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Dolphins Defeat Falcons – Preseason Week One Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Undrafted Rookies Drive Dolphins 34-27 Win in Flores’ Debut

 

Stat Dolphins Falcons
Total Yards 361 337
Rushing 96 104
Passing 265 233
Penalties 8/47 12/97
3rd Down 5/10 4/10
Sacks For 2 4
TOP 27:44 32:16

 

The more the game changes, the more it stays the same. Poor protection can deteriorate the offense from the inside out, and that was too frequently the case in Brian Flores’ preseason debut as the Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins started the game with Ryan Fitzpatrick under-center and Kenyan Drake alongside him in the backfield. Drake looked invigorated by second-team stashing that occurred throughout camp — he hit a big run early and made some defenders miss.

That run, and a nifty escape by Fitzpatrick were the bright spots for the first-team offense. Even on the successful work, the offensive line forced the quarterbacks to go off-script to make plays. The first one here, a chain-moving scramble on third-and-two, occurred because of two reasons (explained in the video caption).

Let’s go position-by-position

Quarterback

I tweeted that Fitzpatrick had the better first-half, and that was more of a result of the negatively graded plays from Josh Rosen. Rosen’s interception was egregious, and he could’ve had another on a third-down prayer under pressure, but the star of the night made the play on a 50/50 ball (more on Preston Williams in a minute).

Rosen’s response was the most encouraging aspect of the night, however. He engineered a field goal drive in the two-minute drill, due in large part to a seed up the sideline to Preston Williams.

Rosen’s accuracy was an issue all throughout camp, particularly in quick set-up-and-throw drop backs. That wasn’t a problem against live bullets, Rosen threw with velocity, accuracy and confidence on every throw — even the interception.

Rosen should start next week. We know what Ryan Fitzpatrick is and Rosen needs the opportunity with the first-team to show that he can be more. If he is more, then the season is already off to a promising start, especially when you consider his potential number-one target.

Wide Receivers

Preston Williams might get a statue next to Dan Marino outside Hard Rock Stadium after his first game. Jokes aside, the impressive aspect of Williams performance came via the multiple ways in which he won. His frame equals an inherent massive catch radius, but it’s the quiet hands, long-stride, and strong route running that allows him to create separation, but also pull down contested catches.

Williams ended the night with four catches, 96 yards, and two defensive penalties drawn.

Devante Parker made a contested catch on the first possession and looks to be using his large frame to his advantage more so than in the past.

Allen Hurns caught one pass on a wide open slant-flat combination, but failed to put the ball away and was promptly stripped soon thereafter — not a good situation for a guy battling for a roster spot.

Running Backs

Kalen Ballage had the statistical advantage, but his long run (16 yards) went untouched until he was brought down. He is the clear option for short-yardage and goal line situations. The second-year pro skied over the pile on a one-yard touchdown run.

Kenyan Drake only averaged three yards per carry on four touches, but he made two men miss in the open field and showed far more creativity.

Mark Walton was up next, though his game was uninspiring. Patrick Laird was fourth up and he hit a big run courtesy of some quality downfield blocking.

Myles Gaskin only had 13 rushing yards but his three receptions lead the way on a touchdown drive that was capped off by a Gaskin catch into the end zone. Gaskin added the go-ahead score in the final moments of the game.

Chandler Cox had a mixed bag. He made a highlight reel play he bull dozed a stumbling defensive back, and then threw another block five yards into the end zone.

Tight Ends

Mike Gesicki opened up with the 12-personnel package — that seems to be where he’ll get the bulk of his work. Gesicki lined up in-line once, but spent the majority of his night out wide, including a catch on a slant route from a drive concept into the boundary.

Durham Smythe had some big blocks last year, in training camp, and again tonight. The long Ballage run was made possible by an excellent drive and seal by the second-year tight end.

Offensive Line

Dolphins fans’ concerns were realized tonight by this unit — it’s not good. Laremy Tunsil sat this one out and his replacement, Jordan Mills, was an unmitigated disaster. Mills is fighting to earn the swing tackle job, but he proved tonight that he’s strictly a right tackle.

The work off the other edge wasn’t a lot better. Jesse Davis was beat in pass protection after a nice run-block to open the game, and Will Holden was almost as bad as Mills.

Michael Deiter got plenty of playing time with both the first and second-teams; he struggled. Deiter didn’t look like a natural knee bender, often getting out over his skates. He allowed pressure against the pass and penetration against the run.

Chris Reed had a mixed bag. The long Laird run came by-way of his second-level block, but he still spends too much time on the ground.

Rookie Shaq Calhoun was the same story — some good, some ugly. Given the play of the entire unit, he might’ve had the best night of all the guards. He did allow his quarterback to take a shot on the chin on one of the big Williams receptions.

Jaryd Jones-Smith’s night was much better than those playing in front of him. Although his work was done exclusively in the second half against fellow backups.

