The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers, a review

Miami Dolphins’ Kenyan Drake runs for a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte on Monday night. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

The Miami Dolphins need to try something different after three consecutive losses on national television, two in catastrophic fashion. So The Daily Dolphin felt like trying something a little different in this week’s film study.

We’re going to hit on a few more specific plays than usual and blast through them in sequential order. Hopefully we all pick up a few things along the way.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed:

First quarter, 12:12 left, Miami ball on 3rd-and-5 at Miami 43

Score: 0-0

The play: Jay Cutler has Jarvis Landry wide open. And he’s not under pressure. Cutler does a nice job of stepping up into the pocket, but leaps into the air and throws high and wide of Landry. Cutler was not accurate this game. He hasn’t been terribly accurate at all when throwing downfield this year. Cutler also easily could have ran for the first down, as the marker was six yards away and there wasn’t a Panther in the vicinity. It’s pretty clear what Cutler is and is not going to bring this season. As expected, he is bringing inconsistency. It must be demoralizing when a receiver feels he has a shot to make a play and the ball is delivered, for example, at his feet, as Cutler throws off his back foot, which happened several times Monday. We think Landry must really, really miss Ryan Tannehill. On one play in the first quarter, Cutler overthrew DeVante Parker by 10 yards. On a pass in the third quarter, Cutler way overthrew an open Kenny Stills.

For some reason, Jay Cutler leaps into the air. He’s off the mark on pass to Jarvis Landry.

First quarter, 11:20 left, Carolina ball on 3rd-and-8 at Carolina 19

Score: 0-0

The play: This was a rough night for Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Panthers felt he would have a tough time handling Christian McCaffrey and they were right. On this play, McCaffrey catches a short pass at the 20, seven yards away from the first-down marker. But Alonso overruns McCaffrey, who turns inside and gains 18 more yards as Alonso tries to pivot on his skates. On a red zone touchdown by the Panthers in the second quarter, Alonso again overran the play as McCaffrey slinked his way into the end zone. Miami’s linebackers must be better in coverage. And here’s the thing: Alonso is supposed to be better in coverage than Rey Maualuga and Lawrence Timmons. Alonso has not gotten off of blocks as often as he did last year. He has not been effective as he was last year. We also noticed on the first McCaffrey play (third-and-long) that Cam Wake dropped back into coverage from his left end position, while Timmons blitzed from a long way away. Not a fan. Wake hasn’t had a sack in any of his last three games. Wake also over-pursued and failed to contain on Cam Newton’s 69-yard zone-read run in the third quarter. Safety T.J. McDonald bit hard, too, on the fake handoff to Christian McCaffrey.

Kiko Alonso is too good a player to be made to look this bad.

Second quarter, 13:31 left, Miami ball on 3rd-and-10 at Miami 49

Score: 3-0 Carolina

The play: It is hard to describe how slow Julius Thomas runs at this stage of his career. He lumbers. There is no explosiveness. There is no suddenness. On this play, coach Adam Gase found a matchup he felt he liked. Thomas was split wide left against a safety, Mike Adams, who is 36 years old and no gazelle at this point of his career, either. Well, Jay Cutler could have thrown a little better ball on the deep sideline route, but Thomas took himself out of bounds, allowing no chance for the big gainer. Thomas has suffered through numerous injuries over the last few seasons. He seems like an interesting, intelligent guy. But it seems the time has come to give up on the idea that Thomas can have a positive impact on Miami’s season. Later, Cutler made a poor decision throwing a pass toward Thomas just before halftime. The pass should never have been thrown. Miami should have run the clock out. But aside from that, passes to Thomas are prone to go badly. It’s time to give seldom-used MarQuies Gray some more reps. Gray is a much better blocker and even made a few key catches last season.

Julius Thomas fails to haul in the play. He’s not the player he once was. He’s just not.

Third quarter, 14:54 left, Carolina ball on 1st-and-10 at Carolina’s 22

Score: 17-7

The play: Cam Newton hits Devin Funchess on a 17-yard slant, in front of Xavien Howard. On the surface, the play is unremarkable. But it’s indicative of two things. Firstly, the middle of the field has been extraordinarily vulnerable on defense for most of the year. And secondly, Howard has just given up too many completions this year. Completion after completion. It’s been quite disappointing for the sophomore, who had a very good camp and preseason. Howard gave up three touchdowns, according to Pro Football Focus, though we’ll say he was directly responsible on two (one to tight end Ed Dickson) and one which was mostly due to a great back-shoulder sideline throw from Newton to Funchess, who tortured Howard Monday night. One wonders if Howard has lost some confidence. When he tries to play tight and physical, his strength, he’s often called for pass interference (as he was in the end zone on a separate play when trying to cover Funchess. Howard has to be better. He has to get it together fast.

The linebackers were frozen, but Xavien Howard gave his receiver lots of room to work.

Third quarter, 11:57 left, Carolina ball on 3rd-and-10 at Miami’s 28

Score: 17-7

The play: The game is not out of reach at this point, but it becomes virtually hopeless after Cam Newton correctly identifies a six-man Dolphins blitz, makes an adjustment at the line, throws a screen out to the left for Devin Funchess, who runs in for the score. The Dolphins placed eight men near the line of scrimmage and Newton knew exactly what was coming. Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard are taken out on blocks by Christian McCaffrey  (with assist on a shove of Jones by a tackle) and Funchess is off to the races. Here’s what piqued my interest about the play. Former Pro Bowl Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain tweeted after the play, “When the quarterback checking and knows exactly what blitz you’re running…you have to get out of that defense!!!” So on Wednesday, I followed up with Surtain, who is head coach at American Heritage in Plantation. Surtain added: “Check out of it into a safer coverage. Cam recognized the blitz and checked to their perfect play from countless hours of film study. Safer coverage allows you to make the tackle and live to see another day.” So, Surtain is saying that an on-field adjustment should have been made. And, in general, defensive adjustments in the second half are a sore spot for the Dolphins. In five of Miami’s nine games, the opponent has scored a touchdown in the first half of the third quarter.

There are a bunch of Dolphins penetrating here. But Cam Newton was ready for it.

Third quarter, 9:41 left, Miami ball on 4th-and-1 at Miami 49

Score: 24-7 Carolina

The play: We’re not thrilled with the decision to go for the first down in this spot (it felt desperate, although we understand Adam Gase not wanting to see his defense back on the field). But we’re really not thrilled with handing the ball to Damien Williams and running at Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short, one of the best in the game, behind Ted Larsen. Did Larsen, making his first start as a Dolphin, beat Short on a block? No, of course he didn’t. Larsen had his struggles in this game. In the first quarter, Damien Williams was dropped for a loss of four, when Short flew past him without help from center Mike Pouncey (miscommunication between Larsen and Pouncey?). Earlier in the third quarter, Williams was dropped for a loss of five on a first down. On that play, is appeared several Dolphins either failed to execute their assignment or their blocks, leading to displays of frustration from tight end Anthony Fasano and center Mike Pouncey.

This is what can happen when you run behind Ted Larsen and at Kawann Short.

Third quarter, 8:53 left, Carolina ball on 2nd-and-3 at Miami’s 41

Score: 24-7 Carolina

The play: It’s a 16-yard run by Jonathan Stewart, which would usually be a pretty big deal, except it was commonplace on Monday night. But this play highlights how, as dominant as Ndamukong Suh can be, he and his $19 million salary can be neutralized with an effective combo block by a typical center and a guard. On this play, the Panthers run right at Suh and as you’ll see, his attempt to split the double-team fails, as the Panthers literally lift him up into the air and out of the play. On this play, linebacker Kiko Alonso is unable to work through some trash and gets caught up on the inside, as Stewart runs past Alonso’s outside. When Suh is taken out of plays, it puts more pressure on his teammates. And if they don’t get the job done, his impact is taken away from the game.

Ndamukong Suh may as well be Gulliver, taken down by two Lilliputians here.

Third quarter, 5:58 left, Miami ball on 3rd-and-1 at Miami’s 34

Score: 31-7 Carolina

The play: The game is out of reach, and there isn’t much to like about what’s happened to this point. But a 66-yard touchdown run by Kenyan Drake provides at least one positive outcome. The key blocks here come from left tackle Laremy Tunsil and tight end MarQuies Gray, who really should get more playing time moving forward. Drake shows of his blazing speed and also makes a nice cut back to the middle of the field to wash out a safety as he breaks into the open. Drake and Jay Ajayi are different players, but speed, burst, big-play ability are areas in which Drake does have an edge.

Note the excellent blocks by Laremy Tunsil and MarQuies Gray

EXTRA POINTS. There seems to be a failure to communicate in Miami’s secondary and a failure to communicate between the front seven and the secondary. Too many times, receivers run wide open. Too many times, running backs surge through holes virtually untouched or literally untouched. Communication is a key phrase many players have used to describe the reason for recent failures… T.J. McDonald looked very rusty on a few missed tackles. But he did sho potential as an effective run-blitzer on two run stops… Davon Godchaux has been very good this season, but he was pushed back more than usual on Monday… Kenyan Drake had a really nice blitz pickup on a corner blitz on a third down completion to DeVante Parker… Who the hell was supposed to be covering a wide-open Ed Dickson? Why do tight ends so often run wide open against the Dolphins?… Thank God for William Hayes. If it wasn’t for William Hayes, the Panthers may have run for 400 yards…  Right tackle Jesse Davis did a really nice job in the run game and pass protection. Jesse Davis is strong enough to handle the very strongest defensive lineman but also moves his feet fairly well for a gigantic man. Even if this guy isn’t the full-time answer at starter, he’s got a chance to stay in the league a long time as a swing tackle/guard… Lawrence Timmons‘ tackling consistency has waned since I wrote about how he’s basically the perfect tackler… DeVante Parker needs to be a bigger and bigger and bigger part of the offense. Think Demaryius Thomas. Think Larry Fitzgerald. Parker should be Miami’s first choice on every play. Parker should be targeted 9 times a game, as Thomas and Fitzgerald have been in their careers. Parker’s career average is 5 targets per game…  Mo Smith missed a back tackle on a 43-yard run by Cameron Artis-Payne that won’t help his cause to be on the field more often.

