How to Tell When the Miami Dolphins are Running Wildcat

Miami Dolphins huddle
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are, for the third week in a row, winners after defeating the Jets 24-17. After starting slowly, Miami was able to put up 17 second-half points, largely due to Tua Tagovailoa and his ability to shake off an early interception.

Although, the most interesting part of the game might have been the offensive gameplan. The Miami Dolphins consistently came out in Wildcat formation, where either a running back or wide receiver would take the snap. Then, they would choose to either hand off to another playmaker or keep the ball on a run up the middle.

The Dolphins, although coming out in Wildcat several times, were unable to find much success with the formation. A majority of their runs were stopped in the backfield or only gained a few yards.

A major possibility for Miami’s lack of success, along with mediocre offensive line play, may be a tell that signals when the Dolphins will motion into Wildcat.

While watching the game, I was able to uncover a small change in Miami’s pistol formation when they plan on motioning Tua out wide.

Below is a side-by-side photo of Miami’s pre-snap look in a pistol formation (in which the QB is not under center, and a running back is behind him). The play on the left is a reverse pass to Albert Wilson, while the one on the right motions into Wildcat.

The left is a Miami Dolphins pistol reverse play, while the right is a wildcat run play.
The left is a pistol reverse play, while the right is a wildcat run play.

The difference between the two, although subtle, is noticeable.

Tipping Their Hand.

When Miami plans on putting Tua in motion, they bring him closer to the line of scrimmage by a yard. The play on the left (a Wilson reverse) has Tua about three yards behind the center. On the other hand, the play on the right (which becomes Wildcat) has Tua only two yards behind.

Throughout the game, it was easy to tell if Miami was going to run Wildcat or not. If there were three yard markers in between Tua and the center, it was pistol. Only two yard markers, on the other hand, meant Wildcat motion was coming.

There are 3 yard markers in between Tua and Reiter on the left, only 2 on the right.

This clear tell, while not the only reason, may have contributed to Miami’s lack of success in the formation. In combination with poor offensive line play and an inability to create holes, Miami tipped their hand to the Jets’ defense.

Another interesting element, shown in the photos, is the difference in Tua’s foot placement.

On the Wildcat play (shown on the right), Tua’s feet are noticeably more flat and parallel to each other. The left, on the other hand, has his left foot much farther in front. This may have shown the Jets’ defense, in combination with the distance from the center, that motion was coming.

Through simple cues in body language and distance, it was easy to tell if the Wildcat formation was coming. This could be concerning for the future, as Miami continues to use the formation to establish the run. If teams know that the motion is coming, it becomes far easier to eliminate the idea of the pass and sell out against the run.

The Bottom Line

Miami must work on eliminating the simple tells in the Wildcat if they are to use it more often. They ran more Wildcat in this game than any other game this season, and teams will pick up on this trend.

If the formation is to be successful, the Dolphins will have to learn to not give away what’s coming, along with opening holes for their ball carriers.

It will be interesting to see if this tell continues to show in the coming weeks, and how defenses react to the Miami Dolphins Wildcat runs.

Thursday Night Football: A Chance to Change the Narrative

Following a week 9 win, the Miami Dolphins have an opportunity to shock the world against the Ravens on Thursday Night Football.

This season, as we all know, has been a rough one for The Dolphins. After winning a close game in week 1, the Dolphins began to lose grip on their season. Coaching miscues, injuries, and regression led to Miami losing 7 straight.

They finally snapped their streak on Sunday, grinding out a defensive battle without QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Although it seems that Miami’s season is likely over from a postseason perspective, there is still something to prove.

The NFL Playoff Picture going into week 10.

Brian Flores and Chris Grier must show ownership that there is reason for them to stay. A competitive game with one of the league’s premiere teams on Thursday Night Football could help the optics of their situation.

Optics is the operative word here. While Miami doesn’t much have to compete for as a team, individual players have a chance to define the early portions of their careers.

Primetime games present an opportunity that 1pm Sunday showdowns don’t: fans from across the league are watching, and their opinions on players often come from the very little they get to see from their specific teams.

A prime, and frankly, a painful example of this comes on December 26th, 2020.

A Cautionary Tale

Following an impressive win against New England, the Tua led Dolphins went into Las Vegas to take on the Raiders, with playoff hopes on the line. Little did they know, the public opinion of 2 players would change drastically that night, both in different directions.

The game started slow, with very little coming from either offense. Tua was struggling, and many of his completed passes were coming at or behind the line of scrimmage.

With 94 yards on 22 attempts, Miami was in need of a spark, and they made the decision that it wouldn’t come from Tua.

Tua was benched against Las Vegas.

Instead, Miami went with 38 year old veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fans were outraged, and the national media had begun to change their opinion. A quarterback once looked at as a potential star just failed to outperform a career backup.

Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, received an overwhelming amount of positive attention.

Impact of the Comeback

Following Tua’s benching, the veteran was able to go 9-13 for 182 yards and a touchdown, including the infamous facemask pass, to come from behind and give Miami a 1 point win.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Facemask Pass was the Best Play of 2020.

The media instantly reinstated the “Fitzmagic” nickname, and questioned whether Tua should remain the starter. Comparisons between the two QB’s play began to run wild on social media.

Tua’s status throughout the league began to diminish, as he slowly became looked at as a mediocre option. To this day, Tua seems to be of a low opinion to national media, while Fitzpatrick carries his nickname and the lore behind it.

Since then, Tua is 1-5 as the starter, and Miami has looked into other options at the QB position, such as troubled superstar Deshaun Watson. Part of the Dolphins diminishing opinion on Tagovailoa may have come from that December night.

Dolphins fielded questions regarding Deshaun Watson.

Although he performed well in several other games that year, the emphasis on the primetime game shows a trend. When the lights are brightest, media and casual fans judge players the most.

The story of Tua Tagovailoa presents a cautionary tale, and although he remains Miami’s starting quarterback, that game may have been the beginning of the end for his time as a Miami Dolphin.

Seize the Moment

That’s why, along with hopes of winning, Dolphins players must seize the opportunity Thursday Night Football. This game can go a long way in beginning storied careers for many young players. Potential rising stars such as Jaylen Waddle or Jaelan Phillips can cement their place in the eyes of many, while an unexpected hero can emerge, much like Fitzpatrick has time and time again.

Thursday night is an opportunity to shine for Dolphins players looking to make their mark on a subpar team. Legends are made in primetime, and it will be fascinating to see who takes advantage and makes their presence known.

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Miami Dolphins: It’s Time to Blow It Up

Miami Dolphins

Nearly two months ago, the Miami Dolphins marched into Gillette Stadium and escaped Foxborough with a one point win.

Since then, they haven’t won a game. The Dolphins have been outscored by 96 points, and are sitting at the bottom of the AFC.

This comes off a 2020 season where Miami over exceeded by winning 10 games. The Dolphins had the 4th ranked scoring defense, and were viewed as a team on the rise.

However, a series of missteps have culminated in a 1-7 record and a head-coach-GM tandem that’s now regarded as a failure. These major mistakes have changed the narrative of the franchise.

Offensive Line

Current general manager Chris Grier has had several positions in his 21 year tenure with the Miami Dolphins. Grier became the GM in 2016, and has held significant power ever since.

Chris Grier has failed to assemble a competent OL.

In that five-year span, Grier has failed to put it together in the trenches. Miami’s offensive line has consistently been below average. Draft picks and free agent pickups at those positions are struggling to find their way in the NFL.

Since entering the GM position, Grier as drafted nine offensive linemen. Only one of them, Laremy Tunsil, has made a Pro Bowl. Three of them have struggled to find playing time (Isaac Asiata, Isaiah Prince, Larnel Coleman). The rest have been playing on the field but producing a unit regarded as among the worst in the league.

This problem would not have been an issue if Grier had brought in any of the several veteran linemen that were made available over the last few offseason.

Linemen such as Orlando Brown, Corey Linsley, Trent Williams, and Joe Thuney have all changed teams over the last few years. There were no reports about Miami in play and Miami has refused to make an effort to sign anyone of their caliber.

Rather, Miami has went the route of saving money. Taking on chosen “cheaper talent” such as Matt Skura, Jesse Davis, and Ereck Flowers. Though, to his credit, Flowers has been serviceable for Washington since leaving Miami.

Ereck Flowers has been serviceabe in Washington.

The philosophy coming in was to work in all of the drafted OL’s together. However, Miami has no veterans to truly help develop them. This has resulted in a unit full of penalties, blown assignments, free rushers, and an injury to their young QB.

2020 Draft Picks

Among Miami’s young and struggling linemen, three of them were drafted in a year that was supposed to supply a treasure trove of future talent. After moving on from the aforementioned Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami held five picks in the first two rounds.

With those five picks, Miami selected Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt and Raekwon Davis.

The first of which, whether you believe in him or not, has struggled. Tua was benched twice for his struggles last season. He was destined to take a step forward this season. It’s safe to say it hasn’t happened yet.

Fighting injuries and inconsistency, Tua is 1-3 as the starter. He’s had some good throws right into WR’s hands, while also having questionable throws leading to interceptions.

Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene, on the other hand, have been far worse. In Jacksons first 21 games, he was seen unfit to play tackle, and has currently moved to guard.

He has had some hiccups at guard but is slowly improving. It is notable that it took the coaching staff this many games to try him at guard.

An Austin Jackson missed block leads to a Tua Tagovailoa INT.

Noah Igbinoghene has not been given the same chance as Austin Jackson has. Igbinoghene has appeared in only two games this season, mainly seeing time when other defensive backs are out.

Igbinoghene’s name has been called in mostly disappointing results, consistently being picked on by opposing QB’s.

The Dolphins passed on Jonathan Taylor for Noah Igbinoghene.

The 2nd round picks (Hunt and Davis), unlike the first three, have shown their potential. They have also shown inconsistency, with neither making the jump fans and analysts hoped to see.

This 2020 draft class was one Miami hoped to hang their hat on; thus far, it has the makings of a potential disaster.

Offensive Coordinators

While Chris Grier can largely be to blame for the first two issues, Flores may be at fault for the most recent.

Since entering the league in 2019, Flores has had four offensive coordinators. The turnstiles of OC’s have led to the Dolphins offense not being able to produce efficiently. The Dolphins have not had a top scoring offense; they have been in the bottom five the last few years.

Former Dolphins OC Chad O’Shea was fired in 2019 for what was rumored to be a “difficult system” to comprehend. Many questioned O’Shea being let go, with his replacement being just as head-scratching.

Chad O’Shea’s firing was head scratching to many.

In the 2020 offseason, Miami brought Chan Gailey out of retirement to help groom their rookie QB.

Contrary to their plan, Gailey didn’t click with Tua, and the playbook looked significantly different when Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had success with Gailey in New York, was at the helm.

Miami struggled heavily to truly compete with the high powered offenses with Gailey’s seemingly antiquated system.

So when the Dolphins missed the playoffs, in 2020, it was time to find another OC.

Intriguing candidates such as Mike McDaniel, Pep Hamilton, and Matt Canada all received interviews. Miami shocked everyone by going with two internal hires, George Godsey and Eric Studesville.

The Dolphins Offensive Staff has changed year to year.

Many were hesitant to believe the two former assistants could call a top-tier offensive scheme. So far, the hesitation has become reality. Miami is bottom five in scoring, and most recently put up 11 points on the division rival Buffalo Bills.

Once looked upon as a future star HC, Brian Flores has failed to solve his offensive coaching woes. The future does not look promising.

The Watson Saga

The newest domino to fall in the slew of missteps has been the handling of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s trade request.

Following a formal request in January, Miami had shown interest, and for good reason. Watson threw 33 touchdowns in 2020 and was regarded as a top 5 quarterback.

But, beginning in March, Watson began to face civil and criminal accusations from more than 20 women of sexual misconduct, which is when Miami had a choice to make:

Commit to your 2nd year QB or continue your pursuit of a troubled, potentially criminal player, disrupting Tua’s confidence and in turn, your whole franchise.

Miami chose the second option. Allowing the Dolphins to be the subject of trade rumors into the season, persisting in their attempts to grab another young QB when they already had one who they drafted 16 months ago still on the roster.

Thus, Brian Flores, Tua Tagovailoa, Chris Grier, and more Dolphins players and staff have been berated with questions about a player who shouldn’t be of any concern.

Tua chimes in on the Watson rumors.

Now, rumors have continued to fly, with the newest comming from lawyer Tony Buzbee. Buzbee claims owner Stephen Ross and the Dolphins may have made an attempt to pay off the women involved in exchange for a settlement and/or NDA. Chris Grier has adamantly denied these rumors.

