The Miami Dolphins are almost two weeks into training camp, and rookie wide receiver Erik Ezukanma is among the standouts.
The Miami Dolphins are almost two weeks into training camp, and their combination of scheme and talent are beginning to take shape. As both players and coaches get more comfortable, there have been several breakout performances. There may be none more impressive, however, than rookie wide receiver Erik Ezukanma.
Erik Ezukanma Profile
Coming out of Texas Tech, Ezukanma presented a unique skillset. Along with an impressive 6’2″, 205 pound frame, he possessed the ability to make big plays at the catch point, along with in YAC situations. This versatility was what stood out to new Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who operated with similar weapons in San Francisco. Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, both drafted during McDaniel’s tenure, have been utilized in myriad ways. While Ezukanma wasn’t drafted as highly as those two, the vision of how he can be used is there.
Performing in Training Camp
Fast forward about three months, and training camp is upon us. Having attended the last two days, Erik Ezukanma’s skill and versatility are as advertised. It seems that he’s making plays every day, and has proven he belongs with the starting group.
Standing out has been his ability to win off the line and attack zone coverage. There has been more than one occasion over the last two practices where Ezukanma was faced with press coverage. In those scenarios, he uses a combination of strong hands and quick feet to get off the line. As for the latter, his ability to sense and attack space has been noticeable. There were several occasions over the last couple days where he stopped his route in the dead spot of the zone. Each time, he attacked the football and made a play.
It is the skill of attacking the football that has also stood out, particularly in one-on-one situations. It’s clear that he’s a natural receiver, especially in the sense of timing and ball tracking. When a jump ball is thrown his way, he is able to high-point it and make a play. That’s a skill the Dolphins wide receiver room is lacking after trading DeVante Parker to the Patriots. His skillset complements that of speedsters Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill, providing elements they lack.
The Bottom Line on Erik Ezukanma
Although it’s only been a little over a week, and overreactions are common in the off-season, Erik Ezukanma has been a consistent top performer. In an offense dominated by veteran depth at the skill position, a rookie has found his way into the spotlight.
It will be intriguing to see if Miami gives him more run with the starting unit in practice, as well as how much he plays on August 13th, where Miami takes on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first preseason game. Then, we will see if the rookie with the self-proclaimed nickname “Eazy-E” lives up to the hype.
It would be a surprise if the Pats didn’t add a receiver early in the draft this year. They are likely to add in one form or the other before training camp. This group is surprisingly crowded but without a clear-cut top-tier option.
After being exposed by the Bills on wildcard weekend, the Patriots entered the off-season with a laundry list of needs. Unfortunately, they were snug to the cap already, having just under $10 million to spend at the onset of free agency. The Pats were in a challenging position, having multiple internal free agents and a litany of glaring needs.
Free agency is winding down, and the team is in full NFL draft prep mode. The Pats may be waiting for after the draft to add free agents, as those additions would not forfeit any compensatory picks next year. With an eye on the draft, let’s take a closer look at the Patriots roster as it stands today.
Rostered: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
Retained: Brian Hoyer
Top Free Agents Available: Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Jake Fromm, Blake Bortles
The Patriots took their quarterback of the future last May in the NFL Draft with Mac Jones. Jones was solid in his rookie campaign. The team is internally optimistic he will be the franchise QB for years to come.
Hoyer had a brief foray into free agency before re-signing with the team. Hoyer will provide leadership as Mac navigates an off-season where the young signal-caller lost offensive coordinator/QB coach Josh McDaniels.
Stidham is a camp arm and may stick around on the practice squad. I wouldn’t expect the Patriots to add anyone prominent to this group.
Rostered: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, James White, Devine Ozigbo, Dalton Keene
Out: Brandon Bolden (Raiders), Jakob Johnson (Raiders)
Retained: James White
Top Free Agents Available: Sony Michel, Darrel Williams, Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Jalen Richard
This group is one of the more talented collection of players on the Patriots roster. Damien Harris should return as the 1A option. Rhamondre Stevenson is looking to continue his ascent into the top tier of NFL running backs in year two.
