2018 Season Recap: Miami Dolphins
Division: AFC East
Record: 7-9 (4-2 Division) (2nd in AFC East)
This was maybe one of the Miami Dolphins' most decisive seasons in the last ten years; that is to say, we decisively had our hopes dashed, crushed, and broken down into a fine powder. We won every single one of the games we weren't supposed to win, and lost literally everything else.
If last season was the season of small victories, this was the season of small defeats.
First, our O-Line collapsed. Then, our D-Line collapsed. Then our QBs, then our WRs, and then our RBs. And somehow, half our secondary missed a few games each too. No amount of depth could save us from the fate that afflicts most top 10 most injured/most IR'd teams, especially in the face of being a team that barely functioned even at its best. If we'd shown any improvement at all from 2016 and 2017, it was that we were prepared to lose a few of our best players. We weren't prepared to lose all of them.
From /u/Purelybetter and /u/Swordswoman, we welcome you to the 2018 Dolphins Season Review.
Side note, I know the Packers post said day 12 but I counted myself to double check.
|Yards||289.9 / game||31st||5.3 / play||26th|
|Passing TDs||26||17th||153 firsts||30th|
|Rushing TDs||7||30th||75 firsts||30th|
|Penalties||108 penalties||18th||978 yards||8th|
|Yards||391.1 /game||29th||6.1 /play||29th|
|Passing TDs||31||26th||195 firsts||14th|
|Rushing TDs||17||27th||116 Firsts||27th|
|3rd Downs||84 / 196||28th||--||--|
tl;dr - Dolphins were bad.
We were routinely in the bottom third of the league in stats. It's a miracle we finished around .500. The only thing we were relatively good at is turnovers, mainly lead by our interceptions. And this is without our star CB for the last several weeks of the season!
From a fan's perspective, this makes sense. Our offense was flat out nonexistent, and then all of a sudden we'd score from anywhere on the field. It hurt our defensive personnel the most, as they'd constantly have to go back out on the field. We couldn't do long drives, it was score fast or punt fast, Ricky Bobby style. Our kicker was a superstar and our defense would make some huge plays, but would get torn apart on long drives, being unable to make a stop after a quick three and out from our offense.
|1.11 (11th)||Minkah Fitzpatrick, S||Alabama||A real, star-studded DB, Minkah was a grade A success. His role on the team expanded due to his versatile skillset and ability to play at boundary CB, slot CB, and either S position. But, he was one of the best in the league at slot CB in the beginning - routinely sniffing out screens and disrupting passes left and right.|
|2.10 (42nd)||Mike Gesicki, TE||Penn State||A very athletic TE, Gesicki was a highlight during the offseason as his chemistry with Tannehill grew. He was likely drafted at the behest and suggestion of Adam Gase, who valued a large and speedy TE in his offense. His run-blocking left something to be desired, and his route-running was typical of a rookie TE, so his season didn't explode off the stat sheets.|
|3.9 (73rd)||Jerome Baker, LB||Ohio State||An unexpected success, Baker was considered to be the weaker of the McMillan/Baker Ohio State LB duo. He proved that take wrong and put together a respectable season, while also HANDILY ranking as one of the best coverage LBs in the league (understandably, a hard thing to do).|
|4.23 (123rd)||Durham Smythe, TE||Notre Dame||Primarily drafted as a blocking TE, Smythe saw varied usage across the season due to the experienced TE depth ahead of him collapsing. He did good - he fulfilled a role and did it well.|
|4.31 (131st)||Kalen Ballage, RB||Arizona State||This was the Ajayi pick. It's only fitting that we drafted another bruising RB with this one, and it seems to have been a success thus far. For those unfamiliar, the Dolphins have not been hurting for a good RB in literally two decades. It's an anomaly, and Kalen Ballage has shown excellent speed, skill, and technique at his position. It's entirely expected for him to be starting opposite Kenyan Drake for 2019, and perhaps starting alone by 2020. This is the life of a Dolphins RB.|
|6.35 (209th)||Cornell Armstrong, CB||S. Mississippi||Armstrong saw desperation snaps - he did not impress. Classic 6th rounder.|
|7.9 (227th)||Quentin Poling, LB||Ohio||Poling remains relegated to the practice squad. Classic 7th rounder.|
|7.11 (229th)||Jason Sanders, K||New Mexico||A wild, grand-slam homerun. Jason Sanders won out in an exciting offseason competition between himself and Greg Joseph (another starting-caliber K), and promptly built a rookie season to respect. He made 18 for 20 field goals (90%) and missed only 1 extra point out of 36 (97.2%). It's a direly underrated position, and the Dolphins will likely retain Sanders for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, shit just works out.|
