Miami Dolphins

Dolphins bolster analytics department, add in-game strategist

The Dolphins continue to invest heavily in analytics, hiring Matt Sheldon as their director of football research and strategy.

Sheldon comes to Miami from Chicago, where he was the Bears’ director of analytics and football research for the past two years.

Before that, he was a coach, both in the NFL and CFL. Most notably, Sheldon coached the Bills linebackers from 2006-2009.

Sheldon is expected to work on in-game strategy and tactics in Miami.

Sheldon has also served as a consultant for teams on the high school and collegiate level. He has a level of expertise in player tracking technology in sports, appearing in a panel on the subject at the MIT Sloan Sports analytics Conference in March in 2016.

“So many of these systems are really tuned towards open-field running,” he told SVG News at the time. “In American football, 45 percent of the players don’t open-field run on every play. We would like to see orientation to know when a player is running forward or backward. In the passing game, so many of the players are retreating from the line of scrimmage while facing the line of scrimmage in a back-pedal. The line play is so intriguing, but these systems are not drawing out that value at this time.

“[One example is] the ability to track movements of types of players that don’t do a lot of open-field running: an offensive lineman in pass protection or a lineman in a blocking play. Working backwards from what is necessary to be successful, [we determine] the traits to quantify the elite and then, hopefully, develop players up to that standard and select players that are competent in that area.”

Sheldon is yet another mind in the team’s burgeoning sports science and analytics department, joining Wayne Diesel, the Dolphins’ sports performance director, and Dennis Lock, the team’s director of analytics.

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