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Miami Dolphins

It’s In The Scheme – Replacing Jarvis Landry’s Touchdown Production

Travis Wingfield

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Jarvis Landry scored nine touchdowns in 2017 – nearly doubling his previous career high. Cumulatively the worst offense the pro-bowl receiver has played in during his four-year NFL career, the number stands as an anomaly.

How did the Dolphins turn a chain-moving slot receiver into the NFL’s fourth most dangerous red zone threat?

Play calling.

Adam Gase comes from a long line of successful offenses. Under his watch Tim Tebow and Jay Cutler flourished. Peyton Manning had the best year of his career working with Gase. And now Landry can point to this system as the reason his touchdown production increased 80% from his previous high-water mark.

Finishing drives is the most difficult task in the NFL. The game is complex enough between the 20 yard lines. Conducting 22 moving parts in a condensed area magnifies predicaments an offense faces on a down-by-down basis.

Breaking it down to its core component, only a few strategies prove fruitful when it comes to executing a scheme in the red zone. The two different forms of defensive coverage (man and zone) are to be attacked differently.

Man coverage typically measures the player’s ability to out-class his opposition; A.K.A, show off his talent.

Zone requires a route combination to displace the fragments of a coverage-centric defense.

First, let’s take a look at how some of the game’s top wide outs are able to create on their own.

Nobody wins with quickness quite like Antonio Brown. Contradicting the earlier statement that gaining yards in the red zone is the toughest order in football, covering Brown man-up supersedes that task.

This first clip is man-coverage across the board. Brown has a two-way go (ability to release inside or out) and opts for the slant due to the blitzing safety. Operating from the boundary creates this window. This route works because Brown presses the toes of the corner by covering a lot of ground in short order – play maker.

Now working from the field side, Brown obliterates the press coverage and gets to the back pylon before the corner can blink. Even still, that angle is a difficult throw for the quarterback. With Brown the intended target, a 50/50 ball is more like a 90/10 ball.

Here Pittsburgh floods the boundary and give Brown the entire field to work against one-on-one coverage. The quick move to the inside creates a massive window for Ben Roethlisberger to throw into for an easy touchdown.

Each of these clips are examples of the receiver creating a touchdown out of pure talent. There are a handful of others in the league capable of doing the same.

Julio Jones has quickness and savvy on his side, but when you’re six-foot-three with magnets for hands, physical dominance is the only prerequisite to scoring. The Falcons usher 12-personnel onto the field with Jones flexed to the boundary. This creates a heavy box and an easy fade opportunity, which Matt Ryan isn’t going to miss.

O’Dell Beckham is no stranger to making posters out of NFL defensive backs. Going to the boundary with the back split to the same side forces the linebacker to line up on the inside passing lane. The corner knows Beckham’s only option is a route to the perimeter, yet he still gets embarrassed. This is what elite wide receivers do.

Now let’s go touchdown-by-touchdown for Landry. The first one comes from a stack to the boundary side against zone coverage. It’s third down so the Titans’ defenders are supposed to defend the goal line. Where Landry gets it right is squaring up the slot forcing him to think about both the inside and outside move. Good timing, rhythm and strong hands create this scoring opportunity. Chalk this one up to the players more so than the scheme.

Next is about as obvious as it gets. The Dolphins run a lot of Jet-sweep action in an attempt to get the defense free-flowing in the wrong direction. Coming off the bunch set, Landry’s motion forces the defense to rotate to the field side. But as the ball is snapped, Landry sprints back to the boundary that has been vacated by an in-breaking clear-out route from Kenny Stills.

Here Adam Gase has created an advantageous situation for play-pass. Two receivers set in nasty splits (tight to the line-of-scrimmage) to the field side with a hard stretch fake puts the corner and safety in quicksand – they never recover and Landry is wide open for a touchdown.

Another example of scheming a player open, this is a common man-beater in any offense. Gase’s offense is packed full of rub routes and, given Landry’s run-after-the-catch prowess, creating these one-on-one opportunities in the open field is a no-brainer. The blitz off the edge and the consequent failure to re-route Landry puts this play in great shape provided the boundary receiver can make his block – which he does. Easy touchdown.

This touchdown doesn’t require a lot of analysis. Landry does a great job of searching for gaps on a broken route and settles in nicely for a garbage time score.

Everything about this formation says run. The numbers game is there, the Dolphins have the entire field to work with and the Bucs defense has been gashed in the ground game all year to this point. Notice the deeper of the two safeties play the boot off play-action. He and the corner responsible for Landry jump inside because of the run action. Instead of the boot, Cutler proceeds to the field side and has the entire corner of end zone to work with.

The first of two touchdowns against the Patriots is simply fantastic feel by Landry. The drive concept (best ran to displace linebackers between the hashes) was slow to develop and Landry peeled back his route and showed his numbers to the quarterback. Good chemistry here between Landry and Cutler make this play possible.

The under-flat is one of Gase’s favorite play calls in short-yardage. Again selling action to the boundary, the Jet-sweep occupies Landry’s man for a half step and that’s all he would need to win the race to pylon. Fantastic design to expose man-coverage in tight quarters.

The last touchdown of the year again sells run action with a peel back route. This time, however, Landry has to put on his shoulder pads and power the ball across the goal line – a tremendous effort.

Miami made the decision that Landry wasn’t worth top dollar and these examples give you an idea why they arrived at that conclusion. Instead, the Dolphins shopped for a pair of specifically skilled receivers in Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola.

