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Blown Out by Baltimore Again – Miami Dolphins Week 1 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Tanking might not be a strong enough word after the Dolphins endured its worst home defeat in franchise history

Odds makers had Miami as a touchdown underdog in the 2019 season opener. Playing at home is worth three points alone, and the Ravens — winners of eight of the last nine head-to-head matchups with Miami — have always given this Dolphins team fits.

None of those losses, even with most of them coming in embarrassing fashion, were as convincing as the beating Brian Flores and his team took in the Rookie Head Coach’s debut.

 

Stat Dolphins Ravens
Total Yards 200 643
Rushing 21 265
Passing 179 378
Penalties 9 for 64 yards 4 for 40 yards
3rd/4thDown 3/10 (30%) 9/13 (69.2%)
Sacks For 1 3
TOP 19:53 40:07

 

We knew the offensive line play was going to be bad — to the tune of three sacks, 12 additional quarterback pressure, and six tackles for loss.

We knew the quarterback play would be spotty — surprisingly decent after a truly terrible interception on Miami first drive.

It was the issues on defense, particularly in the back-seven, that were alarming. The alarms were allegedly going off in the Dolphins post-game locker room as well, as Pro Football Talk reported that multiple Miami veterans phoned their agents in hopes of getting out of town via a trade.

Many questions arise from this upsetting report, none bigger than those directed at the individuals attached to the rumor. And if these players were part of the 49-point loss, the biggest home defeat in franchise history, do we actually want those guys as part of the future? Especially if they can bring back draft compensation?

Speculation would point to veterans like Reshad Jones, Daniel Kilgore, Albert Wilson or Bobby McCain, but might Minkah Fitzpatrick be involved in that conversation? We’ll get to his performance in the position-by-position portion of this column, but complaints of misusage can be traced back to training camp.

Fitzpatrick made no qualms about his frustration on the field. Going from playing for college football’s national title every year, to the perpetually mediocre (and now basement dwellers) Dolphins is a difficult pill to swallow. Multiple occasions saw Fitzpatrick throwing his head back is disbelief of the defensive effort.

Communication, tackling, defeating blocks; all the core principles of Brian Flores program came up patently empty in the first rendition of the post-Adam Gase era.

The plan on either side of the ball was uninspiring. Working with a roster that was turned over by 20% just in the last week alone, and 60% from last season, Flores and company had to feel as if they were playing against a stacked deck — and it showed.

With busted coverages down the middle of the field, minimal safety-help any time the Ravens attacked vertically, zero pass rush to speak of, and run-fits that were reminiscent of old coaching staffs, this tape belongs securely in the fireplace.

Let’s go unit-by-unit

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick made about as much hay as one could’ve expected from the 36-year-old veteran. Completing less than 50% of his balls, winding up on his back nearly every play, Fitzpatrick managed to evade some of the consistently compromised pockets, and stretched the field a few times.

His interception was vintage Fitz, as he mis-identified a two-deep, post-snap rotation, and somehow failed to account for Earl Thomas, who made Fitzpatrick pay. He did, however, throw a touchdown pass, making him the first quarterback to ever do so for eight different teams.

Josh Rosen threw three passes. One hit the turf and two were caught, one by either team. His interception was a bad ball that turned into a turnover because the receiver (Jakeem Grant) didn’t come back to the football).

Running Back

So much for using Kenyan Drake early and often. Miami only rushed for 21 yards and never had a chance to get the run-game going because of the lopsided scoreboard, but it’s night and day which back offers more explosion.

Drake rushed for just 12 yards on four carries — not much, but substantially better than Kalen Ballage’s five carries for -1 yard — and caught two of his three targets for 15 yards. His most impressive work came in pass protection, however.

Wide Receiver

Devante Parker leaping to make full extension catches is a treat to watch. When Parker adds the vertical element to his game, he can be a more than viable option in 11-personnel sets. He caught less than 50% of his targets (3 of 7) but he posted 75 yards to double up the team’s second leading receiver.