|Jarvis Landry||WR||Cleveland Browns||We'll miss Landry. That was a hard choice for any team, let alone one that loved him so much, but he'd go on to build a good relationship as the WR1 for a team desperate for a WR1. Baker Mayfield thanks us for our service.|
|Ndamukong Suh||DT||Los Angeles Rams||Way too expensive. He was gonna be gone eventually, and it was sad to see a man of his caliber go, but it had to happen. Releasing Suh left a vacancy on the D-Line to be filled by 2017 late-rounders DT Vincent Taylor and DT Davon Godchaux - and they would do a fairly good job.|
|Mike Pouncey||C||Los Angeles Chargers||Too frequently injured to be of any use to the Dolphins, he promptly went to the Chargers and had an injury-free year. Whaddya gonna do?|
|Lawrence Timmons||MLB||N/A||Long-time Steeler, good player, but he was clearly done with football.|
|Michael Thomas||S||New York Giants||Special teams ace here in Miami, the fans loved him after a game winning interception his rookie season on Tom Brady. He never would develop into a top end Safety, but his special teams prowess was damn near elite.|
|Frank Gore||RB||Indianapolis Colts||Perhaps the best acquisition of the season, Gore proved to be invaluable at an incredibly low price. He was on track for better records than some of his Pro Bowl years before he got injured - something that admittedly doesn't happen often with him. Even still, he was a hard runner, and did abnormally well as a runner with 14 years of experience in the NFL.|
|Josh Sitton||OG||Green Bay Packers||An excellent guard, and he graded excellently, too - the one game he played before suffering a season-ending injury. Whaddya gonna do?|
|Albert Wilson||WR||Kansas City Chiefs||The best receiver on our squad from day one, Wilson exploded onto the scene and posted some incredible numbers alongside fellow shortboi WR Jakeem Grant. Invariably, this good thing would end as he would suffer a season-ending injury before halfway into the season. He will undoubtedly be retained through the rebuild due to his age and valuable skillset.|
|Danny Amendola||WR||New England Patriots||As part of the money we received from Landry's departure, we threw some of it Danny's way so he could leave the Patriots with one less clutch playoff crutch.|
|Travis Swanson||C||New York Jets||A depth signing after we saw our first two centers get injured. He played admirably well for his position on the depth chart, and is likely going to be retained.|
|Nick O'Leary||TE||Buffalo Bills||Although not technically a FA signing, O'Leary was acquired through waivers and placed on the Practice Squad. Within three weeks, he was on the roster. Within two months, he was extended. With our TE depth knackered(RIP MarQueis Gray, SnapChat hero), we hired the best option just released and acquired an excellent blocker, decent pass-catcher, and an all-around manly Irishboi. We're glad to have him.|
|John Denney||LS||Miami Dolphins||While technically released and signed the day afterwards as a free agent, there was an agreement in place to immediately re-sign the longest tenured Dolphin on the roster. Cap space shenanigans, I presume.|
|Brice Butler||WR||New England Patriots||A depth signing after we saw three of our starting WRs get injured.|
|Sylvester Williams||DT||Tennessee Titans||A depth signing after we saw multiple D-Linemen get thrashed.|
|Brandon Bolden||RB||New England Patriots||This ex-Patriot special teamer came in as nothing more than depth, but inevitably saw his role in the offense expand as all other options got injured. He actually exceeded expectations, contributing to the win against his old team by scoring - not one - but TWO touchdowns, keeping things close for the Miami Miracle.|
|Ziggy Hood||DT||Detroit Lions||Ziggy Hood came on and stepped up when we needed him due to knackered D-Line depth.|
|Luke Falk||QB||Tennessee Titans||The third QB we signed, and perhaps the most important one. Apparently, he was taken because the Dolphins were interested in drafting him towards the later rounds, but the Titans snagged him first. When they waived him due to injury, he was promptly grabbed by the Dolphins and placed on IR for future use starting in 2019. That use, however, is entirely up to speculation.|
|Brock Osweiler||QB||Cleveland Browns||The first QB we signed. The Lobbie was a curious signing at the time, but it would prove effective versus his mortal enemies, the Chicago Bears. He's actually a good back-up QB, despite what history would tell you.|
