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Using Snap Counts to Decipher the Miami Dolphins Biggest Needs

Travis Wingfield

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In an era of sub-package football, which positions are in most dire need for the Dolphins?

Professional football has undergone a transformation over the last decade; long gone are the days of the depth charts defined by starters and backups. Stepping into the forefront, in lieu of that antiquated model, are role-specific rosters constructed with an eye on matchups and frequent player rotation.

Even double-digit years into the making, this is still something of a lost concept on the casual fan. Ricky Williams touching the football 872 times over a two-year span is as ancient as the Dolphins actually featuring a premier offensive skill player.

June 4, 2018; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers inside linebackers coach Patrick Graham during organized team activities. Mandatory Credit: Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

Every position, outside of quarterback, offensive line, defensive back and one — maybe two — linebackers, will feature a bevy of players responsible for a variety of jobs. Sub-packages, special teams, particular matchups; the bottom tier of the 53-man roster has never been more important in football.

All offseason, we’ve been relying on the Patriots model to best forecast what this new Dolphins product will look like – after all, four of the 14 (29%) position coaches are Foxboro defects. Even with a pinch of variety from former Packers Linebackers Coach, and new Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham, the “Belichickian” influence is inevitable.

Chad O’Shea made due with minimal resources in his Wide Receivers’ Room during his Patriots tenure. New Assistant Quarterback’s Coach, Jerry Schuplinski, worked with Tom Brady and aided in the development of the young quarterbacks, behind Brady, on New England’s roster.

Fluid defensive fronts cascading from a base 4-2-5 alignment, and some variation of the Earhardt & Perkins scheme, are safe bets to make-up Miami’s new defensive and offensive systems.

We start on offense.

Quarterback:

Player 2018 Patriots Offensive Snaps %
Tom Brady 98%
Brian Hoyer 2%

 

Hoyer played during mop-up duty in 2018 – this position requires no explanation. It does, however, harken back to a discussion about the value of drafting quarterbacks in the middle rounds. With the success rate of first-round QBs under a coin flip, and plummeting each round thereafter, the best case scenario for signal callers drafted on Friday or Saturday is typically a viable backup. In that same ideal scenario, the backup will never see the field.

Dak Prescott, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garappolo, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor – those are the non-first-round quarterbacks to start multiple opening days (factoring in 2019 opening day) from the last decade. This group makes up less than 10% of the QBs drafted outside of the first round.

Miami currently has Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Ruddock, and Luke Falk in-house. Frankly, the solution to either starter or backup is not presently on Miami’s roster.

Running Back:

Player 2018 Patriots Offensive Snaps %
James White 54%
Sony Michel 29%
Rex Burkhead 13%
Kenjon Barner 4%
Jeremy Hill 1%
James Develin (FB) 36%

 

There isn’t a backfield in football the utilizes a more diverse set of skills, across a multitude of backs, than the way New England did (and does). White is among the best third-down backs in the league, Michel was a promising (though banged up) rookie, Burkhead offers a spell, and Develin is a wrecking ball of an up-back.

Kenyan Drake is capable of playing the James White role.

Kalen Ballage could easily step into the Sony Michel role.

But then what? The Dolphins, assuming they’ll use two-back sets with at least a modicum of frequency, need a Develin type, along with a third back capable of playing in all three phases (runner, receiver, and pass protector) in the mold of Rex Burkhead.

Wide Receiver:

Player 2018 Patriots Offensive Snaps %
Chris Hogan 72%
Julian Edelman 67%
Josh Gordon 50%
Phillip Dorsett 36%
Cordarrelle Patterson 21%

 

These numbers are skewed rather substantially by injury and suspension. Edelman missed four games for using illegal PEDs while Gordon was an in-season add who failed to finish the year on the active roster. Ideally, New England would’ve operated with those three receivers (Hogan the add-on) as their primary players out wide.

Patterson was a gimmick option (screens, reverses, ball carrier, etc.) while Matthew Slater and Riley McCarron both failed to top 20 reps.

The Dolphins have this position pretty well-covered at press time. Kenny Stills has been an 80-plus % player the last three seasons while Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant are itching for expanded roles. Factor in Devante Parker and Brice Butler, and one can glean that Miami will probably sit out on the WR market until late on day-three, if not entirely.

Tight End:

Player 2018 Patriots Offensive Snaps %
Rob Gronkowski 75%
Dwayne Allen 33%
Jacob Hollister 5%

 

This group is also skewed by the presence of an all-time great in Gronkowski. New England’s 2012 tight end deployment will likely more accurately reflect what the Dolphins will do in 2019. Gronk and Aaron Hernandez played 60% and 45% of the snaps, while two more tight ends factored in at clips of ~25%.

Mike Gesicki is going to get every opportunity to fill that 60% role while Allen, now a Dolphin, can seamlessly transition into a similar role (likely increased by 10-20% from the 33% last year).

From there, Durham Smythe, Nick O’Leary, and Clive Walford figure to compete for work in heavy personnel (13 and 12-goaline packages).

Offensive Line:

Player 2018 Patriots Offensive Snaps %
OT Trent Brown 97%
OT Marcus Cannon 75%
OG Joe Thuney 100%
OG Shaq Mason 85%
OC David Andrews 99%
Ted Karras 15%

 

Three more linemen played less than 1% of the offensive snaps. The takeaway from this list is New England’s impeccable health on the offensive line. Miami has not been as fortuitous in recent years, and with only Laremy Tunsil locked into a starting job, plenty of work remains to be done by Chris Grier and his scouting staff on the O-line.

Chris Reed, Daniel Kilgore, and Jesse Davis are currently in-line to start, but there remains AT LEAST one glaring hole at left guard (presuming Reed wins the RG job).

Now for the defense. This side of the football is far more dependent on rotation. Between conditioning and relaying sub-packages in-and-out of the game, substitutions are far more prevalent for the stop unit than the attack group.

Defensive End:

Player 2018 Patriots Defensive Snaps %
Trey Flowers 70%
Deatrich Wise 41%
Adrian Clayborn 30%
John Simon 18%
Keionta Davis 18%
Derek Rivers 7%
Geneo Grissom 2%

 

This position, along with interior defensive line, was the crux of this entire project. Only one player even sniffed half of the defensive snaps; showcasing where the catalyst of this defensive scheme resides – in the secondary.

Presently, Miami doesn’t have its Trey Flowers – that’s a big area of need unless the Dolphins believe Charles Harris, Tank Carradine, or Johnathan Woodard can fulfill that outside/inside position. That trio (Harris, Carradine, Woodard) likely figure into the Wise and Clayborn roles as rotational presences.

Defensive Tackle:

Player 2018 Patriots Defensive Snaps %
Lawrence Guy 50%
Malcolm Brown 43%
Adam Butler 36%
Danny Shelton 31%

 

The defensive tackle position is more about quantity than quality in this defense. With the exception of Guy, these are hefty players that work between the 0, 1, and 2-techiniques on the inside of the defense. Two-gapping tackles that thrive at stacking bodies and holding ground, this isn’t a position that requires a high resource from Miami.

Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are an excellent start to rounding out the four-man rotation. With the current makeup of the Dolphins D-line, both Godchaux and Taylor could surpass Guy’s 50% play-time, while the rest of the snaps are won via competition from lesser known players on the roster (Jamiyus Pittman, Joey Mbu, Kendrick Norton).

Linebacker:

Player 2018 Patriots Defensive Snaps %
Kyle Van Noy 91%
Dont’a Hightower 74%
Elandon Roberts 41%
Ja’Whaun Bentley 13%

 

Five more linebackers took snaps in 2018, none higher than 3% of the total defensive snaps.

Ja’Whaun Bentley was off to a terrific start in his rookie season before an injury cut the campaign short. John Simon (listed among defensive ends) played a little bit of linebacker, but the overarching theme tells us this:

Two linebackers are going to play a lot of snaps in this defense, with the third ‘backer operating as a sub-package substitute.

Those two ‘backers will be Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker. Miami still has some work to do at the position, though Kiko Alonso likely serves as the #3 while the search for his replacement bleeds into 2020.

Cornerback:

Player 2018 Patriots Defensive Snaps %
Stephone Gilmore 97%
Jason McCourty 80%
Jonathan Jones 49%
J.C. Jackson 38%
Eric Rowe 13%

 

Keion Crossen and Cyrus Jones both played corner in 2018 as well, neither more than 4% of the total snaps.

Jones, Jackson and Rowe worked inside as the primary slots. Rowe was injured after three games, and has made the migration south to Miami. Ideally, Rowe will serve in the same role as Jason McCourty while Miami’s presumed best player, Xavien Howard, takes on the Gilmore role.

Behind those two, and Bobby McCain as the primary slot corner, Miami has a glut of corners hungry for, and capable, of playing time. Between Jalen Davis, Cornell Armstrong, Cordrea Tankersley, and Torry McTyer, the Dolphins SHOULD uncover one diamond in the rough.

Safety:

Player 2018 Patriots Defensive Snaps %
Devin McCourty 96%
Patrick Chung 85%
Duron Harmon 61%

 

Nate Ebner and Obi Melifonwu played safety, neither higher than 2% of New England’s total defensive workload.

Safeties drive this defense. With plenty of time spent in the box, and coming down to matchup man-on-man, versatility is the key. Consider that all three of the New England safeties played more than any Patriot Defensive Lineman (sans Trey Flowers) and it’s easy to add two-and-two together.

Minkah Fitzpatrick is Devin McCourty in this defense – that one is easy. It’s finding Patrick Chung (Reshad Jones in the interim, but he’s likely moved sooner than later) while T.J. McDonald doesn’t fill any of these roles.

Miami has a definitive need at safety in a year where the picking is ripe – specifically a deep center field safety.

Earlier this week we wrote about the top storylines facing Miami in this draft. Number three was the use of the day-two picks on the positions of biggest need (outside of QB) at offensive line, defensive line, and at safety.

With perhaps the most loaded DL class in a decade, it’s safe to assume a good player will be available in the third round. The same can’t be said for offensive line, and probably not safety – though both groups are deeper than most years.

We know the quarterback position isn’t exactly fixable in 2019, outside of a blockbuster trade. Luckily, for Miami, this draft offers an opportunity to make a significant dent in the next three positions of greatest need.

In a league predicated on substitutions and role players, Miami could, conceivably, nail down a pair of 100% snap-takers with the first two picks in this year’s draft.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins have exercised Laremy Tunsil’s fifth-year option

Shawn Digity

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Laremy Tunsil USA Today Sports
Laremy Tunsil taking on Khalil Mack. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Miami Dolphins have exercised Laremy Tunsil’s fifth-year option

The headline says it all; the Miami Dolphins have picked up Laremy Tunsil’s rookie contract fifth-year option. All 2016 first-round draftees are up for fifth-round options and the dominoes have started to fall with Tunsil.

The announcement tweet, which can be seen below, was broken on Twitter by Armando Salguero and shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to Dolphins fans. Laremy Tunsil is one of the key cogs of the team and will be the cornerstone of an otherwise enfeebled offensive line that will likely be addressed in next week’s Draft.

Laremy Tunsil is the surest thing on the Dolphins o-line in a unit that has seen better days and will require two to three new starters. While Tunsil was a no-brainer for the Dolphins to pick up that fifth-round option on, they’ll likely have to extend him at some point, which won’t come cheap since he’s one of the rising stars at left tackle.

But Laremy Tunsil is secured through the 2020 season. I hope between now and then the Dolphins spearhead an extension and get Tunsil locked up a little bit longer. Success in the trenches will start with Tunsil at left tackle and the Fins can fill in the rest during the draft.

Laremy Tunsil will realistically become the highest-paid left tackle at some point in the next few years, and the Dolphins would be wise to get ahead of the curve for that. I think that will happen.

The current frontrunner for left-tackle contracts is the Oakland Raiders’ Trent Brown, and he is making an APY (average per year) of $16.5 million with. The top ten left tackles are making from the aforementioned $16.5 million to $12 million for Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari, Kansas City’s Eric Fisher, and Cincinnati’s Cordy Glenn.

There’s an average APY of $14 million, but I expect Laremy Tunsil to eventually be well above that average when the time comes–I foresee the Dolphins making him the highest paid left tackle, remember. Full guarantees on those top-ten contracts are running between $16 and $36 million, so there’s much more variability with those portions of the contract.

Good and great left tackles aren’t cheap. Laremy Tunsil will break the bank in a few years and will be the highest paid left tackle if the Miami Dolphins intend on making him their franchise LT for years to come.

Laremy Tunsil was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 NFL draft after an unfortunate and unfair draft-day tumble that gave the team a golden opportunity. The 2016 class has proven to be extremely fruitful (for the most part). Along with Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, and Jakeem Grant were selected in the second, third and sixth rounds, respectively, and all have made major contributions in one form or another.

Exercising Tunsil’s fifth-year option is good news for Fins fans. It’s not a blockbuster trade or a splash signing, but taking care of the best players already on the team before it snowballs out of control a la Jarvis Landry or Ju’Wuan James is a step in the right direction. And while exercising Tunsil’s option is an obvious choice, it’s still an encouraging sign nonetheless.

All contractual information courtesy of Over the Cap.

 

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Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores’ Pre-Draft Update

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Miami Dolphins / Jason Hrina

Get used to this mantra, Miami Dolphins fans: Adapt or Die.

You might not find it printed on training camp t-shirts for the team to sport around, but you can expect head coach Brian Flores to repeat this line often. It’s about to become ingrained in both us and the players.

Flores spoke briefly with reporters before the team finished up their 3-day “voluntary” workout and prepares for the upcoming NFL draft.

If you’ve heard these kind of comments before, it’s because Flores has nailed the proper, cliche  press conference etiquette. Answers are “insightful”, but vague. He gives you an answer while also laying out all other possibilities. That said, he’ll sometimes respond with some sarcasm and wit that’ll reassure you that there is a personality inside of him.

If there is one thing we can take away from Flores’ demeanor and message, it’s that he isn’t about to tolerate the type of locker room culture that festered under Adam Gase. There will be both accountability and self-reflection; and that’s reassuring after witnessing Gase deflect blame to everyone but himself.

With the most important day of the offseason just one week away, we take a look at what Flores had to say at his press conference earlier this morning:

On the Draft:

Most important measuring tool?:

“Combination of production. Height. Weight. Speed. Intangibles. Fit. There’s a myriad of things there. To say it’s just one thing that’s important…they’re all important.”

“Is one more important than the other, I’d say no.”

“It’s the total fit of the player and how we feel they’ll fit with our team.”

Combine/Visits, what do you get out of it?:

“Try to get to know the person, that’s a big part of this.”

“Sometimes people see players as just players. You want to know about their mom, their dad, who was an important person in their life. What kind of adversity they have faced before. Does that person fit your style as a coach, your locker room, the culture you’re trying to build as a team. When you sit down with a player, you’re just trying to get to know him.”

I think Dolphins fans know this all too well after the Dez Bryant/Jeff Ireland prostitution episode back in 2010.

Flores’ Influence in the Draft:

“Chris and I definitely work well together. We speak the same language….when we come together it’s the same (language)”

“Have had (and) will have discussions on different scenarios (throughout the draft)”

On his New/Hybrid Defense:

What kind of players do you need for your Hybrid defense?:

“We need good players.”

