Behind Enemy Lines: An Inside Look at the Dolphins


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans face the Dolphins on Sunday in Miami.

The Titans are coming off a 57-14 loss to the Texans, and they're now 2-2.

The Dolphins are 1-2, and coming off a 20-0 loss to the Saints.

This week, I caught up with Armando Salguero, who covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald. You can follow Armando on Twitter @ArmandoSalguero, and join over 61,000 others.

Here's how our conversation went…

Wyatt: Hey Armando. I appreciate you taking the time. Well, I'm thinking the Dolphins must be a pretty jet-lagged team at this point. After the season opener was postponed because of Hurricane Irma, the team traveled to Los Angeles to face the Chargers, then to New York to play the Jets. This weekend's game was in London against the Saints. The Dolphins have had a pretty tough road, huh?

Salguero: Well, I wouldn't know if the team is tired, per se, because they have been treated pretty well. You have to first consider these guys are a lot of 20-somethings, some 30-somethings, and they have the best of the best. They flew to London first class, most of them, in pods. The jets had little pods where each person could sleep. And they didn't want for food or beverages, and they're staying in first-class hotels. So it's not like they had to board a rickety old boat and sail across the Atlantic Ocean. And it's not like when they went to L.A., they did it in a covered wagon. So they are staying in nice hotels, they are getting there in the latest in travel, and they are doing it with a lot of sports science people that are looking out for them. So it is easy to blame their 1-2 start on them being jostled around a little bit, but let's face it: The Dolphins are 1-2 not because they were jostled around, they are 1-2 because their offense is bad.

Wyatt: Well Armando, since you're not traveling with the team, how are you holding up?

Salguero: Thanks for asking. I will say this: I didn't travel in a pod, but I also didn't go in a covered wagon either. But I do have a cold, I know that for sure. And I haven't gotten enough sleep.

Wyatt: Well, let's keep rolling here so you can get a nap. You mentioned the "offense is bad." I know the team was shut out against the Saints, and the Dolphins haven't scored a touchdown in two games. So what's the problem on O?

Salguero: Everything. First off, the offensive line is not physical enough, they don't hold their blocks long enough, and their technique isn't good enough. Jay Ajayi is not the problem. He is still gaining yards after contact. The problem is sometimes the contact becomes three yards behind the line of scrimmage, or at the line of scrimmage. It is rare that he gets in the second level without being touched. In fact, that doesn't happen. So while he is not the problem, neither can he be the solution. Because in order to be a good running game, you need more than just the running back who breaks tackles, so that is that. The passing game, they don't really threaten you with the deep ball much because they don't trust that they can hold the ball long enough in the pocket to wait for a pattern to develop. They had only one 20-plus yard throw in the game last week, and this in a game where they were getting blown out, so they were throwing the ball a lot. I've called it three yards and a cloud of dust passing game. It is a lot of bubble screens, a lot of short crossing routes, it's a lot of check downs, it's a lot of short slants – that's the Dolphins passing game. And the receivers don't always run the right patterns. And sometimes the quarterback doesn't read it as expected, and sometimes he doesn't throw a good ball. Sometimes he doesn't have enough time. So you put all those things together and you have an offense that has scored six points in eight quarters.

Wyatt: We haven't mentioned Jay Cutler's name yet. How has he been as Miami's quarterback, and how much is on him?

Salguero: The issue with Cutler, and what I expected was, is he's been who he has been for the better part of his career: He's an up and down player who is streaky. When he is really good, he's really good and when he's really bad, he's really bad. The thing about it is he hasn't really been either of those things exactly. He's just been kind of mediocre. He had a bad game this week, but I think he was something like 20-of-28. Now of course it wasn't for a lot of yards because they don't throw it down the field. The point is his accuracy is not off, he is not throwing tons of interceptions, it's just that it is not efficient, it is not productive. It is just offense for the sake of offense, instead of offense for the sake of moving the ball. Cutler is not what I would say is the most pressing problem – the offensive line is not the most pressing problem. There have been people calling for his benching, and that is not the right move.

Wyatt: How has Cutler's attitude been? He has a reputation for being a little surly at times.

Salguero: He hasn't been surly, but let's be real here: We don't know how these guys are with each other behind closed locker room doors. We are gauging based off of what people say, and off of what we see, which is very limited. I don't think Cutler has a problem within the locker room. Now obviously we are three games in. Now if we are talking 10 games in, and the Dolphins have won three or four, then he is going to have a problem, because Matt Moore is on the team and last year he was 2-1 as a starter and had another game where he took over for Ryan Tannehill, who had started the game, and he finished with a couple of touchdown passes to win that one. So there will be people looking sideways at Jay Cutler if this team doesn't start to win games. But it is too early for that.

Wyatt: So I'm hearing a lot of doom and gloom. What has gone well with the Dolphins so far? Give me some bright spots.

Salguero: *OK. The Chargers field goal kicker missed a field goal. If he doesn't miss that 44-yard field goal as time expired, the Dolphins would be winless right now. Also, the hurricane didn't hit them, so that's good luck. So their luck is good. I will say the defense has been OK, and the run defense that was atrocious last year has been way better this team, in the top 10. Linebacker Kiko Alonso is playing well, (DT) Ndamukong Suh is playing well. … But this is a defense that is not getting complimentary football from its offense. So they hold the opponent, they hold the opponent, and there's a field goal here, a field goal here, and then they give up a touchdown and the game is over.  *

Wyatt: Last thing here. The Titans won at Miami last year, and that dropped the Dolphins to 1-4. Then the Dolphins won six games in row, and nine of 10 games to make the playoffs. So is there reason to believe this Miami team is capable of doing the same thing?

Salguero: That's what they are hoping. It was a great turnaround last year, but the thing is, things happened to cause that turnaround. Suddenly they discovered Jay Ajayi, and they put the offense on him and asked Ryan Tannehill not to win the game, but to manage the game. The defense was improved for a while until injuries decimated them, and they had a much easier schedule. This year the schedule is tougher – they go to Atlanta after this game against the Titans. They got to Baltimore, and suddenly Buffalo is OK. This team hasn't even faced Tom Brady and the Patriots yet. So they have a tougher road to climb to do the same thing they did last year. And, there were reasons why things weren't working for them early in the year that you can't expect this year. Last year, everything was new – the offense was new, the defense was new, the players and coaches were new. Now, you pretty much the same roster, and they are still making the same mistakes. So I don't know they can do what they did last year again, because there are some things that suggest the problems are more deeply rooted. This is a big game for them, a circle the wagons game. It's the first home game, they've had to travel all over the place to play three games, nobody believes in them, everyone says to bench Jay Cutler, yada, yada, yada. They think everyone is after them. So I am sure they are going to take the "Us Against Everybody" attitude. looks back at the team's all-time series against the Miami Dolphins. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)

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