For the fourth week in a row, the Dolphins have found themselves as winners. This time, Miami won in decisive fashion vs the Panthers, with a final score of 33-10.
This game brought hope to Dolphins fans, and for good reason. This game showed the formula many thought they would at the beginning of the season. A combination of stellar defense and opportunistic, ball-control-based offense has gotten Miami wins over the last four games.
When watching the All-22 tape on NFL Gamepass, it was clear that Miami’s plan is starting to work out, and here are five things that stood out when watching the film for Dolphins vs Panthers.
Fantastic Phillip Lindsay
Following being waived by the Houston Texans, running back Phillip Lindsay was claimed by the Miami Dolphins, who were looking for another back to complement young guns Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.
Coming off a short week, it was uncertain if Lindsay would play, but, as he explained, he was quick to get into the facility and study the playbook.
It was clear that the hard work, even in minimum snaps, has paid off. The two-time thousand-yard rusher showed, even with a below-average OL, why he was so successful in Denver.
Above all other traits, his burst and awareness have stood out. Other backs, especially Myles Gaskin, seem to wait for holes to develop. This, although valuable with a good OL, becomes an issue when there isn’t time to sit back.
Lindsay, on the other hand, is constantly moving. Even when the hole isn’t there, his feet are always driving forward, raising his floor on yards to gain. Even when he gets tackled early in the play, his forward momentum keeps him from losing yards.
Along with this, his pass blocking is a thing of beauty. On QB Tua Tagovailoa’s 57-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle, Lindsay makes up for OT Liam Eichenberg, who got beat on the play. Coming out of the backfield, he demonstrated textbook blocking, attacking the rusher and providing his quarterback a throwing window.
The Tuscaloosa Connection
Throughout college, Tua Tagovailoa found success in getting the ball out quickly in the RPO game, typically to his track team at wide receiver. The Dolphins, after drafting Tua thought that the best way to maximize the young quarterback was getting his collegiate teammate, Jaylen Waddle.
Through the first few games of the season, it was apparent that Tua and Waddle had chemistry, the level of which was unknown.
Now, however, as the season progresses, we can see that the 2nd year quarterback is significantly more comfortable with Waddle than any other receiver.
Throughout the game vs the Panthers, Tagovailoa targeted Waddle on a variety of looks, including several tightly contested looks, which contradicted notions on Tua coming out of college that he was unwilling to make risky throws.
More impressive, however, was the ability that Tua and Waddle have to know when the ball is coming out, and where. Tua, through repetition and natural chemistry, consistently throws the ball to Waddle before, or as, he’s coming out of his break. A prime example of this is the touchdown between the two.
When Tua releases the ball on a curl route, Waddle has yet to turn around and has three defenders near him. The ball was not only thrown early, but also put in a perfect spot for the rookie to make the play. That anticipation was a trait Tua was praised for at Alabama, and it seems Waddle is bringing it out now.
This was not the only instance of this chemistry, however, as the aforementioned 57-yard play showed the duo’s promise as well.
Following the Lindsay block, Tua put the ball right in the middle of the field as Waddle made his break. Knowing his ability to move after the catch, his throw gave Waddle ample room to work, even with a safety coming down.
Tagovailoa and Waddle connected nine times for 137 yards and a touchdown, and this game looked promising for the duo.
Jaelan Phillips is Legit
This year, after a rough start, had been largely dominated by rookies Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle. Their ability to make impact plays has certainly been noticed, and both have flashed in crucial moments.
However, Dolphins fans and media alike had seemed to forget about the first-round pick, Jaelan Phillips. Coming out of UM, Phillips was regarded as a potentially elite pass rusher with a deep bag of tricks. This left Miami fans excited when he fell to them at the 18th pick.
Despite the hype, however, Phillips had failed to produce by all simple counting stats. While it seemed that he was getting close, he was rarely able to get home. Dolphins fans became frustrated, and it seemed that the optimism for Phillips faded as it grew for Waddle and Holland.
When the Dolphins took on the Panthers, all of it started to come together.
Coming out Party
Against an offensive line ranked among the worst in the league, Phillips was able to tally three sacks, a pass deflection, and a pressure leading to an INT.
The numbers, however, weren’t as impressive as the tape on the plays themselves.
In particular, his work from the inside, with Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge, was spectacular. With Ogbah taking an outside route, Phillips was often left 1-on-1 with a guard. His combination of size and speed left these guards in the dust, and him in the backfield at will. With a skill-set as refined as Phillips’, it will be very difficult to stop him without tackle help.
It’s clear that Miami has something special with Ogbah and Phillips, and I suspect they will use that pairing on the same side more often.
Improved Play Calling
Going into this season, Miami knew their offense needed to improve from the 15th ranked scoring unit. Thus, when they opted to make in-house coordinator hires, many were confused. A staff that was unable to produce a consistent offensive scheme would now be led by play-callers with limited experience.
These concerns lingered into the season, as Miami’s offense was dwelling near the bottom of the league. Many were calling for the jobs of Studesville and Godsey, and Miami had lost seven straight.
However, they seemed to have found their stride in the winning streak, both of which continued on Sunday.
Operating out of heavy pistol sets with lots of pre-snap motion, Miami was able to create misdirection. The threat of motion-man Albert Wilson stressed defenses to his side, while Jaylen Waddle and Durham Smythe were able to find soft spots in coverage.
Miami also used these looks to create counters from a play they love to run: the wheel to Albert Wilson.
Against both the Jets and Ravens, Miami teased this formation, running a deep wheel route to Wilson in both games. It was clear Miami wanted defenses to pick up the idea, and I had clamored on Twitter for counters.
Those wishes came to fruition on Sunday, as Miami ran almost their entire offense out of this formation. This base set led to several different runs, short and intermediate passes. With the Panthers expecting the wheel route, Miami was able to catch Carolina off guard and tear them apart underneath.
The offense will still need to improve over the coming weeks, but they are trending up during the most important stretch of their season.
Area Of Improvement
Even in a 23-point win, there were areas of the team that were less than ideal. One that stuck out was the offensive line.
On three separate occasions, Miami’s offensive lineman gave up pressures or bad snaps that ruined potential scoring drives.
On separate drives, Jesse Davis and Liam Eichenberg were beaten badly, leading to crucial sacks on Tua and then punts.
The other drive, before the half, contained one of Austin Reiter’s several bad snaps. After going too low, Tua was unable to recover the snap, and Carolina turned a potential Miami FG into one of their own.
If Miami is to continue their streak, eliminating drive-ending mistakes is crucial, and those start with the OL.
The Bottom Line
The Miami Dolphins are showing signs of life, and are only two games below 500. With games against the Giants and Jets upcoming, Miami has a chance to contend for a playoff spot.
Whether it’s too late is yet to be determined, but Miami has continued to improve over the last month. The tape continues to get better, and Miami looks like the team we envisioned back in August.
The coming weeks will be the most telling, and it will be exciting to see if Miami can complete the miraculous comeback season.
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