That’s certainly one way to begin a season. Nearly four hours’ worth of lightning delays wasn’t enough to spoil the return of Ryan Tannehill at Hard Rock Stadium. With a 27-20 victory over Tennessee, Miami improves to 8-1 in the last nine games quarterbacked by the seven-year veteran.
This muggy, rain-soaked-September affair seemed to have three acts – each topping the one prior. Breaking the record for longest game since the AFL/NFL merger, Dolphins fans had to agonize for seven hours and eight minutes before putting a bow on a season-opening win.
|Stat||Dolphin Offense||Dolphin Defense|
|Yards Per Play||5.9||5.0|
|3rd Down||2-10 (20%)||6-14 (42.9%)|
As expected, Adam Gase’s offense took on a different shape once the lights came on. The Dolphins utilized 21-personnel, handed the ball off to Albert Wilson, and even flexed Tannehill out wide in a wildcat formation (which forced the Titans to burn a timeout).
It had been 637 days since Ryan Tannehill last played a game for the Dolphins, but you wouldn’t have known it. He came out of the tunnel sharp, accurate, and on-time. He helped the Dolphins move the ball between 20’s before bogging down in the red-zone on a couple of occasions.
Tannehill capped a 98-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills – Tannehill was 5/6 with 39 yards and the score on the possession.
Tannehill’s finest throw was a bomb that traveled 55 yards through the air and right into the waiting grasp of Stills, who scored for the second time in the game.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 10, 2018
Tannehill made one egregious error when he tried to find Mike Gesicki on a fade route in the end-zone. Though Gesicki slipped out of his stance and allowed Malcolm Butler to locate the ball without having to jostle Gesicki, the ball fell short of the mark and was an easy interception.
The two interceptions brought his passer rating down to 89.9, but it was a solid return for number 17. His big throw changed the complexion of the game and he helped lead the Dolphins to 27 points (tied for 7thbest in the NFL at press time).
Playing a large role in that production was the offensive line. Josh Sitton was excellent and his performance was nearly matched by Dan Kilgore. Miami created a lot of opportunities in the ground game with scheme and play-calling, but each hit their share of reach blocks, moved the point-of-attack, and held up in pass pro.
The Dolphins created yardage with design in the running game. A simple inside trap to take advantage of the Titans aggressive DT, Jurrell Casey. Derby hits the wham, frees Kilgore to climb to the next level, Sitton hits his and Amendola helping downfield. pic.twitter.com/yd3qphrafD
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 10, 2018
Though outmatched on power runs, the duo wasn’t the only strong faction of the line. Tannehill had all day to throw in large part because of the Dolphins ability to pick up the extra rusher. Ja’Wuan James was terrific and Laremy Tunsil, outside of two penalties, was nearly his equal.
A.J Derby contributed in a big way in the blocking game (executed the WHAM block in the GIF above). Gesicki’s lone touchdown opportunity left a lot to be desired – it looks like he’s still thinking too much.
Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore were the beneficiaries of a ground game devised by Eric Studesville and the Dolphin offensive line. Gore had a burst that many (myself included) doubted he still had while Drake continues to flash freak ability. His quick-twitch suddenness puts defenders on skates at all times, and his speed to the edge is invaluable when the inside/outside-zone plays don’t get properly blocked.
The Miami wide outs are going to cause a lot of problems for teams. Whether it’s Stills uncovering deep, Grant pressing the toes of defensive backs so hard that they have to give him underneath completions, or Wilson doing a little bit of everything, there’s a lot to think about with this group.
Stills went for 104 yards and a pair of scores operating from all positions on the field. Grant’s 102-yard kick return swung momentum in favor of the Dolphins when they needed it most.
There is plenty to clean up, but even more to build off of. Gase will continue to add wrinkles and layers to this offense and, when the red zone stuff starts clicking (the first touchdown was purely made by design), this offense will continue to ascend up the top-10 ranks.
