Who: Dolphins (4-4) vs. Jets (3-5)
When: November 4, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 83 degrees, 70% chance of precipitation
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -3
By the time the Dolphins and Jets kickoff Sunday, it will have been 10 days since Miami’s last game. Following a 42-23 drubbing, those 10 days felt like 10 years. Miami’s quarterback situation is shrouded in uncertainty, the defense has sprung leaks at all three levels, and the injuries continue to pile up for the third consecutive year.
Adam Gase is shooting right down the fairway at .500; Gase is 20-20 as an NFL Head Coach (not including a playoff loss). The 2016 season was his finest work orchestrating a playoff run with a defense full of backups and street free agents, and a backup quarterback for the final fifth of the season.
Gase will have to top that performance in 2018 if Miami wants to replicate the success from his rookie year.
There is good news, however. Miami welcomes a bad, banged up team to Hard Rock Stadium in the New York Jets. Under Gase, Miami are 4-1 against the Jets and a perfect 2-0 at home.
The Jets’ Scheme:
The only success New York has had offensively is when the team can run the football at will. Play-action looks from tight sets put the rookie quarterback in favorable positions. Otherwise, the Jets offense is as hamstrung as any in the league.
Jeremy Bates’ scheme is centered around west coast principles with an emphasis on the zone blocking scheme. Without a featured skill player (no WR, RB or TE has played more than 63% of the Jets snaps this season) deception and rotation are the keys for New York.
Expect to see plenty of two tight end sets to accomplish two things.
1.) Take Minkah Fitzpatrick off the field (Miami needs to fix this A.S.A.P)
2.) Limit Sam Darnold’s exposure
The Jets’ ground game does not travel well. At home, New York averages 4.6 yards per carry, but that number dips to 3.5 away from MetLife Stadium. With an average third down distance of eight yards to gain, the Jets operation is not one built for success.
Todd Bowles traditionally dials up the heat on opposing quarterbacks. That trend, along with the Jets’ complete void of an individual pass-rush talent should lead to more of the same for the Jet defense come Sunday.
New York plays an odd front defense with a variety of pre-snap blitz looks and post-snap rotation. It’ll be critical for Brock Osweiler to identify where the rush is coming from and get his patchwork offensive line into the right protection calls.
In the back end, the Jets mix up the coverages just as frequently as the blitz packages. Losing Trumaine Johnson changes the way the Jets want to defend (Johnson is questionable for Sunday). Mixing up stubie, karate and MEG coverages on the perimeter will test the chemistry between Osweiler and his receivers.
It starts with the running game despite Bilal Powell heading to the injured reserve. Fortunately for Miami, the Jets off-tackle outside-zone could experience more problems stretching the wide-9 alignment of the Dolphins defense (just as it did in week two). The key will be the bend (cut-back lane) and how well the Jets climb to the second level to erase Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan.
That’s where James Carpenter, Spencer Long (if he plays) and Brian Winters become so crucial. The interior of the Jets line against these Miami linebackers will dictate the pace of the game. If they can latch on and create positive running yardage, stay on the field, and prevent Miami from running upwards of 70 offensive plays, the Jets will win.
Darnold’s arsenal of pass catchers is reliable, yet unremarkable. Robbie Anderson is questionable and Quincy Enunwa is out, leaving the rookie with very little in the cupboard.
The Dolphins corners are better than the Jets receivers. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavien Howard will make life tough on the boundary and slot respectively.
Then there’s the quarterback. Darnold is a menace to get to the ground, but he is extremely loose with the football. If Miami can rattle Darnold, he’ll give them turnover opportunities and Miami must take advantage.
Darnold is advanced mentally for a rookie. He processes and very little bothers him. He will struggle with his accuracy at times due to inconsistent mechanics. Expect Miami to send a lot of pressure his way and attempt to lock down the Jets receivers with its talented secondary.
Jamal Adams is an absolute problem and his presence will be accounted for on every snap. He plays in the box, in two-deep and even man-up in the slot – he’s the linchpin of that impressive defense. In the same manner as Reshad Jones, he can shut down the strong-side C-gap in the running game and make the Dolphins outside zone obsolete.
The secondary might be the Jets best unit as Mo Claiborne has had a career revival in New York. They will have to stick to the shifty Dolphins wide outs all game as the Jets look to blitz, blitz, and blitz some more.
Marcus Maye is back in the line-up for the Jets, but his career has been up and down in the first year-and-a-half.
Leonard Williams is the next man to key. He’s a devastating player in both aspects of the game. Miami would be wise to jump its running back in front of the quarterback and protect the interior pressure Williams is likely to create.
