Recap: Miami Dolphins defeated their AFC East Rival

Credit: NBC Sports

On Sunday, the Miami Dolphins defeated their AFC East rival New England Patriots in their season opener. Last season, Miami lost their week 1 matchup in New England. This year, after barely missing the playoffs 9 months ago, they needed to get off to a fast start.

They got the job done. No one expected a pretty, high-scoring game. It was expected that it would be a defensive dog fight until the end, and that’s exactly what happened. A game that consisted of three turnovers and six punts ended in a 17-16 victory for the Dolphins.

OFFENSE

On the first play from scrimmage, Tua Tagovailoa hit rookie WR Jaylen Waddle for a gain of 17 on an RPO. RPO’s were a huge part of the Dolphins offense on Sunday.

Although the run game struggled a bit, Myles Gaskin had a 15 yard carry on that drive as well. The drive ended with a 3-yard TD run from Tua on an RPO. 

Unfortunately for Miami, the offense cooled off and punted three straight times. A big part of that was inconsistency from the offensive line. 

The Dolphins put together another good drive on their final possession of the first half. On the first play of the drive, Tagovailoa found Jaylen Waddle down the left sideline for a gain of 36-yards. They put together an 8-play 45-yard drive and let Pro Bowl kicker Jason Sanders tie the game 10-10 going into half.

On the very first drive after halftime, Miami faced a big 3rd & 8. The offense stepped up and Tua Tagovailoa threw a strike to Devante Parker for 30-yards. 

That gave Miami life, and the drive ended in Jaylen Waddle’s first career touchdown catch.

One of Miami’s most crucial drives resulted in 0 points. When Xavien Howard forced a fumble and gave Miami the ball back with 3:31 to go, the game wasn’t over. The Dolphins were at their own 9-yard line and had to drain more than 3 minutes off the clock to secure the win. That isn’t easy, especially against Bill Belichick. After a holding, they faced a 1st & 14 at their own 5. Tua delivered a strike to Devante Parker who picked up 13-yards. 

The Dolphins secured the win when short yard specialist and former Patriots SB Champion Jacoby Brissett took a QB sneak for 2-yards.

The Dolphins offense wasn’t always the prettiest on Sunday, but they stepped up when they needed to. 

Offensive Positives:

  • Once again, Devante Parker proved that when he’s healthy, he can be a huge part of the Miami Dolphins offense.
  • The Miami Dolphins have a plan for Jaylen Waddle. He was used in pre snap motion, and caught passes all over the field. 
  • Rookie Liam Eichenberg was a solid starter at LT in place of Austin Jackson.

Offensive Negatives:

  • The run game was inconsistent. Miami averaged just 3.2 YPC.
  • The offensive line was inconsistent. They showed they are very capable on some plays, but on others, it was a serious issue.
  • Tua Tagovailoa looked to be slightly uneasy when the pocket collapsed fast around him, but that shouldn’t raise any eyebrows at this point.

Defense

Knowing they were going to have to step up and be a big part of the reason Miami wins, the defense did just that.

On the first play from scrimmage, Miami was gashed by Damien Harris on a 35-yard carry. They bounced back and Christian Wilkins caused a Mac Jones fumble. The Patriots were taken out of field goal range and forced to punt.

On the ensuing possession, they did what they do best. They forced a turnover. Sunday’s game was Miami’s 23rd straight game with a takeaway. 

The Dolphins bend but don’t break defense and allowed a Patriots field goal, but held up very well in the redzone.

On the next drive, the Dolphins allowed their first touchdown of the season. All Dolphins fans will agree, this should have ended in a field goal at best. On 3rd & 1, Elandon Roberts sacked Mac Jones for a loss of 12, but was flagged for a questionable roughing the passer. The Patriots ended up scoring. 

The defense allowed two more field goal drives, but their best sequence came on New England’s final possession of the day.

The Patriots took over at the 50-yard line down by 1. After a 4:36 drive, they had a 1st & 10 at Miami’s 11-yard line. The Dolphins were on the verge of losing in New England, again. That’s when Xavien Howard happened. Damien Harris ran up the middle and the Dolphins star cornerback forced a fumble. Miami recovered

Defensive Positives:

  • Xavien Howard. They reworked his contract to bring him back this summer, and he forced and recovered the game-sealing fumble
  • Rookie Jevon Holland played less than 50% of defensive snaps, but was great when he was on the field. He was ranked PFF’s highest rated rookie.
  • The Dolphins didn’t miss many tackles. Missed tackles have been a major issue in the past, and they were much improved on Sunday.

Defensive negatives:

  • The Dolphins lack of pass rush was concerning at times. Letting Josh Allen stand in the pocket for what feels like an hour on Sunday could be a disaster.
  • The Dolphins run defense, which has been an issue in the past, was an issue on Sunday. The defense allowed over 4 YPC.
  • The Dolphins heavily relied on zone coverage when most of their cornerbacks are tremendous man to man players. Whether it was a lack of trust in the linebackers to cover, or an effort to make Mac Jones play checkdown football, it’s something to monitor.

Overall

The Dolphins in previous years would’ve found a way to lose this game. The team played complimentary football and beat a Belicheck coached team in New England to open the season. Improvmets need to be made, but the Dolphins are 1-0 and off to a good start.

Practice Squad and Covid List Moves in Miami

Credit: Sports Mockery

The Dolphins were in the news early on Labor Day. LT Austin Jackson and TE Adam Shaheen were placed on the Covid-19/reserve list this morning. The Dolphins also made a number of adjustments to the practice squad.

Practice Squad Moves

WR Isaiah Ford was signed to the Dolphins practice squad. After his release last week, it seemed like it was only a matter of time until he was back in aqua and orange. Ford is familiar with the Dolphins organization having spent most of his career in South Florida. He will be a good piece for Miami to keep around.

Carl Tucker joined the practice squad this morning as well. He spent the entire offseason with Miami but was released last week during the final wave of cuts. In a year where players can be lost due to COVID, the Dolphins want players who have spent time with the team. 

Tino Ellis was released from the practice to make room for these moves.

CB Jamal Perry was activated to the roster. He is available to play as a replacement, per Barry Jackson.

Official Practice Squad

The Dolphins released their complete practice squad roster this morning. Practice Squads are normally made up of 16 players. In Miami’s case, they are able to keep 17. With IPP Pathway player Durval Queiroz Neto, Miami gets an extra player exemption.

Out of 17 players, 13 were a part of the Dolphins preseason roster. 

It would make sense that the Dolphins want to keep familiar faces around during a season in which COVID-19 could disrupt some plans. As a matter of fact, the Dolphins are dealing with COVID-19 issues just 6 days before their season opener.

COVID-19 LIST

This morning, LT Austin Jackson and TE Adam Shaheen were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. 

Due to the NFL’s COVID-19 policies for unvaccinated players, Shaheen will be unable to play in Sunday’s game in New England. Per NFL and NFLPA policy, Shaheen will miss at least 10 days. 

With Shaheen missing time, it opens the door for rookie TE Hunter Long.

Although it is unknown whether Jackson is vaccinated, he may still be available for Sunday’s game, indicating he is. 

If Jackson is unable to play, recently traded for OT Greg Little could get the start at LT. Brian Flores said they will try multiple combinations on the OL this week in practice before deciding the starting OL for Sunday’s game. Although Jackson can still play, the Dolphins will prepare as if he won’t be available.

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Dolphins Officially Cut Down Their Roster

Credit: WPEC 12

After making some cuts yesterday, the Dolphins officially cut down their roster to 53 players.

It’s the end of a life-long dream for some players. Others will sign elsewhere or join Miami’s practice squad.

There aren’t any “surprises,” but there are some moves that will make some Dolphins fans emotional.

Kirk Merritt, WR

Kirk Merritt fought all offseason to make enough of an impression on the coaching staff. Unfortunately for Merritt, Miami has their deepest WR room in years. 

Fans would’ve loved to see Merritt make the team, but there wasn’t room.

Do not be surprised if he joins Miami’s practice squad. Although, for that to happen, Miami hopes he doesn’t get signed elsewhere.

Carl Tucker, TE

Unfortunately for Tucker, he wasn’t going to make this team. He was considered a camp body at best.

In a TE room with a rising-star, rookie, and at least two veterans with experience, he wasn’t going to make it.

