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.
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Adam Gase has been in the big chair for 41 games as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, and it’s difficult to find a comprehensive victory. Playing a complete game is a tall order in the National Football League, but even Joe Philbin’s Dolphins teams had a handful of beat downs.
The team Miami handles with the most ease, under Gase, is the rival New York Jets. Miami whopped the Jets 34-14 at the Meadowlands in 2016, opened up a 20-point lead in the same building earlier this season, and finished off a second sweep in three years on Sunday.
This time, however, it was the defense carrying the water for the Dolphins.
The offense is down several starters, including the quarterback, but watching Kyle Shanahan draw up three touchdowns for Nick Mullens on Thursday makes one wonder why Gase (kid genius before Shanahan and Sean McVay arrived on the scene) can’t find any rhythm with his offense.
Miami’s offensive offense is 28th in both yards per game and plays ran. Only five teams have moved the chains less than the Dolphins and, at 20.8 points per game, the Dolphins rank 24th in scoring offense.
Even with the 7th best starting field position in the NFL (average start at the 30.6-yard line) the Dolphins are 29th in average drive time and 27th in third down conversion rate.
The defense got right on Sunday against the Jets, but the rankings are still unfavorable.
Miami are 25th in total defense and 19th in scoring defense with the turnover providing a saving grace. The Dolphins 15 interceptions are tops in the NFL. Takeaways and red zone defense are answer for the question, “how are Miami a winning team?” Miami’s 51.6% red zone-scoring-rate-allowed is 9th best in football.
|Player||Snaps (Percentage of Offensive Snaps)|
|QB Brock Osweiler||57 (100%)|
|RB Frank Gore||29 (51%)|
|RB Kenyan Drake||28 (49%)|
|RB Kalen Ballage||4 (7%)|
|WR Devante Parker||51 (89%)|
|WR Danny Amendola||47 (82%)|
|WR Jakeem Grant||29 (51%)|
|WR Kenny Stills||28 (49%)|
|TE Nick O’Leary||33 (58%)|
|TE Mike Gesicki||27 (47%)|
|TE Durham Smythe||9 (16%)|
|LG Ted Larsen||57 (100%)|
|C Travis Swanson||57 (100%)|
|RG Jesse Davis||57 (100%)|
|LT Laremy Tunsil||50 (88%)|
|RT Ja’Wuan James||40 (70%)|
|OT Zach Sterup||24 (42%)|
Just two weeks after showing up as a healthy inactive, Devante Parker out-repped the entire Dolphins wide receiver room. Parker caught one ball for eight yards on two targets – the second intended target was throw severely behind Parker.
Danny Amendola led the day with 47 yards on seven targets – in line with his usual production. Kenny Stills continues to be a forgotten man in the Brock Osweiler-led offense. Stills, nursing an ankle, caught his one target for 19 yards.
Jakeem Grant continues his path as a part time player in an offense starved for big plays. Grant caught one of two targets for 16 yards.
The Dolphins wide receivers currently rank 42nd (Parker), 53rd (Grant), 70th (Amendola) and 93rd (Stills). Albert Wilson was way out in front of the group (15th) before his season-ending injury.
Kenyan Drake is the other snub in this offense. Three carries are an unacceptable number for a player with the explosion and game-breaking speed of Drake. He was heavily involved in the passing game, however, to the tune of 26 yards on six targets.
Drake likely dug his own grave with some atrocious work in pass protection. He scored a 19.9 according to Pro Football Focus allowing a sack and a hurry on just three pass blocking reps.
Frank Gore’s 2.7 yards per carry clip was uninspiring, but it had more to do with the blocking up front. Of Gore’s 53 yards, 44 came after initial contact.
Miami had to shuffle the tackle position throughout the game as James and Tunsil both exited at different junctures in the second half. Swing tackle Zach Sterup had a forgetful day. He allowed three sacks on his 12 pass blocking reps.
Ted Larsen was nearly just as bad. He allowed six pressures (albeit all hurries) and put out a stinker of a run-blocking grade via a 28.8 – yikes.
The entire Dolphins offensive line laid an egg in the ground game. James (39.7), Swanson (36.4), and Davis (38.4) all dipped well below the Mendoza Line of run blocking grades.
Brock Osweiler received a failing grade. He didn’t stand much of a chance behind a beaten-down line, but he missed several throws, including a wide open Danny Amendola behind the Jets defense in the first quarter.
|Player||Snaps (Percentage of Defensive Snaps)|
|FS Minkah Fitzpatrick||65 (98%)|
|SS T.J. McDonald||62 (94%)|
|SS Reshad Jones||10 (15%)|
|FS Walt Aikens||6 (9%)|
|CB Xavien Howard||66 (100%)|
|CB Bobby McCain||54 (82%)|
|CB Torry McTyer||27 (41%)|
|CB Cornell Armstrong||14 (21%)|
|LB Kiko Alonso||66 (100%)|
|LB Jerome Baker||54 (82%)|
|LB Raekwon McMillan||36 (55%)|
|LB Stephone Anthony||1 (2%)|
|DE Robert Quinn||40 (61%)|
|DE Cam Wake||38 (58%)|
|DE Andre Branch||36 (55%)|
|DE Cameron Malveaux||28 (42%)|
|DT Davon Godchaux||37 (56%)|
|DT Akeem Spence||38 (58%)|
|DT Ziggy Hood||24 (36%)|
|DT Sylvester Williams||24 (36%)|
Raise your hand if you had T.J. McDonald outperforming all of his teammates Sunday. According to PFF, that’s what McDonald did – he registered a season-high 91.1 defensive grade with eight tackles, three run stops and an interception.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, pulling triple duty on the perimeter, in the nickel and at safety, was terrific in coverage. The Jets completed one of three balls on Fitzpatrick for 11 yards.
