No, the Current Miami Dolphins Offensive Line is not Good Enough

The Miami Dolphins have made several moves in Free Agency, but have failed to address their biggest need thus far.

Miami Dolphins offensive line
Photo Credit: NATHAN RAY SEEBECK-USA TODAY SPORTS

Amid rumors of interest in signing another tackle, the idea has surfaced that the Miami Dolphins might be comfortable with their current offensive line unit.

The tweet, coming from ESPN’s Marcel Louis-Jacques, points the finger at Miami’s scheme, proposing that GM Chris Grier may be content with his current personnel. However, they believe that the slew of draft picks struggled to develop due to Brian Flores’ coaching staff and their offensive philosophy.

The Dolphins have their fair share of big guys up front. Over the last few years, they have spend significant draft capital on talented prospects. Among them, Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, Michael Dieter, and Liam Eichenberg were all drafted in the first three rounds. However, only Hunt has shown consistent success, and none have been able to elevate this line to a respectable unit.

Struggles Along the Miami Dolphins Offensive Line

By all major statistics, Miami’s 2021 unit was among the worst in the league. Game after game, they were unable to run the ball, with Tua Tagovailoa having little time to pass as well. Shockingly, the the Dolphins were around the middle of the pack in sacks allowed. However, that stat is quite misleading. Miami prioritized getting the ball out quickly in their offense, which prevented them from having a stable attack.

This, when combined with a variety of offensive issues, led to Miami starting 1-7 and missing the playoffs. In a year that the Dolphins’ had heightened expectations, ownership wasn’t willing to deal with such a low offensive output. Thus, Brian Flores was fired and took the brunt of the blame for the lack of development along the line.

New Year, New Scheme

With Mike McDaniel coming in, many expected new lineman to come in, as to fit a very different scheme. Unlike the offenses under Flores, McDaniel runs a wide-zone scheme, which I broke down in a previous article.

Long story short, Miami needed more linemen who can move well in space, rather than more power-centric blockers.

This boded well for them going into free agency. Big name tackles, such as Terron Armstead and La’el Collins, were nearly perfect fits for what McDaniel and company hoped to accomplish. It was just a matter of using their cap space, which was among the most in the league, to lock up this talent.

However, we are almost a week into free agency and Miami hasn’t addressed their tackle situation. As far as guard is concerned, they brought in Connor Williams from Dallas, who seems like a solid starter. Despite a high number of penalties, he ranked 11th out of all guards last season in PFF grade. The interior of the line is coming together, but the tackles remain shaky, at best.

A Lack of Action

Collins and Armstead are sitting on the market, and are even scheduling meetings with other teams. Collins, who drew interest from Miami early on, is meeting with the Bengals, and it seems like he may sign. Armstead, on the other hand, seems to be waiting on a decision from quarterback Deshaun Watson, who should pick a new team soon.

With two players of this caliber on the market, Miami hasn’t been nearly aggressive enough. They want to win now. With their biggest needs being up front, their new offense will struggle — no matter the scheme — if the personnel isn’t up to par.

Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s development has been shaky, and much of that stunted growth can be attributed to the talent around him. He will be entering his third year in the NFL, already having endured three offensive coordinators. If this lack of continuity in coaching is to work, it is crucial to provide protection.

Mike McDaniel looks like the difference-maker that Dolphins fans are looking for, and his other signings have been exciting. Weapons such as Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, and Cedrick Wilson Jr. all bring high ceilings, and bring an element of explosiveness that Miami’s offense hasn’t seen in a long time. However, none of this will matter if they don’t solve the issue that has plagued them for decades. The issue that has ruined several offensive coordinators, head coaches, and quarterbacks: the offensive line.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Offensive Line

Armstead and Collins still remain, but time is running out. If Miami doesn’t put themselves out there, they will have gone another year without fixing this glaring hole. It will continue to linger, and this blemish will show on the records of Grier and McDaniel, and may change the course of their careers.

This free agency marks an early turning point in this regime, and it is up to the Miami Dolphins to solve the problem and truly fix their offensive line.

Why Terron Armstead Makes Perfect Sense for the Miami Dolphins

Star Offensive Tackle Trent Armstead is set to be a free agent next month, and the Miami Dolphins seem like the perfect destination for him.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - DECEMBER 16: Terron Armstead #72 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Indianapolis Colts during a game at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on December 16, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Terron Armstead Miami Dolphins
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins recently filled out their coaching staff, with Mike McDaniel and company ready for their first offseason. With free agency starting in under a month, McDaniel’s vision for the future will slowly come to fruition.

But, as seen through staff hires and past success, the basis of that vision lies with the offensive line.

Miami has had no shortage of offensive line issues. Quarterbacks have been ill-protected dating back several regimes, and the Dolphins didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher under Brian Flores. The last time Miami had a Pro-Bowl offensive lineman was 2015, Joe Philbin’s final season at the helm.

This completely contradicts McDaniel’s style, however. San Francisco was stacked with offensive linemen, and their offense thrived because of it. In addition, they have managed to acquire top-tier talent year in and year out, with their most significant acquisition coming through a trade.

On April 25, 2020, the 49ers traded a third and fifth-round pick in exchange for All-Pro Tackle Trent Williams. Coming off of injury concerns, Williams’ value was at its lowest point. As a result, San Francisco was able to take advantage of the market and change their protection for the foreseeable future.

Williams’ arrival revolutionized the Niners’ line. His ability to pull on zone runs made him difficult to beat, with running to his side yielding elite results. He also took the pressure off of young guns on the line, such as Mike McGlinchey and Laken Tomlinson. They have seen significant improvement since he arrived.

Trent Williams is elite at pulling in the outside zone game.

It’s clear that the veteran presence brought by Williams immensely helped Mike McDaniel’s offenses in the past, and another tackle could do the same for Miami.

Terron Armstead

As the New Orleans Saints find themselves in an unaccommodating cap situation, some high-quality starters will be cap casualties. However, none are as vital as starting offensive tackle Terron Armstead, who will hit the market in March.

Terron Armstead is an Elite pass blocker.

He has been among the league’s best offensive tackles, leading a Saints unit that thrived during his tenure. The three-time Pro-Bowler has secured the left side of New Orleans’ line since 2013, and it’s almost unprecedented to see someone of his caliber hit the market.

Much like Trent Williams, Armstead’s success has come from combining elite traits with stellar technique. His speed off the ball is top-notch, and he can keep the pocket clean while mauling in the run game. He has consistently found ways to shut down the league’s best pass rushers while opening up holes for backs like Alvin Kamara.

However, Terron’s availability comes at an interesting time. He only played eight games in 2021, and hasn’t played a full season in his career.

He will also be demanding a high price tag, being one of the only significant tackles on the market, with many teams looking for his services. However, even with these potential concerns, the Miami Dolphins should be at the top of the list of teams vying for free agency’s top offensive tackle.

Dolphins Offensive Line

The aforementioned offensive line struggles reached their breaking point for Miami in 2021. The Dolphins were ranked the worst by almost every metric, struggling to protect the quarterback or find a consistent run game.

Miami hasn’t struggled to allocate resources, however. Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Liam Eichenberg were all drafted in the first two rounds of the last two drafts. Unfortunately, their performance has been inconsistent, although partly due to not having a successful veteran in the room.

That’s where Terron Armstead comes in. When healthy, he’s one of the best tackles in football. His mobility in the run game supports Mike McDaniel’s zone scheme, and his ability to pass block on an island would give Tua more time. Furthermore, he would provide Miami’s young lineman someone to look up to. Terron has been the epidemy of consistency, and having someone like that in the locker room can only help.

Terron Armstead fits in well with Mike McDaniel’s scheme.

The Bottom Line on Terron Armstead and the Miami Dolphins

He may be looking for around 20 million dollars, but Miami has more than enough money. To build around their young talent, Miami leads the league in cap space. They possess the funds to re-sign their top guys while also bringing in someone such as Armstead to fill their most significant need.

The injuries may be a concern, but it’s clear that these opportunities don’t come often. But the former Saints starter can change the game for this offense, much like Trent Williams did in San Francisco. Mike McDaniel observed the drastic changes in his offenses, and I’d bet he’s chomping at the bit to make the big move. So it just makes sense for him to end up with the Miami Dolphins, and signing him should be their number one priority.

