As we develop a weekly content schedule for the season, I wanted something to bridge the gap between the Sunday night game breakdown column and the Tuesday film review. So, here we are with a smorgasbord of information, statistics, snap counts, and whatever is prudent to the Dolphins game from the Sunday prior.
We’ll dive into the game data from Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, grab some quotes from the player’s and coach’s pressers, and continue to provide the most comprehensive coverage on the Miami Dolphins you can find.
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One side of the football is trending in an extremely encouraging direction. The other, however, has become the same tired wash, rinse, repeat routine for the Dolphins in the post-Marino era.
Adam Gase constructed an offense that was supposed to carry a rebuilt defense, but the converse has been true through five games. Gase’s offense ranks 27th in yards per game and passing offense. The running game has produced more than the pass at 20th best in football, but the Dolphins 19.8 points per game ranks 28th in the league.
Miami is 29th in the league converting third downs, 28th in points per drive, 30th in time of possession and dead last (32nd) in plays ran.
So how is this Dolphins team winning games?
Simple. The defense and special teams.
Jakeem Grant is now the only player in the league with multiple special teams scores (102-yard kick return and 71-yard punt return).
Though Miami’s defense is ranked 23rd in yards allowed, no one has more than the Dolphins 10 interceptions. The Miami D is allowing just 3.7 yards per carry, sixth in the NFL.
Though Miami’s 23.4 points allowed per game ranks 16th, three of those touchdowns were given up by Miami’s kickoff unit or offensive touchdowns allowed (one scoop and score, one pick-six).
|Player||Snaps (Percentage of Snaps)|
|QB Ryan Tannehill||64 (100%)|
|RB Kenyan Drake||41 (64.1%)|
|RB Frank Gore||26 (40.6%)|
|WR Kenny Stills||60 (94%)|
|WR Albert Wilson||58 (90.6%)|
|WR Danny Amendola||53 (82.8%)|
|TE Mike Gesicki||30 (46.9%)|
|TE Nick O’Leary||28 (43.4%)|
|TE Durham Smythe||14 (21.9%)|
|LT Laremy Tunsil||38 (59.4%)|
|LT Sam Young||26 (40.6%)|
The other four offensive linemen played all 64 reps in the trenches. Some played well, others were an utter tire fire. Ja’Wuan James has pieced together two of his worst games as a professional. He allowed a sack, an additional hit on the quarterback and was frequently beat in the ground game (49.5 – failing grade).
Tunsil has played like all Dol-fans had hoped in year-three. He didn’t allow a single pressure in his 22 pass blocking reps. He was lost in the third quarter to an injury and his replacement, Sam Young, was not as sharp. Young registered the worst grade of any Dolphin this season (12.1 total) allowing four pressures on 20 pass pro reps.
Ted Larsen was an unmitigated disaster in his own right – his pass blocking grade was a paltry 21.0 with four hurries, one sack and one hit allowed on Tannehill.
On the season, Miami’s currently graded in the following positions via PFF:
Laremy Tunsil: 28th of 109 OTs
Ja’Wuan James: 46th of 109 OTs
Sam Young: DEAD LAST 109/109
Ted Larsen: 70th of 86 OGs
Jesse Davis: 57th of 86 OGs
Travis Swanson: 10th of 44 Cs
Nowhere near acceptable.
The biggest sufferer of the poor line-play has been Ryan Tannehill. His last two games make up perhaps the worst two-game stretch of his career. After another sub-60 passer rating game, Tannehill is the 37th overall graded quarterback according to PFF. He is 20th in passer rating, 15th in completion percentage and throwing interceptions at the 7th highest rate in the league.
Frank Gore has the 34th most rushing yards in the league and Kenyan Drake the 39th highest tally. Gore averages 4.3 yards per carry and Drake under four at 3.9.
None of the tight ends allowed a pressure in pass pro, but none of the three had an impact as a pass catcher.
The wide outs didn’t have their best showing of the season either. Albert Wilson was elusive after the catch; that earned him the highest grade among the unit, but Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant all landed in the F category.
Grant is 19th in the NFL in yards per route run, Wilson 32nd, Stills 61st, and Amendola 93rd.