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The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins at Baltimore Ravens, a review

 

The Baltimore Ravens’ C.J. Mosley  and Za’Darius Smith combine to sack Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore on Thursday night. Miami lost, 40-0. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look.

Here are some things I noticed after watching Miami’s humiliating 40-0 trouncing at Baltimore on Thursday night:

  1. Miami cannot win if Jay Ajayi and the running game is not fixed. It does not matter who is playing quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. If Jay Ajayi and the offensive line do not perform better, there is no play-action success and there is a predictable offense and there are third-and-very-longs and Miami will lose. A lot. Ajayi gained 21 yards on his first carry and then totaled two yards on the final 12 carries of his day. TWO yards. Ten of Ajayi’s 13 carries were for one yard or less. Six of Ajayi’s 13 carries were for no gain or less. Five of Ajayi’s 13 carries resulted in a loss of yardage. Impossible to defend. Almost impossible to explain. So we closely examined each of the 13 totes. Let’s start with Ajayi, who, as Gase has said repeatedly recently, must take what the defense gives him, even if it’s only three or four yards. Too often, Ajayi has tried to make something bigger happen when it isn’t there. A good example of this is a 1st-and-10 with 1:56 left in the first half. Ajayi tries to break something outside when the best play is to just cut it up inside for maybe five yards. Instead, tight end Julius Thomas can’t hold his block and Ajayi is dropped for a loss. “We’ve got to stop trying to hit home runs all the time,” Gase said, again, on Friday. “How about take the four or five yards that we’re going to get? It comes down to everybody doing their job. If we actually start doing that, it might help.” Next, let’s look at Gase’s play-calling. He tried to mix up when and how he gave Ajayi the ball. Six times, it was from under center. Seven times, it was from shotgun. Gase tried to run Ajayi left (7 carries for 27 yards), middle (3 carries for -1 yards) and right (3 carries for -3 yards). Gase tried to run Ajayi when there were one, two and third tight ends and really, it didn’t matter. There were very few positives, but when something good has happened in the run game recently, tight end Anthony Fasano is usually involved. Massive left guard Jesse Davis, while not flawless and a pass protection work in progress, showed some flashes of strong run-game potential at times. Now, for the bad. Miami either wasn’t put in the right position to defend against blitzing linebackers and defensive backs, by quarterback Matt Moore or Mike Pouncey, or they failed to adjust adequately when pressure came. There was a combination of apparent miscommunication and/or offensive linemen being physically beaten by the Ravens. Right guard Jermon Bushrod was pushed back and/or run around on several occasions. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil has been disappointing overall this season. We haven’t seen the dominant left tackle play Tunsil exhibited at Ole Miss. Tunsil was playing with a bad knee in this game, but was handled badly by aging Terrell Suggs. And Pouncey has not regularly showed the aggressive, relentless, consistent push in the run game that we have come to expect from the Pro Bowler. Julius Thomas has given effort, but not consistent blocking. And tight end MarQuies Gray has not had a many memorable run-popping blocks as he had last season and has struggled at times. Miami can hope Tunsil’s knee feels better soon and that guard Ted Larsen, whenever he returns, provides a positive jolt in the run game. But against physical, aggressive, blitz-happy fronts, Miami seems likely to be overwhelmed again and again until something drastic changes.

    Miami’s offensive line struggled. But on this play, Jay Ajayi has a lane inside, but bounces outside.
  2. Miami’s linebackers missed a surprising number of tackles. Veteran Rey Maualuga has done a nice job in a limited role this season. But Ravens running back Buck Allen ran right through his arm tackle with 9:37 left in the fourth quarter. Maualuga, who blew away his season-high in snaps, was probably a bit tired. But Miami thought it had cured its tackling woes from last season, and they reared an ugly head again. In the first quarter, Maualuga was slow to get off the field and was the 12th man on a penalty declined by the Ravens because of a deep touchdown pass. In the first quarter, Vincent Taylor was tied up in the interior and Lawrence Timmons was unable to shed a block and make a tackle in a 19-yard again by Alex Collins. In the second quarter, William Hayes, who has been so good this season, failed to set an edge and Lawrence Timmons fails to make a tackle on another Collins run. Timmons missed four tackles overall, according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps the short week didn’t help old war horses Maualuga and Timmons.

    Buck Allen runs through an arm tackle by Rey Maualuga. This is not common.
  3. The Dolphins aren’t talented enough to miss on game-changing opportunity after opportunity. There were two plays in this game that could have caused some positive momentum and energy for the Dolphins, and they are easily forgotten, considering the result. But if Damien Williams or Cordrea Tankersley had scored a touchdown when it appeared they had a great chance to do so, who knows if Miami finds a way to hang around longer. You recall that Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosely surprised Matt Moore with an excellent pick-six interception near the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter. Well, with Miami trailing only 10-0 in the second quarter, Tankersley came on a corner blitz, a nice call by defensive coordinator Matt Burke. Joe Flacco threw the ball right to him, and Tankersley nearly held on for a interception, which would have been an easy 42-yard touchdown. Less than four minutes later, Gase dialed up the perfect call. With a full-on Ravens blitz, Matt Moore threw a screen to Damien Williams. It was a third-and-10 at Baltimore’s 31, and if catches the ball, he too scores with ease. But he just slipped. And fell. Williams hit the ground and somehow still caught the ball, but he was not on the run, as he had planned. It was a personification of Miami’s Baltimore trip. Mike Pouncey was out there to block and not a soul would have kept him from the end zone. Gase literally turned his back to the field, then shook his head, then grimaced. Torture made even worse by a missed field goal which followed.

    If Cordrea Tanklersley intercepts this pass and takes it to the house, maybe it’s a different game.
  4. Kiko Alonso’s hit on Joe Flacco was not suspension-worthy. Nobody wants to see Joe Flacco’s ear bleeding and clearly dazed and confused following a hit from Kiko Alonso which occurred after the quarterback begins to slide. And this has nothing to do with the game becoming softer and the league’s over-the-top desire to protect the quarterback. If Flacco wanted to limit the possibility of such an injury, he needed to begin his slide earlier. The penalty for a shoulder to the head was justified, even though it can be argued Alonso wasn’t aiming for the head and these plays move faster than we can imagine. But the circumstances of the play must also be considered. Flacco was trying to decide if and when to slide because it was 3rd-and-10 and he was closing in on a first down. We’ve seen quarterbacks pretend to slide then not. We’ve even seen quarterbacks pretend to slide or step out of bounds and then lower a shoulder. That actually puts their fellow quarterbacks in danger, because defenders don’t like to be embarrassed. Alonso does not have a track record as a dirty player, only one who gives 100 percent effort on every play. If a quarterback is going to slide, he should clearly give himself up and get completely down to the ground. This play was not suspension-worthy.

    At this moment, Joe Flacco should give himself up, and get down, or stay up and take on Kiko Alonso.
  5. EXTRA POINTS. Laremy Tunsil’s struggles seem to extend beyond physical. Two false start penalties, including on the first offensive play of Miami’s day, call into focus, well, focus… Jarvis Landry did not appear to know what the call was on one play and failed to haul in at least two passes he might tell you he should have… Why bother even throwing it to Julius Thomas short of the sticks on third down? He’s not going to get there. When Thomas catches the ball it’s as if he immediately prepares to fall down… Damien Williams showed once again that he cannot be trusted to regularly pick up a blitzer with a blocker… Quietly, Leonte Carroo had another decent outing, with a team-leading six catches on eight targets for 48 yards… Matt Haack needs to be better. A net average of 39.9 yards isn’t good enough… Kenyan Drake carried five straight times in the fourth quarter. If Drake can somehow gain Gase’s trust with a display of command of the offense and willingness to play within the system, he might flourish more reps… Miami’s defensive line struggled when facing an imbalanced offensive line, as Baltimore used three offensive linemen on one side of the line. Have to imagine the Dolphins will handle it better next time… The Daily Dolphin noticed Chase Allen on the field along with Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons and Rey Maualuga in the fourth quarter. Could the Dolphins occasionally break out a four-linebacker set in situations where it’s very likely the opponent will run?… So, Ndamukong Suh put his hand on Ryan Mallett’s throat. I mean, what can we say? The Tape Don’t Lie.
    This is Adam Gase. This is dismayed Adam Gase.

     

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The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets, a review

 

Matt Moore led the Miami Dolphins to victory against the NY Jets on Sunday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look.