A couple of newcomers shined for the Dolphins, but none brighter than the second-longest tenured member of the defense. With a pair of picks and a tackle for loss, Reshad Jones set the tone for a defense that needed its share of big plays to get off the field.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 10, 2018
Robert Quinn and Minkah Fitzpatrick had dazzling debuts. Fitzpatrick shut down a fourth-and-goal play at the one-yard-line and Quinn impacted both the run and pass game. In the first half he got constant pressure on Marcus Mariota and chased down a screen play to end a drive for the Titans in the second half. Quinn is constantly denting the edge in the running game.
Kiko Alonso found himself in the right spot for an interception after keying the running back and pulling his trigger – impressive play.
The Dolphin corners were exceptional in this one outside of a couple of plays. Xavien Howard got lost on a dig, but he traveled with Corey Davis in the first half and kept the sophomore-sensation-to-be quiet.
Bobby McCain forced Taywan Taylor to the perimeter and gave Mariota a tiny window to operate with on the Titans first drive, forcing a field goal attempt. He also stayed glued to his man in the back of the end-zone, on a broken play, prior to Fitzpatrick’s fourth-down heroics.
The pass rush was largely nonexistent in the second half and the dime defense didn’t make its anticipated appearance. The Dolphins didn’t blitz all that often (we’ll have those numbers for you, mid-week) but did a passable job with one-on-one’s.
Davon Godchaux jumps offside too much, but hold his ground against double teams like nobody’s business. Akeem Spence had a nice game and Vincent Taylor is becoming a destroyer of worlds – he needs more work.
Holding the Titans to 5.8 yards-per-pass and four yards per carry is a nice start to the campaign. Creating three turnovers puts the cherry on top as this secondary is chalked full of play makers.
Jerome Baker needs more work as a rush linebacker and T.J. McDonald simply has to be better than he was. In fact, getting McDonald out of coverage situations should be a priority going forward.
Take away the kick return and the late garbage-time field goal and this group only allowed 10 points – not too shabby.
Getting out of this game with a win was massive for a variety of reasons.
- The Titans figure to be a foe in the wildcard hunt – getting the head-to-head tie-breaker could pay dividends.
- Tennessee obviously dealt with it too, but overcoming four hours of delays shows professionalism and mettle.
- Lastly, the schedule softens the next couple of weeks – Miami could make it a September to remember.
Once Miami found the end zone for the first time, it never felt like they seized control of the game. They were better than the Titans on the offensive and defensive side, but surprisingly struggled on special teams (outside of Grant’s return).
Tackling wasn’t terrific, but you begin to wonder how much of that was because of the circumstances.
All things told, the Dolphins are one of eight teams in the AFC that are 1-0, they are a top 10-scoring offense and should skyrocket up those atrocious pre-season power rankings that had them as one of the NFL’s worst teams.
This Dolphins team isn’t elite, but it’s a lot closer to that company than those duking it out for the first pick in the draft.
*Check back on Tuesday for the full all-22 breakdown.*
Dolphins vs. Raiders Week Three Preview
Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
When: September 23, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 88 degrees, 73% humidity, 60% precipitation
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -3
Dolphins vs. Raiders
Favored for the first time in three outings, the Miami Dolphins return home to the building where, under Adam Gase, the organization is bordering on elite. Since Gase’s hire in 2016, the Dolphins are 11-5, riding a six-game winning-streak with Ryan Tannehill under-center, and average nearly four touchdowns per game at Hard Rock Stadium.
Beating the Titans was a commencement that this team wasn’t the pushover many projected it to be. Throttling the Jets to the tune of a 20-point halftime lead, Miami asserted itself into the discussion of potential playoff outfits.
Now the expectation is that the Dolphins will hit the showers on Sunday with an unblemished record through three games. Winning as an underdog can be attributed to the emotional influence of the game but, winning as favorites, that’s a different ballgame.
The Patriots are on-deck. Miami are in a perfect situation to set-up a Late-September statement game – a potential changing of the guard game, perhaps.
But first, the Raiders.
The Raiders’ Scheme
Oakland have been a team of two halves under second-time Head Coach, Jon Gruden. Obliterated in the second half against a loaded Rams team, on national T.V. no less, the Raiders had an opportunity to right the ship with a 12-point halftime lead at divisional rival Denver.
Gruden’s play-script has yielded positive results. A healthy mix of 11 and 12-personnel focuses the offense around Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. Everything Oakland does offensively revolves around the running game. Establishing Marshawn Lynch and the zone running game early is the precursor for the play-action, bootleg layers’ concepts that we’ve seen regularly with Miami.
For a team that wanted to throw things back to 1998 (and they did, no roster is older than this veteran-laden group assembled in Oakland), Gruden’s offense sure struggles to convert third-and-short. On 10 attempts from five yards and in, the Raiders are moving the sticks just 40% of the time.
That issue, compounded by a lack of ingenuity once the game becomes about adjustments, are why the Raiders are starring an 0-3 start square in the face. Mixing plenty of variety early in the game (bunch 12-personnel followed up by an empty formation down in the red zone) kept the Broncos and Rams defenses guessing.
While the yardage ranks show success, the Raiders have the fifth-lowest scoring offense in the National Football League.
Coordinator Paul Guenther believes in three things: Blitzing, blitzing and, you guessed it, blitzing. Though it didn’t start that way this season, Gruden has specifically stated he would prefer that Oakland brought heat more often.
The Raider defense increased the blitz-package last week and, as the pass rush continues to struggle in the post-Khalil Mack era, that trend likely continues this week.
A-Gap pressure has been a favorite for Guenther. He’s a disciple of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who’s defense is predicated on showing pressure down up the gun-barrel.
On the back-end, Oakland will mix-up zone and man-coverage. Because of a lack of pressure from the Raiders’ lackluster four-man front, the Dolphins could take Guenther’s defense to task in two ways:
– Throwing the football to the backs
– Setting up the quick screen game early and often
Derek Carr has regressed back to the norm after an anomaly in 2016. His propensity to succumb to heavy pressure and poor decision making has resulted in a rough start for the fifth-year pro.
Carr’s passer rating under pressure is 33.1 – 32nd in the NFL. Miami had Sam Darnold under constant duress Sunday at the Meadowlands.
Donald Penn and Kolton Miller have surrendered eight pressures among the pair – keeping them each outside of the top 50 tackles in the league when it comes to pass blocking efficiency.
The interior of that offensive line is where the Raiders’ strength is supposed to lie – only it isn’t any better than the perimeter. Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele have allowed a combined nine pressures.
Neither Raiders’ tackle is a top-50 graded run blocker and the guards check in at 42nd and 24th respectively. Marshawn Lynch’s elusive rating is 35th among NFL backs.
Miami has three wide outs with an average yards-per-route-ran over 2.0 – Oakland has one (Martavis Bryant on just four targets). Jordy Nelson’s diminishing speed has made him a shell of his former-self and Amari Cooper still hasn’t recaptured the magic of his rookie season.
Jared Cook, however, is fifth among all tight ends with 3.82 YPPR.
Miami have gashed teams on the ground through two games and that trend could continue in week-three. The Raiders interior defensive line is inexperienced and without much production. Jonathan Hankins arrives to reinforce a front that is allowing 5.7 yards-per-carry – worst in football.
The edge rushers might offer even less. The most efficient pass rusher through two games is Frostee Rucker. His pass-rush-productivity ranks 77th in the league.
Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin are off to solid starts on the perimeter of the Raider defense. Leon Hall, Oakland’s nickel corner has allowed 75 yards on just nine pass targets – Miami will make the grizzled-vet a target on Sunday.
Linebacker play isn’t any better. The collective group has just six run-stops and each of the three are allowing passer ratings over 100 in coverage.
Oakland cut Obi Melifonwu in order to keep Reggie Nelson on the field and the returns have not been great. His passer rating allowed is 150.7 (just 7.6 points shy of a perfect rating).
|CB Leon Hall||Illness||Limited|
|DT P.J. Hall||Ankle||DNP|
|WR Dwayne Harris||Foot||Full|
|C Rodney Hudson||Ankle||Limited|
|G Gabe Jackson||Pectoral||Limited|
|RB Marshawn Lynch||Shoulder||Limited|
|T Brandon Parker||Ankle||DNP|
|WR Danny Amendola||Non-Injury||DNP|
|LS John Denney||Shoulder||Limited|
|RB Kenyan Drake||Abdomen||Full|
|DE Williams Hayes||Finger||Full|
|S Reshad Jones||Shoulder||DNP|
|WR Devante Parker||Knee||Full|
|DT Jordan Phillips||Knee||Limited|
|QB Ryan Tannehill||Knee/Ankle||Full|
There’s an easy answer to this one and it would be ultra-contrarian to go away from said obvious conclusion. Jared Cook caused a multitude of problems for the Miami in last year’s meeting, and he’s off to a similar start this season.
