The Dolphins went into the season with the clear intention of tanking, and they have done an admirable job of fulfilling that objective. The Redskins went into the season with the objective of making the playoffs, and have fallen backwards into contending with the Dolphins for the number 1 pick next year. So far this season, the Dolphins have been outscored 163 - 26, while the Redskins have been outscored 151 - 73. Keeping in mind that the Dolphins are coming off their bye week, they seem in better position for that number 1 pick, but I would never count the Redskins out of such a race.
I asked Kevin Nogle of The Phinsider five questions to better understand the state of the Dolphins and what to look for in this game.
1. After last season, the Dolphins demoted Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and promoted Chris Grier (former longtime Director of College Scouting) from within to oversee the building of the team (funny enough, I could envision a similar shuffle happening with the Redskins). What do Dolphins fans think of Chris Grier, his track record, and his tear-it-all-down method of rebuilding?
There are some fans who are worried that Miami is going through all of this pain and tear-down while still leaving someone who was involved in the previous editions of the team in charge of all of this. Grier carried the “General Manager” title under Tannenbaum, and he did have some power, but Tannenbaum and Adam Gase had more of the say than Grier. Now, it is all Grier, though he seems to be perfectly in sync with head coach Brian Flores, so the future of the team is squarely on him. I think he has the ability and the scouting background to make it work. Obviously, we will not know for a few years, but with all of the draft picks Miami has in 2020 and 2021, we will probably get a pretty quick read on exactly who Grier is as a true GM.
As for the tear-down, I think it was inevitable. Miami has spent and spent and spent over the past few years, with players like Ndamukong Suh highlighting the Dolphins’ band-aid mentality as they tried to win each year. The Dolphins are still accounting for $13.1 million against the salary cap from Suh, and he is on his second team after leaving the Dolphins. Miami got old and expensive, with little room to fix it without a tear down. It is painful, it has made the team have some ugly performances, but it is understandable at this point.
2. The other big organizational hire the Dolphins made was selecting Brian Flores (former LB coach of the Patriots) as the new head coach. What do Dolphins fans think of his hiring, and have you been able to evaluate him at all as a head coach so far? What have you learned about his coaching style since he joined the Dolphins?
Flores has been a solid hire thus far. He came into the team looking to make the team a more disciplined team and concentrating on conditioning. The team has been doing well with those aspects of the game, with penalties down this season compared to the Adam Gase era. There are still issues, and he is definitely not perfect yet. The Dolphins have not shown an ability to make adjustments during the game, so even when Miami is playing well in the first half of a game, they cannot keep it up in the second half when teams adjust to them. He seems to be a no-nonsense type of coach, pulling Christian Wilkins last week after an unnecessary roughness penalty for a suplex on a tackle, switching away from Kalen Ballage after dropped passes. He is making an imprint on the team, even if it is a team that is struggling to be competitive. I think Flores is going to be a fine head coach, he just needs time to prove it.
3. Redskins and Dolphins fans seem to be in a similar situation in that both of our teams have been mired in mediocrity or worse for quite a while, neither team has had a playoff win in over a decade, and both teams appear to be tanking this year (albeit, unintentionally for the Redskins). What kind of toll has this taken on the Dolphins fan base and what has it been like being a Dolphins fan over the last 20 years or so?
The past 20 years have been hard, mostly because every year it has seemed like Miami is poised to finally take that next step, then something crashes them back to Earth. Even when they made the playoffs under Tony Sparano and Adam Gase, it was exciting, then they got punched in the face and never recovered. Mediocrity makes it always seem like you are a piece or two away, only to then finish in that 6-10 to 9-7 range. Since 2000, Miami has finished in that range 12 times. Looking back, it is painful, but it definitely can sell you hope in the moment.
As for this year, with the Dolphins clearly looking toward the future rather than this season, the fans seem to fall into three distinct categories. You have a group who are angry and frustrated with the team and fans for being okay with losing, you have a middle group that want to see a competitive team but understands losses help the long-term goals for the team, and you have a group that wants 0-16 and hates any idea that could lead to anything except 0-16. It is a weird dynamic. At the end of the season, all any of us want is for the Dolphins to be in a better place in 2020 than they are in 2019. We are all just disagreeing on how they should do it. It makes some of the fan interactions on social media and in comments ugly, but that could be true even if the Dolphins were on the verge of an undefeated season - someone would complain that it damages the 1972 team’s legacy.
4. Who are some players on the Dolphins that you will be looking forward to watching in the upcoming game? Are you hoping for a win on Sunday, or would you prefer to maintain draft position?
Xavien Howard is always at the top of that list. He is an elite level cornerback that, despite a Pro Bowl last year, is not a known name because he plays in Miami. He struggled against the Cowboys, and part of that may just be it hit him how bad losing feels, and that they are going to do a lot of it this year. He bounced back some against the Chargers, so I would expect to see him looking more like a Pro Bowl cornerback than anything this week.
Josh Rosen is an obvious choice, because Miami has to figure out what they have in the quarterback. Taco Charlton has been a surprising pass rush option since Miami acquired him before Week 3, so it will be interesting to see if that continues. Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker appear to be a young nucleus at linebacker, so we will see if the college teammates continue to develop as a tandem moving forward. Preston Williams and DeVante Parker have both played well at wide receiver, though Williams has to get the drops under control, so we will see if they can help Rosen.
I would also like to see if Miami can find players like Charles Harris and Mike Gesicki, who could be impact players on the team, but are quickly disappearing each week.
I will always root for a Miami win. I will sit down, wearing my jersey, my hat, my shoes, and root for the team to win. I am in that group that wants to see them play well, but understands the losses are not a bad thing. During those 60 minutes, though, you better believe I am a fan wanting to see a win.
5. If you were head coach of the Redskins, how would you gameplan for the Dolphins matchup?
Come out of the locker room at half time.
Seriously, the Dolphins have yet to score in the second half of a game this season. If you show up in the second half, you probably have a leg up on the team.
In terms of actual game planning, prove that the Dolphins can stop the run. They will do it sometimes, but then they will leave a lane that leads to a huge play, or they will start cheating up and you can beat them over the top with the play action. It seems to have gotten better with Reshad Jones back at strong safety and playing up in the box, but if you spread out the team then run, you will probably have success. Also, use you running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Miami struggles there.
On defense, just attack. The Dolphins offensive line is likely on to their fifth different lineup as they prepare to play their fifth game of the year. Confuse them and attack them, and you should be able to get Josh Rosen running for his life. The Dolphins do not have a ground attack, so just assume they are going to throw the ball, and pass rush every time. If Drake or someone finally gets hot, make adjustments, but you can probably afford to give up the 51.8 yards per game Miami averages on the ground if you shut down the passing game by getting after Rosen.
Thanks again to Kevin Nogle for taking time out of his day to answer our questions about the Dolphins.
As of right now, Vegas has the Redskins as 3.5 point favorites over the Dolphins. How would you bet?
This poll is closed
Redskins win by more than 3 points
Redskins win by 3 points or less
Dolphins win outright
As of now, Vegas has the over/under for this game at 41.5 points. Which would you bet?
This poll is closed
More than 41 total points are scored (both sides combined)
41 or fewer total points are scored (both sides combined)
If you get to choose who wins, whom do you choose?
This poll is closed
Dolphins (preserve our tank)
Redskins (get our first win of the season)