Here are some things I noticed after watching Miami’s remarkable come-from-behind 31-28 defeat of the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday:

  1. Matt Moore makes Adam Gase smile. Actually, he kind of makes everybody smile. If you met Matt Moore, you would like him. Pretty much everyone likes him. He’s got a laid-back, easygoing personality. But he’s also got an underlying, burning desire to win. Kind of like Dolphins coach Adam Gase, now that I think about it. And so it seems to me, upon further review, that Gase had perhaps the biggest smile he’s had on the sideline all season, in the moments after Moore threw a long touchdown to Kenny Stills to bring Miami’s deficit to within 28-21 in the fourth quarter. Moore loaded up and in the face of a blitz and tossed it out to Stills near the front right corner of the end zone. Stills beat Jets corner Buster Skrine 1-on-1 and the ‘Fins were back in it. But what actually stood out to me the most was that Moore bumped Gase as he approached the sideline, as though Gase was a player. And then Moore began shouting something in Gase’s ear. We can only imagine. “Told you! Told you! Told you!” or something like that, we can imagine. Moore was so fired up. Gase seemed so happy. The biggest smile of the season, we tell you. Moore brings positive energy. Moore brings good karma. Moore brings juice. Which is not to suggest Moore is Miami’s quarterback the rest of the way, because, frankly, we don’t believe that. There are a few things Moore does have going for himself, headed into Thursday night’s start at Baltimore, and for as long as he’s under center. Moore has an obvious rhythm and chemistry with Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry, something Jay Cutler seemed to just be getting around to. No, Moore hasn’t taken many in-season first-team reps. But he has thrown a lot of passes to those two in springs, in summers and in preseason. Secondly, Moore is obviously well-liked and respected. And thirdly, as much as the players seem to trust Moore, he trusts them. For example, on a critical third down conversion to Landry in the fourth quarter, the one where Landry leaped over a Jets defensive back, Moore trusted Landry to get to a spot and delivered the ball quickly. Moore is not afraid to throw to spots. Like sidelined Ryan Tannehill, Moore is not afraid to take hits in order to complete a pass. And Moore trusts his offensive line (he was barely sacked last season, after all) to give him the millisecond he needs to get the passes off. Yes, Moore seemed a bit more decisive than Cutler. Yes, Moore thrilled the crowd. Yes, it was fun to watch. And smiles were abound. But…

    Matt Moore got all up in Adam Gase’s ear after a touchdown pass. And Gase was all about it.
  2. Before the injury, Jay Cutler actually showed some positive signs of growth. It’s easy to forget because Moore won the game in relief. But Cutler had his highest passer rating of the season (114.1) before leaving the game with broken ribs. He was completing a season-high 8.63 yards per attempt. He had tossed two touchdowns and has now posted four in his last four quarters in aqua and orange. And so, no, Cutler is not done. At least we highly, highly doubt it. A few times on Sunday, Cutler reminded that he is capable of throwing accurately on the move, and capable of extending plays by sensing pocket pressure and moving around with his eyes downfield. In the first quarter, Cutler used a play-action, designed roll out to the right. He then struck Julius Thomas, who as open in way MarQueis Gray often was on that same play, with Tannehill under center, last year. Later in the first quarter, Cutler rolled out to his left and found Landry in the back of the end zone for a score.  In the second quarter, Cutler was under pressure as the Jets version of Ed Reed, Jamal Adams, blitzed. Cutler avoided an attempted sack with a deft 360-degree spin, stepped up into the pocket and with eyes downfield, fired a pass to Stills in the middle of the field for a 7-yard gain. It’s easy to forget, but before he was injured, Cutler had really started to gain a bit of a rhythm. This is why the timing of Cutler’s injury must have been especially frustrating for Gase, who has defended him since his arrival. After so many three-and-outs and so many quarters without touchdowns, it seemed as if Gase-Cutler was turning a bit of an offensive corner. To an extent, Cutler was finally starting to catch on to some of the intricacies that a Dolphins veteran like Moore has already mastered. On Sunday, the production from Moore and Cutler was statistically quite similar. The Daily Dolphin believes the production of Moore and Cutler over the course of this season, given 14-16 starts for either, would be similar, too. Yes, Moore showed a bit of poise and sense of on-field calm that hasn’t yet always presented itself for Cutler, who has sometimes scrambled just to get plays off on time. But things had been seeming a bit less frenetic for Cutler-Gase over the last four quarters. And in the end, we believe Gase will eventually give Cutler another chance to prove that Gase was right — that he, not Moore, provides the best chance for a longer and more successful 2017 story. [RELATED COLUMN: You really need to trust Adam Gase with Dolphins quarterback decisions]

    Jay Cutler did some decent things before he was hurt on Sunday.
  3. Enduring Cameron Wake still accelerates like a Lamborghini and pounces like a Tiger. There are times that what Cam Wake does, as he closes in on 36 years of age, defy logic and common sense. In the first quarter, on a 2nd-and-9 at the Jets’ 40, Josh McCown escaped the pocket and began to roll right. Wake had McCown in his sights, but was a full six yards away. Wake then accelerated like a Lamborghini and pounced on McCown like a tiger, spinning McCown down the ground by the waist. That Wake is able to create that type of torque and speed and power and generate it at the drop of a dime is truly remarkable. In the fourth quarter, essentially three generations of NFL players descended on the Jets. Wake, 35, Ndamukong Suh, 30, and Charles Harris, 22, all combine to created a critical pressure and a sack. Let’s think about that again. Wake is 13 years older than Harris, who actually prompted the havoc. Harris chased McCown into a prone position and set up McCown to be simultanously crushed by Wake and Suh. (Think Bryce Petty, but in the pocket, closer to the sideline.) It was a phenomenal combination of speed and power displayed by Miami’s defensive line. It’s almost unfair what Miami is putting on tape in the front seven this season. And it’s almost unfair that Harris has a perfect mentor, in Harris, his eventual successor.

    In a few seconds, Josh McCown is going to be lunch for the guy in 91. Wake may or may not be human.
  4. Rey Maualuga and Lawrence Timmons are savvy, technically-sound, tackling monsters. When a linebacker goes to sleep, he likes to think about shedding blocks and moving piles the way middle linebacker Maualuga does. When a linebacker goes to sleep, he likes to think about what Fox broadcaster Chris Spielman described in Sunday’s game — eyes up, head up, wrap up, run through the ball carrier — the way Timmons so often does. It’s a thing of beauty to watch. Maulauga and Timmons have played a total of 279 NFL football games. Imagine how much they’ve seen. Maualuga and Timmons have a total of 1,060 tackles. Imagine how much pain they’ve caused. For opposing quarterbacks, running back and receivers, I mean. In the first quarter, Maualuga shed the block of an offensive lineman and wrapped up Bilal Powell after a gain of only one yard. Maualuga is playing better than expected. He and Timmons are providing everything the Dolphins lacked last season. In the second quarter, Maualuga blitzed, came off of his blocker and made an ankle-tripping stop on Matt Forte. Maualuga plays with such an unbridled enthusiasm. And in the fourth quarter, the prettiest tackle of all. Timmons diagnosed a screen pass from Forte and in perfect, pure tackling form, targeted Forte’s hips and drove the smaller man to the ground with a brutal force that serves as a exemplification of Miami’s new defensive identity.

    Sorry, Matt Forte. You can’t run around or through Lawrence Timmons, 94.
  5. EXTRA POINTS. One of these weeks, a miscommunication in the secondary or a deep touchdown pass allowed is going to cost Miami a game. Miami survived this game despite two first-half touchdowns allowed by rookie corner Cordrea Tankersley, including one in which either miscommunication or a missed assignment probably came into play… Jordan Phillips again showed some excellent hustle, including on the play in which he should have just stopped Matt Forte on a 3rd-and-19 screen, instead of going for a tomahawk-chop turnover. But Miami wants their errors to be errors of aggression, and even this would qualify… If Julius Thomas doesn’t drop a pass, Jay Cutler would have finished 13-for-16… Jay Ajayi had three catches on four targets for 26 yards. He looked more comfortable catching the ball… Charles Harris did not contain the edge and Bilal Powell went outside of him for a 25-yards gain. Miami believes he’ll gradually improve in this area… Tight end MarQuies Gray appeared to slide backwards on the bad turf at Hard Rock Stadium as he tried to anchor against Jordan Jenkins on the play Jay Cutler suffered broken ribs. Not that Jenkins might not have beaten Gray anyway. But The Daily Dolphin is glad to hear that field has already been replaced… Xavien Howard showed better-than-advertised speed by breaking up a third-down pass intended for Jeremy Kerley. Howard got his arm in to break up the play. Howard had a few impressive moments in coverage. He’s always going to attempt to stay close and he’s always going to battle for the football … Yes, Matt Moore gets it out quickly. Yes, Matt Moore is fun to watch. Yes, Moore’s enthusiasm is a bit infectious.

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The Tape Don’t Lie: Miami Dolphins at Atlanta Falcons, a review

Miami Dolphins’ Jay Ajayi runs the ball in the fourth quarter as Atlanta Falcons’ Brook Reed reaches to tackle him on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look.

Here are some things I noticed after watching Miami’s stunning come-from-behind, 20-17 victory at the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons:

  1. Kudos to Laremy Tunsil, Anthony Steen, Mike Pouncey, Jake Brendel, Jermon Bushrod and Ja’Wuan James. Kudos, kudos, kudos, for a job well done. Miami’s offensive line has been rightly maligned in the early season, but not in this upset of the Falcons. Jay Cutler was not sacked. And Jay Ajayi gained 130 yards, averaging 5.0 yards per carry, including three gains of 15 or more. In the first quarter, Tunsil, Pouncey, Bushrod and tight end MarQuies Gray sprung Ajayi for 15. In the second, Steen, Gray and tight end Anthony Fasano set a tone with physical blocks on a strong Ajayi run. And with less than seven minutes to play, outstanding blocking on consecutive 18-yard gains. First it’s Fasano, Tunsil, Steen, Bushrod and Brendel, creating space, holes, lanes and creases for Ajayi to do the rest. On the next 18-yard gain, it’s Brendel, Bushrod, James, Fasano and even Julius Thomas getting into the block parade. They tied up their men. They got push. They moved their men. They were outlasting the opponent. They were winning the trenches. And on a critical fourth-down conversion from Cutler to Jarvis Landry, the Dolphins trailing 17-14 with about 10 minutes to play, those men created a clean pocket for Cutler. This is what it’s supposed to look like. Look at Tunsil. He has his man. Look at Steen and Brendel. They have their men. Look at Bushrod and James. The same. It’s a clear lane for Cutler to throw a rope to the crossing Landry over the middle. Job well done, big men.

