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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Personnel Inventory

Travis Wingfield

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Perched in the NFL’s middle ground for the better part of two decades, the 2018 season is an all too familiar movie for Dolphins fans. Miami’s .500 record, as Thanksgiving approaches, is a minor miracle given the state of the team’s medical report.

Outside of 2011, the Dolphins have been in the four-to-six-win range through 10 games every year since 2008. This position of purgatory puts fans on the fence between hoping for a run at January football, and clamoring for a total rebuild.

As is usually the case in football (and in life), the truth lies somewhere in-between the two extremes. Though 2018 feels different given the team’s lackluster showings against formidable competition, the pendulum feels more stuck in stagnation than ever before.

The NFL is a business of constant evaluation. A team of scouts and decision-makers mull the roster every day with an ear to the ground in search of improvements.

Six games remain in the 2018 rollercoaster ride through dreams of contention and utter despair. Wins in four of the six puts Miami in position to qualify for the post-season, but given the team’s health (or lack thereof) it’s difficult to imagine a December run.

So, with a bye week ahead, we’re going to categorize and take inventory of the Dolphins roster.

There are seven categories in this exercise. Arrows up and down, as well as blue and red distinctions, are the common practice for defining a player in the league, but we’re shooting for ultimate transparency here – thus the expansion.

Blue Chip Cornerstones – These are the example setters in the organization – the players that figure to play in multiple pro-bowls. For the sake of the exercise, we put age and experience restrictions into this category as well.

Established Veterans – Some of these names could climb into the cornerstone group. For a team that’s just as close to a rebuild as it is competing for titles, established players without a lot of room for growth fall into this section.

Core Foundation Pieces – Productive, young, and perhaps their best football ahead of them, this is the crop of players you rely upon to take your football team to the next level. The team’s improvement is dependent on their continued development.

Unknown Due to Medical – Injuries put everything on pause for some players – especially those on the wrong side of 30.

Role Players – Whether it’s depth or special teams value, these are the bottom of the roster players that have to ward off challengers every summer.

Greenies – Too early to make a declaration one way or the other, this list if full of rookies and second-year players.

Not in the Future Plans – The clock is ticking and unless something drastic occurs, these names are likely out the door in 2019.

Let’s start with Miami’s three prized possessions.

Blue Chip Cornerstones:

Sep 17, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) works against Miami Dolphins offensive guard Laremy Tunsil (67) during the first quarter at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Laremy Tunsil – Miami’s 2016 First Round pick, Tunsil quickly ascended to the elite class of blindside protectors flourishing against the best pass rushers in all of football. Tunsil’s sudden kick-slide, smooth footwork and strong initial punch has fostered top-shelf production both in the run and pass game. Miami will certainly exercise Tunsil’s fifth-year option for 2020 before extending him on a lucrative deal.

Xavien Howard – Trading up in that same 2016 class, Miami nabbed its second consecutive cornerstone piece. Howard has premier cover skills, he’s scheme diverse and plays the ball exceptionally well. Howard’s contract is up after the 2019 season – expect Miami to make him a rich man prior to that expiration date.

Minkah Fitzpatrick – Earning this distinction through 10 career games speaks to Fitzpatrick’s skill set and football acumen. He has played four positions as a rookie, each better than the previous. Miami will have to figure out if they want the Alabama product to play corner or safety long-term – neither is a bad option.

Established Veterans:

Cam Wake – Still one of the game’s top pass rushers, even at age 36, Wake is an enigma. He feasts on slower-footed right tackles and has a chance to hit triple-digit career sacks this year. Wake’s contract is up at season’s end and nobody would blame him if he chased a title. But if Wake wants to come back, the Dolphins should welcome him with open arms.

Robert Quinn – This will be one of Miami’s most difficult decisions this coming spring. Quinn’s production hasn’t matched his impact, but he’s due nearly $12 million in 2019 and Miami simply needs more from its pass rush.

Reshad Jones – Jones could easily fall in the cornerstone category, but concerns over his durability persist on an annual basis. Injuries, a huge cap-figure and a tendency to freelance (leading to a first quarter benching last week) puts Jones’ value in limbo. At his best, he’s the NFL’s standard as a C-gap run defending safety, with ball skills to boot. Miami cannot get out of his contract, but he could be an interesting trade target this off-season.

