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Miami Dolphins

With Nick O’Leary, Miami Are Resurrecting a Package of Plays from 2016

Travis Wingfield

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As the Miami Dolphins were putting the final touches on a game plan for the Tennessee Titans and the season opening game, starting Tight End MarQueis Gray was lost for the entirety of 2018.

Though the position was heading towards a committee approach, Gray’s Achilles injury forced Adam Gase to scrape an entire faction of the playbook.

In 2016, after a 1-4 start and injuries to the tight end position, Gray was elevated to a more considerable role in the offense. As a result, Gase adapted his approach. Miami were still primarily an 11-personnel team, but Gray’s strengths ushered in a new package of plays that could improve Miami’s run and pass game.

Jordan Cameron was the first starting tight end under Gase as a Head Coach. Using length and athleticism to capitalize on mismatches up the seam or on the backside of the formation, Gase was hoping for his own version of Julius Thomas.

Cameron played two games and never returned. Then, Gase took the literal approach to finding his Julius Thomas…by actually signing Julius Thomas. To the surprise of no one, that play went belly-up in 2017.

A year later Miami rebranded its offense with speed, quicks, and athleticism. The receiving corps was remade and the most athletic tight end to ever work out at the Scouting Combine was plucked in the second round of the draft.

Mike Gesicki flashed while in shorts and shells, but when the pads went on the rookie fell out of favor.

Gase was forced to adapt again. He did so by turning to Gray to lead the tight end rotation, while featuring Gesicki in more of a secondary role. That plan changed on the Friday before 2018’s kickoff game and leaving Gase with limited options.

The spread-style attack fluttered – particularly at the tight end position. Then Miami turned to A.J. Derby to fulfill that 11-personnel, Y-iso detach piece that Gase so greatly covets.

Two games later, Derby was down with a foot injury. Suddenly Gase was down to a pair of rookies that are still greener than the produce section. The collective inexperience of Gesicki and fellow-rookie Durham Smythe made Miami entirely one-dimensional in a pitiful offensive showing in Foxboro.

Enter Nick O’Leary.

O’Leary was a street free-agent after receiving his release from Buffalo on the 1st of September. Miami signed the former Mackey Award winner (best tight end in college football) to the practice squad in Late-September, then called him up to the active roster two days before the week-five game in Cincinnati.

O’Leary wound up playing 28 snaps against the Bengals. Eight of those saw O’Leary in pattern, four were in pass protection and 16 game in the running game. O’Leary pitched a shutout in pass pro (0 pressures allowed), but was marginal in the ground game.

Then, facing the league’s top defense, O’Leary got on the field for 52 snaps against the Bears. In addition to catching four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, he recorded another clean sheet in pass protection.

The contributions in the passing game, plus some high-level work in the ground game earned O’Leary Pro Football Focus’ top grade for all tight ends in week six.

The turnaround for O’Leary, and the Dolphins in general at this troublesome position, was the product of similar usage that made Gray a focal point in the 2016 offense.

Miami’s running game was strictly zone in 2016. The outside zone scheme created a temporary star in Jay Ajayi, but it was often Gray that was sealing the pivotal hole for big Ajayi runs.

The two clips below show Gray (2016) and O’Leary (Sunday vs. Chicago) working as the target points on a pair of successful outside zone plays.

A counter to outside zone, when facing an odd front (five down linemen), is the split zone concept. This features a tight end or H-back coming across the formation to dig out the backside linebacker. A dig out block looks similar to a wham block (we’ll cover that in a second).

This pair of clips shows two variations of split zone; one with Gray in 2016 as the dig out blocker, and one with O’Leary hitting the wham on an inside trap play. A wham block is simply inviting the tackle up-field without a block and using his own momentum to shove him out of the play with the tight end.

The deception of split zone can become more multiple depending on where the tight end lines up. The fortunate aspect of this formation for Miami is that Gray and O’Leary are capable in-line players which makes their peel-back, dig-out a bit of a surprise to the defense.

It’s a little less surprising when the tight end drops into the backfield and executes the same block.

Here we look at the threat of the in-line alignment. Once the run has been established, the play action with a naked boot opens up. Gray and O’Leary both play the role of the flat-level of the layers concept.

We’re going to show four clips here. First, Gray works the flat-under. This looks exactly like split zone, putting the outside linebacker in a bind where he has to make a decision to take on the block or play coverage. Indecision allows the Gray to win the flat.

The second look is a bluff as the backside block on outside zone. Instead, Ryan Tannehill tucks it and peels into a bootleg with Gray matching Tannehill on a sprint to the flat.

O’Leary’s pass targets were all working to the flat, but Gase added two variations. Dotting the i-formation, O’Leary finds space to the flat because of more deception. On each of these next two clips, O’Leary fakes the lead-dive (a run block) and sprints to the flat. The fake dive forces the ‘backer to honor the potential of a lead block.

Up first, a goal line package from an unbalanced line.

Now on their own goal line, O’Leary gets to the flat working off of play action to the strong side of the formation.

Brock Osweiler doesn’t have the athleticism or accuracy on the move of Tannehill, so the bootleg option might not be as attractive. However, Gase has proven he can create opportunities to get these easy completions to keep the offense on schedule.

Some times its Jimmy’s and Joe’s. But usually, it’s X’s and O’s.

@WingfieldNFL

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1 Comment

  1. Pacificfinfan1

    October 19, 2018 at 6:36 pm

    With O’Leary now in the roll Gray gave us I hope now Gesicki can get a package of plays to take advantage of his size and catch radius. Gesicki lined up a lot in the slot I would love to see him and Wilson stacked in the slot run combo routes and down at the goal line on the outside like a WR for 50/50. Exactly the way KC uses Kelce forget trying to get him to block.

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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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