Zach Sieler: The NFL’s Most Underrated Player

Dolphins DL Zach Sieler has been overlooked since entering the league, and it’s time for him to be shown the respect he deserves.

Dolphins DT Zach Sieler is one of the league's most underrated players
Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins, winners of seven straight, will participate in the playoffs if they win their next two games. This comes after Miami lost seven in a row in a slew of injuries, disappointments, and lack of chemistry.

Now, as they found their groove, many look for players and units to credit. Tua Tagovailoa has looked much improved from last year, rookies Jaylen Waddle, Jaelan Phillips, and Jevon Holland look like stars in the making, and the defensive backfield looks just as deadly as last year.

Although, a name that needs some recognition is Dolphins defensive tackle Zach Sieler. The fourth- year pro, while only having two sacks, has generated eight pressures, per Pro Football Reference, and has been a stalwart in the run game.

Being in rotation with the likes of Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis, Sieler has only appeared in over 50 percent of snaps in five of Miami’s 15 games. Those snaps, however, have been productive. Sieler has excelled at holding his gaps, stopping the run, and making timely hits on opposing quarterbacks, and his all-22 from the last few weeks shows exactly that.

Zach Sieler gets after Ian Book.

Pass Rusher

Although Pro Football Reference only registers eight pressures, Sieler has been impactful and timing on that end. His ability to get off blocks quickly and get after the quarterback has complemented edge rushers Emmanuel Ogbah and Jaelan Phillips nicely. While also having two sacks, he has been able to set up for teammates and make impact plays.

As shown on this play against the Giants, the game appears easy for Sieler at times. His combination of speed and power, as shown here, gets him into the backfield in time to influence the throw.

Zach Sieler forces a near INT on a pressure

By batting the linemen’s hands to the side, he allows himself to use his unusual speed. He is then able to pull away from the guard and pursue his target. His impressive closing speed is enough for Mike Glennon to put up a dangerous throw, which nearly is intercepted by Jevon Holland.

A Simple Move

Although simple, he thrives in his ability to keep offensive linemen from getting their hands on him. With quick slaps, he is able to remain untouched and keep his forward momentum. The perfect combination of these two factors was on display on Monday Night Football against the Saints.

On this play, shown below, Sieler takes an outside route to the quarterback. To avoid contact with the guard, he runs outside of him. With his quick get-off and speed, he’s able to do his quick swat away and leave him in the dust.

Zach Sieler generates a pressure on Ian Book.

Although it doesn’t register as a sack for Sieler, he was able to pressure Book out of the pocket, and into a sack for his teammate. While his big plays don’t always show up on the stat sheet, they leave the same impact.

Run Stopper

Although sacks and pressures are typically more flashy, Zach Sieler makes the Dolphins run defense fun to watch. His combination of speed and power that I referenced earlier show up even more on run plays. His ability to maintain gap integrity while stopping playmakers in the backfield is one not found in many interior defensive linemen.

PFF rates Zach Sieler among the top IDL’s at run stopping.

Sieler’s game against the Carolina Panthers is one that perfectly displays his run defense in action. On this play, his goal would typically be to push McCaffrey out to the edge, while allowing linebackers to come up and make hits on the cutback lanes. What he ends up doing, however, is much more impressive.

Zach Sieler stops Christian McCaffrey.

He starts by getting outside, as he typically does, when he notices McCaffrey cut back in. Without losing his place, he is able to swallow him up for a loss on the play. He does so by throwing the lineman completely out of the play, which shows just how much power he has to disengage.

Counters

Another impressive part of Sieler’s run defense has been his implementation of counters into his game. On film, it is clear that he likes to go outside, which is typically to the left, and he has found a way to use that to his advantage.

On this play from his great performance against the Giants, he sells that he’s going outside, getting the lineman to leave his backside unprotected. In doing so, this allows Sieler to use a swim move to get back inside and stuff the run, potentially preventing a big play.

Zach Sieler uses a swim move to stop the run.