The Pats were able to get James White back with minimal guarantees as he recovers from a season-ending hip injury. White was off to a scorching start with Jones before the injury in week 3. If he can return to form, he will be in for a big year. White returning to form will offset the loss of Bolden. This off-season may provide Taylor with his best opportunity to unseat White as the passing back. Devine Ozigbo offers a camp body and practice-squad player.
Although officially listed as a tight end, Dalton Keene looks to benefit from Jakob Johnson’s departure. The Pats traded up in the 2020 NFL Draft to grab the H-back out of Virginia Tech. Now, Keene is finally healthy heading into the offseason. Look for him to get every opportunity to lock down the TE3/FB hybrid spot this training camp.
The Pats may add a free agent here (old friend Sony Michel), but are more likely to add a rookie as Harris enters the final year of his rookie deal.
Rostered: Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Ty Montgomery, Tre Nixon, DeVante Parker, Malcolm Perry, Kristian Wilkerson
In: Devante Parker (Dolphins), Ty Montgomery (Saints)
Out: Gunner Olszewski (Steelers)
Retained: Jakobi Meyers
Top Free Agents Available: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Will Fuller, Julio Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, Keelan Cole, Cole Beasley, T.Y. Hilton, Allen Hurns, Albert Wilson, Adam Humphries, Isaiah Ford
Agholor, Bourne, and Meyers return as the top options for Mac Jones. The Pats added a bigger target in DeVante Parker, who will provide the young gun with a sure-handed receiver in contested catch situations — if he can remain healthy. Parker should be everything the Pats hope Harry would be. Montgomery was added to take snaps at running back, receiver, and all over special teams.
Malcolm Perry offers a fun, gadget-type player who may find himself in a camp battle with Montgomery for a single roster spot. Wilkerson offered a peek into his potential last year late in the season and will try to carry that momentum into a roster spot this year. Tre Nixon hopes to stay healthy and flash his big-play potential from college. Harry is a long-shot to be on this roster on kickoff weekend
The Pats were rumored to be in on several free-agent receivers this off-season They continue to be linked to Odell Beckham Jr. Isaiah Ford also has time in the New England offense and may make sense on a cheap deal. The Patriots are also looking at many rookie wide outs in the draft. It would be a surprise if the Pats didn’t add a receiver early in the draft this year.
The Patriots roster is likely to gain another receiver before training camp. This group is surprisingly crowded, but without a clear-cut top-tier option.
Rostered: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi
Out: Troy Fumagalli (FA)
Top Free Agents Available: Rob Gronkowski, Jared Cook, Blake Jarwin, Kyle Rudolph, Jesse James
The Pats spent here last year and spent big. Henry provided even more than the team could have hoped for in year one. Jonnu, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired. Smith has been present for off-season programs thus far, a difference from last year, as the team and player look to accomplish in year two of the mega-contract.
Asiasi has not lived up to his billing coming out of college and is entering make-or-break territory in year three. Throughout camp, Keene should push for the third spot in a battle with Asiasi. There’s not a lot available in the way of free agents, but the Pats will likely add a body here in rounds 5-7.
Rostered: David Andrews (C), Yasir Durant (G), Arlington Hambright (G), Trent Brown (T), Yodny Cajuste (T), Drew Desjarlais (T), James Ferentz (G), Justin Herron (T), Mike Onwenu (G), Isaiah Wynn (T), Will Sherman (T)
Top Free Agents Available: J.C. Tretter (C), Eric Fisher (T), Duane Brown (T), Daryl Williams (G/T), Riley Reiff (T), Trai Turner (G), Ereck Flowers (G), Brandon Shell (T), Ryan Bates (G), Nate Solder (T), Bryan Bulaga (T), Matt Paradis (C), Marcus Cannon (T)
This is perhaps the shakiest group of players on the Patriots roster. They return three out of five starters after losing Ted Karras to the Bengals in free agency and trading Shaq Mason to the Buccaneers. The Pats tried to retain Karras, but were unwilling to go as high in the bidding as the Bengals.
