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Dolphins win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins (7-4) rebounded from a tough loss last week with a resounding defensive effort against the New York Jets (0-11). The Dolphins defense stymied any offensive output from Sam Darnold and Co., romping their way to a 20-3 victory.  The win, coupled with key losses by other teams, propelled the Dolphins back into the AFC playoff picture.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.

Dolphins Defense Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins defense returned to its dominant ways Sunday. Miami limited the Jets to just three points, 10 first downs and 260 total yards. In 25 possessions this season, the Dolphins held New York to just 0.12 points-per-possession.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the three total points allowed is the fewest by an NFL team in two meetings against the same opponent since 2009. The three points allowed is the second-fewest by the Dolphins against an AFC East opponent in one season. Miami shutout the Baltimore Colts in both games played against them in 1972.

Miami extended its takeaway-streak to 17 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak. The Dolphins’ 19 takeaways this season are third-most in the league.

Miami improved its scoring defense to just 18.6 points-per-game this season, which is second-lowest in the NFL. And the Dolphins have the best third-down defense in the NFL after limiting the Jets to just 3-of-13 on third downs. Miami’s 32.8 third-down percentage allowed leads the league, and the Jets’ 10 first downs were tied for the second-fewest in a single game this season.

No QB Controversy

Much of the discourse leading up to this game surrounded which quarterback gave Miami the best opportunity to win. Tua Tagovailoa was coming off of his worst professional outing, but he’s yet to turn the ball over through four games played. Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, coughs up the ball at an average of once per game.

A thumb injury shelved Tagovailoa against the Jets, robbing the rookie of a bounce-back performance. Instead, Fitzpatrick helmed the offense. And although some argue for the veteran to replace the youngster, there was no Fitzmagic Sunday.

Sure, Fitzpatrick piled up yards (257), but he provided just two touchdowns against the league’s worst defense. He flashed his chemistry with DeVante Parker, who finished with eight catches and 119 yards, but little else. In the absence of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins offense did little to indicate the rookie was the problem.

After the game, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores voiced his support of Tagovailoa going forward.

“If he’s healthy, he’s the guy,” Flores said.

Flores couched the statement by saying: “We’ll see how he does in practice over the course of the week. He’s a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We’ll see how he does over the course of this week in practice.”

If he can go, Tagovailoa will face a Bengals defense that allows 26.3 points-per-game and 253.7 passing yards-per-game.

Dolphins Rushing Attack Leaves Much to be Desired in Win Over Jets

While the Dolphins defense continued to shine, the offense’s lackluster rushing attack reared its ugly head as well. Miami’s ground game lacked rhythm and was largely absent in the second quarter. While some of that falls on offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, as well as the offensive line, what’s clear is Miami doesn’t have a difference-making running back.

The Dolphins split 22 carries among three running backs and watched the trio gain 94 yards but cough up two fumbles. Matt Breida and Patrick Laird both saw their chances limited after the third quarter miscues.

DeAndre Washington submitted the best performance of the three, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for 11 yards. He may have earned himself a few more snaps moving forward, even with the eventual returns of both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

What’s become abundantly clear is that Miami needs a difference-maker in the backfield and that player is not currently on the roster. It’s particularly important to add one, considering one of Tagovailoa’s strengths is RPO. The “run” needs to be an option.

Xavien Howard, NFL’s Best Cornerback

Xavien Howard continued his All-Pro play, too. He nabbed his league-leading seventh interception, picking off Darnold in the fourth quarter. Howard matched his career-high with seven INTs and has five games to go. He became just the second cornerback in team history with multiple 7-plus interception seasons, joining Sam Madison (1998-1999).

Howard’s 19 interceptions since 2017 also pace the NFL. What’s incredible about Howard’s ball-hawking prowess is that he missed 16 games over that span. His career 0.37 interceptions-per-game is fourth-highest among players who made their debut in the Super Bowl era, per Elias Sports.

It’s not just interceptions, either. Howard broke up three other pass attempts, giving him 50 pass breakups for his career. He has 15 passes defensed this season, tied for second-most in the league and one behind the league leader.

Darnold was 3-for-10 for 37 yards and an interception when throwing at Howard. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 50.3 passer rating when testing Howard this season.

Dolphins Win Over the Jets Propels Team Back into AFC Playoff Picture

The Dolphins dominated the Jets to the tune of 44-3 this season. Those wins helped the Dolphins keep pace in the AFC. After Week 12, Miami remains just one game behind the Bills in the AFC East. With the win Sunday, coupled with keys losses by Indianapolis and Las Vegas, the Dolphins vaulted to the 6-seed in the conference.

Miami’s move up the standings comes thanks to a superior conference record (4-3) than both the Colts (3-4) and Ravens (4-4). But with five games to go, the Dolphins have a difficult task ahead.

The Dolphins will need to secure another win next week against the floundering Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1). Minus Joe Burrow, this matchup has been robbed of its potential headline, but it remains as a must-win for Miami.  The final four games lack any easy opponents for the ‘Phins.

A win versus Cincy would put the Dolphins at 8-4 for the home stretch. Then comes the team’s stiffest test yet, a date with the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1). After that, the Dolphins host New England (5-6), who could be playing for their playoff lives at that point.

What follows is another must-win: a road matchup with the Raiders (6-4). This could be a postseason play-in game. The regular season finale comes in Buffalo (8-3), and, considering the Bills have a stiff remaining schedule as well, it might very well be for the AFC East title.

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Dolphins Jets

5 Keys to Dolphins-Jets in Week 12

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) enter Sunday’s Week 12 contest against the New York Jets (0-10) coming off a difficult loss in Denver. The Dolphins offense lacked rhythm and ultimately saw rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa pulled from the game. Miami’s defense couldn’t stop the run despite managing a pair of turnovers.

The Dolphins playoff hopes took a hit with the loss, but Miami can get back on track with a win over New York on Sunday.

Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins versus the Jets in Week 12.

Dolphins-Jets: O-Line Must Bounce Back

The Dolphins offense submitted an anemic performance last week. Tagovailoa was under siege from a Broncos defense that was missing its top pass rusher. Denver racked up six sacks and eight quarterback hits.

Rookie Solomon Kindley entered the game with a sore foot and exited in the second quarter. The line shuffled Jesse Davis to right guard at that point, but the play didn’t improve. Each lineman allowed pressures and sacks in what was the worst performance by the line all season.

