I look at this game as either the “Road to Redemption” or the “Road to Ruin”. I can tell you from my perspective, the final score as to whether it’s a win or loss is not what will decide this for me, but rather whether we show up and play a solid game of football, a competitive game, or once again we look totally outmatched.
The Dolphins and Bengals are 2 teams going into this game at 3-1. The Bengals earned their 3rd win in a thriller over the Atlanta Falcons, while the Dolphins were thrashed and embarrassed in the Devil’s Lair, Foxborough Massachusetts. The good thing for the Dolphins is momentum only lasts until the next game, and the Dolphins have a chance to rectify certain things, that they aren’t pretenders, they’re for real. The Bengals on the other hand, are riding a high, but that can be obliterated quickly if the Dolphins get the offense going.
The Dolphins made some personnel changes as recently as yesterday, cutting former 2015 2nd RD pick, DT Jordan Phillips. The Dolphins also promoted DE Cameron Malveaux from the PS, The Dolphins also signed OC Wesley Johnson, who started 15 games for the NY Jets last season, after signing OC Travis Swanson last week, now that former starter Daniel Kilgore is out for the season with a torn triceps injury. At the moment, the Dolphins are evaluating a number of veteran DT’s, to fill the space vacated by cutting Jordan Phillips, but have not yet signed one. Right now, we have only 3 DT’s, and only 3, because of the loss of DE/DTWilliam Hayes, so we’re left with Akeem Spence, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor.
The offense just didn’t work last week, and you can assign blame to Adam Gase, or credit to Bill Belichick, and both would be appropriate. Since our offense has been predicated on speed, getting our speedy receivers in space, Belichick countered that by putting 5-7 DB’s, switching from nickel to dime to quarter depending on our offensive formation, and it completely shut down our offense. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I wasn’t extremely disappointed with Gase for not having an answer to that strategy. Still, Gase has another chance this week to get the offense going. The Bengals have allowed 113 points in 4 games, for an average of 28.3 PPG. That got a little bloated from last weeks game against the Falcons, who put up 36, but the Bengals have a decent defense, but not a dominant one by any means.
We all know we have to do a better job running the football. On the other hand, I think it’s important to recognize that all those short passes at or near the LOS are truly just an extension of the running game. Some refuse to see that, but it is, nonetheless. The NFL is evolving, and very few teams hand off the football to a feature back 20-30 times a game. Almost every team has a committee of running backs, and very few backs in those situations get more than 15-20 touches, and that includes runs and pass plays. Even the teams that have elite RB’s don’t run as much as teams used to. Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley are the only premier backs that have gone to 20 or more carries at least once, and the Cowboys are 2-2, while the Rams of course are undefeated. It’s about playing to your strengths, and unfortunately, here in Miami, our strength is NOT rushing the football. Our O-line has already taken 2 big hits, both of our offseason acquisitions, OG Josh Sitton and OC Daniel Kilgore are on IR. LT Laremy Tunsil has struggled with consistency, as has RG Jesse Davis and especially RT Ja’Wuan James. Our O-line just isn’t our best asset, but we need to get it to be serviceable at a minimum. I don’t think we can come out week after week and not run the football, that’s a recipe for failure. We cannot be one dimensional, as NE was so kind to point out to us.
Last week’s game tipped our PF/PA into the negative side, so we’re now allowing 22.5 PPG, not bad, considering we got blown out 38-7 last week, and we’re scoring only 20.5 PPG, also off kilter due to the lopsided score last week. Forget about all the stats, all of them, because this game our team has to show up and play competitive, physical football. I’m not going to dwell on the Phillips release, but the team showing poorly in 2 consecutive weeks will not be boosting this teams morale, or Adam Gase’s value to the team. We need to rebound, even if we don’t win this game, although winning it would be ideal.
Some have said Devante Parker could be the next guy to have his exodus from the team, and if you look at how little he’s been used, you would be hard pressed to notice if he was here or not. If the Dolphins would like to extract any value for Parker, it would be in their best interest to showcase him, and hope a team might be interested when his value is higher after a good game, rather than an all-time low as it presently is.
It looks like Bengals RB Joe Mixon is not likely to play this Sunday, which leaves veteran RB Giovani Bernard as the starter. They have remarkably similar stats in any case, but they lose the depth w/o Mixon. WR Tyler Boyd has recently become a favorite target of QB Andy Dalton. Talented TE Tyler Eifert is healthy (for now), and is beginning to round back into form. (OOPS! Eifert broke his ankle last week and is on IR) Tyler Kroft will replace Eifert at TE. The Bengals of course also have superstar WR A.J. Green, and newcomer, speedster John Brown. LB Nick Vigil, who I recall some liked here, is the team leader in tackles, and they also have DT Geno Atkins. The Bengals also have their starting OC injured, 1st RD pick Billy Price is out with a foot injury and he will be replaced by Trey Hopkins.
So which road do the Dolphins take this week, redemption or ruin? I should have been born in Missouri (The Show Me State), because until this team shows me they can compete with a better NFL team, I just don’t see it happening. Let the boos begin, and I hope I’m wrong, but . . .
CIN 30 – MIA 16