With a downer in Cleveland now in our rearview mirror, with a pretty good Eagles team coming to town this Sunday and with five games left to continue to decipher what this team is all about, we offer our Tuesday morning dose of perspective:
I still can’t get over the Ryan Fitzpatrick press conference after Sunday’s loss to the Browns. The words he spoke. The class he exuded. The inner picture he provided of his character, his motivation and the importance of this game in his life as he turned 37 years old. I understand so much about this team is the future. But perhaps we need to spend an extra moment and enjoy the present and the impact Fitzpatrick has had on his teammates and, for that matter, the entire organization. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for one against the Browns. But it was more than that. We saw a kid emerge after each score, waving his arms, racing down the field, that ear-to-ear smile almost exploding through his helmet.
“I’ve got two boys at home that watch everything I do,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just want them to enjoy watching me play. I want to show them every single play, whether we’re up by 28 or down by 28, I’m going to give everything I have. And I’m hoping that rubs off on them a little bit whether it’s football or life.”
Savor the time we have with Fitzpatrick in South Florida however long that is. He represents so much that is right about this sport, so many things you want to see in a player from an inspiring teammate to a relentless competitor to the type of leader that can be so important to a young team like this one. Sunday’s performance once again reminded us of that and, in truth, his words afterward only underlined everything we already knew. This man is special.
- On a more sobering matter, both Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson went down with injuries against the Browns, Grant suffering an ankle injury after a first-half kick return and Wilson a rib injury in the second half. Their status moving forward won’t be known until later in the week, but it’s a shame in both cases because they were finally getting healthy after long rehabs from injuries sustained last season.
- The Dolphins started their eighth different offensive line combination in 11 games Sunday with rookie Shaq Calhoun getting the nod over Evan Boehm at right guard. For Calhoun, an undrafted rookie who shared first team status for much of the preseason, it was another chance to prove he deserves long-term consideration. Got a feeling the experimenting will continue over the final five games.
- Say this about Coach Brian Flores, he is bold and creative in his in-game decision-making. A week ago it was a surprise onside kick. Sunday it was a fake punt. It’s pretty clear by now he’s willing to empty the playbook to get this offense going and prolong possessions.
- Speaking of Flores, he held his weekly day after press conference on Monday and the theme for much of what he said revolved around starting faster. “More than the run game, we need to move the ball more consistently especially earlier in the game,” he said. “We need play better on defense, better overall. We just didn’t play well as a team.” And with that, it was back to work for Flores, trying to correct the mistakes, searching for answers and always focusing on the now. See with Flores, the future means today, this practice and this week’s game. There is no looking down the road or projecting what might happen. This, in part, is what makes him so right for this challenge.
- I know tight end Mike Gesicki must have felt like a huge anvil was lifted off his shoulders when he scored the first touchdown of his young career Sunday on an 11-yard catch in the second half. It took him five games short of two seasons to get that touchdown, but what I see in Gesicki is a player who has improved as the season has progressed and is showing undeniable signs of becoming a reliable, stretch-the-field option. “Let’s hope,” said Fitzpatrick of Gesicki’s touchdown, “that it’s the first of many.” I’ll second that motion.
- The running game remains an issue, but we did see some positives from rookie backs Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin against the Browns. Laird, in particular, had a nice 13-yard run, which was the longest of the day for any Dolphins’ player not named Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had a 17-yard run and led the team in rushing.
- Wide receiver DeVante Parker continues to be among the most consistently productive players on this team, catching six passes against the Browns for 91 yards, the sixth time in 11 games he led the team in receiving. Barring injury, this will be the best year of Parker’s career and when you look at the most valuable players on this team, his name deserves to be near the top of the list. My, how far he has come.
- Good to see rookie linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel getting his first action of the season against the Browns and he made his presence felt in a hurry with a nice tackle on a kickoff return. Van Ginkel is one of those players you want to really focus on over the final five games because he has an excellent chance of being a keeper. I expect him to get more snaps with the defense, certainly in passing situations, this Sunday against the Eagles.
- Anybody notice how well starting defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux are working together? Both had career highs in tackles against the Browns, Godchaux with seven and Wilkins with six. I like the growth I’m seeing from both players.
- Signed in mid-October after being released by the Eagles, cornerback Ryan Lewis gets to go up against his old team this Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, an angle I’m sure will be re-visited as this week progresses. Lewis had the first interception of his career against the Browns and is one of many young defensive backs on this roster trying to convince this coaching staff they deserve to stick around.
- On to the Eagles and don’t be misled by their 5-6 record. They are coming off a pair of close losses to the Patriots and Seahawks, two of the best teams in the league, and their defense is playing at an elite level.