NFL Wire News

Dolphins grasping at answers for late-season fade


DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins ended their 2014 season with a disappointing 8-8 record. Again.

The Dolphins also lost to their season finale to the New York Jets. Again.

And Joe Philbin will be back as coach. Again.

Yes, it’s beginning to seem like the movie “Groundhog Day” for Dolphins fans. They’re mired in mediocrity, having missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and the 12th time in the last 13 years.

The Dolphins haven’t had a winning record since 2008.

“The fact that we could have had our first winning season since 2008, didn’t do it,” guard Mike Pouncey said, “I’m just disappointed right now.”

Miami is 23-25 in the last three years under the guidance of Philbin and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Worse, after starting 5-3 this season, Miami finished 3-5.

The big problem with the Dolphins this season was they struggled to defeat good teams. Miami was 1-5 against playoff teams, and 3-6 against teams that finished with a winning record.

Losses to Detroit, Denver, Baltimore and New England – all playoff teams — were costly in the second half of the season.

Everyone agrees changes need to be made, but it’s a mystery what exactly needs to be changed.

Philbin and Tannehill will be back. So will offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami finished 14th in total offense and 11th in points per game (24.3). Both are improvements.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, however, could become a casualty. His unit allowed 193 points (32.2 points per game) in the last six games. The defense finished 12th overall and 20th in points per game (23.3) – middle of the pack but far from elite.

By season’s end it was a reverse of the early-season trend. Instead of the defense, which had two Pro Bowl selections, leading the way, the offense, which had no Pro Bowl selections, was the driving force.

Offensively, Tannehill (4,045 yards passing, 27 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) showed improvement, running back Lamar Miller (1,099 yards rushing) was solid and rookie wide receiver Jarvis Landry (84 receptions, 758 yards, five touchdowns) was reliable.

But there are major questions.

Tight end Charles Clay is eligible to become a free agent, wide receivers Brandon Gibson ($4.2 million against the salary cap) and Brian Hartline ($7.3 million against the cap) could be cap casualties. And wide receiver Mike Wallace ($12.1 million), who was benched in the second half of the season finale, might be viewed as a malcontent and traded or released.

Defensively, tackles Jared Odrick and safety Jimmy Wilson are eligible for free agency. Defensive tackle Randy Starks ($6 million) could be a cap casualty.

It wasn’t a good season for the Dolphins. In fact, “disappointing” was a word commonly used by players to describe 2014.

“It wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be,” linebacker Koa Misi said. “Towards the end of the year, we started giving up a lot of runs and big plays on defense – something that we didn’t want to do. We just got to get better next year.”

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