What Might Have Been; Fisher In Miami

Fisher StacheJeff Fisher was highly touted to be the next coach of the Miami Dolphins, but after a brief courtship, Fisher rejected the offer on the table and took the job in St. Louis, much to the dismay of many a Dolphin fan. We were left wondering who would take the helm of our beloved organization. Around the league we were being scorned, from tweets and remarks from players like Joey Porter, to the media and our own fanbase picketing outside the offices and hiring private propeller planes asking Stephen Ross to fire Ireland. It seemed like dark days indeed, until Joe Philbin emerged to take up the challenge of getting our team back on course and steering us in the way of respectability. So far he seems to be on the right track – I have not agreed with everything he has done, but then again I am not down at the practice facility every day keeping a watchful eye on everything like he is. It really does feel like a plan is starting to come together, so as we settle in for what will be a thrilling encounter, I am sure I can’t help but wonder which team got the better coach to move the franchise forward? Right now I am betting on Stephen Ross and his man Philbin.

This Sunday, the St. Louis Rams face off against the Miami Dolphins in Miami. Playing in front of a home crowd with growing expectations by the week, this game presents the Phins with a great opportunity to move to .500 on the season and put the AFC East very much back in contention heading into their bye week.

This is a real chance to get some momentum. We have looked every bit the part of a contender for most of the season but for a few sloppy mistakes where we turned the ball over. That, there has killed us, ending potentially great drives (something we have seen a bit of already this season), but worse, allowing our opposition to put points on the board and stick around in games where we were the better team for the majority of the game. But in any sport, it is never really about the team that played the best for most of the game, it is about the team who took their chances when they got them and made the most of them. The Dolphins have not. Until last week, that is. We saw the Dolphins force more turnovers than the Bengals, and what happened? We were able to win the game. Well done to a very great defensive effort here, especially you, Mr. Randy Starks. Great pressure throughout, and not only did you get your hands up on that pass but you managed to hang on to it – absolutely fantastic. Sean Smith is like a different player so far this season and Reshard Jones has stepped up big time, he was everywhere last week and his contribution in stuffing the run was inspired.

I could mention everyone’s effort last week, from the rest of the guys on defense to the guys on offense and special teams (overlooking of course that ugly punt recovery we allowed). It was a great performance; even Dan Carpenter came through. Now it’s time to do that every week, every play.

The Rams are a good team, but we are better. Their defense is a very capable unit, but our offense has shown that they have what it takes to get it done, and this team is no Houston. They have the 18th ranked defense against the run, bad news for them as they will be coming up against the 8th best rushing attack in the league. Make no mistake about it either, the Dolphins could be ranked higher still were Bush not injured. He participated fully in practice at the end of the week and is expected to play – the man has been in great form and, if healthy, will make a big contribution in the game. Expect Miller to be more involved this week as well as Thomas sitting this one out (along with Richard Marshall), as he is still nursing a concussion. I believe that Miller’s weakness in blocking is the only thing at this point that is preventing Philbin from elevating him above Thomas anyway, another decent showing with the opportunities he gets this week, and maybe that won’t even matter.

No one expected Brian Hartline to be as good as he has been. Hartline currently leads the league in receiving yards. Throughout the preseason, the big question was who were the stars on the Dolphins’ wide receiver corps, who was going to step up and deliver. The answer is Brian Hartline. Now, his numbers come mainly from two games, but that doesn’t matter – you have to make your opportunities count, and he has. If he continues in this fashion, two things happen: one, Ryan Tannehill continues to develop at the exponentially fast rate that he has been from the confidence gained by having a go-to guy, and two, come the draft with Hartline safely wrapped up with a new contract, the pressure is off to acquire a WR with a first round pick. Not to say that it doesn’t still happen, because we all know that another safe pair of hands out there is missing right now, but there are other areas of need that could be addressed – cornerback, for one. I love it when a guy like Hartline, a guy who no one expects to do great things, manages to rise above all the expectations and then shatter them. He has been a revelation, and I hope to see him keep it up.

In stark contrast to the Rams, the Dolphins field the toughest challenge for offenses when it comes to running the ball, allowing an average of just 61.4 yards a game. This, while matching up with some of the elite running backs in the league, is no small feat. I have respect for Steven Jackson, but he has not been at his best and I would be very surprised to see him do better than the likes of Arian Foster and Darren McFadden. Jeff Fisher will most certainly have to turn to his young QB Sam Bradford and look to him to pass this team the victory. I expect a mostly one-dimensional gameplan here, and with a strong front four who can consistently put pressure on a QB, Bradford will be sure to have little time for the play to develop. Even if he gets that time, I do not believe his receivers will be well covered for much of the game.

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