This is going to be a fun week because the Miami Dolphins are undefeated and they’re playing a very meaningful (enormous) game against the AFC East dominating New England Patriots on Sunday.
The Dolphins put a lot of stuff on tape in their 28-20 victory over the Raiders so lets delve into some of that as we do every Tuesday in this space:
The first play is terrible for the Dolphins because Oakland receiver Jordy Nelson catches a pass from Derek Carr and scampers (also runs) 61 yards. The play:
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So what’s going on here? Coach Adam Gase was not happy that some media (no idea who) blamed Jerome Baker for this big play by Oakland.
That is obviously not correct because Baker saved a touchdown. And Nelson wasn’t his assignment.
As you can see on the play cornerbacks Bobby McCain and Xavien Howard have coverage of the receivers in the Oakland bunch formation. McCain clearly signals his intention on who he’s covering by tapping his behind.
Howard either missed the signal or expected Nelson to cut to the sideline — perhaps from film study. Obviously, Nelson cut in and that left Howard out of position to chase.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, playing safety because Reshad Jones was inactive with a shoulder injury, then reacts slowly and cannot recover soon enough to make a tackle.
Baker? The dude ran down a wide receiver. He’s a 220-pound linebacker. That’s impressive.
The next play again shows confusion in coverage by the Miami defense. But this time it’s not the corners who fail.
This time the cornerbacks pick up their assignments in man coverage, leaving Nelson who runs into the heart of the Dolphins defense, to be covered by a linebacker. My guess, and that’s all it is on this one, is that Raekwon McMillan is supposed to run with Nelson.
My guess is also that Kiko Alonso had the back out of the backfield.
The point is a linebacker blew this coverage. You pick which linebacker.
Neither cover Nelson. And the single high safety cannot get over in time to cover up for the mistake. Touchdown.
Fine, so enough defensive busts. Let’s check out Miami’s first touchdown of the day ...
You see the Dolphins in trips left (look, I’m using football terminology!) with Stills the inside receiver. And what Stills does is he attacks the route which, in this formation, leaves him matched with safeties.
Stills is so fast he climbs up on the safeties, running even with one of them by the 15 yard line and separating by the goal line.
Oh, yeah, Ryan Tannehill delivers a dime. And then he gets hit.
If you can, also notice the blocker on the right side. Yes, that is tight end Mike Gesicki. He is basically in one-on-one blocking with a defensive end. Kenyan Drake could probably do a little better job chipping (another football term) as he goes out on his route. But the point is Gesicki, drafted as a pass-catching tight end, blocks a defensive end on this one.
And that leads us to more Gesicki. Gase said on Monday that coaches have wanted to see Gesicki play harder. Faster.
“I saw some things aggression-wise that we’ve been waiting for,” Gase said. “We’ll keep building off of that.”
So let me show the play Gase was talking about:
You see Gesicki cutting across the middle and when he catches the pass, he’s not making a Ted Ginn beeline for the sideline. He’s straight up field. And he lowers his shoulder and tries to run over the safety.
He initiates the contact. If that continues, the Dolphins will have something with this kid.
The final play is the game winner. I call it the game winner because the Dolphins were trailing 17-14 with 7:30 to play.
And then Gase dug way back into his bag ‘o tricks to this little ditty for a touchdown and a 21-17 lead. The Dolphins didn’t look back.
The play attacks the defense in that it asks Oakland defenders to think. Oh, noes!
Notice when Jakeem Grant leaks out of the backfield, the Raiders’ left cornerback has to make a decision. Does he go with Grant, or does he step up and try to contain against Albert Wilson? There is clearly hesitation and so he does ... neither.
He just kind of holds his ground.
Wilson thus has a good look at Grant rather than having a defender in his face. And Grant is running wide open.
But the most impressive part of this play to me is that Grant, all 5-7 and 169 pounds, breaks two tackles after he catches the football. He breaks a tackle at the 11-12 yard line. And then he breaks another one at the goal line to get in for the score.
That shows effort and great will. He would not be denied.