    This is what a clean pocket looks like. Great job by the large men in aqua and orange.
  2. Inconsistent, yes, but Jay Cutler showed in the second half why Adam Gase isn’t ready to pull the plug. Jay Cutler reminds me of a one-time great billiards player who every now and then makes a shot that leads you to say, ‘Holy crap! That guy can still play! He must have been a champion once or something!’ The consistency isn’t there. But when he’s good, Cutler shows off a strong arm and a pocket presence and the ability to make a play that didn’t seem to be there. Yes, yes, it can be maddeningly inconsistent. But Cutler was really quite good on the long drive capped by a touchdown to Kenny Stills at the start of the third quarter. Cutler hit the first three passes of the drive, including two to Stills in which he showed he is capable of delivering a ball accurately while backpedaling under pressure. On the drive, Cutler was 7 -for-9, leading his team 75 yards on 15 plays. It is right to note that Miami doesn’t win this game without Gase’s commitment to Jay Ajayi rushes, even when facing a steep deficit. But it would only be fair to note that Miami doesn’t win this game if Cutler doesn’t convert two key fourth downs, and show glimpses of good Jay. Those glimpses are enough cause to give Gase and Dolphins fans hope that he has a little spark left in that glorious right arm. Perhaps Cutler improves as the season moves along. Perhaps his receivers stop dropping SO MANY FREAKING passes. And perhaps with improved offensive line play, a comfort level with his receivers and a familiarity with when it’s best to leave the pocket and when he should trust those linemen, Cutler is able to play-action himself into a reasonable overall passing season.

    At times it appears unorthodox. But every now and then Jay Cutler shows those flashes from the past.
  3. Miami’s defense, ranked 3rd in the NFL in points per game allowed, can finish the season in the Top 8. If you didn’t look it up, you would never have known defensive end William Hayes played only 14 snaps. Perhaps because when he’s in the game, he’s in the backfield, causing repeated disruptions. On Sunday, Hayes had an enormous fourth quarter, eight-yard loss on a tackle of Tevin Coleman. Hayes flew by a right tackle and a fullback and threw himself at Coleman’s legs, dragging him down by the knees. Hayes is fiery, aggressive, capable of physically dominating a game at defensive end or defensive tackle. And now we get into Cam Wake, who seems to get a sack every game. And newcomer Lawrence Timmons, a ferocious linebacker who dominated again on Sunday. Timmons is a violent weapon, so dangerous when lining up in a standing position at the end of the line of scrimmage. Timmons is an excellent blitzer, equally capable of pressuring a quarterback or dropping a running back for loss with a pure form tackle. Rookie Charles Harris showed off an outstanding spin move and also made a strong diagnosis on at least two run stops. Miami’s youthful corners are sound tacklers and show all kinds of promise. There is no reason the Dolphins defense can’t be a Top 8 defense from start to finish this season, bolstered further even by the eventual return of safety T.J. McDonald.

    William Hayes always seems to do something positive when he’s on the field for Miami.
  4. Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry must continue to inspire teammates with unrelenting determination and positive emotions. We noticed Adam Gase was in the bench area, speaking enthusiastically with Cutler and Ajayi, as well as all the offensive linemen, for large chunks of this game. Gase was clearly trying to inspire and motivate his trooops, especially when the Dolphins were without a point in the first half. Cutler isn’t going to suddenly turn into Tim Tebow on the field and in the locker room. And that’s OK. If, and this is a big if, Ajayi and Landry channel all their fury in a positive direction. We saw that on Sunday. And they also reminded everyone how HARD they play. And how that can fire up the team. This is an offense that has needed a spark and they got it from their two most important offensive weapons. How does Ajayi inspire? Easy. When it seems like he is corralled at the 39, but plows through a defensive back and lowers the boom on another defensive back as a linebacker tries to help. By spinning. By churning. By keeping his legs moving. And refusing to go down as Landry joins in and begins to push him all the way to Atlanta’s 48 on a key fourth-quarter rush. How does Landry inspire? Easy. By catching the ball at the 27, needing to get to the 20 for a first-down, and not allowing any of SIX Falcons in the area to drop him short of the marker. Two men had a hold of Landry on this third-down play, but he spun as two more Falcons swarmed him. Even though the Dolphins don’t score a touchdown on the fourth-quarter drive, the first down allowed Miami to burn more of the clock, which ends up to be critical, as Atlanta drove to tie or win the game. Landry was taking violent shots, but refused to go down. Even Cutler was fired up after the play, pumping his arm to indicate first down.

    Jarvis Landry is 5-feet-11, 208 pounds. He might as well be a running back on plays like this.
  5. EXTRA POINTS. Xavien Howard was burned deep for a long touchdown (without safety help) but the Daily Dolphin believes Howard isn’t playing as poorly as the passing percentage allowed would indicate. Howard is a fighter and tries to play his man tight, and has drawn tough assignments such as Julio Jones. And Howard is such an attribute in run support. Consider a first-quarter, third-down run by Tevin Coleman, in which Howard lowered his shoulder and took on a fast-moving offensive tackle before forcing Coleman out of bounds before the marker. It was a nice example of Howard’s physical, aggressive demeanor. Lockdown? No, not yet. But we haven’t given up on Howard’s high ceiling yet… It is hard to understand why there have been so many drops in the last two games. Landry. Ajayi. Carroo. It’s hard to keep track of all of them. By one estimate, Dolphins receivers are failing to catch 20 percent of “catchable” passes thrown by Cutler. It must stop. It must end… I know we’re beating a dead animal here, but when Julius Thomas  made a third-down catch on Sunday, he showed he doesn’t have the explosiveness or niftiness or shiftiness to make anyone miss or earn the extra yards needed anymore. Sorry, he doesn’t doesn’t… We’re going to give Ja’Wuan James a pass for his unsportsmanlike penalty for shoving over a Falcon at the end of a play because brought an aggressive, physical mindset to Atlanta. We’ll excuse it this one time. It wasn’t the smartest play. But James was trying to bring the proper mindset… Never stop going for it on fourth down, Adam Gase. Never change. Just make sure to throw it to guys like Damien Williams and Landry, who are reliable receiving threats. They delivered on Sunday… Chase Allen buried a Falcon on a hard hit following a kickoff return. One Dolphins linebacker on Friday happened to cite Allen as the strongest overall Dolphins linebacker. Ideal size and strength… Jordan Phillips had some disruptive plays in the run game. He played with some passion and aggression and if he can improve from his production of last season, Miami’s front seven would be utterly devastating. On one play, Phillips shoved the left guard aside and slammed Devonta Freeman for no gain… It flew under the radar, but Cody Parkey’s field goal to tie the score at 17 with 8:34 left was not a gimme. In fact, it was 49 yards. Parkey is one of five NFL kickers not to miss a kick. And yes, as you know, Parkey hails from Jupiter.

5 Miami Dolphins Snap Conclusions after upset of Falcons

COLUMN: This Miami Dolphins season rides on Jay Ajayi, more than anything else

Miami Dolphins’ Adam Gase on Jay Cutler: ‘I don’t care what anyone says’

Miami Dolphins’ Mike Pouncey concussed; Jake Brendel fills in

5 Instant Takeaways: Miami Dolphins 20, Atlanta Falcons 17

This fierce Miami Dolphins defense will blitz you anytime, anywhere, any way

Have you visited The Daily Dolphin Facebook Page? It’s really, really good

 

The tape don’t lie: Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans, a review

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler runs for nine yards at Hard Rock Stadium during Sunday’s defeat of the Tennessee Titans. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed:

  1. Jay Cutler and Miami’s anemic offense can’t create big plays. It’s almost as if Cutler, coach Adam Gase and the Dolphins offensive players are playing within an invisible electric fence that extends 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Miami has played four games and in each game, their pass plays of beyond 15 yards has decreased from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. In the defeat of Tennessee, the only “long” pass play was a 17-yard completion to Jarvis Landry. Against the Saints, DeVante Parker (21 yards) and Julius Thomas (23 yards) made a few “big” plays. Against the Jets, Cutler had three passes beyond 15 yards (Parker for 26, Kenny Stills for 17 and Stills for 17). And against the Chargers, Cutler had four pass plays beyond 15 yards (31 for Parker, 31 for Parker, 29 for Stills and 18 for Landry.) Miami’s offense is trending in the wrong direction. Last season, the Miami offense, led by Ryan Tannehill, began to create more and more explosive plays as the season progressed. The Dolphins have three offensive touchdowns in four games and no run of longer than 20 yards in 93 tries. Miami also has one “long” touchdown catch, Stills for 29. This is the opposite of a big-play offense. Gase must figure out a way to get more explosive plays in the run game, in order to give Cutler some play-action opportunities, where so many of Tannehill’s downfield bombs were completed last season.

