunday. In my opinion, his struggles have been overblown. You would like his touchdowns to be higher than his interceptions, but the guy hasn’t done so bad considering he’s been leading a one-dimensional offense for weeks and is the victim of poor play-calling more often than not.
If you are looking for any reason at all to believe this team is capable of pulling off a miracle playoff run, look no further than this defense. The Dolphins have very quietly emerged as the sixth best total defense in football, led by the league’s fifth best pass defense. The running game continues to leak some thanks to poor tackling and over-pursuit, but they certainly have the pieces to bring it together.
This defense is young and continues to get better and better each and every week. But if this team wants to make the playoffs, Mike Nolan’s unit is likely going to need to grow up overnight. They are still a long way from becoming a dominate defense. They are good defense, yes, but they’ve yet to play complete football or showcase the ability to take over games.
It’s going to take some forced turnovers and maybe a few returns for scores for this team to create the fire power they need to put enough points on the board.
But then again, when your playing the “if” game this early into the second-half of the season, it’s probably already too late. Whether it be the blown opportunities within the division on prime time, the blown call against the Steelers, or the recent plague of injuries, 2010 is quickly becoming the season that could have been.no comments
After an extremely difficult extended weekend that saw the Dolphins get pushed around by the Bears on Thursday night and the Jets and Patriots pull out tightly contested victories yesterday, the team was back to work earlier today.
Just as the short week last week served as a disadvantage to the banged up Dolphins, this week will be beneficial to their preparations, as they have a couple extra days of practice time to get ready for their cross-country trip to Oakland.
These practices have extra intrigue when you have a team as injury depleted as the Dolphins are. Surely enough, today’s practice reports shed a little light into the health of this football team.
To start off on a positive note, Chad Henne was back out there practicing today after being sidelined all last week with an unspecified knee injury. Tyler Thigpen shouldn’t be judged by one game behind nonexistent protection, but if this team has any shot at running the table, you have to believe Chad Henne needs to be under center.
Unfortunately, Henne’s go to threat, Brandon Marshall, wasn’t able to go as he recovers from that hamstring injury he suffered near the end of the first-half on Thursday night. With no Marshall and no running game, this offense isn’t capable of much, but thank goodness there is still a full week left of recovery time for Brandon to get healthy.
As for that revolving door of an offensive line, the Dolphins apparently aren’t ready to shut down Jake Long just yet. Long continues to work as the starting left tackle after reports circled around the web over the weekend that the Dolphins were entertaining the idea of putting Jake on IR. They even went as far as to work out Tony Ugoh and Levi Jones, but eventually decided to only bring in depth at center.
With Joe Berger missing last week and Cory Procter blowing out his knee against the Bears, the Dolphins decided to sign veteran center Eric Ghiaciuc, who started 42 games for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2005-2008.
On the defensive side of the ball, Phillip Merling saw his first practice action of the season. Merling was originally thought to be out for the year when he tore his Achilles’ tendon shortly before training camp, but has recovered quicker than expected, and can be activated any time before the end of the month. no comments
With Sunday’s win over the Titans still fresh in our minds, it doesn’t seem real that tomorrow is game day already. Considering all the players that got dinged up on Sunday, the short week couldn’t have come at a worse time for this football team. Thankfully, though, the Dolphins injury situation isn’t nearly as bleak as it once looked. Cameron Wake turned out to be just fine, Chad Henne hasn’t even been ruled out for tomorrow night’s game, and Jake Long will reportedly try to play through that shoulder injury.
Even at full strength, the Dolphins would still likely have their hands full against this tough 6-3 Chicago Bears team. Some may argue that the Bears aren’t quite as good as their record suggest, but their defense is good enough to play with anybody and could cause fits for an offense starting a third string quarterback. It won’t be easy, but back-to-back wins over playoff caliber teams would be just the spark the Dolphins need to make a serious playoff run down the stretch of the season. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Dolphins running game (19th) vs. Bears run defense (2nd)
After watching the Dolphins’ inept running game against the Titans on Sunday, I think it’s finally official that this offense is now pass-first and are mediocre, if not bad at running the football. Kind of a shame when you think about how the Dolphins are essentially wasting what is likely Ronnie and Ricky’s last season together. Yes, the Dolphins did get Ricky going on a few outside runs out of the Wildcat, but their inability to run the football out of base formations will surely put a lot of pressure on Tyler Thigpen.
