The Miami Dolphins prepare for Week 3 with an ongoing concern that has yet to be solved on the defensive side.
Once the headline of Miami’s 53-man roster, the secondary has simply yet to provide the excitement many anticipated.
In fact, they arguably sit at the top of the issues needing to be addressed. Call it how you want, the secondary has cut Miami short of key second-half drives in both of their early-season losses.
Take into example the Dolphins’ season-opener against the New England Patriots, where they allowed Cam Newton to kick off the third quarter 9 of 9 on pass attempts, resulting in 85 yards and nearly two touchdowns, if it weren’t for a Jerome Baker forced fumble which resulted in a touchback.
To be fair, Miami’s corners and safety’s did a fair job containing any other game-changing situations from Newton, but that could be because the run was the momentum gainer for the Patriots, who totaled 217 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground in Week 1.
Enter Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills, and Miami takes on a squad that possesses a quarterback better known for his rocket arm and ability to make eye-grabbing passes in Josh Allen.
From the start, it was issues for Miami, who were forced to deal with the injury of Byron Jones on the games first possession. With Jones out, first-round rookie Noah Igbinoghene was tasked to defend Pro Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs.
Diggs finished the game with eight receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown, a performance deserving of AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
To say the least, it was an experience that’ll surely help Igbinoghene understand the intensity of covering one of the league’s better players.
“I learned a lot today,” the former Auburn standout said. “Not only about this team but about myself. Of course, I didn’t play up to my standard at all. I’ve got to move past it and move on to the next game. That’s all I can do, just learn from it.”
Aside from Igbinoghene, Nik Needham and Xavien Howard were the other two candidates who suffered from Allen’s passing attack.
Early on it was Needham, who was tasked to cover Cole Beasley, who strived at using Buffalo’s rubs and picks strategy to his advantage. First, it was a 26-yard catch by Beasley that put the Bills at Miami’s 14-yard-line. Then, on a 3rd and 2, Beasley beat Needham to his spot, leading to a hold that was then called for defensive pass interference.
Buffalo scored a touchdown on the ensuing play.
Later on came Howard, who played an impressive 60 of 61 defensive snaps in Sunday’s 28-31 loss. While he did provide the leadership qualities needed with Jones out, he allowed a costly 46-yard touchdown catch by Buffalo’s John Brown, one that he should’ve seen coming.
Just a play before the score that made it a two possession game with 3:09 left in the game, Buffalo ran the exact same play, a cross route to Brown that was bound to result in a big gain but instead was misdirected and nearly intercepted by Howard.
That didn’t stop Allen from running an identical play, this time resulting in six for the Bills.
Howard wasn’t the only one to blame on that touchdown, as safety Bobby McCain was late on the help, a mistake that damaged Miami’s comeback efforts.
“We have to put ourselves in a better position to make a play and make a play on the ball,” Howard said following the secondary’s sluggish performance. … “Teams know what we are doing, what we’re going to do, so we just got to put ourselves in a better position to make a play.”
So what’s bound to take place in order to improve and adjust for Thursday’s contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Taking blame, something the Dolphins seem to be advocating, similar to that of the Miami Heat.
From Igbinoghene to Howard to Needham to McCain, along with others in the secondary, the responsibility they’ve taken on their performance will only help them grow and improve as a unit.
“We’ve got to coach it better and that starts with me,” head coach Brian Flores said. We’ve got to play better. “I think the players understand that. We’re not pointing fingers or making excuses. We’re just going to come to work and work to get better.”
As Needham said in a Monday press conference, “we’re not about to freak out. It’s a long season ahead of us.”
This team still has plenty of football left to play.