Dave Choate: How are we feeling about Jay Cutler, Dolphins quarterback? Is the problem thus far with the offense more on Cutler or the entire offense, and is he going to be benched?
Kevin Nogle: Dolphins fans as a whole are frustrated right now, and for good reason. The offense has been stagnant this season, and Cutler is the face of that offense. The team brought him in for $10 million this season to be the stopgap between 2016 and 2018 as Ryan Tannehill recovers from his knee injury. In four games, Cutler is putting up a 74.8 passer rating, the lowest of his career. Given all the hype that surrounded Cutler - hype I, personally, fully bought into when Cutler was signed - it has been frustrating to watch.
I do not think Cutler is in danger of being cut at this point, because Adam Gase has been very supportive and has pointed out that Cutler not been the only problem on this offense, but something has to change quickly with Cutler and the offense. Three-yard passes to Jarvis Landry just is not going to get it done.
Dave Choate: Jay Ajayi hasn't really gotten going to this point, but I really like him as a runner. What's behind his relatively slow start, and is it something that can be turned around?
Kevin Nogle: Similar to Cutler, I think there is a lot that goes into the struggles with Ajayi - but in part, he just does not seem to be as effective early this season. Maybe it is a case of trying too hard, but something seems slightly off with Ajayi. To be fair, he is getting hit in the backfield way too often, but he does not seem to have the same vision of the hole he had last year.
The offensive line is not giving him anything with which to work right now. It has seemed that every handoff, Ajayi is having to either break a tackle or avoid a defender almost as soon as he has the ball in his hands. It has been frustrating this year. Ajayi will breakoff one run, then the offensive play calling will go away from him, or the offensive line will suddenly forget how to stand in front of a defender.
Ajayi should be the identity of this offense, and as of right now, he is not. That has to change.
Dave Choate: I hate to bring this up, but you guys are on pace to for historic offensive futility through four games. What's going to turn that around for Miami?
Kevin Nogle: Adam Gase figuring out what is and is not working. Last year, the Dolphins' head coach's strength seemed to be his ability to adjust at halftime and find a way to exploit the opposing offense and defense. This year, we are not seeing that same type of adjustment.
Gase has said the team has scaled back the offense each week of the season thus far, but at some point, that has to go the other way. Cutler is in his second season with Gase, with the 2016 season as a barrier between the two years, while the majority of the rest of the Miami offense is in their second season as well. The team should not be scaling back but adding to the offense at this point.
Gase has to figure out what does and does not work for the offense this season, and he has to figure it out now. As I said before, three-yard routes to Jarvis Landry will not get the Dolphins some wins this year.
Dave Choate: Defensively, the Dolphins look pretty great. We all know Suh and Wake, but who else should we be looking for, and do you have a designated Julio Jones stopper?
Kevin Nogle: The linebackers are stepping up, with Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, and Rey Maualuga finally all getting onto the field together. the run defense has definitely been improved this year, and it is because of those three linebackers, Wake and Suh, along with two more defensive ends, Charles Harris and William Hayes.
The cornerbacks should be interesting to watch. Second-year corner Xavien Howard should be establishing himself as a number one cornerback this year, while rookie Cordrea Tankersley has moved into the starting lineup over the past two weeks. Both are young players who will make mistakes, and I would not consider either ready to be the type of player who shadows a top receiver. There is talent there, but it is young and developing, so there is an ability for Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to exploit those mistakes.
Dave Choate: Predictions for the game ahead, and for the rest of this season?
Kevin Nogle: I am just hoping the Miami offense shows up this week. Atlanta probably wins this game, but if the Dolphins defense can get into their rhythm early and hold on as the offense figures themselves out, maybe the Dolphins can surprise. I would go 27-17 Falcons, but would not be surprised by any result from a Falcons blowout to a Dolphins blowout (okay, maybe that would be a surprise, but whatever).
I thought prior to Ryan Tannehill's injury that this could be a 9-7 Dolphins team who finished the year with a worse record than last year and missed the playoffs, but was actually a better team. With Cutler at quarterback, I could see the team ending the year anywhere from 6-10 to 10-6. He is just such a wild card. I will say 8-8 right now, but I am not fully locked into that prediction.