The Mason trade was a bit of a head-scratcher as a young, premier talent at this position, on an affordable contract, was only able to gain the team a fifth-round pick. The move was made to clear some cap space for the team, but the return seems hardly worth it. Onwenu should slide in at either guard spot, leaving the Pats a man short in their starting five.
Furthermore, tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn are not known for their ability to stay healthy. Will Sherman, Yodny Cajuste, and Justin Herron project to battle it out for the top swing tackle spot, while James Ferentz currently projects as the top backup on the interior.
The Pats will look to add here both in free agency and the draft. The Pats could call old friends Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon to gain veteran depth at the tackle spots, while someone like Trai Turner or Ereck Flowers may make sense as depth on the interior. The Patriots may look to address these spots early in the draft, so don’t be surprised if they use their first selection on a player up front.
Rostered: Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Byron Cowart, Bill Murray, Deatrich Wise, Daniel Ekuale
Out: Carl Davis (FA)
Top Free Agents Available: Trey Flowers, Jadeveon Clowney, Akiem Hicks, Larry Ogunjobi, Ndamukong Suh, Justin Houston, Jerry Hughes, Jason Pierre-Paul, Eddie Goldman, Sheldon Richardson, Carl Nassib, Linval Joseph
Barmore was an absolute steal in the second round of the draft last May. He looks to continue to build on his impressive rookie season and offers stability in the interior of the defense for years to come. Lawrence Guy was his steady self, while Davon Godchaux showed flashes of why the Pats shelled out to get him.
Anderson agreed to a restructured deal to stick around after getting injured last year. Deatrich Wise restructured his contract to give the Pats some more space and continues to offer pass-rush ability and strong leadership in the locker room.
Cowart, Murray, and Eukale would preferably be practice squad/depth pieces but currently project to get considerable playing time if no additions are made. Carl Davis remains a free agent. It makes sense for both sides to continue their relationship. Trey Flowers and Akiem Hicks would be substantial additions to this group, and both are familiar with New England.
The Pats should add competition here in the form of free agents and rookies before training camp. The Pats may go to this group early in the draft, if the right players slide into striking range.
Rostered: Ja’Whaun Bentley, Terez Hall, Anfernee Jennings, Matt Judon, Harvey Langi, Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, Ronnie Perkins, Josh Uche, Jahlani Tavai, Mack Wilson
Top Free Agents Available: Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Joe Schobert, Melvin Ingram, Anthony Barr, Landon Collins, Anthony Hitchens, Nick Kwiatkoski, A.J. Klein, Takkarist McKinley
Bentley returned to the team after leading them in tackles in 2021. Bentley is a more traditional linebacker who doesn’t fill a three-down role, but provides a big body against power-rushing teams such as the Colts and Titans.
This off-season, a common goal for the team has been the infusion of speed at every position group. None needed it more than this one in 2021. Hightower remains a free agent as a big lumbering type is slowly being phased out of the current rendition of the game.
The Pats swapped Winovich for Mack Wilson in a change of scenery trade that may benefit both players. Wilson offers a more undersized body linebacker than Belichick has liked in the past, but offers more speed. Judon was an absolute force before falling off after week 13 when he got COVID. He will force himself into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation if he can continue his pace for an entire season.
Josh Uche was a problem his rookie year, as many around the league identified him as a potential star in year two. The leap never happened, as he was injured early in the year and struggled to earn playing time later. Anfernee Jennings enters year three, losing his first two to poor injury luck. He might be in line to replace Hightower as a large, on-the-line body type. Perkins was a third-round pick last year and spent his rookie season as a redshirt. Perkins offers pass rush specialty with an upside to become an every-down player after a dominant college career at Oklahoma.
Raekwon McMillan was putting together a solid camp last fall, with multiple internal evaluators very high on him, before tearing his ACL and missing the season. If he can return to form, this group may be much better than expected. This group will also blend with safeties Jabrill Peppers, Kyle Dugger, and Adrian Phillips, as the Pats look to add speed to the interior of their defense.
