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The Miami Dolphins were a desperate team when Sunday dawned after having lost three consecutive games the first month of the season.
So they tried to do things desperate teams do: They changed a bunch of stuff.
But as is so often true with desperation, change doesn’t necessarily bring a different result. Or a better direction.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45.
Miami Dolphins 17.
The Dolphins, winners of 10 games in 2020, are tied for last place in the AFC East now with a 1-4 record. They are tied in last with the New York Jets.
That’s not good news, Miami. The difference between the Dolphins and Jets is everyone understands the Jets are rebuilding. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are supposed to be an ascending playoff contender.
But they are mostly looking like a contender for a team suffering the most regression from a year ago.
The Dolphins at the end of this game were barely competing on defense, giving up three consecutive fourth-quarter touchdowns while offering little resistance.
Dolphins have given up 31 points or more in three of their last four games — all of them losses. This is a significant regression for a unit that was the NFL’s No. 6 scoring defense a year ago.
Tom Brady completed 30 of 41 for 411 yards and five touchdowns against the Miami defense. It was as if Brady was slicing the Miami defense with a scalpel.
“I’m concerned,” coach Brian Flores said. “We’re out of sync in a lot of ways. Run defense, pass defense, [and] pass rush. We’re a little bit of a step behind, I would say. We’ve got to make a lot of corrections.
“[There’s] a lot of things we need to address, and we’ll do that. We’ve been doing that. We’ve addressed some things, but we’re not seeing the production on Sundays. Really, that’s all that matters. But I would say we are a little bit out of sync.”
And the offense, which has been broken all season, sputtered and even suffered a turnover when first-round pick Jaylen Waddle had a catchable ball go through his hands. The ball was was intercepted.
At that point, all the work done by the Miami coaching staff to try to get a different outcome this game no longer mattered.
For the record: The Dolphins this week reshuffled the offensive line because it was simply too leaky the last few weeks. So rookie Liam Eichenberg went to left tackle, Austin Jackson went from left tackle to left guard and Jesse Davis went from left guard to right tackle.
That move worked some. But not enough.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was still sacked three times.
The Dolphins also changed their approach to calling plays and what plays they called.
They had previously had a shuttle system for calling plays, but as Tony Romo said on the CBS broadcast, the team put co-offensive coordinator George Godsey directly on the quarterback helmet headphone rather than giving QB coach the play for him to give to the QB.
The Dolphins also threw the football more often and on early downs and deeper down the field.
“Contrary to what you guys think, we are getting better,” Brissett said.
It depends on the measure of improvement. Because the team that managed only 17 points two previous times this season could muster only 17 points again.
So where does this leave Miami?
Well, they hope to get starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa back in the next couple of weeks, perhaps as early as next week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
“Hopefully we can activate him and practice him this week,” Flores said. “Obviously he’s still dealing with the fracture in the ribs so definitely some things from pain tolerance standpoint he’d have to deal with so we’ll see how he does with that and try to take it one day at a time.”
And that might put a band-aid on the issue because the Jaguars are just so bad.
But, honestly, there’s something more fundamentally wrong with this Miami team.
There are no dependable stars on offense. And the one dependable star it has on defense — Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard — gave up two touchdown passes on Sunday.
That is, and continues to be, a reflection on the personnel department.
On general manager Chris Grier.
And it’s also on club owner Stephen Ross, who promoted Grier to having the final say on all football maters in 2019 after he fired Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum. Grier had served as the team’s general manager with that duo.
So Grier didn’t fix the team under Gase and Tannenbaum.
And seeing that, Ross promoted Grier to fix the team in combination with Flores.
Grier is on the hot seat now. And Ross is not pleased, a source familiar with his thinking told OutKick this week.
But a change right now? One that changes course right now?
That’s not likely, the source said. Even if the Dolphins remain a very desperate football team.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero