Adam Gase was in good spirits after his team’s most recent preseason loss. It was almost eerie seeing him talk about the Miami Dolphins’ flaws and areas that beg improvement while smiling and in an apparent good mood.
And one could argue Gase and his team have nothing to frown about because there’s plenty of time to correct what ails them before the NFL regular-season begins in three weeks. One could take the road of leisure, the one with pretty trees and lots of rest stops, to the Sept. 9 opener against Tennessee.
Me? I drive like a maniac and I need to get there yesterday.
Which means I need to see the Dolphins playing like they’re almost ready for the season next week. Because teams have only one more week of practice and one more preseason game of note -- the fourth preseason game is practically moot -- to put all their necessary pieces in place.
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And Gase’s Dolphins, all relaxed and unworried about stuff, still are showing us multiple serious and borderline troubling issues that need settling if the team is going to be playoff relevant in 2018.
One of the outside cornerback spots where the Dolphins lack starter is problematic.
The tight end position is an issue (although the Dolphins don’t think so) because rookie and training camp star Mike Gesicki has apparently showed coaches he should be the starter. But he hasn’t shown the rest of us that because Gesicki has yet to catch a preseason pass.
The backup quarterback battle has seen no one separate. And, frankly, I’m not too sure we’ll be happy with the result when someone finally does separate.
Then’s the old faithful trouble at the linebacker position, which has been problematic for the Dolphins the past two seasons and isn’t promising a quick resolution now.
All these issues must be weighed to determine if the Dolphins are going to be a good team this coming season. And so far the weighing is finding Miami lacking.
So let’s dig deeper:
If the Dolphins cannot find a second good starting cornerback, Xavien Howard isn’t going to see a lot of passes go his way. They’ll mostly just go to the unlucky soul starting but not starring on the other side.
If Miami can’t fix the linebacker corps, and it’s about time that issue was handled, the run defense will be middle of the pack again. Running backs and tight ends are going to feast in the passing game. And those two will combine for a lot of yards and first downs allowed.
Oh yeah, and if somebody doesn’t start playing like a consistent NFL backup quarterback, the chances of the Dolphins getting into the postseason become improbable.
Remember, a majority of NFL teams -- the Dolphins among those -- have had their quarterbacks miss games the past couple of seasons.
In 2016 when Matt Moore was good in backup duty, Miami completed a playoff run. In 2017 when no one could deliver consistent quarterback play once Ryan Tannehill got injured, the season was lost.
So Brock Osweiler or David Fales or somebody needs to step up. Non one has.
These multiple issues matter. And the Dolphins don’t really have definitive answers on any of them quite yet.
The cornerback job opposite Howard was manned by Bobby McCain this last preseason game. McCain last June signed a big contract to play slot cornerback. So that was the plan: McCain in the slot.
But the plan also included Cordrea Tankersley or Tony Lippett playing well enough to compete for the starting job outside. Except Lippett still doesn’t seem 100 percent after last year’s Achilles’ injury and Tankersley just had what he called a “terrible” outing in which he played like “straight trash.” Tankersley has been wildly inconsistent in practice, too.
Enter McCain into the picture.
“I’m always going to be comfortable with Bobby because he competes,” Gase said. “He stays tight. It’s kind of his first exposure from the different competition he sees in practice. I think he’ll only get better.”
So it could be his job?
“It could be,” Gase said.
It could be, but that’s not what McCain does best. He’s a slot cornerback.
The linebacker group is interesting because its players are young. And inexperienced. And so not ready for the regular season.
Kiko Alonso, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker are fast. And smart. And they chase the football.
But McMillan and Baker are just learning the NFL game and have had some seriously ugly moments this preseason. Alonso struggled in coverage at times last season and gave up a long completion to Christian McCaffrey in the Carolina game.
This group, particularly McMillan and Baker, are going to get picked on a lot early in the season. There’s no question it will happen.
The only question is how long before they make it stop.
Finally, that backup quarterback job seems like a non-issue because most Dolphins fans are too transfixed on whether starter Ryan Tannehill is good or not to worry about the next guy in line. I understand.
But you should understand there is nothing I’ve seen in practices or this preseason that suggests Osweiler or Fales can be trusted as the backup. No one is playing consistently well in that role.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Gase said, stopping me.
Well, who’s playing well?
“I think there’s been times both have played well,” he said.
Gase knows better than I do. He’s been in charge of great quarterback play and record breaking offensive football and he’s confident he has a backup quarterback on the roster. He’s also confident both his offense and defense can answer it’s multiple questions and do it soon.
“We have two more weeks to clean it up,” he said. “That’s what our focus has to be.”
He said this while in a surprisingly good mood. Let’s see if that mood lasts.
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