Frank Gore – As he has done his entire career, Gore surprised everyone with another productive season. He surpassed 500 rushing yards for the 14thtime in his career – something nobody else has done. He signed a one-year deal, but all parties involved figure to have interest in extending the farewell tour another season.

Danny Amendola – The biggest medical risk among the group heading into the season is the only one left standing (Stills missed one game). He’s under contract for 2019 and it’s safe to assume he’ll finish out that deal.

Kiko Alonso – This was one of the more difficult players to place. The contract he received in 2016 was one of many curious decisions by Mike Tannenbaum and it would make sense that the team retains his services – though they probably shouldn’t. Alonso has a lot of shortcomings in his game that are masked by the occasional takeaway.

Core Foundation Pieces:

Kenny Stills – Shaky quarterback play has sent Stills’ production into a nose-dive the last two seasons. He’s one of the game’s best deep threats and an even better human being and teammate. Miami has an out on his contract at the end of this season, but Stills is well worth the $8 and $7 million he’s due in 2019 and 2020.

Albert Wilson – Flashing electric play-making ability, Wilson flat-out beat the Bears on his own. Though his season was cut short to an injury, he will return in 2019 as one of the focal points of this Miami offense.

Ja’Wuan James – Another tricky name to place, James could depart via free agency next spring. Given the depleted state of Miami’s offensive line, the smart money would be on an extension for the Right Tackle. Injuries and lengthy slumps could give the Dolphins pause on a multi-year deal.

Oct 7, 2018; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant (19) returns a punt for a touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Kenyan Drake – Sure to generate discussion, Drake lands in this group because of the inherent upside he offers. When he was the bell cow to close 2017, Drake was one of the league’s best backs. Relegated back to a secondary role, Drake’s big-play ability has almost vanished. He’s too dynamic in both phases of the game to be neglected like he has been.

Jakeem Grant – Like Drake, Grant has been criminally mismanaged. He’s another dynamic play maker that touches the ball far too infrequently. His added value as a return man solidifies his status in this group.

Davon Godchaux – A powerful tackle that can play a variety of techniques, Godchaux holds his ground at the point of attack in the run-game. As a two-down player he shouldn’t be too expensive to extend when his deal expires after the 2020 season.

Vincent Taylor – Had he finished out the season, Taylor could’ve climbed into the cornerstone group. He’s a dominant force against the run with a lot of upside as a rusher. In a league where they say, “the more you can do,” Taylor will block an occasional field goal. He might be the biggest upside player in this group.

Jerome Baker – Speed is the name of the game for linebackers in today’s NFL and Baker has that trait in spades. He’s a savvy player that understands leverage and gap integrity, he closes down on flat routes as well as anyone and he’s shown a penchant for the big play.

Bobby McCain – McCain’s run as a perimeter corner has likely come to an end – his value is in the slot. In the first year of a four-year deal, McCain is a team captain and leader of this defense.

Unknown Due to Medical:

Ryan Tannehill – The daily Tannehill saga continues. At press time, the hope is that Tannehill returns to play the Colts next Sunday. If he returns in impressive fashion, he’ll have a future on this team. That future, however, is shrouded in doubt as a cloud of mystery regarding the severity of his shoulder injury hovers over Davie.

Josh Sitton – Miami’s healthy offensive line was bordering on dominant through the pre-season and into week one, but things began to unravel when Sitton was lost for the season. He has missed games in each of the past three years and he’s due $7 million in 2019. The Dolphins can get out of the contract for a minimal penalty, but given the lack of options beyond Sitton, he’s probably back for one more year.

Role Players/Special Teams:

Nick O’Leary – Fulfilling the role previously occupied by MarQueis Gray, O’Leary has earned a spot on the roster as a complementary tight end. O’Leary is a free agent at season’s end.

A.J. Derby – Derby could fall into the undesirable “not in the future plans” category depending on what Miami does at the position this off-season, but he does offer value as a reserve.

Jonathan Woodard – Like Derrick Shelby and Terrance Fede before him, Woodard is the next “find” capable of playing in the defensive end rotation.

Chase Allen – A backup inside linebacker and an ace special teamer, Allen has shown some value between the B-gaps and as a nose-backer.

