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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs. Bills – Week 13 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Who: Dolphins (5-6) vs. Bills (4-7)
When: December 2, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 83 degrees, 79% humidity, 40% chance of rain
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -4.5

Dolphins-Bills

The NFL is a war of attrition. Tempering peaks and managing the valleys, in a game all about overcoming adversity, Miami faces a considerable test Sunday returning home for the first time in a month.

Fresh off a devastating loss in which Miami blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead, playoffs appear to be out of reach as the Dolphins’ focus shifts to finding a way to win a football game. Fortunately, for Adam Gase’s team, four of Miami’s five wins this season have come at Hard Rock Stadium.

Ryan Tannehill is back under center and gave the offense a much needed boost (three touchdowns after a nine quarter streak without visiting pay dirt).

Still, the Dolphins have only reached the winner’s circle once in the last 48 days. A once lifeless Buffalo team have doubled its projected season win total and comes into Miami fresh off an uplifting home win under their own starting quarterback’s return.

The Bills Scheme:
Offense

Brian Daboll isn’t exactly working with world class ingredients, but he has found a way to maximize the strengths of his quarterback in the Bills four wins this season. In those four victories the offense averages 26.3 points per game. In the seven defeats Daboll’s attack unit averages a paltry 8 points per contest. Repeating for emphasis – eight.

Go back to 2016 when Miami pivoted to a zone running game with play action bootleg principles built in – that’s the Bills offense. There is variety in the blocking scheme with a healthy mix of outside-zone (with split zone to compliment, but also affords Allen the under route on the bootleg) with some gap power schemes.

The deep shots in the offense come off play-action and generally utilize only two or three players out in the pattern. Daboll has made a concerted effort to keep Allen protected, but pressure still finds its way through often. From there, Allen is asked to improvise – and he’s well equipped to do so.

Defense:

Sean McDermott has his aggressive, ball hawking defense playing better than all but a handful of teams in the NFL. Predicated on rangy defensive backs that moonlight in run support, Buffalo can throw a variety of blitz packages at opposing offenses and challenge the short passing game.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Most of Buffalo’s looks include a single high safety. They will show two-deep looks, but the strong safety typically jumps into a robber role looking to lay the lumber on backside digs or over routes and front side slants.

Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier’s impact on the defense hasn’t been lost this season. Operating primarily in even fronts, the Buffalo defense operates in a combination of a one-gap and two-gap schemes.

Frazier is a proponent of the double A-gap pressure look, in an attempt to free up one-on-one match-ups for his best pass rusher. That player, in Buffalo, is Jerry Hughes.

The Players:
Offense:

Josh Allen was the whipping boy of the draft process for pundits and fans alike, but he has shown some of the traits that made him an intriguing prospect. His rookie year is essentially a wash from a passing development standpoint, but he’s extending and making teams pay with his legs.

The porous offensive line in front of Allen isn’t helping matters. Replacing three starters from 2017 has proven difficult. Second-year pro Dion Dawkins has filled in nicely for Cordy Glenn at left tackle, but Russell Bodine, John Miller and Jordan Mills (from center to right tackle) is one of the worst trios in the NFL.

LeSean McCoy (somehow still afforded the privilege of playing despite some unsettling off-the-field involvement this summer) has struggled as a result. McCoy is on track for his lowest outputs in yardage, touchdowns and yards per carry since his rookie year in 2009.

It doesn’t get any prettier on the perimeter. Buffalo’s ragtag group of receivers is led by Kelvin Benjamin – who is allergic to creating any separation. This match-up against Miami’s cover corners bodes well for the home team.

Defense:

Like the Dolphins, Buffalo’s best position group is the secondary. TreDavious White has emerged as a lock down corner in just his second year. Micah Hyde is the straw that stirs the drink in the Buffalo defensive backfield. He’ll come down and cover the slot, he’ll blitz the edge and he’ll rob the hook zone as well as any one.

Jordan Poyer is a problem in his own right. He’s often tasked with playing the single high center field position and is near the top of the leaderboard in interceptions dating back to 2017.

The linebacker corps is led by second-year standout Matt Milano. Milano has 10 pressures when called upon to blitz, he’s made 30 run stops, and is allowing a passer rating against of just 62.1 in coverage.

Rookie Tremaine Edmunds has been a slow study. His only real impact is as a pass rusher with 10 pressures of his own. He’s a liability in coverage so far in his rookie season.

Up front Jerry Hughes is a difficult block. Fortunately, Miami gets to offset Hughes with their best offensive player (Laremy Tunsil). Expect the Bills to try to run some games (stunts, twists) to get Hughes working inside on Ted Larsen.

The interior defensive line is the pivotal match-up for the Miami O-line. Buffalo is deep with the ageless Kyle Williams and newcomers Star Lotulelei, Harrison Philips and former Dolphin, Jordan Phillips.

Other players of note, Lorenzo Alexander has 29 pass rush pressures on the year and rookie slot corner, Taron Johnson, allows the fourth lowest completion percentage among rookie corners.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Miami’s offense typically bogs down against the Bills defense. With creative pattern matching and a variety of press and off coverage on the back end, Tannehill can get into trouble with his eyes. That, coupled with what figures to be heavy interior pressure, could spell turnovers for the Miami offense.

Defensively, the running quarterback is an everlasting thorn in the side of the Dolphins franchise. The skill group isn’t good enough to beat Miami, but Josh Allen escaping pressure could extend some drives in a game that will be predicated on field position.

The Opportunities:

The Bills called upon undrafted rookie free agent Levi Wallace last Sunday, and he’s susceptible to suddenness. Miami figures to make him their rabbit for the game, in addition to finding match-ups on fellow rookie Tremaine Edmunds.

Cam Wake is still an elite rusher. He took Colts Rookie Braden Smith to task last week, and he has a history of punishing Bills Right Tackle Jordan Mills. Allen will give the defense plenty of opportunities to take the football away – Miami’s greatest asset in 2018.

The Projected Result:

Optimism is at season-low among Dolphins fans. The focus has shifted towards draft talk, potential Head Coaching candidates and the annual quarterback-of-the-future discussion is in full force.

However, returning home to play a game they must win both for playoff hopes and job security purposes, this is the type of adversity Adam Gase constructed his team to deal with.

With takeaway opportunities aplenty, and the second week back from injury with the starting quarterback, Miami takes care of business in relatively convincing fashion.

Dolphins 23
Bills 10

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs Vikings Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Stefanski coached his first game as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and he may have orchestrated the last game of Matt Burke‘s tenure as the Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator.

Maybe the miracle wiped the emotion out of everyone.

I’d say an illegal touching penalty on Brice Butler on the team’s 2nd possession was an omen that this game wasn’t going to go well. It may have been Matt Haack‘s punt from the Viking’s 45 yard line that ended up bouncing into the end zone that made for a perfect metaphor. Nope, it was most-definitely the 4th-down stop the Minnesota Vikings made when Ja’Wuan James virtually tackles Ryan Tannehill for a comical sack that summarizes this team’s performance today – and quite possibly, their 2018 season as a whole.

After sucking us back into the season in dramatic fashion last week against the New England Patriots, the Dolphins reminded us why they’re far from a playoff team with a lackluster performance on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.

We knew going into Minnesota would be tough, but we didn’t expect it to be embarrassing; though maybe we should have. The Dolphins are now 1-6 in road games this season – a consistent stain on Adam Gase‘s resume.

The good news? This was the only game Miami could afford to lose the rest of the season and still have a realistic chance at the playoffs. The bad news? Everyone else in the playoff picture (Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens) won.

Miami is going to need a lot of help if they want to make the playoffs, but it starts with consecutive victories against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills.

Below are a few things we noticed from Miami’s 41 – 17 loss to the Vikings:

1) Drain the Defense

This actually might start with the front office. Look at how Miami spent its cap space this season:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
1) Robert Quinn – $11.44m
2) Andre Branch – $10m
4) Kiko Alonso – $9.66m
5) Cameron Wake – $9.62m
9) Reshad Jones – $4.96m

The Dolphins gave up a 4th-round draft pick for their costliest player. They prematurely extended their second-most expensive player after he recorded 5.5 sacks and the team was desperate for defensive ends (they selected Charles Harris in the first round that following draft). Miami did the same with Kiko Alonso that same offseason (though it’s hard to complain about him after watching the rest of this defense). And the bottom two players on the above list are legends on a franchise that doesn’t make the playoffs.

This team was hit with a bunch of injuries, but we need to stop leaning on that excuse. There are no longer excuses as for why the Minnesota Vikings accumulated 101 rushing yards…in the first quarter. The team’s depth has been terribly exposed, and Matt Burke has not been able to adjust to the team’s most-glaring weakness.

Dalvin Cook came into this game averaging 45.9 yards per game and Latavius Murray came into this game averaging 36.2 yards per game. Cook finished with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns while Murray rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown of his own.

Although Robert Quinn added another (shoestring) sack to his total, he was noticeably getting wiped out of the play on the first two rushing touchdowns by the Vikings. Bobby McCain may have been watching too many replays of Rob Gronkowski last week during the Miami Miracle, because his angle on Cook’s first touchdown run was atrocious.

McCain wasn’t to be outdone, however, as Latavius Murray’s touchdown run in the first quarter came with a nice little stiff arm to Bobby McCain’s helmet – leading to a physical lapse by the cornerback compared to the mental lapse on the previous touchdown run.

We can excuse the few shortcomings Minkah Fitzpatrick has each week. Not only is he a rookie, but he’s being tasked with understanding every position in the secondary. McCain was at his natural inside corner position on those touchdown runs and was a detriment rather than the luxury that earned a contract extension this past offseason. In fairness to McCain, he did have a better second half, but after the Vikings had scored 21 points in the first quarter, it’s hard to compliment a player that put the team in such a tight bind.

Each time Fitzpatrick allows a reception I look at the play negatively. And yet, these are receptions that are going for maybe 8-13 yards at a time, not the 40-yard bombs that blow up an entire game plan.

The Derwin James vs Minkah Fitzpatrick debate is going to follow them their entire careers, but the biggest reason people have for selecting James over Fitzpatrick (as the better draft pick) is because the Los Angeles Chargers safety ‘makes big plays’. Fitzpatrick showed he can be equally as impressive when he read a Kirk Cousin‘s screen pass beautifully and took it to the house for a touchdown.

Maybe Minnesota understood how to expose Miami’s defense better than Bill Belichick, but it was evident the Dolphins missed Xavien Howard. Kirk Cousins completed just 2/3 of his passes, and only threw for 215 yards, but he didn’t really need much help from Adam Thielen or Stephon Diggs (even though they had plenty of open space to work with). Cousins completed 2 passes apiece to Tyler Conklin and Aldrick Robinson, but those 4 completions averaged 24.25 yards per play.

Outside of Fitzpatrick’s pick-6, this defense didn’t have too many bright spots. T.J. McDonald was exposed in coverage and Torry McTyer was beat on a long touchdown to Robinson. This defense has valuable core pieces, but it also needs an overhaul.

And it’s going to start with the defensive coordinator.

2) A Fireable Offense

Which stat would you like to pull out of this game that exemplifies Miami’s mediocrity?

  • 37 total passing yards (that’s not a misprint)
  • 11 passes completed
  • 193 total yards on offense
  • 2/12 3rd-down efficiency
  • 9 sacks allowed

That’s 2 more completed passes than sacks for those counting at home.

This doesn’t take into account two pass plays that Ryan Tannehill forced and Miami’s wide receivers needed to bat down. This doesn’t point out the fact that they gained some of these yards in garbage time.

One week after everyone was ready to anoint Tannehill the 2019 opening day starter, fans are back to clamoring for the top quarterback prospect in the draft – whoever it may be. They just need fresh blood.

Erase the 75-yard touchdown run Kalen Ballage had and this offense mustered 118 yards the entire game. That would have been 29.5 yards per quarter! A lot of the problems have to do with the offensive line, but we also have to recognize that a lot of offensive issues today stemmed from the Dolphins receivers.

The normally sure-handed Danny Amendola dropped two passes and also juggled a punt return late in the game. DeVante Parker was nonexistent (1 target). Kenny Stills caught one reception in garbage time. Brice Butler’s biggest play was negated because he stepped out of bounds and received an illegal touching penalty. Mike Gesicki caught a couple of passes, but makes no impact whatsoever on offense.

The team’s shiftiest running back (Kenyan Drake) is nursing an injury and was sparingly used while the team’s most reliable running back (Frank Gore) left the game in the first quarter with a foot sprain. A lot can be said for the poor quarterback performance today, but we also need to point out the collective failure of an offensive unit.

Similar to the defense, the issue might start with the front office. This is how the rest of the top-10 most expensive players rounds out for Miami:

(team rank / player / cap hit)
3) Kenny Stills – $9.75m
6) Ja’Wuan James – $9.34m
7) Ryan Tannehill – $8.68m
8) Danny Amendola – $6m
10) DeVante Parker – $3.46m

That’s a lot of average to non-existent production from Miami’s top-10 cap hits this season.

While quarterback will be the most-discussed topic this offseason, look for the Dolphins to overhaul their tight ends (once again) and their wide receivers, as it’s possible none of Miami’s receivers in 2019 were active for this game. There’s a good chance the only returning wide receivers from this year’s roster are Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant, both of whom have serious injuries that they might not be able to come back from.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Gore. Miami desperately needs to win these next two games, and if Gore is unable to perform near 100%, he may be the latest casualty to land on injured-reserve.

With Brandon Bolden and Kalen Ballage having good games for Miami, it’s possible they run with their current trio (with Senorise Perry as insurance) rather than risk an unhealthy Frank Gore.

