Dolphins’ inexperience peeks out at worst moments against Bills, but foundations are there for more playoffs

Dolphins’ inexperience peeks out at worst moments against Bills, but foundations are there for more playoffs

Dolphins’ inexperience peeks out at worst moments against Bills, but foundations are there for more playoffs

By all accounts, the Dolphins had nothing to do to win their weekend Super Wild Card game with the Bills.

Due to injuries, they lost their top two quarterbacks and were forced to start seventh-round rookie Skylar Thompson instead. That doesn’t even mention other injuries, especially along the offensive line. When you stack that against a Bills club that is among the betting favorites to win the Super Bowl and features one of the best defenses in the league with an MVP-caliber quarterback in Josh Allen, it was no surprise to see them as the biggest underdog in the history of the jokers round.

However, as Han Solo once said, “Never tell me the odds.”

Yes, the Dolphins’ season ended on Sunday as the Bills managed to claim a 34-31 win, but it wasn’t the two-point loss bettors were expecting. In the bitter sting of defeat, Miami should always feel heartened by the direction this organization is taking.

However, let’s first look at the warts of this game which showed the club’s inexperience both under center and on the sidelines with first-year head coach Mike McDaniel. Procedurally, it looked like an inexperienced unit. Despite not only trailing but leading this game for periods of time, the Dolphins let the biggest surprise of the weekend slip through their fingers, with a total of seven penalties.

Specifically, there were several instances in the fourth quarter where the simple lack of awareness regarding the game clock proved to be a fatal blow. The most glaring came as they trailed at three with just over three minutes left in regulation time and were faced with a fourth-and-one situation in midfield. Due to an injury on the Bills, Miami had nearly a minute in real time to play center, line up and try to keep their season alive. However, the Dolphins were still getting their substitutions as the game clock ticked within 10 seconds and they couldn’t get the snap in time, so they were called for a late game, turning a fourth-and-one into a one. fourth. -and-5, which they could not convert.

After this mistake and a fourth failed attempt, the attack never touched the ball again.

They also faced a similar situation on the previous possession as they lined up to go there on a fourth-and-5 play from their 38-yard line, but a timeout called by Bills head coach Sean McDermott not only bailed them out of a possible penalty, but what would have been a failed conversion. Once given new life in this situation, McDaniel opted to return the ball.

Taken together, these missed opportunities underscore to a rookie head coach just how finely tuned you need to be in all facets when it comes to winning the playoffs. While not exactly a finely tuned late machine, the Dolphins completed what should still be considered a successful season that lays the groundwork for the future.

Of course, the biggest piece of this equation is at quarterback, and specifically with Tua Tagovailoa. After suffering multiple concussions this season, medical professionals reportedly said he will be ready and able to play next season. At the start of the year, the question in Miami was whether or not the Dolphins would be in the QB market then, but Tagovailoa’s play under McDaniel this season has shown he can be a player that they can build around the center.

With Tagovailoa starting this season, the Dolphins were 8-5, averaging 25.5 ppg, and the team’s 6.5 yards per game average was the highest of any starting quarterback this season. season (min. 10 departures). When it was Thompson or Bridgewater, the Dolphins offense slumped and averaged just 16.3 points in the regular season. With that in mind, the most important position is no longer Miami’s most important upgrade need this offseason.

With Tagovailoa back and a healthy offensive line ahead of him, the offense should once again become a feared unit in 2023 and nothing like the one that averaged 3.3 yards per play in this last playoff loss.

Meanwhile, Miami’s defense was able to give it to Josh Allen at various points in this game, despite Buffalo’s 34 points suggesting otherwise. It forced him to three turnovers on the day, including a fumble recovery that was returned for a touchdown early in the second period. The Dolphins have fired Allen seven times and forced arguably the NFL’s most feared offense to throw or return the ball on five of his eight second-half offensive possessions.

Jaelan Phillips (nine tackles and three hits against Bills) and Christian Wilkins (four tackles and a sack) are two young pieces that this defense will continue to build around, and the secondary could also get a noticeable boost in 2023 with the potential return of corner star Byron Jones, who missed the year through injury.

Health permitting, the pieces are in place in Miami’s roster to be an integral part of the playoff conversation for the next few seasons to come. That includes dynamic wide receiver duo Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

While this latest loss highlighted some of McDaniel’s inexperience, it’s worth noting that this rebuild is still in its infancy and will be best served to play in tough losses like the one they just suffered. Sunday at Orchard Park in the future. .

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