With an oh-so-close one-point loss to the Washington Redskins still fresh in our minds, with back-to-back road games next on the schedule and with so many issues to address, we bring you our weekly dose of Tuesday morning perspective.
- First, the quarterback situation: Despite a poor performance against the Redskins, Josh Rosen will remain the starter this Sunday in Buffalo. Coach Brian Flores made that perfectly clear both in his Sunday and Monday press conferences. No doubt that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick outplayed Rosen against the Redskins. But this is a long journey, not a one week rest stop, and the commitment remains strong to see how Rosen evolves with more playing time. Yes, he has things he needs to clean up this week and it’s certainly comforting to have Fitzpatrick in reserve. But one bad day at the office isn’t going to change the current direction.
- You can’t hide from the record. The Dolphins are 0-5. That’s who they are at this precise moment. But the performance on Sunday, certainly in the fourth quarter, showed a side of this team we hadn’t seen before this season, a more promising side. How they build on that, beginning Sunday in Buffalo, will have everything to do with whatever success they enjoy moving forward.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins made several personnel decisions/lineup changes over the bye week and they quickly became evident in Sunday’s game. Let’s take a closer look:
- Mark Walton got the start at running back ahead of Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage and showed some promise, touching the ball a career-high 11 times and punctuating his afternoon with an 18-yard catch and run on a play that helped spark the fourth quarter comeback. He averaged 5.3 yards a carry. He averaged 8.6 yards on five receptions. Overall, a productive day and one that will likely mean more opportunities for the former fourth-round pick of the Bengals in the 2018 draft.
- Linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Vince Biegel both started their first games of the season and played reasonably well, McMillan leading the team with nine tackles and Biegel finishing with five tackles and two quarterback hits. Previous starters Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen also saw plenty of playing time. Where this goes from here is hard to predict, but McMillan and Biegel have certainly earned this additional playing time.
- Second-year tight end Mike Gesicki had his most prominent role in this offense on Sunday, targeted seven times and catching three passes for 51 yards. It was his 30-yard leaping catch late in the fourth quarter, maybe the most impressive catch of his young career, that clearly showed the upside of this player. How he went up so high. How he somehow held on to that ball. How he delivered in the clutch. The Dolphins need plenty more of this version of Gesicki moving forward.
- Wide receiver Albert Wilson saw his first action since the season opener after missing time with a calf injury and, while he only had marginal success — five catches for 15 yards — it was important to see perhaps the team’s most explosive playmaker back in the lineup. Got a feeling he’s going to play a much larger role in this offense, beginning Sunday in Buffalo.
- The offensive line had a new starting five for the fourth time in five games. This time it was J’Marcus Webb at left tackle, Michael Deiter at left guard, Daniel Kilgore at center, Evan Boehm at right guard and Jesse Davis at right tackle. The difference was Davis’ return from a banged up elbow. Kilgore left with an injury before the two-point conversion attempt. The hope as of Monday is that Kilgore’s injury is minor and that this new starting five can have an opportunity to develop some chemistry and cohesiveness. The five sacks of Rosen were problematic and must be addressed. “This is solely on us and we have to get better at that,” said Boehm.
- How about undrafted rookie cornerback Nik Needham out of UTEP? He is elevated from the practice squad in time for Sunday’s game and is then called upon to start with Xavien Howard out with knee soreness. Needham finished with a tackle and a forced fumble and you just know this was a day he’ll never forget.
- For the second time this season the Dolphins recovered an onside kick and for the second time this season it was negated by an offside penalty. Sooner or later they’re going to get this right because placekicker Jason Sanders is usually spot on with his onside kicks. “I spend a lot of time working on it,” Sanders recently told me.
- I’ve been asked quite a bit over the past 24 hours if I agree with the decision to go for the two-point conversion and a victory with six seconds left in the game, and I wholeheartedly do. The Redskins were reeling. The South Florida heat had taken its toll. Bottom line: The call was a good one; the execution wasn’t.
- Flores stood before the media Monday afternoon and the message was different than the ones he delivered after the first four games, different because of the manner in which they lost. “The type of loss really stings and they can linger,” Flores said. “The challenge I discussed with the team is to move on as quickly as possible.”
- Move on to this Sunday’s game against a Buffalo team that presents all sorts of difficult challenges, most notably these two: The Bills have one of the top all-around defenses in the league – ask Tom Brady about that – and one of the best running quarterbacks in Josh Allen. To come out of this one with a win, it will take just about an entire game of the Dolphins playing the way they did in that fourth quarter against the Redskins. Finding that consistency has to be the primary focus this week.