The Miami Dolphins have a conundrum on their hands and his name is Mike Gesicki. Gesicki, now playing for his third head coach in five seasons, seems to be the odd man out in Miami these days. New head coach Mike McDaniel is bringing the only offense he has ever coached to the Dolphins: the Shanahan-inspired wide zone running scheme. His newly franchise tagged tight end may not exactly be a perfect fit.
With his most challenging training camp coming to a close soon, Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki finds himself in a precarious position.
The biggest hurdle
The biggest question mark around Mike Gesicki’s game has, and always will be, about his blocking ability. As a rookie, former head coach Adam Gase put him in far too many situations where he was blocking pass rushers one on one.
The next regime and their 43 different play callers were able to maximize his strengths. Putting the big body tight end either in the slot or out wide allowed him to flash his freakish athleticism as a pass catcher.
Whether it was Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, or Tua Tagovailoa throwing him the ball, Gesicki shined.
Mike Gesicki’s struggles as a blocker are now even more highlighted in this new offense. Miami’s second preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders was an example of where Gesicki will struggle. He struggled for most of the night to block efficiently. Even his greatest strength failed him on a third down pass early in the game that bounced off his chest.
Gesicki’s performance on Saturday has been the topic of discussion since the game ended. Tua Tagovailoa, Mike McDaniel, and tight ends coach Jon Embree were all asked about his struggles against the Raiders. Each expressed confidence in his ability to bounce back and continue to improve.
Gesicki bounced back in a big way in Tuesday’s practice, and saw more action than he typically has in camp. Wednesday’s joint practice with the Philadelphia Eagles saw Gesicki make an impressive grab in 11-on-11 periods.
What does the future hold for Mike Gesicki?
Reports of Miami seeking to trade the tight end have been shot down by local beat writers. So what does Miami do with Mike Gesicki? If they plan to have him on the field, it is going to be in a more traditional tight end role. His price tag absolutely dictates him being on the field.
However, his blocking ability, or lack thereof, will always stop him from being a fit for this offense. He can improve as a blocker, but will always be limited. He’s a tall and lanky player, with much more upper body strength than lower. Blocking will always be a mission.
This may be Gesicki’s last year with the Dolphins, but he at least appears to be in their immediate plans.
After the Miami Dolphins Week 1 victory over the New England Patriots, the season has not gone quite as expected. While Week 1 left many questioning the Dolphins’ offensive production, a win came nonetheless. After starting QB Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the Dolphins Week 2 matchup against the Buffalo Bills after playing nine snaps, those questions were replaced with much harder ones. Since having 10:41 left on the clock in the first quarter of Week 2, fans seem to be watching the Miami Dolphins playoff chances fade away. But just how low are they?
Status of the Miami Dolphins offense
Week 3 featured back-up QB Jacoby Brissett’s first start during Tua’s absence with fractured ribs. Despite coming playing in relief of Tua in Week 2, Brissett still couldn’t get the offense moving during the Bills 35-0 shellacking of Miami. After two early touchdowns for the Dolphins in Week 3, it looked like things were heading for another tragic day. The Las Vegas Raiders scored 25 unanswered points, including a safety featuring some very questionable decision-making. Miami roared back into the game, tying it at the end of regulation, but fell short to the Raiders 31-28 in overtime.
There is some good news for Miami. First, after being placed on the injured reserve after Week 2, Tua should be cleared to return for Miami’s Week 6 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Secondly, Brissett is a solid back-up should be able to snag one win in Tua’s absence. Lastly, the defense is continuing to force turnovers and make things difficult for their opponents. The points allowed total looks bad, but when a defense is asked to go out repeatedly without support from its offense, the opponent will tire them out quickly.
Now let’s get into the bad news. The offensive line is still a disaster. Buffalo sacked the QB six times in Week 2, while the Raiders snagged two of their own and forced a safety. The unit as a whole is the Achilles heel of this Dolphins squad and holds the key to their playoff chances. If they stand any chance of making it to the 2021 postseason they need to make some changes in the offensive trenches immediately.
A look at the rest of the Dolphins’ season
While things seem to be trending down, a look at the rest of the schedule does not necessarily spell doom for the Miami Dolphins’ playoff chances. Before we jump into this, it is worth noting that it is still very early in the season. However, here’s the rest of the Dolphins 2021 regular-season schedule:
Miami will be without Tagovailoa in Week 5 against Tampa Bay. After failing to score a single point at home against the Bills, a win in Buffalo is a pipe dream in Week 8. Miami has not defeated Baltimore since 2015, with Lamar Jackson under center, that drought won’t be quenched any time soon. Tennessee feels like the closest competition out of this group, but I expect to see a very different Titans team in Week 17 than we see now.
