AC In The AM: This Team Starting To Come Together

With some time to absorb everything that transpired Sunday in upstate New York, and with the Dolphins having an extra day before playing the Steelers next Monday night, we offer our weekly dose of Tuesday morning perspective:

  • I feel better about the direction of this team right now than at any point in the season. I feel better because we’re starting to see young players consistently produce and because the coaching staff has rightfully decided to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, who appears to be the perfect mentor for a group of hungry, inexperienced players.
  • So much about what Fitzpatrick did on Sunday stands out. But what stands out most to me is his innate toughness, clearly evident by his ability to take off and run. I knew he could flat out heave it downfield. What I didn’t have a true grasp for was the moves and quickness that are so unbelievably rare for a soon to be 37-year-old. Did you see him on his 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, how he ran over a Bills’ defender at the goal line? How about his 12-yard scramble on a third-and-six play in the first half? “I have zero ego,” Fitzpatrick said afterward. “All I want to do is go out there and win. I want to bring an energy.” And nothing depicted that energy more than when he took off and ran.
  • Before I move on from Fitzpatrick, here’s one interesting stat I learned over the weekend: Counting these games with the Dolphins, he has now thrown a touchdown pass to 55 different receivers during his 15 seasons. That’s seventh most all time and the more you think about it, the more remarkable it becomes.
  • Coach Brian Flores stood before the media Monday afternoon, refusing to spend much time elaborating on the disappointments, instead focusing on the overall improvement shown against the Bills. I thought Flores’ answer was especially poignant when he was asked how he is personally dealing with this season. “I’ve dealt with a lot of adversity in my life,” Flores said. “I’ve been punched before. You just have to get up and keep going. I’m never going to make excuses. It’s about trying to get better every day.”
  • No one area of this team surprised me more Sunday than the offensive line. I had feared this could be a nightmare game for this patched up group against one of the top defensive fronts in the league. But instead, even with center Daniel Kilgore out, and even with starters Shaq Calhoun (illness) and tackle J’Marcus Webb (leg) missing time during the game, this line somehow persevered. Not only was Fitzpatrick never sacked, but running back Mark Walton averaged 4.7 yards on 14 carries and, except for a few holding penalties, the line played consistently well much of the day.
  • Speaking of Walton, what impressed me most was his ability to run inside, not exactly what you’d expect from a player standing 5-10 and built more for flat out speed. But this is a tenacious young man, who fights through tackles and doesn’t back down and it is clear his performance over the past two Sundays has earned him more starts and more carries. “We’ll keep giving it to him as long as the production is there,” Flores said.
  • As each week goes by, Albert Wilson is becoming more a part of this offense, an encouraging sign for perhaps the team’s most dynamic playmaker. His 22-yard catch over the middle was his longest of the season to date. Got a feeling that’s going to change real soon.
  • That’s three touchdowns in the last three games for DeVante Parker, a player who is finally healthy and consistently producing.
  • Parker and rookie Preston Williams give the Dolphins a pair of tall, physical starting receivers who each stepped up big against the Bills, the outstanding performance of Williams only tainted by a fourth quarter fumble. The two combined to catch 11 passes for 137 yards. The 34-yard, over-the-shoulder catch by Williams that set up the first touchdown was about as good as it gets. “The number one thing,” Williams said Monday, “is the game is starting to slow down for me.”
  • The story of cornerback Ryan Lewis in so many ways sums up what this season has been like. He was waived by the Eagles last Monday, practiced with the Dolphins on Wednesday and learned shortly before kickoff that he’d be starting for the injured Xavien Howard. This season is so much about identifying pieces for the future and unearthing young talent is a big part of that process. Team Opportunity clearly has its doors wide open.
  • We wondered before the season where the pass rush would come from and now we’re starting to get some answers. Through six games, the two top pass rushers have been linebacker Vince Biegel with two sacks and defensive end Taco Charlton with three. Both had a sack against the Bills and both have shown the type of long-term upside this team covets. Interestingly, neither was on this roster when the preseason games ended.
  • And now the Dolphins begin turning their thoughts to a Monday night game in Pittsburgh, a chance to build off what they did in Buffalo in another tough venue, this time under the national spotlight. Are the Dolphins ready for prime time? We’re about to find out.

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