    This 17-yard completion between Jay Cutler and Jarvis Landry in the fourth quarter was Miami’s only offensive play beyond 15 yards on Sunday. Landry is about to spin, as you may recall.
  2. Oh, so this is why the Dolphins didn’t cut Lawrence Timmons after the disappearance.  This was vintage Timmons. Attitude. Hunger. Desire. Timmons showed really good recovery and foot speed in this game. In the second quarter, Timmons was moving right but realized a tight end was about to head in the other direction. He planted his feet, turned back and covered five yards in a manner that belied his age. This is exactly what Miami’s defensive corps lacked last season. He is an aggressive thumper. This linebacker corps has been completely revamped. Experience. Speed. Aggressiveness. Nasty demeanor. Timmons leveled rookie tight end Jonnu Smith and then talked trash in his face. This was lacking last season. This defensive group is not soft. It is the opposite of soft. Once again in the fourth quarter, Timmons showed surprising speed and change of direction. On this play, he was headed right and saw the tight end about to catch the ball to his left. Timmons was eight yards away but closed fast and demonstrated an excellent form tackle.

    Lawrence Timmons will hurt you. For real.
  3.  Credit first-year DC Matt Burke for varied formations and aggressive blitz packages. There was a notion last season that Miami “should” be able to get enough pressure with their well-compensated front four. And perhaps that may be the case. But the best defenses are also willing to bring pressure from anywhere at any time, and Burke pulled all the right strings on Sunday. Burke has so many blitz-capable weapons at his disposal, including Kiko Alonso (who was phenomenal on Sunday), Reshad Jones (who was tremendous on Sunday) and Timmons (already covered). In the first quarter, it is easily recalled that Alonso drilled Matt Cassel to cause what was ruled a fumble and a Reshad Jones scoop-and-score. But do not forget that on the play, Burke called a very well-disguised late blitz by Alonso and slot corner Bobby McCain. They both assaulted Matt Cassel in unmolested fashion from Cassel’s right. Alonso absolutely rocked Cassel.

    If you were Matt Cassel, you would have no idea Kiko Alonso and Bobby McCain are about to blitz, right? Yeah, that’s the point. Note how far away those two are at this moment.
  4. Jay Cutler was let down by his receivers, but he’s still a hot mess. It is true that embattled tight end Julius Thomas needed to bail out Cutler on a third-and-one in the third quarter, dealing with a somewhat catchable ball.  It is true that Jarvis Landry could help himself and Cutler and the team with a reasonably tough catch a few minutes later. It is also true that Cutler continues to throw without set feet and continues to display frustrating and disconcerting inaccuracy. Also in the third quarter, Cutler, while backing up, without his set feet, threw an off-the-mark pass to Kenny Stills. No, the pass protection Cutler is receiving is not satisfactory. But neither is Cutler. It’s just not good enough. He’s holding the ball too long. He’s particularly struggling on passes outside the hashmarks. And he’s not shown any ability to drive the ball down the field with confidence. At some point, the volatile Landry, whose emotions seem mostly bottled up at the moment, may explode (on or off the field) about what’s occurring in his contract season.

    Look at the position of Jay Cutler’s feet as Kenny Stills begins to break. Cutler’s pass is off target and coach Adam Gase would like Cutler to set his feet more.
  5. Credit Reshad Jones for the heads up scoop-and-score, but did you notice William Hayes on that play? The best part of Miami’s defensive touchdown by safety Reshad Jones was that he picked up the football and ran it in as 20 other players went all Jay Cutler-Wildcat-pose and idly watched Jones run it in from 37 yards. But did you notice the only other player to make a move on the play? It was impactful Dolphins veteran William Hayes, who turned around and shoved an unsuspecting Taylor Lewan to the ground. Jones may have been the only player in the stadium (other than Hayes) who didn’t think this was an incomplete pass by Matt Cassel. This is a play we’ve seen 100 times before, when the player seemed to be wasting his breath running after a play is clearly going to be ruled dead. But Jones didn’t view it that way. And neither did Hayes, who gives tremendous, relentless effort in both run defense and pass rush. What a stunningly good game from Jones. And what a sly move by the front office to steal Hayes from the Los Angeles Rams before this season.

    Matt Cassel appears lifeless after being drilled by Kiko Alonso. But notice the man in white (William Hayes) shoving the man in blue (Taylor Lewan). Good stuff.
  6. EXTRA POINTS. Imagine you’re an opposing quarterback and it’s third down and you scan from your right to left and you see along the line… Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Kiko Alonso, Lawrence Timmons, Andre Branch and Charles Harris. Very intimidating. Very explosive. Very athletic. Very dangeroug…. Wake has improved against the run. DeMarco Murray exploded on an inside run in the first quarter, but Wake tackled him from behind. Miami has an extreme commitment to run stop and Wake is a part of it, now, too… Tennessee’s pass game is weak, but corners Xavien Howard and rookie Cordrea Tankersley were not heard from, which is a huge success. Howard rocked Murray near the sideline on a 2nd-and-7 for a 1-yard gain. Howard is a very good tackler and brings an attack mentality to the game. Howard also brings a violent shoulder to the game… We are reminded how fast Kiko Alonso is when he’s in clear space and can run free. For example, Alonso dropped Rishard Matthews for a three yard loss. Alonso also had a terrific pass breakup on a third-and-seven attempt for Delanie Walker. Alonso can cover tight ends. He can fill the hole as he did on the previous play, a stop of Murray for a gain of 1 yard… Rookie defensive tackle Davon Godchaux used a punch to force a fumble. Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are two outstanding late-round defensive line finds. Credit to Miami General Manager Chris Grier and scouts… This play is forgotten, but safety Nate Allen failed to cover and then failed to tackle Walker on a 59-yard touchdown overturned due to an offensive penalty. Miami was very, very fortunate for a phantom offensive pass interference call on rookie Jonnu Smith… I agree that Jay Ajayi is basically making the most of what’s available. But I still contend there are a few times a game when he hesitates and/or bounces it outside when the best, safer route it to just plow it inside. Ajayi looks a tiny, half-second less quick and decisive at the moment… Punter Matt Haack had a really strong game, solidifying his place. This kid has an insanely strong leg. He launched a key 50-yard punt with 5:51 left and Miami leading by 6… Miami’s overall run-blocking has not been good. But credit to Anthony Steen, Anthony Fasano, Mike Pouncey and Jermon Bushrod for key blocks on Ajayi runs at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth quarter that sparked Miami’s long game-winning drive.

COLUMN: Miami Dolphins can be one of NFL’s best defenses (seriously)

Miami Dolphins captain Michael Thomas: ‘We deal with a lot over here.’

Miami Dolphins’ DeVante Parker: Monday injury update

5 Miami Dolphins Snap Conclusions from defeat of Tennessee Titans

Have you visited The Daily Dolphin Facebook Page? It’s really, really good

The tape don’t lie: Miami Dolphins at NY Jets, a review

Jamal Adams of the Jets sacks Jay Cutler of the Dolphins. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

He’s right. It doesn’t.

Gase said on Monday that the Dolphins offense has been “garbage.”

He’s right. It has been.

Each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed about this horrendous, atrocious, embarrassing, inexcusable loss to a franchise attempting to tank:

  1. Jay Cutler looked like a rusty, 34-year-old quarterback who figured he’d be broadcasting football games this year. For all the praise heaped upon Cutler after his performance at the Los Angeles Chargers last week, heavy doses of criticism are warranted after this performance. If not for a touchdown on Miami’s final offensive play, the Dolphins would have been shut out. And there are grand causes for concern, notably that Cutler at times appeared skittish. Cutler was inaccurate. He failed to set his feet. Some passes sailed high. Some bounced short. In the first quarter, Cutler threw terribly high to tight end Julius Thomas, who had a nice mismatch on a safety. In the first quarter, Jarvis Landry had to call timeout because the play clock was about the expire. This was a recurring issue and after the game, Cutler took responsibility. On the first play of the second half, a perfect example of what went wrong for Cutler all game. Rhythm was off. Timing was off. Accuracy was off. Ball placement was all over the place. It was a well-designed play. Cutler rolled right off a play-fake to Jay Ajayi. Kenny Stills was open. But he threw it several yards short. Cutler could have set his feet but he rushed the throw and seemed unsure about managing the pressure. In the third quarter, Cutler threw behind DeVante Parker on a short screen pass. Parker should have been put in a position to earn a first down on 2nd-and-6, but received a poorly-placed ball. To be fair, how many times has Cutler thrown that ball to Parker in practice? They’ve only been teammates for seven weeks. Most egregious of all, a play in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins trail 20-0 and a touchdown keeps the game alive. Jarvis Landry is in the slot and he runs a post and is wide open in the end zone but Cutler either doesn’t see him or didn’t expect Landry to do what he did. It was a clean pocket. He stepped into the throw. But Cutler appeared to put the ball toward a covered Kenny Stills and the ball is again off target. There is Landry, alone in the end zone, not a Jets player within six yards. On the very next play, Cutler is off target again, behind Leonte Carroo. Later in the fourth quarter, facing some light pressure, he throws about five yards short of intended receiver Kenny Stills. Cutler has a reputation as a schizophrenic game-to-game player. The Dolphins can chalk this up to early-season rough spots. But if Cutler isn’t much, much better than this, the Dolphins won’t finish .500.

