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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
The same instances pop up when Liam is struggling, primarily in pass coverage, as a left tackle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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
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!
The NFL season is finally here! Last night, we had a fantastic game as the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs survived a scare against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas left several points on the table against Tom Brady, and that’s not a winning formula. Looking ahead to Sunday, what will the winning formula for the Miami Dolphins be when they take on the New England Patriots? Here are the three keys to victory!
Three Keys to a Miami Dolphins Victory
Make Mac Jones look like a rookie
During the lead-up to the NFL Draft, one of the biggest talking points was former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. Just how high would the former Crimson Tide star be taken? Could he be the third quarterback off the board? Was he even worthy of a first-round pick? Opinions varied wildly on the young quarterback, but ultimately the only one that matters is Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick made Jones a first-round pick in April. Now he has made Jones the starter of the New England Patriots. Jones has some big shoes to fill, and he’s going to get a major test right out of the gates in the Miami Dolphins defense. Miami had one of the better defenses in the league last year, and they’ve arguably gotten better since then.
Head coach Brian Flores is undoubtedly excited about the idea of unleashing this defense on a rookie quarterback. The Dolphins have added pass-rushing prowess with first-round pick Jaelan Phillips. They also added a chess piece in the defensive backfield with safety Jevon Holland. Coupled with the further development of defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and one of the best corner duos in the league, it’s a recipe for disaster for a rookie quarterback.
Miami will need every bit of that if they’re going to walk away with a win and start their season 1-0. Flores is undoubtedly going to make life a nightmare for Jones, with multiple looks and disguises. Will Jones be able to diagnose what he’s seeing? Will Howard be able to force turnovers at the rate he did last season? New England should be in for a long day if Miami can create pressure up front and confuse Jones behind it.
Improved offensive line play
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Miami Dolphins have questions along the offensive line. It feels like a broken record to continue harping on the line, but the fact remains there are still significant questions. Watching the offensive line play in the pre-season did not assuage any fears Dolphins fans had about the performance of this line.
To make matters worse, the Dolphins come into the season opener with both injury and COVID issues along the line. Miami is going to be without starting left tackle Austin Jackson. One of his presumptive replacements — rookie Liam Eichenberg — has been dealing with a lingering “lower-body” issue. Fellow newcomer to the Dolphins, Greg Little, is also dealing with injury issues. It’s going to be a significant point of concern for Miami heading into Sunday’s game. The million-dollar question is going to be, “How well can the offensive line hold up?”
All through training camp, we’ve heard about all the progress that Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has made in his second season — and first full training camp. All of that progress won’t mean much if he can’t put it on display because of a porous offensive line in front of him.
Jesse Davis will likely be thrust into the starting lineup regardless of whether or not Eichenberg is fully healthy. Can his veteran leadership bring the offensive line together? Will they be able to protect Tagovailoa and open up holes for running backs, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed? They’re going to have to if Miami has any hope of starting the season undefeated.
Tua needs to prove his progress
The biggest story line for the Miami Dolphins this off-season has been quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. It has arguably been one of the biggest story lines in the entire league. There’s been talk ad nauseum about what the young quarterback needed to show in year two with the Dolphins.
Pundits and analysts alike have talked until they’re blue in the face about whether or not coach Flores actually believes in Tua. None of that to mention the persistent Deshaun Watson rumors.
All of that — well, maybe not *all* — gets put to rest on Sunday. We saw a bit of his progress in the pre-season, and it was enough to give fans hope that all the talk they’ve heard from camp wasn’t just that. But it’s a much different animal doing those things in the regular season.
If the Dolphins have any hope of walking away from the season opener with a victory, it’s all on Tagovailoa’s shoulders. He needs to show fans — and the Patriots — how much he’s actually progressed in the off-season. He’s finally had an entire off-season to work with the team. He’s been given weapons on the outside with Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller — who will miss this week’s game due to suspension. It’s time for Tagovailoa to make the leap and become a franchise quarterback.
Miami is going to need some explosive plays if they’re to beat the Patriots. Whether that comes from Waddle, tight end Mike Gesicki, or someone else, remains to be seen. But no matter who it comes from, it’s going to start with the arm of Tua. It’s ‘put up or shut up’ time. One way or another, there’s going to be a firestorm of talk after Sunday’s game. If Tua is on his game, and the defense is on theirs, it should be a Victory Monday for Dolphins fans.