Defensive Line

The depth of this group is really undersold by Dolphins fans and the media alike. Christian Wilkins showcased his signature quickness, but also a level of power that you maybe didn’t expect from the rookie.

Davon Godchaux only knows power — he’s a wrecking crew both at the point-of-attack and working down the line of scrimmage. He consistently knocks the line back and almost always wins the low-man battle.

Dewayne Hendrix had a fantastic training camp and showed up with a pair of sacks tonight, including a near sack (tackled at the LOS) on the game’s final drive — he’s on the 53-man roster right now.

So is Jonathan Ledbetter. The pair consistently displays heavy hands (a non-negotiable trait in this defensive scheme), and have surprisingly added pass rush to their stout run-defense.

Tank Carradine won a one-on-one pass rush look, but failed to finish the sack. He hit the quarterback and forced a throw-away, but you obviously want him to get the passer down.

Nate Orchard was the beneficiary of a well-timed, well-designed blitz by Patrick Graham. The first series went without any sense of real pressure packages, and the ensuing 90-yard touchdown drive surely annoyed the Dolphins defensive staff.

The blitz saw T.J. McDonald bring heat off the edge, forced the tackle gain depth, and created a gap for Orchard. From there, Orchard did well to attack the up-field shoulder, turn the guard, and get in for the sack.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker continues to look the part. He was used on a dummy blitz, bailed into coverage and disrupted the timing on a shot into the hook zone. His speed was on display getting to the edge in the running game as well.

Andrew Van Ginkel is a damn smart player. His recognition for what the offense is trying to do, and finding his way into the coinciding passing lanes, will earn him a lot of sub-package work in his rookie season.

Sam Eguavoen didn’t have his strong camp translate to the game. He looked a little overmatched in the running game and was a beat late on some pass drops.

Tre Watson is fit to provide Miami with sound run defense. He consistently scrapes the edge and finds his way into the correct gap and run fit.

Defensive Backs

Nik Needham is going to take the headlines in this one for all the wrong reasons. He let up a number of receptions — a couple of third down — and committed two penalties on the money down as well. He started the game opposite Xavien Howard, and the all-pro was up to his usual tricks (got his hands on two footballs).

Minkah Fitzpatrick had an uncharacteristic missed tackle, but he wasn’t targeted in the passing game due to quality coverage.

Jomal Wiltz is going to get a good look as a backup nickel and perimeter starter. He had a good looking run stuff filling coming down off the C-gap, and showed some instincts to disrupt the passing lanes in coverage.

Jalen Davis had the pass breakup to put the game on ice. He did well to turn his head around at the right moment.

Cornell Armstrong won a corner route in man coverage down in the red zone. He might be up next in place of Needham if the coaches make that switch. The search for backups behind Howard and Eric Rowe (who sat out tonight’s game) is far from over.

Bobby McCain took well to his new deep safety job. It’s difficult to gauge a player 20 yards off the ball without the all-22, but there weren’t any springs in the running game or deep his way via the pass.

Special Teams

Jason Sanders is picking up where he left off last year — he’s money.

Matt Haack is not. His first punt was an absolute shank.

We talked a lot about starters playing significant time on the coverage units, and we even saw that in the preseason opener. McDonald, Fitzpatrick, Armstrong, Smythe, Wiltz, Eguavoen, and Aikens were involved on all the coverage units early. Kalen Ballage and Isaiah Ford picked up some early return duty as well.

Recap

As expected, there wasn’t a whole lot of situational planning used by either coaching staff. After that first drive, Flores was clearly annoyed by his defensive effort, as he (or Coach Graham) dialed up some pressure to put an end to that early-game success.

On offense, the running game saw plenty of lead, power, and some zone. The passing concepts weren’t exactly innovative. Slant-flat combinations, dual verticals, drives, high-lows, everything you’d see in an early summer camp install.

Searching for progress on the offensive line and in the secondary will be the aim next week — that and finding out which quarterback is going to win the job (it’s wide open still). Plus, can the star undrafted free agents continue to stack up victories?

Game Balls

Preston Williams, Dewayne Hendrix, and Brian Flores earn the post-game hardware.

Williams is making Xavien Howard look wise for his comments that the rookie would eventually become a number-one.

Hendrix finished with two sacks, though it was very nearly three.

And some big congratulations to Coach Flores on his first career victory — albeit a preseason game.

@WingfieldNFL

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Daddio

    August 9, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Once again, thanks for the excellent analysis and write-up Travis. Hopefully we will soon see substantial progress with the O-line.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3

DolphinsGiants

The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.

The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.

Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.

Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.

Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.

The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.

A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.

The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.

The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.

Defense:

James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.

The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.

New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.

The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.

New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.

Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.

This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.

Defense:

Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.

On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.

Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.

The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.

This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.

If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.

The Concerns:

The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.

Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

The Projected Outcome:

It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.

Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.

A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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