NASHVILLE, Tenn. – After tough losses in back-to-back weeks, the Titans will be looking to get back on track Sunday at Nissan Stadium against the Miami Dolphins.
Like the Titans (1-3), the Dolphins (1-3) are in a three-game losing streak. The Dolphins have dealt with plenty of changes since they last played in London on October 4. The team fired Joe Philbin after a 27-14 loss to the Jets there, and replaced him with interim coach Dan Campbell.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the team's all-time series against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
This week I caught up with Armando Salguero, who covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald. He's a Hall of Fame voter. You can follow Salguero on Twitter at @ArmandoSalguero.
Wyatt: What were your expectations for the Dolphins heading into the season? Are you surprised things went so sour, so fast?
Salguero: Well, I wasn't surprised things got ugly so fast, simply because when you lose 3 out of 4 in what is supposed to be the "easy" part of your schedule, and when you lose to quarterbacks Blake Bortles (Jaguars) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (Jets), that is not good. And, you are losing at a time when everyone's expectations are the highest. Early in the season there was so much talk about the Dolphins going out and getting Ndamukong Suh, and how they re-signed their so-called stars and added other so-called stars, and they got receiver DaVante Parker in the first round and he looked really good in the offseason. All that happened, and the expectations weren't necessarily to win a Super Bowl or to win the division, but the expectations were this team would compete to get in the playoffs. And that is straight from the coach. In his first team meeting, Joe Philbin talked about winning championships. Unfortunately, he didn't make it past four weeks. So in that regard, bad stuff happening with the Dolphins happened at the wrong time. When expectations were at their highest, performance was at its lowest.
Wyatt: You don't see a lot of coaching changes after Week 4. Why did the Dolphins decide to make the move so early?
Salguero: If you ask some people, Philbin was removed a year-and-a-half too late. Remember, the 2013 season there was the harassment scandal here (involving Richie Incognito), and despite what was a national story and an embarrassing national story, they were still 8 and 6 with two games to play and if they had won either one of those games they would have made the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But they lost both games, one against Geno Smith not long after they had clobbered Geno Smith and the Jets in New York a month earlier. So here we are in the season finale and they get clocked and they didn't even compete. Well, fast forward to the end of 2014 and in the month of December they are 1 and 3 with the playoffs on the line. It was one of those things where they continually regressed. Then at the start of this season we're seeing the same thing. It's the same team despite all the offseason spending. Right now this team is being outscored 37-3 in the first quarter, and in every game they've played the opponent has scored on their first possession. What you have is a team that is basically the same team as last year, showing no improvement and not getting any better. And that was the reason Joe Philbin got fired.
Wyatt: What kind of immediate changes have you seen from Campbell? What can he do to turn things around?
Salguero: I can only tell you what he's said at this point, and most of what he is saying is about practice attitude and bringing a nastiness to the team, and a competitiveness to the team. And all of that is taking place behind closed doors to the team. We haven't seen that yet. The Titans game will be the first where we see if it's just talk, or in fact they are a nastier, more physical, more aggressive team that plays with more urgency. So that is what they are promising. There are not going to be a lot of changes in the scheme. They promised some tweaks. And they didn't just fire Joe Philbin, they fired the defensive coordinator as well after he had four years of systematic regression on the defense. But they are still running the 4-3, and it still pretty much going to be the same system, it's just a different person making the play calls now and setting up the game plan. Offensively, it is going to be the same thing, except that Al Saunders is now in the fold as an assistant coach/consultant. So we'll have to see what he brings to the table, and how that translates on the field. But my sense is if you think you know the Miami Dolphins and you've seen them play before, you are going to see the same system. It is just going to be about attitude.
Wyatt: It sounds like it's been a heck of a struggle for the Dolphins so far. I noticed the team has been outscored 101-65 in the four games. What's the biggest problem with the Dolphins?
Salguero: Really, there is not one area of this team – maybe special teams – where they haven't had issues. The one game they've won (vs. Washington) was because of a 65-yard punt return/touchdown by Jarvis Landry. But outside of that, outside of the special teams, name it, and they've had problems at it. They are not good on third down defense, they are not good on third down offense, and they can't run the ball all that well. They are kind of a dink and dunk offense with (quarterback Ryan Tannehill), there's no real deep play threat that we've seen so far…They also have a lot of guys dealing with injuries. Everything that they are doing is not working out so far.
Wyatt: The Dolphins spent a heck of a lot of money on defensive lineman Ndamakong Suh. He signed a six-year, $114 million deal this offseason. How has he played so far?
Salguero: Suh is a good player, and there is no doubt about that. But they didn't spend "good player" money on Ndamukong Suh. They spent star money on Ndamukomg Suh, and difference maker money on Ndamukong Suh, and he doesn't have a sack yet. He doesn't have a signature play yet. His signature play so far this season is when Jets running back Chris Ivory ran over him, on national television, in England, so it was on international television. And that is not what you want from Ndamukong Suh. You want J.J. Watt-ish type production. You want strip sacks, you want 3rd and 1, goal line, heroic type stops. You want difference-maker, game-changing type plays for $19 million per year, and that hasn't come yet.
Wyatt: Last thing: So what should the Titans expect from the Dolphins? Will they see some extra fight from Miami at Nissan Stadium on Sunday? And how will this season play out for the Dolphins in the final 12 games?
Salguero:* *Look, if the Dolphins don't come out with a sense of urgency and fight, and motivation in this game, they never, ever will. They're coming off a bye week, and they are coming off a bye week when their head coach and defensive coordinator got fired. They are coming off a bye week having lost three in a row. How much more motivation do they need? How much more of a wake-up call do they need? And with all due respect to the Tennessee Titans, they are not exactly world beaters at home. So why not this game? If not this game, forget it for this team, for this season. They still believe that they can salvage the season. I don't know whether they can or they can't, but they believe they can. And if they are going to do that, they'd better get started immediately, in Tennessee.