They couldn’t protect their QB and couldn’t open holes for the running game. Miami managed just 56 rushing yards, one off the season low (55 against the LA Rams).

But not all of the blame lands on the linemen though. Tagovailoa held the ball too long on a number of occasions. He needs to be more decisive in the pocket and drive the ball to receivers that may not immediately seem open.

The line will have its hands full against a Jets defense that sends an extra rusher 30.9 percent of the time (10th-highest). Last week, Miami’s line struggled with stunts and twists, something they’ll need to sort out ahead of Sunday’s game

Get to Darnold

The Jets announced that Sam Darnold will start against the Dolphins. Darnold missed the last two games with an injured right shoulder. He also missed the game in Miami earlier this season.

The Dolphins defense will need to get back on track, a week after failing to sack the quarterback for the first time this season. And that’s the biggest difference for this defense.

In their six wins, the Dolphins piled up 133 quarterback pressures. In their four losses, just 46 pressures. The last time they played the Jets, Miami managed a season-high 29 pressures and three sacks.

Emmanuel Ogbah was a force against the Jets in Week 6, registering 10 pressures and two sacks against Joe Flacco. Both Flacco and Darnold struggle when pressured and are prone to mistakes. Darnold has thrown 34 interceptions in 32 games with the Jets and six this season in six games.

In four career games against the Dolphins, Darnold has four touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s been sacked 11 times.

Dolphins-Jets: Get the Ball Downfield

Tagovailoa struggled in Denver despite not throwing an interception. Although he’s protected the ball well, Tagovailoa has yet to make very many plays down the field. Against the Broncos, he managed just 83 passing yards and 4.2 yards-per-attempt.

Too many of his throws are short. In three of his four starts, his yards-per-attempt has been under 7.0. After being pulled from last week’s game, Tagovailoa acknowledged his shortcomings and witnessed how Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly doubled his statistical output in a fraction of the plays. Some of that is play calling and situation, but the general point holds. Tagovailoa needs to challenge opposing secondaries with throws on target downfield.

Though Tagovailoa has been limited in practice this week with an injured thumb, this game against New York provides him the opportunity to take the next step in his development. The rookie has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 602 yards and six touchdowns.

In Week 6 against the Jets, Fitzpatrick put up 191 passing yards and three touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions. If Fitzpatrick gets the nod in this one, he’ll lean on a stonier chemistry with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, but he’ll need to take care of the football.

The Jets defense comes in after having allowed another rookie quarterback (Justin Herbert) to throw for 366 yards and three touchdowns. New York’s passing defense allows 288.3 yards-per-game (9th-most). The Jets start three rookies in their secondary and allow 30.2 points per game.

Stop the Run

The recent five-game win streak masked defensive deficiencies for the Dolphins. Although Miami sports one of the top secondaries in the league, the run defense has left much to be desired. The Dolphins surrendered a season-high 189 rushing yards and 5.7 yards-per-carry to Denver.

For the season, Miami’s run defense allows 4.8 yards-per-carry (27th) and 134.2 yards-per-game. The good thing is, the Jets don’t feature an overwhelming run game, but that’s mostly because they’ve been forced to pass. The Jets offense ranks 32nd in scoring (14.9 points-per-game) and total yards-per-game (268.6). Their 98.6 rushing yards-per-game rank 26th in the NFL.

The Dolphins welcomed back defensive tackle Christian Wilkins this week, which should help the run D. Wilkins missed the last two weeks while on the COVID list.

Dolphins-Jets: Next Man Up

Miami enters this Week 12 contest with a number of key injuries. The team has already listed recent starter at running back, Salvon Ahmed, as out. Kindley, too. Wide receiver and returner Jakeem Grant is listed as ‘questionable’ and Tagovailoa has been downgraded to ‘doubtful.’ Miami elevated QB Reid Sinnett from the practice squad.

Although Myles Gaskin, Miami’s leading rusher with 387 yards, returned to practice this week, he’s still on the injured reserve and would need to be activated before the game.

This uncertainty could affect the Dolphins pursuit of offensive consistency. The combination of youth and inexperience led to a number of difficulties last week. The team hopes to solve those issues against the Jets.

“Sometimes it’s protection, sometimes it’s holding the ball too long, sometimes it’s guys not getting open,” Chan Gailey said of the Dolphins difficulties in Denver. “I have to do a better job of calling plays where he doesn’t have to hold it.”

Rookie receiver Malcolm Perry, who saw 51 offensive snaps last week, could get more run if Grant’s out. Antonio Callaway, who played eight snaps and caught one pass versus Denver, could also see an uptick in opportunity. Recently acquired running back DeAndre Washington may also see more time should Gaskin remain unavailable. Washington’s played 14 snaps in two games, gaining five yards on two carries last week.

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Dolphins add star power in latest Tankathon Mock Draft

Let’s take a look at what Tankathon has the Miami Dolphins doing in their latest three-round mock draft.

Yes, I know. It’s way too early to start talking about the 2021 NFL draft.

And how strange is that to say? Despite last week’s loss to the gritty Denver Broncos, the Miami Dolphins are currently 6-4 with the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals on the horizon.

Nevertheless, as the season plays out we’re starting to see the pieces the Dolphins are missing–primarily on the offensive side of the football.

Which is okay.

First, Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opted out. #Respect

Then Preston Williams went down with an injury, that could put an end to his 2020 season.

And who can forget the Dolphins HELPING OUT THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS and trading away Isaiah Ford. Which, say whatever you want about his long-term future in Miami, he was widely considered the smartest receiver in the room before his departure. He also had success in the slot, which is where the Dolphins need someone to step up.

But this isn’t about the 2020 Miami Dolphins.

This is about those four top-50 draft picks the team currently holds in next year’s draft–five in the top-81. And in year three of a rebuild, Chris Grier and Brian Flores know exactly what’s needed. And as I’ve said throughout, it starts with the offensive side of the football.

Let’s take a look at the latest Tankathon three-round mock draft!

 

First Round

The first few picks in the latest Tankathon mock draft is what you would expect to see in any mock. Trevor Lawrence goes #1 to the New York Jets followed by Justin Fields to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell lands in Cincinnati to protect Joe Burrow’s blindside #GetWellSoon and a personal favorite of mine lands in Dallas. Washington takes BYU quarterback Zach Wilson to round out the top-5.

But enough about the other teams.

