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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins at Texans – Week Eight Preview

Travis Wingfield



Who: Dolphins (4-3) vs. Texans (4-3)
When: October 25, 8:20 East
Where: NRG Stadium – Houston, TX
Weather: 72 degree, 75% humidity (retractable roof)
Vegas Slant: Texans -7.5


Week Eight’s kickoff game features a pair of teams with the same record battling for playoff positioning in the AFC. At least that’s how it appears on the surface. Digging a layer deeper, this Houston team are winners of four straight and perched atop the conference’s South division.

On the other sideline, a wounded Miami team enters a Thursday road game for the fourth consecutive season. With the quarterback, two top wide outs, left guard, center, and two top tight ends on the shelf, any offense the Dolphins produce will come as a surprise.

This game is a reminder of how playing in the same division as the New England Patriots can suck the life out of fans from Miami, Buffalo and East Rutherford. At 4-3, the division already feels lost. In Houston, however, the Texans could alternate wins and losses the rest of the year and likely emerge champion of the division of mediocrity.

The mood surrounding this Miami team hasn’t cratered this low all season, but a surprise win flips the pendulum back to aspirations of a second playoff trip under Adam Gase. For a fan base that alternates between fire sale and championship contention seemingly on a weekly basis, the Dolphins need a win in the worst way.

The Texans Scheme:

Everything Houston does is the product of being incredibly limited by the worst offensive line in the National Football League. Ideally, Bill O’Brien wants to use the zone-running scheme to set up play-action shots down the field.

Realistically, Houston’s entire program is designed to stay on schedule in hopes of converting third downs.

Houston’s average distance to gain on third down is 7.6 yards. In total, the Texans convert third downs 38% of the time, but those numbers become increasingly bleak the further back the line-to-gain moves.


3rd and 1-3 yards 61% conversion rate
3rd and 4-6 yards 42% conversion rate
3rd and 7-9 yards 37% conversion rate
3rd and 10+ yards 12% conversion rate


The entirety of the Texans playbook comes from tight splits to help mitigate some of the pass protections issues. This accomplishes two things: 1.) Offers help via the chip in pass pro and, 2.) Creates route concepts and passing windows that open up quicker than a traditional NFL offense.

Conversely, there are two downsides to those approaches: 1.) Running the football is more difficult with a condensed box, and 2.) Those windows close as fast as they open, which puts pressure on the quarterback to be right in his pre-snap identification.

Play action is an integral part of the offense, just as moving pockets are a staple. Deshaun Watson bails the offense out as much as he can, but O’Brien tries to minimize the reads and Houdini acts required of Watson when the opportunity presents itself.


Coordinator Romeo Crennel uses three players to spearhead his odd-front, blitz-happy 3-3-5 scheme. Traditionally Crennel’s defense is a 3-4, but in today’s NFL, and the addition of Tyrann Mathieu as his “big nickel,” it’s a true odd-nickel package.

Mathieu is the Swiss Army Knife of the defense. He moves all over the formation, blitzes the edges, helps in run-support – he’s the key piece in the back seven.

Up front, Crennel’s scheme is devised to create opportunities for two of the league’s elite rushers. J.J. Watt has returned back to his pre-injury form and Jadeveon Clowney is a premier player regardless of assignment.

It’s a hybrid scheme that utilizes both man and zone concepts. Crennel frequently dials up press-coverage to the boundary and off-coverage to the field.

Matching-up in man inside is an opportunity for Miami to out-flank, our out-size, the Texan D. Utilizing backers in coverage on running backs and Mathieu on tight ends, there are vulnerabilities Miami and Brock Osweiler can attack.

Adam Gase’s preferred three-by-one set in 11-personnel is an apt look to isolate a linebacker on Kenyan Drake to the boundary, as Houston will ask a ‘backer to cover both the flat and the wheel in said look.

The Players:

We’ll get to Deshaun Watson in a second, but the offensive line heads the marquee for Houston, for the wrong reasons. No team has allowed more quarterback hits or sacks than the Texans. As a result, Watson has thrown the sixth most interceptions in the league.

