The Same Old Dolphins

It begs the question, are these the same old Dolphins?

The Miami Dolphins were outmatched and outplayed by the Buffalo Bills for the eight straight time. Every season the Dolphins find a way back to revert to the mediocre teams of the past and do not recover.

Failing the Defense

Since 2020, Miami Offense has not been able to sustain drives and keep the defense fresh. Ultimately they cannot score points on the board, allowing our Defense to put pressure on opposing offenses.

Buffalo’s first two touchdown drives went for 46 and 52 yards, respectively. The Dolphins were able to come away with with two takeaways, but only gained 10 yards on those turnovers. This came in the first half.

At halftime Buffalo had only 152 yards at halftime. Josh Allen had only 62 passing yards. 46 of the Bills rushing yards came on a single carry by running back Devin Singletary.

Miami’s defense kept the Dolphins in the game until the fourth quarter, even though it was a shut out. The Bills had only 245 yards in the beginning of the fourth quarter. Miami got put to bed at the start of the fourth on a touchdown by Zach Moss to go up 28-0 with 13:38 remaining.

Miami’s offense could not score points on the board nor sustain strives, thus putting pressure on the defense.

Offensive Line Woes

Miami’s offensive line was horrendous abysmal. Plainly abysmal. The return of tackle Austin Jackson, who returned from the COVID-19 list and missed practice, did not help. Neither did Jesse Davis’s play.

The line got Tagovailoa hurt when Buffalo defensive end A.J. Epenesa got through untouched to hit Tagovailoa and injure his ribs, and the Bills already had two sacks before that when a pair of defensive backs got through untouched on disguised blitzes.

Stat of the day: Miami allowed six sacks and 12 quarterback hits.

Run blocking was not good either. The Dolphins averaged 3.6 yards per carry, failed to convert on a 4th & 2 run and could not even run the ball their other fourth down attempts.

With Tua now dealing with a bruised rib cage and Jacoby Brissett under duress for much of the game, the Dolphins need to figure it out.

They need to figure it out. They have to.

Drops, Drops, Drops, Drops, Drops, everybody

Lets highlight this play sequence:

Down 14-0, Brissett was moving the offense down the field to potentially score. At the 33 yard line, Brissett threw the ball right into Parker’s hands, but the wide receiver dropped a would be touchdown that could have swung the momentum.

A couple plays later, Brissett throws to Albert Wilson on a curl that would have gone for a first down, but Wilson dropped it.

The very next play, Brisset throws to Jakeem Grant who tried to go upfield and then fumbled the ball. Potentially blowing the best scoring chance the Dolphins had all game.

Waddle had a muffed punt. However, we should remember that he is a rookie and unfortunately mistakes will be made. He led the WR Corp with six catches and 46, but he also did drop multiple passes headed his way. He has not shown us the difference making abilities he had at Alabama. At least, not yet.

Overall, the Miami dolphins need to game plan better, coach better and play better against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Mutualism: Offensive line and the Run game

A mutualistic relationship is when two things work together in harmony, each benefiting from the relationship. For the Dolphins the Offensive Line needs to be better.

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.

2019

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.

The team had the worst pass blocking scheme in the NFL. Trench play was absolutely abysmal and there were many instances where Ryan Fitzpatrick could not do anything.

Trickled down Economics

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.

2020

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.

Helpful Vets

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.

The Newbies

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.

Impact

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.

2021

As Pre-season winds down we see glimpses of what this Dolphins offensive line could be, thus as it factors into offensive philosophy.

Scheme

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.”

PFF’s Mike Renner on Liam Eichenberg

Recipe for Success

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.

Thanks to some help from Kyle Crabbs and Sharp Football analysis, rushing YPC produced on the right side of the line.

It’s about fundamentals and execution this pre-season. If the entire line can stay disciplined, stay confident and build upon fundamentals, this OL will be even better.

Not only will it not harm the team but become another strength to push the Dolphins to the top of the NFL ecosystem.

Follow Hussam Patel on Twitter

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Miami Dolphins Run Game Woes Continue in First Preseason Action

The Miami Dolphins run game woes showed up once again in their first action of 2021. What was the problem and what still needs to improve?

It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is finally over: NFL football is back!

The Miami Dolphins had their first preseason game on Saturday against the Chicago Bears. Miami fell to the Bears 20-13 in their first action since the 2020 season. The end result is largely irrelevant; what matters is the impressions that were made in this first glimpse of the 2021 squad. That impression was a mixed bag.

