There’s a narrative out there -- on social media, among many Dolphins fans, on some sports talk radio shows and definitely among national reporters -- that the Miami Dolphins are a mess.
They were 6-10 last year. They got rid of their stars in the offseason. They signed some old guys here and there. And, well, it’s terrible now.
This preseason, which mercifully ends Thursday evening for Miami with a game at Atlanta, has done little to change the arc of the Dolphins-are-terrible narrative.
The Dolphins have lost all three of their games.
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The starting offense has gotten in the end zone just once.
The defense is 32nd in the NFL in touchdowns allowed per game.
Everybody’s running the ball on Miami.
Cats are living with dogs.
The sky is falling.
We are all doomed!
And I raise my hand and admit I’ve had moments of concern. I’ve articulated some of those concerns in typical award-winning fashion in this space. I’ve not been silent about what needs improvement -- linebackers, for starters.
But all is most definitely not lost, folks.
The Dolphins, coming off a troubling night last week when the Baltimore Ravens scored 24 second-half points while shutting Miami out, are not on a collision course with the No. 1 overall selection in next year’s draft.
And if they are, it’s not because of anything we’ve seen.
Because what we’ve seen requires focus instead of viewing from a distance. What we’ve seen requires context. And understanding. And maybe a little actual digging.
Allow me to give you some of that here:
A common criticism of the Dolphins this preseason is that they’ve picked up where they left off last season in that they struggle with penalties. And, of course, struggling with penalties means the Dolphins have no discipline.
The problem with that is “struggling with penalties” is wholly inaccurate.
The Dolphins this preseason have 23 penalties for 168 yards. And while that’s not as good as zero penalties for zero yards, it ranks the Dolphins 12th in the NFL in the fewest number of penalties. It ranks the Dolphins fifth in the NFL in fewest yards lost to penalties.
Coach Adam Gase has agreed that penalties are a point of emphasis for his team this season. And he’s been frustrated by them. But most of them have come with backups in the game.
The starting offense, for example, has suffered four penalties in three games -- a holding call against right tackle Ja’Wuan James, a holding call against left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a delay of game against Ryan Tannehill and an offensive pass interference against tight end A.J. Derby.
Derby, by the way, is no longer a starter.
So I wouldn’t say three starters picking up a penalty each in three games is a lack of discipline.
The run defense has been a topic of worry. Again, Miami is 32nd in rush yards allowed per game this preseason and 32nd in rush yards allowed per carry.
Did you see that 65-yard touchdown the defense allowed against Baltimore? The one that preceded the 19-yard rush touchdown the defense allowed against Baltimore? And that 71-yard rushing touchdown the defense gave up at Carolina?
Look, it’s true the Dolphins yielded that long run to Christian McCaffrey on Aug. 17. That was the starting defensive unit. That happened.
But the debacle against Baltimore last week? Second- and third-team players, who are not going to be on defense and maybe not on the team for the season opener were victimized on those runs.
This is true about the Dolphins starting defense: It has yielded 398 yards in 74 snaps this preseason. That’s 5.3 yards per play.
The New England Patriots starting defense this preseason has given up 5.3 yards per play.
Last season the Dolphins gave up 5.6 yards per play.
So the Miami starting defense, still coming together, is giving up less ground per play than last year’s unit and the same as the starting unit headed by genius defensive Sherpa Bill Belichick.
Kenyan Drake is averaging 6.4 yards per carry this preseason. That’s an improvement over his 4.8 yards per carry last season. And, yes, it’s the preseason so defenses aren’t game-planning to stop Drake.
But neither are the Dolphins game-planning to spring Drake.
That offense that has seemed maybe uninspiring and vanilla this preseason has a package ready to go for receiver Albert Wilson that we’ve not yet seen in a game.
I’m told Gase has extensive plans for rookie tight end Mike Gesicki which neither you nor any NFL defensive coordinator will see until the regular season.
And there’s going to be more to Drake out of the backfield this year that we also haven’t seen previously.
This stuff matters. It adds context to this team and its preseason.
I’m not saying the Dolphins you’ll see Sept. 9 and for 16 regular season games are going to be a steamroller methodically crushing opponents week to week.
But an undisciplined team that cannot line up and run a play because of pre-snap penalties? The worst team in the NFL as ESPN’s most recent power ranking would have you believe? A disaster movie about to start?
Lazy opinions lacking context and facts.
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