In a departure, somewhat, from our typical weekly analysis of what the Dolphins should be doing to improve, I’m going to treat us all to a more favorable article today on the good things that Miami has accomplished this year.
We have to start, first and foremost, with the fact that we’re in the playoffs. One of only 12 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl. More important than that, and more impressive, is that we wrapped up a playoff berth with a week to spare. There’s no need to dissect a million tiebreaking scenarios in Week 17 and pray for a dozen different cards to fall in place. We’re in, and we got it early.
10 games ago, we are all but counted out, including by myself. If you told me that we’d make the playoffs, I would have assumed that it was some miracle of tiebreakers and that Baltimore and Denver and the Bills and Cincy all suffered massive injuries to key players…but none of that was true. There were no miracles or bizarre tiebreaker rules or injuries to the other teams; instead, it was the Dolphins going on a tear and winning 9 out of 10.
In the pre-season, I remember one commenter saying that the Dolphins might not know what they have until October, after the brutal schedule we had to begin the season. He was correct.
The emergence of Jay Ajayi certainly helped. Three different games with 200+ yards rushing helped establish a strong running game for the Dolphins. Lamar Miller was a 1,000-yard rusher too, but doesn’t it feel different with Ajayi?
Kenny Stills emerged as a deep-ball threat. Despite dropping an easy, game-changing TD in Seattle in Week 1, he’s more than made up for it. He gives the opponent something to think about, and no opposing defense can afford to ignore Stills to concentrate on Landry. Both Stills and Ajayi are dangerous playmakers.
Another incredible aspect of this successful season was a strong draft. Laremy Tunsil has been steady. Every offensive draft pick who suited up regularly scored a touchdown. Jakeem Grant. Leonte Caroo. Kenyan Drake. Combine that with a couple of guys from last year’s draft (DeVante Parker and Ajayi), and we have a steady flow of producers at the skill positions. The Dolphins have finally turned a corner in getting value from their picks and getting guys who earn a paycheck.
All teams deal with injuries, but the way the Dolphins have dealt with them this year has been incredible. Losing several starters at key positions has not slowed Miami down at all. The backups have been exemplary replacements, if not even better than the guys they replaced. I think the media makes the fans worry about certain injuries, but the players and coaches aren’t as phased by it all. Oh no! Mike Pouncey’s hip is sore for the 500th week in a row! We’re doomed. Uh, no. In steps Anthony Steen to fill in well enough to get us by, and then all of a sudden Kraig Urbick proves to be even better. Koa Misi and Reshad Jones and Ryan Tannehill, and others…all the fill-ins have done outstanding work in their absence.
It’s been remarkable that the Dolphins are winning all the close games. All the late rallies belong to the Dolphins. They overcome errors. They don’t give up after blown assignments or dropped passes or turnovers. They persevere.
The path to greater success looks intimidating. Games against powerhouses like New England and Pittsburgh and Kansas City loom on the horizon. But the Dolphins have proven that they can play with the big boys, And even if things don’t go their way, it certainly looks better for future seasons. With some tough new linebackers next year, we’ll really have something to build on.