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Miami Dolphins

The Aftermath: Dolphins-Patriots

Travis Wingfield

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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.

Sign up for Pro Football Focus HERE

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By now you’ve heard the insurmountable odds Adam Gase’s Dolphins had to overcome to save the season. A season seemingly derailed, multiple times, by a perfect combination of ravaging injuries and internal shortcomings, the Dolphins overcame 1000-1 odds to pick the Pats off yet again.

You’ve heard that the 69-yard miracle touchdown was the longest offensive scoring-play to end a game in league history. You know that the nine lead changes tied for the the second highest total ever.

You’re more than acutely aware that the Dolphins have now downed the Pats at Hard Rock Stadium in five of the last six games and, surely, you know that Ryan Tannehill is the only quarterback to register four head-to-head victories over a Tom Brady-led team.

This publication is predicated on film study and analytics. It’s Monday, barely 24 hours removed from the play now dubbed the ‘Miami Miracle,’ and we’re still trying to compartmentalize the events of a wild game – even prior to the most exciting play of the 2018 season.

Team Stats:

In a perfect world, Adam Gase would institute his up-tempo attack with rhythm, pace, and precision. His vision would focus on sustaining drives and keeping his defense on the sideline. The opposite has been true, however, but no team does more with less than the Miami Dolphins.

New England snapped the football 75 times on Sunday, 30 more than Miami’s 45 plays. Aided by the 69 yard play called “Boise”, distributed between three Dolphins skill players, Miami’s passing game racked up 13.9 yards per pass (sans sacks – 9.2 accounting for the five sacks).

Neither team committed a turnover in the game and the Pats won the yardage, first downs, and time of possession battles – albeit by relatively narrow margins.

Miami’s run defense finally brought the lunch pail back and limited a multi-faceted Patriots ground game to a miniscule 2.1 yards per carry (30-77). Thanks to two runs of 30+ yards, Miami went to the tune of 21-189 on the ground (9 YPC).

An all-too-often culprit was on the scene again as the cause of Miami’s failure to sustain drives. Converting just one of the seven attempts, the Dolphins relied on the big play. The Dolphins converted both red zone trips into touchdowns and have now turned the previous six trips to the red zone into 42 points.

After a 20-game drought without an opening drive touchdown, the Miami offense has now taken the first possession down the field in three straight games (three games since Ryan Tannehill’s return to the line-up).

Dolphins Offense:
Snap Counts

 

Player Snaps (Percentage of Offensive Snaps)
QB Ryan Tannehill 46 (96%)
QB Brock Osweiler 2 (4%)
RB Frank Gore 24 (50%)
RB Kenyan Drake 24 (50%)
RB Brandon Bolden 4 (8%)
WR Devante Parker 42 (88%)
WR Kenny Stills 40 (83%)
WR Danny Amendola 23 (48%)
WR Brice Butler 19 (40%)
TE Nick O’Leary 24 (50%)
TE Mike Gesicki 20 (40%)
TE Durham Smythe 20 (40%)

 

The front five stayed intact for the entirety of the game (sans one snap when Travis Swanson left due to an equipment issue). After a rough outing a week ago, Jesse Davis pitched a pass protection shutout.

Laremy Tunsil’s all-pro season continues – he allowed two hurries, but no hits on the quarterback. He was flagged for an illegal hands to the face violation in the first half. Now in his third year, Tunsil is not only the best pass blocker on the team, but he’s the best at creating running lanes too.

Ja’Wuan James was tabbed with two of the five sacks – the other three charged to Tannehill.

Ted Larsen and Travis Swanson let up a combined six pressures, but no sacks. Miami’s interior line played arguably its best game of the year.

Nick O’Leary was responsible for the other clean sheet in pass pro. O’Leary was, far and away, Miami’s highest graded tight end in the running game.

Kenny Stills was the only Dolphin with multiple catches. Stills caught an impressive eight balls on nine targets for 135 yards. He moved the chains on seven of those receptions and averaged 3.5 yards after the catch.

