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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs Jaguars – Week 16 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Who: Dolphins (7-7) vs. Jaguars (4-10)
When: December 23 – 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 73 degrees, 65% humidity
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -4

Dolphins-Jaguars

The Dolphins are back home for this in-state tilt against perhaps the AFC’s most disappointing team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Penciled in as a unanimous choice to repeat as South Division Champions, many thought Miami’s Fellow-Florida resident were poised to push the Patriots for conference supremacy once more.

Instead, the team from up the coast cratered, and has been playing out the string for the last two months.

For Miami, a return to Hard Rock Stadium means Mr. Edward Hyde can retire for the week before making his grand finale appearance next week in Buffalo.

The Dr. Henry Jekyll version of Adam Gase’s Dolphins are back at center stage looking to follow up a two-game home stand that saw the ‘Phins take down a pair of divisional foes.

Playoffs are nearly out of reach, and could vanish entirely by the time the final whistle blows Sunday. If Miami want to keep the dream alive another week, they’ll need some help, and also do what they’ve done all year – win at home (6-1 at Hard Rock Stadium).

The Jaguars Schemes
Offense:

Nathaniel Hackett was relieved of his duties after a Late-November loss to the Buffalo Bills, but the offensive woes remain for the Jags. Hackett was lauded for the game plans he cooked up last January that led to 42 and 20-point outputs on the road against Pittsburgh and New England.

Can Minkah Fitzpatrick pick up his third takeaway this season? Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A 40-burger is impressive, the 20-mark less so, but considering the lack of firepower he had at his disposal, and the general flow of that title game, it was nothing short of miracle-work.

Hackett was saddled with the same excuse for a quarterback in 2018, and that QB did him in.

Now, Scott Milanovich has been charged with making chicken salad out of a Cody Kessler led offense. Milanovich began his career in Canada – a stark contrast from the program he took over in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars remain consistent in their approach to play a smash mouth style of football to complement a loaded defense. Injuries to the line, at running back and at wide receiver have handcuffed an already limited offense.

Milanovich has tried just about everything. From first down play-action, to empty sets from heavy personnel, this Jags offense is a lost cause at this point – regardless of the conductor.

Defense:

Originally built by Gus Bradley, this Jacksonville defense is not bereft of talent – so why has it failed in 2018?

Ask a Jaguars fan their opinion of Todd Wash, and you’re likely to get similar responses to that of a Dolphins fan speaking about Adam Gase.

Wash was voted coordinator of the year in 2017 by the other coaches in the NFL, but 2018’s defense has been exposed and failed to adapt.

Operating primarily in cover-3 and cover-1 looks, with off-coverage, opposing offenses have feasted on the underneath portions of the field. Much like the Dolphins, there are linebackers taking deep spot-drops exposing the release and valve routes made available to backs and tight ends.

Hardly a converse from their zone coverage, Jacksonville’s man defensive packages allow for big cushions. Often times a safety will come down to cover the slot, but position himself 10 yards off the line of scrimmage pre-snap.

This puts a lot of stress on the linebackers to multi-task with rerouting and locating their own man in coverage.

The defensive front operates out of even fronts with a one-gap penetrating mentality. Opposing offenses have been using that aggressiveness against Jacksonville with strong play action looks with boot and misdirection concepts.

The Players
Offense:

It’s been a difficult stretch since the Jaguars fired Hackett and replaced Blake Bortles. A reminder that the grass is not always greener, Jacksonville’s lone offensive touchdown, post-changes, was a garbage time touchdown with less than two minutes to play in a 28-point thrashing.

Miami has a chance to resurrect a pass rush that ranks near the bottom of the NFL. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Kessler has struggled in virtually every area of playing the position. Accuracy, pushing the ball down the field, throwing on time with rhythm, functioning under pressure, these have all proven problematic for the former Cleveland Brown.

The running game and pass pro have been major problem areas. Injuries forced Jacksonville to pluck two street free-agents that were released from the New York Giants’ porous line. Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh make up one of the worst left sides in the league.

Losing four offensive linemen is a sure-fire way to make life miserable on a quarterback that needs as much help as he can get.

Things aren’t a lot rosier on the perimeter. Marquise Lee was lost in training camp, D.J. Chark has missed the last four games and Jaydon Mickens broken an ankle back in September.

This offense, with its current banged-up mold, is challenging to be the worse unit in all of football.

Defense:

Despite the whispers of Jalen Ramsey’s demise, the all-pro is still locking things down for this Jacksonville defense. One of the most physical, instinctive corners in the league, Ramsey allows a mere 67.1 passer rating on balls targeted for his man.

A.J. Bouye hasn’t been the big play maker he was last year, but he has yet to allow a touchdown this season.

The safety position has been a myriad of problems for the back end of the Jags Defense.

Barry Church was sent to the bench, Ronnie Harrison was just placed on injured reserve and the Jags have struggled to find a competent running mate to pair with Tashaun Gipson.

The usual suspects are still there in the front-seven, but 2018 just hasn’t been the same as 2017 for guys like Calais Campbell, Telvin Smith and Yannick Ngakoue.

Where Miami could get into some trouble, is if the offense becomes predictable and this highly-talented defense is allowed to turn it loose.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Coaches have more to be concerned with than the fans – though it might be too late for Matt Burke and company. The Jacksonville offense is entirely punchless and any success they have is an indictment of the Dolphins DC.

Jacksonville can create pressure with rush packages and take advantage of turnover opportunities – something Ryan Tannehill has fallen victim to in his career. If the line can’t clean up last week’s protection issues, don’t expect the offense to fare any better than it did in Minnesota.

The Opportunities:

Miami’s third down, red zone and takeaway defense is better at home than on the road. The run defense has been able to capitalize on poor line play; as has the pass rush. These factors all tilt in Miami’s favor as the Jags bring one of the league’s worst offenses to town.

This game is a ripe opportunity to showcase what could be a dynamic duo in 2019 with Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage. Jacksonville’s tackling has been atrocious and their effort has been just as bad. Plus, Jacksonville is prone to getting beat to the flats in the passing game.

The Projected Result:

There is no way the Jaguars should come out of this game victorious. They have nothing to play for, their offense isn’t functional and the effort on defense is severely lacking. Miami is a good team at home and won’t have to withstand any type of initial surge from a Jacksonville team that is already looking ahead to the off-season.

The offense struggles to sustain drives but hits enough big plays, coupled with some defensive takeaways, and Miami gets a relatively comfortable victory.

Dolphins 19
Jaguars 9

@WingfieldNFL

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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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