Tua Tagovailoa celebrates after the Miami Dolphins defeated the New York Jets 24-17.

Pressure Point: Wins can’t mask limitations of Dolphins offense

If the Miami Dolphins’ offense was dealt in a card game and I could keep or discard any of the cards, I’d hold on to three.

That would be Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki and Tua Tagovailoa. I’d take my chances on being able to draw better replacements for the rest.

Three consecutive wins, including 24-17 over the lowly (2-8) New York Jets on Sunday, didn’t change what has been evident all season about the limitations of Miami’s offense.

Sure, give the o-line credit for not allowing a sack against the Jets. And for opening some holes on the clock-killing drive in the final minutes.

Yes, a team averaging a league-worst 73.6 yards a game rushing coming into Sunday did net 115 yards (albeit on 3.5 yards a carry).

It doesn’t impress me much coming against a defense that was allowing 32.9 points a game, by far the worst in the league.

The win did keep alive the pipe dream that the Dolphins can somehow turn a 1-7 start to playoff potential. That .500 is a realistic possibility in the next few weeks is more a reflection of the next three weaklings on the schedule than any major strides made by the offense.

The defense has gotten its act together lately. The offense remains highly flawed, and that was on display again Sunday.

Long TD a rarity

The lack of any semblance of a power running game is a major handicap. Consequently, in short-yardage situations the Dolphins resort to trickery and the tedious Wildcat, which rarely delivers.

The passing game is almost exclusively underneath the coverage because the line can’t be counted on to hold off the rush to allow receivers to get deeper.

The exception was when Tagovailoa dodged pressure and took advantage of a Jets busted coverage for a mighty heave to Mack Hollins. The 65-yard touchdown pass was the longest of Tua’s career.

A TV camera captured the surprise on the face of co-offensive coordinator George Godsey in the press box.

Aside from that play, the Dolphins averaged 8 yards on their other 26 completions.

Keep in mind, the Jets started four rookies in the secondary. Last week Buffalo’s Josh Allen went deep on them all day in a 45-17 romp, completing 6 of 8 throws longer than 20 yards. The Bills had two receivers with more than 100 yards and five averaged more than 10 yards a catch.

On Sunday, Miami’s leading receiver Waddle (who has 4.2 speed) had eight catches but only 65 net yards. The Jets’ Elijah Moore had eight receptions for 141 yards.

Tua has ups, downs

The Dolphins are surviving on the short-passing game and they were very efficient with it Sunday.

Tagovailoa followed up his good work in the win over the Ravens by completing 27 of 33 (82 percent) for 273 yards, two touchdowns with one interception and a 108.7 rating.

Those numbers merit more respect than Tua will receive for his performance.

It was another positive step for the second-year quarterback, but it won’t quiet his critics and win over his detractors.

One reason is that Tua’s misplays tend to be glaring. Latest example, after directing a masterful scripted opening touchdown drive, he made a cringe-worthy overthrow for an interception that led to a Jets touchdown.

The bigger reason is that a team so long in quest of a franchise quarterback so badly wanted a special talent. Tua hasn’t shown to possess that skill level in comparison to the elite quarterbacks in the league.

Impressive in second half

Aside from the pick, Tua was very good at what he does well, especially in the second half when he threw both touchdown passes and led Miami to 17 points.

On the decisive touchdown drive, he was 8 for 8 for 68 yards, capped by a pinpoint 5-yard TD toss to Myles Gaskin while under pressure on third-and-goal.

His best throw of the day was the earlier third-and-7 conversion to Waddle just beyond the sticks to keep that drive alive.

Later, Tagovailoa made the sort of play that drives his critics nuts, holding the ball too long for a sack that would have taken the Dolphins out of field goal range. A questionable defensive holding call down field on the play bailed him out and Dolphins went on to get the field goal to seal the win.

Scrutiny of Tua will continue, most notably by Dolphins officials who have six more games to decide whether to keep their trust in him or seek an alternative in the offseason, be it controversial Deshaun Watson or someone else.

A surprising ray of playoff hope

The best Tua can do is keep getting the most out of a limited offense and chalking up Dubs in playoff pursuit.

Strange as it feels to say that after the dreadful start, there isn’t an unwinnable game the rest of the way, including the Patriots in the finale at home.

Four of the remaining games are a Hard Rock Stadium. The next four opponents — Panthers, Giants, Jets (again) and Saints — are a combined 15-25.
All they have to do is keep bucking long odds behind an offense of Tua, Waddle, Gesicki and a fistful of potential discards.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns



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