Oakland’s ability to stretch him both vertically and horizontally doesn’t bode well for the Miami linebackers. Raekwon McMillan is struggling immensely in this area and Kiko Alonso has been problematic in this department in his own right.
Tackling and poor angles have been a bit of an issue on the back-end. It’s a team effort to get Marshawn Lynch to the ground – if he has success, the Raiders’ offense will have success.
Miami needs these three things to go in their favor:
1.) Contain Oakland’s first down offense – Oakland’s tackle play has been suspect. With a wave of edge rusher’s ready to capitalize, if Oakland can’t find success on early downs, it won’t fare any better on the money down.
2.) Unleash the passing game – A balanced attack has been the prescription so far with early double-digit leads. The same could happen against these Raiders, but Miami has advantages all over the field in regards to the passing offense v. Oakland’s pass defense. Expect Oakland to commit to stopping the run, meaning the aerial show begins at 1 ‘o’ clock eastern standard time.
3.) Shut down Amari Cooper OR Jared Cook – Miami will pick its poison here, but if they can blank one of these two and make the Raiders passing game one-dimensional, the Dolphins can start robbing Derek Carr and force the mistake-prone quarterback into turnovers.
Frankly, they’re everywhere. Miami’s edge rush against Oakland’s substandard tackle play, the young interior defensive line of Oakland against Miami’s ever-evolving ground-game, the perimeter match-ups, Miami ought to be able to draw their weapon-of-choice from a hat and attack accordingly.
The Projected Result:
An angry Adam Gase is a dangerous Adam Gase. The absurd rumblings around his quarterback are sure to ignite a fire and create a run-up-the-score mentality in the snarky third-year coach. This game could very well be all gas and no breaks with plenty of scoring opportunities schemed into the passing game down in the red zone.
Coming east in the early-game window has proven difficult for this Raiders team. Sure, change has been rampant since The Visor regained control of the operation, but that doesn’t make the challenge of an out-of-whack body clock any easier.
In 2017 Oakland was 1-3 playing in the eastern time zone. Three of those games were in primetime and the Raiders were collectively outscored in the four games 104-61. The lone early-window game was a 34-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills.
The Raiders are about to find out how much resiliency they have under Gruden. The loss in Denver was devastating and will either foster a hungry, desperate team, or send the lads in the opposite direction with no hope in sight.
With the Dolphins tempo-based-attack, playing back at home in the brutal South Florida conditions, not many aspects of this game favor the road team.
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Week 3: Miami Dolphins Power Rankings Round Up
How did Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets in Week 2 affect their position in the eyes of the major national media outlets? Let’s take a look:
Last Week: 24
This week: 16
Last week: 23
This week: 17
Last week: 28
This week: 21
Last week: 17
This week: 12
Last week: 19
This week: 15
As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on this Dolphins team. Bleacher Report continues to remain mum on Miami, saying “Undefeated or no, we’re still not ready to call the Dolphins contenders. Or even call them good.”
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranked the Dolphins No. 12, and said: “They are off to a 2-0 start and have a winnable game at home against Oakland. Adam Gase has this team playing good football.”
If the Dolphins get to 3-0 by beating the Oakland Raiders at home this Sunday, they may start to get some more national recognition as a team who could contend for a playoff spot.
5 potential landing spots should Miami trade Devante Parker
Following Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets on Sunday, Devante Parker was upset he didn’t see the field, claiming he was fit and ready to go.
The reaction to the quote was mixed, some fans were pleased Parker wanted in on the action while others felt he was overshadowing the victory and making it all about himself.
We saw this with Jay Ajayi, complaining he didn’t see enough off the ball after the Dolphins won games and the last thing Adam Gase wants is another player putting his personal needs above the team’s.