The 10 crucial games for the Miami Dolphins’ playoff chances
The rest of these games have the potential to be won by Miami. The combined record of these opponents (excluding Jacksonville’s Week 4 Thursday night loss) is 8-22 featuring four winless teams, one of which they play twice. The only games that will be a challenge are the Week 12 matchup versus the Panthers and their Week 16 tilt against the Saints.
Panthers QB Sam Darnold has become a completely different signal-caller than the Dolphins saw in New York. Will they still be able to make him see the ghosts they’ve made him see in his past duels with this Dolphins defense?
Another key to this game will be the status of RB Christian McCaffrey. Carolina was forced to completely change its offensive game plan after losing McCaffery in their Week 3 win over the Texans. Hamstrings can be finicky. However, the Panthers’ RB should remain out until at least Week 6. They face off six weeks later, but given McCaffrey’s injury struggles last season, anything can happen.
Now for the second game can stifle the Miami Dolphins’ playoff chances. Winning against Carolina and New Orleans, as well as the other eight, leaves this team with an 11-6 record. Who comes out victorious in Week 16: Sean Payton’s offense or Brian Flores’ defense might just be the precursor to whether or not Miami makes the playoffs.
If Miami can fluster Saints QB Jameis Winston and force the bad Winston to come out, Miami can win this game. However, if Sean Payton and company come out on fire, the Dolphins offense can’t keep up with a juggernaut.
So what are the Miami Dolphins’ playoff chances?
It’s about a coin flip right now. The sky might be falling, but as stated earlier, it is only Week 4. A win over the Indianapolis Colts this week, who are missing a number of important starters, would kick things off in the right direction. For Dolphins fans, the magic number is five. This team needs to win at least nine of its last 14 games, preferably 10. Five losses between now and the end of the season leaves Miami with a 10-7 record. Anything more and the Miami Dolphins’ playoff chances seem very unlikely.
With Tua Tagovailoa out against the Raiders, backup QB Jacoby Brissett hopes to provide the spark Miami is desperately looking for.
Let’s be honest: the last week has sucked for Dolphins fans.
Going into the most important game of Miami’s young season, the hype was building for a potential upset against the reigning AFC East Champion Buffalo Bills. This was the week where it all was supposed to come together.
Tua Tagovailoa, Brian Flores, and the Miami Dolphins were looking to make a leap into being true contenders. This game was prime real estate to make a statement.
But as we all know, the complete opposite happened.
Behind a struggling offensive line, Miami was unable to get anything going in the air or on the ground. Unable to score any points, Miami couldn’t capitalize on multiple red-zone trips. But the worst consequence came from under center.
Young franchise quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was knocked out of the game with broken ribs, and will miss the game this Sunday. He could also miss more games depending on pain tolerance.
But even after the tough loss, the season isn’t over.
Showing the ability to manage the game, the Colts traded for Jacoby, following injury concerns to Andrew Luck. While his team disappointed, posting only a 4-11 record with him as the starter, Brissett was able to make several nice throws, post a solid 3,098 yards, including a long of 80 yards.
After a 2018 season where he didn’t start a game, Luck retired before 2019, which led to Brissett being inserted into the starting lineup.
Now, with Tagovailoa out for at least this week, Brissett offers another chance to prove himself as a starter in this league. In little experience, he has put up solid stats, doing enough to win games, and that’s just what Miami needs, going up against the Raiders, Colts, and Buccaneers over their next 3 games.
Given his previous experience, it is clear that Jacoby Brissett has what it takes to keep the Dolphins in the thick of the AFC, and it will be exciting to see what he can do as Miami waits for their franchise QB to return.
After an abysmal performance in Week 2 against the Bills, Dolphins ATB look ahead to Raiders, previewing how they can bounce back.
Date: Sunday, September 26
Time: 4:05 ET (21:05 UK Time)
Venue: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV
TV: CBS and NFL Gamepass International
Record: Dolphins (1-1) Raiders (2-0)
Week 2 Recap
They say time heals all wounds and eases the pain. As I am writing this, and as I’m sure when you are reading this too, we all know as Dolphins fans this plainly isn’t true. With the foul taste of Week 17 still lingering in the minds of many Dolphins fans, it was almost inconceivable that things could get any worse. They did. In what can be a contender for one of the coldest takes of the year, led by my heart, I predicted that the Dolphins would win in a shootout. Oh how wrong I was. So where did it all go wrong?
