How the Miami Dolphins defended Mac Jones

The Miami Dolphins went away from what they were good at, lets see what the Gameplan was against New England and Mac Jones.

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins defense has been revered as one of the best Defenses in Man coverage while manufacturing pressures and blitzes. Through it’s exotic looks in the amoeba defense; especially Cover 0 and Cover 1 defense, it is a staple.

However, in the beginning of the first half against the Patriots, the game plan called for a heavy usage of zone schemes.


Primarily, Miami was in Cover 3 and Tampa 2 looks to minimize the chances of allowing up big plays and converting. Everything stays in front of the secondary.

While the preferred method would be an aggressive man scheme and put pressure on Mac Jones. One miscommunicated play could have led to disastrous results. Especially against New England’s pick plays.

For example, on the play above Miami is in Man Coverage. Josh McDaniel, the Patriots OC, is methodical in playcalling.

On 3rd and 6 the Dolphins needing to get the Defense off the field, the defenders play press but Justin Coleman gets caught up in a pick play. This leads Jakobi Myers to be wide open and a real chance to score.

If Miami had played more Man coverage in the first half, New England could have called more pick plays to attack LBs in coverage and catch DBs off guard.

Miami’s corners are really good in Man coverage and decent in zone coverage. They are effective and minimize YAC gained in coverage. However they have different responsibilities in zone coverage compared to one-on-ones in man coverage.


However, New England’s game plan was to attack the middle of the field, identify mismatches against Linebackers and Safeties.

In a Cover 3 look, Nickel defenders and Outside Linebackers move back 10-12 yards towards the hashes. They then close the window in the curl zone before pursuing routes to the flats. After, the look for any curl routes ran and then advance to the flat zones.

Mark Schofield breakdowns Mac Jones against the Dolphins game plan more in depth.

Jones operated in the classic Patriots dink and dunk fashion. 90% of his passes were within the short field, 15 yards or less. 41% of his passes were towards the left side of the field.

Miami’s Linebackers were not good in coverage against the Patriots Pass Catching corps, and New England attacked that weakness. Per PFF the following coverage grades and snap counts are as followed:

  • Elandon Roberts (9 snaps, Grade: 76.5)
  • Brennan Scarlett (7 snaps, Grade: 65)
  • Sam Eguaveon (13 snaps, Grade: 43.6)
  • Jerome Baker (33 snaps, Grade: 30)
  • Andrew Van Ginkel (9 snaps, Grade: 28.2)

Linebackers failing to cover well puts extra stress on safeties to clean up the play. Safeties mainly watch out for vertical routes and play split coverage to help on both sides of the field. The misses from LBs add extra responsibilities on safeties, leading them to be susceptible to targets.


While many preferred the defense to be ultra aggressive against rookie Mac Jones, there was a method to the madness Brian Flores and Josh Boyer dialed up.

We tend to forget that the Patriots and Dolphins have routinely scooped up each others players in free agency and the waiver wire as a result of similar philosophies and schematics.

Furthermore, Flores and Boyer come from Bill Belichick disciple tree, learning under him. Both teams know each others tendencies well enough that it becomes a well-matched chess game. Whoever flinches first loses.

Mac Jones may have had a nice stat line dinking and dunking; however, it does not lead to scores as we saw Week 1. It definitely did not lead to them winning either.

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Miami Dolphins Training Camp Recap Day 6

Today was the first day that the Miami Dolphins wore pads during training camp. This is when both the lines and the run game are spotlighted. 

Run Offense

Salvon Ahmed was wearing a red no contact jersey today. That left Myles Gaskin and Malcolm Brown as the top two backs. Both were very quiet today and Gaskin did have one fumble.

Aside from a few small gains, the run game was none existent. The offensive line had plenty of trouble against Miami’s front seven. Multiple times the running backs were met at the line of scrimmage or had to bounce inside.

Rookie Gerrid Doaks had some short runs but impressed people with his power. He showed he won’t go down easy no matter when/ where he’s hit.

Run Defense

Linebakers Benardrick McKinney and Brennan Scarlett were very impressive today. Both players were brought in this off-season to help stop the run and today they did just that. 

McKinney was getting a plethora of tackles at the LOS which Miami didnt have a ton of last year. Scarlett on the other hand was starting in place of Jalean Phillips who is injured. Scarlett was setting the edge very well according to Travis Wingfield, which is encouraging. 

John Jenkins and Adam Butler look to help the defensive line in the run game and did their fair share today. Both players were making sure the middle had no room for running backs all day.

Pass Game

The pass game was very minimal today as the team focused on the run. That being said, Noah Igbinoghene worked with the second team as Nik Needham was with the first team.