Left Tackle Julie’n Davenport should remind Dolphins fans of Dallas Thomas – he’s THAT bad. Here’s a brief thread showing three of his reps from last week. This is just in the first quarter.

Robert Quinn MUST have a monster game for Miami to get out of Houston with a win.

The rest of the offensive line isn’t a whole lot better. Right tackle Kendall Lamb has allowed 11 pressures and falls outside of the top 50 graded tackles per PFF.

Left Guard Senio Kelemete is 13th among guards in pressures allowed. He’s the 66th overall guard according to PFF – two spots better than Right Guard Zach Fulton.

Center Nick Martin has surrendered seven pressures and is the 30th ranked center on PFF.

Lamar Miller is 17th in rushing yardage, but has done it at just 3.9 yards per carry. He’s not going to create his own yardage very often and only hits the big run when he has daylight to showcase his speed.

Houston’s saving graces are Watson and DeAndre Hopkins. Watson is a deadly on the scramble and an effective downfield passer when the circumstances are favorable. Hopkins is open even when he’s covered, he’s the most nuanced route runner in the league and consistently wins regardless of how many bodies are dedicated to stopping him.

Hopkins vs. Xavien Howard is one of the best individual match-ups you will see in a Dolphins game this year. Both players play a physical, grabby-brand and are sure to incite the best out of one another.


Houston’s defense has come together now that it finally has Clowney and Watt on the field together. Whitney Mercilus is the other factor among Texans edge players. Watt can win with power, speed or a secondary move, Clowney wins in a variety of fashions from a variety of positions and Mercilus is the run defense specialist off the edge.

The premier match-up on this side of the ball is Clowney vs. Laremy Tunsil.

D.J. Reader and Brandon Dunn are the beef inside for Houston, though neither is particularly effective against the run.

Cunningham is a tackling machine as the weak-side ‘backer, but he can over-pursue and rely on athletic ability too often.

Tyrann Mathieu is a step slower than he was before injuries took a toll in Arizona. But he’s a fiery leader that can impact the game in multiple ways. He is a gambler, however, and is susceptible to the big play.

Houston is banged up in the secondary, but Jonathan Joseph has had another steady year allowing only a 74.4 passer rating against. Shareece Wright hasn’t had as much success with a rating against of 133.3 against.

Andre Hal beat cancer this past year and returned to the line-up Sunday in Jacksonville. Rookie Justin Reid is his safety-mate in the Texans secondary. Reid is an exceptional tackler, but can get lost in coverage.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Under Adam Gase Miami are 0-2 on Thursday night road games with a combined 62-7 score. Miami is reeling right now with six offensive starters on the shelf. Traveling on a short week is a tall order as it is, and the primary reason Miami are more than a touchdown dog.

For as long as any Dolphins fan cares to remember, the defense has struggled with mobile quarterbacks. Miami did well to hem Marcus Mariota in the pocket earlier in the season, but Watson is a different animal than Mariota.

The Opportunities:

Jakeem Grant and Kenyan Drake’s speed present challenges for the Houston defense. If Miami’s pass protection reverts back to its Chicago performance, some deep shots should open up.

Defensively, this is the game for the Miami pass rush to get right. The Texans struggle to get anything blocked and Miami must dominate in that area to get a victory.

The Keys:

1.) Establishing a running game – The Texans want to create pass rush opportunities. As the Lions did to Miami last week, the best way to quell that issue is to run the football. Houston isn’t as strong up the middle as they are on the edges.

2.) Contain Watson in the pocket – As soon as he breaks, coverage will break down and Houston’s greatest weakness is no longer a factor. Miami has to make Watson win from the pocket.

3.) Red zone dominance – The Texans are 31stin the league in touchdowns percentage in the red zone and Miami has been among the league’s best in that department in 2018.

The Projected Result:

All week I was prepared to predict a lopsided Houston victory. Miami’s history in short-week road games is glaringly bad, and this is the exact type of quarterback that has given Miami problems.

However, there are a lot of match-ups that benefit the Dolphins regardless of the injuries. Still, Houston can capitalize on Miami’s fading defense, inability to contain mobile passers and the slow-starting Miami offense.