Kyle Van Noy and Hightower seem likely to return on lighter deals as part-time players. Nakobe Dean of Georgia and Devin Lloyd of Utah are premier rookie talents to watch for in the draft.
Rostered: Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, Shaun Wade, Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant, Jonathan Jones
In: Malcolm Butler (Cardinals)
Out: J.C. Jackson (Chargers)
Top Free Agents Available: Jackrabbit Jenkins, Joe Haden, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Kevin King, Trae Waynes, Fabian Moreau, Xavier Rhodes, Vernon Hargreaves
This is another part of the Patriots roster that has had much made about it this off-season, but is perhaps in better shape than many expect. Losing J.C. Jackson makes this a less talented group, no doubt about it, but his loss may be overstated. While he was a talented ballhawk, there is quite a drop-off between him and the top tier of NFL cornerbacks.
The Pats brought back Malcolm Butler and added Terrance Mitchell. Butler played at a very high level in 2020 before retiring in the 2021 preseason and not playing last year. How he plays in his return will largely determine how this group performs. Mitchell offers a competent NFL journeyman type who fits better in zone defenses. Last year, the Pats transitioned to more zone-based coverages and should continue that trend without a premier lock-down at the cornerback spot.
Shaun Wade has an outside chance of developing into the team’s next top corner, but hedging the farm on it would not be wise. Joejuan Williams is running out of time to prove he deserves a spot, as he joins N’Keal Harry as part of the failed 2019 draft class. Myles Bryant and Jonathan Jones provide the Patriots with two top-tier slot options. Jalen Mills played primarily on the outside last year after being signed as a jack-of-all-trades in the Patriots’ 2021 free agent spending spree. Due to the lack of depth, he may be forced again to play primarily outside in 2022.
The draft is extremely top-heavy at corner, with a severe drop-off after the top three of Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner, LSU’s Derek Stingley, and Washington’s Trent McDuffie. Belichick has had immense success in developing late picks or undrafted rookies and may go that route again if one of the top three doesn’t fall into their laps at 21.
The Pats kept their 2021 group together while adding Jabrill Peppers. They immediately are one of the stronger groups on the Patriots roster. McCourty returns after a solid season despite a slow start. He is starting to slow a touch, but continues to be a step ahead due to his understanding of Belichick’s system.
McCourty is the quarterback of the defense. Retaining him was an extremely understated development this off-season. Dugger began to flash his playmaking ability. If he continues to grow, the Pats will have their safety duo of the future after locking up Adrian Phillips last year.
Peppers offers a hybrid player who can play in the box, line up deep, play the slot, and match up on premier tight ends. He also may find himself as the top punt returner. Joshuah Bledsoe arrived as a rookie to much fanfare last year, but missed the season due to a college wrist injury. He will have every opportunity to make a run at a roster spot.
Edmunds and Mathieu remain big names on the free agency market, but the addition of either remains a long-shot to this roster. The Patriots could add here in the middle rounds of the draft.
Rostered: Nick Folk (K), Quinn Nordin (K), Joe Cardona (LS), Jake Bailey (P), Matthew Slater (ST), Justin Bethel (ST)
Out: Brandon King (Colts)
Retained: Nick Folk, Matthew Slater
Despite strong individual performances from this group in 2021, the Patriots’ special teams were largely a disappointment throughout the year. Folk has made 55 straight field goals under 50 yards, as he has been one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL since joining the Patriots in 2020. Jake Bailey is a season removed from an All-Pro season. Joe Cardona not only shares a birthday with Bill Belichick, but also shares Navy ties. He’s not going anywhere.
Matthew Slater returned for his age 37 season, as the longtime captain agreed to a one-year deal. Slater (15) trails only Tom Brady (20) and Steve Grogan (16) for the number of seasons played for the team. Quinn Nordin has a booming leg, but needs to become more accurate. He should stick around as the heir apparent to Folk. The Pats may take a late-round flier on a specialist, but otherwise, this part of the Patriots roster is set.
The Dolphins traded long-time wide receiver Devante Parker to their AFC East Rival New England Patriots. What does it mean for Miami’s future?
The Miami Dolphins traded wide receiver Devante Parker. This does not come as a surprise to most; however, the team he was traded to was a bit of a shocker. GM Chris Grier made a deal with the AFC East rival New England Patriots to trade Devante Parker and a 5th-round pick to New England in exchange for a 3rd-round pick in next year’s draft.
Parker had been mentioned in trade rumors for a couple of years, but Miami never dealt him.
During his time in Miami, Parker was a key contributor when he was on the field. Unfortunately, hamstring injuries have plagued his career and he hasn’t been as consistent as many had hoped.
What the Devante Parker trade means for Miami:
This offseason, Miami signed wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and traded for star receiver Tyreek Hill. With 2nd-year wide-out Jaylen Waddle already on the roster, Parker quickly found himself in the fourth spot on the depth chart.
Parker was owed about $6 million in 2022. It is an unprecedented amount to pay for a fifth pass-catching option. According to Spotrac, the move frees up $6.25 million in cap space for Miami and they will take on no dead money.
By sending this year’s fifth-round pick to New England, Miami has just four picks in the 2022 NFL draft: a third and fourth-round pick, and two seventh-round picks. What goes unnoticed is the amount of cap space “created” by not having to sign an entire draft class this year.
The most exciting part of the trade, however, is not the money Miami saved. It’s what the Dolphins got in return.
New England sent Miami a third-round pick in next year’s draft. Miami now has a whopping five picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft. Currently, the Dolphins have two first and third-round picks as well as one second-round pick.
Who “won” this trade remains to be seen, but Dolphins fans should feel good about adding cap space while adding future draft capital.
However, compared to the power schemes found in New England and elsewhere, McDaniel’s system is much more entertaining. The explosion and variety of looks they run the ball out of is a breath of fresh air from years past.
Miami has seen a bland run game for the better part of the last 20 years, with struggles on the offensive line and backfield. Since 2012, Miami has only had two 1,000 yard rushers in Lamar Miller and Jay Ajayi. In Brian Flores’ first year as Head Coach, Miami’s leading rusher was quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It was clear that Miami needed to address one of their most prolonged stretching issues with those previous struggles. Thus, he will present the Dolphins a chance to bring an actual presence in the backfield they haven’t seen since the Ricky Williams era.
Outside zone overview
While many offensive systems involve the power run philosophy, the scheme McDaniel brings has consisted of primarily outside zone runs.
As opposed to blocking the nearest defender, the idea of this scheme is to secure a “zone” of the field. Linemen typically work together to double-team the defenders labeled most likely to engineer a big stop. In doing so, they can get out on the edge quickly and stress defenses out horizontally. This opens up various holes and cutback lanes for the backs to run through.
The 49ers have been among the pioneers of the modern zone offenses, using a variety of formations, personnel groupings, and pre-snap motion to make sure the defense doesn’t know what’s hitting them.
Pulling blockers role in OZ concepts.
McDaniel’s scheme utilizes among the league’s most pulling blockers to get outside as quickly as possible. Rather than having the lineman go directly to the lineman, a pulling tackle may attempt to get after the next level of defenders. These blocks are crucial in setting up big plays, freeing up the second level with open lanes.
Another crucial aspect of the pull block is the idea of misdirection. The outside zone scheme that McDaniel and the Niners run relies heavily on reading leverage and light boxes. To get these looks more often, they will often bring pre-snap looks that give the appearance of a different play, such as a run to the opposite side. Once they get the look they want, the lineman will pull from across the formation and get up the field.
Now more than ever, Miami will be utilizing pull blocks, and they’ve brought in the right coach for those philosophies. There will undoubtedly be concerns about whether their current personnel can run this scheme, but the ideas fall into place.
The Deebo element is an extra layer.
While their ZBS is among the league’s best, the Niners have added another layer in their comprehensive rushing attack.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel provided 502 rushing yards for San Francisco last year, but the threat he instilled in defenses is just as significant.