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.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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What’s going on with Liam Eichenberg?

How does Liam Eichenberg, who is one of the better technicians as an offensive line, continue to struggle on the Miami Dolphins?

Following the Miami Dolphins shocking victory against the Baltimore Ravens, PFF usually comes out with ratings and pressure rates. Liam Eichenberg allowed a team high seven pressures.

On the season, Eichenberg has allowed 44 pressures. How does one of the more technically sound lineman on the roster and in the 2021 NFL draft allow this much pressure?

Notre Dame

Accolades:

  • During his Fighting Irish career Eichenberg started 38 games at Left Tackle
  • Eichenberg went the last 30 games of his career without allowing a sack
  • He allowed just three sacks his first year as a starter in 939 snaps. He would not allow a sack in either of the next two seasons on his way to consensus All-American honors in 2020
  • At 15, Ohio State offered Eichenberg a scholarship

Pre-draft analysis

Eichenberg was regarded as a technically-sound tackle prospect. At Notre Dame he played efficiently out of his stance in pass protection. In run blocking, he excelled at moving down on blocks and finishing at the second level.

There were concerns about Eichenberg’s footwork as he would get caught against faster edge rushers, especially in a Wide-9 stance.

In turn, this style of play limits Eichenberg’s fit in a west coast and RPO style of scheme, he seems better suited in a scheme that will utilize his powerful arms. A scheme that runs a lot of power run plays and play action passes would benefit from his blocking.

Film

Here you can see Eichenberg strike with force on first contact and gain depth into his pass set.

Eichenberg’s powerful lower body shines when he is able to put one hand onto the ground and finish his defender off into the second level. He does this on combo blocks too.

One of his worst traits is his timing, and hand placement. Eichenberg routinely punches rushers off the line and does not change it in different sets, making his contact predictable

Upon further review he reaches for contact instead of patiently waiting for rushers to make a move.

Miami Dolphins

Pre-season

In training camp, it was reported by Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post that Liam Eichenberg was getting reps as the first team left guard.

At first, it made sense to plug Eichenberg as a left guard, as a former left tackle he would understand a bit of the nuances. Furthermore, Eichenberg’s arm length is not on par to an average starter at left tackle. Eichenberg’s arm length is around 32 ⅜”. An average NFL LT’s is 34″ while a guard has an average of 33’ arms. 

That move inside showed that Eichenberg had the ability to start right away. It also shows his versatility as an offensive lineman. Versatility goes a long way in any player’s NFL career. Former Miami Dolphin Laremy Tunsil started his career by playing left guard.

Regular Season

However, Liam Eichenberg was inserted as the starting left tackle Week 1 against the New England Patriots. Austin Jackson, the team’s starting LT was out due to Covid-19 protocol.

“I’m a guy you can plug in and play right now,” Eichenberg said before Notre Dame’s Pro Day in March. “I’m not a guy that needs a lot of development. I’ve been coached well. I use my technique and my fundamentals very well.”

So how is it that a Notre Dame OL prospect, a school known as the OL factory, has given up 44 pressures and leads the league in sacks given up?

Film

The same instances pop up when Liam is struggling, primarily in pass coverage, as a left tackle.

From Lance Zierlen of NFL.com :

“Could struggle gaining early depth with kick slides versus NFL speed.

Timing, hand placement and body control all need work in pass sets.

High hands easily swatted and discarded.

Punch is monotonous and predictable.

Needs to eliminate punch hitch and diversify his attacks on rushers.

Reaches looking for two-hand contact rather than sitting back and ripping it.

Has a tendency to play too far forward when seeking moving targets.

One-pop hitter, allowing rushers secondary opportunities”

Eichenberg himself has said he feels like he is a better RT than LT in the NFL. While Austin Jackson looks to have improved at LG, moving Jackson back to LT may prove costly.

Eichenberg #74 gets pushed back

Another OL change will break the Dolphins continuity, which Flores preaches. Moving Eichenberg to RT may work or may not. If it doesn’t, he can try RG and slide Robert Hunt to RT where he played last season.

Root Cause

The main issue with Eichenberg is that he pushes forward against faster edge rushers which allows defenders to hit that extra gear and get home.

