The Miami Dolphins are at the midpoint of their season. As their 4-4 record indicates, there has been some good and some bad in Miami.
Will the Dolphins thrive in the second half of the season and make a playoff push? If Miami wants to play football beyond December, the team must address these five midseason questions.
1. Will the pass protection improve?
Analysis: If there has been one consistent aspect with Miami, it’s that the pass protection has been inconsistent. The Dolphins have allowed 35 sacks of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami is allowing more than four sacks per game. That number must change if the Dolphins want to win more games in the second half. The acquisition of left tackle Bryant McKinnie has paid dividends. He is improving each week as he learns the offense, especially in pass protection.
2. Is the running game here to stay?
Analysis: One way to help poor pass protection is by effectively running the football. The Dolphins proved the past two weeks that they are capable of running the ball as long as they stick to it. Miami recorded 313 rushing yards against the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals. Lamar Miller also is gaining stream. He recorded his first career 100-yard game against the Bengals and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry in the past three games. Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman wants a pass-first offense. But sometimes you have to coach to your personnel. Miami’s offensive line is much better at run blocking than pass blocking.
3. Do the Dolphins have enough leadership?
Analysis: There is no questioning Miami’s talent. The team spent more than $200 million in free-agent contracts and has impressive wins over the Indianapolis Colts and Bengals, who are both expected to make the playoffs. But do the Dolphins have enough leadership in their locker room to stay together and make a playoff run? Miami has issues on the field and within their locker room, particularly with the situation involving starting right tackle Jonathan Martin. He left the team last week due to a lunchroom incident, and there has been reports of bullying and harassment within the locker room. The good teams stay together. The Dolphins say they take these allegations very seriously and need to move past this in order to make a playoff push.
4. Can Tannehill develop consistency?
Analysis: No player has mirrored Miami’s rollercoaster season more than Tannehill. Just as the team has been up and down, so has Tannehill. He went through an ugly stretch during Miami’s losing streak where Tannehill had 10 turnovers -- seven interceptions, three lost fumbles -- in four games. Tannehill had somewhat of a bounce-back performance against Cincinnati where he was 20-of-28 for 208 yards. The Dolphins had a more conservative game plan where they ran the ball 30 times and passed just 28. Miami needs the Tannehill of the first three games. He was climbing into the MVP conversation during the Dolphins’ 3-0 start before hitting a wall.
5. Can the defense stay healthy?
Analysis: Up until Thursday's win over the Bengals, the Dolphins' defense has mostly underachieved. The Dolphins have some depth and dynamic players on that side of the football. Defense is clearly the strength of the team. Yet, Miami’s defense didn’t make enough big plays in the first half of the season, and that’s led to a .500 record. Health has been a major reason. Playmakers such as Cameron Wake and Dimitri Patterson have been banged-up in the first two months. The Dolphins need all of their good players to play to their potential.