In my preview article I stated there would be 3 keys to success against Buffalo:
Contain Josh Allen
With the threat of Josh Allen widely known the Dolphins needed to contain him. For the most part they did as Allen was only able to rush for 35 yards. However, with the Dolphins pass rush only creating 1 sack across the first two games, there was not really much need, as Miami were unable to generate consistent pass rush, despite Buffalo’s issue at tackle.
Elite Secondary Play
The Dolphins secondary deserved a lot better from this game. They held Josh Allen to 17-33 for 179 yards. Stephon Diggs completed 4 catches from 8 completions. Xavien Howard continued to show why he is the best corner in the league with yet another INT this time against Diggs. Rookie Jevon Holland recovered a fumble forced by Jerome Baker. The coverage of the secondary was elite and by the half Allen only had 62 passing yards.
And this is where it all went wrong. Not only did the offensive line allow 6 sacks, 11 QB hits and 24 pressures of 45 dropbacks, starting QB Tua Tagovailoa left the game on a back of a cart following a sack by AJ Epenesa. After an average 2020 season, it very much feels like we are back in 2019 after last weeks performance. It was by no means pretty and was not addressed during the game. Flores and Jeanpierre have stated openly that they will address the offensive line this week, how though remains to be seen.
In an elite secondary like Miami’s it is very hard to stand out, especially if you are a rookie. Just ask Noah Igbinoghene. Jevon Holland however has had no such issues, even replacing Eric Rowe during the game. Against the Bills he was the second highest graded player on the defense, in what was a good defensive performance. Furthermore, he is the highest rated rookie defender in the league. It will be interesting to watch his performances compared with Raiders’ rookie safety Tre’von Moehrig who was the widely regarded No.1 safety in the 2021 NFL Draft. A lot has been said this week about Chris Grier’s drafting capabilities. Thus far, Holland is looking like a home run pick.
Expectations Heading into Week 3
The Raiders come into this game very hot. The Raiders lead the league in passing yards, averaging 8.8 Yards/Attempt, while managing 12 plays for 20+yards over two games. In that time the Dolphins have managed 3. What is all the more impressive is the teams that they have beaten in the Ravens and the Steelers, two elite defenses. Despite heavy reliance on Darren Waller Week 1 with 19 targets, Derek Carr began to spread the ball around against the Steelers, including Henry Ruggs, Kenyan Drake and Hunter Renfrow.
Nevertheless, without Josh Jacobs in the backfield their offense does look very one dimensional which plays into the Dolphins’ strengths. In Week 2 the Raiders run game managed 2.1 YPC on 25 attempts.
In a week that has been full of negativity, one positive has emerged in the return of Will Fuller. Fuller looks set to make his Dolphins debut against the Raiders. For the first time the Dolphins have all of their receiving options available to them, a luxury that has been missing for a long long time. A strong Dolphins’ receiving corps against a young Raiders’ secondary will be a key matchup throughout this game.
We all know that Darren Waller is a freak. Despite Eric Rowe being one of the best safeties in the league at shutting down TEs, he was no match for Waller when the two sides faced each other last December. With the performances of McCourty and Holland impressing in the first weeks of the season, it is unclear as to who will be guarding Waller and how the defense plans on shutting down the main focus of the Raiders’ offense.
Keys to Success
#1Improvements on Offensive Line!!!
If the offensive line can improve to be just a functional, average, yet stable the Dolphins can win this game. A big if. It has been reported that Eichenberg has been taking reps at LG, RT and LT. In addition, Solomon Kindley looks at risk of being dropped or shifted back to RG if Jesse Davis does not feature, pushing Hunt back out to RT where he played last season. I believe that it should be Eichenberg who starts at LT which then pushes Jackson inside at LG, who typically does better with linemen around him. The offensive line will need to perform better against a strong Raiders pass rush who have 5 sacks on the season already
#2 Explosive Pass Rush
Miami did better at getting pressure to Josh Allen than they did against the Patriots, but it will not be enough. With the speed of Ruggs a potential mismatch against most likely Byron Jones, the Dolphins front seven have to do better at getting pressure in the face of Carr before those routes can develop downfield. The Raiders offensive line underwent quite the overhaul in the offseason, and with Richie Incognito out and Jermaine Eluemunor a player that didn’t make the Dolphins’ roster while losing Ronnie Stanley, this is a good time for Miami’s pass rush to get started.
#3 Put Points on the Board
There were several instances where the Dolphins left points on field and it should not have been a shutout. Down 14-0 DeVante Parker dropped a 33 yard TD pass from Brissett right into his hands. Following this Xavien Howard then intercepted Allen just outside the redzone. The Dolphins then elected to go for it on 4th and 2 at Buffalo 16 yard line. If the TD pass was completed and then the Dolphins elect to kick the field goal, the Dolphins are back in the game down 14-10 with the momentum on their side. From the dramatic ending last season in Vegas thanks to a game winning field goal by Jason Sanders, the Dolphins need to ensure they are coming away from drives with something to show for it.