The root cause? His stance.

Notre Dame Stance
Week 1 vs. New England
Week 9 vs. Jaguars
Week 11 vs. Ravens

Throughout the NFL season Eichenberg’s stance has worsened. He’s playing with a higher pad level. In the trenches it’s said, the low man always wins.

In the NFL, there are much more powerful rushers compared to college. I would understand why Eichenberg’s base and stance has been altered to get more drive out of his body. However, this leads to him playing to high. Thus, the result making him lose his one-on-one battles and giving up more pressures.

The Fix

This is not only an Eichenberg issue, it an issue amongst the entire offensive line, especially the younger lineman. It will take some growing pains for Eichenberg to hold down the fort. It has not helped that he has had to play multiple positions on this line for several weeks.

Also, it comes down to coaching. Coach Lemeul Jean-Pierre is a first-time offensive line coach tasked with developing Eichenberg, Jackson, Hunt, and Kindley. It has taken Austin Jackson 21 games to show he’s is not up to par to play left tackle. Recently, Jackson is serviceable as a left guard.

Against the Ravens, the pocket looked a bit cleaner compared to recent weeks. If the offensive line can continue to improve as they did against Baltimore they have some experience to carry over into the remaining schedule.

Conclusion

If Eichenberg continues to show the same struggles at left tackle it might be better to move him to right tackle or as a guard.

After all, his former college coach thinks he would be a fit at right tackle in the NFL.

“Those who are going to draft him are going to get a plug-and-play guy on the right side. He’s probably not a left tackle. If you’re talking about that kind of athleticism, you could make the case that maybe he’s not a left tackle. At the right tackle position, you plug him in and he plays right away in the NFL because of his consistency, because he’s going to be there every single day.”

Brian Kelly on Liam Eichenberg

One positive of Eichenberg play is that he does well when his hand is on the ground and he has to push people around and move up to the second level. Whether it be in the ground game or in passing sets.

He does not get pushed off the line easily when he plays with his hand in the dirt.

While it may be late to change offensive philosophies this late into the season, a change in personnel, technique, and coaching may help Eichenberg’s development and the entirety of the offensive line.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Week 2 Game Preview: Bills @ Dolphins

Dolphins and Bills ATB recap their respective Week 1 performances previewing the key matchups and keys to success ahead of Miami’s’ home opener.

Credit- John Munson
  • Date: Sunday, September 19
  • Time: 13:00 ET (18:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL
  • TV: Fox and NFL Gamepass International
  • Records: Dolphins (1-0), Bills (0-1)

Acknowledgement:

Before we delve into this game preview, I would just like to thank and credit Tony Zanatian of Bills ATB, for his contributions and insights in putting together this Week 2 matchup article.

Week 1 Recap

Bills:

TZ: “Week 1 was a big disappointment. The Bills were 6.5 point favorites but ended up dropping their home opener to the Steelers. The story of the game was the Steelers dominant pass rush. They rushed just 3 or 4 players on almost every snap but still generated pressure on over 40% of their plays. This allowed them to drop more players into coverage and force tight window throws all game. Josh Allen missed some throws and the receivers dropped some passes which just can’t happen when the defense is playing that tough.

A lot of the national talk is about Allen’s regression. but he didn’t look any different from last year’s Steelers game, so I’m not as worried as some. The real concern is that both tackles either got beat or held their man on what felt like every play. LG Jon Feliciano has never been good in pass protection but he was a complete liability that every team will now focus on. As for positives, the defense returned to 2019 levels. The Steelers couldn’t move the ball through the air or on the ground with rookie Najee Harris. The pass rush has new juice and the secondary is as good as ever. The run game also impressed with Devin Singletary rushing for 6.6 YPC. Check out my full recap if you want to learn more.”

Dolphins:

Despite going 1-0 and atop the AFC East, many fans were not overly impressed by Miami’s performance. While some set their expectations too high going into the game about what too expect, from not just Tua but the whole team, the win flattered Miami’s performance against an unconventionally sloppy Patriots team.

The major disappointment in this game, was that the Dolphins struggled to generate any consistency on either side of the ball. From what was a near perfect opening drive resulting in Tua running for a TD, the next 3 drives resulted in 3 punts for a combined 17 yards of offense.