With limited snaps, linemen don’t have much tape to check out on Sieler. Thus, when they find a trend, it becomes much more important to identify and stop it. If not, Sieler will find a way to ensure they’re wrong every time.

High Effort Plays

In a Brian Flores defense, it’s clear that the fundamentals are preached as necessary for playing time. The coach who once dedicated a wall to the phrase “takes no talent” looks for players who show their love for the game on the field. It’s clear through his high motor that no Dolphins player exhibits that more than Zach Sieler.

As a lineman, it’s typically your job to get into the backfield and make stops like the ones I’ve shown thus far. However, Sieler works far outside his responsibilities, such as on this play shown below.

Sieler recognizes that New York is running a screen to Saquon Barkley, and he is able to, from his IDL spot, get over to the back, track him down, and stop him for only a short gain. His speed is on display here and it’s truly fun to watch.

Sieler uses his great motor to get out on the screen.

Sieler typically finds himself around the football, which is a common trait among star defensive players, and a prime example of that is Miami’s game vs. Carolina.

Here, he is able to see that Cam Newton is passing his way, perfectly timing his jump and getting his hands in the air to bat the ball down.

Zach Sieler bats down the pass.

The most impressive part about his timing on this play is that he gets Cam to throw it there and gets his hands up late enough. Although, they still get up in time to make the play.

Knowing Your Responsibility

This last play, which is one of my personal favorites this year, comes against the Jets. After noticing that a reverse is coming, Sieler sees Zach Wilson begin to slip out.

Zach Sieler prevents a TD

Realizing that his responsibility is the quarterback, Sieler disengages and takes off. As the receiver lets the throw go, Sieler is tracking down Wilson to the end zone. With impressive closing speed, he is able to get his hands up and knock the ball down.

Without Sieler’s high football IQ and effort, this play very well may have resulted in a touchdown.

The Bottom Line

Zach Sieler, although not regarded as a top defensive lineman, has far exceeded expectations set by fans and the Dolphins coaching staff.

His ability to defend the pass and run, while always giving 100 percent has been special to watch, and it pops on film every week.

It will be interesting to see how the former seventh-round pick continues to improve, but it’s clear that his story is just beginning to unfold.

Dolphins vs Panthers All-22 Breakdown and Key Observations

Miami won for the 4th time in a row, in convincing fashion, and the Dolphins vs Panthers All-22 Film tells an interesting story of the game.

dolphins vs panthers
Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

For the fourth week in a row, the Dolphins have found themselves as winners. This time, Miami won in decisive fashion vs the Panthers, with a final score of 33-10.

This game brought hope to Dolphins fans, and for good reason. This game showed the formula many thought they would at the beginning of the season. A combination of stellar defense and opportunistic, ball-control-based offense has gotten Miami wins over the last four games.

When watching the All-22 tape on NFL Gamepass, it was clear that Miami’s plan is starting to work out, and here are five things that stood out when watching the film for Dolphins vs Panthers.

Fantastic Phillip Lindsay

Following being waived by the Houston Texans, running back Phillip Lindsay was claimed by the Miami Dolphins, who were looking for another back to complement young guns Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

Coming off a short week, it was uncertain if Lindsay would play, but, as he explained, he was quick to get into the facility and study the playbook.

It was clear that the hard work, even in minimum snaps, has paid off. The two-time thousand-yard rusher showed, even with a below-average OL, why he was so successful in Denver.

Phillip Lindsay’s first run in Miami.

Above all other traits, his burst and awareness have stood out. Other backs, especially Myles Gaskin, seem to wait for holes to develop. This, although valuable with a good OL, becomes an issue when there isn’t time to sit back.

Lindsay, on the other hand, is constantly moving. Even when the hole isn’t there, his feet are always driving forward, raising his floor on yards to gain. Even when he gets tackled early in the play, his forward momentum keeps him from losing yards.

Phillip Lindsay showing off his great burst.

Along with this, his pass blocking is a thing of beauty. On QB Tua Tagovailoa’s 57-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle, Lindsay makes up for OT Liam Eichenberg, who got beat on the play. Coming out of the backfield, he demonstrated textbook blocking, attacking the rusher and providing his quarterback a throwing window.