Chris Grier denies rumors of influencing Watson’s cases.

With Miami declining to make the deal before the deadline, it’s still Tua time in Miami. However, the Watson talk will pick right back up in the offseason, where Miami will have to make the same decision they did this year.

The Bottom Line

Since becoming the main sources of power in the Miami Dolphins organization, Chris Grier and Brian Flores have made some crucial mistakes.

Whether it’s drafting raw players, failing to address the offensive line and coordinator, or letting the Deshaun Watson rumors hang over their head, Miami’s small decisions have spiraled out of control.

It’s gotten to a point where this regime is running out of time, and it may be better off starting over under new leadership.

Miami’s decisions over the next few months will be telling, and it will be intriguing to see if Grier and Flores remain at the helm.

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NFL Trade Deadline: Dolphins on the Move?

Dolphins Trade Deadline
Credit: Phin Phanatic

As Tuesday’s trade deadline rapidly approaches, the Miami Dolphins may be looking to move players. Two players whose names have come up as tradable pieces are Albert Wilson and Devante Parker. Miami, whose season is likely over, might be looking to move high salaries or under performers and gain draft capital for the coming years.

Albert Wilson

Albert Wilson might have been the Dolphins best player during camp. Wilson and 2nd-year QB Tua Tagovailoa were showing significant chemistry and were connecting all over the field. 

Wilson was expected to be a big contributor in the offense and have a lot of playing time. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen the field much and has struggled to be productive when he step on the field.

This season, Wilson has just 7 catches for 45 yards. He is averaging 3.75 yards per target. In week 3, Wilson played 55% of the Dolphins offensive snaps. He hasn’t been close to that number again and played just 4% of snaps last week. Mack Hollins and Preston Williams (when healthy) are seeing more snaps than the Training Camp MVP. The Dolphins clearly don’t have a plan to use Wilson this year and should look to trade him for a position of need (OL, LB) or future draft picks.

Wilson is set to hit free agency after this season, so the Dolphins moving him before the trade deadline and collecting assets instead of letting him walk for free may be the best option. Trading Wilson will also save the Dolphins $3.8 million against the cap and they’ll take on just $1.3 million in dead money.

Devante Parker

Parker’s career has been plagued by injury since he was drafted by Miami in 2015. In 2019, Parker was healthy for all 16 games and put up 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. It seemed like a breakout year and his career was reaching the tipping point. In 2020 though, he missed 2 games due to a hamstring injury, which has been an issue for the majority of his career. He still put up respectable numbers with 793 yards and 4 touchdowns. 

Through the first 4 games of this season, Parker was a key part of the offense with 17 catches for 242 yards and 1 touchdown. Unfortunately, he has missed the last 3 games and is in danger of missing his fourth straight this Sunday in Buffalo.

Parker’s inability to stay healthy may be the driving force to trade him. According to reports, the Dolphins have discussed trading Parker. 

There have also been talks about Parker not being fully committed to football. Nagging injuries can take a toll on a player, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Parker is growing increasingly frustrated.

A trade would give Parker a fresh start to his career which is something he probably needs.

For Miami, a Parker trade would clear cap space for the 2022 season. The Dolphins are projected to have the most cap space in 2022. However, only 19 players from the current roster are under contract for next season. The cap availability is going to diminish rapidly and they need money to re-sign big money players like Mike Gesicki and Emmanuel Ogbah.

Miami may try to trade for an offensive line piece, collect assets for next year, or both at once. Regardless, the Dolphins wide receiver room needs to be monitored with just 4 days until the trade deadline. 

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Week 8 Game Preview: Dolphins @ Buffalo

Sep 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
  • Date: Sunday October 31
  • Time: 13:00 ET (17:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Highmark Stadium, Buffalo, NY
  • TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
  • Records: Dolphins (1-6), Buffalo (4-2)

After nearly a month away from writing due to the pressure of starting my new career, I am finally back with this weeks preview. In my last preview prior to the Colts game, it seemed like the cracks were getting bigger and now on the back of consecutive last second losses against poor teams, everything has come crashing down. The Dolphins organisation is a shambles.

Widely considered a playoff contender prior to the season, they are now the worst team in the NFL. I am not even sure the Dolphins beat the Texans Week 9, but lets not spoil next weeks preview… There is very little fight within this team and the days of complementary football are now a distant memory. Nevertheless, it is my job to put all of this discontent that has been brewing over the last month to one side, and tell you how Miami can win this game. Should be easy right?

