Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel talked Wednesday about two areas where his team has struggled significantly that have been underscored during the three-game losing streak: The defense and short-yardage situations offensively.
The question he was asked of the Dolphins’ inefficiencies on third-and-short plays (3 yards or less) wasn’t even completed when McDaniel interjected with the team’s ranking.
“Last in the league,” he said. “For sure.”
He was right. Miami has converted 21 of 49 attempts in such situations, according to TruMedia. That 42.9 percent conversion rate ranks last in the NFL. In Saturday night’s loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Dolphins were 1 of 6 on third-and-3 or fewer yards.
“The reason I know that we’re last in short yardage is because I live it,” McDaniel said. “So you attribute it to a lot of different things, you try to problem solve. That’s the way I look at everything. Bottom line is, you have to keep chopping wood to figure it out because that’s your job.”
McDaniel has come under fire from critics and fans for going away from the run game, which was successful for 188 yards on 25 attempts in Buffalo, on many of those third-and-short situations.
“I have a ton of regrets about play calls, that they didn’t work, but really what I hold myself accountable for and I feel 100 percent convicted in is that, ‘Were those calls made for the right reasons at the time with the information?’ ” McDaniel said.
“If you are doing it because you’re afraid of the results, if you’re doing it because people are annoyed that you’re — okay, we pass the ball a lot on third-and-1 and they haven’t worked, so it’s probably pretty annoying as a fan. I think it’s annoying when we don’t get first downs, but at the same time, I learned from every single one of them.
“But in the moment, I think it’s incredibly important [for] your position as a head coach, to have integrity in your decisions. Shame on me if I’m doing something because it’s the easy way out, but I fully know, every time that we put a play in, I make a play call — I know exactly what it is. Guess what? There’s always a risk.”
The Dolphins defense, which was largely kept intact in the offseason because of its success in the second half of last season, ranks 26th in scoring defense, 23rd in total defense, 27th in passing defense, 27th in third-down defense and 29th in takeaways.
McDaniel was asked if the defense has performed up to standard.
“I think any person in the locker room, every coach on the coaching staff would say no,” he replied.
“Me, personally, I don’t hide or really run or get frustrated with that stuff. To me, in the game of football, you’re held accountable for everything. It’s one of the beauties about it. I think a lot of people in the building want to do right by their own talents, by each other’s investment, really, by the fans and understand that, any time that things fall short of what you’re capable of, people care, and out of that care, you get frustrated.
“I really wouldn’t rest unless I felt like we were going in the right direction. Does that mean direct results? Obviously not. And does that mean that I’m going to shy away from that or say, ‘No, it’s okay.’ No. It’s not okay.
“We’ve really attacked the possible reasons for those things, and my expectation is that they improve drastically in a short amount of time. That is what it is, but I don’t think it’s anything to run from. You’re a fool if you don’t realize that’s what you signed up for, and if you want fans to cheer for you, they’re going to care when you’re not doing well.”
Safety Jevon Holland, tackle Terron Armstead, running back Raheem Mostert, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram and wide receiver River Cracraft were the Dolphins not spotted at the team’s Wednesday practice.
Ingram usually gets Wednesdays off for veteran rest, and Armstead, dealing with toe, pectoral and knee injuries also often sits out Wednesdays.
Safety Eric Rowe (hamstring) returned for the start of the week’s drills after he didn’t practice last week.
Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. and outside linebacker Jaelan Phillips were seen working out on the side of practice.
Left guard Liam Eichenberg began his third week of practice since being designated to return from injured reserve. The team has until Tuesday to activate him off IR for his knee injury sustained Oct. 30 at Detroit. The Dolphins chose not to the past two games at the Los Angeles Chargers and Buffalo Bills.