Miami Dolphins 2017 Preview

 

There were few teams to enter the NFL Preseason with as much hype as the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins had a top running back in Jay Ajayi. They had a soon to be star quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. The defense appeared to have gotten better while coach Adam Gase was in his second season.

Then, it fell apart big time. Ryan Tannehill went down with a horrible, season-ending, injury. Gase’s answer to Tannehill going down was to turn to Jay Cutler. How did it work out? Keep reading to find out!

Miami Dolphins 2017 Update

I update the Miami Dolphins 2017 season by listing the questions in my preview and then attempting to answer them. Check it out!

Cutler to the Rescue?

Answer: Not by a longshot

Jay Cutler was supposed to make the Miami Dolphins respectable. Adam Gase belived so much in Jay Cutler, whom he coached while the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears, that he convinced Miami’s management to give Cutler $10 million just to play this year.

Maybe, Gase thought the money might fire up Cutler. Cutler, just as a reminder, has never been the guy to show positive emotion on the football field. This is a player that stated you don’t need your quarterback to be a leader. He plays quarterback!

None of us should have been surprised then when Jay Cutler stepped onto the football field and pretty much imploded from Week 1. In a way, this season has been a microcosm of Cutler’s entire career. For every okay game, Cutler comes out with a bevy of bombs.

In Week 2 versus the L.A. Chargers, Cutler was on point for most of the game. He completed 24 of 33 for 230 yards. He threw a TD pass. More importantly? He didn’t throw an interception. The very next week versus the Jets, Cutler played like a rookie. He completed 26 out of 44 for 220 yards. He threw a TD. He threw an interception. A week later, Cutler’s state line read 164 passing yards and a pick. The week after that? 92 passing yards, a pick, and a TD.

Cutler did miss 2 games this season. That just means he didn’t get a chance to pad his awful stats. All told, going into Week 16, Cutler has thrown 18 TD passes. He’s thrown 14 interceptions. He’s only passed for 2,374 yards. His yardage per pass completion is 6.1. That’s the lowest of Cutler’s career. He’s been in the league since 2006-2007.

Must Jay Ajayi Carry the Rushing Load?

Answer: No. He doesn’t even have to be on the team.

In the middle of the season, Jay Ajayi started to complain about not getting the ball more. There was a reason for that, of course. Ajayi was horrible while a member of the Miami Dolphins. He played for the Dolphins from Week 2 to Week 8. His best per rush average was 5.0, which he acquired in Week 6 against the Atlanta Falcons. His only other per carry average over 4.0 was in Week 2 against the L.A. Chargers.  In 7 games played with the Dolphins, Ajayi rushed for 465 yards from 138 carries. His overall per rush average came out to 3.3. He managed 0 TD rushes. He caught 14 passes for 67 yards.

Ajayi was so disappointing as a Miami Dolphin that not only did he not get more carries, but Gase also ended up trading Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles. Ajayi’s looked better with the Eagles. He’s still only scored 1 single TD.

For the Dolphins, trading Ajayi didn’t make sense…at first. Who was going to come in and produce the way Ajayi did? Sure, he wasn’t producing huge numbers, but he was still the team’s RB1. Could anyone be as good as Jay Ajyi? It turns out one player could be better.

It took Gase a couple of weeks, which is why I can’t credit him for knowing this was going to happen, but former Alabama star running back Kenyan Drake has become one of the better RBs in the NFL. Drake has rushed for 512 yards this season. That’s from only 106 attempts. What it means is that Kenyan Drake is averaging 4.8 rushing yards per game. Drake’s already scored 3 rushing TDs. He’s caught 29 passes for 224 yards and a TD.

Again, I don’t believe Gase knew this was going to happen. He’ll take it, though. Anything positive for the 2017 Miami Dolphins is good news to Adam Gase. Kenyan Drake’s emergence as a top running back might be Miami’s only positive this season.

Has the Dolphins’ Defense Improved?

Answer:  Maybe.

It’s tough to really gauge an NFL defense when the offense is so bad. Before Kenyan Drake, the Dolphins had the worst offense in the NFL. Nobody was scared of Jay Cutler. Drake’s emergence made it so that defenses had to pay attention to Miami’s offense. That didn’t mean that Miami stopped turning the ball over.

When you’re quarterback throws almost as many interceptions as touchdowns, you’ve got an issue. The biggest issue is that you often put your defense into precarious positions. That’w what the Miami Dolphins have done for most of this season.

Based on straight stats, the Dolphins aren’t that bad. Miami ranks seventeenth in total yards allowed per game. The Fins only give up 332.5 total yards per game. Miami allows 222.6 passing yards per game. They allow 109.9 rushing yards per game. But, when it comes to points allowed per, the Dolphins allow 24.4. That ranks twenty-sixth in the NFL.

What we can gather is that Miami’s offense almost always forces the defense into a bad situation. The fact that the defense is ranked in the Top 20 in yards allowed, but ranked out of the Top 25 in points allowed, means that the D hasn’t caught a break.

There have been a couple of games where the Miami Dolphins defense has played well. In Week 6, a 20 to 17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta, the Fins befuddled the reigning NFL MVP. Matt Ryan threw for 248 yards and a TD pass. However, he also threw a pick. The D also sacked Ryan twice.

In Week 14, a huge 27 to 20 win over the New England Patriots in New England, Miami’s defense picked off Tom Brady twice. The defense held the Patriots to 25 rushing yards from 10 carries. It was a spirited performance from a defense that too many times in the past had allowed Brady to destroy it.

So, is Miami’s defense better this season than last season? I think it might be. The problem is that Cutler is such a bad quarterback that Miami’s offense has been mostly horrible this season. A bad offense always hurts a decent defense.

Bottom Line:  Back to the Drawing Board for the Miami Dolphins

Just because the Dolphins defense might be better this season than it was last season that doesn’t mean the Fins shouldn’t make any changes on defense. Miami must find a way to unload Ndamukong Suh and his ridiculous contract. Suh’s a great player. He just isn’t the only thing that Miami needs on defense. If the Dolphins can get a two, or even three, for one, they could get tougher along the defensive line.

When it comes to Miami’s offense, the obvious question is what Gase and the front office decides to do with Ryan Tannehill. Jay Cutler should be gone after this season. The quarterback position is rife with star talent, though. Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles, Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgwater, A.J. McCarron, and some other quarterbacks are available in free agency.

Does Miami ditch Tannehill and go for one of those quarterbacks? Do they trade up and draft a QB?

If Miami can get a solid quarterback, the offense should be back on track. Drake has emerged as a true RB1. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker are both talented wide receivers. Like every team in the NFL, Miami’s offense depends on its quarterback. The Dolphins must make a move at the most important position on the field to have any shot of turning around their mediocre football team.