If the Dolphins don’t get out to an early lead, this game could get ugly. We’re not talking a 13-point loss, but something more in-line with what happened to the Cardinals and Giants that previous two Thursdays.

Texans 27
Dolphins 13


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NFL Draft

Fits and Starts of the 2019 NFL Draft–Jarrett Stidham

Shawn Digity



USA Today
A shot of Jarrett Stidham during the Senior Bowl in January. Image courtesy of USA Today

Which 2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks fit for the Miami Dolphins, which ones could start, and which ones aren’t on the table?

Let’s dive into the first installment of Fits and Starts with Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks and Fits and Starts intro

I hope you’re enjoying all the Kyler Murray talk; it’s not going anywhere for the next two months. So, with all the hype surrounding the Heisman winner and his decision to play in the NFL over the MLB, it makes sense that Murray shot up the draft boards in rapid fashion.

Murray has been connected with the Miami Dolphins, and it makes sense. The Dolphins need a quarterback to lead the franchise into the future, especially with the start of the Brian Flores era.

But what happens if the Dolphins can’t get Kyler Murrayin the 2019 Draft? Let’s take that a step further. What if the Dolphins don’t get any of the QBs that are pegged to go in the first round? Dwayne HaskinsDrew LockDaniel Jones, along with Murray, are all in the conversation to go off the board in the first round.

The 2019 QB class hasn’t exactly been lauded for its talent, but that doesn’t mean its totally devoid of untapped potential on Days 2 and 3. There are some diamonds in the rough and some could be on the Dolphins’ radar come April. The Fits and Starts mini-series will be focusing on these overshadowed mid-round prospects and who could fit into a role with the Miami Dolphins.

Let’s get into the first name on the list: Jarrett Stidham.

Jarrett Stidham and his NFL Future

The first quarterback on the docket is Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. He’s an enigmatic player. He was in the conversation last draft season (before he returned to Auburn) to go in the second round. He was also talked about as a dark-horse Heisman candidate before the college season started.

His junior season didn’t go exactly as scripted, though. Jarrett Stidham had an up-and-down season, and his draft stock has been all over the place, consequently. He’s polarizing in the Twitter Draft realm with many draftniks either loving or hating him. I predict that he’ll go in the third round, but I could see the need for the position pushing him into the second round.

In a lot of ways, I would compare Jarrett Stidham to Ryan Tannehill. With that being said, he’s a poor man’s Tannehill. He’s not as athletic and I wouldn’t put his arm strength or accuracy on the same level, but there are comparisons that can be drawn.

Jarrett Stidham Mini-Report

He has some starter qualities, and he’s very raw in that regard. He also did not get a lot of help from his receivers during the 2018 season. I saw a lot of dropped passes that should’ve been “gimmes”. Jarrett Stidham has a moderately high ceiling, I would say. He’s extremely rough around the edges, but I can see him becoming successful in the NFL; it’ll come with many growing pains, albeit.

He also has some accuracy issues from a lot of the film I’ve watched of him. He’ll make some unbelievable down-the-field bombs, but also make some passes that are too high, too inside or too outside. Many passes were underthrown and I saw plays where WRs had to turn and play some defense. The accuracy is a roller coaster, and that’s something that is hard to improve at the next level; accuracy is more a God-given ability than it is a teachable skill.

Something else that I wasn’t wild about was how Stidham reacted to chaos and pressure. When the line collapsed, I saw some ugly escapes. Those ugly escapes will be ugly sacks in the NFL. I saw flashes of decent pocket presence, but like many of Stidham’s qualities, they were inconsistent.

That’s one of the best words I would use to describe Jarrett Stidham: inconsistent. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad. Sometimes he’ll thread the needle for a 40-yard touchdown, sometimes he’ll undercut a route. But if the inconsistency is his biggest issue, which I believe it is, then I’m intrigued by his prospects at the next level with some next-level coaching.

