By Abraham Gutierrez
After a sizzling 3-0 start, the Miami Dolphins have cooled down significantly, going into the bye week losers of two straight, and with more questions than answers regarding the offensive line.
With two weeks to lick their wounds and reflect on the first quarter of the season, the hot topic will be how to protect second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the team’s subsequent inability to run the football.
Joe Philbin’s biggest challenge will be finding a way to keep Tannehill upright and his jersey clean, something he and his staff have been unable to figure out through five games.
A Record No O-Line is Proud of
Not only is Miami destined to surpass the franchise’s record for most sacks allowed in a season, but this team is also on pace to shatter the NFL’s all-time QB-sack mark (72).
After five games, the Fins lead the league with 24 sacks, and number 17 has been hit 35 times, the sixth highest NFL total in 2013.
Going into the bye, Miami is averaging just under five sacks per game (4.8), meaning that if this trend continues, 77-80 sacks aren’t completely out of the question for the season.
After surrendering four sacks to the Saints, guard Richie Incognito told the Sun Sentinel that if this team allowed their signal-caller to be sacked 72 times this season, everyone should be handed a pink slip.
“If we give up 72 sacks, everybody should be fired. The whole offensive line,” he said. “If (Tannehill) gets sacked 72 times, there is obviously a major problem. I don’t think anybody can handle that many sacks.”
However, Incognito’s words didn’t resonate in the Fins locker room, as Miami followed that effort by allowing the Ravens six sacks in a 23-26 loss at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday.
Thus, on day one of 14 before the Dolphins take on the Bills (Oct. 20), Philbin was forced to address questions about potential changes to the current landscape.
“We believe in the guys that we have,” said Miami’s head coach on Monday. “We have confidence in them. We have to continue to strive at all positions. I know everyone wants to focus on one position. There’s a lot of positions on this football team that need improvement.”
The Problem Affects the Team as a Whole
However, when the second biggest problem-area for this team is directly correlated with the O-line, it’s extremely difficult to veer people’s attention away from the big guys upfront.
The inability to milk the control with a consistent ground game not only has a huge impact on both sides of the football, but also affects everyone on the team individually.
The absence of efficient time management forces the Fins “D” to overexert itself by working overtime, leading to fatigue, and at times, injuries.
This is evidenced by the fact that over the past three games, Miami has reported no less than 10 defensive players per week, most of them suffering from muscle-related injuries.
In addition, having to throw the ball on every down also lets opposing defenses off the hook, and takes away the temperature/humidity factor that home-field advantage in South Florida is designed to provide.
The truth is that, it’s hard to fathom how the Dolphins are over .500 after five games when they rank 28th in the league in rushing yards (69.8) and time of possession per game (26:60).
It’s no coincidence that the only four teams that rank worse in time of possession – and in two of the four instances in rushing yards as well – are the (0-5) New York Giants, (0-5) Jacksonville Jaguars, (1-3) Minnesota Vikings and (2-3) Philadelphia Eagles.
Therefore, while finding a way to get better production from the offensive line isn’t the Dolphins only concern heading into the bye, it certainly merits being at the top of Philbin’s priority list after consecutive losses.
For more Dolphins news and updates, visit Dolphins Central.
Abe Gutierrez is a criminal justice admin whose love for sports led him to become a writer and editor. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com and its partners. His work can be found on Examiner.com. .