    On this play, Jay Cutler throws behind DeVante Parker. Cutler was just a bit off all day against the Jets.
  2. Gase was absolutely right. The Jets were more physical. The Jets were tougher in the trenches. There was nowhere for Jay Ajayi to run. Of course there wasn’t. Everybody wants the Jets to lose. The management. The fans. It’s all about attaining the rights to college quarterback Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen. And yet the Jets left standing did, in fact, beat the s*** out of the Dolphins, as Gase said after the game. You can almost imagine the Jets players having a meeting like one they once had in “Major League” when it is discovered the owner wants the team to lose so it she can move it to Miami. Todd Bowles: “I have something I think you all ought to know about. It seems that Mr. Johnson doesn’t think too highly of our worth. He put this team together because he thought we’d be bad enough to finish dead last…” Leonard Williams: “Well then I guess there’s only one thing left to do… Win!” Back to the game. They may be a bunch of misfits but there are two legitimate beasts on the Jets defense, and they went all roughneck on the Fins front: defensive lineman Leonard Williams and rookie safety Jamal Adams. We can start at left guard along the Miami Dolphins offensive line, because it is not a position of strength. In this game, Jesse Davis, a large man with some potential, was exposed by Demario Davis in the second quarter and Mo Wilkerson in the fourth. Let’s just say they beat their man. And while left tackle Laremy has yet to develop into the stud he is expected to, it was actually a miss by center Mike Pouncey in the third quarter that led one to know what type of game this would be. A Jets defensive tackle named Steve McLendon beat Pouncey and threw Ajayi for an immediate loss. In a few unexpected moments over the first two games, Pouncey has shown he’s not all the way back to pre-injury form. Which brings us to a point that could be valid. Miami’s offense struggled mightily this week, as we all know by now. And some of Miami’s players either missed or were limited in two practices during the week: Pouncey (hip), Jarvis Landry (knee), Jay Ajayi (knee) and DeVante Parker (ankle). Coincidence? Yes, the Dolphins might hope that the team would have been sharper if they had all been full-throttle, all week.

    Where exactly is Jay Ajayi supposed to go when a Jet is in the backfield before the play even develops?
  3. Can Byron Maxwell play tighter coverage, please? And can Xavien Howard chase the opponents’ best receiver around the field, please? Every time Byron Maxwell punches the ball out of an opponents’ hand and causes a turnover, you want to forgive him for all the passes and yards he gave up. It’s like the husband who screwed up big-time, but brought flowers home. Maxwell needs to be better. That has been written before. But The Daily Dolphin wonders if perhaps Maxwell would be better served by being placed in tight, press, man coverage, more often? In the first quarter, it seemed like Maxwell was allowing tremendous time and space to Jets receiver Robby Anderson. Was he afraid Anderson would just run by him? Is that a key part of the scheme design? In the second quarter it seemed Maxwell allowed too much space to Jets receiver Jeremy Kerley, who caught a first down along the sideline, but just in front of Maxwell. Alterraun Verner, entering the game cold, was toasted by Anderson after checking in briefly for Maxwell, so perhaps the answer isn’t on Miami’s bench. And Xavien Howard hasn’t gotten off to the shutdown sophomore start most expected. But it’s worth wondering if the time has come for Howard to be matched up with the opponents’ best receiver, whether the corners would actually prefer to stay on their side of the field, or not.

    Look at how much time and space Byron Maxwell gives this Jets receiver. I mean…
  4. More Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams, Leonte Carroo and Jakeem Grant. And this is especially true — if any of those youngsters is in the game at the expense of veteran tight end Julius Thomas, SO BE IT. Gase wants to go with a formula that is most likely to result in success — pound Jay Ajayi, short passes to Jarvis Landry and deep shots to DeVante Parker. And that’s all fine and good. But Gase isn’t going to stand status quo as the result he sees on the field is “garbage” in his words. Gase doesn’t want to out-think himself and a return to the identity of a hard-nosed, smash-mouthed, ball-control offense seems likely now (as much as Gase would love to go up-tempo, no-huddle). But there are weapons to be used. And Gase is smart enough to find a way to use them. How many teams would love to have their hands on a player with the speed and skill of Kenyan Drake or Damien Williams? Split them out wide as a fourth receiver. Move them around. Gase is a smart play-caller. Of course he’s been thinking about ways to possibly integrate Drake, Williams, Carroo and Grant, who showed in preseason he can be counted on to contribute some on offense, now. Gase doesn’t want to be cute. He wants to lean on Miami’s strengths. But I am anticipating starting this week in London, against the Saints, Gase tries out some creative new wrinkles.
  5. Extra Points. Cam Wake will embarrass you, you below-average offensive tackle. He will make your Mom turn off the tape and claim she does not know you… Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker are very, very skilled. They can also help their quarterback out with at least one more tough catch per game. Just based on what I’ve seen so far this season… Matt Haack will be fine. He’s really, really talented. He’s a punter. But he’s talented… Miami may have an issue at guard. Is is possible Isaac Asiata might be able to help?… Miami may have an issue at corner. Is it possible Cordrea Tankersley might be able to help?… Miami may have an issue at linebacker. Is it possible Lawrence Timmons, Rey Maualuga or Stephone Anthony may be able to help?… Speaking of linebacker, Chase Allen may end up as a nice undrafted free-agent find. Speed. Size. Hustle. Some good instincts… Charles Harris: 60 snaps, 1 tackle, 0 sacks… Last week we mentioned DeVante Parker can be sharper on some blocks. This week we’ll mention Parker can work on his field awareness. Memorably, Parker should have turned upfield on a screen pass on fourth down in the fourth quarter that ended up short… Miami entered Monday night 28th in the NFL in rush offense, 21st in pass offense, 32nd in yards per play, and 32nd in third down efficiency.
Look at the top left corner of this image. Jarvis Landry is really, really open. But doesn’t get the ball.

Miami Dolphins: 5 Snap Conclusions from their loss to the N.Y. Jets

COLUMN: How could the tanking New York Jets stun the surging Miami Dolphins?

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross stands with players before anthem

 

The tape don’t lie: Miami Dolphins at L.A. Chargers, a review

Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker grabs a pass over Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward. Parker possesses rare talent, and Jay Cutler plans to use it. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed:

  1. Jay Cutler to DeVante Parker can be improvisational, imaginative and extraordinary. The most interesting offensive play in Miami’s 19-17 win at the Los Angeles Chargers came in the fourth quarter, with the Dolphins trailing 17-13. This was a play that showed what Cutler, at 34, can do to buy extra opportunities for his receivers and how he can capitalize with just a tiny bit of time and space. Cutler rolled to his right to move the pocket, approached the line of scrimmage but then in the face of a pass-rusher, stopped dead in his tracks. Cutler then backed up three yards and while moving backwards, off-balance, flicked a pass to Parker, who ended up one yard ahead of a defensive back who was literally draping him. The ball was perfectly placed in a bucket. Cutler had the confidence that Parker would make the play. Parker didn’t give up on the play. Cutler had excellent spacial awareness and also threw the ball while his body and arm were not at all in traditionally fundamental positions. When Cutler released the ball, it was to a place he imagined Parker could get to, and only Parker would get to. It was a thoughtful, alley-oop lob that should foreshadow some of what’s to come. Parker can truly win any ball in a 1-on-1 situation. You may also recall a play in the third quarter, when Parker seemed to snatch the ball off of a shorter defensive backs’ helmet. Cutler trusts Parker. And Parker seems to revere Cutler. Already.

    Quarterback whisperers don’t really whisper to guys like Jay Cutler, “throw it like this.” But Cutler makes it work. And it’s a lot easier when the target is DeVante Parker, the unicorn.
  2. No other way to put it: Laremy Tunsil struggled as a pass-blocker. If Laremy Tunsil makes the Pro Bowl, the Dolphins Ring of Honor or the Hall of Fame, there won’t be any highlights from this game. Tunsil did contribute to several effective Jay Ajayi runs in his debut as a full-time starting left tackle. But Tunsil struggled in pass protection, his high school and college forte. Tunsil had a false start on the second offensive play of Miami’s season and it didn’t get better from there. In the second quarter, Tunsil and guard Jesse Davis were beaten on a stunt where Melvin Ingram started outside of Tunsil and then twisted inside. This created a pressure in which somehow Cutler escaped a sack.  In the third quarter, on a third-and-goal at the Chargers’ 5-yard line, with Miami trailing 17-10, Tunsil was beaten around the edge by Ingram for a sack. It was a speed rush. Cutler may have had a shot at Julius Thomas matched 1-on-1 on a smaller corner. Tunsil didn’t seem move his feet quickly enough at the snap. Tunsil will undoubtedly be an excellent NFL offensive tackle. It seems he just needs to re-adjust to the speed of edge rushers after spending an entire season learning how to manage tighter quarters inside, at guard. Tunsil seemed disappointed with himself after this game and it’s easy to understand why. In the fourth quarter, former Dolphin Chris McCain ran around his outside creating a pressure that led Cutler to take a sack on third-and-goal, with Miami trailing 17-13 and 7:14 left.

    Laremy Tunsil was very upset with himself after allowing this sack in a critical situation on Sunday.
  3.  Jay Ajayi is still Miami’s most important offensive player, by far. And this is how we know Gase believes it, too. Trailing 17-16 with 3:02 left and the ball at midfield, in shotgun, when it would be so tempting to have Cutler air it out, Gase leaned on Ajayi and was rewarded. On first down, Ajayi took a handoff at his own 45, followed key blocks from Jermon Bushrod and Anthony Steen and Jarvis Landry (whose effort on these situations is a constant) and bulled his way to the Chargers’ 41, refusing to go down, continuing to churning his legs. A closer look reveals there were five Chargers trying to bring Ajayi down and he just won’t stop. Ajayi is one of the best, if not the best, fourth-quarter running backs in the NFL. Ajayi, the Brit, seems to always emerge from the rugby scrums victorious. With the game on the line, Gase called for Ajayi to run three straight times and a short pass to Ajayi to set up Cody Parkey’s game-winning field goal.