Reflections on Week 6 & Week 7

As last weeks game was drawing to an end, the main thought that raced through my mind was “surely not again”. Having been in London for the Jags game, wanting the ground to swallow me up as 60,000 fans went crazy with the final kick of the game, the Dolphins wanted to provide that same feeling to all fans back at Hard Rock against the Falcons. The Dolphins were the most supported team in London, yet it seemed that the fans of every other team were very much anti-Dolphins.

While the Dolphins have not played well enough across 4 quarters to deserve to win the game, they certainly did not deserve to lose. This is no exaggeration, but the Dolphins are literally 2mm from winning the last two games. Had things gone differently, they would have been out of sight. 2mm from being 1-6 to 3-4, or maybe even 4-3, if the DPI was called on Fuller against the Raiders. The 2021 Miami Dolphins have not done themselves any favors in their performances, but my god they have been incredibly unlucky.

The one positive over the past two weeks is the performance of Tua Tagovailoa. Since his return Tua has a 102.7 passer rating, 620 passing yards for a completion percentage of 74.7% leading to 6 TDs. 3 interceptions unfortunately continue to leave a mark over what have been positive performances. What is more impressive, is that Tua’s best performances during his tenure with the Dolphins have been when his starting receivers are out of the game.

People regularly question whether Tua is a QB who can win game for the team. In the past two weeks he has gone 20/24 with 3 TDs and 1 INT in the 4th quarter. In the 3 games that Tua has played this season, the team has always been in a winning position when he has left the field for the final time. Yet, a dark cloud filled with Deshaun Watson rumors continue to linger over the franchise.

Expectations Heading into the Game:

Over the past three weeks Miami have given up 1,066 yards passing and 337 rushing yards. The decline of the defense has been a key element of the Dolphins’ decline this season. Next up Josh Allen…

That being said in Week 2, despite being blown out 35-0, the Dolphins defense held Allen to 179 yards. This is the lowest allowed by the Dolphins all season and the least gained by Buffalo. It did not make a difference in that game, and in all honesty I cannot see it being any different this week either.

Buffalo have the number one defense in the league, allowing the fewest points per game and the fewest yards per game. In contrast, Miami rank 31st in points allowed (29.6) and 29th in points scored (18.1). It seems somewhat fitting that this game is being played on Halloween, as it has been a nightmare matchup for the Dolphins in recent years.

Keys to Success:

  1. No Mistakes What the past 5 weeks have taught us is that the NFL is a game of fine margins. The slightest of mistakes on one play can prove to be so costly. Tua has been very impressive. Despite a few mistakes being sprinkled into his performances he has for the most part bounced back on subsequent drives. Against an elite team like Buffalo mistakes will be critical.
  2. Control Time of Possession– The defense has been poor in recent weeks. Keeping Allen off the field will be essential in keeping the score down and within reach for Tua and the offense to attempt to stay in the game. This will require the offensive line to actually keep Tua upright this time.
  3. Defensive Return to Week 2– Miami’s defense played well against the Bills last time around. The scoreline was not reflective of their performance but the offense’s. The offense has since improved (couldn’t get any worse) while the defense has regressed. If Miami are to stand any chance in this game the defense HAS to improve.

Injury Report

With Deiter still on IR and Mancz being questionable, it seems that Austin Reiter will continue to be the Dolphins center. We did not hear much of Reiter in his first game for Miami which is always a good thing on the offensive line. Parker seems like he could feature amidst several trade rumors. Biggest loss could be Jerome Baker who is questionable with a knee injury. The injury is nothing major, but it is clear that he is dealing with considerable discomfort. One positive is Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are now back in full practice.

Conclusion:

It has been a testing season for us Dolphins fans and likely to continue. Buffalo are coming off a bye week and well rested. As fans we need a bye week just to give ourselves some relief, but we will have to wait until Week 14 for that. Brace yourselves. The observant readers will notice that the ATB writers score predictions are missing from this weeks’ preview and for good reason. However, stranger things have happened in the NFL. Maybe, just maybe on Halloween, the Dolphins will treat us all, and the defense returns and makes Allen see ghosts. Fins up!

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