The Miami Dolphins went on a six game winning streak that catapulted them into the playoff chase in 2016. This year the Dolphins have lost five games in nine weeks.
Looking at this years team it is hard to understand why this team is so bad compared to last season. Especially given the fact that most of the Dolphins personnel is unchanged from the 2016 roster.
There are two obvious differences between last year and this year. Ryan Tannehill and Branden Albert. We can start the comparisons there.
Tannehill is many fans punching bag but there is no question that this same offense ran much smoother with Ryan Tannehill under center and not Jay Cutler. Why? It’s simple actually, Tannehill is mobile Cutler is not.
Cutler can move around the pocket better than Tannehill can but Tannehill can escape pressure and pick up yards with his legs. In addition, Tannehill is a lot better at making throws on the run including deep down field. Some fans may not like Tannehill but the reality is he is better in this system.
At left tackle Laremy Tunsil has struggled. Last year he was an adequate guard while Albert manned the left outside. Albert however was inconsistent as well and spent some time injured. Despite this Miami ran a much better offensive line last year than they have this year. Why?
The easiest answer would be to point at Tunsil vs. Albert but the real focus should be on Mike Pouncey. Pouncey was not on the Dolphins offensive line for most of last season. There is no question that he has lost a big step in his game. Whether from residual effects of surgery or because he is getting older, Pouncey is not close the player he used to be.
On defense there isn’t much difference from last year although you can argue that Miami is better. Gone is Jelani Jenkins who struggled and was injured and in his place is Lawrence Timmons. Rey Maualuga is playing better than Neville Hewitt did last season. Miami also added William Hayes in a trade and Charles Harris through the draft.
Yet the defense is playing worse than last season.
Back to the offense things really didn’t change much. The offensive line is relatively the same except at left guard where Tunsil is no longer playing and tight end where the Dolphins don’t have Dion Sims replacing him with Julius Thomas. Aside from money the production is about the same.
Could one or maybe two players make that much of a difference from one season to the next? Possibly. Tannehill’s mobility made things easier for the offensive line. It masked some of their shortcomings. Without him, the offense is far more exposed to what they can’t do rather than looking like they can.
For the most part, this team is the same team as it was last year when they went 10-6. Say what you want about Ryan Tannehill but he does make a pretty big difference from Jay Cutler.