Dolphins Dichotomy: Film Review of the Best & Worst Plays From Dolphins vs. Falcons
The Dolphins’ performance on Thursday against the Falcons was a definite upgrade from the displays against the Cowboys and Giants. While the team is clearly not where they need to be on defense, there are signs of life from that unit. On offense, things appear to be clicking for Coach Gase, Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the group. Here is our analysis of the best and worst moments from the team’s 17-6 victory over Atlanta.
Arian Foster Coming Alive:
Late in the first quarter, the Miami Dolphins got their first sign that Arian Foster could be slowly returning to form.
This play is Foster’s bread and butter. His vision is among the best in the league, and he consistently uses it to turn something out of nothing. Foster also broke out another of his other signature moves on Thursday – the smooth cutback.
This play is just beautiful. Foster sees the opening and quickly cuts in, makes a defender miss, and scores the touchdown for Miami.
If the nickname weren’t already taken, “Sweetness” would be the perfect way to describe Foster’s running style.
Now just pray that he can stay healthy.
Suh & Alonso Stuff Coleman On 4th Down:
Against the Cowboys, not even Ndamukong Suh was getting push on the defensive line. When the Dolphins faced the Falcons, it was clear how much of a difference Suh made for everyone on the defense, but specifically for Kiko Alonso.
Atlanta lines up on 4th down with Patrick DiMarco, one of the league’s best fullbacks, preparing to lead the way for Tevin Coleman.
Ndamukong Suh is occupying multiple blockers and generating inside push. The occupation of blocks allows Kiko Alonso to flow into the backfield and help Suh stop Tevin Coleman.
This proved to be a good example of what the defense is capable of when Ndamukong Suh’s presence is taken advantage of fully by the players surrounding him.
Patience From Tannehill:
Dolphins fans have criticized Ryan Tannehill in the past for throwing the ball short of the sticks on third down. Against Atlanta, he showcased an ability to exercise patience for a more sure-fire chance to move the sticks.
Here, Tannehill has Dion Sims underneath. With a defender shadowing him in the flat, it looks unlikely the play would net a 1st down. Instead of just throwing it to Sims, Tannehill takes full advantage of his protection and stands firm in the pocket. He then delivers the ball to DeVante Parker, who picks up the first down thanks to forward progress.
With an improved pocket, and confidence in the offense, Ryan Tannehill has showed the ability to convert on 3rd downs this preseason.
The QB Draw:
Ryan Tannehill’s athleticism was vastly underutilized under Bill Lazor. On Thursday, Adam Gase showed that he isn’t afraid to let his quarterback use his legs.
The Falcons’ defense bites horribly on this fake. When they realize Jay Ajayi doesn’t have the ball, Ryan Tannehill is already heading for a first down.
The best part of this play is when the Dolphins called it. Using a mismatch to create positive situations for the offense is only half of the battle. The other half is when you choose to utilize that mismatch. On the very first play, when they knew Atlanta wouldn’t be ready for it, the Dolphins went for the option.
Jarvis Landry’s Implementation:
The Dolphins have struggled with the tight end position so far in the preseason. However, their use of Jarvis Landry could help them remedy those issues.
Jarvis Landry has been Ryan Tannehill’s safety net. This much we already know. However, the important part of the equation is what they do with the knowledge of Tannehill’s comfort level with Landry.
In this game, Adam Gase almost used Jarvis Landry as a de-facto tight end. While he wasn’t lined up like a TE, he was being thrust into the role.
Here is one example from early on in Thursday’s game:
Instead of having Landry short of the sticks, the play is designed to make sure Tannehill has a chance to zip him the ball for a first. Why waste Tannehill’s favorite option on a route that goes short of the 1st down in a 3rd down situation.
Adam Gase later went back to Landry in the same situation.
Ryan Tannehill is able to quickly find Jarvis Landry on an easy route that nets them a 1st down.
I should be clear: Jarvis Landry is not playing tight end in the same way that safeties like Deone Bucannon play linebacker. He is simply being asked to play the tight end role, the safety net, with a wide receiver’s route tree.
Throughout the preseason, Gase’s usage of Jarvis Landry has made a huge difference for Ryan Tannehill and the offense on 3rd downs.
The Dolphins previously used an offense predicated on short passes. However, they rarely used the no huddle to capitalize on it. When short passes are combined with an up-tempo attack, the result can be quite impressive.
On Thursday, the Dolphins provided us a quick look at what the offense can do when combining short decisive throws with high-pace.
Here, Tannehill makes a quick throw to Cameron. He could have thrown the ball to Landry, but instead decides to send it out for his tight end. The Dolphins then hurry to the line for the next play.