Bobby McCain sliding back inside to his more natural nickel position proved beneficial. McCain had a huge run stop, another open field tackle on third down, and allowed three of five passes to go complete for a pedestrian 35 yards.
Throwing at Xavien Howard is a rather futile exercise. Yet, the Jets targeted Miami’s best corner to the tune 50% completion rate (3/6) and a mere 31 yards.
Cam Wake returned to his all-pro form with a pair of sacks. He wasn’t done there; Wake totaled nine pressures (2 hits and 5 hurries) and shut down the run-game with three stops at two yards or less.
Jerome Baker’s pick six sealed the deal for Miami, but he had a hell of a game for the entirety of the contest. Three run stops, 15 yards on three pass targets and a passer rating allowed of 11.1.
Raekwon McMillan had a big day as well. Though the Jets completed two-of-two targets on McMillan, those receptions went for a total of eight yards. McMillan had three run stops and was charged with two missed tackles.
New York went after Kiko Alonso in the passing game, and found most of its success going that way. On Nine targets, Alonso allowed five completions for 85 yards, but an interception gave him a passer rating allowed of 48.1.
Davon Godchaux stepped up for a depleted defensive tackle rotation. Godchaux earned glowing grades from PFF along with a run stop and two pressures on Sam Darnold.
The Dolphins will be glossed over on every national talk show or podcast this week, but that doesn’t change the fact that Miami is within striking distance of the sixth and final wildcard spot.
Only a half-game behind the Bengals, if Miami can find five more wins the rest of the way, they’ll make a return trip to January football.
Even nine wins (four more) might accomplish a second playoff berth in three years under Gase. Miami is competing with Cincinnati (5-3), Baltimore (4-5) Tennessee (3-4), Jacksonville (3-5) and Indianapolis (3-5) for that final spot.
The Bengals and Ravens have treacherous paths the rest of the way and if the AFC South trades wins among one another, nine wins could be enough for a post-season berth.
If we can assume a pair of wins over the hapless Bills, Miami would need two wins in five games with the Packers (road), Colts (road), Patriots (home), Vikings (road) and Jaguars (home).
This team is banged up beyond belief. The long-term health of tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James are keys to any productivity from the offense (as is the health of quarterback Ryan Tannehill), but Miami figures to stay in this race till the bitter end.
Far crazier things have happened.
Pillaging the Pats
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.
I’m in Foxboro reporting on Patriots’ game, so I’ve gotten to chat with people about Dolphins target Brian Flores. One thing nobody exactly says but stands out: This is not your usual Belichick disciple. Disciplined, yes. Stoic even. But not as… how should I put this… rigid?
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 12, 2019
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.
Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme
For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.
Enter Patrick Graham.
It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.
Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.
Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.
And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.
For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.
We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.
The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.
This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.
— James Light (@JamesALight) February 5, 2018
In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).
The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.
New England Patriots 4-3 Even Front I just talked about vs Titans. 2 Gap & 1 Gap Hybrid. Very tough to run the ball against. First example is with Tampa 2 Coverage. Second is with 3 Buzz Coverage (SS Buzz). pic.twitter.com/dnskxkrgFp
— James Light (@JamesALight) January 16, 2018
Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.
The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.
Vincent Taylor gon’ eat in this new defense. Miami didn’t two-gap at all, but he’s capable. pic.twitter.com/m7nfBdbVoU
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Davon Godchaux has the power to play a true nose or the 2i/3 in the 3-3 Bear Front. Here he is showing us as close to nose alignment dominance as we’ll find from 2018 in this D. pic.twitter.com/Ylc4wt86Di
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.
The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.
The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.
No false steps, clean diagnosis, knifes in and makes the TFL. This new defense wants to free up its LBs, which could make a word of difference for the emerging Raekwon McMillan. pic.twitter.com/MHDja6ebtM
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.
The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.
Jerome Baker working as an outside rush backer off the weak side – a role he will see plenty of in 2019 in Patrick Graham’s defense. pic.twitter.com/SVzKXuyc8T
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.
These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.
The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.
Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting
It is that time of year again. Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.
It’s mock draft season! Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…
Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:
Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU
Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy. Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.
Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”. Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.
CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU
Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams. It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.
For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection. In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.
The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma
Now it’s getting exciting! There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray. As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.
Kyler Murray will now get feedback from NFL scouts regarding his draft position and many scouts estimate he’ll be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. He also has millions from baseball waiting for him. Big decision still looms.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 14, 2019
Some question if he will be available at #13. As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched. Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size. Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier. Murray will be no exception.
2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring. If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.
Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson
Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship. Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.
Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs. He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback. Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.
Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson
This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.
What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available. Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.
Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald). Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.
SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke
It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback. Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach. Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill? There are other options out there at a cheaper price.
When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.
All that said, it’s the NFL draft. Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out. Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential? I just don’t see it with Jones.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13. Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.