As much as I would like to make this column all about the Jets and how downright awful they have been through 10 games, the events of last Sunday in Denver have clearly shifted the focus.
Now, from my perspective, this Sunday’s game is more about the Dolphins than it is the Jets.
It’s about getting Tua back on track after a forgettable performance against the Broncos. It’s about an offensive line trying to regroup after giving up six sacks. It’s about a running game stuck in neutral and a rushing defense that faltered badly against the Broncos.
Wrap it all up and put a big red bow around it and the bottom line is this: The Dolphins need to be more concerned with how they are playing than who they are playing. It was only a week ago when they were the darlings of the NFL with a great young coach and quarterback and with that five-game winning streak providing clear proof of the direction this organization is heading.
Then came Denver and the conversation took an about face. Now people are wondering whether the Broncos exposed some weaknesses that other teams will also try to seize upon. Now they are wondering whether all that praise was more wishful thinking than reality.
We’ll certainly learn a lot more on Sunday. No, a victory over the Jets won’t solve the problems or eliminate the concerns. After all, they are 0-10 for a reason. But at the very least it can get this team back on track, certainly feeling good again because, in truth, it doesn’t matter how bad the Jets are, a victory over the Jets is, well, a victory over the Jets.
There is no player that needs a bounce back performance more than quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. By now his benching in the fourth quarter last Sunday for Ryan Fitzpatrick has been dissected from coast to coast. It was something few of us would have expected coming in and, although he did play poorly, I was among those wondering whether it was a smart move by Coach Brian Flores.
Sunday affords this team and Tua in particular the opportunity to put that performance in the rearview mirror. I believe Tua will play well. I believe he will get the ball out a little quicker, make his decisions with more certainty and generally do many of the things he failed to accomplish against the Broncos. There is absolutely nothing he has done so far that has at all soured my expectations for this young man. From his accuracy to his calculating mind to the kindness he exudes on a daily basis, this is a very special player. No doubt there will be blips on the radar. There always is for young quarterbacks. But what Tua has you just can’t teach and the feeling here is that days like last Sunday in Denver will be the exception far more than the rule.
The caveat I will always include in my evaluation of Tua: None of us can properly judge him until he is surrounded by more talented playmakers, and it’s going to take another draft and free agency to do that.
Having said all of this, I guess we all need to be reminded that the Dolphins are still 6-4 and in the thick of the playoff conversation.
They’ll be 7-4 on Sunday after beating the Jets. Dolphins 31, Jets 14.