Stephone Anthony – In a similar vein as Allen, Anthony adds value to Miami’s special teams’ units. He has played limited reps on defense and a case could be made that he’s not in the team’s future plans. We’ll find out soon, Anthony is a free agent at year’s end as Miami declined his fifth-year option for 2019.

Mike Hull – Hull and Allen could force Anthony out of a job, but where Anthony gains ground is in the footspeed department. Hull missed half the season with an injury but has been a stalwart on Miami’s kick-coverage units.

Walt Aikens – Miami’s new special teams captain, Aikens was taken care of by the organization last off-season (signed a two-year $2.7 million deal this summer).

Brandon Bolden – Earning his keep as a key member of New England’s special teams’ units, Bolden has made an immediate impact in Miami. Bolden will likely have to hold off the next guy on the list.

Senorise Perry – A restricted free agent in 2019, Perry will find work in the league whether it’s with Miami or elsewhere. He’s been another core special teamer for Darren Rizzi’s superb group.

Greenies (Incomplete Evaluation):

Jesse Davis – Davis earned the Right Guard job late last year but has relinquished his stranglehold on the gig this season. He has the size and athleticism to excel, but he gets beat by the best three and one-techs in the league far too often.

Aug 24, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Charles Harris (90) during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Charles Harris – The injury that has cost Harris five games this year is one of the more prohibitive instances of the 2018 Dolphins’ season. The jury remains out despite a growing portion of the fan base pronouncing Harris as the dreaded “B-word.”

Raekwon McMillan – He’s only played 10 career games and flashed the looks of a quality two-down backer at times – but consistency has been an issue. Given his studious habits and work ethic, the smart money is on the former Buckeye developing in the coming years.

Jake Brendel – He played the best game of his career on Sunday in Green Bay. He likely earned the left guard job for the final six games and his performance, frankly, is one of the keys to watch for as Miami closes out the year.

Kalen Ballage – Only recently active on game day, Ballage has flashed the versatility that suggests he has a bright future.

Mike Gesicki – Green is the best way to describe the rookie tight end. He’s still finding his way as an in-line blocker, but his downfield play-making prowess has been constricted to the garage while he tries to develop into a complete player.

Durham Smythe – Smythe has barely played in 2018, though there are encouraging reps in the run game.

Cornell Armstrong – A physical, feisty corner, Armstrong could get some run down the stretch in his rookie season.

Torry McTyer – It’s been a rough 2018 campaign for McTyer. Giving up on second-year undrafted free agents that have shown some bite is poor practice, however.

Cordrea Tankersley – His ACL injury puts him behind the 8-ball. His status for 2019 is murky and he could go the way of Tony Lippett as a result.

Luke Falk – A sixth-round rookie QB on I.R., we won’t know what Falk is for at least another year.

Not in the Future Plans –

Devante Parker – Parker’s agent made a big deal about his client’s lack of playing time – then Parker got hurt, again. Without the fifth-year option and a medical history longer than his actual production, it’s time to part ways with the former first rounder.

William Hayes – Hayes has been terrific when he’s healthy, but he’s played nine games in two years with Miami.

Dan Kilgore – Coming off a triceps injury, on the wrong side of 30, Kilgore’s future is in doubt. His play in the four games he did play wasn’t enough to quell the aforementioned concerns.

T.J. McDonald – Owner of one of the strangest (and worst) contracts in the league, Miami can get out from that deal this spring.

MarQueis Gray – Gray was a low-key integral part of this team in 2018. Another serious injury and the emergence of O’Leary makes the versatile tight end expendable.

Leonte Carroo – Finding his way back onto the practice squad, Carroo has one last chance to redeem his Dolphin career over the next six games.

Brock Osweiler – (Space left empty)

David Fales – Unless Adam Gase surprises everyone and turns to Fales post-bye, it’s difficult to imagine he has a future in Miami.

Isaac Asiata – He was finally called up last week, but he’s been passed over by a lot of bad players. It’s safe to assume his technique never rounded into form.

Wesley Johnson – Johnson was a band aid on a broken o-line.

Ted Larsen – The next in a long line of failed left guard experiments.

Zach Sterup – The staff likes Sterup, but another year of un-rosterable tape brings his future into question.

Travis Swanson – Like Johnson, he’s nothing more than a band aid to finish out the season on a broken offensive line.

Sam Young – The swing tackle needs to be a viable option at both positions. Young can play right tackle, but his brief showing on the left side cost Miami a game in Cincinnati this year.

