Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said this week that his players must do their jobs better or risk being benched. Gase, in his words, was “irritated” and “bothered” after narrowly escaping Sunday with an overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Gase stayed true to his word Thursday in Cincinnati by benching No. 1 cornerback Byron Maxwell, who played poorly the previous two games. It was quite a statement after the Dolphins made a big offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Maxwell. But it was also an indication of how bad things have become with Miami’s cornerbacks just four games into the season.
Thursday’s 22-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was further confirmation the Dolphins’ cornerback position will be an eyesore all season. Rookie Xavien Howard and Maxwell’s replacement, Tony Lippett, were not ready for the national stage, as Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green ran circles around the inexperienced secondary. Green had 10 catches for 173 yards and a touchdown.
Strangely, the Dolphins (1-3) didn't adjust their scheme enough and left Lippett and Howard one-on-one against Green too often. Green burned both with catches of 51, 43 and 21 yards in the game. His 7-yard touchdown reception came after running through a poor tackle attempt by Lippett.
After three quarters, Green had more receiving yards (166) than the Dolphins had total offense (152). It was a mismatch all game, one Miami didn’t have an answer for.
The Dolphins were counting on Maxwell, who signed a $63 million contract with the Eagles last year, to round back into the form he showed in four seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. It was a risky gamble after Maxwell played poorly in Philadelphia, which was happy to cut bait after one season. Some of those same bad habits, such as inconsistent coverage and poor tackling, showed often in the first three games, and Gase had seen enough.
However, Maxwell remains the Dolphins' best cover corner and their only hope for at least a little stability at the position. If Maxwell cannot turn his season around and/or remains on the bench, Miami's cornerback position this year is hopeless.