At the End of the Day

So, if the Dolphins drafted Jarrett Stidham, it’d likely be on Day 2 and in the second round with the 48th pick. While the Dolphins are rebuilding, I could see them using a popular draft philosophy of taking a quarterback every year until one hits. If that’s the case, then Stidham could very well be a target if the Dolphins decide to address a bigger need or BPA with the 13th pick.

This could be a way for the Dolphins to hedge their bets while keeping an eye on the 2020 quarterbacks. Akin to the Redskins taking both RGIII and Kirk Cousins in the same draft in 2012, the Dolphins could take a flier on a mid-round quarterback and see what he could do in some games under the guidance of a veteran.

While I wouldn’t be upset by the pick, the Miami Dolphins would be wise to stay away from Jarrett Stidham, bottom line. I say that not because of Stidham’s shortcomings or upside but because of where the Miami Dolphins franchise finds itself.

If Jarrett Stidham goes out and has a decent showing in some live action during his rookie season, then that could affect the draft strategy regarding the 2020 class of quarterbacks.

I don’t want the Dolphins to keep waiting and waiting for someone to slowly develop as they did with Ryan Tannehill. Stidham is in a similar mold, looking at his tools and raw potential. I’m not sure how long it would take for Stidham develop, but I could see it turning into a situation where he takes a few steps forward every season.

Jarrett Stidham could be a quarterback that Chris Grier likes, but I would have a hard time believing that he’s a prospect that he would love–and that’s not what the Miami Dolphins need to right the ship.


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Miami Dolphins

State of the Roster – Linebackers

Travis Wingfield




The 2019 off-season schedule had an unusual beginning for the Miami Dolphins. Not that the once proud, winningest organization in the NFL is suddenly new to coaching turnover (quite the opposite, rather). It’s the timing of the hire that provides the distinction from Stephen Ross’ three other head coaching appointments.

Typically, when the incumbent or new staff is in-place by Early-January, the roster dominoes begin to take shape. Waiting for Brian Flores to win his fifth Lombardi Trophy delayed that process by a month.

Now, with the majority of Coach Flores’ staff settling into their new offices, we can begin to speculate and forecast what will transpire over the next three months.

It’s not hyperbole to say that these next three months are the most important of Chris Grier’s professional career. Miami’s new General Manager is charged with resurrecting a franchise that, in the last 15 years, has fallen from the peak of the winning percentage mountain top, all the way down to fifth place on that obscure, yet illustrious list.

In this series we are going to explore the current assets on the roster and what their futures hold. Plus, we’ll explore the free-agency market and point out scheme fit pieces the Dolphins might seek to add in April’s draft.


Current Cash Owed: ~ $10.1 Million
NFL Average: ~ $18 Million

Players Under Contract – 2019 Cash Owed:

Raekwon McMillan – $892 K

After a slow start McMillan came on like gangbusters; at least in run-defense. From week-five on, McMillan was graded second by PFF against the run (trailing only Luke Kuechly). His first year off major reconstructive knee surgery, the upside is glowing.

McMillan has a knack for correctly hitting his run fits, shows a great first step, and plays exceptionally well downhill. The design of this new defense is going to have the former Buckeye shining.

McMillan’s Projected 2019 Action: Mike Linebacker

Jerome Baker – $654 K

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Like McMillan, Baker was late to the party in 2018, but he too turned it on post-September. Baker was PFF’s #22 overall linebacker over the final 13 weeks of the season. Though Baker also excelled against the run, he was more balanced providing value in coverage and as a blitzer. His PRP was similarly low to McMillan’s, but when Baker arrive he sacked the QB (3 of 5 pressures).

Baker is the new-aged linebacker – run, hit, and cover; that’s his game. He will have to transition to a new role playing primarily on the ball and off the edge, likely the weak side, but he’s more than capable.

Baker’s Projected 2019 Action: Will Backer

Kiko Alonso – $7.9 M

Kiko Alonso is a living, breathing highlight reel. The problem, for Miami, is that he’s usually on someone else’s mixtape. Alonso does well when he I.D.’s his gap early, but those instances are few and far between. He hustles to the ball and has a knack for the takeaway, it’s just the other 995 snaps of the season you worry about.

