Even with their opener postponed because of Hurricane Irma, the Dolphins witnessed several on-field reasons for optimism in the first weekend of games. Among them:
• The Patriots appear vulnerable defensively, and Miami has the skill position weapons to potentially capitalize.
It was bad enough that New England allowed 537 yards and 42 points in a 42-27 home loss to the Chiefs last Thursday.
But according to The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe in this piece, “the Pats allowed three touchdown drives of at least 90 yards for the first time ever under Bill Belichick. For further context, they only allowed one 90-yard touchdown drive in the previous three seasons. Belichick’s defenses haven’t coughed up three 90-yard touchdown drives in 13 of his 17 full seasons, so a trifecta in one game is absurd.”
What’s more, Howe notes, “the Patriots also yielded 191 yards on 24 carries (7.96 yards per rush) before Alex Smith’s three kneel-downs. That’s their second worst yards-per-carry margin ever under Belichick, with Tim Tebow’s Broncos leading the charge with 8.13 yards per clip in 2011. That was the only other time in the past 15 years the Pats have given up at least 7 yards per carry in a game.”
Among some other notable defensive observations from the game courtesy of longtime NFL writer Ron Borges, also of the Boston Herald:
“Don’t’a Hightower looked mostly lost at end, which figures because he’s an inside linebacker. To think otherwise hurts you in two places. He couldn’t hold the edge consistently and was literally buried by a double team block on one play that turned the edge into a thoroughfare. ...
“Defensive tackle Kony Ealy couldn’t make this team? The off-season acquisition the team tried to sell as “technically” its “second round pick” in a press release was a total bust, and the proof was he couldn’t find a place among a group that was repeatedly knocked off the line of scrimmage in the second half and struggled without success to hold the edge. When your opponent’s run game averages 6.9 yards a carry, and their pedestrian QB leaves with a 148.6 QB rating and four touchdown passes, the problems start up front...
“[Linebacker] Kyle Van Noy played a lot. You could tell because most of the time you could read his name on the back of his jersey as he went tumbling over....Cornerback Stephen Gilmore’s debut was much like his time in Buffalo — many good moments but with a grave error sandwiched between them.”
And even beyond the Patriots’ struggles, there was more encouraging news for the Dolphins, with the caveat against totally overstating developments in Week 1:
• We knew Pittsburgh would be good - they usually are - and the Baltimore Ravens, armed with more weapons, figured to bounce back from a mediocre season.
What’s encouraging, from a Dolphins standpoint, is how bad the Bengals looked in their 20-0 home loss to Baltimore.
Why? Because the Bengals figure to be among the teams competing with the Dolphins and a bunch of others for a wild card spot.
Andy Dalton, coming off a disappointing season, showed no signs of a turnaround, throwing four picks against the Ravens.
• The AFC South - aside from Jacksonville - didn’t look very good, which is encouraging for Miami in the sense that this division might only send one team to the playoffs.
The Titans, hyped by some during the offseason, are undoubtedly talented but they lost 26-16 at home to Oakland.
Houston looked awful in a 29-7 home loss to Jacksonville, which is much improved (especially defensively) but still has a quarterback (Blake Bortes) who cannot be trusted.
Not only did Houston allow 10 sacks, but starting quarterback Tom Savage was benched and replaced by rookie DeShaun Watson.
Indianapolis remains without Andrew Luck after offseason surgery (the Colts haven’t said when he’s expected back), and replacement Scott Tolzien threw a pick-six on his first pass attempt in a dismal 46-9 loss at the Rams.
Couple other notes:
• We’re told by someone briefed on the situation that the Dolphins and Seahawks discussed cornerback Richard Sherman earlier this offseason, and Jarvis Landry’s name was raised.
The Dolphins admire Sherman but had concerns about his age and salary and nothing materialized and there was no indication Landry was ever offered in trade talks.
But Miami aggressively pursued Joe Haden when Cleveland cut him – though Miami always expected him to sign with Pittsburgh, where he ended up – and remains open to adding a quality corner if something ever materialized.
• The public perception of the Dolphins diminished after the injury-necessitated switch from Ryan Tannehill to Jay Cutler.
The Dolphins odds of winning the Super Bowl lessened from 30 to 1 to 40 to 1, with the over-under for wins still 7 ½ and the public betting evenly on both sides.
• Here’s my scoop from earlier Monday on the NFL’s response to the Dolphins’ inquiry to move their Oct. 1 game from London to Miami.... And here are my notes about where UM football stands coming out of Irma... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz