Next Steps for the Miami Dolphins This Offseason

The Miami Dolphins suffered a historic collapse in 2022, and the offseason brings the potential for notable moves.

The Miami Dolphins have had a roller coaster of a season to say the least. Each time they have seemingly pulled away from Wild Card contention, they completely neutralized their winning streaks, and are now sitting at 8-8 with a game to go.

There is still a chance to make the playoffs, which will lie in the hands of Skylar Thompson against the New York Jets. If Miami can win (along with a Patriots loss to the Buffalo Bills), they will secure their first playoff berth since 2016.

However, it is clear that there are underlying issues within this franchise, many of which need to be solved this offseason in order to maximize the potential of the Mike McDaniel regime. Thus, here are some potential solutions to the issues the Miami Dolphins face this offseason.

Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer could be fired this offseason
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Doug Murray

The Josh Boyer Problem

When the Dolphins hired Mike McDaniel, they maintained a supreme confidence in their defensive coaching staff from the Flores regime. It was clear that they saw that unit as the catalyst for their back to back winning seasons, and that faith extended to defensive coordinator Josh Boyer.

That faith, however, seems to have been misplaced. With similar talent to Miami’s opportunstic units of the past, the Dolphins’ defense has fallen off a cliff. They rank 27th in points per game and are 30th in takeaways. That’s a far cry from their significant successes in those areas over the past two seasons.

Their pressure numbers have also clearly been lacking. Despite trading for Bradley Chubb, they are middle of the pack in sacks. Along with this, they have been unable to gain pressure without blitzing. With a pass rushing duo as promising as Jaelan Phillips and the aforementioned Chubb, the volume of blitzes and schemed pressures called by Josh Boyer has been dumbfounding.

The bottom line is that Miami needs a new defensive coordinator. There is simply too much talent along the defensive front to struggle the way they have. Some have suggested switching to a 4-3 scheme, which makes sense with the personnel on the roster.

Phillips and Chubb can play strictly on the edge, with Sieler and Wilkins wreaking havoc on the interior. The potential change is a more natural fit for their skill sets, and would limit mismatches in crucial situations.

Either way, it’s clear that it’s time to make a change on the defense. Moving on from the final Flores holdover may be that step.

The Quarterback Conundrum

The end of the season has been catastrophic, regardless of playoff success, and the simple fact is that the quarterback play has not been up to par over the last month or so.

Following a five game winning streak where Miami didn’t play a single top ten defense, the Dolphins faced a tough December. It’s safe to say that the team, and specifically the quarterback, didn’t make the most of it.

Dolphins’ fans biggest fears were realized as, against Miami’s toughest stretch of opponents, Tua Tagovailoa absolutely collapsed. He threw less than 60% completions against the 49ers, Chargers, and Bills, as Miami lost all three. Then, in a Christmas day game against the Packers, Tagovailoa threw an interception on each of the offense’s three fourth quarter drives. It was later discovered that he suffered a concussion prior to those interceptions, but that only adds onto the concern over the “injury prone” label.

Miami is now playing their final games of the season with backup quarterbacks. Although they spent significant capital on Teddy Bridgewater, it’s clear that it hasn’t panned out. He has been unable to win any games to this point, and has been injured himself at times this season. With Tagovailoa bound to miss significant time, it’s important to secure a high level backup, and Bridgewater hasn’t been that.

The Quarterback Solution in the Miami Dolphins 2023 Offseason

This leaves two potential solutions, one of which is much more aggressive than the other. The first is to draft a young quarterback to back up Tua Tagovailoa. It’s clear that pursuing backups such as Jacoby Brissett and Bridgewater hasn’t worked. Thus, a rookie would not only potentially be more effective, but cheaper with a higher ceiling. This quarterback class has some depth, and Miami could bring in a young backup to excel in ways Bridgewater has failed.

The second path is far more controversial.

There are several starter-level quarterbacks rumored to be moved this offseason. Tom Brady and Derek Carr are expected to be free agents, while there are rumors of Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson being on the move as well.

