Erik Ezukanma and the Miami Dolphins Most Underrated Need

The Miami Dolphins have a number of needs to address this off-season, but another wide receiver is one that might be overlooked.

The Miami Dolphins are heading into one of the most pivotal off-seasons in quite some time. 2022 was a step in the right direction, but going into what is likely year two of Miami’s three-year Super Bowl window, the time is now to fill their remaining needs.

Throughout last season, the needs were obvious: linebacker, offensive line, tight end, and some secondary depth.

While each of those will need to be filled this spring to reach the next level, there is another position that could use some help: Wide receiver.

At first glance, that idea makes no sense. Miami has arguably the best receiving duo in the league in Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. They also spent capital on Cedrick Wilson, Erik Ezukanma, and Trent Sherfield. The group looks deep, but there’s a role that must be filled. That role being the versatile possession receiver who can be used in either the slot or in contested catch situations downfield.

Sure, Sherfield did a fine job there in spurts, but it was clear that he was never the long-term solution. Miami went out of their way to draft Erik Ezukanma, whose skillset was acquired to complement Waddle and Hill.

On The Roster

Ezukanma is clearly the wild card here. He only appeared in one game all season, which is a bit concerning for someone who looks to step into a big role. It was clear in college that his tape matched what Miami was looking for. However, they opted not to play him until Week 18.

If he can elevate his game into someone who is not only a contributor, but a plus player, then this conversation goes out the window. However, if he doesn’t, Miami maintains this need for a versatile receiver with a knack for contested catch situations.

This need is even more prevalent if Miami loses Mike Gesicki. Miami’s number one tight end and jump ball threat has likely played his last snap as a Dolphin after posting some of the lowest numbers of his career. This leaves little to no options for jump ball opportunities, as well as a void as a big slot. When you really look at it, it becomes obvious this has to be on the Miami Dolphins’ list of roster needs heading into the offseason.

Miami will have options when it comes to filling this void, although they may be limited. The free agency pool is barren at receiver, and with Miami already spending big money last year, they may opt out this time around.

The first is staying pat. Miami clearly had faith in the aforementioned Ezukanma when he was drafted, and the athletic profile is there.

The Rookie Route

However, if they feel they need another draft pick to fill the role, there are several intriguing options. Xavier Hutchinson of Iowa State was at the Senior Bowl, and combines the size and technique needed to play both outside and inside as a big slot.

Purdue’s Charlie Jones is also intriguing. Another natural fit in the slot, who also has hands made of glue. On top of that, he is expected to run in the 4.3 second range in the 40-yard dash. This would be an added bonus to Miami’s already fast offense.

Even later on in the NFL draft, Puka Nacua from BYU is certainly intriguing. His 6’1″ 210 pound frame is certainly big enough for the slot and his knack for finding soft spots in zones could be crucial in this offense.

The bottom line is this isn’t the Miami Dolphins’ number one need. If you were to list them out by position, it may not even be top five. Despite this, it’s needs like these that Super Bowl teams iron out. The future of the big slot may already be on the roster, or it may be filled this off-season. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Miami addresses it.

Potential Senior Bowl Draft Targets for the Miami Dolphins

The Senior Bowl has wrapped up in Mobile, and the Miami Dolphins could take a look at some of the top prospects.

The Senior Bowl brings the top collegiate talent to Mobile, Alabama for a week of practice, and more importantly, opportunity to show NFL teams, including the Miami Dolphins, that they can perform under NFL coaching.

Miami may not have a first round pick, but still has five other draft selections, and will look to add depth to a team that made the playoffs last season.

Through my week in Mobile, I was able to take a look at some of the top prospects in the country, and a few stood out as potential fits for the Dolphins in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Miami Dolphins Draft Targets from the Senior Bowl

Tyjae Spears, RB Tulane

Named the Player of the Week by NFL executives, Spears was electric in practice each of the three days. His explosiveness and start-stop ability were evident in one-on-ones and team drills, having several plays that elicited oohs and aahs from those in attendance.

