There’s no debating that Miami’s offensive line has had its struggles this year but Tyson Clabo is the major problem right now. Clabo has been dreadful this season and it continued in Sunday’s loss to Buffalo. The biggest play of the game was late in the fourth quarter when Buffalo’s Mario Williams beat Clabo and strip-sacked Tannehill leading to a Buffalo recovery which eventually set up Dan Carpenter’s game winning field goal.
The Dolphins offensive line only let up two sacks in Sunday’s loss and both sacks were given up by Clabo. This is the second straight game in which Clabo has given up multiple sacks and both games his sacks have cost Miami a chance to win the game. Miami’s coaching staff has been patient with Clabo hoping he would improve his play but it’s simply time to make a change.
The Dolphins told Clabo during the bye week that if he doesn’t improve his play they’ll have to make a change and after Sunday’s performance, a change is definitely in need.
Mike Sherman has been getting a lot of criticism about his play calling this season and it showed in Sunday’s loss. Sherman has been criticized for not sticking with the running game and not throwing the ball down the field utilizing newly acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace and quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s athletic ability. Instead of calling plays towards the Dolphins strengths, Sherman tends to rely on short passes which backfired on him on Miami’s first drive of Sunday’s game. Sherman called two straight pass plays to open up the game in which Tannehill threw at Wallace twice on two quick out routes which were both broken up by cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Not learning from this and with Buffalo pressing Miami’s receivers, Sherman again calls another short yardage pass on third down and wouldn’t you know it, pick six by cornerback Nickell Robey giving Buffalo seven points without their offense stepping onto the field. Robey made the interception look to easy which is troubling for Miami’s offense.
Sherman has been very inconsistent this season and it seems that when he does find plays that work well for this offense he tends to steer away from them. When he finally let Tannehill throw the ball down the field, the offense started to click. The running game was effective which opened up play action passes and receivers Brandon Gibson and Brian Hartline were deadly when running routes more than ten yards down the field. Mike Wallace was beating Stephon Gilmore consistently down the field and Sherman took advantage of that.
This Dolphins offense has the potential for big plays and Sherman must make adjustments, his offense is simply better when they throw the ball down the field. If defenses know Sherman doesn’t throw the ball down the field, they will keep pressing Miami’s receivers forcing them to get separation every single route they run which won’t happen. If Sherman doesn’t make these adjustments, it could be a tough season for second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the offense.
We see this happen week after week and it just can’t happen. Miami’s defense dominates first and second downs when their in man coverage up and allowing their tough front seven to get after the quarterback, but over and over again we see Defensive Coordinate Kevin Coyle play zone on third downs and the Dolphins get beat on third downs consistently.
In Sunday’s game against Buffalo, the Dolphins first defensive drive started off with a sack by Oliver Vernon when the defense was in man coverage and a loss of two yards on second down when they stuffed a Fred Jackson run up the middle while they were again in man coverage. On the third down of that drive, Coyle has Buffalo on their own 7 needing fifteen yards to convert and Coyle puts the defense in zone and his defense lets up 25 yards on a screen pass to Fred Jackson out of the backfield. Coyle constantly keeps relying on zone and we keep seeing it fail on him and he has yet to make adjustments.
We saw Miami’s defense against the Saints on Monday Night Football play zone on long third down plays and Darren Sproles torched them each time the Saints were forced to convert on a third down. Miami has a shutdown cornerback in Brent Grimes and finally got Dimitri Patterson back from a groin injury who is a great cover cornerback. Zone coverage is not the strength of this defense, especially with the linebackers. Starting linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, and Koa Misi are all quick and mobile linebackers whose strengths are one-on-one coverage and Coyle doesn’t tend to use their strengths.
The Dolphins defense is regularly a top 10 defense each year and there on pace to be in that category again this year but this defense can be dominant if Coyle sticks with man coverage.
The Dolphins as a team have a lot to improve on and they’ll need to do it fast when they have to face Tom Brady and the Patriots in New England next Sunday. Miami (3-3) needs to make the adjustments necessary to give them the best chance to win Sunday and for the rest of the season. This team has the players and coaches to compete in every game they play and it needs to come together for this team to make a playoff run this season.