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Top Dolphins Questions Heading Into The Bye Week

DAVIE (CBSMiami) – The Miami Dolphins are feeling good heading into the bye week following their dominant win over the Oakland Raiders last weekend in London.  Not only did Miami end their brief two-game losing streak, drawing their record back to .500 in the process, but they also are now in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with New England and Buffalo.

Even with the nice win, there are still lingering questions that need to be answered by Joe Philbin and his troops.  If the team can bottle up what they did against the Raiders and put it to use every week from now until January, suddenly the Dolphins are back in business in a big way.  There have been flashes of greatness in Miami but consistency has been an issue.  With that in mind, here are the top questions surrounding the Dolphins as they embark on their Week 4 bye.

What's up with this Jekyll & Hyde Tannehill?

Nobody has given Dolphins fans more happiness, and grief, than Ryan Tannehill this season.  It's clearly taking him some time to get acclimated to Bill Lazor's new offense and his timing and decision making has been off at times.  That all changed against the Raiders as Tannehill looked cool, calm and collected while running Miami's offense with the precision and leadership that leads fans to believe that he could be the Dolphins next franchise quarterback.

It also helped enormously that Tannehill's receivers did a much better job helping him out.  While the Dolphins still lead the NFL in dropped passes, they came into the Raiders game with 12 and came out of it with 13.  Having only one pass dropped is huge for Tannehill and the Dolphins offense considering how big of an issue it had been through the first three games.

Why can't the offense be more consistent?

Miami Dolphins Ryan Tannehill
(Source: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

As has been the case with Tannehill, the Dolphins offense has shown us just how potent it can be, just not on a regular basis.  The talent is unquestionably there and the playbook is much better suited to fit these players than it has been in years past.  The main issue has been execution.  Whether it be poor timing by Tannehill, a receiver dropping a pass or running the wrong route or a mix-up in the blocking scheme, there have been too many little mistakes that piled up during the Dolphins down times.  They certainly got past those issues during their last game against Oakland but they'll need to keep playing mistake free football if they want to have games on the schedule when January rolls around.

How long before the defense is at full strength?

Things haven't come easy for the Dolphins defense this season.  Before playing a down of football the team was already going to be without starting safety Reshad Jones and last year's first round pick Dion Jordan as both were suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs (Jordan has since received a second suspension and will be eligible to return for Miami's Week 8 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars). Then the linebackers started dropping like files. Dannell Ellerbe was lost for the year after suffering a hip injury during Week 1, Koa Misi has yet to play a game due to an ankle injury, Philip Wheeler missed time with a thumb issue and rookies Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain missed multiple games while battling injury and illness during the opening weeks of the season.

Fortunately things are starting to settle down and the lineup is starting the look the way it's supposed to.  Misi and Jones are expected to play their first game of the season when the Dolphins come out of the bye week and everyone aside from Ellerbe should be in uniform and ready to contribute when Miami hosts the Packers a week from Sunday.

Is the special teams unit going to start looking better?

In recent years one of the bigger strengths of the team has been special teams but that hasn't been the case so far in 2014.  The Dolphins have switched primary returners from Marcus Thigpen, who handled the majority of the kick and punt returns for the past two seasons, to rookie receiver Jarvis Landry.  It's been an adventure at times with Landry, who has had some nice returns but he's also made some mistakes while on the punt team.

The coverage teams have also struggled, both in blocking on returns and tackling while covering kicks.  Things should be on the upswing though as many of the Dolphins main special teams contributors, who have had to fill in on defense due to the injuries and suspensions, will be able to resume their roles on the coverage units.

What impact will Mike Pouncey have when he returns to the lineup?

Miami Dolphins Mike Pouncey
(Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey tore the labrum in his hip during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) which was a major let down to the area of the team in need of the most improvement.  Miami signed Samson Satele to fill in for Pouncey while he rehabilitated and the former Dolphins second round pick has done a solid job, though the interior of the offensive line has still struggled at times.

With Pouncey expected to return to the lineup when Miami suits up for their game against Green Bay next week, suddenly the o-line gets a big shot in the arm.  The center is the quarterback of the offensive line and Pouncey is one of the best in the game.  Having him back will not only instantly improve the line, but it also gives Joe Philbin a bit of flexibility as Satele could be shifted to guard.  The Dolphins are already one of the best running teams in the NFL, currently ranked 5th in the league with 569 rushing yards through four games and a nice 142.3 yards per game average.  With Pouncey back in control of the offensive line, things should only get better in both the run game and in pass protection as well.



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