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Miami Dolphins

3 Cardinal Rules for Defending Sam Darnold

Andrew Mitchell

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The Miami Dolphins are 1-0 as they head north to take on their bitter rivals, The New York Jets. The Jets are also 1-0 after an impressive showing versus the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Aside from the blowout, equally impressive to most was Sam Darnold. Darnold’s hype train is gaining steam after 1 week and Miami must follow these 3 rules to stop it in its tracks.

  1. Stop the Run Game to Minimize the Play Action Pass

Sam Darnold threw 21 passes on Monday night. Do you know how many of those passes were play action passes? 10. That’s just under half of his total pass attempts that were play action. A lot of them were bootlegs, moving the quarterback outside of the pocket and away from the pressure. He was 6 for 10 on his play action passes on Monday night versus Detroit.

If Miami’s run defense can hold its own in the first half, this will minimize the linebackers and safeties from biting on the fake hand offs. In turn this will create better overall coverage in the secondary which means longer process time for Darnold, which equates to more time for the likes of Robert Quinn and Cam Wake to apply pressure or get sacks.

  1. Press the Wide Receivers

The New York Jets receiving core does not scare me. I think Robby Anderson is a little underrated, but he doesn’t strike fear in me with our current roster. While reviewing film I noticed several plays where it seemed like Sam Darnold got the ball out in 3 seconds or less, by design. I notated that on 9 different occasions it seemed that Darnold would get the snap, take a 3-step drop at the most and rifle the ball to a receiver slanting over the middle. It was an easy 5 yards or so each time and it also eliminated the Detroit pass rush.

I imagine the Jets will want to emphasize this seeing that our pass rush can be quite daunting. If Matt Burke can pick up on some of these designed quick, short passes we will be able to press the receivers which in turn will disrupt their routes and force Darnold into a bad decision or give the defensive ends the extra allotted time to get a sack.

  1. Go for the Strip!

Now now, keep your clothes on, and no, I am not referencing a nice beautiful strip steak. The first thing that jumped out at me was Sam Darnold’s release; I mean this thing is a wind up and a half. Remember Byron Leftwich? Well that’s who I immediately thought of as I watch Darnold throw the ball. Now it’s not as bad or as slow as Leftwich’s but still, considering nowadays NFL and how the quarterbacks are evaluated, I am surprised this didn’t get more attention in the draft process.

So, as I am watching this wind up I start thinking about how much time Darnold has to throw the ball, he was not under duress at all. If Miami can delay Darnold on his reads and get pressure they could have a big day. Darnold’s release starts very low, almost near his hip and then it works its way up. This will be beneficial to Robert Quinn and Cam Wake. The thing with those 2, is not only do they get sacks, but when they apply pressure their hands are usually almost touching the quarterback, a lot like when you see a strip sack happen. Anyone attacking Darnold needs to just go for the strip due to his placement and release, it could provide a key turnover in what might turn out to be a close game.

 

Andrew is a lifelong Dolphins’ fan that has a deep passion for sports. He has a Multimedia Journalism Degree from Florida Atlantic University and also has interned for ESPN Radio. For all his opinions and articles you can follow him on Twitter: @mitchpr0

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. G Meyne

    September 13, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Stopping the run is a priority. I would expect to see a lot of Hayes at DE for either Quinn or Wake. Hayes is a beast at setting the edge and defending the run.

    The pass defense needs to focus in the middle of the field. Those are the easy throws for a QB. Miami in the middle with their LB’s, Nickel CB, and Safeties will be tested. If that means leaving Howard and McCain on islands on the outside, so be it.

    • Andrew Mitchell

      Andrew Mitchell

      September 13, 2018 at 11:41 am

      Greg, I agree! Hayes will see a lot of snaps, whether its setting the edge or playing 3 technique to force penetration. Like you said, if Miami can stay strong in the spine of the field and force NYJ to beat them outside I think that’s Miami’s advantage. Thanks for the feedback! Much appreciated

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs. Raiders Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
When: September 23, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 88 degrees, 73% humidity, 60% precipitation
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -3

Raiders Off-Season Changes

Dolphins vs. Raiders

Favored for the first time in three outings, the Miami Dolphins return home to the building where, under Adam Gase, the organization is bordering on elite. Since Gase’s hire in 2016, the Dolphins are 11-5, riding a six-game winning-streak with Ryan Tannehill under-center, and average nearly four touchdowns per game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Beating the Titans was a commencement that this team wasn’t the pushover many projected it to be. Throttling the Jets to the tune of a 20-point halftime lead, Miami asserted itself into the discussion of potential playoff outfits.