Phillip Lindsay’s block opens up the throw to Waddle.

The Tuscaloosa Connection

Throughout college, Tua Tagovailoa found success in getting the ball out quickly in the RPO game, typically to his track team at wide receiver. The Dolphins, after drafting Tua thought that the best way to maximize the young quarterback was getting his collegiate teammate, Jaylen Waddle.

Through the first few games of the season, it was apparent that Tua and Waddle had chemistry, the level of which was unknown.

Now, however, as the season progresses, we can see that the 2nd year quarterback is significantly more comfortable with Waddle than any other receiver.

Throughout the game vs the Panthers, Tagovailoa targeted Waddle on a variety of looks, including several tightly contested looks, which contradicted notions on Tua coming out of college that he was unwilling to make risky throws.

Tua and Waddle connect on an out route.

More impressive, however, was the ability that Tua and Waddle have to know when the ball is coming out, and where. Tua, through repetition and natural chemistry, consistently throws the ball to Waddle before, or as, he’s coming out of his break. A prime example of this is the touchdown between the two.

Excellent Anticipation

When Tua releases the ball on a curl route, Waddle has yet to turn around and has three defenders near him. The ball was not only thrown early, but also put in a perfect spot for the rookie to make the play. That anticipation was a trait Tua was praised for at Alabama, and it seems Waddle is bringing it out now.

Tua’s throw to Waddle was out FAST.

This was not the only instance of this chemistry, however, as the aforementioned 57-yard play showed the duo’s promise as well.

Following the Lindsay block, Tua put the ball right in the middle of the field as Waddle made his break. Knowing his ability to move after the catch, his throw gave Waddle ample room to work, even with a safety coming down.

Tagovailoa and Waddle connected nine times for 137 yards and a touchdown, and this game looked promising for the duo.

Jaelan Phillips is Legit

This year, after a rough start, had been largely dominated by rookies Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle. Their ability to make impact plays has certainly been noticed, and both have flashed in crucial moments.

However, Dolphins fans and media alike had seemed to forget about the first-round pick, Jaelan Phillips. Coming out of UM, Phillips was regarded as a potentially elite pass rusher with a deep bag of tricks. This left Miami fans excited when he fell to them at the 18th pick.

Despite the hype, however, Phillips had failed to produce by all simple counting stats. While it seemed that he was getting close, he was rarely able to get home. Dolphins fans became frustrated, and it seemed that the optimism for Phillips faded as it grew for Waddle and Holland.

When the Dolphins took on the Panthers, all of it started to come together.

Coming out Party

Against an offensive line ranked among the worst in the league, Phillips was able to tally three sacks, a pass deflection, and a pressure leading to an INT.

Jaelan Phillips creates a pressure leading to an INT.

The numbers, however, weren’t as impressive as the tape on the plays themselves.

In particular, his work from the inside, with Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge, was spectacular. With Ogbah taking an outside route, Phillips was often left 1-on-1 with a guard. His combination of size and speed left these guards in the dust, and him in the backfield at will. With a skill-set as refined as Phillips’, it will be very difficult to stop him without tackle help.

Jaelan Phillips gets a sack vs a guard.

It’s clear that Miami has something special with Ogbah and Phillips, and I suspect they will use that pairing on the same side more often.

Improved Play Calling

Going into this season, Miami knew their offense needed to improve from the 15th ranked scoring unit. Thus, when they opted to make in-house coordinator hires, many were confused. A staff that was unable to produce a consistent offensive scheme would now be led by play-callers with limited experience.

These concerns lingered into the season, as Miami’s offense was dwelling near the bottom of the league. Many were calling for the jobs of Studesville and Godsey, and Miami had lost seven straight.

However, they seemed to have found their stride in the winning streak, both of which continued on Sunday.

Operating out of heavy pistol sets with lots of pre-snap motion, Miami was able to create misdirection. The threat of motion-man Albert Wilson stressed defenses to his side, while Jaylen Waddle and Durham Smythe were able to find soft spots in coverage.