Off the edge, there isn’t a lot to write home about. Brandon Copeland and Henry Anderson are JAGs, but they run into a superior group of linemen that can erase them right out of the game.
The odd front means outside-backers will come down and blitz off the edge. The issue for New York is the lack of a pass rusher that can win one-on-ones. Frankie Luvu and Jordan Jenkins are part-time rush specialists that haven’t made much of an impact this season.
Avery Williamson is a trusted, cerebral middle linebacker that conducts Bowles defense. Fellow inside-backer, Darron Lee, will serve as Miami’s rabbit in the passing game (guy to pick on).
Lastly, the player Miami will most definitely attack all game is slot corner Buster Skrine. There isn’t a player in this Dolphins wide receiver group that can’t beat him consistently. Last year it was Kenny Stills (to the tune of a pair of scores and more than 130 yards).
— Al Butler (@ALaboutSports) October 31, 2018
— Matt Stypulkoski (@M_Stypulkoski) October 31, 2018
The disappearing act of the Miami run defense is troubling. If the Jets can assert their will on the ground, it’s difficult to imagine how the Dolphins find a victory.
Leonard Williams and Jamal Adams are always a problem – each can wreck plays, series, and even games.
With plenty of defenders either out for the game, or returning from injury, Miami’s speed should be able to capitalize the way it did in the week-two game. Crossing patterns, rub routes, isolating the tail backs on linebackers, Miami needs the chunk-play early and often Sunday.
Darnold will put the ball in harm’s way and Miami has been (or had been) a takeaway machine this season. Interceptions and strip sacks are the cure to Miami’s defensive ailments.
The Projected Result:
Any time a team has extended time to think about a bad loss, that team typically responds. Welcoming a divisional rival, back at home, Miami ought to play an inspired game Sunday.
The Jets brand of football isn’t one that normally gives Miami problems under Adam Gase, but two mistake-prone quarterbacks could sway this game in either direction. Both teams are dealing with a lengthy list of injuries, both struggle to score, and both are on the verge of packing it in for the 2018 season.
Miami has shown more mettle than New York in these situations under these respective coaching staffs. The Dolphins get the running game cranking, fix the defense for a week and take care of the Jets on the final possession.
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.
Why Football Won’t Be Funny in 2019
Adam Gase’s eyes may be the last thing we get to laugh at for a long time regarding the New York Jets/Miami Dolphins rivalry.
Monday afternoon was a pleasant day for Dolphins fans. Adam Gase was announced as the head coach of their bitter rivals, and the nation paid no attention to what Gase, owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan had to say about the franchise-altering move.
Everyone was either laughing too hard to listen, too curious to pay attention, or getting dizzy trying to follow Adam Gase’s eyes.
If there was any doubt that the Miami Dolphins made the wrong decision in releasing Adam Gase as their head coach, it was all but alleviated Monday afternoon.
It took Adam Gase 0 minutes to become a New York sports meme. pic.twitter.com/6Or4qm38NF
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) January 14, 2019
The Jets brainwashed Adam Gase. Only explanation for this twitch. pic.twitter.com/aP53o4w33j
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) January 14, 2019
Though I caution you, that feeling may only be temporary, as the permanent outlook for this rivalry is bleak for one, and promising for another.
First, let’s get the obvious out of the way and recognize that Adam Gase should no longer be heralded as an offensive guru or a quarterback whisperer. That lust and allure faded over the past two seasons with the Dolphins, even if some aspects (hurricanes, no bye week in 2017, QB injuries, offensive line woes) were out of his control.
That being said, Adam Gase is still very good at his job (as an offensive coordinator…). He was the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos when Tim Tebow transformed into an actual NFL player and took the Broncos into the Divisional Round of the 2011 playoffs. He was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning’s 4th-best season in his career, and the offensive coordinator for Manning’s best and 3rd-best seasons of his career.
Gase didn’t really maximize Jay Cutler like most people claim; his 2015 season as the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears produced a top-5 season for Cutler, but that’s not saying too much. His body of work with Ryan Tannehill will be scrutinized, but he elevated Tannehill to a playoff-caliber quarterback in 2016 prior to his knee injury. Like Tannehill’s entire career, it’s hard to get a grasp on what 2018 meant. Statistically, Tannehill didn’t have a “bad” season, but we all witnessed how poor it really was.
Still, Gase has shown that he can get more out of quarterbacks than others have prior – even hall of famers. So to think that his knowledge and experience won’t rub off and benefit sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold is wrongfully optimistic.