What do the Miami Dolphins do to add firepower to their offense?

As things currently stand, the Miami Dolphins have the #9th overall pick thanks to Bill O’Brien and the Houston Texans. Miami could go a couple different directions with this pick but since Micah Parsons and Ja’Marr Chase have already been selected, the Dolphins turn their attention to another dynamic wide receiver.

With the 9th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Jaylen Waddle, Wide Receiver, Alabama.

If there is one thing that we’re quickly starting to learn this season it’s that the Dolphins offense is in dire need of playmakers. And the type of speed and big-play ability that Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle would bring to this offense is immense. And we can’t overlook the chemistry he already has with Tua Tagovailoa. Yes, Waddle suffered an injury earlier in the season that could potentially affect his draft stock. But with whispers that he could try to make a comeback later in the season, top-10 might be his floor.

With the 17th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Creed Humphrey, Offensive Lineman, Oklahoma

 

 

I’m not going to sit here and talk negatively about Ted Karras, because I don’t think we get a full sense of what a center’s responsibilities really is without being on the field/in the huddle. But much like Daniel Kilgore last season, it’s clear the Dolphins could use an upgrade at the position. Which is why if Creed Humphrey is available with the 17th pick in the draft, you run to the podium. Humphrey is a mauler and if reports are true that Miami had interest in Cesar Ruiz last season, the writing is on the wall.

(Note: Yes, I am a huge fan of Travis Etienne and believed he was RB1 last season. As tempting as that would be–and I wouldn’t be upset–I think Humphrey would be the RIGHT move, especially based on what the Dolphins do in the next round.)

Round 2

The first pick in round 2 is going to make readers a bit upset. Because despite Miami Hurricanes pass-rusher Quincy Roche sitting ripe for the picking, Tankathon has other plans.

With the 40th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Patrick Jones II, EDGE, Pittsburgh

In the limited time I’ve spent watching Patrick Jones, you can see that he is a freak that can attack the quarterback in a variety of different ways. He’s also proven to be stout against the run, which is a trait the Dolphins so desperately need when looking for their future EDGE players. Adding Jones to the mix of young, impactful players in the house will open things up for Brian Flores and his staff and give them new ways to attack opposing QBs.

But that was only the first of the Dolphins’ two second round picks.

 

With the 50th pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Najee Harris, Running Back, Alabama

As I alluded to above, the Dolphins pass on my RB1, but that’s okay. There are plenty of backs that are more than capable, and as we’ve seen with other positions, the scheme and the supporting cast has everything to do with a player’s success. With Etienne off the board, that leaves the perfect running back to pair with Tua Tagovailoa. Harris can do it all. And as easy as it is to compare him to the once-great Derrek Henry, you’d be crazy not to see similar players. What may be most impressive is Harris is a better receiver than Henry (IMO). Nevertheless, he’s exactly what Miami needs at running back to compliment the Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmeds of the world.

 

 

3rd Round

The fifth and final pick in Tankathon’s three-round mock draft is another versatile defensive back that could play all over Coach Flores defense.

With the 81st pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select: Ar’Darius Washington, Safety, TCU

This will change many more times between now and April 23, 2020. With that said, how do you feel with Tankathon’s latest mock draft?

Josh Houtz (@houtz) is a die-hard Dolphins fan that believes Chan Gailey needs to #LetTuaCook.

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Dolphins Loss Broncos

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Loss to Broncos

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) suffered a disappointing 20-13 loss in Denver (4-6). The game itself featured an offensive failure that led to rookie Tua Tagovailoa being benched.

This loss also pushed Miami from the postseason picture. The Dolphins are on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff bracket. They currently hold the No. 9 seed, losing tie breakers to both Baltimore and Las Vegas, the other 6-4 teams.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins loss to the Broncos.

Offensive Line Failure in Dolphins Loss to Broncos

One of the big questions heading into the quarterback switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa focused on the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. National pundits panned the move at the time, saying Miami’s line lacked the ability to properly protect their young QB. But local media pointed out that analysis as lazy, and it was.

The Dolphins offensive line had protected Tagovailoa well in his previous three starts. They’d handled pressure and kept Tagovailoa’s pocket relatively clean. Sunday, though, was a different story.

The Dolphins o-line surrendered a season-high six sacks, double the previous high. Beyond just the sacks, the line regularly allowed pressures and failed to open consistent holes for the running game.

The loss of rookie right guard Solomon Kindley in the second quarter hurt. And Tagovailoa also didn’t help his cause by holding the ball for too long.

Rushing Woes Continue

The Dolphins hoped they had something in rookie Salvon Ahmed. After a solid performance against the Chargers, Ahmed’s emergence led, in part, to the release of veteran Jordan Howard. The return of Matt Breida from recent injury also had Miami’s running game trending up. What’s more, they were facing a Denver rushing defense in the lower third of the league.

But against the Broncos, Miami’s ground game remained absent. The team totaled just 56 yards. Ahmed led the way with 43 yards on 12 carries. Breida picked up just four yards on two carries.

This lack of a consistent rushing attack shifted the offensive onus to Tagovailoa. It also allowed Denver to dial up the pressure on a rookie quarterback making just his second career road start. The result? Another anemic performance.

The solution to this issue remains unclear. A return by Myles Gaskin may help, but an ineffective ground game has plagued Miami for two seasons, through two different offensive coordinators. Opening up the playbook to allow the pass to set up the run may be the only way forward at this point.

No Fitzmagic in Dolphins Loss to Broncos

When Dolphins head coach Brian Flores pulled Tagovailoa from the game in the fourth, some speculated injury. Tagovailoa had just suffered a sixth sack, one that wrenched his lower right leg. The rookie had been on Miami’s injury report in the leadup to this game. Flores, though, dismissed that idea.

“Tua wasn’t injured. We just felt like it was the best move at that point of the game,” he said.

Fitzpatrick entered and immediately led Miami’s offense on a scoring drive. The veteran QB marched Miami down the field twice and flashed a chemistry with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki that Tagovailoa seemed to lack.

But all for naught.

Fitzpatrick maneuvered Miami into scoring position with a chance to tie the game. However, instead of connecting with Parker for a touchdown, Fitzpatrick failed to look off Broncos safety Justin Simmons and threw a game-sealing interception. Simmons secured the pick in the closing moments, though the Broncos had the chance to intercept two previous passes by Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick finished 12-of-18 passing for 117 yards and the interception.

