Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins secondary and offensive line struggling, but tepid pass rush a big surprise

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell pressures Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles in the third quarter at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, Sept. 20, 2015.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell pressures Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles in the third quarter at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida, Sept. 20, 2015. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The Dolphins knew that if their young players and those coming off injury didn’t play well this season, they would have legitimate concerns at cornerback and serious shortcomings on their offensive line.

Those problems have indeed materialized.

What the Dolphins never could have envisioned, however, is an ineffective pass rush.

Through two weeks, the Dolphins have produced just one sack — from rookie Jordan Phillips against Washington.

Sunday’s inability to corral Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was astonishing considering Bortles was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league last season and five times last week against Carolina.

The Dolphins were one of only five teams that entered Monday with one or no sacks. Conversely, the Patriots have 11.

“We would have expected more [sacks] through two games but we’re seeing things we anticipated from our opponents,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “They’re throwing the ball quickly, using a lot of extra personnel in protecting. We’ll get our share of sacks. We had occasions where the quarterback was flushed out and we didn’t make the [sack].”

Miami tied for 16th in the league with 36 sacks last season and expected that figure would increase substantially with the addition of Ndamukong Suh, who had 8.5 last season and 36 over his first five seasons.

Olivier Vernon sacked Bortles once Sunday but the play was nullified by a Walt Aikens penalty.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins generated 15 quarterback hurries Sunday — including six by Earl Mitchell.

There have been some extenuating circumstances: Vernon was limited to 30 snaps against Washington because of an ankle injury and Cameron Wake played just 15 of 73 snaps Sunday.

Though the Dolphins said Wake wasn’t injured, he didn’t play in the second half because he wasn’t at his best after missing a lot of practice last week with a hamstring injury, the team said.

I told the owner we would have a disciplined team when I interviewed for the job. For the most part, we’ve been that. Thirteen penalties is unacceptable.

strong

The lack of pass rush surprised everybody, but the shortcomings in the secondary are hardly shocking.

After coming up short in a late bid to sign free agent Buster Skrine (who joined the Jets) and opting to take receiver DeVante Parker instead of trading down for a cornerback in the draft, the Dolphins hoped that some combination of Brice McCain, Jamar Taylor, Zack Bowman, Will Davis and rookies Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett would be good enough to supplement Brent Grimes.

So far, it hasn’t been, aside from a terrific interception from Brice McCain in the opener.

Through two games, 7 of 11 passes thrown against Brice McCain have been caught for 129 yards and a 96.4 passer rating.

On Sunday, Taylor allowed two of four passes to be caught for 26 yards (and has a 92.4 passer rating against him through two weeks), but the bigger problem has been his penchant for penalties resulting in first downs.

He has committed three of those, including an illegal contact infraction on a 3rd-and-9 Sunday, shortly before a Jaguars touchdown.

Coyle so far hasn’t given a single defensive snap to Bowman or Bobby McCain, and Lippett has been inactive. Davis was inactive the first two weeks before being traded to Baltimore for a seventh-round pick Monday.

The other problem the Dolphins could have seen coming: a leaky offensive line. With Branden Albert limited to 19 of Miami’s 68 snaps Sunday, Jason Fox allowed a costly sack to Jared Odrick late in the game.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said guards Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglas haven’t been “as consistent as we would like.” PFF ranks Douglas ranks 72nd and Thomas 74th among 84 guards.

Douglas, through two games, has allowed seven quarterback hurries, fourth-most among guards.

What’s more, right tackle Ja’Wuan James committed three penalties, all costly, and yielded one of the three sacks that Miami relinquished Sunday. (Fox and Douglas were beaten for the others.)

Coach Joe Philbin said run-blocking has been “primarily” to blame for the Dolphins averaging 58 yards rushing per game (third-worst) and 3.4 per carry (tied for 26th).

The Dolphins ran for just 42 yards Sunday (2.6 per carry), with Lamar Miller gaining 14 yards on 10 carries.

“I need to do a better job trusting my offensive line,” said Miller, who said his injured ankle is feeling better.

Philbin also didn’t expect to have a team that would commit 13 penalties for 112 yards Sunday. “I told the owner we would have a disciplined team when I interviewed for the job,” he said. “For the most part, we’ve been that. Thirteen penalties is unacceptable.”

Barry Jackson: 305-376-3491, @flasportsbuzz

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments