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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