The Miami Dolphins have a lot of work to do.
They sit at 1-4, knowing full well that without the cooperation of Browns kicker Cody Parkey a few weeks back, they would still be seeking their first win. The Dolphins nearly pulled off a huge upset in Week 1 in Seattle, but moral victories don't count -- especially not to rookie head coach Adam Gase, one not prone to BS. The search to find young core players who are worthy of being in Miami for the long haul is underway, with the Dolphins reshuffling a woeful offensive line this week and trying to find anyone on the roster who can cover a receiver. The recent personnel moves of top football official Mike Tannenbaum are once again under deep scrutiny and the results have not been good.
Gase remains devout in his support of quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but the passer has become a lightning rod for the fan base since being selected in the first round in 2012 and then granted with a contract extension before the 2015 season. Tannenbaum's acquisition of linebacker Kiko Alonso and already-demoted corner Byron Maxwell while trading down in the first round has produced little early dividends. Said one scout to me on Alonso: "Why is this guy considered a name player? He's not good." There's also first-round pick Laremy Tunsil, who slipped in the shower and could not play Sunday as the Dolphins got spanked, at home, by the Titans.
This just might be rock bottom for the Dolphins. Then again, this is the franchise that fired its coach last October and went about systematically disposing coordinators and various scapegoats for the duration of the season. So you never know. Bottom line is Gase was always going to need a substantial amount of time to stabilize this team and then turn it around. That's more clear than ever.
If he believes he can cull quality play out of Tannehill, then I give him the benefit of the doubt as he has been a quarterback whisperer beyond reproach. Regardless, this mess ain't on his hands. He inherited a team with a wealth of resources devoted to the defensive line that was built to have that anchor the team, but Miami's defense has issues, too.
Despite the presence of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the highest-paid defensive player in the history of the NFL at the time of his signing in 2015, the unit lacks bite, playmakers and impact to this point. The Dolphins are tied for 27th in the league in opposing passer rating (101.5), while not exactly facing a litany of elite quarterbacks outside of Russell Wilson in Week 1. The Dolphins lost to Jimmy Garoppolo/Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota -- and, as mentioned above -- could have easily lost to Cody Kessler. The pass rush has been average after allowing young edge rusher Olivier Vernon to leave as a free agent and signing aging Mario Williams to try to compensate. Only the Browns and Raiders have allowed more plays over 20 yards.
It's a similar situation to their AFC East rival, the Jets, when you think about it. Both teams are 1-4 with two of the three worst scoring margins in the conference (only the winless Browns, at -66, are worse). The Dolphins and Jets have suffered from too many turnovers from their quarterbacks (Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied for most in the NFL with 10; Tannehill is third with nine), and their defenses are mirror images in many ways. They don't get the requisite pass rush off the edge and the play of their defensive backs has been tragic at times. The Jets have allowed the highest opposing passer rating in the NFL and their issues with surrendering big plays are well documented.
"The Jets and Miami have a lot of the same problems," said one scout who has watched both closely. "All of the talent on their defense is on the defensive line, but the linebackers don't make many plays and they don't have any corners who can cover."
It's not getting any easier for the Dolphins anytime soon. The Dolphins host the Steelers and Bills before their bye, ending a three-game home stand. It may be a struggle to get fans in the seats in the second half of the season -- a common phenomenon for owner Stephen Ross -- and there could be more restructuring ahead in the front office yet again, as well. Fixing the roster is going to take time, and if Gase can't fix this quarterback then I'm not sure anyone can.