Dan Campbell is built like Adonis. But he will need to make like Hercules to save the Miami Dolphins’ season.
The team’s issues are that pervasive.
So over the next 12 weeks, owner Stephen Ross and executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum will keep one eye on the Dolphins’ present (Campbell) and one on the future (possibly Sean Payton, if ESPN is to be believed).
According to ESPN, the Dolphins are among the teams expected to inquire about Payton after the season. The Saints coach has nearly three years left on a contract that pays him $8 million annually.
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If the Dolphins were to lure Payton from New Orleans this winter, it would likely take at least that much — plus a draft pick or two for the Saints’ trouble.
So perhaps the best (and certainly the cheapest) scenario for Ross is for Campbell to succeed this season and keep the job.
But he has a big mess to clean up. Here are the 10 biggest issues Campbell must fix to turn this season around:
1. The culture: Campbell has made this his No. 1 priority. A greater physicality in practice will help. But so will plugging the leaks. The Dolphins’ dirty laundry has been aired this season, and it has been corrosive.
2. Ndamukong Suh: The Dolphins are paying Suh $19 million annually. The defensive tackle has 10 tackles in four games. So that means he’s making roughly a half-million per stop. The Dolphins’ best player needs to start playing like it.
3. Ryan Tannehill: Yes, Miami’s quarterback hasn’t had much help. But no, that does not excuse his regression. Entering Sunday’s action, Tannehill ranked 31st in QBR (32.1), yards per pass attempt (6.32) and passer rating (77.1).
4. The offensive line: The Dolphins’ annual blocking woes continue. They have two of the league’s worst starting guards, according to Pro Football Focus, and Jason Fox has struggled, too. The good news? Branden Albert should be back.
5. The pass rush: There were some who thought the Dolphins would break the team’s sack record (49, set in 1983 and 2005). But with just one in four games, it’s the record for fewest sacks in a season (16) that could fall.
6. The running game: Lamar Miller’s production has cratered. Compared with his breakout 2014 season, he’s averaging 35.9 fewer yards per game, 1.6 fewer yards per carry and has gotten 4.3 fewer rushing attempt per game.
7. The run defense: It was bad last season and has somehow gotten worse, even with Suh in the middle. As of Sunday morning, Miami’s defense ranked dead last against the run (160.5 yards per game) and 25th in yards per rush (4.4).
8. DeVante Parker: A toe injury derailed a promising start to the wide receiver’s career, but the Dolphins’ first-round pick is healthy now and must start producing. Among rookies, he ranks 20th in catches (four) and 18th in yards per game (12.3).
9. Home-field advantage: Under former coach Joe Philbin, the Dolphins won just 13 of 25 games played at Sun Life Stadium. By way of comparison, the Patriots are 23-3 at home since the start of the 2012 season.
10. Play-calling: The Dolphins are best when they’re balanced. The team has gone just 7-22 when Tannehill has thrown 35 or more passes. And yet, their run-pass ratio (2.8 passes for every run) is the most skewed in the NFL.