    See if you can find Jay Ajayi in the middle of that scrum. He’s there. As usual.
  4. Mike Hull had a few good moments against the run, but tough ones in pass coverage. Hull had 10 tackles, including one for loss, and played fairly well against the run, as Miami limited the Chargers, a huge plus after last year’s fiasco. But Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers exploited Hull’s lack of speed in the passing game. Before last season, the Dolphins added Kiko Alonso to play middle linebacker, in part because of his foot speed. Even if Rey Maualuga recovers from a hamstring injury within the next few weeks, it’s not as though he features coverage skills. Lawrence Timmons, if and when he returns to the Dolphins, can help some in pass coverage. But this is a potential issue to monitor. Fellow undrafted rookie linebacker Chase Allen is a player to watch as he has intriguing size and speed. Hull’s strengths and weaknesses were shown on back-to-back plays in the second quarter. First, Hull had a nice tackle of Gordon for a loss. But then Hull couldn’t keep up with Gordon on a completion out of the backfield. In the third quarter, Hull seemed to have Gordon lined up after a screen pass, but missed as he went to the ground while Gordon spun. Later, Hull took an inside path and Gordon took advantage to the outside. As we know, Miami does not appear to have sufficient depth at linebacker.

    This is a moment where Mike Hull is thinking, “I may have taken this a bit too far.”
  5. Extra Points. The importance of Mike Pouncey’s return to health and to the Dolphins’ lineup cannot be understated. When Ajayi is at his best, it seems he is often following the blocks of Pouncey and right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who performed well on Sunday… As talented as DeVante Parker is, he needs to polish his blocking skills because it’s a key part of Miami’s offense and he has the body type to be an excellent blocker… The combination of Ndamukong Suh and William Hayes against the run was really, really promising. On one play, Hayes and Suh beat their men simultaneously and the result, predictably, was a tackle for loss. When these two are in the game, teams may have to run in the other direction. Hayes is no joke. He is a man. On one play, Hayes literally crushed L.A.’s poor right tackle. He threw him down on a bull rush and broke the man, who left injured… Anthony Fasano didn’t play much, but the veteran tight end had one nice block on an Ajayi run. There’s no reason Fasano can’t do what Dion Sims did last season in the blocking game…. Jesse Davis has the size, strength and mobility to be a sleeper at guard for the Dolphins. He just needs experience… Chase Allen can shed a block and maximize his speed. In the second quarter, Allen sprinted from left outside linebacker spot to the right sideline for a tackle… Charles Harris won’t play as much as he did Sunday if he doesn’t set the edge in the Wide Nine defense. On one running play, an over-eager Harris was just pushed way outside the play by an offensive tackle, resulting in a long gain… Jarvis Landry drew a smart upsportsmanlike penalty when at the end of a play he put his hands behind his back and took a left hand to the throat from a Charger. Landry used his emotional reputation to his advantage… Byron Maxwell continues to get beaten on plays where he has to run across the field and carry a receiver. On one memorable play, Maxwell just allowed way too much space to Keenan Allen… Adam Gase found a play-calling rhythm in the third quarter. Want to know what probably sounds like a nice sequence of calls to him? How about this, with 5:24 left in the third: Ajayi run. Landry short completion. Deep shot for Parker. Ajayi run. Ajayi run. Deep shot for Parker. Short pass for Landry. Ajayi run. This is the Dolphins’ offense. Yes, there will be some deep balls for Kenny Stills (and touchdowns) and yes, Julius Thomas may catch a few red zone touchdowns but it’s Ajayi or Landry short followed by deep shots to Parker.

Miami Dolphins: 5 Snap Conclusions vs. L.A. Chargers

Miami Dolphins: Jay Cutler on Jay Ajayi: ‘I have the best seat in the house.’

COLUMN: Jay Cutler enjoying life as a Miami Dolphin (and they’re enjoying him)

Los Angeles Chargers startled by throng of Miami Dolphins fans

Emotional Mike Pouncey describes return to field for Miami Dolphins

5 Instant Takeways: Miami Dolphins 19, Los Angeles Chargers 17

Miami Dolphins LB Lawrence Timmons not with the team on Sunday morning

[RELATED: Photos from the Dolphins’ Week 2 matchup against the Chargers]

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The tape don’t lie: Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins, a review

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93), stops Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) during NFL game Sunday December 11, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh stops Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson during a victory Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

The Miami Dolphins are 8-5. Somehow. Despite poor offensive and defensive rankings. Despite injuries to Mike Pouncey and Reshad Jones and now Ryan Tannehill. Despite a lot.

But there are reasons they’re winning, some hidden.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed:

  1. Matt Moore is going to put it in play with belief something good will happen. They say he’s a gunslinger. They say he’s got moxie. He says he’s rusty. Whatever. Moore showed on the final drive against Arizona that he’s going to see what he can make happen. He’s not going to play it safe. He’s going to stare in the face of an unblocked blitzer and toss it deep to Kenny Stills, to a spot, when the receiver hasn’t even made a break, with the belief his receiver will find a way to make a play. Head coach Adam Gase says he thinks it will be, well, fun, and well, interesting. And if that’s all right by him, it’s all right by me. Moore has been watching Ryan Tannehill take shots for years and hang in and deliver, so why shouldn’t he? Moore’s got nothing to lose now. The best opportunity of his career. Weapons at running back and receiver. An excellent play-caller. A team on the verge of a playoff position. So why shouldn’t he go for it? He showed Sunday, he will do just that.

    moorecardinals
    Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore will play without regard for his ribs, as the great ones do.
  2. Center Anthony Steen must get better. Fast. Because it doesn’t seem like center Mike Pouncey is getting better any time fast, already ruled out for a game at the Jets on Saturday night. Steen is not an experienced center. And Sunday, he struggled with snaps. And struggled with wet conditions against the Cardinals. Early in the game, there was a center-quarterback exchange issue that led to a fumble at Arizona’s 2-yard line. In the second quarter, Steen was beaten by a defensive tackle and Tannehill was sacked. The play was negated by a defensive holding. In the third quarter, holding by Steen negated a touchdown run by Jay Ajayi. Also in the third quarter, a bad shotgun snap was high and wide and bobbled by Tannehill. Then in the fourth quarter, Steen had a false start on a 4th-and-1 at the Arizona 36 that left Gase exasperated. Steen isn’t healthy. He wasn’t expected to be anything more than a depth player. But the Dolphins are leaning on him. And he must hold up better. tannehillsnaparizona
  3. Jarvis Landry must get paid by this franchise because he is its offensive heartbeat. Whatever it takes, Landry must get his, ideally this offseason. Because while Ajayi may be the engine of the Dolphins’ offense, Landry is the high-octane gasoline. Without Landry, they go nowhere. In the second quarter, Landry leaped over a defender on a 17-yard punt return, once again displaying his athleticism and fearlessness. Landry wants to return these punts, despite his star status, and because he is so trusted, he’s going to get the trusted opportunities with playoffs on the line. At the start of the third quarter, another indication of why Gase constantly says he must keep Landry engaged from start to finish (and Ajayi must get more carries, as well). Pure determination. Relentless effort. On a 3rd-and-7, Landry catches the ball at Miami’s 30 and is three yards short of the marker. But he breaks away from one tackler, spins around and then breaks away from yet another defender, who is wrapped around his back, before breaking away for 71 yards. An incredible play. The type of play that leads a casual observer to understand what a special caliber of talent Landry is.

    landrytacklescardinals
    It appears the man in red is going to tackle Jarvis Landry. But as is so often the case… psyche.
  4. Ndamukong Suh is nasty and mean and unforgiving and that’s good. Suh just don’t give a damn. Well, he does care about destroying opposing centers and guards and sometimes tackles. And tossing quarterbacks to the ground. And throwing running backs to the ground like ragdolls. And talking trash to the guard he just embarrased (as he did on Sunday). Suh often walks around the Dolphins’ locker room exuding a dismissive attitude. And he plays on Sundays like he’s pissed. And that part’s OK. That’s good, actually. I mean, from a football perspective, his nastiness is a positive trait. In the second quarter on Sunday, Suh mauled a right guard and tossed talented David Johnson in a way that makes one believe the aqua and orange men can play tough and angry and physical. So if Suh needs to convince himself the world is out to get him, whatever. He should, still, be celebrated for his ability to destroy opposing linemen.

    suhtacklearizona
    Sometimes, Ndamukong Suh is unapproachable, surly and dismissive. On that field, that’s all good.
  5. Walt Aikens — that’s A-I-K-E-N-S — had a hell of a game on special teams. It’s not often that the downing of a punt can be celebrated like a Cameron Wake sack or Ndamukong Suh tackle for loss, but this one by Aikens in the fourth quarter was an awesome display of athleticism and reflexes. Aikens downs the ball at the opposing 1-yard line, and his arm is fully extended as the ball is quickly drifting away from him. A real thing of beauty. Of course, shortly thereafter, Aikens picked up a Jordan Phillips blocked extra point and scooted down the left sideline for a critical 2-point score. Aikens, Michael Thomas, Mike Hull, Neville Hewitt, Spencer Paysinger, MarQuies Gray, Kenyan Drake, Lafayette Pitts and more, this is a heck of a special teams unit. Miami’s special teams hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been an overall net-plus this season. And Aikens is one of the main reasons why.