Kenyan Drake will be integrated into the offense from the word go in 2018, Devante Parker will take on an expanded role and the pair of newcomer running backs (Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage) give Gase three options to pass the football to from the backfield.

Here’s a look at some touchdowns scored within the Adam Gase offense (with Miami and otherwise) as well as some new Dolphins scoring similar looking plays with their former teams.

Albert Wilson on the inside shovel:

Danny Amendola on the deeper portion of the drive concept:

Kenyan Drake sprinting to the field side for a swing pass despite a boundary alignment:

Damien Williams as an up-back taking the flat on the play-action:

Damien Williams to the flat on play action again:

Devante Parker on the field side fade from the slot:

Wes Welker lined up in the backfield for the flat route:

Wes Welker again in the slot working the rub route:

It feels monotonous to have to stake this disclaimer, but the current landscape of the world urges us to find the black or white and get out of the grey area.

This column’s purpose isn’t to take away from Jarvis Landry’s value to a football team, his skillset is undeniable. Its purpose is to prove that Landry’s ability to find pay dirt was a much greater function of the scheme than anything he offered in the talent department.

Miami has droves of receivers that can execute these basic roles within the red zone play card Gase has surely refined for the new personnel.

The Dolphins have variety in the skill position departments. It’ll be up to Gase to craft scoring opportunities just like he did with Landry.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Pillaging the Pats

Travis Wingfield

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Taking From the Rich and Giving to the Phins

De facto Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores is set to take over the big chair in Miami at the conclusion of New England’s 2018 season. Rumored to be coming with Flores are a pair of Pats staffers.

A master of delegation, Bill Belichick constantly maintains the smallest staff in the league. Flores’ intentions are to bring with him Pats’ Consultant Bret Bielema and Wide Receivers Coach Chad O’Shea.

*We’ll have a comprehensive breakdown of the offensive scheme that comes with O’Shea should this move push closer to official. And we’ll do so in the same capacity as the Defensive Crash Course piece.

If Flores is able to extract both Bielema and O’Shea, he’s plundering 16% of the 2018 Patriots’ staff (that includes Flores). Belichick’s coaching tree has yielded less than desirable results in their new destinations, but Flores is described as “different” from the rest.

By now Dolphins fans are tired of lip service. If Flores is the exception to the many before him, great – we’ll find out on Sundays. Flores is, however, off to a unique beginning compared to the lackluster rest.

 

Coach (Year Left New England) Additional Migrating Staffers
Charlies Weis (2005 – Notre Dame) 0
Romeo Crennel (2005 – Cleveland) 0
Eric Mangini (2007 – NY Jets) 0
Josh McDaniels (2009 – Denver) 0
Bill O’Brien (2012 – Penn State) 0
Matt Patricia (2018 – Detroit) 0

 

Goose eggs. I didn’t expect that when I began this study, hence the table. Interestingly, the greatest dearth in the Patriots run came between the 2008-2010 seasons. That sentence is a house of cards for two reasons:

1.) It’s sort of hilarious to call two playoff appearances and a combined record of 35-13 a dearth. Those three seasons were the last time New England weren’t participating in the Conference Championship – they’ve qualified for eight consecutive title games since.

2.) It’s something of a strawman to suggest New England’s 14-2 season was cut short at the divisional round because of a loss of coordinators. Not to mention the 2008 season that brought back 11 wins despite starting Matt Cassel for 15 games.

That three-year stretch did come after New England lost its offensive and defensive coordinators, and then Crennel’s replacement at DC (Mangini) two years later. No one is mistaking Flores, Bielema, and O’Shea for Weis, Crennel, and Mangini, but this would be a similar exodus – the difference being all at once opposed to three years.

It’s no secret that Belichick is a ruthless competitor that has no qualms about making enemies. The Patriots have blocked coaches from interviewing for outside positions in the past. Clearly, New England doesn’t block assistants from taking head coaching jobs, but the fact that zero staffers jumped ship might insinuate staffers are held hostage.

Maybe that’s where the idea that Flores is different from the rest comes from. His ability to separate himself from the Pats’ program. His intentions to implement his own initiative that doesn’t try to form as a carbon copy of Belichick’s well-oiled machine in Foxboro.

There are a million ways to splice this, but it all comes back to one conclusion: Brian Flores is beloved by everyone that knows him – even the heartless Hoodie.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme

Travis Wingfield

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For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.

Enter Patrick Graham.

It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.

Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.

Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.

And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.

For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.

We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.

The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.

This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.

In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).

The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.

Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.

The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.

Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.

The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.

The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.

Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.

The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.

Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.

These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.

The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting

Skyler Trunck

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It is that time of year again.  Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.

It’s mock draft season!  Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…

Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:

 

Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy.  Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.

Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”.  Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.

 

CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams.  It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.

For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection.  In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.

 

The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma

Now it’s getting exciting!  There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray.  As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.

Some question if he will be available at #13.  As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched.  Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size.  Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier.  Murray will be no exception.

2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring.  If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.

 

Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship.  Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.

Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs.  He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback.  Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.

 

Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.  

What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available.  Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.

Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald).  Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.

 

SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke

It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback.  Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach.  Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill?  There are other options out there at a cheaper price.

When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.

All that said, it’s the NFL draft.  Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out.  Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential?  I just don’t see it with Jones.

 


 

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13.  Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.

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