One of the biggest areas of concern: The run game.

Before we get into any of this, it’s important to remember: This was just the first preseason game. It’s easy to overreact to everything, both good and bad. Most of the starters only played one quarter, so there isn’t much to go on.

The next game against Atlanta will tell us much more about what we can expect going forward. That being said, it’s hard to ignore just how inefficient and, quite frankly, ugly the Miami Dolphins run game was.

Now, the question becomes: Why was the running game so bad against Chicago, and what can be done to improve it before the season starts?

Starting Duty Shuffle

One of the more interesting things to come out of the Dolphins first preseason game was the division of duty when it came to the running game. The Dolphins opened the game with Malcolm Brown as the starter, despite being second on the depth chart.

Both Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin saw time as the game went on, but it was Brown who saw top billing against the Bears.

After the game was over, I had some strong words about Brown starting on Twitter. I reiterated those feelings on this week’s Around the Block – Miami podcast with Hussam and Rishi.

I’ll echo those sentiments again here: Malcolm Brown should not be the starter for the Dolphins. The Miami Dolphins run game was markedly better with Ahmed and Gaskin at the helm.

I do believe that Brown can be an effective situational back. He should be utilized in the team’s short-yardage game. Brown can also be an effective goal-line running back, though we didn’t see that Saturday against the Bears, either. That said, Brown showed no burst on Saturday, and with a porous offensive line, you need a running back with some explosion and wiggle to help mask those shortcomings.

Offensive Line Woes Continue

To perhaps no one’s surprise, the Miami Dolphins offensive line struggled yet again against the Bears in the preseason debut. The offensive line has been bad in Miami for years, and if Saturday was any indication, those woes will follow Miami into 2021. The left side of the line was particularly troublesome against the Bears. Matt Skura, Robert Hunt, and Jesse Davis performed well in their 2021 debut. The same cannot be said for Austin Jackson and Solomon Kindley.

Jackson was beaten badly on a few pass rush reps, getting thrown into quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on one rep in particular. However, it was his performance in his run blocking duties where the holes in his game really showed through. As a rookie, one of the big knocks on Jackson was that he needed to get functionally stronger. That issue seems as though it’s going to persist into the 2021 season. 

His partner on the inside, Solomon Kindley, didn’t perform any better in the run game. These two struggling with run blocking contributed as much to the Miami Dolphins run game woes as Brown did, if not more. According to PFF grades provided by Ryan Smith, Kindley received a 45.7 run-blocking grade, with Jackson getting an abysmal 31.8 grade. PFF grades aren’t the end-all, be all, but it doesn’t paint a pretty picture going forward.

One thing that may give Dolphins fans hope is that 2021 second-round pick Liam Eichenberg did not play on Saturday due to injury. Training camp has been up-and-down for Eichenberg, but inserting him into the lineup should improve the Miami Dolphins run game. Whether Eichenberg winds up at tackle or guard remains to be seen, as he’s seen work at both positions.

A Veteran to the Rescue?

The Miami Dolphins run game woes should come as no surprise to Dolphins fans. One of the biggest complaints fans had about the 2021 NFL Draft was that the team opted against taking a running back until Gerrid Doaks in the seventh round. Fans were clamoring for Najee Harris, Javonte Williams, and just about every other top-flight running back. The team had other ideas for their running back room, however.

Miami was content to enter the season with Salvon Ahmed and Myles Gaskin as the presumed starters at the position. The team brought in Malcolm Brown in free agency to give the group some diversity with a thumper to Ahmed and Gaskin’s speed and athleticism.

However, after watching the first preseason game, the fans are once again bemoaning the state of the room, leading some to ask the question: Should Miami bring in a veteran running back for competition?

When discussing veteran options at the position, the conversation begins and ends with two names: Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley. Both backs have been upper-echelon backs during their careers, but both are at the tail-end of theirs. Gurley has had myriad knee issues, and Peterson would be entering his 15th season at the age of 36. To complicate matters, both would likely have to agree to a veteran-minimum contract to make it work.

For better or worse, the Miami Dolphins run game is going to hinge on the guys in-house. The offensive line is going to have to get much better, and in a hurry. Ahmed and Gaskin are going to have to take control of the room and command the lion’s share of the touches. If those things don’t happen, Dolphins fans are once again going to be clamoring for a running back early come the 2022 NFL Draft.

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