The BIG news coming out this week is that starting QB Tua Tagovailoa is OUT this week and most likely for the next couple of weeks with fractured ribs. A disappointment to many fans in an all important evaluation year for Tua. Thankfully however, the Dolphins do have one of the best backup QBs in the league who will not lose us this game based off his performance. As it stands, the only other players who may be in doubt to feature are Jakeem Grant and Jesse Davis who were both limited in practice after leaving the game against the Bills.
The most notable names on the Raiders injury report is that it is looking unlikely that Josh Jacobs or Richie Incognito will play after not participating in practice, while DE Carl Nassib has been limited.
After last weeks horrendously bad prediction on my behalf of Dolphins 31- 28 Bills, I am going to be much more reserved. Until I see some notable improvements on the offensive line early on in the game I cannot predict a Miami victory at this time. That is not to say it will not happen, so hopefully I am proven wrong this week. Check out the ATB Dolphins staff’s predictions below:
Bradley Davies 27-21 Raiders
Hussam Patel 24-17 Raiders
Chris Spooner 24-17 Raiders
Tyler DeSena 23-10 Raiders
Rishi Desai 20-17 Miami
Tanner Elliot 28-10 Raiders
Jared Vandermyde 17-14 Miami
This game is winnable. The Dolphins are tied with the Bills and the Patriots in the division. While it may seem that the sky is falling in after this Past week, the Dolphins still have a better record than this time last season. The Dolphins beat the Raiders last year. These next two games against the Raiders and Colts will be vitally important in getting the Dolphins’ season back on track if they are to mount any playoff push. Fins Up!
It begs the question, are these the same old Dolphins?
The Miami Dolphins were outmatched and outplayed by the Buffalo Bills for the eight straight time. Every season the Dolphins find a way back to revert to the mediocre teams of the past and do not recover.
Failing the Defense
Since 2020, Miami Offense has not been able to sustain drives and keep the defense fresh. Ultimately they cannot score points on the board, allowing our Defense to put pressure on opposing offenses.
Buffalo’s first two touchdown drives went for 46 and 52 yards, respectively. The Dolphins were able to come away with with two takeaways, but only gained 10 yards on those turnovers. This came in the first half.
At halftime Buffalo had only 152 yards at halftime. Josh Allen had only 62 passing yards. 46 of the Bills rushing yards came on a single carry by running back Devin Singletary.
Miami’s defense kept the Dolphins in the game until the fourth quarter, even though it was a shut out. The Bills had only 245 yards in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Miami got put to bed at the start of the fourth on a touchdown by Zach Moss to go up 28-0 with 13:38 remaining.
Miami’s offense could not score points on the board nor sustain strives, thus putting pressure on the defense.
Offensive Line Woes
Miami’s offensive line was horrendous abysmal. Plainly abysmal. The return of tackle Austin Jackson, who returned from the COVID-19 list and missed practice, did not help. Neither did Jesse Davis’s play.
The line got Tagovailoa hurt when Buffalo defensive end A.J. Epenesa got through untouched to hit Tagovailoa and injure his ribs, and the Bills already had two sacks before that when a pair of defensive backs got through untouched on disguised blitzes.
Stat of the day: Miami allowed six sacks and 12 quarterback hits.
Run blocking was not good either. The Dolphins averaged 3.6 yards per carry, failed to convert on a 4th & 2 run and could not even run the ball their other fourth down attempts.
With Tua now dealing with a bruised rib cage and Jacoby Brissett under duress for much of the game, the Dolphins need to figure it out.
They need to figure it out. They have to.
Drops, Drops, Drops, Drops, Drops, everybody
Lets highlight this play sequence:
Down 14-0, Brissett was moving the offense down the field to potentially score. At the 33 yard line, Brissett threw the ball right into Parker’s hands, but the wide receiver dropped a would be touchdown that could have swung the momentum.
A couple plays later, Brissett throws to Albert Wilson on a curl that would have gone for a first down, but Wilson dropped it.
The very next play, Brisset throws to Jakeem Grant who tried to go upfield and then fumbled the ball. Potentially blowing the best scoring chance the Dolphins had all game.
Waddle had a muffed punt. However, we should remember that he is a rookie and unfortunately mistakes will be made. He led the WR Corp with six catches and 46, but he also did drop multiple passes headed his way. He has not shown us the difference making abilities he had at Alabama. At least, not yet.
Overall, the Miami dolphins need to game plan better, coach better and play better against the Las Vegas Raiders.