Just about any offensive category you search will yield a result that has the Dolphins near the bottom of the league. Three-and-out percentage, yards-per-game, plays-per-drive, time-of-possession, Miami is off to an awfully inauspicious start.
|Player||Snaps (Percentage of Team Snaps)|
|DE Charles Harris||42 (70%)|
|DE Robert Quinn||41 (68.3%)|
|DE Jonathan Woodard||25 (41.7%)|
|DE Cameron Malveaux||19 (31.7%)|
|LB Kiko Alonso||60 (100%)|
|LB Raekwon McMillan||43 (71.7%)|
|LB Jerome Baker||34 (56.7%)|
|CB Xavien Howard||60 (100%)|
|CB Torry McTyer||57 (95%)|
|CB Minkah Fitzpatrick||41 (68.3%)|
|SS Reshad Jones||60 (100%)|
|FS T.J. McDonald||59 (98.3%)|
Before we get to the grades and advanced metrics, any scenario where Torry McTyer out-reps Minkah Fitzpatrick is simply poor planning. Fitzpatrick might be one of the five best players on this team. He matched A.J. Green, you know, that all-pro, step-for-step in coverage a few times – yet he finds himself on the bench for 32% of the game.
That’s inexcusable personnel usage.
Reshad Jones played with a partially torn labrum and did so at an all-pro level. He registered a pressure, eight tackles, four run stops, batted a pass that was picked off and allowed -2 yards on two pass targets.
Torry McTyer, T.J. McDonald and Fitzpatrick all graded out low, but Fitzpatrick’s impact covering Green, and his tackling were both fantastic signs for a rookie in his fifth game. Fitzpatrick thwarted a screen play on a 3rd and 2 to go at the end of the half. It forced the pun that Grant returned for a touchdown.
The linebacker play was great for Miami. Raekwon McMillan made five tackles – four of which were run stops. He only allowed 10 yards receiving on three coverage targets.
Jerome Baker was a monster getting home for two sacks and making three run stops. Kiko Alonso wasn’t as active in the running game and allowed a touchdown in coverage. His interception was nothing special – right place at the right time.
Vincent Taylor continues to prove unblockable. He checked in with three pressures, two more run stops and a blocked field goal.
Job Security Waning?
It sounds ridiculous to start talking about wholesale changes just five weeks into a season in which Miami has a winning record. But it’s the same trends that continue to beat this Dolphins team that has fans restless.
Three years into the program and Adam Gase’s offense isn’t just bad, it’s so far removed from the successful attack-units in the league that all the goodwill of a 3-0 start has been washed away.
Tannehill’s back-to-back eggs have brought even his staunchest supporters to a crossroads. Therein lies a downside and an upside to this situation.
The downside: The 2019 quarterback class leaves scouts wanting. The Dolphins chances of upgrading over Tannehill are slim.
The upside: The two best stretches of Tannehill’s career came after similar adversity. In 2014, Joe Philbin was nondescript about his starting quarterback, leading to a dynamic stretch of play from Tanenhill. The script was similar in 2016 when Tannehill ripped off a six-game winning streak.
Poor pre-snap recognition and post-snap identification, failure-after-failure against pressure and very little penchant for winning off-script, things need to improve – especially with ball security.
Tannehill has 11 games to show progress upon that 2016 season – five games in, he has regressed.
Miami Dolphins Place Jake Brendel on IR; Sign Hroniss Grasu
Their players don’t just go on injured-reserve, they do it twice in the same season.
The Miami Dolphins official social media account announced that the team has placed center Jake Brendel on injured-reserve, ending his 2018 season. To fill the available roster spot, the Dolphins signed offensive guard Hroniss Grasu.
We have signed center/guard Hroniss Grasu and placed center Jake Brendel on injured reserve.
Full Release: https://t.co/hjVo1uaU4I
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 12, 2018
Brendel was first placed on injured-reserve with a calf injury prior to the start of the season. He was one of two players that received the IR tag with the ‘ability to return’; this meant that Brendel was eligible to return after Week 8. Since his return, Brendel started 3 games and was active for 4.
Earlier this week in practice, Brendel re-injured the same calf that originally put him on IR. Strategically speaking, we’re at the point in the season where players will be placed on IR simply due to the fact that they’re unable to recover in time to effectively play again this season. Miami has three games remaining and they essentially have to win out (or only lose to the Minnesota Vikings next week) if they want to make the playoffs. The team can’t afford to hold a roster spot hostage for a player who’s less-than 100%.
