Do the Miami Dolphins finally have a head coach who is capable of nosing above .500 and actually staying there?
Adam Gase isn’t there yet. With three straight victories his rookie season stands at 4-4 and he’s yet to have a winning record at any point.
Some signs are good for a strong second half to the season but others say that more work must be done to escape the clutches of mediocrity.
Who would have thought, for instance, that the Dolphins would have the No. 6 rushing attack in the league at 122.6 yards per game? Last year they couldn’t crack 100 and it showed in every phase of every game.
Jay Ajayi suddenly is the NFL’s No. 5 rushing leader with 646 yards. Miami hasn’t had a runner finish in the top 10 since Ronnie Brown in 2007.
So there’s one surprise. Here’s another. The Dolphins, with all their questions in the secondary and nothing truly special at linebacker, rank No. 8 in the league in pass defense. Now there’s some interpretation here since the ranking is based solely on yards allowed (226.5 per game in this case) but normally this kind of stat means you’ve got some guys can really cover.
Also, a great pass defense stat usually goes hand-in-hand with a dominant pass rush. Miami’s defensive line, for all of its stars and the amount of money they are being paid, has no one higher on the league sack list than Cameron Wake, tied for 19th with five.
In the end, there’s still lots of room for improvement with Ryan Tannehill’s quarterback rating (87.4) no better than 32nd in the league, no Dolphins receiver finding the end zone more often than Kenny Stills (3 touchdowns) and a total team offense that ranks 20th in the league and a scoring defense that ranks 17th.
All of those stats say that 4-4 is about right and another middle-of-the-pack finish can’t be far away.
Back, though, to Gase. He’s got the team moving in the right direction, which means that anything technically is possible. He needs to keep pulling out close games to make it happen, though, just like Tony Sparano did in 2008, the last time Miami won the AFC East.
Sparano also stood at 4-4 in that first season as Dolphins coach. Then came a string of wins by scores of 17-15, 16-12, 14-9, 38-31 and the like. That’s how Miami separated itself from the pack, and how Sparano kept his head above .500 for more than a quick gasp.
Before that you have to go back to Dave Wannstedt, back when the Dolphins talent pool was deeper, to find a coach who won consistently.
I figure Gase will be the next, but it doesn’t have to be this year. My preseason prediction for the Dolphins was 8-8. If that’s low, it’s probably not by more than a game.
That’s if the season stats mean anything in determining this team’s overall fate, and they usually do.