The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Cinderella Story in Miami?

The start to the 2018 NFL season has been unexpected for many reasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick is tearing up defenses, the Browns aren’t below .500, and the Miami Dolphins are leading the AFC East. Not only are the Dolphins leading the AFC East, they stand as one of the remaining three undefeated teams in the NFL. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve read that right.

Before I get into what this amazing start means for their season, let’s look at how Miami blazed through their first three games straight to first in the AFC East, and into this article.

Offense

After suffering an ACL tear that sidelined him for the entire 2017 season, Ryan Tannehill returns as the Dolphin’s leader under center. Tannehill hasn’t had much of a miraculous comeback year, as he hasn’t surpassed 300 yards in a game yet and recently threw two interceptions in Miami’s last game against Oakland.

Kenyan Drake is the Dolphins’ lead back, but his season is going poorly. Over three games, he’s running for only 104 yards and one touchdown. That’s less than 33-year-old Adrian Peterson’s week three performance against Green Bay. Drake has split a significant amount of carries with veteran Frank Gore, who has a total of six less rushing yards than Drake.

The receiving corps of Miami hasn’t been any marvel either. Although they acquired former New England receiver Danny Amendola, no receiver has racked up more than 200 yards after three games. The Dolphins’ leading receiver, Kenny Stills, is the closest with 184 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Surprisingly, fourth and fifth stringers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant have been carrying the workload for the receiver corp with a combined 277 receiving yards and four touchdowns. And let me tell you, they’re doing it with finesse.

Overall, this offense hasn’t really done much other than making SportsCenter- they’re the 23rd ranked defense in the NFL. Let’s look at the defense of Miami and see how they’ve completely carried the Dolphins thus far.

Defense

Leading the defensive front are veterans Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn. Each only has nine total tackles and a sack so far this year. Although the defensive front lacks in production, linebacker Kiko Alonso leads the defense with an already impressive 34 total tackles on the year along with an interception.

Alonso is an outlier among the Dolphins defense as most of their linebackers and defensive fronts have less than 10 tackles this year. The defensive backs haven’t been too awful as they’ve racked up four interceptions including a league-leading three picks from cornerback Xavien Howard.

Oddly, the Miami defense is ranked 21st in the NFL with they have the 29th ranked passing defense and the 7th rushing defense. The Dolphins have been consistent in allowing barely any rushing yards, but have had trouble against quarterbacks. All being said, they’re still undefeated.

After much thought and analysis of this Dolphins team, I’ve come up with a conclusion I’m 100% sure about. Miami fans, look away.

Conclusion

Calm down, the Dolphins aren’t that good. Their offense has barely shown any signs of explosiveness or playoff talent. Neither of their running backs has established themselves as the primary ball carrier for the team and it’s never a good sign when your backup receivers have more yards than your starters.

The defense has been the highlight for Miami this season but hasn’t been as effective as their ranking says and there’s a clear reason why. This year, the ‘Fins have faced the Titans, the Jets, and the Raiders. Keep in mind, all of the Miami’s first three games have been decided by a single possession. Their opponent’s offensive rankings are 29th, 21st, and 6th.

The Titans and Jets have mediocre offenses, but the Raiders have the 6th most yards in the league. So let’s just look at how the 0-3 Oakland offense performed against Miami. Oakland had more first downs, total yards, rushing yards, and had almost double the number of plays than the Dolphins had, leading to 17 more minutes with possession. Miami only had seven more passing yards and two fewer turnovers. With all of that being said, how did Miami win?

Other than Oakland going a sloppy two for five in the red zone, Miami’s passing touchdowns consisted of 18, 34, 53, and 74 yards. How could Oakland let up three passing touchdowns outside of the red zone? The Raiders are 29th in the league in opposing QB passer ratings and 30th in yards per passing attempt.

Miami faces their first real test of the season Sunday against New England in Foxborough. That is when we’ll be able to get a real glimpse of the legitness of this Dolphins team.

As of now, I’m not believing the hype for a second and don’t see the Dolphins winning three more games this season. That being said, I’d love to see Miami win the AFC East, but Dolphins fans; get ready for basketball season.

-Mateo Gutierrez

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