It’s undeniable that Tua has improved this season. Miami’s offense sat atop the league for significant stretches with him at the helm. However, when you combine the injury history and consistent drop off against high-level opponents, it’s not a stretch to say that it may be in the Miami Dolphins’ best interest to be aggressive this offseason.

The Dolphins are likely squandering away the first year of a three-year Super Bowl window. Talents like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle don’t come around often, and outside of a historic comeback, their first year will have all been for not.

Miami must ensure that the next two years are different, and without a first round pick, they can’t secure a top flight quarterback prospect. Despite this, there are options available who provide a ceiling and consistency that Tagovailoa lacks. Miami has the chance to go from good to great, and Stephen Ross is tired of watching his years of spending be unfulfilling.

Photo Creit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Chris Grier Dilemma

The last of the potential moves would be the biggest, and it involves general manager Chris Grier.

Grier has been with the organization dating back to 2000, even predating owner Stephen Ross. He has continued to rise up the organization, becoming Ross’ right hand man and general manager in 2016.

Despite his rise, however, the Dolphins haven’t won a single playoff game in the last twenty years. The team seemingly finds themselves in the same position year-in and year-out, and Grier remains a constant. It was his recent work, however, that may be the final straw.

When the Miami Dolphins decided to go for a full rebuild in 2019, they positioned themselves for a crucial 2020 offseason. They held five picks in the first two rounds of that draft, including three firsts. Their haul? Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt, and Raekwon Davis.

The 2020 Blunder

The last two have been solid, with Hunt proving this season that he can be a cornerstone of Miami’s line. However, it’s the first round picks, Tua, Jackson, and Igbinoghene where the missteps are clear.

While the verdict on Tagovailoa is unclear, the same can’t be said about Justin Herbert. Taken only one pick later, Herbert has vastly outperformed his 2020 colleague. The last pillar of the Tua-Herbert debate was the idea that Herbert couldn’t win big games. That has now fallen with Herbert’s Chargers clinching a playoff spot and Miami on the outside looking in yet again.

Jackson and Igbinoghene are a similar story. Both have underperformed to their draft slot, with the latter struggling to see the field at all. While Jackson has started, his production has lacked, and this year he has been unable to stay healthy.

Thus, in arguably the most important draft in franchise history, Miami selected the following:

The wrong quarterback, a below average right tackle, a cornerback who doesn’t see the field, an above average right guard, and a starting caliber nose tackle.

This simply isn’t going to cut it for Grier, who is now seeing the successes of talents of like Justin Herbert, Justin Jefferson, and Jonathan Taylor (all of which were available with Miami’s respective first round picks).

It’s not unheard of for a team to keep a coach and hire a new general manager. That may very well be the path if Ross decides to move on from Grier.

The Bottom Line on the Miami Dolphins Offseason

No matter what Ross ends up doing, it’s clear that a change needs to be made. Miami can ill afford to squander the Super Bowl potential of the high-end talent on this roster. Tyreek Hill may very well be the best Dolphin since Dan Marino, and his presence must be capitalized on.

It likely won’t be as drastic as firing a general manager, but there are reasonable changes to make. Time after time, Stephen Ross has seen his teams come up short and December and January. He holds the power to ensure that this time is the last and that the Miami Dolphins’ Super Bowl hopes are realized. That starts with this offseason.

Alabama Quarterback Problem: Life After Bryce Young

Alabama reserve quarterback Ty Simpson
Photo Credit: Alabama Athletics

From Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones and now Bryce Young, Nick Saban has been on a historic quarterback run. However, going into their Sugar Bowl matchup with Kansas State, there are a lot of questions surrounding the quarterback position for Alabama.

Superstar QB Bryce Young will play in the bowl game, much to the surprise of college football fans. It isn’t with Bryce where the questions lie. The questions are what comes next after Alabama loses its greatest quarterback?

Alabama Quarterback Options:

While it was thought that Coach Saban might dip into the transfer portal for freshman standout Drake Maye. That turned out to be a pipe dream for Alabama fans. Saban and Alabama will be rolling with the quarterbacks currently on the roster. Let’s get into the options:

Jalen Milroe

We got to see some of Jalen Milroe during Bryce Young’s injury. The young quarterback looked decent against Texas A&M and Arkansas. He is very raw, much like Jalen Hurts during his time in Alabama. Milroe seems like the favorite currently, however footage during practice for the bowl game has come out of him running routes at wide receiver. Only time will tell with Milroe.