|Cameron Malveaux||DE||From preseason, to practice squad, to depth, to starter. Malveaux had an interesting impact on our team, helping us last as long as we did - competiton-wise. His run-blocking degraded over the season, but he was more or less an average DE.|
|Jonathan Woodard||DE||Another preseason/practice squad body, he was also elevated to a starting position due to the D-Line collapsing over the course of the season. Unlike Malveaux, Woodard was consistent in his abilities throughout the season. Consistently average.|
|Jalen Davis||CB||Originally a practice squad player, Davis was forced to start at CB2 later in the season. He was average.|
Weekly Game Recaps
2018 Week 1 | Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins
You thought our 2017 season was rough, starting with a hurricane and promptly taking a Week 1 BYE? This was literally the longest game in the NFL. Due to frequent rain and thunderstorms delays, the Dolphins and Titans started their contest at 1:00 PM and would finish it well after 8:00 PM. In total, the game lasted 7 hours and 8 minutes, beating the previous record (5 hours and 16 minutes) by almost two hours. Somehow, the Dolphins would pull it together, and cement their first victory since fielding the 'Don't Care Bear' in 2017.
2018 Week 2 | Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
New York Jets
When the Jets are in a trash year, it's not because of their defense. They have a habit of playing up to the Dolphins at home and away, so every game - whether it should be or not - is competitive. We got to see some great TDs, some rough INTs, and, most importantly, we got to see the start of a legacy: CB Xavien Howard's first pick of an exciting, Pro Bowl-studded season.
2018 Week 3 | Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
Easily the greatest game of the season for any and all Dolphins fans, this was almost a competition. The Raiders struggled against themselves and failed, while the Dolphins struggled against themselves, failed, but got promptly bailed out by individual player skills. For the second time in history, the Dolphins were about to have a heroic duo of tinyboi receivers - Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant.
2018 Week 4 | Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
New England Patriots
After winning three in a row, on came our annual humiliation in Foxbourough. Our offense couldn't click, our defense collapsed in the second quarter (giving up 3 TDs), and we only narrowly avoided a shutout in the 4th quarter when the Patriots gave us what was - in essence - a pity touchdown.
2018 Week 5 | Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals
Another loss, but it was a demoralizing one. Over the first few games, we'd seen Tannehill really struggle to get back into his 2016 form - it all culminated in this disasterous outing. With the game on the line, Tannehill promptly sustained the awkwardest hit to the shoulder ever, throwing a pick-6 and fumbling for a return TD on back-to-back drives. The defense held their own, though.
2018 Week 6 | Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins
With our franchise QB out, we played second-man-up, Brock Osweiler. Somehow, this was the most competitive and interesting game of the season. Osweiler thoroughly dismantled the bears, as he's for some reason been known to do, and summoned the strength of a crustacean to will the Dolphins into not releasing him.
2018 Week 7 | Detroit Lions at Miami Dolphins
The fun was nice while it lasted. Facing a team that kinda sorta knew what they were doing, the Dolphins struggled and barely managed to keep the game within two scores. Osweiler, still starter, was starting to show some cracks in his hardened carapace, alongside the defense enduring a game's worth of miscommunication and coverage errors. It was a bad time for anyone not wearing blue.
2018 Week 8 | Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans
If you thought the defense made some glaring mistakes against Detroit, this game only doubled down on those errors. It seemed like, short of divine intervention, the Dolphins defense was incapable of preventing Deshaun Watson from scoring - and god forbid Brock Lobster figure out how to unleash the beast. On paper, this was an exciting match-up. The Texans were just... incredibly good.
2018 Week 9 | New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
New York Jets
When the Jets come to Miami, it's always gonna come down to a collision between two strong defenses. At this point, the Dolphins' offense was positively anemic. With Lobbie shrinking to his former self, we turned to all manner of offensive schemes. The only success of note would stem from rookie RB Kalen Ballage, who would be introduced as the lead back in 2018's Wildcat formation, a role he would reprise.
