Dolphins Take Command

The Miami Dolphins are in the number one spot in the conference and we are heading into week 14! Can you believe that? As a Dolfan, we are usually timid and anxious this time of year because this is normally the part of the season where things fall apart. However, this year we know that we have a really good team, but we are afraid to say it out loud because of so many disastrous Decembers in the past. Well let me tell you why this season is different. The Dolphins’ defense is legit and can travel. They are coming on at the best part of the season and suffocating teams with their relentless pass rush. The Dolphins offense is next level explosive. At any moment they can hit you over the top for a quick strike touchdown or gash you for the big play with the wide flanking runs. It has been ages since we have seen the Dolphins have this combination of an explosive offense with a great defense. This may be the first time we have ever had a complete team like this in our franchise history. Not to mention, this team has been absolutely dominant at home.

People will dismiss the win in our nation’s capital over the Commanders as yet another bad team bully result, but if you look at the fine details of the play execution you will see there is a lot more than meets the eye that this Miami team has yet to give. There is a lot of raw material that has not been mined and refined just yet. The mad genius McDaniel has been in his kitchen cooking and the entrees he may be serving in these cold temperatures may turn out to be quite hot and sweet for us but cold and bitter for the rest of the AFC. For example, media critics are saying Ron Rivera did not have safety help over the top for Tyreek and gave up deep bombs as a result. Which as a supposition is foolish for sure. However, if you rewatch the first Tyreek touchdown, you will see why Rivera was forced into these situations.

During the Dolphins’ opening drive on a typical running down (3rd & 2), they decide to go empty with five wide receivers. The Commanders countered by playing man across with a single high safety. However, the Dolphins kept a running back in personnel and that running back happened to be maybe the second fastest man in the league, De’Von Achane. Achane ended up matched up with a linebacker on the boundary. Uh-oh! This is the mismatch McDaniel truly wanted. This is how “uh-oh’s” become “oh no’s!” The linebacker knew he was in trouble pre-snap and motioned to his safety that he needed help over the top because he sensed Achane was going vertical. This caused the safety to stay hugged to the hash marks and begin backpedaling before the ball was even snapped to Tua in the gun. As the ball is snapped, the linebacker is immediately defeated by Achane’s rhythm step. He was burnt like he was put in a flash broiler. Achane was wide open for an easy touchdown the moment the ball was snapped. So the safety had to stay over on Achane’s side which forced the Commanders to play Tyreek one-on-one and we all know what happens when you play Tyreek one-on-one in man coverage. Especially when that defender is a rookie. At this point that “uh-oh” had officially become an “oh-no!”

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) catches the ball against Washington Commanders safety Kamren Curl (31) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

Honestly, it was pick your poison because if the safety cheated over to bracket Tyreek, then Achane would be wide open down the sideline with a linebacker eating his dust and Tua could have lofted his easiest touchdown pass of the season to the nearside boundary. Achane being split wide and going empty is a curveball in McDaniel’s pitching repertoire that has yet to be used much this season and could be devastating to teams down the stretch and in the playoffs. It makes it easy to see where the blitz is coming from (if the team makes the mistake of blitzing Tua) and it puts a tremendous amount of conflict and stress on the defense who are forced to make decisions in split seconds from terrible answer options. The speed on the field between Tyreek, Waddle, and Achane would give nightmares to defensive coordinators around the league. Imagine having to put your linebacker on Achane or your nickel corner on Waddle or Tyreek? Having to line up against the Cheetah, the Penguin, and the A-Train is a scary proposition that we haven’t really been able to witness due to injuries. McDaniel put them all on the same side on the subsequent drive by putting Achane in motion right before the ball was snapped and it caused the defense to have to make all kinds of business decisions post snap. They decided to gravitate to Achane (once again), which gave Waddle tons of space to operate. Achane has either become the ultimate decoy or his big play ability in the passing game is the sleeping secret weapon of the season that teams are too afraid to let us witness. I suspect there is more chemical engineering in Mike’s lab that we will see unveiled as the calendar progresses.

Tua Tagovailoa is dealing again! Outsiders may not have noticed it, but he has leveled up since the beginning of the season and has overcome his midseason malaise. Tua is throwing deep dimes on the run and the play is not automatically dead anymore just because pressure comes his way and his first read is not open. Tua is still getting the ball out lightning quick, however, he is now also moving better to extend plays and buy his guys extra microseconds to get separation before uncorking dimes all over the field. Sometimes all our guys need are extra microseconds and Tua is buying them that time with straight cash. Tua is taking the next step in his progression. He is balancing getting the ball out quickly with needing to extend plays briefly (when necessary) while still protecting himself from taking big hits. This perfect balance is necessary to throw off defenses who in the middle part of the season decided they were just going to grab and hold our receivers at the line of scrimmage to throw off the timing of our plays. While it is true that Tua is predominantly a precision rhythm thrower that needs guys to be where they need to be, he is also now throwing dimes even when things are slightly off schedule and need extra time to develop. Which is evidenced by the increase in our 3rd down conversions again.

Defensively the game on Sunday against the Washington Commanders was over after the Andrew Van Ginkel pick-six with a minute to go in the 1st quarter saw Miami go up 17-0. It was the Dolphins’ defense’s first full game after learning that Jaelan Phillips would be out for the season, but the guys stepped up well. Van Ginkel was a menace. He was disruptive all game and he was everywhere all at once. He harassed and pressured Sam Howell all game, he was close to blocking a punt, and of course he had the interception and return for the touchdown. It’s like we have our own version of Micah Parsons when Van Ginkel plays on the edge. It was 17-0 but it felt like 45-0 and the game was pretty much over from there. Ramsey, Howard, and Kohou are almost impossible to throw against at the moment. The pass rush and run stopping up the middle with Seiler and Wilkins has to be frustrating for opposition offensive coaches.. The scheme of Lord Fangio is truly rounding into form and with the Dolphins playing like this, I truly like their chances against anyone this December. Fins up!

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