Preston Williams owns the lone Dolphins touchdown on the year. It came in familiar fashion as Williams — as he did all camp long — worked the end-line in a goal-to-go situation for a gorgeous touchdown stab. The impressive part was the release, and consequent stacking of the defender.

It’s unfair to speculate which veterans might be interested in a departure, but Albert Wilson’s body language certainly didn’t send an endorsing message — but who can blame him?

Tight Ends

Durham Smythe opened the game as the starter, but he and Nick O’Leary were not targeted. Miami only rushed the ball 12 times, so the 12-personnel pairing was naturally uninvolved most of the game.

Mike Gesicki was the team’s second leading receiver. He caught only two of his six targets, but picked 31 yards (26 on one play). He continues to show his skill set as a flex, supped-up receiver type.

Offensive Line

It’s going to be an unbalanced evaluation for the skill players all year long, and we have the line to thank for it. We’ll get to the horrendous defense, but this unit was responsible for the measly 10 points and 12 first downs on 10 offensive possessions.

Jesse Davis signed an extension on Saturday, and moved to left tackle full-time starting with today’s game. We’ll have more on this in the podcast that coincides with this article, but Davis’ performance triggers some early buyer’s remorse. He doesn’t get off the football (kick-slide) smooth enough to deal with the speed rushers off that edge, letting up his fair share of pressures.

Daniel Kilgore has to be one of the trade requests — he has to be. We heard about a veteran of the line becoming very upset over the Tunsil trade, and the extra duty he has to pull to pick up the slack on this line is…. well it’s a lot.

Julie’n Davenport was a tire fire in Houston, and he brought the show to Miami today. Miami’s new right tackle frequently put his teammates in danger because of his shortcomings, but also a fuzzy understanding of his assignments (can you blame him? He’s been here for a week).

Danny Isidora wiped a booger on Pernell McPhee on one inside rush, but it only slowed McPhee’s move down by a fraction of a second.

Michael Deiter pitched in with his own pass protection issues.

Defensive Line

Two players in this group were issued playbooks last week, and deployed for significant workloads Sunday. John Jenkins and Avery Moss are unrecognizable to the fans (first time wearing their new jerseys today) but they both became quickly acquainted, and did so for all the wrong reasons.

Christian Wilkins was knocked back badly on one of Baltimore’s touchdown runs, but he responded and played one of the better games up front.

The same was true of Davon Godchaux, who made his feelings about a potential locker room mutiny known after the game

Charles Harris’ preseason looked like fool’s gold in this game, he was back on the milk carton.

Jonathan Ledbetter is a fit and a find from this scouting staff. In addition to falling in-line with the expectation for playing the edge (as well as condensing inside), Ledbetter made a number of hustle plays in the game.

Linebackers

What a swift departure this was from the preseason and camp this unit had. Sam Eguavoen was exposed big time in this game. He was regularly tossed aside in his attempts to set the edge or fill inside, and was a beat late in coverage on a few occasions.

The same was true for Raekwon McMillan. He made one nifty run-stuff early in the game, but got caught in coverage, had a terrible run fit on a Ravens touchdown run, and eventually left with an injury.

Jerome Baker’s hot camp and preseason didn’t translate. A few folks are concerned about his fit in this defense because of his size, and those limitations showed up in this game — he still needs to get stronger.

Defensive Backs

Xavien Howard was targeted one time that I remember, and he damn near picked it off. He’s still elite.

The rest of Miami’s corners had a dreadful game. Eric Rowe got lost in coverage multiple times and, on more than one occasion, didn’t appear all that interested in helping his team.

Minkah Fitzpatrick was slow roasted. He was put in some precarious positions, including in man-coverage against Hollywood Brown with a 12-yard cushion and no safety help. This sounds normal, but Minkah had to close down in a quasi-robber role on the over route, and once Brown caught Fitzpatrick leaning, it was game over.

Jomal Wiltz was burnt for at least two touchdown that will go against him. He was overmatched, especially on a vertical route from Willie Snead, who is not known for his blazing speed.