Sam Darnold didn’t flash a pretty stat line in 2018, and Dolphins fans will remember his two games against Miami as less-than-flattering; so it’s easy to think that Gase won’t succeed with a quarterback trending towards being a bust.
But we’re all smart enough to avoid placing that “bust” tag on Darnold (or any player) this early, especially a 21-year old quarterback who was originally projected to be the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Baker Mayfield took the rookie-class by storm, dampening Darnold’s rookie season into appearing less-productive than the standard learning curve.
Do we quickly forget how most current top-echelon quarterbacks faired their first season?
- Sam Darnold: 57.7% completion, 2865 yards, 17 TDs / 15 INTs
- Cam Newton: 60%, 4051, 21/17
- Carson Wentz: 62.4%, 3782, 16/14
- Jared Goff: 54.6%, 1089, 5/7
- Matt Ryan: 61.1%, 3440, 16/11
- Deshaun Watson: 61.8%, 1699, 19/8
- Matthew Stafford: 53.3%, 2267, 13/20
Darnold’s numbers appear on the lower end of these quarterbacks, but they aren’t that far off. He can easily trend into another Tannehill (58.3%, 3294, 12/13 his rookie season), but Darnold comes with much more pedigree and a higher ceiling than Tannehill ever did.
Gase finally has a young quarterback that he can actually teach and groom. Assuming Darnold is healthy and Gase isn’t thrust back into quarterback oblivion, the main concern should revolve around the rest of the offense – the most important position is already locked down.
That’s where the Jets need a lot of work…but don’t the Dolphins as well?
The New York Jets already have Robby Anderson, a younger (and more-troubled) version of Kenny Stills, and Quincy Enunwa (a more-reliable, yet, less-athletic version of DeVante Parker), under contract for 2019 (Anderson is a RFA that I expect them to re-sign). Their up-and-coming running back, Elijah McGuire, seems more productive and threatening than Kalen Ballage (especially in Gase’s tricky offense). Their young tight end, Chris Herndon, is MUCH better than Mike Gesicki, and their offensive line is just as putrid, so that position is mute.
Actually, the Dolphins do have Laremy Tunsil, which is a huge upgrade over anything the Jets have on the offensive line, but the Jets have one major advantage over Miami heading into the future, one that will allow them to address their team much better than the Dolphins will be able to, and that’s assets.
The New York Jets Are Asset Guys
We can laugh at the Jets ineptitude all we’d like, but we might want to put a mirror in front of ourselves before we crack up too hard.
Prior to reworking any contracts or extending any players, the New York Jets have $98m in salary cap space to play with in 2019. They have so much available cap space that they are most likely going to rollover more money than the Dolphins currently have in 2019 cap space, and that’s $14.34m.
While the Dolphins have a tall task ahead of them maneuvering contracts and making decisions on current players on their roster, the Jets can sit back and play the market however they’d like.
Want to splurge for Antonio Brown, who’s about to be released from the Pittsburgh Steelers? No problem! Want to pair him with Le’Veon Bell so you can try and create a pro-bowl offense? Go for it! These might resemble Mike Tannenbaum moves, and aren’t really wise for the Jets organization, but they have the luxury of both making the move and making the mistake.
Updated Antonio Brown odds (Bet DSI):
NY Jets +300
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) January 15, 2019
If they feel they can contain the locker room culture (a big ‘if’), they can certainly contain the contracts.
The only issue the Jets have to deal with, that Miami has the advantage on, is the team’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2019. That’s the only remaining cost derived from the trade that netted the Jets the 3rd-overall pick in the 2018 draft. They traded their 6th, 37th, and 48th-overall picks in the 2018 draft, and their 2nd-round pick in the 2019 draft to get their franchise quarterback.
Miami has their 2019 2nd-round pick, but it doesn’t look like they have a franchise quarterback. Which means they’re going to need to spend A LOT more of their assets going forward.
Pair the cost of obtaining a franchise quarterback with the cost of establishing the rest of the roster and you begin to realize that Miami doesn’t have enough money or draft picks to do this all in one season. And even if they do try and rebuild towards 2020, you better hope they get each step of the way right, because you’ll otherwise find yourself spinning your wheels for another 18 years while the Jets and Adam Gase walk a smooth line they grooved for themselves.
Not so funny anymore, huh?
We can nitpick who has the better defensive players, which offensive players have a higher ceiling, and which staff has a better trajectory, but it’s hard to deny that the New York Jets are currently in a better position than the Miami Dolphins are.
I hope you enjoyed that Monday news conference, because the Jets are probably going to get the last laugh this 2019 season.