It looked like Miami was going to improve to 4-2 with a victory over visiting Chicago Sunday. Then it didn’t, then it did, again, and then that process repeated itself a few more times.
With his starting quarterback, two offensive linemen, two tight ends, four defensive ends and a starting cornerback from the opening day roster unavailable, Adam Gase guided his offense to season highs in yards and points.
Posting 31 points and 541 yards on the league’s top defense should have been the most impressive feat of the day for Miami, but it wasn’t.
Say what you will about Gase’s Dolphins, but they are full of fight. To unpack that first paragraph, this was the flow of the game in the final 25 minutes (fourth quarter and overtime).
– Bears take 27-13 lead on a Trubisky TD pass to Cohen. Called back on OPI, next play intercepted by McDonald in the end zone.
– Wilson scores from 43-yards out on a screen pass.
– Miami scores the game-tying two-point play on a last-ditch effort after a broken play.
– Chicago re-gains the lead via a TD with just three minutes and change to play.
– Wilson takes a five-yard search route 75 yards for the game tying touchdown.
– Miami recovers a fumble at midfield with 90 seconds to play, winds up punting – OT.
– Drake fumbles going into the end zone for the winning TD in OT.
– Chicago misses a 53-yard FG attempt for the win with 2 minutes to play.
– Miami gets back into FG range and Sanders drills a 47-yarder for the win.
After Mitch Trubisky’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Anthony Miller, Miami’s win-probability dropped to 12.3%. That was more than double their game-low 5.2% win-probability; which came following a first-and-goal opportunity from the 2-yard line in the third quarter.
The prospect of winning swung heavily in Miami’s favor, up to 99.6% prior to the Kenyan Drake fumble.
The extreme juts and sways of the game’s win-probability took a few years off the lives of Dolphins fans everywhere. Fortunately, for the fans of the ‘Phin’d, the end result was pure jubilation.
|Stat||Dolphins Offense||Dolphins Defense|
|Yards Per Play||7.3||7.2|
|3rd Down Conversions/Att||8/17||8/12|
|4th Down Conversions/Att||0/0||0/1|
|Red Zone Points/Possessions||10/4||10/3|
We learned late Saturday night that Ryan Tannehill might miss the game. Those fears were realized 90 minutes before kickoff when the team announced that Brock Osweiler would start this important week six contest.
Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns on a day where Miami had a 300-yard passer, 100-yard receiver (Wilson) and a 100-yard rusher (Gore) for the first time in 27 years.
Now 3-0 in his first game starting for a new organization, Osweiler showed the value in a veteran backup quarterback with a history in the scheme. Osweiler was sharp pre-snap getting the football out of his hands quickly and in rhythm. He defeated Chicago blitzes and put forth, by far, the best third down showing for this offense all season.
The twice-cut passer showcased some of the reasons why Cleveland and Houston both moved on from him. Osweiler threw a pair of fluttering interceptions that came up short of the mark.
The average air-yards per completion (according to Next Gen Stats) was just 3.4 and 274 of his 380 yards came after the catch.
That’s just what good teams do when the backup is called upon – the rest of the offense elevates its game – and boy did they.
It’s disingenuous to Albert Wilson, Laremy Tunsil, Ja’Wuan James or Frank Gore if any of the four aren’t the A-block talking point – so we’ll go from the outside in.
Wilson’s touchdowns were mere dump offs turned gold for Gase’s offense. The first was a tunnel screen caught behind the line of scrimmage on third and six. It was the perfect play call for the Bears seven-man pressure package.
The former Chief slipped two tackles and amassed 44 yards after the catch – 37 of which came after initial contact.
Then, again down by a touchdown just six minutes later in the game, Wilson took care of business once more.
This time it was a 75-yard house call on a run-of-the-mill search route designed to pick up five or six yards on first down. Instead, Wilson raced 72 yards after the catch to take it home. The first failed tackle came at the 35-yard-line, giving Wilson 102 yards after contact on the pair of scores.
Two catches, four broken tackles, two touchdowns and a final stat-line of 6-155-2. That’s good for a game ball.
OMG. ALBERT. WILSON.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) October 14, 2018
Frank Gore continues to prove ageless. Gore was the first Dolphin back over the century mark this season (15 for 101 and a 6.7 average). He did well to keep his legs churning and finding second-effort yardage against a tired Bears defense.
Khalil Mack and the most feared defense in the league were supposed to turn Hard Rock Stadium into a house of horrors in this one, but it was the pass rush that was lifeless by the end.
Tunsil and James combined to allow two total pressure between Mack alternating sides and Leonard Floyd trying Tunsil’s side.
The offensive line was dominant throughout. Travis Swanson put together his second-straight impressive start while Jesse Davis and Ted Larsen deserve mention to round out a much-maligned unit for shutting out the best pass rush in the NFL from the sack scorecard.
Nick O’Leary lined up in a multitude of positions, out-repped every tight end on the roster, contributed in the passing game (4 for 49), and made some key dig out blocks.