Kai Locksley, WR

Kai Locksley is a cool story. He was the starting QB at UTEP for 3-years before going undrafted in the 2020 draft. In an effort to keep his NFL dreams alive, the 6’4 210 pounder converted to WR.

Locksley, like any other receiver being cut, had a lot of guys in front of him. 

Being able to make it to the last wave of cuts for a QB turned WR is impressive.

Chris Myarick, TE

Dolphins fans won’t forget Myarick for a little while. He had the game-winning TD catch against Cincinnati in the final preseason game.

Similarly to Carl Tucker, there aren’t enough spots at TE for Myarick.

Reid Sinnett, QB

The Dolphins have their franchise Qb. They also have one of the best backups in the league. It is uncommon to carry 3 QB’s on the active roster.

Miami is hoping he clears waivers and they can sign him to the practice squad. He showed flashes of potential and Miami would love to have him in case they ever need a familiar face in the QB room.

Jonathan Ledbetter, DE

Ledbetter was someone who could have made one of the final spots in the DE room. He’s been in Miami and made some plays this preseason. As is the case at many positions, he was buried on the depth chart.

Ledbetter is a hard-worker who could be a practice squad candidate.

Cre’von LeBlanc, CB

LeBlanc has been outside looking in for a while now. Competing with other veteran players who are very versatile made it very tough for him to make this team. 

Jason Stowbridge, DL

The Dolphins drafted Stowbridge in the 5th-round of the 2020 draft. 

Last year, in 8 games, he recorded 3 tackles.

Stowbridge was playing with the 3rd-team and didn’t make enough of a jump to beat out the veterans ahead of him.

Patrick Laird, RB

Laird was fighting for the fourth spot in the RB room with rookie Gerrid Doaks. Well, that’s what everyone thought. Then, Miami decided to keep 3 RB’s.

With Ahmed and Gaskin being the duo and FA signing Malcolm Brown being the third back, Laird was out.

He remains a PS candidate as a familiar player within the organization.

Malcolm Perry, WR

The Dolphins released Malcolm Perry, the 2nd year player out of Navy. Unlike the players above who are “PS candidates,” the Dolphins have already decided that they will sign him to the PS if he goes unsigned.

He took reps at PR, but Jakeem Grant kept that job, and he didn’t do enough as a WR yet to keep a spot. Miami knows he can be very useful if utilized properly, and will keep him around if possible.

Calvin Munson, LB

Munson was listed as a 4th-team LB on the depth chart. He appeared in all 16 games for Miami last year, but with FA signings and players returning to full health, Munson was released.

Josh Harvey-Clemons, LB

Harvey-Clemons was an even longer shot than Munson. He was listed 5th on the depth chart.

With a plethora of depth at the position, Miami made an easy move.

Adam Pankey, OL

Pankey could have been a depth piece. Miami traded for Greg Little and Greg Mancz recently, which filled the room a little bit. 

Pankey did not impress in the preseason, which is definitely not what Miami needs right now.

Cameron Tom, C

Miami wasn’t going to carry three center’s. 

Before three days ago, it was going to be Michael Dieter and Matt Skura. However, the Dolphins traded for Greg Mancz yesterday and released Skura.

With Mancz and Dieter clearly safe, the Dolphins released Tom.

Gerrid Doaks, RB

Doaks was waived by Miami. If he clears waivers, Miami might re-sign him to the practice squad. Doaks and Patrick Laird were thought to be competing for the 4th spot in the RB room, but it seems Miami is only keeping three(on the active roster).

Miami is going to need an RB or two on the PS, and Doaks is a great candidate.

Javaris Davis, CB

Similar to most CB’s on this list, it was going to be tough for Davis to make the roster. He was competing with rookie Trill Williams and others, but couldn’t get through the final wave. 

He had shown potential before suffering an injury. According to Barry Jackson, Miami would like him back on the practice squad.

Kylan Johnson, LB

Johnson, similar to Harvey-Clemons, was going to have a tough time making up ground. He was seen as a camp body. It’s not impossible for players like him to make the team, but it was a longer long-shot. 

The Dolphins are deep at LB, which made this move even easier.

Durval Quieroz Neto, OL

Everyone wanted Neto to make this roster. The Brazilian player Miami signed from the IPP program was going to have to fight for his spot.

This move is slightly confusing, as Neto still had a year of exemption left from the IPP program.