Kirk Merritt continued to flash his potential with a diving catch from Reid Sinnett. Both Waddle and Grant showed off their moves as reporters were left speechless after their jukes.

Quick Notes

Solomon Kindley is still working with the third team according to Omar Kelly.

Brazilian national player Durval Querioz Neto seems to be impressing coaches as he is working with the second team. Querioz Neto is also on special teams as well.

Noah Igbinoghene, Jakeem Grant, and Jaylen Waddle were the returners today.

Devante Parker, Xavien Howard, Jaelan Phillips, and Will Fuller did not practice due to injury. Albert Wilson (coaches decision) was very limited in practice.

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Miami Dolphins: Defensive Versatility

This is the second part of the versatility series here we look at the defenders that you may see all over the field this year. Finding just a handful of players is very hard as Flores loves his versatility on the defensive side.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This is the second part of the Miami Dolphins versatility series. Here we look at the defenders that you may see all over the field this year. Finding just a handful of players is very hard as Flores loves his versatility on the defensive side. He stresses that everyone should know every position. Every player listed was brought in by Flores and Grier (with the exception of one who recently resigned with Miami).

Brandon Jones

Jones was one of the more pleasant surprises last year. Drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, not many thought Jones would have the impact he did last year. Jones was used in a number of different ways and even made a presence in week one. He was very good at stopping the run and was effective in coverage. His best trait is being a team player as you could see him running down the sideline making key blocks for his teammates on interceptions or fumbles.

Year two for Jones is expected to be a big one. His willingness to do anything to make the team successful will only help him this season. One former Dolphin that Jones reminds me of is Rashad Jones. Both players would blow up the run one play, then break up a key pass the next. Stopping the run was a focal point of the offseason, expect Jones to get his fair share of snaps this season, even with the addition of Javon Holland.

Jones makes a key block on this defensive return

Jevon Holland

The Miami Dolphins drafted Holland in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, which shocked some people. This eventually led to the release of former team captain Bobby McCain. Even though McCain’s leadership will be missed significantly, Holland is ready to take over. In college, Holland played all over the defensive backfield and was successful in all positions. He can play the slot, he can play either safety position and in dire situations outside corner (which should not happen as Flores loves his corners).

This season, expect Holland to take McCain’s role in Miami’s defense. Holland has the athleticism to keep up with some of the faster receivers in the league. Playing alongside Eric Rowe will allow Holland to primarily focus on slot receivers or running backs coming out of the backfield, along with not letting anything get behind him. His ability to dissect plays will help him a ton as you will see in Miami he will always be around the ball.

Travis Wingfield shows some of his top Jevon Holland plays

Andrew Van Ginkel

AVG exploded onto the scene last year as one of Miami’s top playmakers on the defense. He was forcing fumbles, getting sacks, scoring, really anything on defense Van Ginkel did. Even though he wasn’t a starter for much of the season, he still made his presence known. He was one of the team’s better pass rushers, but he is athletic enough to play in zone coverage and could be a playmaker in the run game. Last season, AVG flashed all of this but not as consistent as we all hopped, granted he was not playing as many snaps as we all hoped either.

AVG in 2021 will be one of the biggest surprises in the NFL. His ability to rush the passer with his hand in the dirt or standing up gives him a ton of leverage against offensive lineman. His snap count on special teams should not change as AVG was one of the better special teams players. Van Ginkel may not take over all of KVN’s snaps as Jaelan Phillips was drafted. AVG will be put in more situations this season and if he improves his coverage and run play early, we will see a lot more of him.

Jerome Baker

Baker is a key part of Miami’s defense, and for good reason too. He is the prototypical Brain Flores linebacker, which is why Miami recently resigned him to a 3 year, $37.5 million dollar extension. Many fans called this an overpay, until Fred Werner signed his extension just a couple of days ago. Baker’s responsibility on defense is probably the most important and he plays a key factor every snap. Last season Baker had over 100 tackles and 7 sacks, which is absurd. Baker is a very good coverage linebacker and with the addition of Benardrick McKinney, Baker should be able to show that ability more. His run defense is a question mark but McKinney was brought in to help Baker.

This season, Baker will play more in coverage as Brian Flores McKinney will be the run stopping linebacker. Baker will also get to rush the passer as he’s shown that he is one of the better blitzers on the team. This season Baker will be in more positions to exceed the expectations of every fan and hopefully become a pro bowl linebacker.

Wingfield breaks down why Baker is so special

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11 Players the Miami Dolphins would protect in NHL-Style Expansion Draft

The NHL is expanding and welcoming the Seattle Kraken. If the NFL adopted an NHL-style expansion draft, who would the Miami Dolphins protect?

Miami Dolphins Expansion Draft
(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

The National Hockey League welcomed a new team to their league last week, the Seattle Kraken. With their entrance to the league came an expansion draft, and it generated a lot of buzz in the NFL media world. While the NFL isn’t expanding and has its own rules for an expansion draft, it did pose an interesting question: Which 11 players would the Miami Dolphins protect in an NHL-style expansion draft?

If you’re unfamiliar with the format of an NHL-style expansion, I can’t blame you!

The NHL has expanded twice since 2010, the Kraken’s entrance has introduced many to the strange, albeit fun, idea of “protecting” players from being poached by the new team.

Whenever an expansion draft happens, each team needs to “protect” 11 players from the draft. Players entering their first or second season in the league were exempt from the process. There’s more nuance, but that’s the basic premise.

That stipulation certainly plays in the Dolphins’ favor, as Miami is an extremely young team. That said, it would leave Miami with a lot of interesting questions with regard to who they protect and who they’d risk losing. To make it a bit easier, we’re going to split it up into five offensive players, five defensive players, and one special teamer. Let’s take a look!

Miami Dolphins Protected Players – Offense

  1. Mike Gesicki
  2. Michael Dieter
  3. Jesse Davis
  4. Devante Parker
  5. Myles Gaskin

Miami Dolphins Protected Players – Defense

  1. Benardrick McKinney
  2. Byron Jones
  3. Jerome Baker
  4. Xavien Howard
  5. Andrew Van Ginkel

Miami Dolphins Protected Players – Special Teams

  1. Jason Sanders

Why these 11 players?

Let’s start with the obvious: Special teams. Of all the players we’ve chosen to protect in this hypothetical NHL-style expansion draft, Jason Sanders seems like the easiest choice. He’s easily one of the best kickers in the NFL. If you have to protect a special teamer, you’re going to protect your kicker unless you have a Matthew Slater-type player, which Miami doesn’t.

The offense is where things get really tricky. It feels weird for us to be protecting both Michael Dieter and Jesse Davis.

Through projections, both Dieter and Davis might not start the season in 2021. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if one of them isn’t with the club when the regular season starts. That said, with how young the offense is and how many players are exempt, there aren’t many options. Both Dieter and Davis offer position flexibility, which Coach Flores values heavily.

In terms of skill position players, Miami’s cornerstone of the franchise Tua Tagovailoa and current 2021 first round draft pick Jaylen Waddle are already protected considering they are second and first year players.

That leaves us with Mike Gesicki, Devante Parker, and Myles Gaskin as our only real options. Preston Williams has the injury bug lately, making the chance of him being stolenby another team may be slim to none. No one else in the WR corps plays a big enough role in the offense to warrant consideration.

Gesicki’s contract expires at the end of this upcoming season; however, he is not the type of player who warrants protection, but options are limited and I expect Miami will extend him before his contract expires.

Over on the defensive side of things, the Dolphins have a bit more options with regards to who to protect. The defense isn’t quite as young as the offense, and there are some important players over here who could certainly get poached. We start with the newly acquired Benardrick McKinney. Miami gave up assets to get him, and he’s going to play an important role in Coach Flores’ defense. He’s an elite run defender, and if he’s back to his old self, can be a Pro Bowl-caliber linebacker for the Dolphins.

McKinney isn’t the only linebacker the Dolphins are protecting in this hypothetical scenario. Fellow backers Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel also make the cut. Both Baker and Van Ginkel are athletic pieces that the Dolphins can’t afford to lose with the current composition of the defense. Baker has yet to live up to his full potential, but the athleticism is unquestioned. Van Ginkel is just scratching the surface of the pass-rushing threat he can be from the linebacker group.

In the secondary, we’re going to be protecting both Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. Both Jones and Howard are two of the top guys at their position, and both would make cornerstone pieces for a hypothetical new team. Howard’s contract dispute may hamper a team from poaching him, but it’s a risk the Dolphins wouldn’t take. Protecting both Jones and Howard means risking guys like Christian Wilkins, but that’s a chance I think they’d be willing to take.

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The Plan at Tight End

The Dolphins have several options at TE, including Mike Gesicki and Hunter Long. So what’s the plan with them?

In 2020, tight ends were a focal point of the Miami Dolphins offense. 3rd year star Mike Gesicki posted his best season as a pro with 700 yards and 6 touchdowns. While Gesicki was the main attraction, Durham Smythe and Adam Shaheen were key contributors in run blocking, providing strength up front while creating holes for Miami’s running backs.

Even with the success of Mike Gesicki, who is looked at as a top 10 tight end in the NFL, the Dolphins still selected another tight end in the 2021 NFL draft. With their 3rd round pick, Miami selected Hunter Long of Boston College.

