Signs of progress, no playoffs for Dolphins
Consecutive December victories give the Miami Dolphins reason to
hope they’ll be playing for higher stakes at this time next
The Dolphins began preparations Monday for a mostly meaningless
season finale disappointed they’ll again sit out the playoffs but
buoyed by recent signs of progress. Miami (7-8) beat Buffalo 24-10
Sunday, then was eliminated from the postseason race minutes later
when Cincinnati claimed the final AFC playoff berth by beating
”We’re building a foundation that is going to deliver excellent
football teams here in the future,” first-year coach Joe Philbin
said. ”And it takes time.”
The Dolphins will be playoff spectators for the 10th time in 11
years. Other negative streaks will also continue – 39 years without
a Super Bowl title, 28 years without a Super Bowl berth, and 20
years since Miami last played in the AFC championship game.
The best the Dolphins can hope for in 2012 is to avoid a fourth
consecutive losing season by winning Sunday at New England.
”That’s not good enough,” defensive end Cameron Wake said.
”There are no moral victories in football. You’re either first or
you’re last. We didn’t do well enough this season to be where we
want to be, and almost doing it is just not good enough.”
Even so, the outlook is much brighter than in the past couple of
The Dolphins have won their past two games in convincing
fashion. And while the opponents – Jacksonville and Buffalo – were
woeful, Miami had trouble with such teams earlier this year, losing
four games to opponents that will finish under .500.
Miami lost the first time it played the Jets and Bills, then
beat both division rivals in the rematch, and the same could happen
against the Patriots. That reflects steady improvement under
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is finishing the season
strong, meaning the Dolphins will head into the offseason set at a
position that has perennially been otherwise.
Over the past four games, Tannehill has thrown five touchdown
passes with no interceptions.
”I think I’ve grown a lot,” Tannehill said. ”I think I’ve
learned something from every game and grown. Hopefully, I can
The running game has thrived of late, with Miami averaging 149
yards over the past five games. Blocking was solid Sunday with the
new combination of rookie Jonathan Martin at left tackle and Nate
Garner at right tackle. Rookie Lamar Miller ran for a season-high
73 yards in 10 carries.
”He’s going to be a great player in this league,” teammate
Reggie Bush said.
There are also encouraging signs on defense, the Dolphins’
strong suit all season. They came up with four takeaways, three by
emerging star Reshad Jones, to end a two-month drought. Veteran
cornerback Dimitri Patterson, acquired off waivers a week ago,
played well and might be part of the long-term outlook.
”Dimitri did a really nice job,” Philbin said. ”We were happy
with the contribution he made.”
But significant roster turnover is a certainty this offseason,
with the Dolphins well positioned to upgrade in the draft even
though they might lose several starters via free agency. They have
considerable flexibility thanks to more than $40 million in cap
space, along with five picks in the first three rounds of the
Martin’s steady play means injury-plagued tackle Jake Long, the
No. 1 overall draft pick in 2008, is likely to be deemed expendable
and allowed to depart as a free agent. Bush, receiver Brian
Hartline, tight end Anthony Fasano, defensive tackle Randy Starks,
cornerback Sean Smith and safety Chris Clemons can also become free
The Dolphins may try to re-sign Bush, who is their best
playmaker and helped his market value in recent weeks. He scored
three touchdowns Sunday and needs only 40 yards rushing to reach
the 1,000 mark for the second year in a row.
”Our offense is really getting into a rhythm,” Bush said. ”We
hit a low point midway through the season where we were kind of
struggling to run that ball, and I think that really hurt us. I
feel like now we’ve kind of hit that stride where everybody is on
the same page, our chemistry is good, our defense is playing well,
and it feels good.”
NFL parity makes it easy to play what-if. The Dolphins lost five
games by a touchdown or less, including two in overtime. Looking
back, which defeat stings the most?
”All of them. All of them. All of them,” linebacker Karlos
Dansby said. ”Every last one of them.”
Such frustration will linger as the Dolphins look to a better
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and