Andre Branch – The contract was never a good idea and Miami can finally get out of it after this season.

Akeem Spence – Spence’s splash plays as an aggressive one-gap penetrator have been few and far between. He’s too easily caught up in the wash.

Ziggy Hood – See Swanson and Johnson explanations, only on the D-line.

Sylvester Williams – See above.

This evaluation will be revisited in seven weeks when the season comes to its conclusion in Buffalo. The 18 players listed the final category would be about an average turnover for an NFL franchise, so Miami aren’t in bad shape as far as reshuffling the personnel for 2019.

The key, obviously, will be identifying the future at the quarterback position. Adam Gase likely gets one shot at finding his signal-caller.

The immediate future of the franchise depends on that one decision.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs Vikings Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Stefanski coached his first game as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and he may have orchestrated the last game of Matt Burke‘s tenure as the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator.

Maybe the miracle wiped the emotion out of everyone.

I’d say an illegal touching penalty on Brice Butler on the team’s 2nd possession was an omen that this game wasn’t going to go well. It may have been Matt Haack‘s punt from the Viking’s 45 yard line that ended up bouncing into the end zone that made for a perfect metaphor. Nope, it was most-definitely the 4th-down stop the Minnesota Vikings made when Ja’Wuan James virtually tackles Ryan Tannehill for a comical sack that summarizes this team’s performance today – and quite possibly, their 2018 season as a whole.

After sucking us back into the season in dramatic fashion last week against the New England Patriots, the Dolphins reminded us why they’re far from a playoff team with a lackluster performance on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.

We knew going into Minnesota would be tough, but we didn’t expect it to be embarrassing; though maybe we should have. The Dolphins are now 1-6 in road games this season – a consistent stain on Adam Gase‘s resume.

The good news? This was the only game Miami could afford to lose the rest of the season and still have a realistic chance at the playoffs. The bad news? Everyone else in the playoff picture (Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens) won.

Miami is going to need a lot of help if they want to make the playoffs, but it starts with consecutive victories against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

Below are a few things we noticed from Miami’s 41 – 17 loss to the Vikings:

1) Drain the Defense

This actually might start with the front office. Look at how Miami spent its cap space this season:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
1) Robert Quinn – $11.44m
2) Andre Branch – $10m
4) Kiko Alonso – $9.66m
5) Cameron Wake – $9.62m
9) Reshad Jones – $4.96m

The Dolphins gave up a 4th-round draft pick for their costliest player. They prematurely extended their second-most expensive player after he recorded 5.5 sacks and the team was desperate for defensive ends (they selected Charles Harris in the first round that following draft). Miami did the same with Kiko Alonso that same offseason (though it’s hard to complain about him after watching the rest of this defense). And the bottom two players on the above list are legends on a franchise that doesn’t make the playoffs.

This team was hit with a bunch of injuries, but we need to stop leaning on that excuse. There are no longer excuses as for why the Minnesota Vikings accumulated 101 rushing yards…in the first quarter. The team’s depth has been terribly exposed, and Matt Burke has not been able to adjust to the team’s most-glaring weakness.

Dalvin Cook came into this game averaging 45.9 yards per game and Latavius Murray came into this game averaging 36.2 yards per game. Cook finished with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns while Murray rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Although Robert Quinn added another (shoestring) sack to his total, he was noticeably getting wiped out of the play on the first two rushing touchdowns by the Vikings. Bobby McCain may have been watching too many replays of Rob Gronkowski last week during the Miami Miracle, because his angle on Cook’s first touchdown run was atrocious.

McCain wasn’t to be outdone, however, as Latavius Murray’s touchdown run in the first quarter came with a nice little stiff arm to Bobby McCain’s helmet – leading to a physical lapse by the cornerback compared to the mental lapse on the previous touchdown run.

We can excuse the few shortcomings Minkah Fitzpatrick has each week. Not only is he a rookie, but he’s being tasked with understanding every position in the secondary. McCain was at his natural inside corner position on those touchdown runs and was a detriment rather than the luxury that earned a contract extension this past offseason. In fairness to McCain, he did have a better second half, but after the Vikings had scored 21 points in the first quarter, it’s hard to compliment a player that put the team in such a tight bind.