Ty Simpson

Now, with Milroe’s future up in the air, the guy on his heels is Ty Simpson. Simpson was a top recruit, with a 98.883 composite rating. He left his home state of Tennessee for Alabama and is the reported reason Alabama went out on Arch Manning. Personally, I think Ty Simpson has all the tools to be the next great Alabama quarterback.

The Recruits

Alabama brings in two 4-star quarterbacks, neither of which will make much of an impact — at least initially. Eli Holstein has drawn Mac Jones comparisons, which feels like an insult to Mac Jones. Dylan Lonergan has a bit more upside, but he’s extremely raw and will need time to develop.

Who is the Alabama Quarterback next year

My take is that Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson will have a serious battle all off-season. In the end, the versatility of Milroe means he might end up as a running back or wide receiver. Ty Simpson ends up as the Alabama quarterback. Simpson will need a lot of help, but he can get the job done in T-Town.

Dolphins vs Bills: Week 15 Preview

Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa and Bills QB Josh Allen
Photo Credit: Cooper Neill and Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s been 12 weeks since the Miami Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills in Miami to take the lead in the AFC East. Now, in Week 15, the Bills are back on top. Two straight losses from the Dolphins have opened the door for the Bills to take a three game lead in the AFC East. Both teams will be battling more than each other this Saturday night. What will affect these two squads and how will it play out? Let’s dive into what to expect in this rivalry game: Dolphins vs Bills, part 2.

Dolphins vs Bills Game Information

  • Date: Saturday, December 17
  • Time: 20:15 ET
  • Venue: Highmark Stadium; Orchard Park, NY
  • TV: NFL Network and NFL+
  • Records: Dolphins (8-5) Bills (10-3)
  • DraftKings Sportsbook line: Bills -7

Key Factors

1. Battling the Winter Weather

In Week 3, the heat in Miami proved to be a factor. Players were dropping like flies. More than a handful of players needed to head to the locker room for IV’s and to cool off. It was a close game in Week 3, and if it wasn’t as warm, maybe the outcome is different.

The snow won’t be as bad as Week 11 in Buffalo, where they had to move the game. However, it will still be a major factor. The forecast predicts up to six inches of snow by gametime, with a chance for more. With a severe weather alert of lake effect snow for Saturday, it could come down heavy.

On top of the snow, the temperature is expected to be a low of 26 degrees, with the wind chill in the low teens. The cold temperature, gusts of wind, and snow falling will make this game tougher for most players and could affect them in a big way.

2. Playing through Injuries

This Week 15 matchup will be a little bit kinder to both teams in regard to injuries than in their Week 3 matchup. For the Dolphins, they will be without safeties Elijah Campbell (concussion) and Eric Rowe (hamstring). Miami also has QB Teddy Bridewater (knee), RB Jeff Wilson (hip), and OL Terron Armstead (toe/pec/knee) listed as questionable. The Buffalo Bills will be without OL Ryan Bates (ankle) and DT Jordan Phillips (shoulder).

Both teams have some key players who are playing through injuries. For Miami, they will have LB Elandon Roberts (ribs), TE Durham Smythe (quad/knee), WR Tyreek Hill (ankle), CB Kader Kohou (thumb/neck), and DT Justin Zimmer (back). For Buffalo, they will have FB Reggie Gilliam (ankle), DT Ed Oliver (pec), LB Matt Milano (knee), QB Josh Allen (elbow), CB Cam Lewis (forearm), and OL Mitch Morse (elbow) playing through the pain.

Those are some big names playing through injuries to try to help their teams get the win in a big game.

Dolphins vs Bills: Keys to Success

Miami Dolphins – Don’t make Tua do too much

In the past two losses for the Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has struggled. He’s averaged 220 passing yards per game, thrown for three touchdowns and turned the ball over three times while having a 45.9% completion percentage. Head coach Mike McDaniels should look to take some pressure off of Tua to get him going again.

