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Miami Dolphins

Week 14: Rooting Guide and Staff Predictions

Gabe Hauari

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The AFC playoff picture is looking murkier than ever, with four teams essentially chasing the Baltimore Ravens for the final playoff spot in the conference. The Tennessee Titans did themselves a huge favor in beating Jacksonville on Thursday night, improving to 7-6 on the season. Miami owns the head-to-head tiebreaker versus Tennessee thanks to their marathon match back in Week 1. 

 The other three teams in contention with Miami will be in action on Sunday. While you’re rooting for the Dolphins to beat the Patriots on Sunday, here are the other games you should keep an eye on, with the teams you should be rooting for being bolded for emphasis.  

 

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. EST 

The Ravens travel to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to face off against Patrick Mahomes and the explosive Chiefs offense. Baltimore is currently in possession of the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC at 7-5. While John Harbaugh was on the hot seat last month, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has propelled the Ravens to three straight wins. Beating the Chiefs in Kansas City looks to be a tall task though. 

 Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, 1 p.m. EST 

It wasn’t that long ago that the Texans were 0-3 and people were questioning not if, but when Bill O’Brien would be fired. After reeling off nine straight wins, Houston is now among the hottest teams in the NFL and are nearly guaranteed a playoff spot, barring a major collapse. The Colts currently sit at 6-6 after a 6-0 loss to Jacksonville last week. They own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami (too soon?), so a Colts loss would be optimal for the Dolphins. 

 Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers, 4:05 p.m. EST 

The Broncos have come out of nowhere to be somewhat competitive in the AFC playoff picture. They currently sit in tenth place in the AFC, but have perhaps the easiest remaining schedule among playoff hopefuls. They play the lowly 49ers this week, followed by games vs. Cleveland, @ Oakland, and at home versus a Chargers team who may already have a playoff spot clinched by the time Week 17 rolls around. Dolphins fans need to root for Denver to stumble somewhere along the way. 

 With all that being said, these games may not matter much if the Dolphins cannot take care of their own business the rest of the way. Miami has a huge advantage over the Broncos, Colts, and Ravens this week in that the Dolphins have a home game, and Miami has played the Patriots very well at home in recent seasons. How will the game this Sunday shake out? Our staff has some thoughts: 

 

Skyler Trunck: 

As the year moves along, we’re learning this isn’t the same Patriots team the NFL has seen in years past. Sure — it’s still the same team Miami saw earlier this year, but expect things will be different this time around.

Why is that? One, it’s in the Miami heat and humidity. Miami has won 4 of the last 5 games when played at Miami. Two, this isn’t quite the same Tom Brady comparatively to years prior (don’t misinterpret, still a top-tier QB in this league unfortunately). Third, Miami has film on the identity of this Patriots team and the recipe to beating them.

What is that recipe? Beat the Patriots at their own game by managing the game. That is done by controlling the clock with effective running complimented by safe, game-managing QB play.

Can Miami do this? Maybe.

This Miami team has proven they can play game-managing football, but rarely have we seen this type of football for four quarters.

 If you add in Miami may be without start corner, Xavien Howard, which would leave Josh Gordon to feast off of young corners such as Torry McTyer, it strongly increases the need to keep New England’s offense off of the field. Miami cannot afford to give New England as many chances as they gave Indianapolis a couple weeks ago (which, we all know how that turned out).

History tells us not to trust Miami to do this, and I’m not going to best against history in this one. Miami will play a much better game than week 4, but unfortunately not enough to beat the division rival, New England Patriots.

Prediction: Patriots 24, Dolphins 20

 Andrew Mitchell: 

 Miami hosts the Patriots this week and my feelings on it are all over the place. We have been very successful recently when the patriots come to town so that alone gives me confidence that we can split this season as well.

The key to the game for Miami will be 3 things:

 1. Run the ball/Manage the game

2. Keep Brady off the field as much as possible

3. Don’t fall behind early

The first are pretty relative to each other. If #1 is executed then #2 is a direct result of that. 

Falling behind early is the thing that scares me most. This offense is injured and has proven that it cannot put up points in bunches.

As I write this, I feel pessimistic, I hope I’m wrong. 

Prediction: Patriots 30, Dolphins 17

 Will Rogers: 

 If the Miami Dolphins want to talk about sneaking into the playoffs, this is the game they must win. The Dolphins play the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium and in recent years the Fins have played them well at home.

 In order to win the Dolphins need to contain Brady. He cannot have too much time to throw or else he will rack up the yardage and tire out our defense. Also Drake really needs to be let loose in this game, I’m talking 20 touches. 

I don’t feel confident about this game.

 Prediction: Patriots 31, Dolphins 21

 Gabe Hauari: 

 By now I’m sure you guys have all heard that Miami has beaten New England at home in four of the last five matchups. 

 Well, make it five out of six. 

 Call me crazy, but I think this ragtag group of Dolphins came pull this one out. The Dolphins have played much better at home than on the road this season, and I think Adam Gase will call his best game of the season on Sunday.

 Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore need to be utilized heavily to control the clock and keep Tom Brady off the field for as long as possible. The Dolphins defense also need to produce turnovers, which is something they have been very good at. I know the absence of Xavien Howard will make this tough, but I believe it can happen. 

 The players and coaches are hungry to beat New England and remain in playoff contention, and I think that will manifest itself into a great team performance on Sunday. 

 Here’s hoping I’m right. 

 Prediction: Dolphins 23, Patriots 21

Travis Wingfield:

To see Travis’ analysis and predictions, click here: https://www.lockedondolphins.com/dolphins/dolphins-vs-patriots-week-14-preview/

A lifelong Dolphins fan, Gabe graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in December of 2017 with a bachelors of science in mass communications, with a concentration on print & online journalism. He has interned with Source Media in New York City and with the Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. When not watching sports, you can catch Gabe in line at Chipotle or Chick-Fil-A or binge-watching some of his favorite TV shows, such as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer, or Impractical Jokers. You can follow him on Twitter @GabeHauari.

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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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