Now the expectation is that the Dolphins will hit the showers on Sunday with an unblemished record through three games. Winning as an underdog can be attributed to the emotional influence of the game but, winning as favorites, that’s a different ballgame.

The Patriots are on-deck. Miami are in a perfect situation to set-up a Late-September statement game – a potential changing of the guard game, perhaps.

But first, the Raiders.

The Raiders’ Scheme

Offense:

Oakland have been a team of two halves under second-time Head Coach, Jon Gruden. Obliterated in the second half against a loaded Rams team, on national T.V. no less, the Raiders had an opportunity to right the ship with a 12-point halftime lead at divisional rival Denver.

Gruden’s play-script has yielded positive results. A healthy mix of 11 and 12-personnel focuses the offense around Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. Everything Oakland does offensively revolves around the running game. Establishing Marshawn Lynch and the zone running game early is the precursor for the play-action, bootleg layers’ concepts that we’ve seen regularly with Miami.

For a team that wanted to throw things back to 1998 (and they did, no roster is older than this veteran-laden group assembled in Oakland), Gruden’s offense sure struggles to convert third-and-short. On 10 attempts from five yards and in, the Raiders are moving the sticks just 40% of the time.

That issue, compounded by a lack of ingenuity once the game becomes about adjustments, are why the Raiders are starring an 0-3 start square in the face. Mixing plenty of variety early in the game (bunch 12-personnel followed up by an empty formation down in the red zone) kept the Broncos and Rams defenses guessing.

While the yardage ranks show success, the Raiders have the fifth-lowest scoring offense in the National Football League.

Defense:

Coordinator Paul Guenther believes in three things: Blitzing, blitzing and, you guessed it, blitzing. Though it didn’t start that way this season, Gruden has specifically stated he would prefer that Oakland brought heat more often.

The Raider defense increased the blitz-package last week and, as the pass rush continues to struggle in the post-Khalil Mack era, that trend likely continues this week.

A-Gap pressure has been a favorite for Guenther. He’s a disciple of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who’s defense is predicated on showing pressure down up the gun-barrel.

On the back-end, Oakland will mix-up zone and man-coverage. Because of a lack of pressure from the Raiders’ lackluster four-man front, the Dolphins could take Guenther’s defense to task in two ways:

– Throwing the football to the backs
– Setting up the quick screen game early and often

The Players:

Offense:

Derek Carr has regressed back to the norm after an anomaly in 2016. His propensity to succumb to heavy pressure and poor decision making has resulted in a rough start for the fifth-year pro.

Carr’s passer rating under pressure is 33.1 – 32nd in the NFL. Miami had Sam Darnold under constant duress Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Penn and Kolton Miller have surrendered eight pressures among the pair – keeping them each outside of the top 50 tackles in the league when it comes to pass blocking efficiency.

The interior of that offensive line is where the Raiders’ strength is supposed to lie – only it isn’t any better than the perimeter. Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele have allowed a combined nine pressures.

Neither Raiders’ tackle is a top-50 graded run blocker and the guards check in at 42nd and 24th respectively. Marshawn Lynch’s elusive rating is 35th among NFL backs.

Miami has three wide outs with an average yards-per-route-ran over 2.0 – Oakland has one (Martavis Bryant on just four targets). Jordy Nelson’s diminishing speed has made him a shell of his former-self and Amari Cooper still hasn’t recaptured the magic of his rookie season.

Jared Cook, however, is fifth among all tight ends with 3.82 YPPR.

Defense:

Miami have gashed teams on the ground through two games and that trend could continue in week-three. The Raiders interior defensive line is inexperienced and without much production. Jonathan Hankins arrives to reinforce a front that is allowing 5.7 yards-per-carry – worst in football.

The edge rushers might offer even less. The most efficient pass rusher through two games is Frostee Rucker. His pass-rush-productivity ranks 77th in the league.

Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin are off to solid starts on the perimeter of the Raider defense. Leon Hall, Oakland’s nickel corner has allowed 75 yards on just nine pass targets – Miami will make the grizzled-vet a target on Sunday.