Many teams around the league run different wide receiver run plays. End-arounds and jet-sweeps are commonplace in a league looking for the next excellent rush concept. However, what McDaniel has done with Deebo is quite different. With rookie standout receiver Jaylen Waddle, he possesses another weapon that can be just as explosive as Samuel.
The Mike McDaniel offense can maximize workhorses in the backfield.
San Francisco has employed Samuel in the backfield rather than out wide or in the slot. As a result, he comes out in a variety of motions and pre-snap looks as essentially another running back. By coming out of the huddle in the slot, defenses are best equipped to stop a lighter personnel package. This means fewer defenders in the box and more defensive backs along the boundaries. When they move him inside pre-snap, however, defenses cannot adjust.
This means San Francisco not only has a weapon in the backfield but also faces defenses ill-equipped to stop them. In addition, Deebo will often have at least one other running back in the backfield, along with tight end George Kittle. This means that a look that defenses saw as 11 personnel quickly becomes a heavy 21 personnel set.
Mike McDaniel’s offense was at the forefront of a movement that has changed a league. More and more teams will be looking for the next Deebo Samuel, and it feels good knowing that the new trend started with the Miami Dolphins’ new head coach.
The fullback revival will happen soon.
When the news broke of Mike McDaniel being hired in Miami, one of the first to sing his praises was fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
Juszczyk has been among the league’s best fullbacks for a while in a league running low on the position. However, as teams move away from run-heavy systems and towards air-raid or spread systems, fullbacks have lost much of their former glory. In McDaniel’s approach, however, the position serves a crucial role.
As mentioned earlier, the outside zone scheme prioritizes getting out in front of defenders and the importance of lead blockers. Therefore, the fullback is among the most significant components in effectively operating the Mike McDaniel offense. In addition, Juszczyk and others have been used a variety of looks, getting outside and up to the second level, further sealing off second-level defenders for the backs. When combined with pulling blockers and strong wide receiver blocking, San Francisco provided a barrage of explosive run plays.
This new Miami offense will be to get to the second level, and finding a fullback capable of handling these responsibilities will be among the first steps of the rebuild.
An important role for WR’s in the Mike McDaniel offense.
Throughout McDaniel’s press conferences, it’s clear that one of the core values of this scheme is timely blocking from wide receivers. With a unit that prioritizes getting outside, it only makes sense that they expect nothing from the best from their perimeter blockers.
Their draft philosophy has consisted of getting big, physical receivers like Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, who thrive in run-blocking. In doing so, they can get out on tosses, zone runs, and screens, out-muscling the smaller DB’s.
The lanes opened up by these bigger receivers are just one small part of the big picture, but they play a crucial role. Miami already has big receivers such as Mack Hollins and DeVante Parker and very well may target more this offseason.
The bottom line on the Mike McDaniel offense.
The 49ers’ run game has been a top-flight unit since Kyle Shanahan, and Mike McDaniel arrived. Likewise, the attention to detail on their outside zone scheme has been second to none and has many different components.
Whether it’s the pulling blockers, maximizing weapons such as Samuel, the use of the fullback, or perimeter blocking, they have always been at the forefront of run-game innovation.
Miami has lacked a consistent running game for the better part of two decades, and it only got worse under Flores. It was clear a change was needed on offense, and Mike McDaniel shows promise of being the guy who can bring that change.
Nothing is set in stone, but the system he brings is proven to work, and Miami may just see a dominant rushing attack sometime during his tenure.
Each of the four offensive and three defensive coaches bring an intriguing scheme and future outlook. Among those, however, one has become a fan favorite.
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel comes from an esteemed coaching tree, including the likes of Sean McVay, Matt Lafleur, Kevin Stefanski, and 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan.
Miami is the only team to have interviewed McDaniel thus far, but his name has caught steam on social media.
Mike McDaniel Background
Many have made note of his demeanor in press conferences, which looks to be a stark change from Brian Flores. While Miami’s former coach was kept to himself, McDaniel has a much more light-hearted attitude. His manner of going in-depth on specific schemes excites analysts and fans alike, as Flores typically shared very little.