Gase was forced to simplify his plan for the backup quarterback, and it led to the greatest offensive output the Dolphins have compiled under the third-year Head Coach. Quick, hot-throws both to the perimeter and the seam forced the Bears to maintain spacing, while more variety in the running game gave Miami the balance it desperately needed.
Osweiler’s processing looked on-point, but asking him to perform like this consistently isn’t realistic. The Dolphins need Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder to get healthy in a hurry.
And whoever is playing quarterback needs the running game to work the way it did today. Consistent A-plus performances from the line and the receivers would be nice, too.
As is the case for most defenses playing in sweltering South Florida (even the home team) Miami’s stop unit was in shambles after the intermission.
The first half was another 30 minutes of dominance from this upstart Dolphin D. A goal-line fumble, and a jaw-dropping fourth down stop from Safety Reshad Jones, helped keep the Bears off the scoreboard.
Reshad…. you are the absolute truth pic.twitter.com/EIsxSOsaq7
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 14, 2018
In the second half, Miami found its sixth red zone takeaway of the season (three interceptions, two fourth down stands and one fumble). SIX!
Early on, Miami controlled the line of scrimmage with another stellar effort from Vince Taylor. He tacked on a couple more run-stops and a sack as he continues his pro-bowl pace.
Miami’s left end position was compromised severely. William Hayes is lost for the year, Cameron Wake and Charles Harris were both inactive and Jonathan Woodard left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. Before leaving, Woodard picked up his first sack of the year.
Chicago did its damage isolating match-ups against a suspect base and nickel defensive look from Miami. Matt Burke lost his shine from the Cincinnati game with far too many linebacker-versus-running back (and even wide receiver) looks.
Tarik Cohen got on the edge frequently, and he won up the seam in the passing game with too much regularity. Kiko Alonso (despite another big forced fumble), Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker were each victimized.
Torry McTyer was benched after getting taken to task by Taylor Gabriel over-and-over. His replacement, Cordrea Tankersley, looked nearly as uninspiring.
There wasn’t a lot of individual praise to be given to this unit. Things came undone early in the third quarter when the Miami offense put its defense in a pair of precarious situations.
The red zone continues to prove difficult for the opposition and there is no better area for a defense to excel.
Miami gets some key bodies back this week – at least that’s the hope. Bobby McCain was a game-time before being deemed unfit to play, Cam Wake thinks he’ll be ready and Jonathan Woodard has a chance to get back from the concussion protocol. Andre Branch should see an increased level of flexibility going forward as well.
Chicago was always going to be an issue if the Dolphins didn’t adapt the game plan to account for the multiple options Matt Nagy has at his disposal.
Credit this defense with making three consecutive run stops when the Bears entered field goal range in the fourth quarter. That was an easy opportunity to wilt, and finally break, but Miami held strong and forced a difficult kick.
It’s a minor miracle that this team is 4-2 through six games. The number of injuries, a backup quarterback beating the best defense in the NFL and, perhaps the craziest tidbit of all, this team is a fourth quarter meltdown from 5-1.
Tannehill’s shoulder is an absolute mystery at this point, but the schedule does lighten a bit in the coming weeks. Any home game is a winning formula for this team (now 13-5 at Hard Rock under Gase), and the Lions aren’t as difficult as the Bears.
The short week road aspect is the toughest part of play Houston, but Miami has a shot in that one before returning home for the Jets. 6-4 at the bye week feels like a worst case scenario and would position Miami to make a run at double digit wins.
The Dolphins are 3-0 in front of its home crowd this season, each game lacking a unique quality from the others. Slow starting offenses in the first half, collapsing defenses in the second, and a victory that leaves your heart out of beats until next Sunday.
Miami is one six teams in the conference with four wins and is currently tied with the Patriots for the top spot in the division.
Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis
Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers
The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.
Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.
Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.
That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.
Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.
|Year||Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)|
A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.
Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.
Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.
Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.
First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.
The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.
His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.
This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.
That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.
The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.
Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.
The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.
Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.
If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.
Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.
Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.
Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.
The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.
Now, for the tape.
Quick Taco Charlton film thread. Looking at the applicable traits that make him a potential fit in Miami’s scheme, where he needs to get better, and why coaching can make a difference.
First, the get-off paired with lateral agility will suit him well in a stunt-heavy defense. pic.twitter.com/Qgd0kzPzlp
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 19, 2019
If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.
We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.
Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton
Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.
By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2019
Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.
While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.
Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.
Dolphins have claimed former Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, source confirms. Charlton was Dallas 2017 first-round pick who the team waived Wednesday.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 19, 2019
The Dolphins are getting Taco Charlton for a bargain: 2 years, $2.5M.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) September 19, 2019
Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.
Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview
Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D
Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21
The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.
This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.
Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.
The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.
The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.
Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.
Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.
On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.
With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.
Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.
Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.
Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.
Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.
The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.
Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.
Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.
Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.
Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.
Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.
If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.
— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) September 18, 2019
Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.
Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.
Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.
Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.
The Projected Outcome:
The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.
Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.
- Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis September 19, 2019
- Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton September 19, 2019
- Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview September 19, 2019
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