Miami Dolphins

Same old Dolphins or new era in Miami? We might find out Sunday against Jaguars

“We have to be ready to adjust quicker as players and as coaches,” said Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
“We have to be ready to adjust quicker as players and as coaches,” said Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Miami Herald Staff

In the Dolphins’ defensive meeting room, 100-yard rushing games are an anathema.

So imagine the group’s collective disgust over allowing one in the first half of the first game of the season.

The Redskins went all in on a cut-blocking scheme last Sunday, and the approach caught Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle off guard.

Washington hadn’t done much of it in the preseason, so when the Redskins sprung it on Miami last Sunday, it resulted in great success. Miami surrendered 106 rushing yards and 4.1 yards per carry in the game’s first two quarters.

Privately, defensive players were stewing. The Dolphins ironed out their issues at halftime, but some wondered why the coaching staff was so slow to adjust.

“I think it takes a little bit,” Coyle said. “We have to be ready to adjust quicker as players and as coaches.

“We kind of want to be able to see those things as fast as we can so we can get that information, but really oftentimes they’re the best guys to talk to, to try and figure out what’s going wrong because everything is happening so fast.”

Added Coyle: “Whether it’s a tightening of an alignment, changing a shade from one to the other or changing a front, that type of thing, we’ll have some options and some answers as we move forward.”

In a vacuum, this back-and-forth would be no big deal. But on a macro level, it captures the tension that surrounds this entire Dolphins season.

With so much invested and so much at stake, every game and everyone is scrutinized.

And despite owner Stephen Ross’ postgame proclamation that “a win is a win,” it’s not that simple. The Dolphins struggled against an inferior opponent, and in many ways, looked no better than the team that lost five of its last eight games last season.

Players had questions about the coaches. The run defense was porous. The offensive line was the same. And Ryan Tannehill made throws and decisions that would have cost his team the game against a competent opponent.

Sound familiar?

All this brings us to the team’s next opponent — a similarly underwhelming Jaguars squad that has remarkably lost 40 of its past 49 games.

The visiting Dolphins are a touchdown favorite Sunday, and that might be shortchanging Miami.

The Dolphins have a better quarterback (Blake Bortles’ career passer rating is 68.4), the two best defensive linemen (Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake), a better group of skill-position players and a traveling fan base that is stronger than many believe (FedEx Field was awash in aqua in Week 1).

On Sunday, the Dolphins are not only expected to win but to do so with style.

And if they don’t, many of the quiet questions from last week will grow louder — outside the organization and within it.

Coach Joe Philbin talks about winning championships. Now would be a good time to start looking like a championship team.

“We didn’t play up to our potential,” Tannehill said. “We left a lot of plays on the field, didn’t execute well, simple things that we’ve done from Day One, but we didn’t execute like we wanted to execute. So we have to correct that.”

If the Jaguars do have a strength, it’s their pass defense. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton slogged through an 18-of-31 passing day in the season opener; Carolina had just 158 yards through the air.

When the teams met in Jacksonville last season, Tannehill similarly struggled. He completed just 55 percent of his passes, and the Dolphins easily could have lost that game if Bortles had not thrown two pick-sixes.

Another parallel to what happened against the Redskins: The Jaguars shredded the Dolphins for 176 yards on the ground.

“I think we’re going to get a lot of run from what we saw last week,” linebacker Koa Misi said. “I think we’ll start off better than we did in the first game.”

It would certainly calm some jittery nerves in the southern part of the state.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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