The more important factor, however, is McDaniel’s scheme, which he brings from the aforementioned Shanahan tree.
A large part of this run game has been the usage of Deebo Samuel. The 26-year-old receiver has lined up all over the field, gaining over 1700 total yards. San Francisco has been able to revolutionize the run-game, and their use of Samuel is another step in the evolution.
Their motion of Samuel into the backfield allows them to run a variety of plays against light boxes. Thus, their offensive system is truly a guessing game as to what’s coming next.
Through this system, they have been able to relieve much of the burden on the quarterback position. With what many would consider to be average QB play, the 49ers have now made the NFC Championship Game two out of the last three years. Jimmy Garoppolo has been able to take what the defense has given him and thrive in the play-action, stemming from the threat of the run game.
The fit with Tua
This would bode well for the Dolphins, who have a young quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa who has his limitations, but has found success on play-action passes. The McDaniel scheme has made a living off maximizing quarterbacks, and it could do the same with Tua.
The young quarterback has had some of the worst offensive line play in the league over his first two seasons. Dedicating assets to fixing it, while also implementing a proven run scheme, would give him the time and easier reads he needs.
The other side of that, however, is the potential forcing of Tua onto a new head coach. While many within the Dolphins organization believe in Tua’s potential, a lack of production in that scheme could provide a litmus test on whether he is the quarterback of the future. Much like the Rams did with Jared Goff, Miami could evaluate Tua while building a team around him, then upgrade if needed.
Much like the aforementioned Samuel, the 49ers scheme, which is largely game-planned by McDaniel, is predicated on maximizing weapons. Putting receivers and running backs in positions to succeed is the main goal, which led to Samuel’s movement across formations.
Miami, on the other hand, struggled to use their weapons properly under Brian Flores. While Jaylen Waddle was drafted as a deep threat, he rarely was used in that role. Rather, Miami used him underneath, in a similar role to Jarvis Landry when he was here.
Other weapons, such as DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki were also inconsistent, as it seemed they weren’t comfortable in the offense.
Unlike the offenses of the Dolphins’ past, McDaniel’s 49ers unit has made their living on maximizing their talent. Players such as Brandon Aiyuk, Elijah Mitchell, and the aforementioned Samuel have found major roles in the system.
The idea of Miami maximizing their talent while innovating in their scheme is promising, and only further intrigues me on the idea of bringing McDaniel to the Dolphins.
Attention to Detail
While following Kyle Shanahan for most of his career, McDaniel has picked up on the little things he does well. One of those is hammering in the important intricacies of the game, especially on offense.
It’s clear that Mike McDaniel is a guy who cares deeply about the ins and outs of scheme, and it shows up in his media availability. Much like many of the young, bright head coaches, he points out the minute details that differentiates good teams from great teams.
McDaniel often speaks about what defenses have shown on film the week prior, and how his players can exploit that. Meanwhile, his ability to display what his players can improve on, especially effort plays, shows the accountability fans desire.
It was clear that there was a disconnect between Brian Flores and specific players, but McDaniel displays a desire to improve with his players every day.
The Bottom Line about Mike McDaniel
The Miami Dolphins are likely to move in a new direction with their next head coach, and Mike McDaniel is exactly that. This defense has shown the ability to produce at a high level, but the offense has lagged behind. Bringing in someone who has shown a concentrated effort to implementing an innovative scheme can help fix that.
There are flaws with McDaniel, as there are with all of the other coaches on the market. Concerns may lie in his ability to build a staff or his preferred scheme on defense, but, the positives are promising. Coaches such as McVay, Lafleur, Stefanski, and Shanahan all came off the coaching tree, and it looks like McDaniel may be up next. The track record of success is there, and it’s hard to overlook.
If Miami chooses to go with McDaniel, it will show a commitment to fixing a unit that has struggled since the turn of the century, and a sign of hope Dolphins fans desperately need.