“I think as a coach, you get a good player, (and you ask yourself) what does he do well? You try and do that.”

“That’s the good thing about having a versatile scheme, it fits a good player.”

“You try and get the best player and I feel me and my staff can fit what we’re going to do around that player.”

“Some guys are going to have a better fit than others, but you have to put the whole fit together.”

On Identity of this Team:

“You know, call it what you want.”

“I’m going to get my team to play hard. Play together. Play with good fundamentals and technique. Play as a team. Put the team first. You have to try and get 11 guys to play together and that’s a hard thing to accomplish as a coach.”

“That’s my goal, you can call it whatever you want. ‘The Patriot Way’….to me, it’s just good football.”

Flores seems to understand that he’s going to live under Bill Belichick‘s shadow for awhile, especially if he is unsuccessful. Seems like he’s also getting a little tired of it….and I kind of like it. I’m glad he’ll have this chip on his shoulder to prove that he isn’t just a Belichick clone. Then again, judging by all Flores has gone through, he doesn’t need this chip to drive him.

Does he expect his players to be on time?:

“If you’re early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late, and if you’re late you’re forgotten.”

“Is it a rule, no, it’s my personal mantra.”

“I have a lot of respect for time. I think it’s precious; we shouldn’t take it for granted. If you want to stay on schedule you have to stay on time.”

“We have a schedule, it’s laid out pretty well.”

There is absolutely no bull**** from Brian Flores when it comes to practice! That’s not to say Adam Gase or any of the other prior head coaches were more-lenient, but you get the feeling that Flores isn’t going to tolerate players who believe they are bigger than the team.

Gase showed a similar coaching style when he traded Jay Ajayi and released players like Byron Maxwell and Jordan Phillips, but that never translated to a productive locker room culture. It’ll be interesting to see how Flores’ style compares.

On His “Right-Hand Man”:

“Pick any of the 20 guys, they’re all my right-hand men.”

“We work well together. (We) try and put a staff together that embodies what I want our team to reflect.

“I want to be tough, I want to be smart, I want to work well together.”

On Mike Gesicki:

“Mike is a good, young player. Talented. Like everyone else on this team, there are places he can improve, develop, get better. As a young player, there’s a lot of room for development. Mike’s working hard. We see what everyone else sees: he has size, speed, can catch the ball.”

On Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker:

“Raekwon is big. Fast. Physical. (Has) good leadership. Smart. Can play a few different positions. (A) good, young player.”

“Jerome is another skilled player. Fast. Good tackler. Raekwon is a good tackler as well. Smart. Can do a few different things. Can cover; which, obviously in this league, going in a passing direction, it’s good to have an LB that can cover.”

“We’re glad to have them both.”

On Jake Rudock and Luke Falk:

“Like everyone else, they’re working hard. They are doing everything possible to try and improve their techniques, fundamentals. Footwork. Ball Handling. They’re doing a really good job. All 3 quarterbacks.”

“We’re excited to see what they can do moving forward.”

Flores couldn’t be more generic with the assessment of his players. Even going back to when he discussed Charles Harris at a previous press conference, Flores tends to speak about his players vaguely, as if to avoid tipping his hand in any regard.

From a player’s perspective, it’s nice to know your coach won’t throw you under the bus and will keep things private. From our fan perspective, it means we just have to go through every possible adjective and scenario with him. He’s not lying when one of them has to be true.

On his Mother’s Passing:

“It was hard. She’s someone I think about on a daily basis. Wish she was here to enjoy this with us, but she’s with me all the time.”

“She wouldn’t’ want me to dwell or be upset and she would want me to have peace.”

“I’m sad. I’m unhappy. I miss her. But I have peace knowing I did everything I can to make her proud.”

On New Surprises as a Head Coach:

“(I have had) A lot of conversations with head coaches around the league…one thing they said is something would come across your desk every day.”

