By Josh Baumgard
With eight games remaining in the Miami Dolphins regular season, it’s time to analyze the first half under rookie head coach Joe Philbin. How do the surprising 4-4 Dolphins grade out at the midway point?
MVP – Cameron Wake, Defensive End
There aren’t many better pure pass rushers in the league. Wake has cheetah-like burst off the line while euthanizing offensive tackles hoping to contain him. He’s unblockable with one man due to his combination of strength, acceleration, and relentlessness. The Penn State product doesn’t get the same national pub as studs like Demarcus Ware or Clay Matthews, but opposing teams know just how lethal he can be.
Offensive Rookie – Michael Egnew, Tight End
This rookie tight end out of Missouri has displayed excellent posture on the bench with a keen sense for diagnosing when his teammates are in need of oxygen.
Just kidding, it’s all Ryan Tannehill here.
Manning the quarterback position for a fan base with more trust issues than Liam Neeson’s daughter in Taken, the gun slinging rookie has performed admirably. He remains calm in the pocket and displays outstanding accuracy down the field. His five touchdowns against six interceptions don’t scream “superstar” but those who watch him have no concerns about him developing into an upper echelon quarterback.
It finally appears the Dolphins nightmarish game of quarterback roullette has come to an end.
Defensive Rookie – Oliver Vernon, Defensive End
Disruptive is the word that comes up most when Miami coaches describe their rookie defensive end. An insult unless you’re a defensive lineman.
He shows good punch at the line-of-attack and has become a juggernaut on special teams. Jeff Ireland appears to have struck gold with this third round pick out of Miami.
Most Improved – Reshad Jones, Safety
The most consistent playmaker for a struggling unit. Showing tremendous versatility, he has become an instinctual player in run support and a blitzing weapon off the edge.
To take his game to that next level he needs to do a better job of eliminating the deep ball, with his presence injecting fear into a quarterback wanting to chuck it deep down the middle.
Most Impressive Unit – Defensive Line
They need a consistent pass rusher opposite of Wake, but the front line has been sensational in stopping the run. They’ve done a fine job making opposing offenses one dimensional. If only their secondary took more advantage of the opportunity.
Unit Needing Improvement – Secondary
The secondary has been bulldozed through the first half, allowing 298 yards (30th) a game through the air. Some of this can be attributed to the opposing offense’s inability to run the ball (3.6 YPC ranks 3rd), but the secondary consistently gives up the big play.
Sean Smith is a star one game and mud the next. For a guy in a contract year, he needs to step it up on a weekly basis.
Coach Joe Philbin’s First 8
Many so called experts said this team would win four games. The Philbin led Dolphins have matched that with eight to play.
Throw in two overtime losses and a third heartbreaking defeat in Indy last week and this squad isn’t far from a 6-2 start as a playoff front runner. Young players have shown development – especially in rookies Vernon and Tannehill – and the team is unquestionably playing with more confidence this season.
Chalk up an A-minus for the first year coach thus far.
Jeff Ireland’s Status
Enemy number one for the ever opinionated South Florida fan base before the season. Whether that’s changed despite the solid start is uncertain.
What cannot be argued, however, is Ireland appears to have hit on the ever elusive franchise quarterback and that will buy the man some time.
Is Jared Odrick playing like a first round pick? Nope. Does his third round pick in Egnew look good? His zero snap total this year indicates the obvious. All that said, he may not be as bad a General Manager as many once thought. Next up on the agenda: Finding Tanny some more weapons in the passing game and another playmaker in the secondary.
Second Half Outlook
Get in the playoffs. Who cares if it’s at 8-8 or 10-6, just get in. That has to be the only goal for this franchise at this point after a five year sabbatical in the land of NFL Irrelevance.