Before we delve into the game preview, I would just like to thank and credit Kyle Phelps of Bengals ATB, for his contributions and insights in putting together this preseason matchup article.
Q. Last week the Dolphins had their dress rehearsal game. Was it the same for the Bengals? Which bubble players should we look out for?
KP: ” I wouldn’t exactly call week 2 a “dress rehearsal” for the Bengals. We definitely saw an emphasis on the first team trying to put more of a game plan together than they did Week 1. However. the majority of the snaps still went to the second and third team players.
I would expect the same against the Dolphins this week, as the Bengals seem to be mostly focused on developing their depth right now. The positive side of that is we’re sure to get a solid idea of who deserves to survive the roster bubble. Two players, in particular, you’re going to want to watch are WR Trenton Irwin and Edge Darius Hodge.
Irwin had a fantastic camp and first week of preseason that made it look like he had the inside track for the final WR spot on the team. Unfortunately, a poor performance in Week 2 hurt his case. But, it’s not like Trent Taylor, likely his biggest competition for the spot, has done much in the first two weeks at all. So, Irwin probably has a chance to redeem himself this week and make his case for that No. 6 spot.
Like Irwin, Darius Hodge went undrafted and has performed like a hidden gem so far. He absolutely terrorized the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1 of the preseason along with another solid performance against the WFT in Week 2. With all of the uncertainty surrounding the Bengals’ defensive edge right now, Hodge could very easily find his way onto the final roster with another big performance against the Dolphins.”
Following Tuesday’s roster moves, the wide receiver competition looks like it is nearing an end. Having cut Ford, waived/injured Foster and placing Bowden on IR, the receiving room is taking shape. A big opportunity now presents itself for Kirk Merritt, a player who has been productive throughout camp, to make one last push for the final 53.
Early this week Brian Flores stated that going into the final preseason game around 3/4 positions are left unfilled on the final roster. Keep your eyes peeled at who makes the final depth spots on the offensive line. Jackson, Kindley, Deiter, Hunt, Eichenberg and Davis are all locks, Skura likely makes the team as a backup. Therefore, the battle ultimately falls on Rob Jones, Durval Queiroz Neto, Larnel Coleman and Greg Little. The Dolphins invested heavily in Jones as an UDFA, while recently trading for Little for backup at tackle. However, it is Coleman that has impressed throughout camp and in preseason even getting some reps with the starting offense.
Another interesting battle to look out for is how the corner backs lower down the depth chart can fare in their pursuit for the final roster spots. I believe McCourty makes the roster as safety, meaning the battle ultimately falls on CreVon LeBlanc, Jamal Perry, Javaris Davis and Trill Williams. As it stands Perry/Williams are the favorites to battle it out for a spot on the final 53. However with Trill Williams a hot property, its unlikely that if cut he clears waivers. It will all depend on what Miami sees in Williams long term. Throughout this week of practice Williams has continued to impress as the boundary corner in the second team.
Q. How did you fare in the first two games of preseason? What went well? Stand out performances? What/who concerns you?
KP: “The Bengals split their first two preseason games, beating the Buccaneers and falling to Washington. But, most aren’t worried about those results. What’s more important is the first-team defense has looked remarkable so far. One of the Bengals’ biggest problems in 2020 was the lack of a pass rush, but the first team defense has generated a sack and multiple pressures in both contests. They also haven’t allowed a score yet.
On the offense, one of the biggest standout performers has been Jacques Patrick. A former XFL running back, he is battling for the third and final RB spot (most likely) behind Chris Evans. Incumbent Samaje Perine has been either invisible or disappointing this preseason. In contrast, Patrick has arguably been the single best performer on the team both weeks. So, it’s just a matter of proving the Bengals should take a chance on the lesser known, younger talent in lieu of the more established player you know.”
Technically like the Bengals the Dolphins split their first two games. However, when the starters and even second teamers were on the field they were 2-0. Tua showed promise in the first game despite the late pick and then continued to build on his strong start to the season against the Falcons.
During the Falcons game Tua showed his poise in keeping his eyes down the field, climbing the pocket with pressure in his face to allow his receivers to get open. The 3rd & 10 completion at the end of the half to Gesicki was a prime example of this. Tua’s footwork and pocket presence was a weakness in his game last year, now the improvements are clear. Throughout camp we have heard reports of Tua holding the ball for too long from the likes of Omar Kelly. While that may be the case from , it could be that in practice, in a non contact situation, Tua has not been able to experience the pressure in his face to that extent to allow him to extend the play.