Miami goes underneath to Waddle off the Wilson motion.

Miami also used these looks to create counters from a play they love to run: the wheel to Albert Wilson.

Against both the Jets and Ravens, Miami teased this formation, running a deep wheel route to Wilson in both games. It was clear Miami wanted defenses to pick up the idea, and I had clamored on Twitter for counters.

Those wishes came to fruition on Sunday, as Miami ran almost their entire offense out of this formation. This base set led to several different runs, short and intermediate passes. With the Panthers expecting the wheel route, Miami was able to catch Carolina off guard and tear them apart underneath.

Miami runs their motion based pistol offense and gets a first down.

The offense will still need to improve over the coming weeks, but they are trending up during the most important stretch of their season.

Area Of Improvement

Even in a 23-point win, there were areas of the team that were less than ideal. One that stuck out was the offensive line.

On three separate occasions, Miami’s offensive lineman gave up pressures or bad snaps that ruined potential scoring drives.

On separate drives, Jesse Davis and Liam Eichenberg were beaten badly, leading to crucial sacks on Tua and then punts.

Liam Eichenberg gets beaten by Brian Burns.

The other drive, before the half, contained one of Austin Reiter’s several bad snaps. After going too low, Tua was unable to recover the snap, and Carolina turned a potential Miami FG into one of their own.

Here’s one of Austin Reiter’s bad snaps.

If Miami is to continue their streak, eliminating drive-ending mistakes is crucial, and those start with the OL.

The Bottom Line

The Miami Dolphins are showing signs of life, and are only two games below 500. With games against the Giants and Jets upcoming, Miami has a chance to contend for a playoff spot.

Whether it’s too late is yet to be determined, but Miami has continued to improve over the last month. The tape continues to get better, and Miami looks like the team we envisioned back in August.

The coming weeks will be the most telling, and it will be exciting to see if Miami can complete the miraculous comeback season.

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Is Emmanuel Ogbah next in line for a new contract?

Emmanuel Ogbah was a pleasant free agent pickup last season and it looks like he wants a new contract before he hits free agency again this year.

Dolphins DE Emmanuel Ogbah deserves a new contract
Photo credit: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Emmanuel Ogbah was a pleasant free agent pickup last season and it looks like he wants a new contract before he hits free agency again this year.

Ogbah’s camp has reported that they would like to have a new contract this upcoming season. Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Heralds, Ogbah’s agent Drew Rosenhaus has stated: “We would like to get an extension done, We’ve approached the Dolphins about that. That’s as much as I can say.”

Rosenhaus eschewed the original statement on WSVN 7 Sports Xtra with host Josh Moser

Ogbah did report to the Dolphins training facility for mandatory mini-camp.

Currently, Emmanuel Ogbah is in his final year of his 2-year, $15M contract signing with the Dolphins back ahead of the 2020 season. This comes on the heels of a nine sack season that led the team, along with 42 tackles, 21 QB hits, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Ogbah’s play off the edge was eye opening to say the least, and was one of the best at the 5-point stance.

The Dolphins signed Ogbah, the former Browns and Chiefs pass-rusher, to a two-year, $15 million contract before the 2020 season. It turned out to be one of the better free-agent bargains last year, as Ogbah had more than his share of dominant moments. This was especially true when Ogbah was aligned in a 5-technique role, just outside the offensive tackle in a three-man front. He had two solo sacks and 13 total pressures on that role, and on occasion, as he did here against the Patriots, Ogbah would turn on the jets with an inside move, and just bull his way to the quarterback.”

Doug Farrar-Touchdown Wire

A late bloomer since he entered the NFL, Ogbah developed well in Kansas City and showcased his potential last season. The 2019 season looked like he was headed towards a big year until an injury halted that season. Ogabh took the next step with the Dolphins in 2020, playing in a scheme that has benefited him.

“He’s got versatility, “He can play inside, outside. He’s tough. He plays against the run. He plays well against the run. He’s fast. He’s got length. He’s smart. He can do a lot. He’s a good teammate. He’s tough. I think I’ve said that already, but he’s a good player.”