Seemingly Still Tua’s Team

Despite the late quarterback change, the Dolphins seemingly remain Tagovailoa’s squad. Miami made the switch from Fitzpatrick to the rookie after a 3-3 start with Flores citing Tagovailoa’s readiness to assume the role. The Dolphins kept rolling. But on Sunday, the rookie showed his youth.

What’s interesting here, though, is the move to Fitzpatrick implies Tagovailoa isn’t a ready as Miami made it seem.

“We had to get in two-minute mode, and we felt like [Fitzpatrick] gave us the best chance to win the game, and we had an opportunity at the end to tie it,” Flores said.

Tagovailoa went 11-of-20 for 83 yards and a touchdown, but showed little effectiveness moving the ball. The offensive playcalling didn’t help.

“When I was in, we couldn’t really get things going,” Tagovailoa admitted. “I couldn’t get the ball in the hands of our playmakers and our guys consistently to get a rhythm going.”

Sure, offensive line issues submarined Tagovailoa’s efforts, but so too did his ineffectiveness. He needs to develop a stronger chemistry with his receivers and find a rhythm for this offense to take the next step.

That said, Fitzpatrick admitted after the game that the Dolphins were still “Tua’s team.”

He said: “Tua is going to continue to get better and grow. There’s no controversy. This is his team. He’s going to lead this team and continue to lead the team.”

To his credit, Tagovailoa wants to learn from this. He remained engaged in the contest and picked Fitzpatrick’s brain on the sideline.

“For me, it was a great learning experience,” Tagovailoa said. “I felt like I was holding the ball a little too long. Just got to get completions and get the ball in the hands of our guys to make plays for us.”

Dolphins D Didn’t Do Enough in Loss to Broncos

Miami’s defense buoyed the team’s five-game win streak. Over that span, the Dolphins defense ranked first points-per-game allowed (17.2) and second in quarterback pressures (86) and completion percentage allowed (57.0 percent). They put up 10 takeaways, too.

In Denver, though, the Dolphins didn’t make enough stops. Although the defense extended its takeaways streak to 16 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL, it wasn’t a banner day for the D.

Perhaps the biggest failing was the inability to stop Denver’s ground game. The Dolphins allowed a season-high 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The 5.7 yards-per-carry average stands as a full yard more than the previous season-high allowed (4.7).

What’s more, the Dolphins couldn’t seem to confuse Denver’s Drew Lock in the same way they did LA’s Justin Herbert a week prior. Lock piled up 270 passing yards, the most Miami’s allowed in more than a month. They also failed to pressure Lock consistently and did not sack him once. It’s the first time this season the Dolphins failed to secure at least one sack.

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The Miami Dolphins defense is legit

While the Dolphins rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been in the spotlight for the Phins, the defense has been playing a huge role in the past three games. This defense, led by Emmanuel Ogbah and Xavien Howard has forced a turnover in all games this year except for the first against the Patriots.

The 43-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers, who had just gotten back Jimmy Garropolo and Raheem Mostert, was the first game that really showed off the Dolphins explosive defense. With 3 turnovers, they proved that they had what Miami has been looking for.

In the very next week, the Dolphins blew out the rival New York Jets 24-0. This was the dolphins first time shutting a team out since 2014.

The game that really proved that the Dolphins amazing defense was here to stay was in week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams. With 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries, the defense led Tua to his first career NFL win.

If this series of games doesn’t prove that the Dolphins are for real, then I don’t know what does.

Although the team overall has had great defensive stats, this success can be shown specifically by two team-leading players. Defensive lineman, Emmanuel Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Cornerback, Xavien Howard leads the team with 5 interceptions which is the second best in the league only behind J.C. Jackson with 6.

This Dolphins defense and team in general is too good to be slept on any more. I know all Phins fans can’t wait to hopefully see this team in the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

Dolphins Broncos

5 Keys to Dolphins-Broncos in Week 11

The Miami Dolphins (6-3) travel to Colorado for their Week 11 matchup with the Denver Broncos (3-6). Originally slated as a bye week, this contest pits a pair of young quarterbacks against each other. The Dolphins are trending up with Tua Tagovailoa at the helm. Meanwhile, the Broncos come off a contest where their second-year signal caller coughed up four interceptions.

The Dolphins enter winners of five straight and find themselves in a soft stretch of their schedule. If Miami means to make a playoff push, the team can’t afford a loss to a struggling Broncos squad. The Dolphins stand among the six AFC squads with six wins thus far, so every victory remains necessary.

Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins in their Week 11 games versus the Broncos.

Dolphins-Broncos: Figure Out a Consistent Ground Game

The Dolphins head to Denver with the NFL’s 28th-ranked rushing offense, gaining just 98.7 yards-per-game thus far. The Broncos, though, allow 128.8 yards-per-game on the ground (23rd). And despite a turnstile in the backfield, Miami may have found something in rookie running back Salvon Ahmed.

Ahmed gained 85 yards on 21 carries in Week 10 versus the Chargers. He managed 4.0 yards-per-carry and scored a touchdown. He was actually at 91 yards in the fourth quarter before losing yardage on his final three carries. That said, most of his damage came on just a handful of runs.

In Tagovailoa’s three starts, Miami averages just 85.6 rushing yards-per-game, but one of those games was against the Rams, where the Dolphins offense needed to do very little. Over the last two weeks, the Dolphins have averaged 101 rushing yards-per-game.

Miami released running back Jordan Howard this week but should see the return of Matt Breida to the lineup. The combination of Ahmed and Breida should be more than enough to gain yards on the ground against a subpar rushing defense.

Attack the Quarterback

The Dolphins defense continued its stellar play this season in Week 10. Against the Chargers, Miami defenders registered two sacks and eight quarterback hits. Xavien Howard’s interception extended a 15-game long streak with at least one takeaway. And the Dolphins 15 takeaways this season are tied for fourth-most in the NFL in 2020.

Chargers wideout Keenan Allen revealed that the LA offense was confused by the Dolphins’ disguises on defense. Miami offered amoeba looks to LA’s rookie quarterback Justin Herbert on four different third-down occasions last week. That uncertainty kept the Chargers from finding a rhythm on offense.

With a pair of young quarterbacks, the Broncos could be facing a similar attack from Miami. Denver deploys multiple tight ends often, which could allow the Dolphins to send extra defenders at either Drew Lock or Brett Rypien. The Dolphins blitz 41.6 percent of the time, fourth-most in the NFL thus far.