Linebacker play isn’t any better. The collective group has just six run-stops and each of the three are allowing passer ratings over 100 in coverage.

Oakland cut Obi Melifonwu in order to keep Reggie Nelson on the field and the returns have not been great. His passer rating allowed is 150.7 (just 7.6 points shy of a perfect rating).

The Medical:

Raiders

(Pos) Player Injury Wednesday
CB Leon Hall Illness Limited
DT P.J. Hall Ankle DNP
WR Dwayne Harris Foot Full
C Rodney Hudson Ankle Limited
G Gabe Jackson Pectoral Limited
RB Marshawn Lynch Shoulder Limited
T Brandon Parker Ankle DNP

 

Dolphins

(Pos) Player Injury Wednesday
WR Danny Amendola Non-Injury DNP
LS John Denney Shoulder Limited
RB Kenyan Drake Abdomen Full
DE Williams Hayes Finger Full
S Reshad Jones Shoulder DNP
WR Devante Parker Knee Full
DT Jordan Phillips Knee Limited
QB Ryan Tannehill Knee/Ankle Full

The Concerns:

There’s an easy answer to this one and it would be ultra-contrarian to go away from said obvious conclusion. Jared Cook caused a multitude of problems for the Miami in last year’s meeting, and he’s off to a similar start this season.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland’s ability to stretch him both vertically and horizontally doesn’t bode well for the Miami linebackers. Raekwon McMillan is struggling immensely in this area and Kiko Alonso has been problematic in this department in his own right.

Tackling and poor angles have been a bit of an issue on the back-end. It’s a team effort to get Marshawn Lynch to the ground – if he has success, the Raiders’ offense will have success.

Miami needs these three things to go in their favor:

1.) Contain Oakland’s first down offense – Oakland’s tackle play has been suspect. With a wave of edge rusher’s ready to capitalize, if Oakland can’t find success on early downs, it won’t fare any better on the money down.

2.) Unleash the passing game – A balanced attack has been the prescription so far with early double-digit leads. The same could happen against these Raiders, but Miami has advantages all over the field in regards to the passing offense v. Oakland’s pass defense. Expect Oakland to commit to stopping the run, meaning the aerial show begins at 1 ‘o’ clock eastern standard time.

3.) Shut down Amari Cooper OR Jared Cook – Miami will pick its poison here, but if they can blank one of these two and make the Raiders passing game one-dimensional, the Dolphins can start robbing Derek Carr and force the mistake-prone quarterback into turnovers.

The Opportunities:

Frankly, they’re everywhere. Miami’s edge rush against Oakland’s substandard tackle play, the young interior defensive line of Oakland against Miami’s ever-evolving ground-game, the perimeter match-ups, Miami ought to be able to draw their weapon-of-choice from a hat and attack accordingly.

The Projected Result:

An angry Adam Gase is a dangerous Adam Gase. The absurd rumblings around his quarterback are sure to ignite a fire and create a run-up-the-score mentality in the snarky third-year coach. This game could very well be all gas and no breaks with plenty of scoring opportunities schemed into the passing game down in the red zone.

Coming east in the early-game window has proven difficult for this Raiders team. Sure, change has been rampant since The Visor regained control of the operation, but that doesn’t make the challenge of an out-of-whack body clock any easier.

In 2017 Oakland was 1-3 playing in the eastern time zone. Three of those games were in primetime and the Raiders were collectively outscored in the four games 104-61. The lone early-window game was a 34-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills.

The Raiders are about to find out how much resiliency they have under Gruden. The loss in Denver was devastating and will either foster a hungry, desperate team, or send the lads in the opposite direction with no hope in sight.

With the Dolphins tempo-based-attack, playing back at home in the brutal South Florida conditions, not many aspects of this game favor the road team.

Dolphins 41
Raiders 20

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Miami Dolphins

Week 3: Miami Dolphins Power Rankings Round Up

Gabe Hauari

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How did Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets in Week 2 affect their position in the eyes of the major national media outlets? Let’s take a look:

ESPN

Last Week: 24

This week: 16

NFL.com

Last week: 23

This week: 17

Bleacher Report

Last week: 28

This week: 21

CBS Sports

Last week: 17

This week: 12

Sports Illustrated

Last week: 19

This week: 15

As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on this Dolphins team. Bleacher Report continues to remain mum on Miami, saying “Undefeated or no, we’re still not ready to call the Dolphins contenders. Or even call them good.”

