Miami Dolphin Veterans Need to Step Up

The rookie quarterbacks put on the show Sunday, but it was the veteran leaders on the Dolphins that proved Miami's undoing. The closest thing to veteran leadership in Miami comes from Reggie Bush, Jake Long and Anthony Fasano on offense and Cameron Wake, Karlos Dansby and Sean Smith on defense.

Reggie Bush and Cameron Wake exonerated themselves from criticism by making plays, but their veteran teammates must be held accountable. Joe Philbin needs to send the right message to the youngsters by calling out the pathetic play of the leaders during film study.  

Jake Long had perhaps his worst day as a professional and his final trip to Hawaii may have come and gone. Dwight Freeney’s early spin move resulted in a sack of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill fumbled and Long somehow managed to catch the ball and make a positive play, but Freeney had his number the entire game. 

Freeney’s bull-rushes made Long look feeble, slow and flatfooted. The first half ended with a speed rush that confused both Long and running back Daniel Thomas resulting in another big hit on Tannehill. The veteran Long missed the assignment. The tackle should always take the defensive end and leave the linebacker to the halfback. Even if it gone for a first down, the final offensive play of the game for the Dolphins would not have counted as the Colts declined Long’s holding penalty.

Jake Long is destined for free agency after the season. After four straight pro-bowls, his reign as a dominant left tackle could be in jeopardy. Long will have to take a significant pay cut to remain in Miami and that could even include a switch to right tackle. If Long demands more than his mediocre performance is worth, this may be his last year as a Dolphin. Jake Long needs to step up if Miami has any true playoff hopes, his position is critical to protecting Miami’s prized rookie QB. Should long's immobility cause an injury to Tannehill, it will not be forgotten in the off-season. 

Anthony Fasano was unable to find an opening in the Colts secondary and only caught one pass. Because of the problem Long and his fellow line-mates were having slowing down Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, Fasano was used mainly as a blocker. Averaging 4.7 yards per carry, the Dolphins inexplicably only rushed the ball 18 times in the entire game. Fasano’s holding call midway through the third quarter eventually forced a Dolphin punt. Fasano did not play a terrible game, but it was not good enough to win. 

On defense, Karlos Dansby had 9 tackles but there were receivers running open through the middle of the Dolphin defense the entire game. Dansby will not be highlighted as a prime suspect in the losing effort, but he was nearly invisible. When the Dolphins needed a veteran to step up and make a play, Karlos was chasing receivers and making many of his tackles ten or more yards down the field allowing long third down conversions. 

Many of the thirteen out of nineteen times Luck and the Colts converted on third down came on passes in the center of the field with Dansby unable to make a play. Seven of those passes went for nine yards or longer and are the kind of plays that left the defense shaking their heads and gasping for air. Dansby needed to provide a veteran spark, but instead allowed a rookie QB to steal the show. 

Sean Smith reverted to the inconsistent player that has infuriated Dolphin fans since he was drafted four years ago. Smith is a gifted athlete, but his mistakes from the cornerback position are glaring. Smith was in coverage on both Luck’s 9-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne and his 36-yard touchdown pass to TY Hilton. 

On the long pass to Hilton, Smith said, “I lost it in the light, went blind.” The wobbling desperation pass was easy pickings for Smith, but he turned awkwardly with his back to the receiver and knocked Miami safety Chris Clemons off the coverage. Smith simply needed to follow the receiver and he would have been able to locate the ball, but he reacted as if the stadium lights were rays of kryptonite. 

With 2:59 left and the game still in the balance Smith had another opportunity to redeem himself. Andrew Luck found him again for an easy interception that would have given the Dolphins the ball at the Colts’ 30, already in range for a game tying field goal. Instead, after pulling in the pass he somehow managed to let it slip through his hands and fall harmlessly to the ground. The Colts punted and their defense held the Dolphins to end the game. 

It seems our entire society has grown insistent on the blame game, the word accident may as well be struck from the dictionary, unfortunately it was no accident or coincidence this article is focused on Jake Long and Sean Smith. The Colts saw something other teams had missed, the Colts saw two veterans living off their reputation and not playing at an elite level. Long’s quick feet have turned to stone and Smith's unusual height and athleticism have caused him to ignore technique. 

These two players needed to make strides this season as leaders on the field and if this game is an indication, it has not happened. 

The Dolphins cannot afford to spend more draft picks on offensive linemen. Long and Pouncey are first round picks, Martin is a second, Jerry is a third along with Richey Incognito (Rams 2005). Samson Satele who started for the Colts was a second round pick for Miami who was let go for Jake Grove who the Dolphins paid $14 million dollars to before drafting Pouncey. 

Sean Smith was drafted in the second round in 2009 along with first round pick Vontae Davis. Davis is already gone, making Smith the leader in the secondary and with a performance like this, coaches must be wondering if he can be entrusted with the future. Miami will be forced to add players to the secondary in 2013, but with the hope Smith would be a veteran leader. Unfortunately, Sean Smith has not shown the maturity and consistency to be a leader and the Dolphins may have to revert to free agency. 

The failure of these two players has a ripple effect now and in the future for the Dolphins. In the present, both have been exposed and both will be challenged relentlessly in the coming weeks. There will be no reputation to live off any longer. The Dolphins will know by season’s end whether these two players will need replacements. 

The drafting of Jonathan Martin is already an indication Miami may know more about Jake Long’s long-term viability in the NFL than they are letting on. Long is not the same player that was picked with first selection of the 2008 draft. After four seasons, a consistent light is not burning in the heart of Sean Smith. These are huge gaps for the Dolphins to fill whether through the draft or in free agency. 

Fans that were disappointed a wide receiver was not selected high in the 2012 draft will be livid when a tackle or corner must be selected because these two players have not lived up to the billing. The spotlight is no longer on Ryan Tannehill, the light will be burning bright on Jake Long and Sean Smith after Miami’s future opponents spend time breaking down the Colts film. 

The rookie is doing just fine, it’s time for Jake Long and Sean Smith to step up or their days are numbered in Miami...