    aikensarizona
    Miami Dolphins safety Walt Aikens says, “Stop, ball.” And it does.
  6. EXTRA POINTS. It appeared that a two-week suspension for Jason Jones was actually more timely than untimely as he played with speed and enthusiasm, drilling Carson Palmer as he threw to help create an interception by Bacarri Rambo… Let’s have some more Jay Ajayi, yes, but also please more Kenyan Drake and always, always, more Damien Williams. Miami’s three running backs create one of the most talented, versatile stables in the NFL… Mike Hull showed outstanding effort, as expected, in his first start at middle linebacker. On Arizona’s first drive, he snagged an interception. A few times, it did seem Hull’s lack of size was exposed. On one play in the second quarter, a giant Cardinals’ offensive lineman seemed to eclipse him and lock him up as he tried desperately to shed a block and help corral David Johnson. But later, when Hull was being moved back from the line of scrimmage, he still found a way to help finish off Johnson by never giving up on the play. Good and bad day for Hull… Andre Branch is going to get paid by somebody this offseason. Somebody is going to have to decide how much of Branch’s emergence is opportunity (which he is spectacularly capitalizing on) and how much is the, you know, contract-season motivation… Cameron Wake “DallasThomasBillyTurner’d” the Cardinals’ tackle Ulrick John (not John Ulrick) who, I assume, had a few tough bouts with Wake in past Dolphins’ practices. Wake, the 34-year-old phenom, put John (not Ulrick) on skates throughout a third-quarter bull rush. It was so bad I thought Adam Gase might cut him after the game.
    wakejohnarizona
    This is what Cameron Wake does to people. Including a guy named Ulrick John. (Not John Ulrick).
    branchstriparizona
    Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch had 6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass defended Sunday.

    Miami Dolphins: ‘You never know what you’re going to experience’ on a Matt Moore play

    Miami Dolphins: 5 Snap Conclusions

    What Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase said Monday

    Ryan Tannehill was the Miami Dolphins’ most underappreciated, important player

    ‘It looked like it was illegal’: Miami Dolphins win, question hit that injured Ryan Tannehill’s knee

 

 

 

 

The tape don’t lie: Miami Dolphins at LA Rams, a review

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20: Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins scores a touchdown on a 10 yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 (L) during the fourth quarter of the game against the Los Angeles Rams at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Jarvis Landry  of the Miami Dolphins scores a touchdown on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill against the Los Angeles Rams. This was not your typical touchdown as four players pushed Landry five yards for a memorable, game-changing score. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

The Miami Dolphins have won five consecutive games. And they are alive in the AFC playoff picture. Somehow, Miami found a way to win at Los Angeles on Sunday, when they appeared lifeless and hopeless with six minutes to play. Despite the victory, there were some things that showed up on tape offensively that are cause for concern.

Dolphins coach Adam Gase says, “The tape don’t lie.”

So each week, I’ll give the game tape a closer look. Here are some things I noticed:

  1. Miami’s banged-up offensive line just isn’t as athletic or powerful as the intended Fab Five. OK, so you say it’s obvious that Sam Young, Kraig Urbik and Anthony Steen aren’t as talented (or as well-paid or highly-drafted) as injured Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil and Mike Pouncey. I spent a good part of my Tuesday watching each of Miami’s offensive snaps from the viewpoint of the offensive line (and quarterback Ryan Tannehill). The Dolphins offensive line backups deserve credit for finishing the fourth quarter relatively sound and for an inspired gang push of Jarvis Landry into the end zone which kept the Dolphins’ long-shot victory hopes alive in the fourth quarter. But. But Miami allowed four sacks. And Jay Ajayi had five rush attempts for loss. And two for no gain. So to start with, right there, really bad things happened on at least 11 plays and as usual, it starts with the offensive line. Urbik is generally steady but didn’t exhibit the quick feet that has seen Tunsil emerge as an excellent pulling left guard. Veteran Jermon Bushrod’s strength is also not athleticism in the run game. Ja’Wuan James was called for holding, beaten to the inside in the first quarter. In the third quarter was an excellent example of Miami’s failure to get much trench traction. Ajayi is looking for anywhere to run and it just isn’t there. He runs into the back of Urbik, who is being pushed. Another Ram is working on Bushrod and sheds his block while Steen isn’t blocking a Ram. Later in the game, Rams defensive end Robert Quinn uses a power move to the outside, gets Young off balance, falls to the ground and while crawling, trips up Tannehill by the ankle. Few defensive fronts Miami faces this year will be as talented as the Rams. But still. On a loss of two in the second half, a Ram beats Urbik to the inside and by the time Ajayi has the ball, the defender is in the backfield. On another loss of two, Ajayi tries to find a hole but nobody has accounted for a middle linebacker, who runs outside of Bushrod and inside of James and absolutely clobbers Ajayi. Later, a Ram beats Steen to the inside on a pass rush. Then, a pulling Bushrod and a tight end can’t create any room for Ajayi. Then a Ram bull rushes past Bushrod and grabs Tannehill’s jersey for sack. Then a Ram sweeps inside of Steen while another beats James to the outside and drops Ajayi for a two-yard loss at the two-minute warning. As Dolphins coaches and players noted, Miami’s offensive line “battled.” And there were a few solid blocks that led to a few decent Ajayi gainers. But if Albert, Tunsil and Pouncey are out too long, the battle, in both the run game and pass protection, is going to be much, much more difficult. Miami is simply a different team when the offensive line is healthy. And it’s one thing to get by while missing one or even two top-flight linemen. But three is a monumental task.
  2. img_1353But about that Landry touchdown… It’s one of the plays that will define Adam Gase’s first season, playoffs or not. Landry is pushed five yards into the end zone by a mad dash of rhinos from seeminly out of nowhere. A close look at the tape reveals it’s actually the first-year center Steen (see adjacent image) who seems to have the idea to charge at the Rams when Landry appears stopped, just to see what might happen. Credit to Steen. Then kudos to James and running back Damien Williams and Bushrod. One thing that’s tough to coach is effort. While Steen, James, Bushrod and Williams (he did not seem to excute well on up to three blocking assignments) did not have very strong games, they exhibited outstanding effort when many, many NFL players would have simply given up on the play. Credit also to Gase, offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and offensive line coach Chris Foerster for helping foster (no pun intended) that mindset.
  3. img_1350As Landry would say, Tannehill threw the hell out of a few balls. Tannehill didn’t have many opportunities to make big plays but with the game on the line, he showed a clutch gene is emerging. And he showed he can simply put the ball into the right windows, especially while on the move (as we say again and again). Gase, smartly realizing pressure would be an issue for Tannehill in this game, had him on the move from the start. Later in the game, it began to pay dividends. One of Tannehill’s best plays actually came on a deep incompletion to DeVante Parker. Tannehill, and this is key, felt pressure and moved his feet. If Tannehill can take this one step further, he may be able to move away from a pack of average quarterbacks before his career is over. Tannehill sensed that Quinn had beaten Young to his left and that a defensive back was blitzing from his right. So Tannehill stepped forward, rolled to his left, kept his body square with the line of scrimmage and effortlessly threw a 40-yard strike to Parker, who was unable to haul in the catch. But still. Tannehill at his best. Off balance is not off limits for Tannehill. Not at all.  Coming out of the two-minute warning, Tannehill made a really nice low throw to Parker into a tight window. And then, of course, on the game-winner, it was Parker again, a perfectly-placed, low throw to Parker who made a strong diving grab.
  4. img_1355DeVante Parker looks like a different player. Parker indicated that he is “close” to healthy. Close is good enough. He ran crisp, confident routes. He made himself an attractive target for Tannehill. He is gaining Tannehill’s trust and confidence because of his abilty to both make big gains after catch on slants and crosses and haul in acrobatic 50-50 balls. There is no reason Parker also should not be Miami’s most dangerous red zone target (the team still lacks a dynamic red zone thight end threat). Parker has a chance to finish the second half of the season strong and change the entire perception of who he is and what he can become.
  5. Gap integrity. Filling lanes. Shedding blocks. Not always a Miami linebacker strength. On Todd Gurley’s touchdown run, linebacker Donald Butler was pinned to the inside creating a massive lane. It has happened to Butler before. Kiko Alonso took an unhelpful outside path and was caught up and unable to escape some trash. It has happened to Alonso before. Too often this season, a rusher has gotten past Miami’s defensive line (often with some overpursuit) and then found it way too easy to reach the secondary (on this play, safety Michael Thomas didn’t have the speed to match Gurley with the angle he took).  Miami’s defense has made overall strides in run defense, but it would be nice if these types of backbreaking breakdowns could be further limited.
  6. EXTRA POINTS. Dion Sims is a good blocker, but didn’t appear to have his strongest blocking game. He seems to be shaking some rust after a return from concussion… Tannehill scrambled for a first down. Again. Every time Tannehill does this, an angel gets its wings… Kenny Stills had a drop which would have been highlighted further had Miami lost… Spencer Paysinger flashed a few times in front of friends and family…  We’ll keep saying safety Isa Abdul-Quddus is a bit underrated until he’s not a bit underrated any longer… Yes, Byron Maxwell is “handsy” but he competes and he has made giant strides since the beginning of the season, when he appeared lost.

Miami Dolphins playoff odds? 32 percent, says FiveThirtyEight

Miami Dolphins: 5 conclusions from snaps played

Miami Dolphins finding ways to win, changing course of franchise

The big play: Ryan Tannehill’s game-winner to DeVante Parker

Five instant takeaways: Miami Dolphins 14, LA Rams 10

Photo gallery: Amazing images from the Dolphins’ huge win in L.A.

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