There is no other way around it, the Dolphins under-performed in nearly every aspect yesterday. I spent my Sunday afternoon at Fedex Field with many other Phins fans to watch the first game of a promising season, but spent most of the game biting my nails. The Dolphins squeaked by winning the game 17-10, but there aren't many teams they will beat if they continue on this way. Here are some takeaways from yesterday.
Tannehill's Bad Day
Ryan Tannehill played, probably, his worst game since the Jacksonville game last season. This was stunning when you think about how strongly he finished last season and how great he looked in all his work this preseason. Against the Redskins Tannehill took a few bad sacks, stared down a few receivers, threw two passes that could have been picked off and just generally wasn't playing with the same sharp precision and accuracy Dolphins fans have become accustom to. And, while it was a down game for Tannehill, the fact that he ended the game with over 220 passing yards and a 93.5 QB rating actually bodes well for the Dolphins.
Tannehill has grown into a really solid QB. So much so, that even when he has a performance that, by his standards, is sub-par, he doesn't cost his team the game. Tannehill lead 3 really good drives for the Phins yesterday. A 2-minute offense touchdown drive to close out the first half was the biggest, bringing the Washington lead down from 10-0 to 10-7 going into halftime. Coming out of the half (following a LaMike James fumble on a kickoff and subsequent recovery) Tannehill led another nice drive marching the team easily into field goal range, but.... On second down with 12:34 left in the 3rd Tannehill hit Rishard Matthews right in the hands for a first down at the Washington 17, Matthews, however, dropped the ball. On the next play Tannehill was blindsided for a strip sack that sent the ball all the way to the Miami 30 yardline. Had Matthews held onto the ball the rest of the game may have been totally different.
Despite the offensive struggles Tannehill still managed to complete passes to Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, Jordan Cameron, Rishard Matthews, Jarvis Landry, Damien Williams and Lamar Miller. Cameron and Miller being the two stars of the offense in week 1. There is bound to be some growing pains when you have an offense with this many new pieces, and while they were present in DC, it is not indicative of what this offense will do the rest of the year and what heights Tannehill can lead this team to achieve.
Jarvis 'Juice' Landry
It didn't take Jarvis Landry long to become a fan favorite in Miami. Landry plays with such extraordinary field vision, physicality and toughness that it is obvious to see why he is Tannehill's favorite target. Combine how he plays on the field with the leadership he has provided in the locker room and his positive attitude he has presented to the fan base and his popularity makes a lot of sense. Jarvis kicked off his second season with a bang yesterday.
Landry had 8 receptions yesterday for 54 yards, but it was his punt return in the second half that proved to be the game making big play the Dolphins needed. LaMike James is on the roster primarily to handle return duties, but when he fumbled a 2nd half kick off he was promptly benched. Landry took over return duties and took his first punt all the way to the house to give the Dolphins a 17-10 lead that would end up being the final score. Landry looks poised to be a household name across the league. If you don't know who he is yet, you will soon.
Defense Sinks, Then Swims
One sack against the Washington Redskin's woeful offensive line isn't going to impress many people. Giving up 161 rushing yards won't impress anyone either. Ten points, on the other hand, does say that the Defense wasn't all bad.
The Dolphins defense is the unit the Miami Dolphins are going to have to rely on if they want to get any recognition this year, but early on it looked like all the same issues were rearing their heads for the Phins D in 2015. The Washington run game gashed the Phins front all game long. Questionable coverage calls and scheme decisions were apparent on Washington's 17 play TD drive. So, it must be time to panic, right? Wrong! While it is fair to have concerns about the Dolphins rush D you can't ignore how well the Redskins game planned for this game against Miami. The Skins impressive run protection in the trenches was designed entirely to take Ndomukong Suh out of the game. Cut-blocks and double teams halted Suh's production and the weak Phins LB unit was exposed.
All things considered the Dolphins defense absolutely shut down the Redskins in the 2nd half. While many Phins fans are panicking, in reality the Redskins produced very little in the second half. While the Skins managed to gain on the ground some, the Defense led by Reshad Jones produced big stop after big stop, The Dolphins secondary picked Kirk Cousins off twice and while the team only recorded one sack, Cousins faced consistent pressure.
Did the defense live up to the hype that was discussed in the preseason? No, not really. Should fans be worried? No. Its only one game and the team only allowed 10 Washington points and made all the stops when they had to.
Much SUH-do About Nothing
At some point during the game Suh made a tackle on Alfred Morris that ended with Suh kicking the helmet off of the Redskins running back. This clearly was a case of reputation proceeding a player. While NBC pundits tried to drum up the incident by parading the replays around Sunday night football, the league took one look at the play and determined no infraction was committed. That is all. Move on.
Observations From Around the League
1. Rex Ryan is a good coach. He game planned magnificently for the Colts consistently blitzing Andrew luck with the Bills superior pass rush and dared him to beat them. He couldn't. Bill's QB Tyrod Taylor also impressed... if he can do it consistently the Bills may be a force in the AFC.
2. I was watching last nights Cowboys - Giants game with my father, who is a Giants fan, when I had the strangest case of dejavu. With about 2:40 left to play and the Giants driving to increase their 3 point lead, I told my dad they would kick a field goal, but leave enough time on the clock for Romo to win. Sure enough that is what happened. No, I am not a psychic. This same thing happened to the Phins against the Packers and Lions last year. The writing was on the wall. That said, 4th and goal from the 1 with less then 1:40 how do you not go for the TD? In that situation the field goal is playing to lose. I hated that call worse than throwing on 3rd down the play before.
3. Both the Ravens and Broncos had poor offensive showings yesterday. Week 1 is a strange week in the NFL it takes a few games for most teams to start clicking on all cylinders. I fully expect both these teams to have respectable offenses in the coming weeks.
At the end of week 1 many Dolphins fans probably have more questions than answers, but it is not yet time to panic. Dolphins have another winnable game coming up against the Jaguars that could illuminate better who these Dolphins are. Until then you can reach me on twitter @11sbiase.
PS. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how awesome Phins fans proved to be this weekend absolutely invading FEDEX field and completely robbing the Redskins of home field advantage. Phins Up!