If this happens to be the case, and Gore does indeed land on IR, it’ll be a disappointing way to see the running back’s season end. Gore had accumulated 722 rushing yards on the season (including this game against Minnesota) and was Miami’s most-durable and reliable option at running back all year. Though it may be hard to find space for him, signing Frank Gore near the veteran’s minimum would be a priority of mine next offseason.

The Dolphins look to play with our hearts again next week as they host the disappointing Jaguars in Miami.

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Miami Dolphins

Charting Ryan Tannehill 2018 – Week 13 vs Buffalo

Travis Wingfield

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Go to Week 1 vs. Tennessee
Go to Week 2 at NY Jets
Go to Week 3 vs. Oakland
Go to week 4 at New England
Go to week 5 at Cincinnati
Go to week 12 at Indianapolis

Week 13 vs. Buffalo –

In his second game back from a shoulder injury that was rumored to end his season, Ryan Tannehill stayed in familiar territory. A few big-time throws, a few more mistakes, and yet another divisive performance.

The fastball deteriorated as the game grew older, he struggled with some touch passes, and missed a few reads, but two touchdowns where he displayed cajones grande was enough to push the Dolphins back into the winner’s circle.

Without Danny Amendola, the personnel packages didn’t fluctuate from the week prior in Indianapolis. Adam Gase deployed primarily 11-personnel and a lot of shotgun. Tannehill was in the gun on 22 of his 28 drop backs.

 

11-personnel 24 snaps
12-personnel 2 snaps
13-personnel 1 snap
21-personnel 1 snap

 

Moving the chains was a struggle regardless of the down-and-distance. Miami moved the sticks on 10 of the 28 plays called for Tannehill, and he was just 2/8 on third downs.

Yards-after-the-catch were missing from the Miami offense. Only 25.5% of Tannehill’s mere 137-passing yards came after the reception. Despite the lingering shoulder issue, Tannehill still averaged 9.38 air-yards-per-throw.

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/4 (0%)
11-19 yards 3/3 (100%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 13/17 (77%)

 

Tannehill was sharp in the red zone completing 5/6 passes – three for touchdowns and two moving the chains on third down.

Two of the touchdowns were threaded into tight windows – Tannehill was on-point in that area as well. He completed 5/10 passes for 63 yards with the two touchdowns and one interception.

It wasn’t a clean game for Tanenhill – far from it. He was charged with four off-target throws, four missed reads and two critical errors (an INT and a missed TD opportunity).

Pressure, as it has been most of his career, was arriving with regularity. On Tannehill’s 28 drop backs, the rush got home 13 times (4 sacks, 8 hits, 1 hurry) at an average of 2.18 seconds from snap-to-pressure.

Play-action, once again, was Tannehill’s bread and butter. He did throw the interception on a double-move-deep-shot to Kenny Stills, but he completed the other four for 41 yards.

The critical errors, missed reads and overall lack of production shrouds this showing with a dark cloud. The two big-time red zone strikes, however, and the clean operation of threading tight windows is enough to push this effort into the upper-echelon of a “winning performance.”

Result: Winning Performance

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 4 (TEN, OAK, IND, BUF)
Inconsequential Performance 1 (@NYJ)
Losing Performance 2 (@NE, @CIN)

 

@WingfieldNFL

Additional videos:

Tannehill appears to be apprehensive on the whee route to the back

Tannehill continues to struggle with the wheel route

Body position opens the read Tannehill wants.

Has a shot at a deep ball, but take the sure first down.

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Miami Dolphins

Week 15: Rooting Guide and Staff Predictions

Gabe Hauari

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Week 14 proved to be one of the most memorable in Dolphins history, as the “Miami Miracle” propelled the Dolphins to a dramatic victory over New England.

As memorable as it was, the only other favorable result around the league was the Ravens losing to Kansas City, as the Colts and Titans also kept themselves in playoff contention by notching wins.

Week 15 is a critical week for much of the NFL, as many teams are still alive in their respective playoff races. In the AFC specifically, there are five teams vying for the final two playoff spots. Who should you root for in these matchups? Here are the games to keep an eye on, with the team Miami should root for in bold for emphasis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m. EST

John Harbaugh announced Lamar Jackson will start over a healthy Joe Flacco on Sunday, which means this could be the official passing-of-the-torch moment for the Ravens (7-6). Tampa Bay is still mathematically in the NFC playoff race at 5-8, but facing a focused Ravens team at home is a tall order.

Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. EST

The Cowboys are coming off an intense divisional win over the Eagles, and the Colts (7-6) are hot after a huge win over the Texans. The Dolphins would benefit greatly if the Cowboys came away from Lucas Oil Stadium with a victory, dropping the Colts to 7-7. The Cowboys could control their own destiny by winning the NFC East, something they are in prime position to do.

Tennessee Titans at New York Giants, 1 p.m. EST

This is a potential trap game for the Titans (7-6), as the Giants have improved steadily as the season has gone on. Even without Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants can win with a good running game and just enough defense. The Titans are coming off an impressive win over the Jaguars and will also likely try to establish their running game early.  This one could go either way, but let’s hope the Giants find a way to win this one.

 

Miami has a tough game this week, as playing in Minnesota is no walk in the park. The Vikings fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo this week after an ugly performance on Monday night vs. Seattle, which could benefit the Dolphins. How will the game turn out? Our staff takes a shot at predicting it:

Will Rogers:

After the Miami Miracle I, like many Dolphins fans, am still somewhat on a high. That high has me feeling that the Dolphins can do no wrong but I know I cannot be that naive.

When the Dolphins play the Vikings in Minnesota it’s going to be a true test for the Dolphins defense. It’s looking like Xavien Howard will not play so the guys next in line really need to step up to stop the powerful Vikings offensive weapons. 

This matchup could go either way but like I said I’m riding that high. I believe that the Dolphins can win this one and the taste of the playoffs will become sweeter. 

Prediction: Dolphins 28, Vikings 24

Skyler Trunck:

Since Tannehill has returned, this offensive is firing on almost all cylinders averaging the 8th most points per game in that span. However, this will be the best defense this offense has seen in that span. Add in the offense averaging nearly 8 points less on the road this season, it’s hard to feel great about this matchup.

Minnesota is currently ranked 5th in yards allowed and 11th in points allowed. When you watch this team and look at them on paper, the talent on this defense certainly illustrates these ranks are no fluke.

The reason Minnesota isn’t winning as much as last year is due to their offense, and more so their offensive inconsistencies. Like Miami, Minnesota fans know all too well what it’s like to have a sub-par (at best) offensive line and the effects it has on an offense.

In attempt to salvage their offense, Minnesota fired their supposedly up-and-coming offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, this last week.

It’s easy to think Miami won’t score many points in this matchup given their success on the road and against a defense this stout. What is difficult to predict in this matchup is how this Miami defense will hold. Minnesota running back, Dalvin Cook, has been scripted out of most games, which is odd considering he’ll be one of the more talented backs Miami sees this year. If Minnesota’s new offensive coordinator features a heavy run attack, it may be hard for Miami to stay in this game.

I have hard time going against what I’ve seen all year from this Miami Dolphins team, especially with the absence of Xavien Howard for another week. 

Prediction: Vikings 20, Dolphins 17

Andrew Mitchell:

Coming off last weeks Miami Miracle game has spirits and confidence high. Which immediately worries me because we know how this can go sometimes. 

Ryan Tannehill has looked stellar in his return and the play-calling has been much improved as well. While the offense has seemed to find their groove, they still are not as dominant as needed to offset our shaky defense.

However, the defense has been playing the best it has all season and that trend MUST continue as they head to Minnesota.

The Vikings have been underwhelming this season after signing Kirk Cousins in the offseason. They just recently fired John DeFilippo, the highly regarded OC they snagged from the Eagles in the offseason. 

Unfortunately, this isn’t what Miami wants, if only they had kept him for one more week.

Given our defensive performances on the road and an offense looking to get on the right track, I can’t help but feel Miami falls short this week. I hope I’m wrong.

Prediction: Vikings 31, Dolphins 23

Gabe Hauari:

The Dolphins got the kind of emotional win that can turn a whole season around vs. the Patriots last Sunday. The “Miami Miracle” is a play that will go down in NFL history, and could possibly propel the Dolphins into the playoffs if they handle their business the last three weeks of the season.

However….

The Dolphins have been pretty bad on the road this season, and unfortunately I don’t see that stopping this week, especially not without Xavien Howard. The Vikings have a deep stable of receivers, and that matchup really worries me.

The Dolphins can win if they run the ball well and control the clock, and defensively they must get pressure on Kirk Cousins.

After a stinker on the road last week, the Vikings will also be motivated to play well in front of their home crowd, with a new offensive coordinator, with their playoff dreams potentially on the line.

Miami keeps it close, but I think Minnesota wins it late.

Prediction: Vikings 24, Dolphins 21

Travis Wingfield:

To see Travis’ analysis and predictions, click here: https://www.lockedondolphins.com/dolphins/dolphins-at-vikings-week-15-preview/

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