His recent struggles aren’t the only reason Miami should look to ease the pressure off Tua. Tagovailoa has struggled in his young career in cold weather. This could be the coldest game Tua has played in his football career. In games below 50 degrees, Tua has thrown two touchdowns while turning it over four times. He has had a combined QBR of 14, and is 0-3 in those games.

This weather could be the worst he’s ever seen, so it’s crucial for the Dolphins to make it easier for him.

Buffalo Bills – Win the Turnover Battle

In all three losses for the Bills this season, they have had more yards than their opponent. That’s the positive of their losses. On the flip side, they have also lost the turnover battle in each of those games. They have lost by 3 or less in each loss. If they win or tie the turnover battle, who knows, they could be undefeated right now.

With a top defense on the other side, turning the ball over might not seem like that big of a deal. But going into a game expected to have bad weather, turnovers could be more costly. Every possession will be crucial as both teams could struggle to move the ball down the field. If the Bills can take care of the ball, they should win this game. Especially considering the Bills are 3-0 in games where Josh Allen doesn’t have a turnover.

Final Thoughts

This could be an ugly offensive game, due to the weather. Miami will be looking to increase their chances at the AFC East. We could see them open up the playbook more than usual. On the other side, the Bills are looking to clinch a playoff berth and put themselves one win away from the division crown.

I expect a low scoring, close game that will come down to who can put the ball in the endzone last. Regardless of the outcome, the Bills vs Dolphins rivalry is clearly back.

Bye Week Rooting Guide for Miami Dolphins Fans

Photo Credit: Megan Briggs/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have finally hit a much needed bye week. When Miami returns to action next week, they will face the Houston Texans and then hit the most challenging portion of their schedule. But before we get there here’s a convenient rooting guide for Miami Dolphins fans for the bye week action.

Sitting at 7-3, the Dolphins find themselves atop the AFC East with seven games left. However, the weather is starting to change, spelling danger for this warm weather team, led by a warm weather quarterback. With the week off, Dolphin fans can turn their attention towards rooting against Miami’s interconference foes.

Miami Dolphins Rooting Guide

Buffalo Bills vs Cleveland Browns

The Miami Dolphins rooting guide starts with a game that’s a bit… murky in terms of rooting interests. Your rooting interest in this game varies on your expectations for Miami. Do you think Miami can survive this tough upcoming stretch and stay above Buffalo in the division? If that’s the case, then it’s Cleveland all day.

A loss would put Buffalo at 6-4, giving Miami a better record, tie-breaker, a better division record, a better conference record, and the edge in common opponent games because of last week’s win against this same Browns team. 

However, let’s play the numbers game here. After the Texans, the Dolphins will face a six-game stretch that features the San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and New York Jets. Only one of those teams presently sits below .500 — and that team has Aaron Rodgers.

What is the likelihood of Miami coming out of that stretch 5-1 or 4-2? The Dolphins may very well be competing for the Wild Card. If that is the case, Cleveland falling to 3-7 and losing the tiebreaker would make it nearly impossible for Cleveland to catch Miami. One less team to worry about come January is never a bad thing. 

Philadelphia Eagles vs Indianapolis Colts

This one is pretty simple: Root for the Eagles. With Philadelphia finally dropping a game on Monday, they serve no interest to the Miami Dolphins anymore. The Indianapolis Colts on the other hand, still find themselves in the thick of the wild card race.

Any NFC team beating an AFC opponent is a win for Miami. The Dolphins don’t face the Colts this season and play in a much stronger division. That gives the Colts an opportunity to gain the tie-breaker. Ensuring Miami has a better overall record is imperative. 

New York Jets vs New England Patriots 

All signs here point to a Patriots win being the most beneficial for the Dolphins. Miami has already beaten the Patriots and New England has a worse record. A Jets loss would put both New England and New York at four losses, which is helpful for the Dolphins, who will not be able to claim head-to-head tiebreaker over the Jets this season. 

Baltimore Ravens vs Carolina Panthers

Another NFC vs AFC matchup here leads to an easy rooting interest for the Dolphins. The Baltimore Ravens saw a 21-point lead evaporate to Tua and company in September, giving Miami a tiebreaker advantage over the Ravens. The Ravens are another team in the thick of the AFC, and losing to an out-of-conference opponent only gives the Dolphins a bigger advantage 

Las Vegas Raiders vs Denver Broncos

This game has little to no meaning for Miami, but there is still a slight rooting interest. A Raiders victory would put both clubs at 3-7, which would make it extremely hard for them to catch the Dolphins. However, a 4-6 Broncos team would still have a puncher’s chance. Miami fans should be rooting for the Raiders in this one.

Cincinnati Bengals vs Pittsburgh Steelers

While it seems obvious on the surface, figuring out who to root for is quite tricky in this game. On one hand, the Bengals are a team who could be competing with Miami for positioning — whether it’s as a division winner or a Wild Card team. 

On the other hand, would it be more beneficial for Miami to have the Bengals win the North so the Dolphins are competing with the Ravens for the Wild Card, whom they already have a win against? That all depends on what you think the Dolphins’ chances of winning the AFC East are. If you think the Dolphins will come out of this tough stretch and relinquish first place, you should be rooting for the Bengals to win the AFC North.

Kansas City Chiefs vs Los Angeles Chargers 

Our final game is another that differs based on where you think Miami finishes in the division. An AFC East champion Miami Dolphins team would absolutely love for the Chiefs to drop this game, as the two teams battle for the number one spot in the conference and the illustrious first round bye. 

However, a Wild Card Miami Dolphins team will be rooting like hell for the Chiefs this weekend. The Chargers are a team who finds themselves right in the thick of the Wild Card race. The Dolphins have an opportunity to gain a head-to-head advantage over them in December, and the Chiefs adding a loss to Los Angeles’ schedule would be even more beneficial. 

Solving The Mystery of Quarterback Play in 2022

The 2022 NFL Season is off to an interesting start, and the quarterback position has some of the most intriguing trends thus far.

We are about a month into the NFL season: the perfect time for storylines to develop, narratives to run rampant, and for trends to begin to take shape. We have certainly seen our fair share of each since the beginning of the season. However, none quite contend with the oddities in 2022 at the most important position in sports: the quarterback.

Quarterback play is, far and away, one of the most difficult levels of success to quantify. Some use advanced stats, carefully calculated metrics which mean nothing without context, while others use “the eye test”, rummaging their way through hours of film in hopes of validating their takes. Both are certainly valuable, but neither can explain the trends we have seen this year.

To put it bluntly, 2022 has been one of the weirdest, and statistically worst, years of quarterback play we have seen in quite some time. The mainstays of years’ past have been inconsistent and, in some cases, outright disappointing, thinning out the upper echelon of signal callers.

Unless, that is, you look at the top of any of the league’s advanced stat categories, in which you will find many new faces. However, these aren’t the anomalies of years’ past, such as Mahomes in 2018 or Herbert in 2020. No athletic freak getting his first true chance with a high powered offense. Rather, a collection of veterans and castaways whose offenses have seen astronomical jumps through the first month.

The most astounding example thus far? None other than Geno Smith.

No Russ, No Problem

When Seattle shipped off Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a king’s ransom, it was widely anticipated that the Seahawks would not only be inheriting a downgrade in quarterback play, but a substantial one at that. However, Geno Smith has been, by almost all accounts, phenomenal for Seattle through the first five games.

Smith is currently first in passer rating, completion rate over expected, completion rate, and a higher average intended air yards, per NextGenStats, than Patrick Mahomes (8.8 to 7.7).

Smith had largely been written off by the league after his tenure with the New York Jets. He was viewed as a career backup and, despite his nine year career, only has two more starts than Justin Herbert. However, being called to start the season for only the third time in his career, he has outplayed his predecessor in future Hall-of-Famer Russell Wilson.

A Healthy Balance

However, this isn’t the statistical anomaly we typically see from advanced stats. Smith’s success has transferred over to the tape as well. His ability to make tight-window throws along with making big plays under pressure, in particular, have been the catalysts to his success.

Geno Smith throws with timing and anticipation to the end zone.

What has distinguished him from the ‘efficiency darlings’ of the past has been the carry over of efficiency to aggressive throws. Typically, many stats favor the conservative and those quick to take the check down. Geno Smith has once again been the outlier, combining getting the ball out quickly with a knack for hitting his occasional shots downfield.

Geno Smith has been efficient on his aggressive throws.

Smith has found ways through the first month to maximize his talent in ways that Wilson had struggled with. Without their former Super Bowl champion, many expected Seattle to be in the running for the number one pick. However, they’re still in the thick of a difficult NFC West with Geno at the helm. If these quarterback trends continue throughout 2022 for Smith, it’s feasible to see Seattle sneaking into a Wild Card spot.

Rocky Mountain Disaster

It is the other side of the trade involving Seattle and Denver that, for multiple reasons, has been a struggle thus far. Wilson’s had a rough go of it to start his career in Denver. While it isn’t all on him, he certainly bears some of the blame.

Wilson has long garnered the reputation as a playmaker. He has been regarded as somebody who can not only deliver in the pocket, but also when the pocket becomes murky. This year, Wilson has tried many of the same plays, putting a supreme level of trust in his weaponry. However, he’s been slower to reads, unwilling to let a play die, and all around worse as a passer.

As someone who has disregarded throwing over the middle of the field, Wilson made his money on his “moon ball”- the deep throws down the sideline to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf were the center of his game. However, when defenses are taking away the deep game, Wilson has been just as aggressive, albeit in risky situations.

Per NextGenStats, Wilson ranks top ten in both average intended air yards and aggressiveness percentage. However, this has resulted in a completion percentage 6.3 percentage points below expectation, among the likes of Joe Flacco and Jimmy Garoppolo.

Late Night Woes

All of this was on full display on primetime against the Indianapolis Colts. More specifically, on the throw shown below. Wilson feels pressure early, in large part due to the Broncos line, which hasn’t helped him much. However, the game situation would clearly dictate throwing the ball away.

It’s third down in the fourth quarter of a low scoring game. Living to play another down would likely mean the end of the game. Denver would be up by six, and Indianapolis had instilled no confidence in scoring a touchdown.

Despite this, Wilson decides to live and die by the big play, forcing the ball down the field and vastly overthrowing his target. Thus, Indianapolis is able to stay within a field goal and get the game to overtime.

It was in this overtime period, specifically the last play of the game, where Wilson and Hackett showed their pitfalls once again.

Denver has the ball on the five yard line on fourth and one. It’s do-or-die. If they fail to convert, Indianapolis wins the game. All Denver needs is a yard to keep the drive alive. Considering Denver’s rushing success on this drive, running the ball would likely be the solution. But Nathaniel Hackett and Russell Wilson had other plans.

Uncharacteristic Mistakes

Hackett comes out in a light gun look, making it clear that he wants the end zone, and draws up a good play for Wilson. A simple pick to his right opens up KJ Hamler coming over the middle for what should be an easy touchdown.

However, Wilson, with all day to throw it, continues to stare down Courtland Sutton to the left. Keep in mind that Sutton is guarded by Stephon Gilmore, who already has a pick in this game.

Stephon Gilmore ends the game for Indianapolis.

Wilson continues to stare, forces the ball to his first read, and never sees Hamler. Gilmore is able to knock the ball down and win the game, on what looked like a rookie mistake from Wilson. It’s not often that we see a ten-year veteran stare down his first read this badly, much less force it into coverage.

The Broncos were widely expected to be a Super Bowl contender this year with Wilson and Hackett. However, both clearly have issues that must be ironed out, and are suffering because of them early on.

Super Bowl Hangover?

The Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson aren’t alone in their struggles, as the Super Bowl runners up have had their fair share as well. In the Cincinnati Bengals’ case, it’s also due to a combination of factors.

Last year, the Bengals’ deep attack was one of the best the league has ever seen. Jamar Chase and Tee Higgins excelled in one-on-one situations down the sideline, and Joe Burrow was hitting them at an all-time clip. It was the perfect storm of high-level deep accuracy and elite deep threats. Through this, they were able to annihilate defenses, and specifically single-high shells.