Spears is certainly quick enough for Mike McDaniel’s outside zone scheme, and has the versatility out of the backfield that Miami typically looks for. The Tulane product was dominant in his route-running reps vs. linebackers, including a double move that has broken #DraftTwitter over the last few days.

Tyjae Spears, known destroyer of ankles, runs a double-move route.

With incumbents Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert entering free agency, it’s possible we see Miami look to the draft to select a running back, and Spears has the traits needed to succeed as a lead back.

Jake Haener, QB Fresno State

After multiple strong performances at practice throughout the week, Fresno State’s Jake Haener won the MVP of the Senior Bowl Game on Saturday, and for good reason.

From practice to practice, Haener consistently showed that he can be a high-floor backup and spot starter from day one. His progressions are some of the best in this class, and was the most consistent in Mobile.

I spoke to Jake Haener regarding his performance in College and at the Senior Bowl.

If Miami loses Teddy Bridgewater to free agency this spring, they will certainly be in the market for a backup quarterback. Furthermore, Tua’s injury concerns may force Miami’s hand to select someone who is more pro-ready, and Haener looks to be exactly that.

Will Mallory, TE Miami

Another potential position of need, and another top performer throughout the week in Mobile. This time, however, it comes in the form of Hurricane’ tight end Will Mallory.

Will Mallory makes a nice block in practice.

Mallory had a strong last two days of practice, showing sure hands and sound technique blocking in the run game. Contested catches were the story of the week, and Mallory had several, including a diving catch up the seam.

Mike McDaniel preaches versatility, and the tight end position is no different. If Miami is looking for a tight end on day three, it’s possible we could see Mallory stay in the same stadium to start his pro career.

Jammie Robinson, S Florida State

With Vic Fangio coming to town, the Dolphins’ defensive principles have changed. Post-snap rotations are common place, and Miami is expected to run much more two-high safety coverages. Thus, the need for safety may be necessary.

Among the top performers at safety, the versatile Jammie Robinson stood out to me. At only 5’10” and 194 pounds, he plays (and hits) far bigger than his size. Box play and versatility were his strong suits at Florida State, but in Mobile, we had the chance to see some different traits.

Jammie Robinson battles with Rashee Rice.

Specifically, Robinson excelled as a high safety in red-zone situations, flying around and making plays on the football. Miami already has one ball hawk in Jevon Holland, and if Robinson continues to improve in this aspect, it’s possible he could form a dangerous duo with the Oregon product.

Mekhi Blackmon, CB USC

It is another DB who makes the last spot on the list, and Southern Cal’s Mekhi Blackmon is no slouch. He proved himself as a smart, instinctual corner who has a knack for playing the football.

While Blackmon isn’t the most athletic corner in the class, he held his own against some of the most dangerous receivers at the Senior Bowl. Namely, Jayden Reed, who named Blackmon his toughest matchup during a media breakfast interview with ATB’s own Luke Krumich.

Mekhi Blackmon wins vs Jayden Reed.

Size may be a concern for Blackmon, who is only 182 pounds, but if he’s available come day three, the Miami Dolphins could look to the Senior Bowl corner build depth on a position that saw several key injuries in 2022.

Next Steps for the Miami Dolphins This Offseason

The Miami Dolphins suffered a historic collapse in 2022, and the offseason brings the potential for notable moves.

The Miami Dolphins have had a roller coaster of a season to say the least. Each time they have seemingly pulled away from Wild Card contention, they completely neutralized their winning streaks, and are now sitting at 8-8 with a game to go.

There is still a chance to make the playoffs, which will lie in the hands of Skylar Thompson against the New York Jets. If Miami can win (along with a Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills), they will secure their first playoff berth since 2016.

However, it is clear that there are underlying issues within this franchise, many of which need to be solved this offseason in order to maximize the potential of the Mike McDaniel regime. Thus, here are some potential solutions to the issues the Miami Dolphins face this offseason.