Since the start of Miami’s five-game winning streak, the Dolphins defense is first points-per-game allowed (17.2) and is second in quarterback pressures (86) and completion percentage allowed (57.0 percent).

Dolphins-Broncos: Limit Denver’s Run Game

The Broncos sport a rushing attack that registers 106.6 rushing yards-per-game (19th). This figure belies the talent Denver rolls out in the backfield. Both Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay are good running backs. The pair has combined for 852 rushing yards and six touchdowns this season.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, allow 128.1 rushing yards-per-game (22nd). They’re likely without Christian Wilkins for a second-straight week, though rookie Raekwon Davis played very well against LA. Miami limited the Chargers to 99 rushing yards on 29 attempts, a 3.4 yards-per-carry average.

Denver runs the ball on second down more than any other team in the league. If the Dolphins can keep Denver in third-and-long, attack the Broncos’ QB, whomever it is, becomes that much easier.

Take Care of the Football

This goes without saying for any contest. But limiting turnovers, especially in winnable games on the road, remains the best way to secure a victory. Last week against the Chargers, a botched snap led to a dramatic momentum swing in that contest.

Ted Karras’ bad snap led to a fumble with the Dolphins driving up 14-0. If Miami managed to score on that possession, they would’ve held a 17-0 or 21-0 lead and a strangle hold on that game. Instead, the fumble allowed the Chargers to get back into the game. They scored a touchdown and the Dolphins responded with a three-and-out on offense. Late in the second quarter, the Chargers were driving to tie the game.

Tagovailoa is yet to throw an interception this season, though there have been a couple of close calls. He’s fumbled twice (though one was the bad snap). If Tagovailoa plays another clean contest, the Dolphins should leave Denver with their sixth-straight win.

The Dolphins enter with a plus-5 turnover differential, tied for the fourth-highest rate in the NFL. The defense has managed at least one takeaway in all nine games this season and both Broncos QBs have been turnover prone. Lock threw four interceptions against the Raiders last week and Rypien threw three interceptions in his Week 4 start against the Jets.

Dolphins-Broncos: Don’t Get Complacent

Miami’s play of late has turned some heads. With seemingly unexpected wins against the Rams and Cardinals, coupled with the efficient play of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins are NFL darlings these days. That, plus the soft schedule this month, means Miami’s postseason dreams could become a reality.

That said, this contest has all the making of a trap game. Entering having won five-in-a-row and hearing football pundits praise their play might lead the Dolphins to let their guard down.

That can’t happen.

The Dolphins are one of nine AFC teams with at least six wins this season. Only seven of those will make the playoffs. Miami has the 19th-easiest remaining slate of games, based on strength of schedule, but that can’t rely on that. According to Tankathon.com, Baltimore, New England, Cleveland and Las Vegas, all teams vying for one of those playoff spots, each have easier schedules than the Dolphins.

And if Miami really has set their sights on an AFC East title, the Bills schedule is only slightly more difficult. Buffalo’s remaining opponents sport a .509 winning percentage.

The Dolphins have a chance to bank wins with this stretch of opponents. They’ve won five straight but need to win at least three more. Being 9-3 entering the home stretch of the schedule would all but guarantee a playoff spot.

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Dolphins Chargers Win

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Chargers

The Miami Dolphins (6-3) continued their ascent in the AFC with a solid win over the Los Angeles Chargers (2-7). The victory marked Miami’s fifth-straight and propelled them to the 6-seed in the conference.

Touted as a duel between two rookie quarterbacks, the Dolphins signal-caller played an efficient game, whereas his counterpart made a critical error in the fourth quarter. The win over the Chargers puts Miami at 6-3 for the first time since 2001. The five-game win streak is the longest for the franchise since 2016, when they won six-in-a-row.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Chargers.

Dolphins’ Tagovailoa Steady in Win Over Chargers

In a game where pundits pit Tua Tagovailoa versus Justin Herbert, Tagovailoa came out on top. Football analysts have lauded Herbert for his statistical prowess thus far, but that’s led to very little winning for the Chargers. Miami, meanwhile, saw their rookie quarterback led them to yet another victory.

Tagovailoa’s now 3-0 as a starter and is the first rookie in Dolphins history to win his first three starts. He finished 15-for-25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. His back-to-back games with two touchdown passes tie him for the third-longest streak of multiple touchdown pass games by a Dolphins rookie quarterback.

Tagovailoa’s the only rookie QB in Dolphins history to not throw an interception in his first three starts. And he’s one of only two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (Philadelphia’s Carson Wentz the other) to win all three of his first career starts and not throw an interception.

Tagovailoa also registered the first tackle of his career after a botched snap from Ted Karras led to a fumble. The young signal-caller’s moxie and confidence continue to grow with each start. He’s been accurate and adept at fitting passes into tight windows. It’s clear he has the confidence of the coaching staff and the team.

Ogbah Continues His Great Play

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Emmanuel Ogbah’s been great. He sacked Herbert on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The sack was Ogbah’s eighth of the season and gave him six consecutive games with a full sack. His eight sacks are tied for fourth in the NFL. The six-game sack streak for Ogbah is tied for the second-longest in Dolphins history, trailing just Jason Taylor’s eight-game streak in 2002.

Ogbah also had two passes defensed, including one pass tipped on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter that forced a turnover on downs.

His continued productivity has elevated this Dolphins defense. The pressure players like Ogbah generate helps the team’s secondary. It was clearly evident in Xavien Howard’s fourth quarter interception of Herbert. With that interception, the Dolphins defense has now registered at least one turnover in each of the last 15 games.

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Dolphins Special Teams Elite in Win Over Chargers

The first big play of the day came from Miami’s Special Teams. Andrew Van Ginkel got free rushing up the middle and blocked LA’s punt. Jamal Perry recovered the fumble on the one-yard line. It was the first blocked punt by the Dolphins since Brandon Bolden got one on November 11, 2018 at Green Bay.

In addition to that play, punter Matt Haack pinned the Chargers at the five-yard line, flipping field position in a tightening game. Haack is fifth in the league in punts inside-the-20 (17) and eighth in net punt average (42.9). Against the Rams, Haack pinned five punts inside the 20. It was his sixth career game with at least five punts inside the 20, which is a Dolphins record.

Jakeem Grant also helped the team flip field position with his punt returns. His 294 punt return yards lead the NFL. His 14.7 punt return average stands as third-best and he leads the NFL with three punt returns of over 20 yards.

Grant surpassed Tommy Vigorito (830) for fifth place in Dolphins history in all-time career punt return yardage. Grant now has 883 career punt return yards.

Jason Sanders, meanwhile, remains one of the best kickers in the league and arguably the best kicker in Dolphins history. Sanders saw his streak of 20 consecutive makes snapped in this one, but he did net three field goals. His 20 makes are tied for second-most in the NFL so far. His .952 average on field goals is also second-best.

Sanders’ five makes from 50-yards or longer stand as second-most this season. He is 23-for-23 on point-after attempts.

Jakeem Grant Emerges as Offensive Weapon

When the Dolphins lost Preston Williams to the injured reserve, there were questions surrounding who would fill the void. Miami had several options, but Grant stood out on Sunday

Grant caught a three-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter to give Miami a 14-0 lead. It was Grant’s first touchdown reception since he had two in a game on September 23, 2018 versus Oakland. Grant led the Dolphins in receiving on Sunday with four receptions for 43 yards.

His ability to create separation on his routes makes him a reliable go-to for Tagovailoa. In his three starts, Tagovailoa has targeted Grant 12 times, which matches the amount of targets Grant received from Fitzpatrick through the first six games of the season.

Grant’s game-breaking speed adds a layer previously absent from this offense. While they’ve yet to incorporate it, Grant is regularly in pre-snap motion, indicating a jet-sweep could be part of the offensive game plan moving forward.

Dolphins in Prime Position for Playoff Push After Win Over Chargers

The AFC East playoff picture remains a logjam after Week 10. Thanks to Kyler Murray’s Hail Mary heave against Buffalo, Miami stands within 0.5 game of the Bills with seven games to go. A win next week in Denver would pull the Dolphins even with Buffalo because the Bills are on their bye.

The Dolphins currently hold the 6-seed in the AFC standings, one of six teams to sport a 6-3 record. Miami holds the tiebreaker over the Titans and Ravens based on best win percentage in conference games. The division tiebreaker keeps the Dolphins ahead of Cleveland (Baltimore wins tie break over Cleveland based on head-to-head win percentage).

The Colts lead the AFC South. Miami trails the Raiders in the standings because Las Vegas sports a better conference win percentage. The Dolphins travel to Vegas in Week 16.

According to Tankathon.com, the Dolphins sport the 12th-easiest remaining slate of games, based on strength of schedule. Miami final seven opponents have a combined .477 winning percentage. The Bills, meanwhile, face a slightly tougher slate, as their final six opponents have a .509 winning percentage.

Three of the other teams vying for an AFC playoff spots hold easier roads ahead: Baltimore (.461), Cleveland (.445) and Las Vegas (.444).

What this means is, Miami needs to win the games in which they are favored and knock off, at the very least, the Raiders in Week 16. The Week 17 matchup against the Bills could very well be for the AFC East division title.

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Dolphins Chargers

5 Keys to Dolphins-Chargers in Week 10

The Miami Dolphins (5-3) enter their Week 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers (2-6) coming off perhaps their best win of the last several seasons. The 34-31 victory over the Cardinals, coupled with the breakout performance from rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, has most Dolphins fans excited for not only this season but also the future.

Tagovailoa and the Dolphins return home to face another up-and-coming AFC team in the Chargers. LA has Justin Herbert, who they selected with the No. 6 pick in April’s NFL Draft, manning the helm. Although their record doesn’t show it, this Chargers squad is a good team.

Here’s a look at five keys for the Dolphins against the Chargers in Week 10.

Dolphins-Chargers: Deal with Injuries

The Dolphins lost Preston Williams to the injured reserve this week. Miami’s wide receiver room took the loss and will pivot to young players to fill the void. Lynn Bowden Jr. returned from the COVID-19 list. Kirk Merritt remains an option from the practice squad.

Antonio Callaway seemed to be an option, too, but he’s reportedly not performed well in practice. Callaway is coming off a knee injury and may not be ready to contribute.

Matt Breida missed last week’s game with a hamstring injury. He’s been limited in practice throughout the week. Jamal Perry (foot) and Durham Smythe (concussion) were limited participants as well.

The Chargers, meanwhile, officially ruled South Florida native Joey Bosa out for Sunday (concussion). They’ll also be without RB Justin Jackson. OG Trai Turner (groin) and OT Bryan Bulaga (back) are questionable for Sunday.

LA is already without a number of stars, including RB Austin Eckler, CB Chris Harris Jr., S Derwin James and former Dolphin C Mike Pouncey.

Manage COVID Concerns

COVID-19 continues to complicate matters for the Dolphins. Kyle Van Noy and Christian Wilkins, two starters on the defense, landed on the COVID-19 list on Thursday. According to reports, Van Noy’s move to the list comes from contact tracing. It’s unclear with Wilkins

NFL’s contact tracing protocols force players to isolate for five days from the time he was in close contact with an infected person before he’s eligible for return. The five-day count doesn’t start from the day the player is put on the list, so there’s a chance both Van Noy and Wilkins can play.

Miami elevated defensive tackle Benito Jones from the practice squad. Rookie defensive end Jason Strowbridge could see additional time on the field.

Matt Cole, who would’ve been an option at wide receiver off the practice squad, landed on the COVID list as well.

Miami also announced quarterbacks coach Robby Brown, defensive line coach Marion Hobby, quality control coach Kolby Smith and outside linebackers coach Austin Clark will miss their second game in a row due to COVID protocols. Last week, the Dolphins were without five assistants in Arizona.

Defensive backs coach Gerald Alexander seems to be on track to return to the sideline for Sunday.

Dolphins-Chargers: Pressure Herbert

Justin Herbert has been impressive in his seven starters despite winning just one game. He’s piled up stats and excels in the vertical passing game. Herbert’s arm allows him to attack downfield. When he’s protected well, Herbert completes 71 percent of his passes for 8.1 yards-per-attempt, with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

When pressured, though, his numbers drop. He completes 59 percent of passes under pressure for 7.7 yards-per-attempt. He’s thrown seven TDs and two INTs under pressure.

