How did the Miami Dolphins win? A missed 50-yard field goal, dropped interceptions by the New York Jets defense, and Sam Darnold at quarterback.
It took until 5:49 left in the first half for either team to convert a 3rd-down. Miami threw for only 139 yards and rushed for only 64 yards. They only accumulated 7 first downs all game. And yet, they stand before us victorious.
Though somehow, in victory, there is still an aura of defeat. The Dolphins continue to inject us the worst possible feeling and that’s hope.
After starting the game, both Laremy Tunsil and Reshad Jones left the game with injuries and did not return, making Dolphins fans further wonder why this team is cursed.
The Dolphins have won 5 of the last 6 meetings with the Jets.
The starting quarterbacks in those five games:
Ryan Tannehill x2
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 4, 2018
Below are a few observations from the Dolphins 13-6 victory against the Jets:
Miami’s Inept Offense
There is no quarterback controversy in Miami, Ryan Tannehill is a better quarterback with his opposite arm than Brock Osweiler is completely healthy.
Brock Osweiler’s accuracy cost Miami a potential touchdown to a wide-open Danny Amendola as well as a 1st-down pass to Kenyan Drake on the same drive. His deep ball is never close to the intended target, and he has a hard time leading receivers, forcing them to catch the ball behind them or cut their route short.
Mixed in with Miami’s sub-par quarterback play is their below average play calling that goes along with it.
Another punt of the first drive of the game for the #Dolphins under Adam Gase, since 2016.
That's 28 punts, three interceptions, a fumble, a missed field goal and a turnover on downs, outside of just 8 scores on the opening drives in 41 games. #FinsUp
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) November 4, 2018
Miami’s 3rd-and-short play calling has been abysmal, and you’re right to criticize it, but there’s a key component missing when the team does decide to pass: a tight end. We watch 4th-round rookie Chris Herndon catch 4 receptions for 64 yards while 2nd-round rookie Mike Gesicki did not have a catch this game. It’s evident MarQueis Gray is a bigger loss than most people realized at the time. Miami is missing the availability of their tight end in these play calls, and it’s yet another detriment to an offense that features a good amount of skillful players, yet can’t seem to complete a pass 10 yards down field.
To be fair, the few times Miami did try rushing with Frank Gore on 3rd-and-1 they came up short.
Is it safe to say Miami’s offense is worse than the Jets? Look at what the Dolphins defense gave their offense in terms of field position compared to what the Dolphins special teams gave the Jets offense (all teams started on their half of the field):
Miami’s starting field position: 25, 35, 39, 43, 27, 40, 8, 41, 40, 25, 50
Average: Own 33.9 yard line
Jets starting field position: 15, 12, 16, 25, 14, 25, 25, 20, 18, 15, 25, 18, 11
Average: Own 18.4 yard line
One team is also starting a rookie quarterback while the other team’s starting quarterback has 20 more starts in their career. And both displayed the same, puzzling decision-making.
Miami would have had the benefit of starting two 1st-round picks at offensive tackle, but both players might be dealing with nagging injuries going forward. Ja’Wuan James left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and returned in the 4th-quarter. Shortly after his return, Laremy Tunsil injured his knee and hobbled off. He did not return to the game.
Uh-oh. Tunsil to lockerroom pic.twitter.com/xrfiDEPDQw
— Chris Perkins (@chrisperk) November 4, 2018
Todd Bowles is an aggressive playcaller, and the Jets took advantage of Miami’s thin offensive line depth. Zach Sterup was abused for 3 sacks after replacing James, minimizing any chance the Dolphins had at developing a drive. After Tunsil went down, Sterup replaced him and was adequate playing at his natural position (albeit, for only a couple drives).
What this also enhances is Miami’s ineptitude on either side of the trenches. Why is it that other teams are able to capitalize on Miami’s backup offensive linemen while the Dolphins expensive defensive line can’t penetrate their opponent’s depth?
The Jets starting center, Spencer Long, had a dislocated middle finger and couldn’t snap the ball or block nearly as well. It took until the 4th-quarter before Miami was able to capitalize. The final line says 4 sacks, but the first three quarters told a different story.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 4, 2018
This victory came in spite of the Dolphins offense.