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer could be fired this offseason
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Doug Murray

The Josh Boyer Problem

When the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, they maintained a supreme confidence in their defensive coaching staff from the Flores regime. It was clear that they saw that unit as the catalyst for their back to back winning seasons, and that faith extended to defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.

That faith, however, seems to have been misplaced. With similar talent to Miami’s opportunstic units of the past, the Dolphins’ defense has fallen off a cliff. They rank 27th in points per game and are 30th in takeaways. That’s a far cry from their significant successes in those areas over the past two seasons.

Their pressure numbers have also clearly been lacking. Despite trading for Bradley Chubb, they are middle of the pack in sacks. Along with this, they have been unable to gain pressure without blitzing. With a pass rushing duo as promising as Jaelan Phillips and the aforementioned Chubb, the volume of blitzes and schemed pressures called by Josh Boyer has been dumbfounding.

The bottom line is that Miami needs a new defensive coordinator. There is simply too much talent along the defensive front to struggle the way they have. Some have suggested switching to a 4-3 scheme, which makes sense with the personnel on the roster.

Phillips and Chubb can play strictly on the edge, with Sieler and Wilkins wreaking havoc on the interior. The potential change is a more natural fit for their skill sets, and would limit mismatches in crucial situations.

Either way, it’s clear that it’s time to make a change on the defense. Moving on from the final Flores holdover may be that step.

The Quarterback Conundrum

The end of the season has been catastrophic, regardless of playoff success, and the simple fact is that the quarterback play has not been up to par over the last month or so.

Following a five game winning streak where Miami didn’t play a single top ten defense, the Dolphins faced a tough December. It’s safe to say that the team, and specifically the quarterback, didn’t make the most of it.

Dolphins’ fans biggest fears were realized as, against Miami’s toughest stretch of opponents, Tua Tagovailoa absolutely collapsed. He threw less than 60% completions against the 49ers, Chargers, and Bills, as Miami lost all three. Then, in a Christmas day game against the Packers, Tagovailoa threw an interception on each of the offense’s three fourth quarter drives. It was later discovered that he suffered a concussion prior to those interceptions, but that only adds onto the concern over the “injury prone” label.

Miami is now playing their final games of the season with backup quarterbacks. Although they spent significant capital on Teddy Bridgewater, it’s clear that it hasn’t panned out. He has been unable to win any games to this point, and has been injured himself at times this season. With Tagovailoa bound to miss significant time, it’s important to secure a high level backup, and Bridgewater hasn’t been that.

The Quarterback Solution in the Miami Dolphins 2023 Offseason

This leaves two potential solutions, one of which is much more aggressive than the other. The first is to draft a young quarterback to back up Tua Tagovailoa. It’s clear that pursuing backups such as Jacoby Brissett and Bridgewater hasn’t worked. Thus, a rookie would not only potentially be more effective, but cheaper with a higher ceiling. This quarterback class has some depth, and Miami could bring in a young backup to excel in ways Bridgewater has failed.

The second path is far more controversial.

There are several starter-level quarterbacks rumored to be moved this offseason. Tom Brady and Derek Carr are expected to be free agents, while there are rumors of Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson being on the move as well.

It’s undeniable that Tua has improved this season. Miami’s offense sat atop the league for significant stretches with him at the helm. However, when you combine the injury history and consistent drop off against high-level opponents, it’s not a stretch to say that it may be in the Miami Dolphins’ best interest to be aggressive this offseason.

The Dolphins are likely squandering away the first year of a three-year Super Bowl window. Talents like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle don’t come around often, and outside of a historic comeback, their first year will have all been for not.

Miami must ensure that the next two years are different, and without a first round pick, they can’t secure a top flight quarterback prospect. Despite this, there are options available who provide a ceiling and consistency that Tagovailoa lacks. Miami has the chance to go from good to great, and Stephen Ross is tired of watching his years of spending be unfulfilling.

Photo Creit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Chris Grier Dilemma

The last of the potential moves would be the biggest, and it involves general manager Chris Grier.

