Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

Phins Win Again – Dolphins Colts Recap

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Dominant defense makes a winner of Brian Flores for the second straight week

The pre-bye week Dolphins were an abomination; record-setters in multiple measurements of futility. Now, under the direction of a surging coaching staff and a veteran quarterback that regularly spins gold, Miami are two games off the pace for the first pick of the draft, and three games out of a wildcard playoff spot.

 

Stat Dolphins Colts
Total Yards 228 300
Rushing 70 109
Passing 158 191
Penalties 4 (30 yards) 3 (25 yards)
3rd / 4th Down 7/18 (38.9%) 5/15 (33%)
Sacks For 1 3
TOP 31:28 28:32

 

Coach Flores will tell you how much this win means to the young players that have impressed in a challenging season, but the Colts misfortunes had more to do with end result of this game. Out-gained and plus-one in the turnover department, Jason Sanders made field goals of 47, 48, and 48 yards. Adam Vinatieri, on the other hand, missed a point-after-attempt. Had he made the kick, the Colts could’ve sent the game into overtime with a late field goal.

Instead, Miami’s defense bowed up forcing a four-and-out with their backs against the wall, from their own 16-yard-line. Not that any of this makes Miami’s performance any less impressive.

That was the name of the game for this Flores-led team. The structure of the defense has been a theme of this blog and podcast for weeks, and the production is showing up more each week. Miami limited the Colts to 27 first-half rushing yards on nine carries, but began to give way in the second half as the offense failed to sustain drives.

The depth of the playbook on either side should be plenty to encourage Dolphins fans. The draft day plans are trending into dire territory, as Miami’s organic first-round pick is bordering on the top 5 (#4 overall), while Pittsburgh continues to win tight games. But Miami are creating passing concepts to free up a variety of unheralded pass catchers, while the defense is full of names that would probably be trying out for alternative football leagues if not for the Dolphins.

The dream for Tua Tagovailoa, or even Joe Burrow, might be slipping away, but for what? The upside comes via Brian Flores’ ability to turn a roster full of players, who otherwise might not be in the league, into a competitive outfit that has a positive point differential over the previous five games.

Let’s discuss those individuals.

Quarterbacks

Flanked by a slew of Dolphins reporters after an August training camp practice, Ryan Fitzpatrick spoke about his comfort level entering his 15th year in the NFL. In a system that he says, “empowers the quarterback,” he felt he could have the best year of his storied, well-traveled football life.

Over the last five weeks, Fitzpatrick has remarkably kept Miami competitive despite a myriad of issues at every position in the offense. Fitz is escaping pressure and throwing with timing and anticipation. His nine total touchdowns over that span have generated a 21.2 PPG average since the fourth quarter against Washington. Miami were scoring 6.1 PPG the first 4.75 games of the season.

Running Backs

Not all coaching decisions are agreeable. The staff seems intent to run Kalen Ballage into a brick wall until — well until I don’t know, but they’re doing it. Ballage looks like he’s guessing where the best available gap is on any given play, and he offers noting in the elusive running category. His season average was 2 yards-per-pop coming in, he finished this game with 43 yards on 20 carries.

Patrick Laird had a cameo appearance and picked up a first down, on third down, in the red zone. Laird has the traits that could make him a valuable depth piece in this backfield down the line, and that audition needs to occur soon.

Chandler Cox is a fun player for the highlight reel hits and the play-on-words-friendly name, but he’s not getting a lot done as a lead blocker.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Devante Parker continues to produce right in-line with his season statistics. His catch percentage was back down to half on Sunday (5 of 10), but he picked up another 69 yards (nice) and won with some nuance in his route running.

Mike Gesicki has two career fumbles, both in Indianapolis. The second-year tight end shook off the mistake and came back with a pair of crucial first down receptions. He almost made a highlight reel play on the level of O’Dell Beckham, and a better throw would’ve made for his first career touchdown on that rep. Gesicki’s improvement working through reroutes has been tangible all season.

Jakeem Grant caught a pair of passes. We’ll look at his 12-yard gain on third down here to give Chad O’Shea some more dap.

Durham Smythe’s had a few difficult weeks. Miami might prioritize finding his replacement in the offseason — it would be wise if their hope is to truly unlock Gesicki’s skillset.

Offensive Line

This group needs a ground-up rebuild. That’s something we’ve known for a while, but the entirety of this line is patched together by depth parts and street free agents. Chris Reed was the best lineman on the team the last three weeks, and he still can’t crack a starting lineup when guys are healthy.

J’Marcus Webb is the street free agent of the group, and he’s playing like. It’s a matter of time before he gets his quarterback killed.

Michael Deiter’s snap-streak is impressive, but areas of his film are just not progressing. He deserves the whole year and offseason to see if he can be an opening day starter next season, but it’s been a slow burn with Deiter — particularly in pass protection, where he’s a total liability.

Evan Boehm consistently turns out the edge of a gap with a quality seal. He can get beat with speed across his face, and he’s probably a better center than guard. He’s the best looking long-term fit of the bunch, from where I sit.