If we are to nitpick at the faults of Tua during the game, there were a couple of instances where his accuracy was a little off, with the juggled catch by Hollins and then the overturned catch by Waddle. Nevertheless, these were very much an anomalies in an otherwise excellent game. He got the ball out quick, made the right reads and threw with anticipation demonstrating his comfortability within this offensive system. The offense was able to consistently move the ball down field with relative ease.
Q. Which players who are likely locks for the final 53 man roster are you focusing on for development?
KP: “We already have a pretty good idea of who’s in and who’s out at this point. But, some guys still need that extra push to prove what they can do. In particular, second round pick Jackson Carman has been having a pretty good preseason after a rough camp. The Bengals drafted Carman to fill the desperate need at right guard. Famously, they picked Ja’Marr Chase over Penei Sewell with the fifth overall pick under the assumption that they could find a perfectly talented lineman in the second round.
They passed on more notable names when their pick came around like Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, and Walker Little because they were convinced Carman was the best player available. Unfortunately, he struggled to impress in camp and failed to ingratiate himself as a starting-caliber player. He’s performed admirably in his preseason action so far. The hope is he’s still on track to work his way into the starting lineup, but I don’t think that’s even a remote possibility unless he has another great game.
Other players to watch out for include OL D’Ante Smith and RB Chris Evans. Smith is another lineman the Bengals took later in the Draft who has unexpectedly been running with the first team. Evans, the running back they selected in the sixth round, has absolutely earned his spot on the roster. Now, the question is whether he’s consistent enough to solidify the No. 2 spot vacated by Giovani Bernard.”
On Thursday Brian Flores stated how Tua would not feature nor would many of the starters. However I do foresee one exception, the offensive line. After a concerning couple of weeks, the offensive line played well opening up running lanes that had been near none existent against the Bears. However, they still have a long way to go and should feature during the game to build the much needed chemistry and cohesion.
The biggest factor going forward is what to do with Liam Eichenberg. After starting camp as starting RT, to then starting LG, he is now back at RT in the second team behind Jesse Davis. However, with a strong performance against the Falcons he is knocking on the door once again for a starting position. The right side of Hunt and Eichenberg was a key factor in establishing the run and the performance of the line as a whole against the Falcons.
UPDATE: Liam Eichenberg left practice on Thursday having sustained injury. The injury does not appear to be serious. Larnel Coleman replaced him at RT.
Another player I would like to see more of is Jaelan Phillips. Phillips made his preseason debut against the Falcons and looked explosive off the line setting the edge well opposite Van Ginkel. Having missed a considerable chunk of camp sidelined with injury expect him to receive some reps giving him valuable experience heading into the season.
Q. How is Joe Burrow coming along in his journey back? Do you expect him to feature in the game? If so, how much?
KP: “If it was up to me, I would sit Burrow this week. If I had to bet, the coaching staff probably feels the same way. But, we know Burrow does not feel that way. If the staff gives in, he might play a series or two at the beginning of the game mostly filled with simple, safe plays. But, my guess is that you won’t see him take a snap until Week 1 against the Vikings.
(UPDATE: It was announced Wednesday that Joe Burrow WILL be making his preseason debut against the Dolphins.)
Reports of his struggles have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, when camp first started, he was looking unsure on his knee and he was struggling to connect with his receivers. The defense absolutely dominated the offense early on. But, I don’t know what everyone expected. Perhaps he has shown so many good tendencies since arriving in the national spotlight that everyone forgot he is, in fact, human. Far be it from him to act a bit skittish the first few times he steps on a football field after a catastrophic, traumatizing knee injury.
But, since then, he has returned to the confident and poised Joe Burrow we all know and love. Reports from practice since that first week have been nothing but positive. He’s been scrambling, planting, and fearlessly engineering drives with virtually no issues to speak of. On top of that, you keep hearing about all these deep passes he’s completing, which is an improvement over the one major hole in his game last year.”
Q. Do you have any injury concerns entering the game?
KP: “As I mentioned earlier, the injuries on the defensive edge have become rather concerning. Third round pick Joseph Ossai, who was looking like an absolute stud in camp and the first preseason game, appears to have torn his meniscus and could miss the entire season. Fourth round pick Cam Sample is dealing with a shoulder injury that isn’t expected to be serious, but will keep him out against the Dolphins. Seventh round pick Wyatt Hubert tore a pectoral muscle in training camp and is already ruled out for the year. So, it’s no surprise the Bengals went out and signed Noah Spence.