Grier has been with the organization dating back to 2000, even predating owner Stephen Ross. He has continued to rise up the organization, becoming Ross’ right hand man and general manager in 2016.

Despite his rise, however, the Dolphins haven’t won a single playoff game in the last twenty years. The team seemingly finds themselves in the same position year-in and year-out, and Grier remains a constant. It was his recent work, however, that may be the final straw.

When the Miami Dolphins decided to go for a full rebuild in 2019, they positioned themselves for a crucial 2020 offseason. They held five picks in the first two rounds of that draft, including three firsts. Their haul? Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt, and Raekwon Davis.

The 2020 Blunder

The last two have been solid, with Hunt proving this season that he can be a cornerstone of Miami’s line. However, it’s the first round picks, Tua, Jackson, and Igbinoghene where the missteps are clear.

While the verdict on Tagovailoa is unclear, the same can’t be said about Justin Herbert. Taken only one pick later, Herbert has vastly outperformed his 2020 colleague. The last pillar of the Tua-Herbert debate was the idea that Herbert couldn’t win big games. That has now fallen with Herbert’s Chargers clinching a playoff spot and Miami on the outside looking in yet again.

Jackson and Igbinoghene are a similar story. Both have underperformed to their draft slot, with the latter struggling to see the field at all. While Jackson has started, his production has lacked, and this year he has been unable to stay healthy.

Thus, in arguably the most important draft in franchise history, Miami selected the following:

The wrong quarterback, a below average right tackle, a cornerback who doesn’t see the field, an above average right guard, and a starting caliber nose tackle.

This simply isn’t going to cut it for Grier, who is now seeing the successes of talents of like Justin Herbert, Justin Jefferson, and Jonathan Taylor (all of which were available with Miami’s respective first round picks).

It’s not unheard of for a team to keep a coach and hire a new general manager. That may very well be the path if Ross decides to move on from Grier.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Offseason

No matter what Ross ends up doing, it’s clear that a change needs to be made. Miami can ill afford to squander the Super Bowl potential of the high-end talent on this roster. Tyreek Hill may very well be the best Dolphin since Dan Marino, and his presence must be capitalized on.

It likely won’t be as drastic as firing a general manager, but there are reasonable changes to make. Time after time, Stephen Ross has seen his teams come up short and December and January. He holds the power to ensure that this time is the last and that the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl hopes are realized. That starts with this offseason.

Solving The Mystery of Quarterback Play in 2022

The 2022 NFL Season is off to an interesting start, and the quarterback position has some of the most intriguing trends thus far.

We are about a month into the NFL season: the perfect time for storylines to develop, narratives to run rampant, and for trends to begin to take shape. We have certainly seen our fair share of each since the beginning of the season. However, none quite contend with the oddities in 2022 at the most important position in sports: the quarterback.

Quarterback play is, far and away, one of the most difficult levels of success to quantify. Some use advanced stats, carefully calculated metrics which mean nothing without context, while others use “the eye test”, rummaging their way through hours of film in hopes of validating their takes. Both are certainly valuable, but neither can explain the trends we have seen this year.

To put it bluntly, 2022 has been one of the weirdest, and statistically worst, years of quarterback play we have seen in quite some time. The mainstays of years’ past have been inconsistent and, in some cases, outright disappointing, thinning out the upper echelon of signal callers.

Unless, that is, you look at the top of any of the league’s advanced stat categories, in which you will find many new faces. However, these aren’t the anomalies of years’ past, such as Mahomes in 2018 or Herbert in 2020. No athletic freak getting his first true chance with a high powered offense. Rather, a collection of veterans and castaways whose offenses have seen astronomical jumps through the first month.

The most astounding example thus far? None other than Geno Smith.

No Russ, No Problem

When Seattle shipped off Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a king’s ransom, it was widely anticipated that the Seahawks would not only be inheriting a downgrade in quarterback play, but a substantial one at that. However, Geno Smith has been, by almost all accounts, phenomenal for Seattle through the first five games.

