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Miami Dolphins

The Aftermath: Dolphins 26, Jets 18

Travis Wingfield

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Snap Counts, Grades, Odds of Landing the First Pick and Other Phins Notes

Foreword:

As we develop a weekly content schedule for the season, I wanted something to bridge the gap between the Sunday night game breakdown column and the Tuesday film review. So, here we are with a smorgasbord of information, statistics, snap counts, and whatever is prudent to the Dolphins game from the Sunday prior.

We’ll dive into the game data from Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, grab some quotes from the player’s and coach’s pressers, and continue to provide the most comprehensive coverage on the Miami Dolphins you can find.

Dolphins-Jets

Team Stats

The converse of the previous few weeks, the Dolphins lost the box score battle against the Jets. The story of the game is not best told through numbers, as Miami took control of the game early, and never relinquished that stranglehold.

With 6:19 remaining in the second quarter, Miami captured the lead on a Preston Williams touchdown — his second of the game. With that score, the Dolphins led for the game’s final 36 minutes, and played with a two-score lead for longer than any other period of the season.

Miami made moves up the team-statistic-leaderboard in several categories. The Dolphins passing offense now ranks 29th in football. The nine touchdown passes rank tied for 24th, but the team passing still checks in dead last in completion percentage and 31st in yards per attempt.

Chad O’Shea’s offense ranks 30th in scoring, but 15th in red zone touchdown conversion rate. The third down offense has improved to 26th in the NFL.

The Dolphins rushing attack is still a work in progress. Miami ranks last in yards per carry and 31stin yards per game.

On defense, that’s where the true mind-blowing stats come into play. Let’s remove Buffalo’s onside kick returned for a touchdown because, well, that’s not a true measure of the defense’s performance. If we do that, Miami are allowing 21.5 points per game the last four weeks — which would rank 15th in the NFL.

On the season, the defense still ranks last with 32 points per game surrendered. The rushing defense is 31st in yards per game and 27th in yards per carry.

Miami’s pass defense ranks 20th in yards per game, but 29th in yards per pass. The Dolphins surrender the 4th highest passer rating against, but jumped to 27th in quarterback hits. They rank 30th in sacks and pressure rate.

The Dolphins are the best in football in one area — penalties. No team has committed fewer fouls, or been penalized fewer yardage than Miami.

Offense:

Snap Counts:

Player Snaps (% of offensive snaps)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 69 (100%)
RB Mark Walton 51 (73.9%)
RB Kalen Ballage 21 (30.4%)
FB Chandler Cox 12 (17.4%)
WR Devante Parker 57 (82.6%)
WR Preston Williams 51 (73.9%)
WR Allen Hurns 30 (43.5%)
WR Albert Wilson 25 (36.2%)
WR Jakeem Grant 14 (20.3%)
TE Mike Gesicki 42 (60.9%)
TE Durham Smythe 25 (36.2%)
TE Clive Walford 10 (14.5%)
OL J’Marcus Webb 69 (100%)
OL Michael Deiter 69 (100%)
OL Evan Boehm 69 (100%)
OL Jesse Davis 69 (100%)
OL Chris Reed 51 (73.9%)
OL Keaton Sutherland 25 (36.2%)

 

Even though he started his first game as a Dolphin, Chris Reed still finds himself in a platoon — even without Shaq Calhoun inactive. He allowed two pressures, including a sack, but was the team’s third highest-graded run blocker.

The honors for best run blocker goes to Jesse Davis. His 80.5 grade was his personal best of the season, and he didn’t allow a pressure in pass protection. Evan Boehm scored a 71.1 as a run blocker in his third start at center. He allowed two pressures in pass protection (1 hit and 1 hurry).

PFF didn’t tab Michael Deiter with any pressures allowed, but I distinctly remember one sack coming right in front of him — perhaps that was the sack attributed to Boehm.

Ryan Fitzpatrick graded in the elite spectrum for this game. His 90.6 grade is by far the best mark for a Dolphins quarterback this season. He averaged eight yards per attempt and completed 66.7% of his passes.

It helps that four of his receivers graded out above average. Mike Gesicki led the way catching all six of his targets for an average of 15.8 yards per grab. He hauled in a 34-yarder, moved the chains four times, and averaged 2.8 yards after the catch.

Devante Parker picked up four first downs and averaged 3.8 yards after the catch. Each catch moved the chains, and he finished with an 80% catch rate (4 for 5). Parker registered a perfect 158.3 passer rating on passes targeted in his direction.

Preston Williams had five first downs (or touchdowns). His passer rating on targets was next best at 123.1, and he averaged 14.3 yards per catch.

Mark Walton averaged 2.17 yards after contact, but averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.

