What is there to say about the Miami Dolphins? For years they’ve bounced around the 8-8 mark in obscurity, with an occasional forgettable down year and a less-occasional but equally-forgettable wild card loss. Who are their stars? Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, and Dan Marino, right?
Seriously, looking through their roster, the only names that stand out are Reshad Jones, late-2017 breakout corner back Xavien Howard, rookie safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, and...I’d say Cameron Wake but he’s about old enough to start needing screening colonoscopies. Their offensive stars? According to my Madden 19 franchise mode, their top two offensive players are injured Bears-castoff Josh Sitton, and Patriots leftover Danny Amendola.
I’m not sure what to think of when the Dolphins are mentioned. Maybe a history of overspending on free agents? I’d say having a pool in their stadium, but I’m not sure if that’s a different Florida team or all of the Florida teams.
Analysts will tell you time and again that a team needs an identity. They will suggest to you that a team cannot succeed without one, and perhaps they aren’t even worth discussing without one. I’ve always been suspicious that it’s not the teams that need identities, it’s the analysts that need the teams to have identities. It’s much harder to whip up a steaming hot take on a team without a handy identity to latch onto, and it’s much harder to predict how a game is going to go when a team is inconsistent in its strengths and strategies.
The latter, I believe, is actually a competitive advantage. I also believe the Dolphins are a perfect demonstration of that. Adam Gase has his weaknesses as a coach, but he’s been one of the more flexible and versatile game-planners since taking over as the ‘Phins head coach, and I’m not going out on a limb to say they’ve outperformed their below-average roster.
Their 2018 roster shows an adequate amount of depth but only a couple off-and-on difference-makers at the top. They started their season 3 and 0, lost to angry Patriots at home, then dominated an underrated Bengals team for three quarters before shooting themselves in multiple fins in the 4th. That’s better than their roster would suggest.
Since it’s easiest to quantify, let’s take a look at the offensive strategy of their three wins at its simplest level—the run pass ratio. In week one against the Titans—a team who ranks 5th in total passing defense and 26th in rushing—the Dolphins tossed the rock a relatively low 49% of plays. Against a Jets team loaded in the secondary and weak at linebacker, the Dolphins passed a radically-low 42.6% of the time. The next week against the Raiders, a team with an all-around bad defense, but a particularly dilapidated secondary and no pass rush to speak of (that coach still can’t seem to figure out why) the Dolphins passed on a whopping 63.2% of plays.
Perhaps the Dolphins do have an identity? Perhaps rag-tag crew of versatile job-doers who aren’t afraid to mold themselves to the task at hand is their identity. If that’s the case, you could do worse. You could be, like, the team with Aaron Rodgers and a bunch of scrubs named after a boring task.
Now that I think of it, the Dolphins identity doesn’t seem too different from the Patriots if you remove the elite talent. Perhaps two games a year is starting to rub off on them.
What does that mean we’ll see from the Dolphin’s against the Bears? It’s hard to say how to play for a team that’s 1st against the run and 2nd against the pass. My guess is they desperately try to get the ball out quick and hope for one Biscuit back after week Four’s hundred-biscuits forward.