Turned around by the athletic prowess of Josh Allen, Christian McCaffery, or just about every pass receiving specialist tailback, Alonso is fading towards irrelevance at the position. Moving on from the often burnt, often penalized Alonso, is a no-brainer.

Alonso’s Projected 2019 Action: Cut

Chase Allen – $645 K

New England’s Linebacker position, under Brian Flores, was the ultimate test of pliability. Chase Allen has a role lining up over the center as the nose-backer in one of Flores’ many defensive fronts.

Allen excelled in that role in Miami, albeit on a limited basis, and figures to be a core special teamer.

Allen’s Projected 2019 Action: Nose Backer/Core Special Teamer

Pending Free Agents – 2018 Salary

Stephone Anthony – $1.9 M

The ole’ Mike Tannenbaum specialty, Miami spent a fifth-round pick, and far too much cap allocation, on a player that never made a contribution. Anthony was toast in his limited defensive snaps and rarely found the ball on special teams.

Anthony’s Projected 2019 Action: Not Re-signed

2019 Linebacker Free Agent Market:

The Dolphins could spend this portion of the off-season on the sideline. The likely top three players on the depth chart are already signed, sealed, and delivered, finding backups and special teams is all that’s left to do.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Now if the ‘Phins are so inclined to spend on the big ticket item, Anthony Barr would make nice strong-side linebacker in this new scheme. His coverage limitations should drive his cost down, but that’s not how free agency works – he’ll be priced out of Miami’s range.

Deone Bucannon is an interesting option that could help Miami remain fluid as they implement dime and quarter packages on the back-end. A safety/linebacker hybrid, Bucannon affords the defense the luxury of changing personnel without substituting. Bucannon is an excellent match-up piece in the passing game as well. Like Barr, Bucannon would come at a cost.

More realistically, Miami are looking at former Patriot Marquis Flowers and Eli Harold (Detroit).

2019 Linebacker Draft Class:

It’s not inconceivable that the Dolphins make this position a priority with the undrafted crop post-draft. The same idea with Jerome Baker, the ‘Phins need to find players that can run, hit, and cover but, most importantly, start off on special teams.

New Mexico State’s Terrill Hanks had 11 sacks and eight picks in college. His vast coverage and range skill set should be no surprise, he’s a former safety. Hanks struggles taking on blocks but that’s not a trait he will have to worry about in this scheme.

Bobby Okereke (Stanford) fits the run/hit/cover bill in his own right. North Carolina State’s Germaine Pratt falls into that category as well.

2019 Linebacker Prediction:

There are plenty of intriguing options at the positon but, with the needs on the defensive line and in the secondary, Miami could punt on this off-season’s linebacker class. In a defense that frequently uses one true ‘backer, Raekwon McMillan satisfies that bill. Jerome Baker will be the second linebacker and the Phins will look to pair Chase Allen with more sub-package types.

I’m adding Marquis Flowers in free agency – he was with the Pats for the first four years of his career. I’m also drafting Stanford’s Bobby Okereke on day-three. He’s an intelligent player with plus range and will help Miami’s flexibility in sub-packages.

Mike/Primary Linebacker: Raekwon McMillan
Will/Secondary Linebacker: Jerome Baker
Nose Backer: Chase Allen
Sub-Package: Rookie (Bobby Okereke)
Depth: UDFA/FA (Marquis Flowers)

Tomorrow: Cornerbacks



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Miami Dolphins

5 Viable Options for Miami at Pick 13

Gabe Markman



Mock drafts before April are about as futile as trick-or-treating before Halloween. Sure you might get miraculously lucky at one or two spots, but mostly you’ll just get weird looks from people. That being said, I’ve decided to mock up some scenarios the Dolphins may be presented with come late April.

Despite a flurry of updated scouting reports, trades, and free agent decisions that will ultimately happen before the draft, I couldn’t resist speculating what some of the most enticing options might be waiting there for Miami. I’ll be looking at these options under the assumption that Miami keeps the 13th pick come draft day.