Smith is currently first in passer rating, completion rate over expected, completion rate, and a higher average intended air yards, per NextGenStats, than Patrick Mahomes (8.8 to 7.7).

Smith had largely been written off by the league after his tenure with the New York Jets. He was viewed as a career backup and, despite his nine year career, only has two more starts than Justin Herbert. However, being called to start the season for only the third time in his career, he has outplayed his predecessor in future Hall-of-Famer Russell Wilson.

A Healthy Balance

However, this isn’t the statistical anomaly we typically see from advanced stats. Smith’s success has transferred over to the tape as well. His ability to make tight-window throws along with making big plays under pressure, in particular, have been the catalysts to his success.

Geno Smith throws with timing and anticipation to the end zone.

What has distinguished him from the ‘efficiency darlings’ of the past has been the carry over of efficiency to aggressive throws. Typically, many stats favor the conservative and those quick to take the check down. Geno Smith has once again been the outlier, combining getting the ball out quickly with a knack for hitting his occasional shots downfield.

Geno Smith has been efficient on his aggressive throws.

Smith has found ways through the first month to maximize his talent in ways that Wilson had struggled with. Without their former Super Bowl champion, many expected Seattle to be in the running for the number one pick. However, they’re still in the thick of a difficult NFC West with Geno at the helm. If these quarterback trends continue throughout 2022 for Smith, it’s feasible to see Seattle sneaking into a Wild Card spot.

Rocky Mountain Disaster

It is the other side of the trade involving Seattle and Denver that, for multiple reasons, has been a struggle thus far. Wilson’s had a rough go of it to start his career in Denver. While it isn’t all on him, he certainly bears some of the blame.

Wilson has long garnered the reputation as a playmaker. He has been regarded as somebody who can not only deliver in the pocket, but also when the pocket becomes murky. This year, Wilson has tried many of the same plays, putting a supreme level of trust in his weaponry. However, he’s been slower to reads, unwilling to let a play die, and all around worse as a passer.

As someone who has disregarded throwing over the middle of the field, Wilson made his money on his “moon ball”- the deep throws down the sideline to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf were the center of his game. However, when defenses are taking away the deep game, Wilson has been just as aggressive, albeit in risky situations.

Per NextGenStats, Wilson ranks top ten in both average intended air yards and aggressiveness percentage. However, this has resulted in a completion percentage 6.3 percentage points below expectation, among the likes of Joe Flacco and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Late Night Woes

All of this was on full display on primetime against the Indianapolis Colts. More specifically, on the throw shown below. Wilson feels pressure early, in large part due to the Broncos line, which hasn’t helped him much. However, the game situation would clearly dictate throwing the ball away.

It’s third down in the fourth quarter of a low scoring game. Living to play another down would likely mean the end of the game. Denver would be up by six, and Indianapolis had instilled no confidence in scoring a touchdown.

Despite this, Wilson decides to live and die by the big play, forcing the ball down the field and vastly overthrowing his target. Thus, Indianapolis is able to stay within a field goal and get the game to overtime.

It was in this overtime period, specifically the last play of the game, where Wilson and Hackett showed their pitfalls once again.

Denver has the ball on the five yard line on fourth and one. It’s do-or-die. If they fail to convert, Indianapolis wins the game. All Denver needs is a yard to keep the drive alive. Considering Denver’s rushing success on this drive, running the ball would likely be the solution. But Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson had other plans.

Uncharacteristic Mistakes

Hackett comes out in a light gun look, making it clear that he wants the end zone, and draws up a good play for Wilson. A simple pick to his right opens up KJ Hamler coming over the middle for what should be an easy touchdown.

However, Wilson, with all day to throw it, continues to stare down Courtland Sutton to the left. Keep in mind that Sutton is guarded by Stephon Gilmore, who already has a pick in this game.

Stephon Gilmore ends the game for Indianapolis.

Wilson continues to stare, forces the ball to his first read, and never sees Hamler. Gilmore is able to knock the ball down and win the game, on what looked like a rookie mistake from Wilson. It’s not often that we see a ten-year veteran stare down his first read this badly, much less force it into coverage.

