The last two Sundays have revealed big issues on offense for the Dolphins.
It’s up to Adam Gase to fix them — fast.
And yet, less than 24 hours after Gase’s Dolphins self-destructed in Cincinnati, he insisted that major changes are not needed.
“It’s not that,” Gase said. “We gotta kind of make a couple of decisions on who’s playing where, who’s going to available. It’s nothing drastic. There’s some things that I can do different to just make sure that we’re in a good position. We’ll be fine.”
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The first, and most obvious change, would be to make a switch at left tackle with Laremy Tunsil out indefinitely with a concussion.
Sam Young struggled greatly after Tunsil left the game in the second half, but with Zach Sterup inactive, Gase had no other options.
Gase would not commit to Young starting Sunday if Tunsil is not available, which suggests the Dolphins are at least considering going with Sterup against the Bears and Khalil Mack, Chicago’s one-man wrecking crew.
“We’re going to evaluate everything this week, the next two days,” Gase said. “We’ve just got to figure out what are we going to be able to do best, who’s going to be in there? We’re playing a team that’s playing well right now on defense so we’re going to have to make sure we do a good job of setting everything up to where personnel-wise whose in there, what we’re running, what we can get to. So we’ve got a lot to look at this week.”
Sterup, 26, has appeared in seven games in his career — all with the Dolphins — and was not a liability when he started at left tackle in the 2017 finale.
“If he’s on the roster, we need him to play,” Gase said. “You make decisions based on multiple things. Whether it’s just one position. Sam’s always been the guy up. He’s got a lot of experience playing big tight end if you get in a situation where you need that. If he has to go in at left or right, he’s done that. There’s a lot of things that he always has brought to the table. We just need to evaluate what we’re doing, as far as who’s up, who’s down, who’s doing what.”
Things were so bad — and exasperating for Gase — Sunday that one of the Bengals’ two defensive touchdowns came while the Dolphins were in eight-man protection. And they still could not block Cincinnati.
While Gase did not absolve Ryan Tannehill of his three second-half turnovers, his tone suggested that the offensive line was the most to blame Sunday.
Asked specifically about Tannehill’s pocket presence, Gase responded:
“He’s been pretty good. Yesterday, I don’t think he was horrible. When a guy gets beat so fast he can’t defend himself, unless he’s Houdini, not many guys are getting away.”
Tannehill on Sunday took the sole blame for the turnovers, and his first — when he threw the ball off Durham Smythe’s helmet under heavy duress — was easily avoidable.
Still, it’s unclear at this point how much of Tannehill’s sagging play in recent weeks is on him, and how much is on the offensive line.
Whatever the reason, it must get better, immediately. Tannehill ranks 16th in yards per pass (7.5) and 20th in passer rating (92.9) through Sunday’s games. But those numbers are inflated by two glorified handoffs that went for touchdowns (one to Jakeem Grant, the other to Albert Wilson). Remove those shovel passes, and his resume (6.9 yards per pass and 84.7 rating) more closely resembles that of NFL punching bag Blake Bortles.
So if you’re searching for silver linings, they are few and far between for Miami. But there is one: The Dolphins are still tied for first in the AFC East.
“[The mood is] definitely not the same as when we were 3-0, but at the same time, I don’t see any guys wavering,” said right tackle Ja’Wuan James. “I’ve seen guys [on other teams] on offense, defense start being separated a little bit, but everybody [here] is together. Everybody is focused on one thing and it’s the next week. That’s why we’ve got 16 games to make up for the last (two).”
Added Gase: “Every loss hurts. You put 110 hours in a week and get kicked in the nuts like that, it pisses you off. It’s not like a 9-to-5. We have a lot of people putting a lot of work in. You’re going to be mad today and tomorrow. When Wednesday comes, you have to forget about it and move on to the next one.”