1 – Trade Down

Trading down was something owner Stephen Ross reportedly pounded the table for last year. However, GM Chris Grier and company persuaded him to stay put and take Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick. While Fitzpatrick turned out to be a promising investment, I would expect the war room to try and gather as much draft capital as they can this time around.

The organization, specifically Ross, has put an emphasis on rebuilding the roster from the ground up these next few years, and there’s no better way to do that than by hoarding draft picks.

Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number eleven overall pick to the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

2 – Blue Chip Falls to 13 (BPA)

Much like the case with Fitzpatrick last year, there’s bound to be a blue chip player that falls out of the top 10 this year. If Miami’s war room decides not to trade back in the first round, it’s likely because they feel that a top talent has fallen into their laps at pick 13–similar to the Laremy Tunsil slide in 2016.

Unfortunately Nick Bosa is out of the question for Miami. I can’t fathom a universe where Bosa would fall to 13. Quinnen Williams would be a no-brainer here, but much like Bosa, its unlikely he’ll fall to pick 13. If he does however, he would fill a major need for Miami as well as add tremendous upside to a lack-luster defensive line.

Three prospects that also have top 10 grades are Greedy Williams, Josh Allen, and Devin White. These three are the physical definition of what you look for in a potential All-Pro football player. With all the shuffling expected to happen to Miami’s roster, these players could be immediate contributors and leaders as soon as they walk onto the field.

3 – Draft QB

I’m a firm believer that Miami needs to be patient with their quarterback situation. Miami isn’t expecting to win many games in the coming year or two, and this isn’t expected to be a great draft class for passers. Now as much as I like Kyler Murray, I can’t help but to think that other quarterbacks like Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, and Trevor Lawrence would provide more upside in the long run.

Despite the potential of future quarterbacks to come, this brain-trust of experienced scouts and well respected personnel guys might not let a guy like Murray slip past pick 13. Miami has many needs on paper, and quarterback is right up near the top of those needs. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kyler be the first step of this rebuild if the war room thinks he’s worth the risk.

October 21, 2017 - Miami Gardens, Florida, U.S. - Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) celebrates a fourth-quarter sack at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sunday, October 22, 2017. Final score: Miami Dolphins 31, New York Jets 28 (Photo by Andres Leiva/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

October 21, 2017 – Miami Gardens, Florida, U.S. – Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) celebrates a fourth-quarter sack at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sunday, October 22, 2017. Final score: Miami Dolphins 31, New York Jets 28 (Photo by Andres Leiva/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire

4 – Attempt to Replace an All-Pro

Sadly enough, there won’t be a younger clone of Cameron Wake waiting there at pick 13. The end of an era is coming, and sooner or later the Dolphins won’t have the consistency off the edge that Wake has been able to provide for so many years.

Brian Burns reminds me of Wake at times, but he also reminds me of Dion Jordan at times. The general opinion is that Burns could end up being a project player. I have no doubt this coaching staff has the ability to maximize the potential of Burns, but they might not like the value here.

Rashan Gary would be another enticing option were he to fall to Miami. Gary’s flexibility across the defensive line coincides perfectly with Brian Flores‘ multiple defensive scheme. Gary has the potential to be an All-Pro early in his career wherever Folres decides to put him on the defensive line.

5 – Address the O-Line

I’m interested to see what happens with Ju’Wuan James. He’s been a quiet strength for Miami. The combination of him and Tunsil has proven to be a consistent force when healthy. If James is willing to come back for the right price, Miami would be lucky to have one less hole to worry about.

If a deal with James isn’t struck, then offensive linemen will be one of Miami’s top priorities in the draft. They may be tempted to take an early look at offensive lineman depending on how the board falls. I expect the war room to find at least one starting quality offensive lineman within the first three rounds.

Dolphins’ fans are at the beginning of a very long journey. The recent organizational hires have inspired widespread optimism across the fan base. For the first time in a long time the future is looking bright for the Dolphins. Needless to say this draft will be a pivotal start to the Dolphins’ rebuild. The difficult decisions that Grier and his new staff will soon be faced with will reveal the direction in which this franchise is headed.

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