The Broncos were widely expected to be a Super Bowl contender this year with Wilson and Hackett. However, both clearly have issues that must be ironed out, and are suffering because of them early on.

Super Bowl Hangover?

The Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson aren’t alone in their struggles, as the Super Bowl runners up have had their fair share as well. In the Cincinnati Bengals’ case, it’s also due to a combination of factors.

Last year, the Bengals’ deep attack was one of the best the league has ever seen. Jamar Chase and Tee Higgins excelled in one-on-one situations down the sideline, and Joe Burrow was hitting them at an all-time clip. It was the perfect storm of high-level deep accuracy and elite deep threats. Through this, they were able to annihilate defenses, and specifically single-high shells.

That being the primary feature of their offense was enough to get them a spot in the Super Bowl. In their championship bout, Cincinnati largely competed with the Los Angeles Rams. However, it was then that we began to see a counter form against their high-powered offense.

Simply put, teams began to move into more two-high defenses, preventing the deep passes the Bengals thrived upon. Along with this, Cincy faced more zone defenses, leading to fewer one-on-one situations for Chase and Higgins.

Not Enough Help

The typical counter to this would be to run the ball, and the numbers are simple. Coming out in two-high takes a player out of the box, and often gives a numbers advantage to the offense. The Bengals, on the other hand, haven’t been efficient enough in the run game to force teams back down. This is, in large part, due to their offensive line play.

It was well documented that Cincinnati’s fatal flaw last season was their offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked more than any other quarterback, and the run blocking wasn’t much better.

Thus, the Bengals spent significant capital this offseason on revamping the line. Signing La’el Collins, Ted Karras, and Alex Cappa, they hoped the veteran presence up front would solidify a contender. However, it’s clear that they haven’t gelled yet as a unit, and their individual play hasn’t been up to par either.

Despite these struggles, Cincinnati has largely been in close games, which is where more struggles — specifically Zac Taylor’s and Joe Burrow’s — have begun to show. The former’s play calling has been predictable and inefficient. Resorting to trick plays in the red zone and poorly managing short yardage situations have stood out among Taylor’s woes.

Law of Averages

Some of the blame, as stated before, does fall on Burrow’s shoulders. Unlike last year, the expectation wasn’t to hit on a historic percentage of difficult passes. However, this year has certainly been a fall from grace.

Along with the successful one-on-one shots being few and far between, Burrow has tried to overcompensate elsewhere. This was on full display in Week 1, where he threw four interceptions. What stood out on these plays was how much Burrow forced the ball into tight windows. Rather than taking what was in front of him, he tried too hard to be a playmaker and wrote checks that his arm — along with a majority of NFL arms, for that matter — couldn’t cash.

Minkah Fitzpatrick takes a Joe Burrow pass back for a pick-six.

This over-aggressiveness, along with the lack of help from his offensive line and coaching staff, has led to struggles for Burrow. While potentially predictable, it’s certainly uncharacteristic for what we’ve seen to this point in his career. Burrow has looked better recently, in particular against a depleted Dolphins secondary.

He will almost definitely improve down the stretch, but his quarterback play has been an interesting trend thus far in 2022, to say the least.

Other Interesting Trends in 2022 Quarterback Play

While Smith, Wilson, and Burrow have been the most interesting three, they aren’t the only quarterbacks to play outside of their expectations so far in 2022. Matthew Stafford and the Rams have struggled on offense, largely due to their offensive line play. Going into Week 5, they ranked 19th in pass-block win rate. When coupled with Stafford’s elbow injury concerns and the loss of Odell Bekcham Jr., regression has been rough.

On the flip side of the 2022 quarterback trends, we have also seen the development of several young quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts rank third and ninth in passer rating, up drastically from last season. Each with new and improved weapons and circumstances, they have taken advantage of a great opportunity. Both were in their “prove-it year”, and they have shown out to this point.

No article about the quarterback trends of 2022 would be complete without mention of Cooper Rush in Dallas. Now 5-0 in his career as a starter, Rush has kept the Cowboys afloat in relief of Dak Prescott.

However, it’s clear their offense misses their 40 million dollar quarterback and will start him when he returns. That isn’t to discount Rush, though, who has shown he belongs and made the most of his opportunity.

The Cowboys are certainly a better offense with Dak Prescott in the lineup.

The year is clearly still very early for quarterbacks. We may very well see the high risers fall back to Earth, or positive regression for the struggling veterans. However, it certainly has been a different year to say the least.

The NFL always has something new to offer, and their most important position has been no different. It will be exciting to see how these quarterback trends progress and change as the 2022 season moves on.

The Hidden Wrinkle in the Miami Dolphins Run Game

The Miami Dolphins significantly improved their offensive line, but it is their weaponry that could drastically improve their run game.

Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are preparing for their Week 1 matchup with the Patriots, and are doing so with some significant questions surrounding the team. However, none are bigger than the identity of their run game.

First year head coach Mike McDaniel’s run scheme, which he brings over from San Francisco, is lauded for both creativity and effectiveness. Whether it’s the variety of different looks, designed cutback lanes, or use of weapons such as Deebo Samuel, his ability to draw up successful run plays is a large part of what landed him the Miami job. Although, there is much work to do.

Miami’s offensive line had significant questions after finishing second-to-last in yards per carry in 2021, and even in adding high quality talent in Terron Armstead and Connor Williams, there remains cause for concern.

However, Mike McDaniel and Chris Grier have built this team in such a way where the offensive line isn’t the only advantage needed in the run game. It is the horizontal stretching, specifically by the deadly combo of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, that will keep defenses guessing.

Two High Safeties

Perhaps the most obvious effect of having two of the fastest receivers in the league is how defenses will play their safeties. Putting one high, which was really effective against both the run game and the short pass against the Miami Dolphins in 2021 won’t work this year. There are simply too many deep options that, even if teams don’t respect Tua Tagovailoa’s ability, he should be able to hit one every so often against one high safety.

Thus, teams will have to move back into two-high shells, which, in turn, takes one man out of the box. With a team that plans to run a lot of 11 personnel, it’s very possible we see a numbers advantage for the Miami Dolphins run game.

Not to mention, this also opens up the middle of the field, which is where Tua does his best work, as well as where Tyreek and Waddle have thrived.

Horizontal Stretching

Just as important as stretching out the defense vertically is what you can do from sideline-to-sideline. The Miami Dolphins are in a perfect situation to stretch defenses horizontally with their run game.

Not only will teams primarily have two high safeties on the field, they will have to protect the perimeter. This not only opens up the middle of the field, but also effectively takes those safeties out of a potential run play. Defenses will need to dedicate at least three defenders to the combination of Waddle and Hill (bracket one, put the best cornerback on the other). When combined with lighter boxes in scenarios where Miami trots out slot receiver Cedrick Wilson, it’s nearly impossible to stop all of the dynamic athletes.

For instance, picture this potential play in your head. Miami comes out in 20 personnel in the shotgun, with Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert to his left and right, Hill and Waddle on the perimeter, and Wilson in the slot. Teams already have to come out in a lighter package to account for the third receiver. However, if you send Edmonds on a bubble motion, that now draws out another defender from the box.

This now leaves an even lighter box for an offensive line that already creates numbers advantages through pulls, along with one of the fastest running backs in the league in Mostert with open gaps. Miami may not come out in gun often, but the point still stands. The opportunity to generate explosive plays in the run game should be there in this offense.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Run Game

Miami’s offensive line, no matter the external factors, must succeed this season. Tua Tagovailoa has demonstrated severe drop-off when consistently pressured, and we already know how the run game is affected.

However, their job may be a little easier knowing defenses have to account for a litany of weapons, headlined by two of the fastest players in the NFL. It will certainly be interesting to see how Mike McDaniel employs his players and scheme in such a way that can stretch out defenses in Week 1 and beyond.