That being the primary feature of their offense was enough to get them a spot in the Super Bowl. In their championship bout, Cincinnati largely competed with the Los Angeles Rams. However, it was then that we began to see a counter form against their high-powered offense.

Simply put, teams began to move into more two-high defenses, preventing the deep passes the Bengals thrived upon. Along with this, Cincy faced more zone defenses, leading to fewer one-on-one situations for Chase and Higgins.

Not Enough Help

The typical counter to this would be to run the ball, and the numbers are simple. Coming out in two-high takes a player out of the box, and often gives a numbers advantage to the offense. The Bengals, on the other hand, haven’t been efficient enough in the run game to force teams back down. This is, in large part, due to their offensive line play.

It was well documented that Cincinnati’s fatal flaw last season was their offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked more than any other quarterback, and the run blocking wasn’t much better.

Thus, the Bengals spent significant capital this offseason on revamping the line. Signing La’el Collins, Ted Karras, and Alex Cappa, they hoped the veteran presence up front would solidify a contender. However, it’s clear that they haven’t gelled yet as a unit, and their individual play hasn’t been up to par either.

Despite these struggles, Cincinnati has largely been in close games, which is where more struggles — specifically Zac Taylor’s and Joe Burrow’s — have begun to show. The former’s play calling has been predictable and inefficient. Resorting to trick plays in the red zone and poorly managing short yardage situations have stood out among Taylor’s woes.

Law of Averages

Some of the blame, as stated before, does fall on Burrow’s shoulders. Unlike last year, the expectation wasn’t to hit on a historic percentage of difficult passes. However, this year has certainly been a fall from grace.

Along with the successful one-on-one shots being few and far between, Burrow has tried to overcompensate elsewhere. This was on full display in Week 1, where he threw four interceptions. What stood out on these plays was how much Burrow forced the ball into tight windows. Rather than taking what was in front of him, he tried too hard to be a playmaker and wrote checks that his arm — along with a majority of NFL arms, for that matter — couldn’t cash.

Minkah Fitzpatrick takes a Joe Burrow pass back for a pick-six.

This over-aggressiveness, along with the lack of help from his offensive line and coaching staff, has led to struggles for Burrow. While potentially predictable, it’s certainly uncharacteristic for what we’ve seen to this point in his career. Burrow has looked better recently, in particular against a depleted Dolphins secondary.

He will almost definitely improve down the stretch, but his quarterback play has been an interesting trend thus far in 2022, to say the least.

Other Interesting Trends in 2022 Quarterback Play

While Smith, Wilson, and Burrow have been the most interesting three, they aren’t the only quarterbacks to play outside of their expectations so far in 2022. Matthew Stafford and the Rams have struggled on offense, largely due to their offensive line play. Going into Week 5, they ranked 19th in pass-block win rate. When coupled with Stafford’s elbow injury concerns and the loss of Odell Bekcham Jr., regression has been rough.

On the flip side of the 2022 quarterback trends, we have also seen the development of several young quarterbacks. Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts rank third and ninth in passer rating, up drastically from last season. Each with new and improved weapons and circumstances, they have taken advantage of a great opportunity. Both were in their “prove-it year”, and they have shown out to this point.

No article about the quarterback trends of 2022 would be complete without mention of Cooper Rush in Dallas. Now 5-0 in his career as a starter, Rush has kept the Cowboys afloat in relief of Dak Prescott.

However, it’s clear their offense misses their 40 million dollar quarterback and will start him when he returns. That isn’t to discount Rush, though, who has shown he belongs and made the most of his opportunity.

The Cowboys are certainly a better offense with Dak Prescott in the lineup.

The year is clearly still very early for quarterbacks. We may very well see the high risers fall back to Earth, or positive regression for the struggling veterans. However, it certainly has been a different year to say the least.

The NFL always has something new to offer, and their most important position has been no different. It will be exciting to see how these quarterback trends progress and change as the 2022 season moves on.