Who are we getting in return? I’m legit worried about Parker spoiling the good vibes in the locker room so I’d trade him just about anything.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 17, 2018
Parker has failed to live up the hype when he was drafted 14th overall in 2015.
Yet to get a contract extension, it may be time for #11 to move on.
The team are not short at receiver with Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant all proving to be Gase’s guys.
Parker doesn’t fit in to what Gase is trying to build in Miami and instead of letting him hit free agency when the time comes, it may be worth trading him to a WR needy franchise.
Below are five teams who could be interested in Parker should he be available:
Ajayi texts Parker.
“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“He didn’t give me enough touches when I was in Miami and I left to win a Super Bowl. JOIN ME!”
On a serious note, this is a move which we could actually see happen.
The SB champs are short at receiver due to a few injuries.
Eagles should scoop up DeVante Parker or Kevin White for a low price.
— 1-1 World Champ Birds 🦅 (@NationOfEagles) September 18, 2018
While they have Alshon Jeffrey to return, Mike Wallace may not see the field again this season and Mack Hollins is on IR.
Carson Wentz returns this Sunday and giving him a new shiny toy to play with in Parker could be the perfect welcome back gift.
Eagles Twitter want it to happen and know the franchise have a good relationship with the Dolphins after acquiring Ajayi for what seems to be a steal.
Can Howie Roseman do it again?
Howie Roseman boutta fuck around and get Devante Parker from the Dolphins like he did with Ajayi
— Adib (@Hadiibz) September 18, 2018
Landry texts Parker.
“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“He gave me loads of touches when I was in Miami and I left to lose with the Browns. JOIN ME!”
The Browns’ receiver core is shrinking.
Corey Coleman? Gone.
Josh Gordon? Gone.
For Thursday Night Football against the Jets, their current depth chart at WR reads:
1. Jarvis Landry
2. Rashard Higgins
3. Derrick Willies
1. Antonio Callaway
2. Damion Ratley
3. Rod Streater.
If Cleveland are serious about actually winning a game of football, giving Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield some actual weapons could be a start.
Should Miami work out a deal, better than the one they got for Landry, they could be looking at a pretty decent draft pick in 2019.
Cleveland has the cap room to offer him a long-term deal and Parker gets moved to a team looking to rebuild for the future.
The win against the Giants on Sunday Night Football didn’t mask the fact that Dak Prescott has a lack of good options to throw to.
The team has seven WRs after adding Brice Butler to give the receiver room some much-needed height but still lack an X-factor player on the perimeter.
Now wondering if any of these teams are calling the Dolphins about DeVante Parker’s availability (though Skins did sign Perriman) https://t.co/cYTLF2MU5O
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) September 17, 2018
Jason Garrett must be worried about the amount of snaps Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley are seeing and Parker can potentially bring to this team what they lost in Dez Bryant over the summer.
It would mean getting rid of two or three WRs but given the list of names on the Cowboys depth chart, that shouldn’t be too hard to make room for a former first round pick.
Russell Wilson needs help.
First and foremost, he needs an offensive line.
But he also has no-one to throw to.
Pete Carroll’s days seem to be numbered and he may not last the entire season given their start and the changes in Seattle the past 18 months.
But should he need a quick fix to try and save his job, Parker could help alleviate the pressure on Wilson while also taking some of the attention Doug Baldwin is shown by opponents.
Should trade talks take place, instead of going for a draft pick, Miami’s front office should see if Seattle would send Earl Thomas the other way.
Yes Miami has T.J. McDonald but would you turn down the opportunity to partner Reshad Jones with ETIII?
One can dream.
Like Seattle, this team needs all the help it can get.
Larry Fitzgerald cannot keep single-handedly saving this franchise.
Christian Kirk looks a nice pick up but if they want to give Josh Rosen the best chance to succeed when he does step in for Sam Bradford, he needs more weapons.
For those of you who wanted the #AZCardinals to get Dez Bryant or Josh Gordon how about we trade a 5th Rd Pick to Miami for Devante Parker?? Less of a headache. Also not a big loss because Keim can’t draft anyway.
— 2 Beavs Sports (@2BeavsSports) September 18, 2018
Parker can immediately step in and be productive in a team which failed to get past the half-way line until the final drive of the game against the LA Rams and were shut out.