Head Coach Brian Flores on Ogbah

The Dolphins coaching staff trust Ogbah to do a variety of things, not only to rush the passer but to set the edge against run fits and his ability to move inside the defensive line on passing downs.

“Emmanuel has shown the ability to be multiple,” defensive coordinator Josh Boyer said. “We move him around in a lot of spots. He can set the edge. He can handle double-teams. He can rush the passer. He is a diligent worker and he constantly is striving to get better.”

Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer on Ogbah

Compared to this upcoming free agent class of EDGE rushers, Ogbah is fairly young at 27. Von Miller would be 33 and his market value currently stands at $12 million a year per Spotrac. Derek Barnett who’s rookie contract is also up at the end of this year is valued at $10.4 million a year on a 4 year contract. Both Ogbah and Barnett share the same agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

If there’s any indication about Ogbah reporting to mini-camp as a sign of extension talks underway looking at Rosenhaus’s response above clarifies nothing.

It will be up to the Miami Dolphins organization to offer a contract extension to Emmanuel Ogbah and his agent Rosenhaus, who is also Jerome Baker’s agent that brokered Baker’s new deal.

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Minicamp Reports: Day 1

Well it certainly started off with Lightning Thunder and lots of Rain, loads of it in South Florida. It might’ve been a factor in Todays practice but that’s not the biggest Headline from today.

Well it certainly started off with Lightning Thunder and lots of Rain, loads of it in South Florida. It might’ve been a factor in Todays practice but that’s not the biggest Headline from today.

Xavien Howard

The Day started off with the Xavien Howard situation and many wondered if he would show up- Brian Flores questioned it too. By the time Minicamp started, Xavien Howard was not in attendance and it may look like we have a contract dispute between Xavien Howard and the Dolphins organization.

This will be a story to monitor this offseason. Will he be at Training Camp this season, Will the Dolphins renegotiate a deal or wait till 2022?

“This is a little bit unique,” Flores said. “He was extended so we’re talking about a renegotiation. A very unique situation with a potential renegotiation after one year so those turn into longer conversations and we understand that. We obviously have had a lot of talks.”

Coach Flores on the Xavien Howard Situation

Participants

Emmanuel Ogbah was in Minicamp attendance today as he also seeks to get a new deal this offseason. Ogbah’s camp and agent Drew Rosenhaus have expressed interest since the end of last season.

Mike Gesicki was also at camp and seen in a red no contact jersey as he had offseason surgery on his shoulder that sidelined him last season. Gesicki is part of the 2018 Draft class with Jerome Baker, who just signed an extension a few days ago. With a loaded TE room it’s worth noting he has not been extended yet and is a free agent after this season

Elandon Roberts was dressed but not participating during onfield drills, as was Preston Williams who both are rehabbing after injuries last season.

Start of Minicamp

As mentioned above the downpours came into 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 plays. It went like this

Certainly, many people claim this as a cause for concern on the offensive side of the ball. You have to remember this is a Brand new offensive system being installed and put onto the field against a returning Top five defense who added more weapons and a returning secondary who is the defensive identity.

When it comes to Mini-camp, historically the defense wins the day.

Talk about Tua’s interceptions of the day, it’s better to take risks now, learn and adapt at practice. Practice is to perfect the skill and master the playbook. You want to see this happening in the middle of June rather September time, or worse- on a push for the playoffs.

The Rebound

Both Tua and Jacoby Brissett started to heat up after the rain passed and played with good pace to get down the field.

Jason Sanders doing what he always does

Conclusion

The Xavien Howard situation is worth monitoring, either he comes to camp, renegotiates a deal, or simply plays on his current contract and talks are postponed to 2022

The overreaction will continue this offseason about Tua and the Offense as a whole works out the kinks in Practice. The Wide Receiver room looks stacked and is building chemistry with Tua, especially Will Fuller

Defense looks stellar and will continue to build on a successful 2020 season with added depth and new defensive rookies

Minicamp will resume Tomorrow

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