JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2018 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Miami Herald Dolphins writer Armando Salguero on the Dolphins' matchup with the Jaguars at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Question: The Dolphins (7-7) lost, 41-17, to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday – a loss that dealt a serious blow to Miami's playoff chances. They had serious playoff aspirations before that game. Where do the Dolphins stand now entering the final two games of the season?
Answer: If you go back to the start of the season, they were the only one with playoff aspirations because everybody picked them to be terrible – including ESPN, which had them at one point rated the No. 32 team in the NFL. They are not that. But are they disappointed right now? Yes, of course. Because they had a clear path to the playoffs. If they had been able to win their last three games, they were going to finish 10-6 and the chances of them being in the playoffs were very, very high – if not almost guaranteed. As it stands now, they're 7-7 having lost to Minnesota in a terrible blowout and their path to the playoffs leaves very little margin for error. They have to win out and then hope somebody collapses. I'm not sure that's going to happen and they're honestly not sure. They're in win-one-game mode, but they know that it's no longer in their hands and they know what the likely outcome is going to be.
Q: Why was this team better than people expected?
A: (Laughing) At the end of it all, they're going to play eight games at home – and they were very good at home. They're 6-1 at home entering the Jacksonville game, and they got solid play from guys they banked on. Wide receiver Albert Wilson, who was an addition from Kansas City, wasn't a starting wide receiver [before an October season-ending hip injury] and he wasn't a go-to guy, but if you got him the ball four or five times a game, he was often going to come up with a big play – or two – and he did. Through four games, he had four touchdowns – and they were of the explosive variety. The offensive line was solid early on. It's not solid anymore, by the way. It's a mess. They gave up nine sacks against Minnesota. The defense hadn't been exposed yet. The defense is exposed now. They started out 3-0. After that, injuries played a factor. I would say people figuring them out played a factor. Now, they're at .500.
Q: All of the talk in the media down there is about offseason change. How does it look going forward if the Dolphins don't make the playoffs?
A: Are we talking 9-7, or are we talking 8-8, or are we talking 7-9? It's hard to figure definitively which direction it's going to go, because we don't know if they bucked up and rallied late and just missed the playoffs at 9-7, or if they collapsed and lost the final three games to finish 7-9. It's a totally different narrative. There absolutely will be major turnover in the locker room. There will be some turnover in the coaching staff. If they collapse, there's going to be turnover in the entire organization.
Q:The Dolphins had 37 net passing yards against Minnesota. Is this offense struggling that much or was that a one-game thing?
A: That kind of performance is a one-game thing, but to say this offense is any good is wrong. The reason for that is the offensive line – especially on the interior – is middling at best and the quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill has been less than stellar. His statistics look good, but the production is not good. You have to understand: the quarterback's job is to get the offense in the end zone. They scored one touchdown last week and gave up more sacks (nine) than they scored points on offense (seven). That's not a winning formula. They had 12 first downs and gave up 12 tackles for loss.
Q: Defensively, they must have been good until they got exposed …
A: No. They were OK early. They were good enough early. They're 31st in the NFL against the run and they just gave up 220 yards rushing to the Minnesota Vikings running the ball; the Vikings went into that game the 30th overall rushing offense. They've had disastrous games in which teams have run up and down at them through the year. It hasn't been an injury thing. They've got problems. They also have some young linebackers who are trying to figure it out and obviously haven't yet figured it out.
Q:The Dolphins obviously will be favored Sunday at home against a Jaguars team that has lost nine of 10 games. How do you see the last two games playing out overall? Will they get to 9-7?
A: They have to go on the road to Buffalo in their final game. They're 1-6 on the road right now. They're terrible on the road. This is the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Dolphins team at home versus road. Like every NFL team that's not good enough and mediocre, they struggle to win on the road. So, are you telling that in what might be a Getaway Game, they're going to go on the road and beat a (Bills) team that's plucky and excited about their [rookie] quarterback [Josh Allen] and that has played well at home? That's hard to fathom.