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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs Bills Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

This game went the way of the 2018 season: disappointing, embarrassing, and with a touch of hope thrown in there at one point. But in the end, the Miami Dolphins succumb to another subpar/mediocre season.

There were some headlines going into this game. Stephen Ross is believed to be mulling Adam Gase’s fate as head coach of the organization, there’s heavy speculation that Mike Tannenbaum is out as Executive Vice President of Football Operations, and fans can easily speculate that defensive coordinator Matt Burke will be relieved of his title (assuming Gase isn’t fired).

A lot was also riding on Ryan Tannehill’s (injured) shoulders. The embattled quarterback is staring at a large dead cap hit and an even larger hit if he’s on the roster next season. After a miraculous victory against the New England Patriots had many welcoming Tannehill back, the final three games of the season were just the opposite.

Previously 3-0, 4-2 and 7-6, you had every reason to believe they would be better than their past. But alas, that would have been too optimistic or us. And as Dolphins fans, we know there’s no place for that.

Below are our thoughts on the Dolphins 42-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills:

Off With This Offense

Coming into the season, you could have pinned these final 3 games as losses. The Dolphins were playing two prior Conference Championship participants and their division rival in a frozen environment. It was always a tall task.

But these three teams collectively finished 19-27-1 on the season. And after all the promise Miami showed earlier this season, you expected them to at least compete.

Despite underwhelming performances against the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars, Ryan Tannehill still had an opportunity to give the organization a real conundrum for the 2019 season. And while it’s still possible the team brings him back as the starter, he’s all but cemented his Dolphins lore.

This is something I find interesting about Tannehill: while his time in Miami will be deemed a failure, he was never viewed as a “bust”. Maybe we haven’t gotten to that part of the conversation yet, but it’s curious to see just how neutral Tannehill falls in the player spectrum (right where the Dolphins are as an organization…).

The former beacon of hope for the Miami Dolphins counted for one touchdown against the Bills, though it came as a reception. There are just so many jokes littered throughout that sequence. Even if you aren’t superstitious, there is an omen to the former college wide receiver’s biggest contribution in (possibly) his final game as a Miami Dolphin being a touchdown reception.

On the day, Tannehill finished 18/31 for 147 yards, 0 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. He also lost a fumble. It was yet another game where the team failed to throw for at least 300 yards. Why even have wide receivers?

All eyes this off-season will be on the quarterback and what the Dolphins do at wide receiver. Their most promising players (Albert Wilson & Jakeem Grant) are recovering from some bad injuries that could alter their careers. Kenny Stills and Danny Amendola are technically signed for next season, but it remains to be seen if the Dolphins will retain them.

Other than another porous performance from the offensive line, there isn’t much to say about the offense this game. Kenyan Drake saw more touches in the final game of the season, though his rushing average will take a dip as he finished with 11 carries for 43 yards (3.9 yards-per-carry).

Kalen Ballage received a decent share of snaps as well, accumulating 47 yards on 12 carries (also 3.9 yards-per-carry). If you were wondering if the Dolphins were going to pay Drake this offseason (a year before he hits free agency), take a look at how the other running backs on the roster performed this season.

Brandon Bolden was successful in his limited snaps, Ballage showed he could perform in the NFL. And Frank Gore was signed this pass offseason – with no prior knowledge of the playbook – and averaged 4.6 yards-per-carry for $1.1m. Unless an unhappy Drake is taking a team-friendly deal, I expect 2019 to be his last season (if he isn’t traded this off-season). This also depends on what happens at the head coaching position.

DeVante Parker was targeted three times, but didn’t have a reception on the day. The most important aspect of this is Parker’s health. He was able to make it through the game, which meant Miami did not have to guarantee the wide receiver’s $9.4m 5th-year option. I expect them to rescind that offer as soon as they realize they aren’t receiving anything in a trade.

Making Opposing Offenses Merry

The 2018 Miami Dolphins allowed the most points in team history.

Prior to the game, the defense was:

  • 30th overall (391.7 yards-per-game)
  • 19th passing (247.8 yards-per-game)
  • 31st rushing (143.9 yards-per-game)

After Buffalo blessed the Dolphins with a victory in Miami, the team made sure to rightfully embarrass their division rivals up north. Miami actually improved on the “overall” and “passing” categories, though when your opponent is up by 30 points, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of passing.

Buffalo rushed for 166 yards (19 more yards than Tannehill threw for) as Miami’s run defense finished the year right on par with how poorly they performed the rest of the season. Despite the running numbers, Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan played well. Baker had a sack and 2 tackles for a loss as he capped off a stellar rookie season.

Kiko Alonso had a decent game prior to his ejection for sliding (if you call it that) into Josh Allen when the QB was going down on a run. A skirmish ensued after the play and both Alonso and Robert Quinn were ejected.

All things considered, Josh Allen didn’t have a spectacular passing day, but he didn’t need to. Allen counted for 5 of Buffalo’s six touchdowns as he threw for three touchdowns (17/26 passing, 224 yards) and ran for two more (9 rushing attempts, 95 yards).

His accuracy will be entertaining, but his play-making ability could haunt Miami in the future. Unless the Dolphins find a way to neutralize off-the-cusp quarterbacks, Allen will have an easier time as he grows and matures as a player.