Each time Fitzpatrick allows a reception I look at the play negatively. And yet, these are receptions that are going for maybe 8-13 yards at a time, not the 40-yard bombs that blow up an entire game plan.

The Derwin James vs Minkah Fitzpatrick debate is going to follow them their entire careers, but the biggest reason people have for selecting James over Fitzpatrick (as the better draft pick) is because the Los Angeles Chargers safety ‘makes big plays’. Fitzpatrick showed he can be equally as impressive when he read a Kirk Cousin‘s screen pass beautifully and took it to the house for a touchdown.

Maybe Minnesota understood how to expose Miami’s defense better than Bill Belichick, but it was evident the Dolphins missed Xavien Howard. Kirk Cousins completed just 2/3 of his passes, and only threw for 215 yards, but he didn’t really need much help from Adam Thielen or Stephon Diggs (even though they had plenty of open space to work with). Cousins completed 2 passes apiece to Tyler Conklin and Aldrick Robinson, but those 4 completions averaged 24.25 yards per play.

Outside of Fitzpatrick’s pick-6, this defense didn’t have too many bright spots. T.J. McDonald was exposed in coverage and Torry McTyer was beat on a long touchdown to Robinson. This defense has valuable core pieces, but it also needs an overhaul.

And it’s going to start with the defensive coordinator.

2) A Fireable Offense

Which stat would you like to pull out of this game that exemplifies Miami’s mediocrity?

  • 37 total passing yards (that’s not a misprint)
  • 11 passes completed
  • 193 total yards on offense
  • 2/12 3rd-down efficiency
  • 9 sacks allowed

That’s 2 more completed passes than sacks for those counting at home.

This doesn’t take into account two pass plays that Ryan Tannehill forced and Miami’s wide receivers needed to bat down. This doesn’t point out the fact that they gained some of these yards in garbage time.

One week after everyone was ready to anoint Tannehill the 2019 opening day starter, fans are back to clamoring for the top quarterback prospect in the draft – whoever it may be. They just need fresh blood.

Erase the 75-yard touchdown run Kalen Ballage had and this offense mustered 118 yards the entire game. That would have been 29.5 yards per quarter! A lot of the problems have to do with the offensive line, but we also have to recognize that a lot of offensive issues today stemmed from the Dolphins receivers.

The normally sure-handed Danny Amendola dropped two passes and also juggled a punt return late in the game. DeVante Parker was nonexistent (1 target). Kenny Stills caught one reception in garbage time. Brice Butler’s biggest play was negated because he stepped out of bounds and received an illegal touching penalty. Mike Gesicki caught a couple of passes, but makes no impact whatsoever on offense.

The team’s shiftiest running back (Kenyan Drake) is nursing an injury and was sparingly used while the team’s most reliable running back (Frank Gore) left the game in the first quarter with a foot sprain. A lot can be said for the poor quarterback performance today, but we also need to point out the collective failure of an offensive unit.

Similar to the defense, the issue might start with the front office. This is how the rest of the top-10 most expensive players rounds out for Miami:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
3) Kenny Stills – $9.75m
6) Ja’Wuan James – $9.34m
7) Ryan Tannehill – $8.68m
8) Danny Amendola – $6m
10) DeVante Parker – $3.46m

That’s a lot of average to non-existent production from Miami’s top-10 cap hits this season.

While quarterback will be the most-discussed topic this offseason, look for the Dolphins to overhaul their tight ends (once again) and their wide receivers, as it’s possible none of Miami’s receivers in 2019 were active for this game. There’s a good chance the only returning wide receivers from this year’s roster are Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, both of whom have serious injuries that they might not be able to come back from.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Gore. Miami desperately needs to win these next two games, and if Gore is unable to perform near 100%, he may be the latest casualty to land on injured-reserve.

With Brandon Bolden and Kalen Ballage having good games for Miami, it’s possible they run with their current trio (with Senorise Perry as insurance) rather than risk an unhealthy Frank Gore.

If this happens to be the case, and Gore does indeed land on IR, it’ll be a disappointing way to see the running back’s season end. Gore had accumulated 722 rushing yards on the season (including this game against Minnesota) and was Miami’s most-durable and reliable option at running back all year. Though it may be hard to find space for him, signing Frank Gore near the veteran’s minimum would be a priority of mine next offseason.

The Dolphins look to play with our hearts again next week as they host the disappointing Jaguars in Miami.