Unlike Gesicki, who is primarily looked at as a pass catcher with lackluster run blocking ability, Hunter Long looks to offer a mix of both traditional tight end skills, running in-line routes as well as providing size in the run game with his 6’5″, 254 pound frame.

He was one of the most effective receiving tight ends in the country, posting 57 receptions and 685 yards in 2020. Those stats were enough to earn him a spot on the all ACC first team.

Dolphins rookie TE Hunter Long catches a touchdown.

As far as his strengths, he excelled in open field speed and showed an innate ability to haul in contested catches. Much like Miami’s use of Smythe and Shaheen in 2020, Long was often used on screens and dump-off passes, with Boston College relying on his ability to gain yards after the catch. His knack for making big plays off of short passes should help the Dolphins, as they ranked 23rd in yards after the catch in 2020.

A play against the Cardinals displays how Hunter Long could be used in 2021.

Along with Long and the retainment of the other 3 tight ends, the Dolphins continued to show that they are not content with their current group, adding rookie Jibril Blount and utility man Cethan Carter.

With Head Coach Brian Flores’ focus on competition, and the tight end depth chart, it begs the question: How will the Dolphins use their tight ends under new Offensive Coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville?

Dolphins TE/FB Cethan Carter catches his first career touchdown.

While Eric Studesville lacks playcalling experience, Godsey called plays under Bill O’Brien’s Texans in 2015 and 2016, the latter of which saw 2 tight ends (Ryan Griffin and CJ Fiedorowicz) eclipse 400 yards.

Although the group wasn’t nearly as talented as this 2021 Dolphins group, Fiedorowicz saw 7 or more targets in 9 of the 16 games he played, showing Godsey’s commitment to the utilization of tight ends. And more than their stats, the type of tight ends Godsey has worked in the past can potentially show what he looks for.

Primarily a blocker, much like the majority of the Dolphins group, Fiedorowicz showed the versatility and ability to be in for pass and run plays. This unique skillset was one Godsey took with him to Miami when he came in under Chan Gailey, who often used Shaheen and Smythe as threats in the short pass game along the line, with Gesicki having more of a Wide Receiver type role.

George Godsey saw production with lackluster QB play.

With Hunter Long fitting the mold of the dual threat tight end that Godsey wants, the real wild card is Gesicki. He doesn’t block at a particularly high level, and most of his snaps came from the slot, rather than the in-line styles of the other tight ends on the roster.

While we can guess that his role as a big slot receiver will remain the same in 2021, his future with Miami is uncertain.

Entering the final year of his contract in 2021, Gesicki will be looking for an extension this training camp. Proving himself to be an elite talent, the recent patterns of signings and draft picks show that there may not be a fit for him on this roster.

Many are looking at Long as the tight end of the future, with quality backups behind him. And if you want to look at Gesicki as a receiver, that room is also crowded, with Will Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, Lynn Bowden Jr. and Albert Wilson all being able to do work out of the slot. Under Miami’s current cap situation, they may have to choose between giving an extension to a tight end who doesn’t fit their ideal skillset or Xavien Howard, who is looked at as a top 5 cornerback in the league.

Since Gesicki doesn’t fit the mold of the other tight ends on the roster, he could still be in the Dolphins future plans.

In 2020, only 4 teams ran more 12 personnel, which includes 2 tight ends and 1 running back on the field. The potential of a pass catching tight end tandem of Gesicki and Long is dangerous, with both offering unique skillsets that help quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who excelled in 12 personnel, no huddle looks last season, as well as his experience with deadly YAC receivers at Alabama.

Gesicki has also shown improvement every year in the league, having a career year in 2020, which came off of a breakout in 2019. The belief is that he can be a top 5 tight end in the league with some time and continuity at the quarterback spot, something he hasn’t had over the course of the season since he entered the league. Having a second year with Tua Tagovailoa should help with communication and improving the connection they already have.

Tua Tagovailoa throws a deep touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki.

Waiting on giving Gesicki a contract could help the Dolphins, as they only have about 5 million dollars in cap space now (assuming they sign all of their rookies). But that number balloons to about $51 million in the 2022 offseason when you include linebacker Jerome Baker’s new extension.

This gives the Dolphins the future cap the get a Howard and Gesicki deal done over the next year or so.

At the end of the day, training camp will show a lot of Miami’s true plans for the future at the tight end spot, but the behaviors of the team and the coaching staff have already shown plenty as to what they may do. The battles on the depth chart and reports of negotiations will be exciting to watch as we determine how the vision for the Dolphins roster will be realized, especially at tight end.

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