“(That’s) kind of my approach coming in, being adaptable. A mantra of our team: ‘adapt or die’.”

“Part of (the job) is allowing other people to lead.”

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2019 Vegas Slant Schedule Breakdown

Travis Wingfield

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Future opponents are known years in advance in the NFL. With the exception of two games decided by divisional standing finish, fourteen opponents are determined based on the schedule rotation. The order in which those games will occur, like everything else the NFL does, has become a primetime event.

While the luck of the draw factors heavily (in-season injuries, particular teams playing their best/worst ball at a certain time of year, etc.) the order of the games provides intriguing details.

Traveling for a Thursday night game, for instance, is an extreme disadvantage for the visitor. The infamous “trap game” can occur when a team faces a lesser opponent before taking on a heavyweight. Lastly, for a team like the Dolphins, weather implications are always worth noting.

This column refers to the favors, or lack thereof, that the NFL gave the Dolphins based purely on travel, trap games, etcetera.

Week 1 – BALTIMORE RAVENS – September 8, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Ravens Sandwich Game: Week 2 Cardinals

September victories are difficult to come by for teams visiting Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins haven’t lost such an affair since 2015 with a multitude of early-season upsets under the franchise’s belt this century (2014 vs. New England and 2005 vs. Denver, most notably).

Baltimore’s ground-and-pound attack could have a converse affect, however, as the Dolphins defensive conditioning will have to be on-point from the word go.

Week 2 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – September 15, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Patriots Sandwich Games: Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh, Week 3 vs. NY Jets

Dec 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs the ball after a flea flicker play to score a touchdown to defeat the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

New England’s 2018 meltdown in Miami came one week prior to a trip to Heinz Field. Now, the Pats will travel back to Tom Brady’s house of horrors in Miami one week after kicking the season off in primetime against those same Steelers.

This won’t serve as a trap game given the recent outcomes of games between these two teams, but Miami is catching the Pats at the right time. Over the last two seasons New England are just 4-4 in the first quarter of the schedule (September games), a .250-point decrease in winning percentage from their cumulative record.

Week 3 – @ Dallas Cowboys – September 22, 1:00 EST AT&T Stadium
Cowboys Sandwich Games: Week 2 @ Washington, Week 4 @ Saints

This is a classic trap game for the Cowboys. Coming off a game with its biggest rival, then heading to the toughest building to play in, in the NFC, the opportunity for Miami to steal a road win against a sleep-walking favorite is in the cards.

Week 4 – Los Angeles Chargers- September 29, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Chargers Sandwich Games: Week 3 @Texans, Week 5 Broncos

The early time slot for a west coast team is one of the biggest advantages, statistically, in football. The Chargers historically struggle in Miami but the talent discrepancy is probably too great for any of these advantages to factor in.

Week 5 – BYE WEEK

After a week-11 bye last year, Miami gets the burden of an early off-week. The Dolphins will play out the string for 12 weeks with zero breaks in between.

Week 6 – Washington – October 13, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Washington Sandwich Games: Week 5 @Patriots, Week 7 49ers

A let down following a potential beat down in New England bodes well for Miami. Washington is probably the one team on this entire schedule that Miami can matchup with from a talent perspective.

Week 7 – @ Buffalo Bills – October 20, 1:00 EST New Era Field
Bills Sandwich Games: Week 6 BYE, Week 8 Eagles

Miami’s first game against a team coming off a bye, in a building that has only provided the setting for one Miami win in the last five years, this one stacks the deck against the Dolphins.

Week 8 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – October 28, 5:25 EST MONDAY Heinz Field
Steelers Sandwich Games: Week 7 BYE, Week 9 Colts

Another game, another opponent coming off of a bye. The Steelers will have the benefit of a 15-day break prior to lacing it up for Miami in primetime. The Dolphins road primetime woes should be noted as well – Miami are 0-for-it’s-last 8 in those games.

