These Dolphins are the worst team in the AFC East, and the worst team the franchise has put on any field since Cam Cameron’s crew turned in that abomination of a season in 2007.
That ugly truth could be seen in snapshots everywhere, both during and after the Dolphins latest failure, a 38-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday that put to bed any wild hopes this season could be rescued by a run to the playoffs.
Bring the offense into focus:
Interim coach Dan Campbell called it “anemic right now,” and the description fits because this unit hasn’t put 21 points on a scoreboard since Oct. 25, and that’s one of the reasons the team has lost four of the past five games.
This offense makes staying in games practically impossible because, as it did against the Jets, it takes the football 10 times and punts eight times while serving up a Ryan Tannehill interception on another possession.
It’s not until the score is 21-0 and all but decided in the third quarter that somebody wakes up, and the Dolphins finally score a touchdown.
And it is not until the game is completely out of reach at 35-7 that the offense becomes productive against a defense that knows the game is practically over.
That’s when this offense will score two inconsequential, unsatisfying, statistics-padding touchdowns.
A garbage offense producing in garbage time.
The picture of the defense is a bit better. But not much.
This defense has more meetings than Congress. It had a meeting that Ndamukong Suh led last week, in which he apparently implored teammates to follow his lead. Suh had one solo tackle, which was a stop for a loss, and one hit on the quarterback against the Jets.
Kelvin Sheppard also called an impromptu gathering on the sideline Sunday when the score was 28-7. He obviously felt the game could still be won and wanted his teammates to respond.
They responded by allowing a 31-yard Chris Ivory touchdown run that made the score an embarrassing 35-7.
Afterward, Campbell described his team as “fragile.”
“I just think with where we’re at, we need to get some momentum early as a whole team,” Campbell said. “I feel like our defense played good, and they’re taking a lot of snaps. I think our defense had 42 snaps at halftime. Our offense had 21. So they’re going, ‘Hey, we forced a punt again.’ And then the offense gets it back, they punt. Offense gets it back, they punt. Offense gets it back, they punt.”
And then the offense finally responds, but it is too late because by then the defense, either having lost either the strength or will to compete, has already collapsed.
And so what’s the problem? Who’s to blame?
Start with the person who decided 5-10 Brent Grimes covering 6-4 Brandon Marshall was a good idea. It was a mismatch nightmare that Marshall turned into nine receptions for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
The Dolphins mixed their coverage and rolled their coverages but also asked Grimes to cover one-on-one at times, and he simply wasn’t up to the assignment. And this was the second or third game in which Grimes has lost these kind of matchups this season, including an outing at Buffalo weeks ago.
But Grimes isn’t the reason the Dolphins are in last place. He’s not the biggest problem that needs addressing going forward. Indeed, he’s the best cornerback on a team that curiously does not play its most promising cornerback — Bobby McCain.
Jamar Taylor is consistent only in that he has been beaten for a touchdown a couple of weeks in a row now. Brice McCain isn’t a fit on the boundary. And did I mention the linebacker situation should be a worry, too?
This offense, meanwhile, needs to be scrapped. Anyone who has been watching and seen the handoffs on third-and-long or the 7-yard bubble screen on third-and-10 already knows that.
This offense is supposed to have evolved from the Don Coryell system. Except it looks nothing like Air Coryell or that rolling, rollicking attack the Washington Redskins rode to a Super Bowl in the early 1990s.
This offense looks like a college, pop-gun attack that specializes in 6-yard slants on third-and-8. It is failing in Philadelphia — the evil twin to Miami’s offense — because the defensive coordinators have apparently caught up.
It is failing with the Dolphins. I don’t believe that to be a coincidence.
To make matters worse, the offensive line plays with little to no cohesion. Someone is always holding or getting flagged for a false start. Someone is always missing a block. And it’s not getting better with center Mike Pouncey headed to an MRI on Monday to check out a foot injury that had him leaving the stadium in a walking boot.
Where does this all lead?
It leads to the top. It leads to ownership. It leads to personnel. It leads to a coaching staff that clearly is weeks from being replaced en masse because their audition to win full-time work has failed.
This team is in trouble top to bottom, folks, and I’m not meaning just because it is winless in five games against division opponents. This team is in trouble because no one has solutions for what ails the entire organization.
No one is raising a hand and proclaiming, “I know how to fix this.”
Indeed, Tannehill might as well have spoken for everyone when he made it clear he’s shocked the situation is as bad as it is.
“It’s mind-blowing, it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s tough to find enough words to describe it. I think it’s hard. It’s hard to see and take a realistic look of where we’re at and see why we’re here. It’s hard.
“But it’s on us. We got ourselves in this position, and we can only look at ourselves.”