2018 Week 10 | Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
What's a season without randomly getting trounced by a gimpy Aaron Rodgers? The man destroyed our defense, cutting up the secondary like it was made of room-temperature butter. However, our porous O-Line presented Lobbie's buttocks on a silver platter, allowing the Packers' D-Line to accumulate six sacks. At this point, we were just trying to survive to the end of the season.
2018 Week 12 | Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts
The offense sloppiness continued even after Tannehill returned, while the defense showed the kind of prowess you'd occasionally expect from a pro football team. Let no one doubt - this was an excellent game. Regardless of the fact that the Dolphins couldn't pull away with a dub, it was a proud showing, not in the least by CB Xavien Howard, who would twice expand his reputation as a ballhawk this game.
2018 Week 13 | Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins
What's better than CB Xavien Howard getting 2 INTs in Week 12? The fact that he got 2 INTs in Week 13 as well. Howard's solo accomplishments were quickly becoming more interesting than the actual on-field play every Sunday, but that didn't stop the Dolphins from hosting a fun and exiting game. In return for locking down RB LeSean McCoy, they promptly allowed QB Josh Allen 135 rushing yards on 9 scrambles, and it showed that they had no answer for the rookie beyond decent coverage and pure luck. Still won, tho?
2018 Week 14 | New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
This game was over before it began. We knew it was going to be the end of the line for the Dolphins - no more playoff hopes, no more dreams, no more fun times. Xavien Howard got injured, Tannehill was playing injured, and the tinyboi WR dream squad had long been IR'd. This was the last game of the season that mattered, and we were going against the one team that everyone knew was going to return to the Superbowl. No one really expected us to win...
2018 Week 15 | Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings
Riding high after the Miami Miracle, it didn't take much to remind us that we were in for a painful end-of-season. The Vikings had their way with us. This was a team loss. What little went right was solely individual-effort plays, which was perhaps our greatest strength the 2018 season. RB Kalen Ballage held his own this game, taking the place of injured RB Frank Gore, and was even one of two individuals who kept us from being shut out.
2018 Week 16 | Jacksonville Jaguars at Miami Dolphins
Two bad QBs facing off against one another, both going against decent-to-good defenses. This game was the ugliest of the season for Dolphins fans. It was less a defensive showing (like you'd have seen versus the Bills or the Jets) and more of an offensive amateur hour.
2018 Week 17 | Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills
In back-to-back losses, this was looking to be a painful match-up for the poor Dolphins, only having barely won against the Bills in their last meeting. QB Tannehill fell apart. He threw some really ugly, really bad INTs, had a couple atrocious fumbles, and the game never stopped leaning towards the Bills. But, finally, the pain of the season could end...
Coaching Staff Changes and Review
Gase entered the season exactly at .500 over his two years, a 10-6 season his first year, then a 6-10 season after his starters at QB consisted of future Hall of Famers Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, and David Fales. Opinions were mixed on Adam Gase, as his stats were generally worse than his record. Boasting one of the worst points differentials over his tenure, Adam Gase was perceived to be on the hot seat unless the team blew up.
The team, in fact, did blow up.
Injury issues have gone hand in hand with Adam Gase, as Ryan Tannehill was generally considered an "iron man" before his initial injury in 2016. In these three seasons, he's missed roughly half of the games.
Our defensive coordinator has been Matt Burke, who had a very poor showing his first year as DC, and took the criticism in stride, continuing his shitty job into the season. Our defense featured such great highlights as playing Reshad Jones out of position, putting Kiko one-on-one against more athletic players, and posting astonishingly low sack totals. The one bright spot of his tenure has been turnovers.
We also had a couple offensive coordinators, but honestly, they weren't worth even naming. They didn't do anything. Our biggest loss is Miami fan favorite Darren Rizzi, who has left the team after several regimes to pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Both those men are gone now, and we've brought in Super Bowl champion Brian Flores, who brought with him, from New England, Chad O'Shea to be our Offensive Coordinator, and has taken Patrick Graham from the Packers to be our Defensive Coordinator. Chad was a WR coach before, while Graham was a LB Coach, and Flores himself as also a LB coach who helped game plan the defense. Miami has once again rolled the dice on the hot, new upshot coordinator. The only difference this time, a focus on defense instead of offense.