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranked the Dolphins No. 12, and said: “They are off to a 2-0 start and have a winnable game at home against Oakland. Adam Gase has this team playing good football.”

If the Dolphins get to 3-0 by beating the Oakland Raiders at home this Sunday, they may start to get some more national recognition as a team who could contend for a playoff spot.

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Miami Dolphins

5 potential landing spots should Miami trade Devante Parker

Kadeem Simmonds

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Following Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets on Sunday, Devante Parker was upset he didn’t see the field, claiming he was fit and ready to go.

The reaction to the quote was mixed, some fans were pleased Parker wanted in on the action while others felt he was overshadowing the victory and making it all about himself.

We saw this with Jay Ajayi, complaining he didn’t see enough off the ball after the Dolphins won games and the last thing Adam Gase wants is another player putting his personal needs above the team’s.

Parker has failed to live up the hype when he was drafted 14th overall in 2015.

Yet to get a contract extension, it may be time for #11 to move on.

The team are not short at receiver with Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant all proving to be Gase’s guys.

Parker doesn’t fit in to what Gase is trying to build in Miami and instead of letting him hit free agency when the time comes, it may be worth trading him to a WR needy franchise.

Below are five teams who could be interested in Parker should he be available:

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Ajayi texts Parker.

“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“He didn’t give me enough touches when I was in Miami and I left to win a Super Bowl. JOIN ME!”

On a serious note, this is a move which we could actually see happen.

The SB champs are short at receiver due to a few injuries.

While they have Alshon Jeffrey to return, Mike Wallace may not see the field again this season and Mack Hollins is on IR.

Carson Wentz returns this Sunday and giving him a new shiny toy to play with in Parker could be the perfect welcome back gift.

Eagles Twitter want it to happen and know the franchise have a good relationship with the Dolphins after acquiring Ajayi for what seems to be a steal.

Can Howie Roseman do it again?

 

Cleveland Browns

Landry texts Parker.

“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“He gave me loads of touches when I was in Miami and I left to lose with the Browns. JOIN ME!”

The Browns’ receiver core is shrinking.

Corey Coleman? Gone.

Josh Gordon? Gone.

For Thursday Night Football against the Jets, their current depth chart at WR reads:

1. Jarvis Landry

2. Rashard Higgins

3. Derrick Willies

1. Antonio Callaway

2. Damion Ratley

3. Rod Streater.

If Cleveland are serious about actually winning a game of football, giving Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield some actual weapons could be a start.

Should Miami work out a deal, better than the one they got for Landry, they could be looking at a pretty decent draft pick in 2019.

Cleveland has the cap room to offer him a long-term deal and Parker gets moved to a team looking to rebuild for the future.

 

Dallas Cowboys

The win against the Giants on Sunday Night Football didn’t mask the fact that Dak Prescott has a lack of good options to throw to.

The team has seven WRs after adding Brice Butler to give the receiver room some much-needed height but still lack an X-factor player on the perimeter.

Jason Garrett must be worried about the amount of snaps Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley are seeing and Parker can potentially bring to this team what they lost in Dez Bryant over the summer.

It would mean getting rid of two or three WRs but given the list of names on the Cowboys depth chart, that shouldn’t be too hard to make room for a former first round pick.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson needs help.

First and foremost, he needs an offensive line.

But he also has no-one to throw to.

Pete Carroll’s days seem to be numbered and he may not last the entire season given their start and the changes in Seattle the past 18 months.

But should he need a quick fix to try and save his job, Parker could help alleviate the pressure on Wilson while also taking some of the attention Doug Baldwin is shown by opponents.

Should trade talks take place, instead of going for a draft pick, Miami’s front office should see if Seattle would send Earl Thomas the other way.

Yes Miami has T.J. McDonald but would you turn down the opportunity to partner Reshad Jones with ETIII?

One can dream.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Like Seattle, this team needs all the help it can get.

Badly.

Larry Fitzgerald cannot keep single-handedly saving this franchise.

Christian Kirk looks a nice pick up but if they want to give Josh Rosen the best chance to succeed when he does step in for Sam Bradford, he needs more weapons.

Parker can immediately step in and be productive in a team which failed to get past the half-way line until the final drive of the game against the LA Rams and were shut out.

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