Spence is a former second round pick who has struggled with injury, whom the Bengals picked up earlier this week after the Saints released him. The hope is new DL coach Marion Hobby can re-unlock his potential after injuries derailed his career. At the moment, Khalid Kareem is the only backup edge defender expected to make the roster who isn’t currently injured. So, Spence likely only needs to be able to hold his own on some level to make the final roster. That said, if Spence can return to the level of play we saw in the first six games of his rookie season, he could make the kind of serious impact the Bengals were hoping to get from their Draft class.”
At last, Dolphins fans can rejoice as once again we have been treated with glimpses of Will Fuller and DeVante Parker (non-contact jersey) at practice.
As of Thursday, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Vince Biegel, Cethan Carter and Jevon Holland all didn’t practice due to injury. Adam Shaheen also did not practice, although the reason for his absence remains unknown, it is thought not to be injury related.
Fans can rest easy as all receivers have stated that they feel great in their fitness, but the coaching staff are intent on bringing them back slowly to avoid further complications heading into the season. In addition, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Holland has been walking around fine without any visible discomfort. The condition of Eichenberg is at present unknown.
Q. What is going on with Ja’Marr Chase? Do you stand by the pick giving the obvious need to protect Burrow?
KP: “Ja’Marr Chase is going to be fine. He was having issues with drops in training camp, and those issues popped up again against Washington. Luckily, he has that same blue collar, nose-to-the-grindstone mentality that Burrow has. He’s been working through his issues and the reports have been he’s turned the corner in practices this week.”
“Don’t forget, this is the same guy who wanted to work on his hands in college and made the decision to catch 10,000 passes in one offseason with his fellow wide receivers. That was the offseason that preceded LSU’s undefeated run through the National Championship in 2019, the same season that put Chase on the map.
As far as the selection in the 2021 NFL Draft goes, I personally wanted Kyle Pitts, who wasn’t even available when we picked. But, I had the same mentality the Bengals seemed to have at the time. Everyone acted like Penei Sewell was this can’t-miss prospect, but the Bengals have had plenty of success finding offensive linemen in later rounds and plenty of failures in the first round.
They also replaced RT Bobby Hart with Riley Reiff in free agency, which was a HUGE upgrade. They ended up picking Jackson Carman and D’Ante Smith in the first four rounds of the Draft. Carman hasn’t exactly had the fastest start, but he’s looked fine in the preseason, and Smith has been a bit of a hidden gem so far. Not to mention, Sewell hasn’t looked great in the preseason with Detroit. So, I think the strategy was justified.”
Q. Which Dolphins’ player scares you the most?
KP: “It’s preseason, so I don’t know if “scares” is the right word. But, I am definitely going to be watching how well the Bengals’ secondary plays against No. 6 overall pick Jaylen Waddle. In addition to looking scary in college, I’ve been hearing nothing but good things from my friends who follow the Dolphins. It sounds like he’s the whole package, and could see a lot of playing time this week.
Naturally, as I’ve been impressed by the Bengals’ pass coverage this preseason, I’m fascinated by this matchup. I’m not currently sure who will be covering him during the game, as I’m not entirely sure when Waddle will be playing in the first place. But, I would love to see him challenge guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple, who have both been fantastic free agency additions for the Bengals this year.”
Once again I would just like to thank Kyle for his help and insights throughout this article. Be sure to go and follow him on Twitter. The preseason finale will look different for many reasons. No Tua, no X, no Byron along with many other starters. Nevertheless, over the past 2 years this organisation has shown its worth in finding the diamonds in the rough. The players that get overlooked and go unrecognized, we will get our biggest look at the potential candidates yet this week. Who they will end up being we will find out come August 31 when the final 53 is finalized. Fins Up!
The NFL is an ecosystem, in an ecosystem there are predators and bottom feeders.
In short, there are winners and losers every single year in the NFL and the ecosystem changes. For better or worse.
In Terms for the Miami Dolphins, you couldn’t have seen such a turnaround from 2019 to 2021. A team crafted out of street free agents, undrafted players and ageing veterans had the makings for predators to lick their chops.
It was trial by fire to see who could overcome and adapt harsh situation, and at times while trying to cool the flames, they would hinder themselves and the rest of the team.