With Brendel hitting injured-reserve, the Dolphins now have 12 players out for the year. It’s too bad we’re talking about the number of players on injured-reserve and not 12 Angry Men, because the only thing we can speculate at this point is how unlucky the Dolphins’ health has been this season.
The empty roster spot left by Brendel has been filled by former Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Hroniss Grasu.
Grasu was selected by the Bears with the 71st-overall pick (3rd-round) in the 2015 NFL draft. He started 8 games that season for Adam Gase‘s offense, but since then has only started 5. He played for the Bears from 2015-2017, though he missed the 2016 after being placed on injured-reserve. Grasu was signed by the Ravens this past September and was active for 3 games (making 1 start). He was released by the team on November 24th.
From one Hr to another: cheers, mate!
Squeezing Miami’s Tight Ends for Anything They’ve Got
Adam Gase, a hobbled Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Miami Dolphins have been tasked with operating an offense that has received minimal production from its tight ends. As the team is currently constructed, the playbook, in essence, centers around their two starting running backs, the three starting wide receivers that are healthy and that’s it.
That’s all they can scheme around.
As an opposing defense, you’re well aware that the tight end position is effectively eliminated in Miami’s offense – it’s not a personnel group you have to scheme for.
- You have a banged up Kenny Stills you have to watch, though you really only need to keep him in your peripheral vision as Miami isn’t going to maximize Stills’ speed and Tannehill’s deep ball with the quarterback’s injured shoulder.
- You can monitor DeVante Parker, but his lack-of-enthusiasm helps keep his freakish athleticism at bay.
- You can be on the lookout for Danny Amendola, but you’re probably content allowing the underneath reception (though at 9.8 yards per reception, why aren’t we getting Amendola the ball more on those crucial 3rd-down plays?)
All of the injuries aside, it’s hard to discount the voids created by Miami’s nonexistent production from the tight end position. When Laremy Tunsil goes down in the Cincinnati Bengals game, it’s the perfect time to utilize a tight end for quick passes. All those 3rd-and-short situations – where Miami runs a mind-boggling play – could be eliminated if Miami had a legitimate tight end that could box out an opposing defender on a quick hit. At the very least, a tight end that poses even a minuscule threat would make a defense hesitant to send an extra blitzer or blanket a receiver.
Mike Gesicki catches the ball at the 33 facing sideways and winds up at the 31 facing backwards. pic.twitter.com/aGrzIF3jR8
— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) October 26, 2018
Running this offense without your tight ends is like trying to drive your car without power steering. Of course you can do it, but you’re going to have a difficult time driving it.
The fall of this position started back in training camp, when one of the most underrated Dolphins, MarQueis Gray, suffered a torn achilles and was placed on injured-reserve.
Fans initially thought this was an omen for Mike Gesicki, as they clamored for the possibility of having an Olympic-caliber tight end playing with Ryan Tannehill – a quarterback known to utilize the tight end position well.
At a glance, you would think Miami’s tight ends were going to be extremely productive. Up to this point in 2018, Miami rewarded one of their tight ends with a contract extension and spent 2nd and 4th-round assets to bulk up the position. How could this season have gone so poorly for a group that, at the very least, was supposed to be average?
Tight ends predominantly see a spike in production from their rookie years to their sophomore seasons, and this is the one saving grace each of us optimistically have for Gesicki to turn it around. On tape, he doesn’t look the part. But you don’t want to write a player off this quickly. Check out some active tight ends and their growth from Year 1 to Year 2:
When going through the list, the only tight end I came across that saw a dip in production from Year 1 to Year 2 was Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins. His stats were: 45/499/3 in 2017 and 50/465/0 in 2018…really not the biggest dropoff (I’m sure there are other tight ends who saw a drop in production, but after going through half the league, Reed was the only one that applied).
Problem is, are we confident Mike Gesicki is going to be a tight end that makes this jump? Look at where Gesicki (and Durham Smythe) stack up with other rookie tight ends:
We all thought Miami was going to have a 1-2 punch with Gesicki as a receiver and Smythe as a blocker; and so far, half of the duo has held their end of the bargain. Smythe has performed very well when asked to block on the line. He’s had some misses this year, but for a rookie tight end being tasked with blocking an elite defensive end at times, we can’t really complain much. What the team is missing is the other half of that duet.
