Miami Dolphins: 5 Things to Learn from the Jacksonville Jaguars

What a difference a year makes. Last year it was the Miami Dolphins in the playoffs while the Jacksonville Jaguars were on the outside looking in. This season the Florida team’s roles were reversed with one huge difference. The Dolphins last year were steam rolled in the playoffs while this season the Jags look like they belong. So how is it a team so bad found a way to look this good? Where can the Dolphins learn from the Jags?

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Quarterback: While Blake Bortles isn’t burning the pages of record books, he’s quietly having the best season of his career. Jacksonville has struggled to win games under Bortles and finally looks like a team that has turned it around. The difference between this season for Bortles and season’s past is balance. There’s balance of offense and defense, balance in the run game as well as the pass, and balance between high percentage plays and risks. Too much of the Dolphins game plan was playing catch up and trying to make big plays. Too bad they hardly ever materialized. Miami needs to find balance, stop wasting defensive stands with sputtering offense, and level out their play calling. If they can balance the game plan, pressure will be off the quarterback to win games.

Runnning back: While Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake were productive for the Miami Dolphins, beyond those two productivity dropped tremendously. The team traded away Ajayi leaving Drake to be the feature back. Teams like the Jaguars, Eagles and Patriots have shifted to a feature back and running back by committee/package. Keeping teams guessing might not be great for fantasy owners, but a fresh set of legs has kept the running games going. Miami needs to find a back up who can be just as productive as their feature back even if it provides a small decoy. The Dolphins rely too much on

Defensive Front: Dubbed “Sacksonville” the Jaguars defensive front was disruptive all season. The Dolphins however, were not. Jacksonville had 55 sacks this season to Miami’s 30. Too often defensive stands were wasted allowing teams to convert on 3rd-and-long. With limited pressure teams were able to pick apart Miami’s interior defenders with overwhelming success. Without pressure, the Dolphins struggling linebacker unit was often out of place or beat badly. Maybe it’s time for the team to move on from their run stopping approach and find more sack-happy defenders.

Defensive backs: Interceptions came often for the Jags this year. Their defenders always seemed to be in the right place at the right time and playing good defense. Miami has their share of talented corners and safeties but were grossly over matched. Miami does have a young talented group but too often looked as if they never were given a playbook. Defensively they were out of place more often than in it. While more pressure on opposing quarterbacks always helps the DBs, Miami still needs to find ways to get in position and get their hands on footballs. Knocking a ball down only stalls a drive. Taking the ball away needs to be a more common occurrence. The Dolphins need to find a ball hawk this offseason be it a veteran or via the draft.

Coaching: Play a full 60 minutes of football. When the Jags had the hammer down it was hard for them to be matched this season. On the other side, Miami often struggled to get going and was often playing from behind. The close games the Dolphins found ways to win but the games they got down early they never quite recovered. Miami’s coaching staff needs to take a play out of Jacksonville’s book and find ways to keep games close whether they’re high scoring affairs or defensive stands. Often the Jaguars were playing to the level of their opponents while the Dolphins spent too much time catching up.

The Miami Dolphins are every bit as talented as the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sometimes a series of bad luck might derail your season. Good teams find ways to bounce back, great teams find ways to overcome. Until the Miami Dolphins can be more consistent and balanced in their attack, they’re always going to be the team constantly retooling and rebuilding.

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