Going into the off-season, there's a bit of a debate on what the Dolphins will do. Many believe we're initiating a full on tank in an attempt to get a top-tier QB in next year's draft. If that's the case, it is unlikely to see much get addressed in free agency and more so in the draft.
Here are the positions the Dolphins need to improve going into the 2019 season:
The number one position that the Dolphins have ignored over the Ryan Tannehill-era has been at OG. They have constantly undervalued the position in the draft and looked to sign vets and mid-round prospects to compete for the position, and it has blown up in our face time and time again. Now, we've released C Mike Pouncey after a never-ending injury bug and our initial replacement has also got injured on top of being underwhelming. This leaves three interior spots needing to be upgraded.
The number two position is, obviously, at quarterback. QB Ryan Tannehill just didn't work out, that's all there is to it. We can debate all day on how good he is, could've been and/or what held him back. However, it is time for the Dolphins to look to the future and find a new signal caller. We have QB Luke Falk on the roster, but nobody sees him as more than a back-up.
Strangely enough, the Dolphins have finally used up all their defensive line magic. DE Robert Quinn underwhelmed for his price tag, while DE Charles Harris is pursuing a career as a bust (unless Flores can find a way to utilize his talent). The only hero on the line, DE Cam Wake, isn't under contract going into 2019, and is significantly older than we'd like to see from a player on the edge. The only men on the D-Line worth their contracts are DT Vincent Taylor and DT Davon Godchaux, as only a question of their talent ceiling can be made.
Much more minor needs arise at CB2 and WR. CB Cordrea Tankserley regressed, got injured, and IR'd in his sophomore campaign, and as a result the CB position opposite CB Xavien Howard was a glaring risk throughout the year. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick did well, but he needs a defined position and fast. On the other side of the ball, WR DeVante Parker is very likely to be cut, and that leaves the Dolphins without a tall WR to catch contested balls. Our offense, without such a receiver, would be severely limited. Add in a potential cut of WR Danny Amendola and we're looking at a WR group consisting of three fast, small guys.
Man, I feel bad for whoever has to predict how this season will go. Sure, the easy answer is to tank, but that's not how the NFL operates. Coaches don't tank, players don't lose on purpose. Everyone plays to win or you lose the locker room, and that's hard to get back. We're looking at a new coaching staff, a new defensive scheme, possibly a new QB, and potentially a whole slew of new personnel.
Last year, we went 7-9 and it was pretty evident that the team quit at the end. They could've gone .500 if they tried, or been above .500 if Ryan Tannehill didn't get injured(big if, it seems). With a rookie staff and a free year to suck, I'm thinking the Dolphins will be looking at a 5-11 or 6-10 season. We're going to be bad, but it's hard to imagine us regressing too hard with the roster we have in place now. If we end up rolling with QB Luke Falk, I could see us at 4-12, but anything less is a stretch.
The main focus of the 2019 Dolphins will be development of our talent, both new and old. Look for us to avoid vet signings and focus on comp picks, getting cap under control, and grabbing the few pieces we're missing.
As always, first and foremost, insert another cliche term, special thank you and round of applauce to /u/therealDoctorKay for picking up the series and keeping it going. As someone whose been doing these for a few years now, there was no drop off or chaos in switching hosts of the series.
Second, a special shout out and thank you to /u/skepticismissurvival for starting the series so many years ago and creating a foundation to keep it running. A modern Lombardi.
Next, the mass shout outs, deep appreciation for the mod team and members here for keeping the subreddit a mix of informative and fun. I'm glad the sub is capable of discussing the Xs and Os of the game, and on the same day compare QBs to food(Ryan Tannehill is a wet cracker because he falls apart with any pressure fyi).
Here we'll put a shameless plug to /r/miamidolphins where we love to meme and talk about how bad Facebook fans are while being just as bad half the time.
Lastly, thank you to /u/swordswoman for volunteering and going above and beyond the call of duty for helping me put this post together. Tons of work was put into this post thanks to her and hopefully the results are appreciated.