The Defense struggles at times but found their footing, they went from prey to predator by learning and adapting to the environment.
On the other hand, the offensive line is trying to find a footing to best handle it’s surroundings. At times in 2019 and 2020 there were inconsistencies. Some days the line was meshing well other days, well, they were fresh meat.
In this league you cannot have abysmal trench play, it hampers the running game and QB play. We all have seen how poorly the line played in 2019, the statistics tells a holistic story.
A Historic Rate
There are other metrics to gauge Offensive line play such as PFF’s pass/run block win rate. ESPN’s rate also shows it too.
Michael Dieter, who was a in 2019, finished as the team’s worst offensive linemen. Jesse Davis, who started 15 games, was the only other offensive linemen to make the list.
Running backs Kenyan Drake, Marl Walton, Myles Gaskin and Kalen Ballage could not even eclipse anywhere near 100 yards a game.
Fitzpatrick was the leading rusher for the team.
To say the least, the offensive line was a nagging parasite, harmful to the team overall.
Miami’s offense could not score to compete with its opponents, Defense on the field for more than 60+ snaps every week. As a team, the Dolphins could not function properly.
Sort of like eating gas station sushi to fill your hunger on a road trip, it does not end well.
The good news about the offensive line was that it did not get worse. As a result of newly introduced reinforcements into the NFL landscape there were some improvements.
Jesse Davis has been the anchor of the offensive line for the Miami Dolphins since he was drafted in the 2017 NFL draft. As a rookie, he has played in 47 of the team’s 48 games. He’s been improving every year.
Ereck Flowers was brougth in as a Free Agent to plug the hole at Left Guard. He was an important piece to help Austin Jackson understand the NFL before going down with a season ending injury.
The Miami Dolphins have been looking for a solid center since Mike Pouncey left in 2018. They got one in Karras, who did a decent job protecting Fitzpatrick and Tua as the quarterbacks.
Some people may think that Jackson was drafted too high despite having played less games than other starters in college. He showed that he can play left tackle in the NFL, but is still very raw.
Kindley was given no reconsideration as a right guard in 2020. His ability to protect Tua’s blind side helped the team establish a running game that finally eclipsed over 100 yards in the final 6 games. Kindley shifted to left guard when Ereck Flowers went down.
Robert Hunt played on the right side as a right tackle alongside Solomon Kindley, protecting Tua’s blindside. Although Hunt was decent, his highest celling as a lineman looks to be a fixture at Right Guard.
Overall, the play was significantly better compared to 2019; however, it can always improve. Per PFF, the Dolphins offensive line was ranked 28th. A slight improvement over the worst rank in 2019.
Few teams invested more in improving the offensive line than the Dolphins did entering the 2020 season. They spent draft picks on Austin Jackson in the first round, Robert Hunt in the second round and Solomon Kindley in the fourth round — all who played more than 700 snaps in 2019.
An offensive line with three rookies, would struggle early on, but did improve slightly. Robert Hunt looked to be the best out of the bunch as his 76.4 PFF grade from Week 12 through the end of the regular season was 5th out of 37 right tackles.
As Pre-season winds down we see glimpses of what this Dolphins offensive line could be, thus as it factors into offensive philosophy.
Contrary to Ben Fennels point (I love ya ben) but the Offense looks to be a pass first offense. In theory, it will open up the run game.
In fundamentals of an RPO-based offense the offensive line has to consist of guards and tackles that can run block well. The top three run blockers on this offensive line consists of Soloman Kindley, Robert Hunt and rookie OL Liam Eichenberg.
Eichenberg has tried out playing Left Guard at camp but looks to fight Jesse Davis for the starting RT spot. He took first team reps at Right Tackle for the first time against Atlanta and looked consistent opening up holes in the run game.
“Eichenberg is an extremely solid, if unspectacular, tackle prospect. He saw his performance take a massive leap from his first to his second season as a starter. His pass-blocking grade went from 63.5 in 2018 to 85.6 last year and his run blocking grade from 60.8 to 78.8.”
I expect some growing pains on the offensive line to happen against the 3rd pre-season game against the Bengals and early on in the regular season. Furthermore, there has been a noticeable trend from since last year particularly on the right side of the line.
Last season on the right side proved it with the Combo of Hunt/Kindley as the running game was efficient running the ball to the right. Pass protection and the running game worked on Tua’s Blindside.