JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2020 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Armando Salguero – Miami Herald columnist and longtime Dolphins/NFL writer – on the Dolphins as they prepare for Thursday's 2020 Week 3 game against the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.
Question: The Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills, 31-28, in Miami Gardens Sunday and are now 0-2. Is that a disappointment for this team, and how do they feel about themselves entering Thursday?
Answer: It is a disappointment. They are not only 0-2, but the two losses came against [AFC East] division opponents (New England and Buffalo), so they're 0-2 looking up at a couple of teams already in the division. It's a tough deficit to make up if you have playoff aspirations. They are hoping for quick improvement and they are hoping they can put the bad taste of a home-opening loss to the Bills behind them with a quick follow-up game against the Jaguars.
Q: Is the 0-2 start a surprise?
A: I'm not surprised. I think the Dolphins are probably a seven- or eight-win team – anywhere from 7-9 to 9-7. At least that's what they should be, but as it looks now, they have a lot of making up to do.
Q: Miami selected former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. Veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has started the first two games for Miami, throwing for 328 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills. Are they going forward with Fitzpatrick or will the transition to Tagovailoa happen?
A: A change is definitely coming, but not this week because obviously it's a short week and Fitz just threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. But everyone in Miami knows that Ryan Fitzpatrick is keeping the seat warm for Tua Tagovailoa. I don't know how much longer that's going to be the case, but not this week.
Q: Tell me about the Dolphins' offense. What is it right now?
A: All you have to do is look back at the 2015 New York Jets or the 2016 New York Jets or the 2011-2012 Buffalo Bills. It's [current Dolphins offensive coordinator longtime NFL offensive coordinator] Chan Gailey and Fitz putting it out there. They have been together for a long time. They know what each other can do and what each other wants. Everybody else is a featured player. What Fitz does in the passing game is he makes sure that he gives his receivers and his tight end – Mike Gesicki— a chance to win. And they often do because they're big guys. [Wide receiver] DeVante Parker is 6-feet-3, 211 pounds. Preston Williams is 6-5. Mike Gesicki is 6-6 and a former volleyball player. It's a lot of, "You might look covered, but I don't think you're covered and I'm going to throw it to you" from Fitz.
Q: Same question about the defense…
A: I don't know what the Dolphins' defense is, to be honest with you. They got run over in the season-opener at New England; New England rushed for 217 yards. In the second game, Buffalo went over the top and threw for 41 3 yards. Either way, it's bad. I don't know what they do well exactly yet, because they've done a couple of things that are pretty bad. That's one of the reasons they're 0-2.
Q:What does this team need to do win this year? How do they need to play?
A: First of all, they have to stop the run. If they can't stop the run, it's academic and it's pretty much over. We saw that against New England; they couldn't stop the run and they couldn't get off the field. It didn't matter what the offense was doing because they weren't on the field often enough. They were getting very few opportunities. They also have to make sure that Fitzpatrick – or whoever is playing quarterback – plays generally error-free. That means no turnovers. It happened last week but it didn't happen the first week. Fitz threw three interceptions. Then the other thing that has to happen is the coaches need to be able to adjust better in-game. That has been a problem the first two games. It has been an obvious problem to where they're taking responsibility for it.
Q: Is there a feeling overall that the Dolphins are going in the right direction?
A: (Laughing) They're 0-2. Oh-and-two is not the right direction. I think people felt better about the Dolphins when the end of the 2019 season came than they do now. The reason for that is they spent a lot of money and they drafted a lot of players, and they're not yet getting the results that they or anybody else wants.
Q: Fourteen games remain. What's success look like for this team the rest of the 2020 season. What does it have to do?
A: There's an extra playoff spot available in both conferences this year. The season isn't over just because they're 0-2. If they correct course, if they can win nine of the last 14 games, they can be in the hunt for that playoff spot. I don't know how they're going to do that, but anything is possible.