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Miami Dolphins

Charting Ryan Tannehill 2018 – Week 13 vs Buffalo

Travis Wingfield

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Go to Week 1 vs. Tennessee
Go to Week 2 at NY Jets
Go to Week 3 vs. Oakland
Go to week 4 at New England
Go to week 5 at Cincinnati
Go to week 12 at Indianapolis

Week 13 vs. Buffalo –

In his second game back from a shoulder injury that was rumored to end his season, Ryan Tannehill stayed in familiar territory. A few big-time throws, a few more mistakes, and yet another divisive performance.

The fastball deteriorated as the game grew older, he struggled with some touch passes, and missed a few reads, but two touchdowns where he displayed cajones grande was enough to push the Dolphins back into the winner’s circle.

Without Danny Amendola, the personnel packages didn’t fluctuate from the week prior in Indianapolis. Adam Gase deployed primarily 11-personnel and a lot of shotgun. Tannehill was in the gun on 22 of his 28 drop backs.

 

11-personnel 24 snaps
12-personnel 2 snaps
13-personnel 1 snap
21-personnel 1 snap

 

Moving the chains was a struggle regardless of the down-and-distance. Miami moved the sticks on 10 of the 28 plays called for Tannehill, and he was just 2/8 on third downs.

Yards-after-the-catch were missing from the Miami offense. Only 25.5% of Tannehill’s mere 137-passing yards came after the reception. Despite the lingering shoulder issue, Tannehill still averaged 9.38 air-yards-per-throw.

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/4 (0%)
11-19 yards 3/3 (100%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 13/17 (77%)

 

Tannehill was sharp in the red zone completing 5/6 passes – three for touchdowns and two moving the chains on third down.

Two of the touchdowns were threaded into tight windows – Tannehill was on-point in that area as well. He completed 5/10 passes for 63 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception.

It wasn’t a clean game for Tanenhill – far from it. He was charged with four off-target throws, four missed reads and two critical errors (an INT and a missed TD opportunity).

Pressure, as it has been most of his career, was arriving with regularity. On Tannehill’s 28 drop backs, the rush got home 13 times (4 sacks, 8 hits, 1 hurry) at an average of 2.18 seconds from snap-to-pressure.

Play-action, once again, was Tannehill’s bread and butter. He did throw the interception on a double-move-deep-shot to Kenny Stills, but he completed the other four for 41 yards.

The critical errors, missed reads and overall lack of production shrouds this showing with a dark cloud. The two big-time red zone strikes, however, and the clean operation of threading tight windows is enough to push this effort into the upper-echelon of a “winning performance.”

Result: Winning Performance

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 4 (TEN, OAK, IND, BUF)
Inconsequential Performance 1 (@NYJ)
Losing Performance 2 (@NE, @CIN)

 

@WingfieldNFL

Additional videos:

Tannehill appears to be apprehensive on the whee route to the back

Tannehill continues to struggle with the wheel route

Body position opens the read Tannehill wants.

Has a shot at a deep ball, but take the sure first down.

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Miami Dolphins

Week 15: Rooting Guide and Staff Predictions

Gabe Hauari

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Week 14 proved to be one of the most memorable in Dolphins history, as the “Miami Miracle” propelled the Dolphins to a dramatic victory over New England.

As memorable as it was, the only other favorable result around the league was the Ravens losing to Kansas City, as the Colts and Titans also kept themselves in playoff contention by notching wins.

Week 15 is a critical week for much of the NFL, as many teams are still alive in their respective playoff races. In the AFC specifically, there are five teams vying for the final two playoff spots. Who should you root for in these matchups? Here are the games to keep an eye on, with the team Miami should root for in bold for emphasis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. EST

John Harbaugh announced Lamar Jackson will start over a healthy Joe Flacco on Sunday, which means this could be the official passing-of-the-torch moment for the Ravens (7-6). Tampa Bay is still mathematically in the NFC playoff race at 5-8, but facing a focused Ravens team at home is a tall order.

Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. EST

The Cowboys are coming off an intense divisional win over the Eagles, and the Colts (7-6) are hot after a huge win over the Texans. The Dolphins would benefit greatly if the Cowboys came away from Lucas Oil Stadium with a victory, dropping the Colts to 7-7. The Cowboys could control their own destiny by winning the NFC East, something they are in prime position to do.

