JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2021 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Armando Salguero – longtime Miami Dolphins writer now with OutKick – on the Dolphins as they prepare for Sunday's 2021 Week 6 game against the Jaguars at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England.
Question: The Dolphins are 1-4 with four consecutive losses, including a 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday. After a 10-6 season last season, this is not the start the Dolphins expected. How are they feeling and what's the outlook?
Answer: That's a question that has to address two different populations. There's the population inside the locker room and inside the organization, and they can't help but have hope because there is no other option. What are they going to do? Quit? They hope they can continue to develop and find some improvement and some consistency and start to win some games. They're still only in the sixth week of the season, so it's not like the season is over – especially with 17 games. But if you're talking about the population outside the organization, outside the locker room, that isn't paid to be optimistic about the team, then there's terrific disappointment. That disappointment is that in Year 3 of a rebuild [under Head Coach Brian Flores] the team seemingly has regressed the first five games of the season. That's hard to swallow considering they were bad in 2019 (5-11) and then last year pretty good. People expected them to take the next step from pretty good and that next step so far has been a stumble.
Q: Are you surprised?
A: I'm personally not surprised. The offensive line was a hope as much as a project and early in the season the hope fell flat. I'm not saying that it's going to continue to be a bad offensive line because they are very young players and they have an opportunity to develop. But I'm a big believer that a team is anchored by its two lines – the defensive front and the offensive line. Along the offensive line, this team was always in building mode even at the beginning of this year. What's really disappointing is the defensive front has been bad. They don't pressure very well. They're not very good against the run, either. Other than that, they're just fine.
Q: Break down what's going on at quarterback.
A: This is not good news for Dolphins fans or anyone who watches the Dolphins, but the Dolphins got it wrong by drafting Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert [in the 2020 NFL Draft]. Anyone who would say that's not decided yet hasn't been paying attention. Justin Herbert [of the Los Angeles Chargers] has skyrocketed to one of the top seven-to-10 quarterbacks in the NFL. He was the Offensive Rookie of the Year last year. He's doing things [former Dolphins quarterback and Hall of Fame quarterback] Dan Marino did as a rookie and second-year player, except he's not playing for Dan Marino's team – as he should be if the Dolphins had gotten it right. Does that mean Tua Tagovailoa is a bust? No. He has a chance to develop. The problem with Tua is the problem everybody saw before the draft. He's a smallish, 6-feet-0, 217-pound quarterback with durability issues – and guess what? Eleven games into his career in the NFL he's on injured reserve. He is who everyone feared he might be. If he gets healthy and stays that way, he has a chance to develop. The problem is when he comes back, he will not have grown to 6-feet-4, 230 pounds. He will still be a smallish, moderately athletic quarterback.
Q: What do they want to be offensively?
A: That's a great question. What they would like to be is a unit that doesn't make mistakes, that can mix run-pass option and play action, protect the quarterback, get the ball out quickly and move the sticks – and throw in an occasional deep shot to rookie wide receiver Jalen Waddle, who's a first-round draft pick. Or perhaps somewhere else. What they are is very far removed from that.
Q:Defensively, you said the line is struggling …
A: Defensively, they need to be able to cover on the back end. They have the most expensive cornerback tandem in the NFL in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. Despite that, [Buccaneers quarterback] Tom Brady lit them up last week. Xavien Howard led the NFL in interceptions last season. Right now, Xavien Howard is coming off one of his worst games of his career because [Buccaneers wide receiver] Antonio Brown roasted him. That's what they want to be. They figured that if they can cover, their front can get to the quarterback. The problem is they're not covering and their front still can't get to the quarterback. That's a bad combination.
Q: Is it possible to turn this around or is this lost?
A: It's not lost, but to expect them to suddenly challenge the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East … that's not real. Their ceiling at this point is a wild-card spot – maybe the last wild-card spot. That's if Tua comes back and is suddenly a baller. My guess is he will come back and he's suddenly going to be himself – the same guy he was before he left. And that's not going to be good enough to dig out of a 1-4 hole.