It was pick-your-poison for the Pats run defense. It only took Frank Gore 12 carries to go for 92 yards – 35 of those after contact. Kenyan Drake’s impact was made primarily the final play of the game, but two of his six carries moved the chains (once on 2ndand 10, another on 3rdand 5).

After a brief hiatus, Ryan Tannehill’s statistical prowess has returned. Dolphins fans pointed to his presence across the leaderboard in 2016, but the seventh-year pro is re-establishing that narrative all over again.

Since his return from injury Tannehill has thrown eight touchdowns and one interception. He now ranks sixth in the league in passer rating, ninth in yards-per-attempt, and only Russell Wilson and Patrick Mahomes throw touchdowns more on a per-pass basis.

Dolphins Defense:
Snap Counts

 

Player Snaps (Percentage of Defensive Snaps)
DE Cameron Wake 51 (62%)
DE Robert Quinn 46 (51%)
DE Andre Branch 43 (52%)
DE Charles Harris 31 (38%)
DT Akeem Spence 56 (68%)
DT Davon Godchaux 53 (65%)
DT Sylvester Williams 34 (41%)
DT Ziggy Hood 26 (32%)
LB Kiko Alonso 82 (100%)
LB Raekwon McMillan 53 (65%)
LB Jerome Baker 53 (65%)
LB Stephone Anthony 1 (1%)
CB Minkah Fitzpatrick 82 (100%)
CB Bobby McCain 81 (99%)
CB Torry McTyer 38 (36%)
CB Cornell Armstrong 3 (4%)
CB Jalen Davis 1 (1%)
FS T.J. McDonald 82 (100%)
SS Reshad Jones 82 (100%)
FS Walt Aikens 5 (6%)

 

After recording 38 pressures against Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, Miami struggled to get to Tom Brady.

Robert Quinn was the only one to get home for a sack – Quinn and Cam Wake led the way with three pressures each.

Davon Godchaux and Akeem Spence were disruptive against the run and pass. Both graded out well in the running game and chipped in with two pressures each. Ziggy Hood had his second consecutive quality showing eating up blocks and double teams.

Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan were missiles against the run. Both had 10 tackles with seven counting as run stops (within two yards of the LOS).

Coverage was a struggle for the Miami linebackers again. Alonso and McMillan allowed 7/8 completions for 103 yards. Jerome Baker was best in this regard allowed 5/8 completions for 67 yards.

Bobby McCain, playing back on the perimeter in base packages, had a drive killing sack. Both pass attempts targeted his direction were completed, one for a touchdown.

Reshad Jones made four tackles, registered a pressure and allowed just four yards on two pass attempts in his coverage area.

Tannehill’s Future and What Would a Playoff Run Mean?

Don’t look now, but Ryan Tannehill is earning his way back into the good graces of the Dolphins coaches and fans alike. A late-game collapse away from winning all three of his starts returning from the shoulder injury, Tannehill has reintroduced the big play aspect of his game.

His two best throws last week were touchdown strikes to Devante Parker and the game winner to Kenny Stills. Yesterday, Tannehill delivered on a perfect 23-yard strike to Brice Butler on a post route in the end zone, and dropped a 43-yard dime to Stills on a deep over.

Held together by Band-Aid’s and bubble gum, Tannehill’s greatest trait propelled Miami to victory Sunday. With a bulky brace on his left knee, diminished velocity from an AC joint injury and adding a spatted ankle after getting stepped on, Tannehill led two second half touchdown drives. Through it all, he’s still one of the toughest quarterbacks on the planet.

With the back-to-back home wins, Miami are back to controlling its own playoff destiny (for the most part). According to playoff odds calculator, a 10-6 mark gives Miami an 87% chance at qualifying for January – though it’s probably closer to 100%.

If Miami wins their final two AFC games (Jacksonville and at Buffalo), they’ll win the conference record tie-breakers over any potential competitor. A three-way tie for that spot, at 9-7, would send Miami on to the tournament.

One trait this team possesses in spades, is the ability to fight through adversity – the very thing Adam Gase built the 2018 program around.

@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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