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LA’s o-line has allowed 111 pressures in 2020 and they may be without Bulaga, who’s only allowed four of those. Herbert faces pressure on 29.1 percent of drop backs, which is third most in the league. He’s been blitzed 65 times, hurried 52 times, hit 21 times and sacked 14 times.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, blitz on 41.6 percent of pass plays, which is the fourth-highest rate in the NFL.

Miami’s 20 sacks are 13th-most, and their 75 pressures are 14th-most. Hurrying Herbert seems to be the plan heading into this one, however, the Dolphins may flip the script and force Herbert to show his patience against zone coverage.

Emmanuel Ogbah leads the Dolphins with 34 quarterback pressures. His seven sacks are tied for fourth-most in the NFL. His 13 QB hits are tied for seventh-most and his three forced fumbles are tied for second-most this season.

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Handle LA’s four-man rush

While the Dolphins send extra men at the fourth-highest clip in the league, the Chargers blitz the least in the league. LA blitzes on only 13.6 percent of the time. The Chargers deploy three deep defenders on most pass plays.

LA relies on a four-man rush to generate pressure. Normally, the Chargers sport a pair of elite edge rushers in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but Bosa’s been ruled out. That’s a huge loss for LA, considering Bosa’s generated 37 QB pressures. Ingram, meanwhile, has generated 23 pressures, but he’s missed three games this season.

Miami’s offensive line has done well protecting Tagovailoa over the last two weeks. He’s been pressured just 8.3 percent of the time. He’s been blitzed 27 times in his two starts. When not facing a blitz, Tagovailoa has completed 72.7 percent of his passes, connecting on two touchdowns.

Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras have played particularly well this season. They’ve played a combined 604 pass-blocking snaps this season and have allowed with just 15 pressures.

Dolphins-Chargers: Sort out RB

The Dolphins lost Myles Gaskin to the injured reserve last week. Breida then missed the Cardinals’ game with a hamstring injury. So Miami turned to Jordan Howard and rookie Salvon Ahmed.

Howard underwhelmed, gaining just 19 yards on his 10 carries, though he did score a short touchdown. Ahmed played the majority of the snaps and picked up 38 yards on his seven carries. Tagovailoa gained 35 yards on seven scrambles.

The Dolphins could add DeAndre Washington to the mix this week. He sports a 4.0 career yards-per-carry average and has reliable hands out of the backfield. He’s a shifty back who could fit what the Dolphins do well with Tagovailoa.

Miami may need the pass to set up the run. The return of Bowden and the activation of Malcolm Perry affords Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey with versatile playmakers to incorporate. Jakeem Grant could play a role in the running game as well with jet sweeps.

Dolphins place Preston Williams on IR; who steps up in his absence?

Early on in Sunday’s matchup vs. the Arizona Cardinals, Dolphins wide receiver Preston Williams started to find a grove with rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa. It was the start of something beautiful, and we started to see those WR1 type skills that we knew he possessed. Which, to be honest was needed after his struggles from a week ago.

Williams secured 4/5 targets for 60 yards and a touchdown. Everything was good–until it wasn’t.

At some point during the Unicorn’s 15-yard touchdown reception, he tweaked his ankle. And although we are uncertain exactly what the injury is, we now know it will keep the second-year wide receiver out for at least three weeks.

Here’s exactly what coach Flores said regarding Williams from the Sun Sentinel’s Omar Kelly.

The question now is, where do the Dolphins turn to find receiver help? The trade deadline is over. Any help at this point needs to come from another team’s practice squad (unprotected) or internally. And if this coaching staff has shown us one thing since they’ve got here, it’s that those players that put in the work will be rewarded.

Here are 5 players the Dolphins need to step up in Williams’ absence

Jakeem Grant

Grant is a fan-favorite. But despite his big-play abilities, we’ve yet to see him truly unleashed in the way many believe he should be. This is his time to prove he’s more than just a wide receiver. And as I pointed out last week, his speed allows him to create separation that other wide receivers on the roster are not capable of. Tagovailoa turned to Grant a few times in critical situations over the last two games. Is this the beginning of Grant’s transformation to becoming the WR he knows he can ?

It’s your time to shine, Jakeem.

Antonio Callaway

The 23-year-old speedster from Miami, Florida, hasn’t played in an NFL game since Week 9 of last season. But yet, fans are excited about what he can add to this offense. Personally, Brian Flores tempered my expectations a bit when he said he only saw Callaway practice for the first time last week. I don’t know where things stand now, but Miami hopes they can see more of the player he was in college and as a rookie in Cleveland, where he scored five touchdowns.

The Dolphins could really use 2018 Antonio Callaway, now, more than ever.

 

Malcolm Perry

Lynn Bowden would’ve been part of this article, but he’s currently on the COVID-19/Reserve-list, and I think what I say for Perry can apply to both players–given their unique skill-sets and versatility. With Bowden out in recent weeks, Perry has found his way into the lineup. But besides a first-down reception vs. Los Angeles and a creative triple-option from Chan Gailey vs Arizona, he has been quiet through eight games.

Now, with Williams injury and the offense slowly starting to evolve, Malcolm Perry should see an uptick in snaps.

Mack Hollins

The former 4th-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles is known for making big plays on special teams. But as we were reminded on Sunday, Mack Hollins is a wide receiver first. Hollins was productive in college, where he recorded 81 receptions for 1,667 yards and 20 touchdowns. He may not have had a breakout NFL career, but at 27-years-old there’s still plenty of time. And after seeing the way he went up and plucked that football, it really might be the return of the Mack?

 

Kirk Merritt

After The Glitch’s success in 2019, Dolphins fans could not wait to find ‘tHE nExT pReStOn WiLLiAmS.’ And despite being firmly supplanted on the team’s practice squad for a majority of the year, fans were ecstatic to hear when they found out he would travel with the team vs. Arizona. Now, with a game under his belt, could the rookie be asked to do more for the Dolphins?

Merritt’s career sky-rocketed after he transferred to Arkansas State. He recorded 158 receptions for 1,811 yards and 19 touchdowns. And with legit 4.33 speed, Miami needs to find out what he can do and, most importantly, give him an opportunity to showcase his skills./

Final Yard

Losing Preston Williams is a big blow to Miami’s offense; no one can deny that. But as we’ve seen all season long, Brian Flores and his team will find ways to adapt and continue to push forward. I can’t sit here and tell you WHO is going to step up, though I’d put a wager on more opportunities for Jakeem Grant, Antonio Callaway, and Mike Gesicki, above the rest. But let’s be honest, no one thought Myles Gaskin would be the Dolphins starting RB. Or Zach Sieler would be making dominant plays on Miami’s defensive line.

It’s a next-man-up mentality in Miami. And I’m certain each of the Dolphins young wide receivers are biting at the bit for any and every opportunity.

Carpe Diem.

 

 

 

 

Dolphins Win Cardinals

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over Cardinals

The Miami Dolphins shocked the NFL world again on Sunday, earning a 34-31 win over the Arizona Cardinals. The victory kept them within striking distance of the AFC East lead. But perhaps the best news coming from the win remains the emergence of Tua Tagovailoa.

This win propelled the Dolphins into the AFC playoff picture, despite football pundits once again picking against them. The Dolphins have now won four games in a row for the first time since 2016 and their 5-3 record is their best start through the first eight games of a season since 2014.

Here are five takeaways from the Dolphins’ 34-31 win over the Cardinals.

Dolphins Win Over Cardinals: Tua Definitely QB1

So much of the talk in the wake of Miami’s 28-17 victory over the Rams last week circled around Tagovailoa’s statistical performance. People clamored for more from the rookie. Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey pared down the game plan once Miami’s defense took control.

Against the Cardinals, though, Tagovailoa answered the lingering questions. He completed 20-of-28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball seven times for 35 yards in this come-from-behind victory.

Tagovailoa authored an impressive 10-play, 93-yard game-tying drive in the fourth quarter of this one. He connected on all five pass attempts during the drive, including a 14-yard strike to DeVante Parker to convert on a third down from deep in Miami’s territory, as well as an 11-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins. Tagovailoa picked up 23 yards scrambling, too, including a six-yard dash to pick up another key third down.

And after the Dolphins defense stuffed a fourth-and-1 attempt by the Cardinals, Tagovailoa maneuvered the team into field goal range for the win. His performance wasn’t perfect, but it was a welcomed sight for the QB-starved ‘Phins.

Jason Sanders, Best K in Franchise History

Tagovailoa set up Jason Sanders for the 50-yard go-ahead field goal with 5:15 left in the fourth. Sanders netted his 20th consecutive made-field-goal with the game-winner. The kick broke the previous team record of 19 straight makes, set by Olindo Mare in 1999. It was the fourth game-winning kick of his career.

Sanders set a new career-long as well with his 56-yarder to end the first half. He became the first kicker in Dolphins history to make two 50-plus yard field goals in the same game.

Sanders now stands as the most accurate kicker in franchise history. He’s made 86.6 percent (58-of-67) of his career tries.

The rest of Miami’s Special Teams Unit has performed well, too. Punter Matt Haack ranks fourth in punts pinned inside the 20-yard line and ninth in net punting. Jakeem Grant leads the NFL in punt return yards and has the league’s only punt return touchdown.

Dolphins D Does Enough in Win Over Cardinals

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Miami’s main difficulties defensively this season have come against mobile quarterbacks and Kyler Murray proved to be the biggest test thus far. The Dolphins defense came up big early, though.

Emmanuel Ogbah stripped Murray on Arizona’s first possession of the game, and Shaq Lawson scooped and scored from 36-yards out. The Dolphins now have a takeaway in 15 consecutive games, which is the second-longest active streak in the NFL behind Baltimore (21 games).

After that, though, the Dolphins defense struggled to contain Murray. He completed 21-of-26 for 283 yards and three touchdowns. Murray showed his elusiveness throughout, avoiding Miami’s pursuit, gaining 106 yards and a scoring a touchdown.

But in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins defense made the necessary stops.

The Cardinals gained 474 yards of total offense, but just 77 of those came in the fourth. For the game, Arizona piled up an average of 7.18 yards-per-play, but that figure shrank to just 5.13 yards-per-play in their final two drives. That number gets even smaller if you remove Murray’s 35-yard connection to Christian Kirk. Without that play, the Cardinals managed just 3.0 yards-per-play down the stretch.

The Dolphins prevented Arizona from converting any third down attempts in the fourth and stuffed a pivotal fourth-and-1 try to set up the game-winning drive.

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Howard’s Not the Answer at RB

The Dolphins entered this one thin at running back. Myles Gaskin landed on the IR earlier in the week and Matt Breida missed the game with a hamstring injury. Jordan Howard got the start for Miami but couldn’t muster much of an attack.

Howard gained just 19 yards on 10 carries (1.9 yards-per-carry), though he did score from two yards out late in the first. All told, Howard played just 21 of Miami’s 61 offensive plays.

Rookie Salvon Ahmed took the bulk of the snaps at the running back position (28 snaps, 46 percent). Ahmed gained 38 rushing yards in his NFL debut, the most by a Dolphins player in their debut since Jay Ajayi gained 41 yards on Nov. 8, 2015 at Buffalo.

Miami’s running game needs to improve moving forward. The Dolphins gained 91 yards on 25 carries in the win against the Cardinals, a 3.6 yards-per-carry average, which is just okay. But Miami needs to get that rushing total up over 100 yards-per-game to really maximize Tagovailoa’s effectiveness.

Next week, the Dolphins can add newly acquired DeAndre Washington to the mix. Gaskin will be out at least another two weeks and it’s unclear if Breida will be ready to return against the LA Chargers.

Depth Concerns at WR

When Allen Hurns and Albert Wilson opted out of the season, some viewed it as an opportunity for other players to step up. Unfortunately, missing Hurns and Wilson only started the thinning of Miami’s receiving corps. Without rookie Lynn Bowden Jr. on Sunday, the Dolphins saw Preston Williams leave the game after his 9-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.

Losing Williams pressed rookie Malcolm Perry in the lineup more than he’s ever been in his short career. Hollins also saw an uptick in snaps.

Grant played 48 percent of the offensive plays and caught four passes for 35 yards. Parker played 90 percent of snaps and led the team with six catches and 64 yards receiving. Even newly promoted rookie Kirk Merritt saw some time.

If Williams’ ankle injury keeps him out an extended period of time, the Dolphins receiving corps is in trouble. Although his skill-set mirrors Parker’s, Williams provides another reliable set of hands for Tagovailoa. Grant should see additional opportunities moving forward. Bowden, if he comes of Reserve/COVID-19 list, and Perry could, too.

Miami awaits the debut of Antonio Callaway, who’s currently assigned to the practice squad but who could see time next week.

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