Week 9 – New York Jets – November 3, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Jets Sandwich Games: Week 8 @Jaguars, Week 10 Giants

Dec 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase looks on during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Adam Gase game will certainly have both teams on notice. The man that holds a grudge like no other will certainly have this date circled on his calendar, as will the countless Dolphins players that grew tired of Gase’s shtick. This might be the most entertaining football game Miami plays all season.

Week 10 – @ Indianapolis Colts – November 10, 1:00 EST Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts Sandwich Games: Week 9 @Steelers, Week 11 Jaguars

With a potentially crucial divisional game on-deck with the Jaguars, the Colts could fall victim to overlooking Miami here. The Colts are a difficult out in that building and are quietly building up one of the most talented rosters in the AFC.

Week 11 – Buffalo Bills – November 17, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Bills Sandwich Games: Week 10 @Browns, Week 12 Broncos

Divisional games rarely adhere to traditional trap procedures. Ideally the Dolphins would catch the Bills in September, but the week-7 trip to Western New York offsets the lack of weather advantages. This game should see peak effort from both teams.

Week 12 – @ Cleveland Browns – November 24, 1:00 EST First Energy Stadium
Browns Sandwich Games: Week 11 Steelers (TNF), Week 13 @Steelers

Somehow the NFL has this strange scheduling procedure where teams play each other twice over a three-week period. Cleveland sandwiches its two games with the Steelers with a home date against your Miami Dolphins – that’s the ultimate trap.Cleveland’s benefit comes from having 10 days to prepare for Brian Flores and Miami.

Week 13 – Philadelphia Eagles – December 1, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Eagles Sandwich Games: Week 12 Seahawks, Week 14 Giants

With a pivotal NFC matchup on the front end, and a divisional game on the backend, Philadelphia is in a potential trap game situation. The Dolphins home field advantage serves as another beneficial factor in this game as the weather contract between Philadelphia and Miami, in December, is stark.

Week 14 – @ New York Jets – December 8, 1:00 EST Met Life Stadium
Jets Sandwich Games: Week 13 @Bengals, Week 15 @Ravens (TNF)

The game before a road trip on a short week typically favors the opposition – that’s the spot the Adam Gase finds himself in here when the Jets welcome Miami to the Meadowlands. With two NFC games bookending this game for the Dolphins, this is a great spot for Miami to steal a road win.

Week 15 – @ New York Giants – December 15, 1:00 EST Met Life Stadium
Giants Sandwich Games: Week 14 @Eagles, Week 16 @ Washington

This is a trap game for both teams, believe it or not. A non-conference game, sandwiched by two divisional games, has the makings for a let down on either side. If the season plays out as expected, this game could have massive implications on the race for Tua Tagovailoa.

Week 16 – Cincinnati Bengals – December 22, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Bengals Sandwich Games: Week 15 @Patriots, Week 17 Browns

Like the previous game, this might set up as a draft positioning game. Both teams that figure to finish at, or near, the bottom of their respective divisions, playing out the string with rookie coaches, there isn’t much of an advantage to take away from this one.

Week 17 – @ New England Patriots – December 29, 1:00 EST Gillette Stadium
Patriots Sandwich Games: Week 16 Bills

For the second consecutive year, the Patriots finish the season with two divisional home games – seems fishy, doesn’t it? The only potential saving grace here, for the ‘Phins, is that New England could have the AFC East wrapped up, as they typically do every year.

 

This is, no doubt, a difficult road to hoe for Miami. The order of the games, the stacks of road trips, it’s a lot to put on the plate of a first year head coach trying to set a foundation.

The troops of the tank train should be satisfied with this gamete — it likely puts Miami in a hole that will be difficult to climb out of, especially given Ryan Fitzpatrick’s medical history.

For more on this schedule, tune in to the Locked On Dolphins podcast – your daily dose of Miami Dolphins football.

@WingfieldNFL

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