Miami is very likely to keep him on the practice squad with that rule, though.

Benito Jones, DL

Benito Jones was waived today as well. He has shown potential during his time in South Florida, but had to battle with other veterans.

With Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins being the young leaders followed by veterans Butler and Jenkins, Jones finds himself the odd man out.

Shaquem Griffin, LB

Griffin was competing for one of the last spots in the LB room. Some thought that the passion and locker room presence he brought to the team would give him the edge over someone else. 

Fans aren’t going to love the move, but if he clears waivers, he may return to the PS. 

Miami will likely make more transactions over the next 24-48 hours. 

Miami Dolphins Cut Down to 81

Credit: Palm Beach Post

As of 4 PM EST today NFL league rules dictate rosters must be cut down to 81 players.

The Dolphins announced they released 3 players and played one on IR.

Jermaine Eluemunor, OL

Eluemunor came from New England during this offseason and was a depth piece for the team. After trading for OT Greg Little and seeing a slightly better OL performance on Saturday, the Dolphins released Eluemunor. 

This opens up the door for IPP player Durval Quieroz Neto.

Isaiah Ford, WR

This Dolphins released WR Isaiah Ford today. He’s had multiple stints with the team and always finds his way back to Miami. In a WR room with at least 7 guys who can make the roster, Ford had to show more over the last few weeks. 

Unfortunate for Ford, but good news for other WR’s like Kirk Merritt.

Robert Foster, WR

Robert Foster was released with an injury designation. He had shown some flashes of potential, but similarly to Ford, the WR was too crowded. His injury makes it an easier cut for Miami. 

This makes it clear that Mack Hollins will make the roster. He’s had a great offseason, and that isn’t a surprise.

Lynn Bowden, WR

The Dolphins placed Lynn Bowden Jr. on IR with a hamstring injury. This move is going to most likely end his season. Miami can release him with an injury designation and then choose to resign him. In that case, though, Bowden would be an FA and could sign anywhere.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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Improvements We’d Like to See

Credit: Trojan Wire

Last Saturday, the Dolphins fell to the Bears in their first preseason game. The Dolphins starting offense showed signs of life, but only put up 3 points. The starting defense locked down the Bears offense. There were still issues for Miami though. Containing Justin Fields and poor OL play were the most significant. 

Below is a list of improvements we’d like to see in tonight’s game versus Atlanta.

OFFENSE

The starting OL was below average. 2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson had the toughest day out of everyone.

Austin Jackson was the lowest rated Dolphins OL versus Chicago

On one play, he was driven straight back at QB Tua Tagovailoa. Jackson was thrown back and flew into Tagovailoa’s legs. The Dolphins escaped disaster on that play. Jackson stayed in after most starters were pulled and finished the first half. The Dolphins will look for more consistent pass protection from Jackson against an Atlanta DL that isn’t as dangerous as Chicago’s. The Dolphins traded for OT Greg Little, so it’s no secret Austin Jackson’s performance was a concern.

The running backs didn’t have a great performance. Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed showed potential with the first-teamers, but hesitated and lacked vision at times. FA signing Malcolm Brown also struggled, with 9 yards on 8 carries.

Some of these struggles could be attributed to poor OL play, but the RB’s weren’t doing their part either. 

Ahmed was solid in the passing game and has been contributing all week at practice. Although Miami plans on a committee-styled RB room, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ahmed get more work with the starters.

It will be important to keep an eye on all the RB’s and see how they fare against a slightly easier front-7 in the Falcons.

DEFENSE

The starting defense got off to a great start, and the Bears didn’t pick up a first down until the end of the first half. There were still issues with the defense later on in the game.

Miami has always struggled against mobile QB’s, or any QB once they get outside the pocket. Last week, Bears rookie Justin Fields showed that it was still an issue.

Although Matt Ryan and AJ McCarron aren’t dual-threats, Feleipe Franks is. If Franks gets time with the 2nd-team, it will be interesting to see how Miami’s front-7 contains him. 

The pass rush was lackluster for the most part. Besides a handful of good plays, Fields had plenty of time to throw. In that game though, rookie Jaelan Phillips and Emmanuel Ogbah didn’t play. If Miami can get into the Falcons backfield, the defense is going to be even scarier than last week.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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