Tennessee Titans at New York Giants, 1 p.m. EST

This is a potential trap game for the Titans (7-6), as the Giants have improved steadily as the season has gone on. Even without Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants can win with a good running game and just enough defense. The Titans are coming off an impressive win over the Jaguars and will also likely try to establish their running game early.  This one could go either way, but let’s hope the Giants find a way to win this one.

 

Miami has a tough game this week, as playing in Minnesota is no walk in the park. The Vikings fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo this week after an ugly performance on Monday night vs. Seattle, which could benefit the Dolphins. How will the game turn out? Our staff takes a shot at predicting it:

Will Rogers:

After the Miami Miracle I, like many Dolphins fans, am still somewhat on a high. That high has me feeling that the Dolphins can do no wrong but I know I cannot be that naive.

When the Dolphins play the Vikings in Minnesota it’s going to be a true test for the Dolphins defense. It’s looking like Xavien Howard will not play so the guys next in line really need to step up to stop the powerful Vikings offensive weapons. 

This matchup could go either way but like I said I’m riding that high. I believe that the Dolphins can win this one and the taste of the playoffs will become sweeter. 

Prediction: Dolphins 28, Vikings 24

Skyler Trunck:

Since Tannehill has returned, this offensive is firing on almost all cylinders averaging the 8th most points per game in that span. However, this will be the best defense this offense has seen in that span. Add in the offense averaging nearly 8 points less on the road this season, it’s hard to feel great about this matchup.

Minnesota is currently ranked 5th in yards allowed and 11th in points allowed. When you watch this team and look at them on paper, the talent on this defense certainly illustrates these ranks are no fluke.

The reason Minnesota isn’t winning as much as last year is due to their offense, and more so their offensive inconsistencies. Like Miami, Minnesota fans know all too well what it’s like to have a sub-par (at best) offensive line and the effects it has on an offense.

In attempt to salvage their offense, Minnesota fired their supposedly up-and-coming offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, this last week.

It’s easy to think Miami won’t score many points in this matchup given their success on the road and against a defense this stout. What is difficult to predict in this matchup is how this Miami defense will hold. Minnesota running back, Dalvin Cook, has been scripted out of most games, which is odd considering he’ll be one of the more talented backs Miami sees this year. If Minnesota’s new offensive coordinator features a heavy run attack, it may be hard for Miami to stay in this game.

I have hard time going against what I’ve seen all year from this Miami Dolphins team, especially with the absence of Xavien Howard for another week. 

Prediction: Vikings 20, Dolphins 17

Andrew Mitchell:

Coming off last weeks Miami Miracle game has spirits and confidence high. Which immediately worries me because we know how this can go sometimes. 

Ryan Tannehill has looked stellar in his return and the play-calling has been much improved as well. While the offense has seemed to find their groove, they still are not as dominant as needed to offset our shaky defense.

However, the defense has been playing the best it has all season and that trend MUST continue as they head to Minnesota.

The Vikings have been underwhelming this season after signing Kirk Cousins in the offseason. They just recently fired John DeFilippo, the highly regarded OC they snagged from the Eagles in the offseason. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t what Miami wants, if only they had kept him for one more week.

Given our defensive performances on the road and an offense looking to get on the right track, I can’t help but feel Miami falls short this week. I hope I’m wrong.

Prediction: Vikings 31, Dolphins 23

Gabe Hauari:

The Dolphins got the kind of emotional win that can turn a whole season around vs. the Patriots last Sunday. The “Miami Miracle” is a play that will go down in NFL history, and could possibly propel the Dolphins into the playoffs if they handle their business the last three weeks of the season.

However….

The Dolphins have been pretty bad on the road this season, and unfortunately I don’t see that stopping this week, especially not without Xavien Howard. The Vikings have a deep stable of receivers, and that matchup really worries me.

The Dolphins can win if they run the ball well and control the clock, and defensively they must get pressure on Kirk Cousins.

After a stinker on the road last week, the Vikings will also be motivated to play well in front of their home crowd, with a new offensive coordinator, with their playoff dreams potentially on the line.

Miami keeps it close, but I think Minnesota wins it late.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Dolphins 21

Travis Wingfield:

To see Travis’ analysis and predictions, click here: https://www.lockedondolphins.com/dolphins/dolphins-at-vikings-week-15-preview/

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