After starting the season 4-2 the Miami Dolphins have now lost two in a row at the halfway point. Despite the recent decline in play and poor results, Dolphins fans still have plenty of hope for the team this year. Here are three reasons not to give up on the 2017 Dolphins just yet.
No. 1 – Improved play of Jay Cutler
Yes, it was only one game and the Dolphins lost. However the offense with Cutler back under center showed glimpses of what Dolphins fans were hoping for.
After missing the Baltimore game with broken ribs, Cutler came back Sunday night against Oakland razor sharp. He completed his first 11 passes, and finished 34 for 42 with 311 yards and three touchdowns. Most importantly he did not turn the ball over. This was his best performance of the year by miles. Dolphins Head Coach Adam Gase has not wavered in his support of Cutler, and after Matt Moore’s performance against the Ravens there is little doubt Cutler should be the starter this year. If the offense can limit mental mistakes and penalties, there is great potential due to the solid skill position players around Cutler. With DeVante Parker back on the field, the consistency of Jarvis Landry, and the deep threat in Kenny Stills, Cutler has great weapons. If Julius Thomas can build on his six catch, 84 yard performance against the Raiders it will make the offense even better.
No. 2 – The Ajayi trade opened the door for Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams
Miami traded Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi to the Eagles prior to the Raiders game, and many people questioned the move. Ajayi had clashed with the coaching staff and reportedly not bought into the Dolphins philosophy and culture. There were also underlying concerns about his knees which were the main reason he fell to Miami in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.
This move now puts Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams as the main tailback tandem the rest of the way. Both showed why the Miami brass felt comfortable letting go of Ajayi as each delivered big plays and great effort.
Things will get better now because Gase has more options in the offense. https://t.co/yoRnPk8HBp
— Orlando Alzugaray (@BigOShow) November 7, 2017
Drake has game breaking quickness and unlike Ajayi takes what is blocked instead of trying to bounce outside of the scheme. He has the top end speed to run away from defenders and the size to be a featured back. In addition, Drake showed nice hands as a receiver catching all six of his targets against Oakland.
Williams is excellent in pass protection and as a receiver which is why he was a great asset on third down. He exhibits incredible toughness and finishes runs and receptions with power and determination.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 6, 2017
With Ajayi out of the mix, both backs will not only see more game action but also reps in practice. Gase obviously saw potential in Drake and Williams, perhaps if he didn’t the team could have lived with Ajayi’s antics a bit longer. They have waited patiently for their turns and now is their chance to reward their Head Coach for his confidence in them.
No. 3 – This group has been here before.
Currently the Dolphins sit at 4-4, exactly where they were after eight games last year. That team won seven of their last nine games after the bye and made the AFC Playoffs with a 10-6 record.
This year the AFC is wide open as many teams are clustered with between three and five losses. As division and conference matchups continue, more teams will fall out of contention. Miami has a daunting schedule and no bye week, but there are winnable games ahead. The Dolphins face Carolina on the road followed by Tampa Bay at home, after that their remaining games are all against the AFC. Tampa Bay just lost quarterback Jameis Winston for several weeks with a shoulder injury, and Carolina despite their 6-3 record has been in numerous close games. If Miami can catch some breaks they could steal one in Charlotte.
Miami has to face New England and Buffalo twice, both teams sit ahead of them in the AFC East. They also have Denver at home who are struggling having lost four straight.
One of their toughest games will be on the road against Kansas City, although after a 5-0 start the Chiefs have come back to the pack, losing three out of four.
The Dolphins made an improbable playoff run last year, winning games that many expected them to lose. If they can fix their self inflicted damage via penalties and missed assignments, they have the talent to compete in most of their remaining games.
So sit tight Dolphins fans, this roller coaster season may have a few more twists and turns ahead.
Follow us on Twitter @MiamiSportsWave