There’s an admitted heightened sense of urgency within the walls of the Dolphins’ practice facility this week, with a strong desire to reverse the course of a season continuing to spiral out of control.
“It’s tough being on a five-game losing streak,” cornerback Nik Needham said. “We’re not about to sit here and mope and cry around. I think we’ve been on each other’s a-- a little more and just trying to up the tempo and the urgency a little more because we have to do whatever we need to do to get a W this weekend. You can see that in practice today. People were more on each other’s a---- trying to make sure everybody gets everything right.”
At 1-5 with five consecutive losses since their Week 1 win over the New England Patriots, the Dolphins are tied with the Houston Texans for the second-longest losing skid in the NFL. Their latest defeat came to the previously winless Jacksonville Jaguars, who had owned the longest active losing streak, falling short in 20 games in a row.
Dolphins coaches and players publicly have remained consistent in their messaging, that they can turn around a slow and disappointing start to the season. And on paper, their comments don’t seem to be unfounded. The Dolphins will play six of their next eight games at Hard Rock Stadium, beginning with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. They have the third-easiest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Then again, on paper, this wasn’t supposed to be a team that has been outscored by 78, the second-worst point differential in the NFL. Or a team that’s a Xavien Howard forced fumble away from being stuck with the winless Detroit Lions in the basement of league standings.
“That’s the nature of the league,” tight end Durham Smythe said. “You lose four or five in a row and you’re the worst team in the league. When you win four or five, you’re the best in the league. We’ve been through this in the past two years. I think it all starts with one. When you get one, that’ll start to shift some things. We’ve got to find a way to get that.”
If it starts this weekend, it will have to come against the Falcons (2-3) in a week that’s unorthodox for teams returning from the United Kingdom. The Dolphins reportedly declined to take the NFL’s offer of a bye week after their game in London, a courtesy extended by the league to teams who have to make the cross-Atlantic Ocean trip.
All other teams who have played in London this season — the Falcons, Jaguars and New York Jets — had byes following their games in the United Kingdom. According to The Associated Press, of the 60 times a team has traveled to play a game in London, only five times has the team not had a bye the following week. The last time this occurred? The Dolphins in 2017, returning from a shutout loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Coach Brian Flores declined to comment specifically on the reports of requesting a later bye but let the Dolphins tell it, they prefer the opportunity to try to rectify their season immediately instead of a week of respite.
“I think we’re just all at this point super hungry and ready to just get a win,” safety Brandon Jones said, “especially just based off of the work we put in, the amount of time we put into this and just how much we care and love each other as players. And how much we respect the coaching staff and know that they put us in the best position that they can. At the end of the day, we just have to do a better job of executing. Once we can put that together, I think we can definitely string some wins together.”
There is a bit of familiarity with the visiting Falcons, dating to two days of joint practices held at the Baptist Health Training Complex in August. It culminated in a 37-17 preseason win for the Dolphins at home but a game in which Atlanta did not play the majority of its starters, including starting quarterback Matt Ryan.
“I would say they’re a different team,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “They had different guys when we were playing. Obviously, they’re going to have their starters out there when we’re playing them but the scheme is going to be the same. You can see they’re coming off a win. They’re well rested coming off their bye. For us, it’s been the same things over and over. It’s execution and go out and understand what we’re going to do offensively, defensively and in the kicking game to execute what we’re going to do to win the game.”
So the Dolphins won’t enter Sunday’s game with an extra feeling of comfort, especially with the state of the team. And not with the questions that continue to swirl around the franchise, from the job security of people such as Flores and general manager Chris Grier to continued reports about a potential trade for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
“All we can do is fight forward now,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said. “We’ve already got our backs against the wall, so all we can do is move forward.”