And I haven’t even mentioned that the Bears have the league’s second best run defense, yet. Having held opponents to a mere 3.5 yards per carry, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have been stouter against the run. That will undoubtedly lead to more wildcat this week, especially after finally seeing it succeed a couple times against the Titans. If I was Dan Henning, I would also try to switch up the running style a little bit. The Dolphins tried to go heavy with only one wide receiver on several plays against the Titans, in an attempt to run the football right down their throats. But their offensive line just isn’t creating enough push for a power running game to work. Why not try to run the ball out of three and four wide receiver sets to see if a little more space is all Ricky and Ronnie need to get going again?
Bears running game (23rd) vs. Dolphins run defense (16th)
Even after seeing Chris Johnson go over the century mark last week, I still think this Dolphins’ run defense is better than their ranking suggest. Chris Johnson is just a tough matchup for this defense. They don’t contain the edge particularly well and often get caught over pursuing, which isn’t a good formula for a speedster like Johnson.
But the Bears’ offense on the other hand, is having their fair share of troubles getting their ground attack going. Matt Forte and Chester Taylor are a good one-two punch in theory, but the Bears’ blocking woes are the main reason why both average well short of the four yards per carry benchmark. With that said, I would be very disappointed if the Dolphins’ front seven doesn’t make significant strides against the run tomorrow night, and force the Bears to be one-dimensional offensively.
Dolphins passing game (13th) vs. Bears pass defense (15th)
For the second straight week, the Dolphins enter the game with a new starter at quarterback. Tyler Thigpen’s 64-yard, 1 touchdown performance against the Titans on Sunday has fans buzzing and the organization comparing him to Tony Romo. Personally, I think it’s a little premature to make those types of comparisons, even if Mr. Romo is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in football.
One thing I would bank on, though, is this guy making plays. He’s an athletic gun-slinger, who can make things happen with his arm or his legs. He isn’t necessarily going to put up great stats on the ground, but he’s going to keep plays alive and utilize his ability to throw the football on the run. What we didn’t see on Sunday, though, was the mistakes. And don’t kid yourself, if Thigpen sticks around as the starter long enough he’s going to make a few. He’s a gambler, and eventually that’s going to cost him and this offense. If he makes enough plays, though, and continues to give this offense the spark they desperately needed, we will just have to take the good with the bad.
Thankfully, all indications are pointing to Jake Long getting the start. The Bears have only registered 13 sacks on the season, but I think it’s safe to say Julius Peppers would abuse Lydon Murtha. Overall, if the Dolphins want to move the football consistently against this tough Bears defense, they’re going to need a great game from Thigpen. A tall order for a guy making his first start in two years, but a great opportunity for a player who’s eager to prove that he’s starting material.
Bears passing game (21st) vs. Dolphins pass defense (6th)
What has been the Achilles’ heel of this football team in years past, has quietly become their strength this season. The Dolphins are pressuring the quarterback well, and are covering better and better each week. Vontae Davis has hit a couple bumps in the road the past couple games, but he’s clearly showed signs of an emerging young corner. Sean Smith has played very well since taking over Jason Allen’s staring spot in Cincinnati, and now has the veteran Al Harris to split snaps with.
Speaking of Al Harris, what a pleasant surprise he was last week. Nobody even really expected him to play, let alone get the opportunity to cover Randy Moss. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins rotate their corners tomorrow night, but Al Harris definitely gives this secondary solid depth and a much needed veteran presence.
At free safety, Reshad Jones is scheduled to make his first career start. The kid did a great job last week getting his first sack and interception, but I have the feeling the Dolphins are going to miss Chris Clemons’ speed against the Bears’ fast receivers.
One thing they won’t miss is Cameron Wake’s ability to get after the quarterback. After giving us a little bit of an injury scare against the Titans, Wake is now all set to tee-off against the Jay Cutler. The Bears have conceded a league-high 34 sacks, and shouldn’t fare too well against Wake or Mike Nolan’s exotic blitz packages.
Even if the Dolphins outplay the Bears offensively and defensively, the outcome of tomorrow night’s game may be decided on how well the Dolphins can cover kicks and punts. The Dolphins have improved a bit covering kickoffs the past few weeks, but continue to do a sub-par job of covering punts.
Well, Devin Hester has already returned two punts for touchdowns this season, and is virtually a missed lane assignment or tackle away from taking one the distance. Throw in Daniel Manning’s 62-yard and Johnny Knox’s 42-yard kickoff returns, and the Bears clearly have the league’s most dangerous return game. The Dolphins need to avoid the big letdown in the kicking game more than ever tomorrow night. It may just make the difference between a win and a loss.