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5 Qs, 5 As with The Phinsider: Talking Seahawks-Dolphins, Myles Gaskin, Tua Tagavailoa, and more

Miami Dolphins v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks (3-0) had a perfect September and will look to start off October with a road win over the Miami Dolphins (1-2). Even though Miami is a sizeable underdog, I don’t think Seattle can take any game for granted given the poor defensive performances and the injuries on both sides of the ball. Miami is coming off a dominant win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and certainly look better than last year’s team.

To preview this game and to get some knowledge and insight on Miami, I asked five questions and got five answers from Kevin Nogle, longtime managing editor of The Phinsider.

Q1.) A lot of Seahawks fans are also Washington Huskies fans, and I’m sure they’d be interested to know how UW’s own Myles Gaskin went from scarcely playing on offense last season to being the number one back over Matt Breida.

I would love to tell you, but honestly, it is a complete surprise. The Dolphins spent money to sign Jordan Howard and traded for Matt Breida. They listed Howard as the starter on the depth chart - a position he stills holds - then Breida as the backup, with Gaskin third-string. In Week 1, suddenly Gaskin was being used over Howard and Breida. Then again in Week 2. Then again in Week 3. At this point, it is clear Gaskin is the lead back for the Dolphins for as long as he continues to be hot.

We saw some flashes from Gaskin last year, but he was buried on the depth chart and did not get nearly the touches he will have this year. He carried the ball 36 times for 133 yards last season. He has 38 carries for 152 yards already in 2020. The coaching staff clearly saw something in practice before Week 1, and they went with it rather than trying to stick with the new acquisitions. It is working and hopefully, Gaskin can keep it up.

Q2.) Despite considerable free agent investment this offseason, Miami’s defense is thus far dead last in DVOA. What have been the main reasons behind the Dolphins’ defensive woes?

The strength of the Dolphins defense is supposed to be their secondary, led by Xavien Howard and Byron Jones at cornerback. Howard was eased back into full playing time as he recovered from offseason knee surgery, and he seems to be healthy but I am not sure he completely trusts the knee yet. Jones sustained a non-contact groin injury four snaps into Week 2 and has not been able to play since. Losing Jones shook up Miami’s secondary, and they have not yet responded.

That said, it is not just injuries that are making Miami’s defense a disappointment early. There is no pass rush (other than late last week against the Jaguars), and the linebackers are struggling to fill holes and stop the run. The Dolphins traded Raekwon McMillan to the Las Vegas Raiders because he is almost purely a run-stopping linebacker who can be a liability in pass coverage. Right now, that looks like it may have been a premature move, as the Dolphins could use a run-stopping linebacker. Jerome Baker is a beast at linebacker, but the rest of the group has not fully come together yet. Kyle Van Noy has been pulled off the field way more than expected, and he has been an issue in pass coverage, something that was a strength for him in New England.

Finally, Bobby McCain at free safety has been a ride this year. He will look good for a while, then suddenly look lost. The Dolphins coaching staff moved him from nickel cornerback - where he could have been a Pro Bowl caliber player - to safety in 2019 and he was working on it before landing on injured reserve mid-way through the season. Now back in the role this year, he looks like a player trying to think through his role, rather than it being instinctual. There has to be a consideration among Dolphins coaches to move him back to the nickel cornerback role, something that might help the cornerbacks group get back to playing like the preseason expectations.

Q3.) Who (or what) has been the most pleasant surprise through the first three games?

Gaskin is definitely up there, but we already discussed him. DeVante Parker has had injury issues throughout his career and has been a player who cannot perform if he is not 100 percent. This year, he is dealing with a hamstring injury, but he has been impressive playing through it and still making an impact. That has definitely been a pleasant surprise.

We saw tight end Mike Gesicki start to play up to his potential late last year, and he is still performing like that this year. That has been nice as well.

The true answer, however, is the offensive line. They are definitely not perfect, both in pass-protection and in run-blocking, but they are playing well. For years, all Dolphins fans wanted was an offensive line that played well. This line features four starters new to the team, two of them rookies, and, obviously, they had no preseason games to try to work at near-full speed. They are holding their own, and it was definitely not expected.

Q4.) Ryan Fitzpatrick will eventually give way to Tua Tagavailoa, whether it’s this season or next season. Miami “tanked for Tua” until they stopped tanking and Tua fell into the Dolphins’ lap anyway. I don’t need to rehash your team’s extensive history of trying to find Dan Marino’s replacement, but what is your confidence level that Tua could be Miami’s long-term answer at QB?

I think he was the right choice for the Dolphins this year, especially given they wanted him for nearly two years. I think he has the potential to be a really special player in the league, and I think he will be able to do it for years. Of course, until we see him, it is all just speculation and guessing. I am not in a rush to get him out there on the field, as I think Fitzpatrick is the right player to be under center right now, but I do think he takes over later this year. Miami has weird scheduling in Weeks 10 through 12, where they will play the Jets, have their bye week, then play the Jets again. I think that Week 12 game at the Jets could be where Tagovailoa takes over. I feel good that he is the long-term answer Miami has needed for so long - but it is definitely not a sure thing.

Q5.) As far as this season is concerned, Miami certainly looks better than the horror show that was much of last season. It’s early days, but do you think this team is good enough to make a run for one of those three wild card spots? Or is it more likely the rebuild will involve losing double-digit games again?

Miami’s schedule is brutal, which is saying something for a team that has the Jets twice and the Cincinnati Bengals still to play, They also have the rest of the NFC West still to come, plus home against the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots and at the Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills. Those four games are their last four contests of the year. If Miami is going to make a playoff push, they are going to be doing it against some of the top teams in the league.

I came into this season just wanting to see improvement, and so far we are seeing that. Will that improvement lead to an improved record? Possibly. I could see the Dolphins get hot and run to a 9-7 record, and I could see them struggle to five wins like last year. I think 8-8 feels about where the Dolphins should be this season.

BONUS: Are you hoping Adam Gase never gets fired by the New York Jets?

Yes. Yes. Yes. This is so much fun. I loathe the Jets, so seeing them struggle is always fun. Seeing them struggle with Gase as their head coach is hysterical.

Thanks to Kevin for answering my questions, and I’ve reciprocated over at The Phinsider. When that article is up it’ll be shared on the Field Gulls front page.