Defense:

Snap Counts:

Player Snaps (% of defensive snaps)
DL Taco Charlton 51 (76.1%)
DT Davon Godchaux 46 (68.7%)
DT Christian Wilkins 37 (55.2%)
DT John Jenkins 28 (41.8%)
DT Robert Nkemdiche 2 (3%)
LB Jerome Baker 67 (100%)
LB Vince Biegel 54 (80.6%)
LB Sam Eguavoen 34 (50.7%)
LB Raekwon McMillan 30 (44.8%)
LB Trent Harris 15 (22.4%)
CB Nik Needham 63 (94%)
CB Ryan Lewis 60 (89.5%)
CB Jomal Wiltz 59 (88%)
CB Chris Lammons 34 (50.7%)
CB Ken Crawley 7 (10.4%)
CB Xavier Crawford 4 (6%)
FS Bobby McCain 67 (100%)
SS Eric Rowe 65 (97%)

 

Another week, another big Vince Biegel game. The September 1st acquisition — for Kiko Alonso — led the team in pressures once again. He hit Darnold four times and hurried him on two more occasions. He made a run stop and was not targeted in pass coverage.

Charles Harris had his best game of the year. His 85.3 PFF grade was second on the team, and by far his best mark of the season. He did it with steady run defense (two run stops), and two pressures as a rusher.

Raekwon McMillan had the best grade on the day — and elite 92.2 (out of 100). McMillan had three run stops and two pressures; the hit resulting in an interception.

Jerome Baker continues his weekly progress after a slow start to the season. He pitched in with two pressures and allowed just 25 yards on four pass targets.

Christian Wilkins balled out. He picked up four pressures (1 sack, 1 hit, 2 hurries) and made three run stops, with no missed tackles.

Eric Rowe might’ve found a home as a safety. He made seven tackles, two for run stops, and didn’t miss any tackles. He hurried Darnold once and allowed just 29 yards on five pass targets.

Nik Needham and Jomal Wiltz were both part of nine total tackles. Needham picked up his first career sack and Wiltz — who is playing the role Miami had in mind for Minkah Fitzpatrick — intercepted his first career pass.

The Anatomy of a Win

Few head coaches have been handicapped by their roster in the fashion of Brian Flores and his 2019 team. Entering the season with three perceived blue chip players — all now gone or done for the season — and the largest contingency of undrafted free agents and September 1st additions in football, Flores is keeping games competitive.

Once a player enters the league, his path becomes irrelevant to his success in the league, but there’s a reason first-round picks and top-tier free agents are so coveted. Every team is allotted one, original first-round pick, and only a few teams are capable of fixing problems with a pile of cash, but it’s the best teams who curate success from every conceivable nook and cranny.

Let’s take a look at Miami’s starters from yesterday’s victory, and how they arrive in Miami.

 

Player Path to Miami
Ryan Fitzpatrick Middle-tier free agent
Mark Walton Street free agent, signed in May
Allen Hurns In-camp street free agent
Clive Walford Added last week
Durham Smythe 2018 4th round pick
J’Marcus Webb In-season street free agent
Michael Deiter 2019 3rd round pick
Evan Boehm Acquired for a conditional pick
Keaton Sutherland Street Free Agent
Chris Reed Bottom-tier free agent
Jesse Davis Former UDFA, signed as camp invite 2016
Taco Charlton Waiver claim
Davon Godchaux 2017 5th round pick
John Jenkins September 1st pick up
Jerome Baker 2018 3rd round pick
Vince Biegel September 1st pick up – Alonso trade
Raekwon McMillan 2017 2nd round pick
Jomal Wiltz FA, formerly on NE practice squad, UDFA
Eric Rowe Bottom-tier FA signing
Ryan Lewis In-season street free agent
Nik Needham 2019 UDFA
Bobby McCain 2015 5th round pick

 

Granted, that started lineup comes courtesy of a heavy, 12-personnel package on offense. Even still, replacing some of these players with the undrafted Preston Williams, second-round pick Mike Gesicki and first-round pick Devante Parker doesn’t do a lot to move the needle into a squad full of premium assets.

The fact that Brian Flores is competing against NFL rosters that have multiple high picks and blockbuster free agent contracts speaks to his ability to out-coach the opposition, and prepare his team to take care of the little things.

The foundation is under construction, and it’s being reinforced with rebar and concrete. No longer will the Miami Dolphins look to meld a roster constructed for previous, dismissed schemes and coaching staffs to a new system that requires a different type of player. The Franken-roster approach failed every time in the post-Shula era.

The Dolphins tore this thing down to ensure that each acquisition going forward falls into one specific criteria — the criteria I’m officially dubbing as “a Brian Flores guy.”

What’s a Brian Flores guy? A Brian Flores guy works his ass off. He pays attention to every detail, no matter how small. A Brian Flores guy is accountable and has the back of the man next to him.

A team full of Brian Flores guys will restore Miami Dolphins football to prominence, and it might not take as long as you think.

@WingfieldNFL

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  1. Avatar

    PhanaticalOne

    November 5, 2019 at 7:18 am

    I’m optimistic, but cautiously so. The Phins just barely squeaked out a win vs. a 1-7 team that is imploding. I like Flores but I’m not ready to annoint him the next Don Shula.

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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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.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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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.

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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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.

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