Jesse Davis had a dominant game against the Jets, but some of the deficiencies showed back up Sunday against the Colts. Dave DeGuglielmo can insist that Davis is a tackle all he likes, but his guard play was far better than what he’s showing this season.

Defensive Line

The trio of grizzly bears Miami has on the interior defensive line are a great jumping off point for Brian Flores and staff. John Jenkins has been perhaps the brightest of all gems discovered in this audition season. He’s immovable, he’s got a quick first step, and he can work off blocks in any number of running schemes.

Davon Godchaux is steady as they go. His two-gap experience continues to show up weekly as he throws an initial punch that dazes his opponent, then he works over the head-up battle to find his way to the ball carrier.

Christian Wilkins’ energy is infectious; he’s tried to kill Nik Needham each of the last two weeks after big plays from the rookie corner (more on him shortly). Wilkins was part of the Jerome Baker sack with a good rip-move on Colts Center Ryan Kelly, which cleared a free-rush for Baker.

Linebackers

This position group got it done Sunday.

We start as we do just about every week with Vince Biegel. I mentioned John Jenkins as perhaps the best find, but Biegel puts that argument to rest pretty easily. Biegel has been giving good tackles fits as a pass rusher, he’s setting the edge and working back underneath in run support, and he even finds himself involved in some coverage.

Jerome Baker shook off what looked like a bad knee injury in the second half. He was everywhere in coverage and as a blitzer. His game is pure instinct and speed, and he’s been coming on like gangbusters the last few weeks. Baker had a sack and seven tackles in the game.

Charles Harris put together back-to-back good games the last two weeks. He was an issue for the Colts off that right edge as a run-defender. At the very least, perhaps he’s a rotational player next season.

Raekwon McMillan is a steady, consistent contributor in this defense that allows him to focus on his strength — run defense. McMillan had five tackles and a PBU in this game.

Defensive Backs

Last week, I proclaimed Nik Needham as the next UDFA feather in the cap of Josh Boyer, who is known for developing undrafted players. We’ll have the data in tomorrow’s aftermath piece, but Needham snagged his first career pick and broke up three passes. He now has 14 tackles, a pick, a sack, and four pass breakups the last two games.

Eric Rowe has the look of tight end eraser about him in his new safety role. He’s been bodying up the bigger pass catchers the last few weeks. Going back to the Buffalo game, Rowe has allowed just 28 receiving yards on nine targets. We’ll have the numbers on today’s game for you tomorrow, but Eric Ebron caught just five of 12 targets for a yards-per-target mark of 4.67.

Bobby McCain’s range is apparent, and he was rewarded with his second pick of the season on Sunday. The leader of this defense, McCain sets all these strong coverages up and effectively communicates the calls to the young players outside. The sound fundamentals of the group are certainly a testament to Brian Flores and Josh Boyer, but McCain is the on-field extension of the coaching staff.

Jomal Wiltz is settling into a versatile role rather nicely. He’s playing a variety of looks where he’s liable to blitz, fit a run-gap, peel off into cover-2, or rob the middle of the field. Wiltz will be on this team for a long time.

Steven Parker’s interception in the end zone was technically the difference in the game. The play easily could’ve been ruled a touchdown, and the interception aspect of it was lucky, but luck is the product of preparation. Parker put himself in a position to separate the hands of the pass catcher and was rewarded with a big takeaway.

Recap

This game’s conclusion brought about a bevy of mixed emotions. Winning or losing would’ve left fans feeling the same at the conclusion, but the result does impact Miami’s draft positioning. The future is looking bright with a coaching staff that’s capable of getting production out of seemingly anybody, but the top tier quarterbacks are slipping away with each passing win.

The Dolphins continue to do the small things well, and that’s the surest way to create winning margins in this league. In a year of extended evaluation, there are worse things than discovering a homerun coaching hire and developing a handful of players from unknown, to legitimate contributor.

Seven games remain on Miami’s schedule, but the control over the number-one pick is no longer in the Dolphins’ hands. Even if Miami loses the next seven, the hapless Bengals will need a win outside of the presumed victory in South Florida to get Miami back into pole position.

The upside, it looks like Miami will get production out of whichever quarterback they choose. The difference, however, might be the drop from Patrick Mahomes to Alex Smith.

Plenty of football remains to be played before we have to realize that nightmare as a possibility.

@WingfieldNFL

Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Papapickett

    November 11, 2019 at 7:15 am

    Great analysis as usual. I do have to say I am disappointed in the win. I questioned signing Fitzpatrick all year long and this is why. He wants to win and gives us the means to steal a few. Grier made this team awful with the future in mind but brought Fitzpatrick in to assumedly win games. Makes no sense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

Published

on

As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.

The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.

Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.

The Better Player Plays

With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.

In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?

We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.

Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.

Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.

Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?

I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.

Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.

Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.

Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.

There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…

Playoff Bound

The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.

Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.

A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.

In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.

And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.

Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:

  • Learn his way around the NFL
  • Understand the playbook better
  • Observe the game from the sideline
  • Gain chemistry with his receivers

Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.

While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.

The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.

Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.

Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.

The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending