Welcome to my first annual Stock up, Stock down report. This will be a weekly article where I breakdown the good, the bad, and the ugly from Miami’s previous game.
This week, the Dolphins lost to the Patriots 21-11. There was some good, lots of bad, and even some ugly. Too much ugly, actually.
The two rookies that stood out the most (for drastically different reasons) were Brandon Jones and Austin Jackson. Starting with Brandon, he finished the first half with eight tackles (6 solos), which was the most tackles for a rookie in their debut. He continued to make plays in the second half totaling ten tackles (7 solos). Brandon flashed all over the field with his aggressive play, which did result in a roughing the passer penalty (really weak call, Brandon didn’t touch his head, in my opinion) but was a nice sight to see.
The other rookie Austin Jackson was impressive for the exact opposite reasons for Brandon. Whenever you get a rookie LT in their first start, they tend to make mistakes that could cost your QB their head, but today I felt no stress or anxiety. Not one time did I have to call his name, which is the ultimate compliment for an offensive lineman. As a team, we gave up only 1 the sack, which was a good development after the 58 sacks we gave up last year.
Another player that flashed consistently was Wilkins. It was great to see Christian get his first sack of the year in week 1 instead of waiting till week nine like last year. Christian was disruptive all game long from his 3-4 end position and even kicked inside a couple of times to play Defensive Tackle. Christian ultimately ended up with six total tackles (5 solos) 1 sack two passes defended, and two tackles for losses. A welcomed sight from last year’s first-round pick.
Baker was our most impactful player of the afternoon. Lining up everywhere as Flore’s ultimate chess piece, we saw him drop in coverage, stop the run, and blitz on multiple times throughout the afternoon (getting his first sack of the year). Baker, after training camp last year, was expected to take a significant jump, especially in the pass rush department, which never really materialized, but today he put it all together. 16 total tackles (13 solo) the 1 sack and one tackle for a loss. My only negative on Baker was the late penalty he got after a big run by Edelman, which resulted in not just the long run but the additional 15 yards, which ultimately sealed the game for the Patriots.
Ryan struggled all afternoon, but even more after the Devante Parker injury. For whatever reason, Fitz did not read the field well giving up three interceptions with one coming from a player he never saw coming. By all indications, Ryan will have a long leash this year, but how long can the coaching staff continue going to him when we are eventually going to have to see what we have in Tua? It is week 1, so overacting will do no one any good. So for now, we need Ryan to study what went wrong this week in practice to get ready for the Buffalo Bills (one of his old teams).
Devante Parker began the game right where he left off in week 17. He spent the early part of the afternoon giving Fitz his only target, who was fighting to get open AND to make the catch. As I spoke on my Top 5 things to Watch, an injury to any of our top 3 receiving options (Parker, Gesicki, and Preston) will show us our lack of depth at the position and unfortunately, we saw it first-hand today. Once DVP left the game with hamstring tightness, the entire pass offense went down the drain. We ultimately only ended up trying to force-feed Preston with 7 targets, which he only converted 2 for 41 yards. We need Jakeem and Isiah to step up regardless if DVP is out for an extended period.
I wanted to keep this report to specific players, but the entire defense failed to defend the run. No single player deserves more blame than defense for the swiss cheese; it let itself become in the game. All afternoon long, the Patriots ran the ball at will against us. After only the 1 st quarter, the Patriots had amassed over 50 yards rushing and ultimately ended up with 217 yards rushing than the 87 we gained. The numbers in total show that in 42 carriers, we gave up 5.2 yards per rush and three touchdowns. Whenever those two numbers are what they are, it becomes next to impossible to give yourself a chance to play. I am looking forward to the All-22 on Tuesday to show whether coaching or player error caused us to get so gashed; it even caused me to stop and consider if our best run defender in Raekwon McMillan last season would have been able to help.
From the opening kickoff till the end of the game, it always felt like we were only reacting to the Patriots and what they were doing. Cam Newton, the whole game, ran it at will with the defense, making little to no adjustment that made a difference. On the offenses only touchdown of the day, it came on a 3 rd down run on the one after getting stuffed two times in a row. Ultimately, we did end up getting the touchdown to try and make it a game late but were 3 straight runs the best plays we had for the situation? We struggled to get the run game going all game, but it almost felt like we were not considering a different type of play for a crucial 3rd and goal. Lastly, we have an essential divisional opponent coming to town in the Buffalo Bills. This will require the coaching staff to construct an adequate game plan with room to be flexible and react correspondently to what the opponent is doing to us.
This article was written by Juan Cardona. Follow him on Twitter at @exclusvty