Receiving the ball to start the second half, the Dolphins like in the first half methodically drove the ball down the field in 9 plays for 75 yards ultimately resulting in a first receiving touchdown for rookie Jaylen Waddle. However, much like the first half, the rest of the game the Dolphins managed only a further 33 yards of offense. It may be easy to scapegoat Tua for the Dolphins offensive struggles, he was by no means bad. On multiple occasions he was let down by both his receivers and offensive line, while he had his struggles himself.

On the defensive side of the ball much remained much of the same from 2020. A turnover creating machine, but struggled to stop the run and create a consistent pass rush. The Dolphins continued to bend and not break and would have prevented the Patriots from scoring had it not been for an unfair roughing the passing call against Elandon Roberts. However, Miami’s defense allowed almost 400 yards mainly attributable to soft zone coverage, allowing Jones to stand in the pocket and find his check downs.

For a more in depth analysis into Miami’s Week 1 performance go check out Rishi Desai’s recap article.

Expectations Going Into The Game

Bills:

TZ: “I expect Josh Allen and the offense to get back on track given their recent history of success against Miami’s defense. I am hoping for a speedy recovery for Raekwon Davis but his absence will benefit the Bills run game. Where Pittsburgh was able to rush 4 and play zone to stifle the passing offense. I think Miami will take a more blitz heavy approach and play man with their talented corner and safety groups. This gives the advantage to the Bills receivers and the passing offense as it has in their past matchups

On the other side of the ball, I think Tua and the speed of the WR group will challenge the defense much more than the Steelers did. DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki have caused the Bills secondary trouble with their size advantage in the past. The pass rush should be able to make some noise if Austin Jackson is back in at left tackle. They will get somewhat exotic switching up pre and post-snap looks to try to slow down Tua diagnosing the defense, knowing that his performance suffers the longer he holds the ball. Overall I expect both offenses to have success despite the quality of the defenses.”

Dolphins:

Coming into the season I had hopes that the Dolphins would split the Bills. Whether Miami can achieve that is another question. One thing is for sure the Dolphins will not be able to just put up 17 points and rely on their defense to neutralize Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Something has to change. Whereas Week 1 was as predicted a very defensively dominated game, I foresee this matchup as being somewhat of a shootout. In the 6 games Josh Allen has played against Miami, he has won 5, throwing for 17 TDs and 4 INTs, with a passer rating of 114.3.

It was hoped that the Dolphins would have the chance to play with their new toy in Will Fuller. Fuller missed nearly all of training camp through injury and has since been ruled out of atleast Sunday’s game due to a personal matter.This is a huge loss for Miami. The Bills’ secondary ranked top 5 in the league in 2020, and it was hoped that having Fuller, Parker, Waddle and Gesicki on the field together would create a matchup nightmare.

The composition of the offensive line is another key factor. With Austin Jackson set to return as starting LT this week, despite a strong showing by Liam Eichenberg. In his first NFL start, Eichenberg recorded a run blocking grade of 65.9 and pass blocking grade of 71.8, allowing only one pressure. The same could not be said for Jesse Davis at RT against the likes of Matt Judon and co. It is not ideal when Tua is being pressured heavily from his blindside and was obvious that he was uncomfortable. Tua seemed to be rather frantic in the pocket, rather than being cool and composed like we saw in preseason. Whether Flores is bold enough to switch out a veteran tackle for a rookie with significant upside remains to be seen.

Keys to Success

Bills:

TZ: “For Buffalo to come out with a win, the offense needs to shake off last week and get in sync. Josh Allen has played his best football against Miami and he will need to continue that trend. Miami’s pass rush group isn’t quite Pittsburgh’s caliber, but the line needs to step up and keep Allen from getting pressured every play. Defensively, they need to make sure Tua can’t get comfortable. He will pick our zone apart with ease if he is able to diagnose plays pre-snap. The secondary also can’t let the speed receivers get loose behind them. Diontae Johnson was able to uncover deep a few times last week but Big Ben couldn’t get him the ball. Tua can and will be able to capitalize on those opportunities.