Miami’s Victorious Defense
Going to be hard to find a reason to fire Matt Burke this week. Yes, Burke’s passive playcalling at the end of the second half cost the team 3 points, but I blame that more on Xavien Howard, who missed a tackle on a running back fresh off of injured reserve which gave the Jets a big gain and the momentum to pursue the points.
Howard also dropped a Sam Darnold interception that was right in his hands. He didn’t have a bad game, per say, but #1 corners that are about to get paid make those plays.
Miami’s linebacking unit continues to shine for this defense, despite how nervous they might make us. Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso both had good games, which is on par for them this season.
Darnold fails to see Kiko underneath and throws it right to him pic.twitter.com/yfgkOIgVJ1
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 4, 2018
However, the real star here is Jerome Baker. Baker had 5 tackles, a pass defended, and what ended up being the game-clinching pick-6 with just over 10 minutes left to play as the rookie linebacker continues to improve with each game he plays.
Jerome Baker and the Buckeye defense kicked Sam Darnold’s ass in last year’s Cotton Bowl.
Different uniforms, similar results. pic.twitter.com/lPYrXKeuVA
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 4, 2018
2018 will have plenty of storylines, but this defense is going to evolve into something really scary in 2019.
The biggest storyline of the day might be Reshad Jones sitting out the second half and part of the second quarter with a “non-football injury”. Personally, I have to think it has something to do with the torn labrum he’s been playing with this season rather than it being performance based. Miami would rather wait for clarifying results on Jones’ shoulder than admit one of their players is playing injured – though I’m sure it’s no secret to opposing teams. This will be something to monitor as the season continues.
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said safety Reshad Jones pulled himself out of the game
— Antwan V. Staley (@antwanstaley) November 4, 2018
Anyone else notice right after the Jets first time out of the game, Minkah Fitzpatrick walk over to (I believe) Reshad Jones and begin to communicate about the opposing playcall? This rookie learns on every single play. He might not win rookie of the year, but he is a tremendous prospect.
Fitzpatrick started and played boundary corner today and looked very good. You don’t need to be a smart football fan to realize that Minkah Fitzpatrick needs to be on the field as much as possible. He rarely makes mistakes and certainly makes an impact.
Though for what it’s worth, Bobby McCain also had a good game. He looked more like the corner that deserved a contract extension than the player coming off an injury and playing out of position against the Houston Texans last Thursday. That doesn’t excuse the mental lapse of letting DeAndre Hopkins go uncovered in his zone (while he’s playing man), but that Texans game is an outlier in an otherwise solid past two seasons for McCain.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 4, 2018
Pillaging the Pats
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.
I’m in Foxboro reporting on Patriots’ game, so I’ve gotten to chat with people about Dolphins target Brian Flores. One thing nobody exactly says but stands out: This is not your usual Belichick disciple. Disciplined, yes. Stoic even. But not as… how should I put this… rigid?
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 12, 2019
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.
Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme
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.
— James Light (@JamesALight) February 5, 2018
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.
New England Patriots 4-3 Even Front I just talked about vs Titans. 2 Gap & 1 Gap Hybrid. Very tough to run the ball against. First example is with Tampa 2 Coverage. Second is with 3 Buzz Coverage (SS Buzz). pic.twitter.com/dnskxkrgFp
— James Light (@JamesALight) January 16, 2018
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.
Vincent Taylor gon’ eat in this new defense. Miami didn’t two-gap at all, but he’s capable. pic.twitter.com/m7nfBdbVoU
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Davon Godchaux has the power to play a true nose or the 2i/3 in the 3-3 Bear Front. Here he is showing us as close to nose alignment dominance as we’ll find from 2018 in this D. pic.twitter.com/Ylc4wt86Di
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
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.
No false steps, clean diagnosis, knifes in and makes the TFL. This new defense wants to free up its LBs, which could make a word of difference for the emerging Raekwon McMillan. pic.twitter.com/MHDja6ebtM
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
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.
Jerome Baker working as an outside rush backer off the weak side – a role he will see plenty of in 2019 in Patrick Graham’s defense. pic.twitter.com/SVzKXuyc8T
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
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.
Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting
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.
Kyler Murray will now get feedback from NFL scouts regarding his draft position and many scouts estimate he’ll be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. He also has millions from baseball waiting for him. Big decision still looms.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 14, 2019
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.