Reshad Jones had a pretty typical Reshad Jones game. He made a weak-side C-gap run-stuff down around the goal line, and made three additional tackles.

The Bobby McCain free safety experiment might already be over. The insult came via multiple coverage busts and vacated zones in the middle of the field; the injury came when McCain aggravated the shoulder that listed him on the injury report this week.

Recap

This is probably going to be the painstaking norm this season. The Dolphins lopped off most of the talent it had back in the winter, and continued that purge over the last couple of weeks, with no real regard for winning football games this season.

Repairing years of poor management — which put the balance sheets out of whack, without much talent to account for the expenses — is an arduous process. A process that we are smack-dab in the middle of.

The light at the end of the tunnel comes by-way of the 2020 draft class — which is 227 days away, for those scoring at home.

This year’s class is impressive, and it’s spearheaded by a generational talent. Miami’s moves — namely the left tackle extension for Davis (more in the podcast) — suggest that Tua is the target. In fact, I can confirm that Tua Tagovailoa is the target.

In case you aren’t convinced about what an electrifying, upstart quarterback can do for a bad football team, take a look at Kyler Murray in Arizona. After a dreadful first half of his own, Kyler went 17 of 21 in the fourth quarter, and engineered an 18-point comeback in the process (the game would end in a tie after the Cardinals defense gave the overtime field back to the Lions).

We will track the college quarterbacks each week here on Locked On Dolphins.

For now, we are Andy Dufresne in the middle of that sewage-filled pipe. On the other side, freedom.

We hope.

@WingfieldNFL

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    PapaPickett

    September 8, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    The front seven was so bad the Secondary was using their Safeties man to man in off coverages with no help over the top. It was an all around team failure but no one deserves a game ball quite like Chris Grier. I hope someone else is choosing for the draft picks he traded for.

  2. Avatar

    Andy Breakstone

    September 9, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    GREAT ARTICLE MAN YOUR GOOD OMAR JEALOUS .BOBBY MCCAIN SUKS WHEREVER U PUT HIM.PUT MINKAH AND REHAD AT SAFETY.ERIC ROWE LOST PATS SB HES TERRIBLE.MCTYER MAYBE AT OTHER CB.TRAVIS THIS TEAM HAS NO ABOVE AVG PLAYERS EXCEPT X MAN AND RESHAD.55 HASNT DONE SHT YET.THIS IS GONNA TAKE AT LEAST 3 YEARS TO PUT A GOOD TEAM TOGETHER UNLESS TUA IS BRADY WHICH HE ISNT.WOW WERE THE MARLINS OF FOOTBALL.IM 63 SO I SAW THE GOOD SHULA YEARS.THIS SHT HARD TO BELIEVE.ROSS IS THE CULPRIT HIRING SHT COACHES.AND GMS.HE NEEDS TO SELL TEAM HES CLUELESS

  3. Avatar

    MM

    September 10, 2019 at 6:27 am

    In the context of the rebuild: 1) why the extension for Grant? He can’t play WR and while a HR threat is also inconsistent catching kicks; 2) why start guys like Davenport who are not NFL caliber and who are never going to be? 3) where were the D scheme changes? Looked like a very similar approach start to finish with the same guys making the same mistakes

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Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers

The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.

Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.

Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.

That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.

Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.

 

Year Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)
2017 399 (38.2%)
2018 401 (39.2%)
2019 0

 

A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.

Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.

Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.

Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.

First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.

His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.

This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.

That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.

The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.

Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.

The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.

Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.

If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.

Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.

Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.

Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.

The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.

Now, for the tape.

If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.

We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton

Chris Kowalewski

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Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.

By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.

Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.

While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.

Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D

Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Weather: Dome
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21

The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.

This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.

Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.

The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.

The Scheme:

Offense:

The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.

Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.

Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.

Defense:

On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.

With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.

Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.

Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.

The Players:

Offense:

Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.

The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.

Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.

Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.

Defense:

Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.

Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.

Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.

If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.

Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.

The Opportunities:

Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.

Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.

The Projected Outcome:

The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.

Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.

Dolphins 6
Cowboys 31

@WingfieldNFL

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