Finally, the Bills must win the turnover battle. Josh Allen and Devin Singletary both fumbled twice against Pittsburgh although only 1 was recovered by the defense. Miami’s defense is among the best at generating turnovers and will be on high alert for chances to take the ball away. A turnover for either team could really flip the script in this one.”

Dolphins:

  1. Contain Josh Allen– We all understand that Allen is a dual threat QB. Last season he ran for 421 yards and 8 TDs. In comparison, Myles Gaskin ran for 584 yards and 3 TDs. Even against a formidable Steelers’ front seven Allen was able to rush for 44 yards for 4.9 YPC. Miami historically always struggle against athletic QBs. If Allen is allowed to escape the pocket and extend the play, the task of the secondary will become ever more difficult.
  2. Elite Secondary Performance – While the bitter taste of Week 17 may continue to leave a bitter taste among Dolphins fans, the game in Miami was much more tightly contested. Despite allowing Josh Allen to throw for 415 yards and 4 TDs, the Dolphins only lost by three points. While Allen did not have his best performance Week 1, I expect him to come out all guns blazing. With Xavien Howard and Byron Jones fully fit, they need to be able to shut down the likes of Diggs and Beasley as much as possible.
  3. Protect Tua- to put it simply, we are not going to see the best of Tua nor the offense as a whole until the offensive line allows them to. The unit Week 1 was not horrendous by any means, when the whole offense was clicking the Dolphins were clinical. However, Tua was sacked twice and several instances including the interception where he faced considerable pressure in his face.

Injury Concerns

Bills:

TZ: “Buffalo is relatively healthy going into this game. They do have some players on the injury report but there is no indication that we need to be worried about them missing Sunday. WR Gabe Davis has been limited with an ankle injury but is trending up. DT Star Lotulelei missed last week with a calf but should be ready to go on Sunday. Micah Hyde appeared as limited on Thursday with a neck injury but there is no cause for concern yet. The heat will certainly be a factor but McDermott has been stressing hydration and his frequent rotations on the defensive line will help mitigate the impact for the big guys.”

Dolphins:

After a tough physical game against the Patriots, Miami came out pretty healthy. However, unfortunately young stud NT Raekwon Davis went down with a knee injury in the first half. Despite returning later in the game, Davis has since been placed on IR, with the extent of his injury as yet unknown.

As aforementioned, Will Fuller is OUT due to a personal issue. His return date remains in question with even some suggesting he is done for the season. The only other player in doubt is wide receiver Preston Williams, he remains questionable. I predict he will miss this week and then begin to ramp it up going into the Raiders game. Adam Shaheen is back off the COVID list and should feature in this game.

Score Predictions

Bills:

TZ: “I expect a fun game with more offense than you’d expect given the talent both teams have on defense. Miami will be hungry for revenge after being embarrassed by the Bills backups in Week 17 last year. Buffalo will be eager to get their season back on track, knowing that a loss would put them 2.5 games back in the division. For my prediction I will go with the same score as last year when the Bills came down to Miami in Week 2:

Bills 31

Dolphins 28

Dolphins:

This will be Tua’s biggest stage to silence the critics. If the offense can keep up with that of Buffalo and the secondary do not dismantle like they did last season, then Miami can win this game. However it will be a lot to expect against a Bills’ team with it all to prove. I am going to think with my heart and not my head and predict the flip side of Tony. Miami wins 31-28. Check out the rest of the Dolphins ATB writers’ predictions below:

Tanner Elliott- 31-17 Buffalo

Tyler DeSena- 38-27 Buffalo

Hussam Patel- 33-20 Buffalo

Chris Spooner- 35-20 Buffalo

Rishi Desai- 27-23 Miami

Conclusion

Once again I would just like to thank Tony for his help and insights throughout this article. Be sure to go and follow him on Twitter. Miami are in rather a good position. If they can pull of the upset starting the season 2-0 whilst the Bills are 0-2, Miami would be in fantastic position to make a run at the division title. Even in the Dolphins infact lose the game they will be 1-1 equal with the Bills and most likely the Patriots who play the Jets. However, in order for this to happen the offense has to be more consistent in putting together drives. If Allen has the same time of possession that the Dolphins afforded to Mac Jones then this may get ugly. Fins Up!

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