About the only thing the defense did well this year was intercept the ball. In what might also be his final game as a Miami Dolphin, Reshad Jones had a nice interception that he ran back for a touchdown. Jones also had one of the two passes-defensed that Miami had on the day.

Torry McTyer had the other, though his biggest contribution came when former Dolphins quarterback Logan “I refuse to play any other position, but here I am playing another position” Thomas nailed McTyer from the side. McTyer had to leave the game – no flags were thrown on the hit.

Miscellaneous

Now that the Dolphins lost, you can safely root for a higher draft pick. Here are the teams you want to win (in order to hop over Miami in the draft): Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, & Carolina Panthers.

How bad has Ted Larsen‘s season gone? He had the advantage of a false start and still got walloped by his man. So much so, that the referee went to call the penalty and then decided he was already embarrassed enough and let the play continue.

There will be a lot to dissect and wonder about as we watch successful franchises play meaningful football games in January. How does the team resurrect this offense? How desperate does 2019 become for anyone’s job security (Chris Grier as well)? What kind of free agents can an angry lockerroom coax into signing here?

Whatever you think about, just make sure you have 8-8 in mind. It’s just easier to backtrack from there.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

Pillaging the Pats

Travis Wingfield

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Taking From the Rich and Giving to the Phins

De facto Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores is set to take over the big chair in Miami at the conclusion of New England’s 2018 season. Rumored to be coming with Flores are a pair of Pats staffers.

A master of delegation, Bill Belichick constantly maintains the smallest staff in the league. Flores’ intentions are to bring with him Pats’ Consultant Bret Bielema and Wide Receivers Coach Chad O’Shea.

*We’ll have a comprehensive breakdown of the offensive scheme that comes with O’Shea should this move push closer to official. And we’ll do so in the same capacity as the Defensive Crash Course piece.

If Flores is able to extract both Bielema and O’Shea, he’s plundering 16% of the 2018 Patriots’ staff (that includes Flores). Belichick’s coaching tree has yielded less than desirable results in their new destinations, but Flores is described as “different” from the rest.

By now Dolphins fans are tired of lip service. If Flores is the exception to the many before him, great – we’ll find out on Sundays. Flores is, however, off to a unique beginning compared to the lackluster rest.

 

Coach (Year Left New England) Additional Migrating Staffers
Charlies Weis (2005 – Notre Dame) 0
Romeo Crennel (2005 – Cleveland) 0
Eric Mangini (2007 – NY Jets) 0
Josh McDaniels (2009 – Denver) 0
Bill O’Brien (2012 – Penn State) 0
Matt Patricia (2018 – Detroit) 0

 

Goose eggs. I didn’t expect that when I began this study, hence the table. Interestingly, the greatest dearth in the Patriots run came between the 2008-2010 seasons. That sentence is a house of cards for two reasons:

1.) It’s sort of hilarious to call two playoff appearances and a combined record of 35-13 a dearth. Those three seasons were the last time New England weren’t participating in the Conference Championship – they’ve qualified for eight consecutive title games since.

2.) It’s something of a strawman to suggest New England’s 14-2 season was cut short at the divisional round because of a loss of coordinators. Not to mention the 2008 season that brought back 11 wins despite starting Matt Cassel for 15 games.

That three-year stretch did come after New England lost its offensive and defensive coordinators, and then Crennel’s replacement at DC (Mangini) two years later. No one is mistaking Flores, Bielema, and O’Shea for Weis, Crennel, and Mangini, but this would be a similar exodus – the difference being all at once opposed to three years.

It’s no secret that Belichick is a ruthless competitor that has no qualms about making enemies. The Patriots have blocked coaches from interviewing for outside positions in the past. Clearly, New England doesn’t block assistants from taking head coaching jobs, but the fact that zero staffers jumped ship might insinuate staffers are held hostage.

Maybe that’s where the idea that Flores is different from the rest comes from. His ability to separate himself from the Pats’ program. His intentions to implement his own initiative that doesn’t try to form as a carbon copy of Belichick’s well-oiled machine in Foxboro.

There are a million ways to splice this, but it all comes back to one conclusion: Brian Flores is beloved by everyone that knows him – even the heartless Hoodie.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme

Travis Wingfield

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For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.

Enter Patrick Graham.

It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.

Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.

Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.

And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.

For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.

We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.

The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.

This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.

In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).

The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.

Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.

The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.

Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.

The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.

The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.

Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.

The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.

Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.

These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.

The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting

Skyler Trunck

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It is that time of year again.  Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.

It’s mock draft season!  Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…

Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:

 

Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy.  Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.

Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”.  Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.

 

CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams.  It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.

For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection.  In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.

 

The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma

Now it’s getting exciting!  There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray.  As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.

Some question if he will be available at #13.  As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched.  Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size.  Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier.  Murray will be no exception.

2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring.  If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.

 

Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship.  Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.

Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs.  He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback.  Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.

 

Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.  

What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available.  Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.

Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald).  Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.

 

SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke

It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback.  Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach.  Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill?  There are other options out there at a cheaper price.

When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.

All that said, it’s the NFL draft.  Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out.  Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential?  I just don’t see it with Jones.

 


 

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13.  Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.

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