The Dolphins winning streak was impressive. Brought about by heart and solid schemes, the Dolphins out-performed our talent for a few weeks this year, and that was fun. In Baltimore, we ran into a playoff team and got its full attention. The truth is, we aren't there yet. And that's ok, considering our first-year coach is still building his team.
We aren't ready for the playoffs yet- too many things need to be improved. Many of those improvements are wearing other team's colors today. We need a cornerback or two, some new linebackers, and some low-priced youth on our DL, and a pass-catching back who can make us lethal on third down.
Two of our answers, however, are under contract. Our pro bowl center makes a big difference to our offensive unit. Perhaps more vitally, our defensive nerve center is missing.
I have been silently wondering at how we have kept it together in the secondary without Jones. He covers so much ground, makes up for so many other defensive liabilities, and brings much needed swagger. Superior play from Alonso and excellent scheming from our DC kept us competitive, but the cracks started to show when QB Castro lit us up last week.
Our secondary is a mess. Our corners are both beatable, though both serviceable. Our linebackers can't cover tight ends or running backs (opposing offenses can have four yard dump-offs pretty much at will, and a quarterback who can confidently throw the seams can open us up entirely too easily.) And we are relatively helpless against running quarterbacks.
All of this suggests that we are front-heavy, which we are. Our defensive dollars are all spent stuffing the run and generating front four pressure. We have bargain linebackers, a host of no-names, and Byron Maxwell, who maximizes salary and occasionally his play. Jones gave our secondary a chance. His absence makes us second rate.
It's only one loss, and good to go ugly in all phases, perhaps, and get a wake-up call in all three units (how about that missed field goal to keep us on zero...) But all of this is to say that help is on the way- next year. This year is about learning how to fight, winning winnable games, and cutting dead weight. We are on the right track. Sunday was just a reminder that we have middle of the road talent at too many crucial positions, and that losing the leaders in the middle of our O and D units has a cost.