If you look at the Dolphins record of 3-1, independent of the current state of the team, you have to be thrilled, considering the teams we’ve played the first 4 games. Wins against the Patriots, Ravens and Bills are all huge victories. However, the season has taken an unfortunate turn for the worse after the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and more importantly the loss of starting QB Tua Tagovailoa. It’s not that Teddy Bridgewater isn’t capable, and realistically, it’s possible that with a full week of starters reps in practice that Teddy Bridgewater’s play exceeds that of Tua Tagovailoa. Still, there was a good feeling here, with Tua succeeding, finally playing well and silencing his critics, an exceptionally long line of them. The Tua Tagovailoa story isn’t over, but it’s on hold as he mends from back, ankle and more seriously, a terrible concussion.
As we begin the 2nd quarter of the season, ( it used to be quarters but now we play 17 games), we’re really a banged up unit. We travel to New Jersey to take on the high flying Jets. This is a spunky team, they’ve had 2 big wins, 2 comebacks against AFC North teams, the Cleveland Browns and then last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets have their young starting QB back in the lineup and Zach Wilson helped the Jets steal a victory from the Steelers last week. The 3rd place Jets are ahead of the New England Patriots as I predicted and I think they are a team on the rise. RB Breece Hall, who many here liked (Especially Naples) is becoming the primary back, taking away touches from former starter Michael Carter. Hall got 17 carries in the win last week and is primed for lots of action against the Dolphins. Hall is averaging a nice 4.7 YPC while Carter only 3.7. Hall also has more targets in the passing game so for all intents and purposes, Hall is the lead back. Rookie WR Garrett Wilson has the most targets and receptions of the wideouts, 39 and 20 respectively, for 255 yards and 2 TD’s with 12.8 YPR. TE Tyler Conklin has the most receptions though with 21, and 1 TD.
The injury report heavily favors the New York Jets, they have only 5, and none of the injuries are serious enough to have any of those players in doubt for Sunday’s game. The Dolphins however, have a whopping 17 players listed. The most obvious one is QB Tua Tagovailoa who is ruled OUT with a concussion. CB Xavien Howard has two sore groin muscles and is QUESTIONABLE. CB Keion Crossen did not practice with glute and shoulder injuries.WR Jaylen Waddle also has a sore groin but Waddle returned to practice on Thursday. LT Terron Armstead is QUESTIONABLE with a toe injury he has been dealing with for most of the season and he did not practice this week, but he has been playing this way the entire season, and practice is less important for this talented veteran.
I just have to speak my mind about Tua, mostly because I find it dumbfounding the how the landscape changes so often with support, or hate for this kid, and why. Eliminating the Dolphins fanbase and reporters and commentators and experts of all kinds (eye-roll), seeing the experts and fans of other teams that routinely trashed Tua are all of a sudden so utterly concerned about his health and the “barbaric” treatment he has received from the Miami Dolphins coaches and organizations. What so many are saying is that it was clearly obvious that Tua was concussed in the Bills game after his head hit the turf and when getting up he stumbled and then stumbled again, which certainly could be indicative of a concussion. However, and I stress this, he was cleared by a neurologist hired by the NFL to make sure the player is healthy enough to return. So there are basically two camps here, the ones that think the Dolphins should have realized the expert is wrong because they saw the stumble and should have kept Tua out the rest of the game and the following week for his safety. Then there’s the camp that believes the Dolphins somehow skirted the protocol altogether, and perhaps even influenced this neurologist to risk his career in order to allow Tua to play. I honestly find all this absurd, everyone is an expert because of what they saw and that’s the end of that. I’m well aware the NFLPA fired this neurologist and I think the NFLPA is just cutting their losses and trying to save face on what looks on the surface to be negligence on their part. Simple as that. Oh yeah, and stop blaming the Miami Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel who for all the world seems like a fantastic human being who appears to love this kid (Tua) and I don’t believe for a millisecond that McDaniel would put Tua in harms way. End of story!
I don’t feel especially confident about this game. My hope is Teddy Bridgewater looks significantly better than he did in relief last week. He’s a veteran guy who I’m sure has digested the offense and a full week of starters reps in practice should have him ready to go. I don’t like where we’re at right now as far as injuries. I was sure CB Byron Jones was ready to be the lockdown corner opposite X or whoever plays for X, but now it’s likely that both will be out. Kader Kohou has been a nice surprise, but pushing him into a starting role sometimes reveals those blemishes. Nik Needham always seems to step up and do what is needed, and he may be starting as well. I love both of those guys, but Kohou and Needham is a big dropoff from X and Jones. S/DB Eric Rowe has been rotating in and doing a pretty good job and CB Noah Igbinoghene will probably be active if X is out. Has anyone seen WR Cedrick Wilson??? Holy invisible man Batman, what happened here? I think a bunch of us expected Wilson to have a big impact, but so far we have 3 targets and 2 unforgettable receptions for 20 yards. What I do like on offense is that RB Raheem Mostert is slowly becoming the lead back. He’s electric, and if we can get him a crease, he can do serious damage.
Assuming X doesn’t play, does DC Josh Boyer dial back all those blitzes which leave the DB’s one on one coverage duties? We blitz more than anyone, but this week if X is OUT, I hope we consider not doing as many as we have. Zack Wilson is a pretty athletic QB and although he’s not a running QB per se, he is quick, fast and elusive and if he escapes the blitz, can do damage with his legs. The Dolphins have only 7 sacks this season, way below the way the team was playing the second half of last season. The good news is we started off slow in the sack department last year too, with 6 in the first 4 games. I usually have an idea as to what I’m going to see in our game, but I just don’t have any idea what to expect. Will we play it close to the vest with Tua out and injuries to our secondary? Will Teddy Bridgwater be tossing bombs left and right to Hill and Waddle or will we set a 2022 high for RB carries between Mostert, Edmonds and Ingold? Will we blitz relentlessly or be more conservative? We will definitely find out!