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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Three relatively tightly contested games led to a satisfactory-landing in most statistical categories. After one train wreck showing, all that good work was undone, and Miami now sits near the bottom of the league in nearly every major volume category.
Adam Gase’s offense ranks 30th in yards per game, 25th in scoring and 16th in yards per play. The defense took a serious regression in Foxboro falling to the 26th ranked unit in yards allowed, 14th in scoring and 18th in yards per play.
Third down continues to provide the kryptonite for the 3-1 Miami Dolphins. The offense’s 31% conversion rate is 27th in the league. Matt Burke’s unit is allowing half (50%) of third downs to move the sticks – 30th in football.
Thankfully, for the Dolphins, the standings only measure victories. At 3-1, despite a negative scoring-differential, first place in the AFC East belongs exclusively to Miami.
|Player||Snaps (Percentage of Snaps)|
|QB Ryan Tannehill||36 (73%)|
|QB Brock Osweiler||13 (27%)|
|RB Frank Gore||25 (51%)|
|RB Kenyan Drake||22 (45%)|
|RB Kalen Ballage||1 (2%)|
|WR Danny Amendola||42 (86%)|
|WR Kenny Stills||38 (78%)|
|WR Albert Wilson||36 (73%)|
|WR Jakeem Grant||31 (63%)|
|TE Mike Gesicki||41 (84%)|
|TE Durham Smythe||2 (4%)|
|LT Laremy Tunsil||49 (100%)|
|LG Ted Larsen||49 (100%)|
|C Dan Kilgore||16 (33%)|
|C Travis Swanson||33 (67%)|
|RG Jesse Davis||49 (100%)|
|RT Ja’Wuan James||29 (59%)|
|RT Sam Young||27 (55%)|
For the first time all season, Miami’s offensive line was forced into the mad dash of in-game shuffling. The Dolphins also employed an unbalanced line more than it had in any game all season.
And the Dolphins skill player’s performances suffered as a result.
Ryan Tannehill had his worst showing of the season. Tannehill didn’t have a completion on six attempts against pressure. When he wasn’t pressured, he was 11-of-14 with an interception on a ball he tried to fit into double coverage. He was 0-for-3 throwing the ball 20+ yards down the field.
Tannehill is now 7th in the league in passer rating and completion percentage, 5th in yards per attempt and touchdown pass percentage, and 25th in interception percentage.
The offensive line was an abject nightmare. Tunsil, Kilgore, Larsen, Young and Gesicki all allowed two pressures while Davis and Swanson chipped in one of their own.
It was even worse on the ground. No Dolphins lineman graded better than 55.7 according to Pro Football Focus – well below league average.
Top #Dolphins offensive grades from Week 4:
— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) October 1, 2018
That should come as little surprise as Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore and the Dolphins’ ground game was non-existent. Most of Miami’s 56 rushing yards came on the game’s final drive trailing by 38 points.
Gore did check in with positive grades across the board, specifically as a receiving back. As for the Miami wide outs, it was much of the same. Limited separation and opportunities led to below-average grades for Stills, Wilson, Grant and Amendola.
Miami ran just 49 offensive plays on the game – the only team to dip below 50 snaps multiple times this season. Since 2016, teams have run 47 or fewer plays in a game 22 times. Six of those 22 belong to the Miami Dolphins.
The slow starts to games are likely the most telling statistic. Since Gase took over in 2016, Miami is dead last in first quarter scoring, 31stin second quarter scoring and 31stin first half net scoring.
The big play has saved Miami. The team is posting respectable averages, but the lack of plays and quick drives has buried the volume production. Miami didn’t see a drive extend beyond five plays until the final possesion of the game.
|Player||Snaps (Percentage of Team Snaps)|
|DE Cam Wake||46 (57%)|
|DE Robert Quinn||45 (56%)|
|DE Jonathan Woodard||37 (46%)|
|DE Charles Harris||34 (42%)|
|DT Davon Godchaux||57 (70%)|
|DT Akeem Spence||55 (68%)|
|DT Vincent Taylor||27 (33%)|
|DT Jordan Phillips||25 (31%)|
|LB Kiko Alonso||81 (100%)|
|LB Jerome Baker||65 (80%)|
|LB Raekwon McMillan||54 (67%)|
|CB Xavien Howard||80 (99%)|
|CB Torry McTyer||52 (64%)|
|CB Bobby McCain||41 (51%)|
|FS Minkah Fitzpatrick||81 (100%)|
|SS T.J. McDonald||81 (100%)|
|FS Maurice Smith||26 (32%)|
It’s interesting to note that Baker played more than McMillan, Woodard more than Harris, and Godchaux and Spence significantly more than Taylor and Phillips.
The defense combined to miss 13 tackles, primarily in the secondary. It wasn’t a good day from a coverage standpoint for that group either. The normally rock solid Xavien Howard allowed three receptions on three targets for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked on the second touchdown that could’ve been flagged as illegal, but it goes on his stat sheet.
Bobby McCain was formidable in coverage, specifically on his interception. His replacement, Torry McTyer, was not. McTyer allowed all three of his targets to be caught for 58 yards. McTyer also missed a team-high three tackles.
Top #Dolphins defensive grades from Week 4:
— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) October 1, 2018
Minkah Fitzpatrick allowed just one of four targets complete for four yards. Fitzpatrick also nabbed his first career interception and made six tackles, one for a loss.
T.J. McDonald missed as many tackles as he made (two) and prevented just one of four targets from finding a Patriots receiver. Reshad Jones’ replacement, Maurice Smith, had a rough showing in his own right. He missed half his tackle opportunities and gave up catches on two-of-three targets.
Kiko Alonso was active with six run-stops, but he was beaten repeatedly in coverage (five of seven completions) and missed a pair of tackles.
Cam Wake and Robert Quinn had four pressures each including four hits on Tom Brady – but zero of those pressures were sacks.
A Crowded Trainer’s Room:
Every team has injuries, but the Dolphins continue to see key areas fall victim to further depletion. Losing Josh Sitton was an injury the team could remedy because of veteran backup Ted Larsen. Now that Dan Kilgore is lost for the season, Miami’s interior O-line is on life support.
Reshad Jones missed the last two games and Bobby McCain will now follow suit with a knee injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for 2-3 weeks.
Four games into the season and Miami has four major snap-takers on injured reserve.
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.