Miami Dolphins fans are way too practiced in the feeling that ate so corrosively their Sunday afternoon. That feeling, welcome as a hangover, that they awakened to Monday.
Here we go again.
Same ol’ Dolphins.
The glass-is-half-full crowd keeps reminding how we’d have taken this 3-1 record at the NFL’s quarter turn if offered it at at the outset. Yes and it is a plain fact that only two teams (the Rams and the Chiefs entering Monday night) have a better record.
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Yet the foreboding blanket of doom that envelopes many Dolfans reminds us how fragile the faith is. How little capital of belief there is. Everything about this team — how we feel about Adam Gase, what we think of Ryan Tannehill — is subject to the next game’s performance. Leading the division (which Miami still is) has hardly felt so fraudulent.
It wasn’t that Miami lost on the road Sunday. It was the margin (38-7). It was the opponent (the Patriots). And it was how.
The Dolphins got stripped of all identity.
Who is this team? What are they? What are the bedrock elements they can rely on? What are fundamental attributes that are there week in week out and can be summoned when most needed?
Based on Sunday? Nothing, really.
Gase kept describing the beat-down with a phrase as ugly to the English language as it was to watch play out.
The Patriots were the grown men controlling both lines of scrimmage. The Dolphins were pushed around. Weak.
And suddenly the schedule seems unfriendly.
Next: at Cincinnati, which just won in Atlanta.
Then: Khalil Mack and the surging Bears come to town.
The Dolphins’ lack of a reliable identity is most easily seen in its stunningly casual commitment to a running game. Or, put another way:
Whatever happened to Kenyan Drake?
He’s the 24-year-old running back who entered this season averaging 5 yards per carry in his young career. The guy they liked enough that Jay Ajayi was expendable. The guy who led all Dolphins in fantasy drafts, so much eas expected of him.
Drake has disappeared. I keep expecting to see flyers tacked on street corners beseeching his whereabouts.
Drake was in for fewer snaps than Frank Gore on Sunday, and had only three carries for three yards. Drake’s totals the past two games: eight carries, six yards.
“There were some runs called in there that ended up getting flipped out to one of the receivers,” Gase tried to explain. “We have to get into a better rhythm. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure we’re giving the backs more touches and just be more consistent.”
Yes you do, Mr. Gase.
That’s a challenge when you have no faith in your offensive line to not be “out-physicaled,” but it’s a matter of commitment and perseverance.
Start here: Make Drake your starting back, your featured back. Make that unequivocal, and stick with it.
Gore is starting, in homage to and respect for his 112-game starting streak. Enough. Drake deserves to start, and to average 20 carries a game.
A notion floating around the national football media the past week or so suggests Miami should maybe be in play to trade for disgruntled Steelers back Le’Veon Bell. Oh please don’t. There is no need for a move drenched in premature panic. There is a reason the NFL market is tepid for such a deal. The price would be high for a player you’d be renting for just the remainder of this season.
How about you give Drake the opportunity to maybe be the next Le’Veon Bell? You don’t get there with three carries a game. You don’t give yourself a chance with that.
You want an identity, Dolphins? Simple.
Stop making Kenyan Drake a missing person.