The Miami Dolphins started the season started off with high expectations and dreams of the playoffs as they won in ugly fashion in DC in Week One. Even though the win was not visually appealing to watch, there were some that expected the Dolphins to build on the win. Well, after going 1-0, the Dolphins dropped three in a row under then-head coach Joe Philbin. After the dreadful 1-3 start and being outscored 91-48, the Dolphins parted ways with coach Philbin and named tight ends coach Dave Campbell interim head coach. The former NFL tight end stepped right in during a bye week and inherited a team that was not playing well and that also seemed to have lost some of its fight. Immediately when he came in, he stopped practice and broke out the Oklahoma drill. Now for those that don’t know what that is, it is a physical drill that some feel is crazy to even do in games because of its physical nature and potential exposure to head trauma. Well, something about the switch of coaches and the physical tone has changed the Dolphins. They have won two in a row and have outscored their opponents 82-36. It seems like a rhythm has been found and the team is starting to get back on track. But what have been the keys to this one on both sides of the ball?
The Dolphins offense before the season was going to be built around quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The young quarterback from Texas A&M signed a very lucrative deal and the Dolphins were willing to put the offense on his shoulders. Well, it did not work under Philbin’s regime and Tannehill totaled seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Ever since Campbell has taken over, the interceptions have gone down but the touchdowns have remained at a consistent level. He has even back-to-back season-high QBR numbers. Tannehill has thrown six touchdowns to only two interceptions. One thing that is noticeable about him is he has shown improvement in his decision-making. He seems to be trusting his eyes more. Once a quarterback starts to trust what he sees, then the offense can run smoother and the ball gets out quicker, as shown in the last two weeks. Another big deal is the Dolphins passing game has been shortened up. That makes it easy for Tannehill to ease into the game instead of having to throw complicated routes all game long. It should be interesting to see if he can keep himself along this path the Dolphins laid out for him should he decide to take on some additional experience.
Tannehill has been impressive under Campbell, but so has Lamar Miller. In Weeks 1-4, the 4th year player out of the University of Miami totaled 131 yards. But in the last two weeks, Miller has run for 306 yards total. That type of production is something that many were not sure would happen for Miller, especially after the first four games. But just like Tannehill, he has turned it around. Miller just seemed to be not as aggressive to start the season. He would not hit the holes with any explosion as much as he is capable of. Fast forward to the last two weeks and Miller has been pressing the line of scrimmage. The explosion seems to be there and he is hitting the holes with reckless abandon. Miller’s play can also be attributed to the play of the offensive line as well. They are giving him holes and he is making the most of them. And with Miller making the most of his opportunities, the team is finding balance they never had with Tannehill and Miller. The more balance can come into play from Tannehill and Miller, the better the offense for the Dolphins will be.
But the changes have not just been seen offensively, but on defense as well. The Dolphins were thought to be a team that would get after the quarterback. But after the first three weeks, the Dolphins were one of the worst teams in getting sacks. With the insertion of Campbell as the coach and a more physical style being assumed, the defense morphed into what it has become now. The Dolphins have now become a team that brings constant pressure. They have collected 10 sacks in the last two games, led by defensive end Cameron Wake. The veteran defensive end did not have any sacks heading into Week Five. Well after two weeks, Wake has really upped the ante. He has six sacks in the last two games and looks like the dominant pass rusher everyone expected him to be this year. Previous to these last two games, it seemed as if the Dolphins were just not finding a way to get it done. When in all actuality, the front four were capable of making things happen, but they just did not. With the pressure picking up from the Dolphins, offenses could find the pressure suffocating. And if that is the case, then turnovers are sure to follow. Or better yet, getting a turnover and scoring off them could happen too.
Speaking of turnovers, the Dolphins are coming up big in the last two weeks scoring. Through Week Four, the Dolphins did not have a defensive touchdown. But with the change came some big plays from Reshad Jones. The Dolphins’ safety has been a ball hawk the last two games, returning two interceptions for touchdowns. Those two touchdowns represent the dynamic that is changing for Miami. No longer will they settle for an interception. But they will try and turn the interception or fumble that could happen into a touchdown. And for a team that had trouble scoring before the head coaching change, an opportunistic defense is welcomed. The more aggressive approach is evident in the chances players are taken to make things happen. Now it may not always lead to a score, but it will lead to great field position for an offense that is kicking on all cylinders right now.
Dan Campbell has the Dolphins looking better than they to start the year and now they have the challenge of facing the New England Patriots this weekend. In the past, the Dolphins may have wilted under the pressure of playing New England. But with the way they are currently playing, they could come out and surprise some people. The Dan Campbell era is an instant success so far, but this weekend’s game will go a long way towards seeing if the Dolphins are for real.