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.

Miami Dolphins Stun Baltimore Ravens on TNF

Dolphins vs Ravens
Credit: Dolphins Wire

The Miami Dolphins stunned everyone with an upset win vs the Baltimore Ravens. Not only did Miami beat the Ravens, but they dominated most of the game. Even though it was a snooze fest of a game until the fourth quarter, Dolphin fans have a reason to be excited again. Here are some key takeaways from Miami’s stunning win vs the Ravens.

Defense Looks Dominant Again

Last night, the Dolphins defense looked like one of the best in the NFL. Holding one of the NFL’s best and hottest players in Lamar Jackson to just 277 all purpose yards. Not only that, but the Dolphins defense also had one interception, four sacks, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery that went for a touchdown vs the Ravens.

Xavien Howard got the game going with a forced fumble that he recovered and took it 49 yards for a score. Justin Coleman had the same sealing interception in the end zone with less than a minute left in the game. But this was all thanks to Lamar being uncomfortable all night.

Jaelan Philips, Andrew Van Ginkle, Emmanuel Ogbah, Brandon Jones, and Jevon Holland were in Lamar’s face all game. Lamar was blitzed essentially all game and it turned out to work for Miami.

Tua Fills In and Delivers

For the second straight week Tua Tagovailoa was active even with his finger injury. But for the second straight week Tua was the active back-up. This was until the third quarter when Jacoby Brissett went down with a knee injury.

On the next drive Brissett tried to go back in and head coach Brian Flores waved him off and called Tua’s number. At first it was evident that his finger is really injured, killing any “benching” speculation.

That being said, as the game went on, Tua did look more comfortable and started to throw better. He had some throws that made you shake your head but it is clear that it was due to his finger. Postgame Tua clarified that his finger “does not feel good”. but he stayed strong and played through it.

Tua’s highlights from last night are his deep throw to Jaylen Waddle and Albert Wilson along with his one yard quarterback sneak to score a touchdown. With the extended week due to playing on Thursday night, hopefully Tua uses this time so he is 100% by the next game against the New York Jets.

Run Game and Offensive Line Leave Question Marks

Even though the Dolphins played their best game of the season vs the Ravens, there was still negatives. The run game still isn’t where it should be. Myles Gaskins was the only rusher with over 10 carries and averaged 2.2 yards per carry. That is including his long of 11 yards. No team in the NFL should be able to win like this consistently, so Miami needs to figure out their run game woes.

The offensive line for Miami also did not play their best. As I said above Tua only got in the game due to Brissett getting hurt. The Ravens only had four saves, but had a total of 13 quarterback hits.

The run game also looked horrendous part due to part of the offensive line. Liam Eichenberg allowed several pressures and was the one who allowed the sack that got Brissett hurt. It will be something to keep an eye on if Miami decides to switch up the offensive line during their long week.

Familiar Faces Return

Albert Wilson and Isaiah Ford were the lead receivers for the Dolphins last night. Both tied with a game high four catches and both led the Dolphins in receiving yards. Wilson had 87 yards compared to Ford’s 84.

The question of “where has Albert Wilson been?” finally got answered as Miami finally used him properly. Miami sent him on a wheel route on an RPO and gained 64 yards on his biggest play of the night. He also ran a number of screens where he flashed his ability to make people miss consistently. It will be interesting if Miami keeps using Wilson throughout the season or if this was a “gameplay” situation.

Ford also came through for Miami as he had a number of catches when Miami was in a hurry up offense. Besides not stepping out of bounds in an obvious situation, Ford was impressive. He showed that he can be Miami’s number three or even two receiver if need be.

Rookies Shine

Rookies Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle received public praise from the media and the Ravens players. While Jaelan Phillips had his best game to date. Holland was all over the field and broke up a deep ball that was intended for Marquise Brown early in the game.

In addition to that, Holland stuffed the stat sheet, with five tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, two pass deflections, and a quarterback hit, it seems Chris Grier made have drafted a budding star.

Jaylen Waddle was also a key contributor as he was on the receiving end of Tua’s clutch throw in the fourth quarter. Waddle had four catches for 61 yards and its clear that Miami is making an effort to use him properly. He also drew a ton of attention as the defense always made sure they knew where he was. Waddle as normal was also both Brissett’s and Tua’s security blanket.

Jaelan Phillips impressed fans last week with a great game, but this week he was even better. Even though he only had half a sack and one quarterback hit, he was always around the ball and in Lamar’s face all night. He made sure Lamar didn’t scramble all over Miami and chased him down whenever he tried too.

Looking Ahead

Overall the Dolphins performance vs the Ravens showed how good of a team they can be. Even with the offensive line and run game not being the best they still outplayed the Ravens. The play-calling wasn’t the best but we have defiantly seen worse this year.

Let’s hope Miami is able to carry this momentum through the season and show that they are better than their current record of 3-7 and potentially fight for a playoff spot.

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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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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5 Key Plays from Tua Tagovailoa vs. Falcons

Tough.

The Dolphins are now 1-6 on the year, falling 30-28 to the Atlanta Falcons on a game winning field goal. The Dolphins are now 1-6 on the year.

What you’ll find was hidden in another Miami loss to a sub .500 team is a really good performance from 2nd year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has been in the headlines for a variety of reasons, including potential trades for Deshaun Watson.

In the meantime, Tua is the QB, and we can only base projections off of the roster right now. Tua made great plays, especially in the 4th quarter. He helped the Dolphins come back from down 13 to take the lead with under 4 minutes left.

The story of this game is one of elite traits, signs of development fighting adversity, and mistakes to improve on, and these five plays tell that story.

Pocket Presence

Going into the season, Miami’s offensive line was a major question mark. The Dolphins were starting second year players to start the year and the growing pains were noticeable.

Miami was forced to shuffle around their line in an attempt to find something that sticks. In doing so, they weren’t able to find much improvement.

Through 7 weeks, the Dolphins rank dead last in Pass Block Win Rate, per ESPN, with a whopping 47 percent. For reference, the Cleveland Browns are first with 73%.

Even with the adverse circumstances up front, Tua has been elite in the pocket, ranking near the bottom in sack rate. On several plays throughout the game, Tagovailoa was able to evade pressure and create positive yardage, including this scramble on 2nd and 8.

Tua Tagovailoa puts Deion Jones on skates.

With pressure coming off the edges, Tua makes a quick move, reminiscent of last year’s game vs. Arizona, gets past Deion Jones, and gets the first down.

Although he isn’t a “running QB”, Tagovailoa has shown on several occasions that he is willing to take off if that play breaks down.

“Keyhole” Accuracy

Entering the 2020 draft, Tagovailoa’s key trait was accuracy. At Alabama, he led a fast paced RPO offense, centered around hitting receivers in stride and letting them create yards after the catch.

Since Miami selected Tua #5 overall last year, the accuracy has stayed a point of emphasis, especially when he finds his rhythm.

It was much of the same against Atlanta, as Tua made several tight window throws, especially late in the game, that showed off his most impressive trait.

In the 4th quarter, when Miami was in desperate need of a touchdown drive, Tua started out with an outstanding touch throw.

Tua Tagovailoa threads the needle to Durham Smythe.

Tight end Durham Smythe runs a wheel concept, in which the receiver runs out towards the boundary, then up the field, and Tagovailoa is able to anticipate him reaching a soft spot in the coverage. Upon seeing this, Tua was able to float a pass in a perfect spot for Smythe to make a play on the ball, which he did, for a gain of 18.

Tagovailoa has continued to show that his accuracy is up to the challenge when Miami needs him most.

Fighting Adversity

Earlier this week, Mack Hollins let the world know what he thought of his young QB.

Mack Hollins calls Tua “that dude”

Hollins has a point, as we were able to see Tua’s ability to fight adversity to put Miami in a position to win the game. Some of which included his own mistakes

On the same drive as the throw to Smythe, Tagovailoa made a crucial run on third down, showing that he is willing to put his body on the line for the sake of the team.

Tua Tagovailoa lays the BOOM for a first down.

Sensing pressure coming from the edges, Tua stepped out of the pocket, and lowered his shoulder in order to pick up a crucial first down. Many were looking to see the “dog” in Tua, and we got a glimpse of it last week.

Just Keep Fighting

The next play is less of a show of Tua’s out of structure talent, but more his ability to execute clever plays perfectly if they’re run more.

On his last throw of the game, Miami ran a fake end around, getting the defensive line to commit to Jaylen Waddle’s speed and explosiveness.

After selling the fake to perfection, Tagovailoa rolls out, being able to place a ball in between 2 defenders in the back of the end zone for a lead-taking TD.

Tua Tagovailoa fakes the end around for a TD to Hollins.

Miami hasn’t used much creativity in their playcalling for Tua, and with less to lose, I hope we can see more plays like this.

Area of Improvement

Through his first 3 full games of the season, Tagovailoa’s growth has been noticeable. Unlike his rookie year, he has been much more willing to take chances in the intermediate game.

Even with his growth, there has been a consistent issue in his game: the inability to let plays die.

At several points throughout the games, Tua has made plays outside of structure, which he struggled with in 2020.

Although, there have been times when this has come back to bite him, and this game was no different.

Tua throws an INT.

Although many argue that Waddle is to blame for Tua’s second INT, interior pressure (which he has struggled with), was bearing down, and in the midst of being sacked, Tua let a ball go a bit high.

Another view of Tua’s INT.

While some believe Waddle could have made a play, the ball should never have been thrown.

Nonetheless, Tua must learn to play another down if he is to take the next step Miami hopes he will make.

The Bottom Line

In a year where Miami probably won’t make the playoffs, development is very important. Tua Tagovailoa is a prime example of that. Whether he’s in Miami’s long term plans or not, his and the Dolphins’ futures are somewhat reliant on his performance.

Although he wasn’t perfect, Tua showed that he has made great strides since his rookie year. Possessing some great accuracy, pocket presence, and ability to work in and out of structure, it is clear that Tagovailoa had one of the best games of his young career.

It will be exciting to see what he can do against Buffalo and other difficult teams down the stretch.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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