Because of the no-huddle, the Dolphins trap the defense in their same personnel grouping and give them little time to react. Tannehill has an easy throw to Ajayi for a first down.
Cynics will remark that the Dolphins are still stuck in a dink-and-dunk offense. However, they will fail to acknowledge the fact that the Dolphins have added the key element of timing to make execution easier and more effective as drives go on.
Reshad Jones’ INT:
This was just a beautiful play by Reshad Jones. The interior defensive line gets enough push to force Matt Ryan into an early throw. He releases the ball, and Reshad Jones jumps the route. Jones was exceptional on the goal line in 2015 and should duplicate that performance again this season.
Third Down Pass Rush:
This could be the night’s most comforting play for Dolphins fans.
Returning from a torn Achilles, Wake has been a wild card heading into 2016. In one of his first plays on Thursday night, he bull rushed the Falcons’ RT straight back into Matt Ryan, forcing a poor throw on 3rd down.
Miami’s defensive line looked like an entirely different unit against the Falcons. Maybe it was the level of competition, but it isn’t hard to rule out the impact of a star like Wake returning to the lineup, especially if he can play as well as he did against the Falcons.
Cameron Wake’s implementation as a situational pass rusher could be what it takes to keep him fresh for a season, which would be a huge boost for a line that lacks strong depth.
Jordan Cameron’s Drops:
The Dolphins must be growing very concerned with Jordan Cameron’s drop issues.
Here he drops a pass that did require some adjustment. However, it is far from an excusable drop.
This play is far more worrisome. Jordan Cameron was given the exact same opportunity last week against the Cowboys.
Adam Gase makes things happen on the goal line by isolating the tight end one-on-one. However, Cameron’s unreliable hands could force Gase to remove an effective portion of his arsenal.
If Jordan Cameron wants to prove that last season’s performance wasn’t a fluke, he will need to improve his hands before the Dolphins enter the regular season.
Tony Lippett Struggles Twice Early:
The secondary has been the Achilles heel of Miami’s defense this preseason, which was to be expected. Many were interested to see what Tony Lippett could do, faced with a chance to win the starting job as Xavien Howard sat out with an injury.
Lippett’s game against Atlanta was proof that he might not be ready for a large role with the Dolphins.
Defenses will take this all day from the Dolphins. Tony Lippett is beat by Julio Jones, who picks up the 1st down over the middle of the field.
Being beaten by Julio Jones is understandable, but Tony Lippett wasn’t even close on this play. It seems that he loses attention for a moment, allowing Jones to enter the middle of the field uncontested.
Later in the game, Lippett was beat vertically.
Here, the double move leads to his downfall.
This is a textbook overreaction by the cornerback. Lippett needs to understand how to better defend routes that appear this often in games. While there might be some push, Lippett still wasn’t putting himself close to being able to make the play here.
Bobby McCain’s Pass Interference:
If a quarterback thinks they have a chance to draw pass interference, they’ll throw up passes deep for their receivers all game long.
Here, Bobby McCain ends up providing easy yards to the Falcons.
Bobby McCain must get his head around to make a play on the ball here. This would have been a chance at a turnover, and instead it ends up being pass interference.
The Dolphins’ defensive backs have struggled to make plays on the ball all preseason, and this is another example of those issues. While Bobby McCain has been impressive at times during the preseason, he is showing that he will need to learn on the fly if he wants to perform at an acceptable level with the starters.
Guards Miss Blocks, Ajayi Stuffed:
Laremy Tunsil and Jermon Bushrod have been huge upgrades over the Dolphins’ previous starting guard tandem. However, they have struggled against the run.
Tunsil and Bushrod have key blocking assignments down field on this play. However, they do not do what is required of them on this play, and it ends up with Ajayi stuffed in the backfield.
Tunsil and Bushrod will both need to improve against the run if the Dolphins want to have a balanced attack in 2016. This play was an extreme example, but does represent some of the struggles they have experienced when Coach Gase chooses not to have his team attack through the air.
In Thursday’s game, the Dolphins put much more good on the tape than bad. While there were obviously issues, and the team struggled in areas we expect them to for the duration of the season, some elements of play saw improvement. The run defense looked much better, and the passing game took another step forward.
The third preseason game is usually the last meaningful work for the starters until Week 1. I would expect the Dolphins to rest Ryan Tannehill and most major players on offense next week, outside of rookies who they feel need experience. On defense, I would not be surprised if most of the starters played for a final tune up, with the exception of Wake, Suh, Williams and Jones.
The Dolphins clearly still need help in some key areas, but anyone who has watched the three preseason games should be able to agree that Thursday’s performance was their most well rounded exhibition thus far.
Now, they will be left to hope that their improvement continues into Week 1.
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