Coming into 2018, we understood that Gesicki would need some seasoning before he could become a legitimate blocker. And to an extent, we were quite content if Gesicki didn’t block too well, just as long as he was making plays on 3rd-down and in the red zone. We all thought he was the missing component this offense needed to finally be effective in the red zone. Instead, we’d probably be better off stacking the line with 6 offensive linemen.
Mike Gesicki’s challenging rookie season continues. He falls down, then all hell breaks loose when Tannehill tries to proceed through his progressions. Lucky not to get picked. pic.twitter.com/6mcfIU9XFD
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 27, 2018
The wildcard of the bunch is Nick O’Leary. The Dolphins have played him at both tight end and fullback, giving them flexibility and the ability to maximize his roster spot. But going into 2019, does anyone think any of these tight ends are safe? Check out the disparity in snap counts from the first week of the season until Week 14:
— Tom Kislingbury (@TomDegenerate) December 11, 2018
It’s evident which player this team trusts. Or, at the very least, which player they believe they can get any kind of production out of. He’s also the only player that wasn’t on the roster at the beginning of the season – telling you just how far the other players have fallen.
This team might need to fire Matt Burke. It might need to overhaul the defensive line or even the linebacking unit. The Dolphins might even need a new starting quarterback in 2019. But one thing we can certainly say is that Miami definitely needs a productive tight end; otherwise, this offense is about as stagnant, stale and unsuccessful as you’ve seen it this season.
— Barstool Penn State (@PSUBarstool) October 14, 2018
Ryan Tannehill’s Late Season Surge is Nothing New
Adversity is the Dolphins QB’s Biggest Weapon
The divisive topic of tanking filters its way through the fan bases of all mediocre franchises. The discussion about whether it’s healthier to lose and climb the draft board, or to establish a winning culture, reverberates for the perpetual .500 purgatory of the NFL.
Every time Dolphins fans are ready to prepare for what’s next at quarterback, Ryan Tannehill rises from the ashes and plays at an elite level.
The statistics are there. After a 1-4 start and a sub-90 passer rating in 2016, fans turned to Notre Dame tape to scout DeShone Kizer. They peeped the ultra-exciting Patrick Mahomes making jaw-dropping off-script plays at Texas Tech.
All those discussions became moot when Tannehill ripped off a stretch of eight games in which Miami went 7-1. During that time, Tannehill posted a 101.5 passer rating and fell back into the good graces of Dolphins fans.
Bruce Arians’ famous quote preaches patience while installing a new scheme. “It takes about eight weeks before things start to become second nature.”
If that’s true, Tannehill has been ahead of that curve.
Two games ahead of the pace, Tannehill finds his groove in the sixth game. In a 2016 win over Pittsburgh, Tannehill posted his highest single game passer rating of the year, and would top that high-water mark four times in the next seven games.
The 2018 season is shaping up very similarly. After a strong start, then stumbling in games four and five, Tannehill is back with a vengeance.
The Dolphins are 2-1 since Tannehill’s return and the veteran, held together by duct tape and Band-Aids, is posting career highs. His passer rating post-return is a ridiculous 129.9. He’s averaging a smidge under 9 yards-per-pass. He’s completing a fraction under 70% of his passes and throwing touchdowns at clip of 11.7%.
The numbers. The wins. The quantifiable metrics are all fun and an easy shortcut to display Tannehill’s recent success, but the it’s the complete control of the offense that best showcases Tannehill’s growth.
Watch this video with the audio on to see an example of Tannehill’s command at the line-of-scrimmage.
Alpha Louis. Alpha poker. Some new cadences and the quick count. Whatever it takes to play Sunday, Tannehill’s gotta do it. He is feeling it right now. 🔈 on. pic.twitter.com/09gyN9mKQJ
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 12, 2018
Perhaps the time away from the game, and the return from a reconstructed knee, was a detriment to his development within this offense.
Tannehill is dealing with yet another injury, but if he wants to prove this theory, he has every opportunity. Miami can run the table and jump back into the post-season under Ryan Tannehill’s guidance.
After all, last time, he wasn’t healthy enough to finish what he started.