Rebound Over the Raiders

The Miami Dolphins rebounded from their pre-bye loss in Germany to the Kansas City Chiefs with a gritty performance led by their defensive unit that was once very maligned. The Raiders were a tough out that proved to be up for the fight, but try as they might, they just could not sustain offense drives against this formidable Dolphin defense. The Raiders forced 3 turnovers and only scored 6 points off them. The last few weeks the defense of Miami has solidified with the return of Jalen Ramsey and looking at the scores and production of the two units comparatively, one can make a strong argument that over the last several weeks the defense has been the strength of this Dolphin team. Is this a trend and future feature of the system moving forward or is this merely a glitch in the matrix that will correct itself as the offense works through it’s slight malaise?

Malaise maybe be too strong of a hyperbolic word considering that we are still talking about the #1 offense in the NFL led by the #1 QB, but the recent scoring outputs, third down conversion metrics, and red zone TD rate statistically do not track at the red hot pace that the “greatest show on surf” started the season with. There are some reasons for that. The interior line play has been a bit reduced due to injury and De’von Achane has not been able to stay on the field. Achane when healthy is cleary this team’s second best offensive weapon behind Tyreek Hill. His speed puts the fear of God in defensive coordinators as his pace is capable of stretching the field horizontally to the same dimension that Tyreek Hill can stretch it vertically. We need to do all that we can to make sure Achane is healthy for the stretch run of the season and the playoffs. He is THAT important.
Jalen Ramsey has been as good as advertised. Maybe even better. He is basically a no-fly zone with legs. Violate those parameters and your quarterback rating will take a hit as you inevitably throw interceptions. The man tracks the ball like his brain was engineered with F-22 Raptor 5th generation guidance tech. Xavien Howard has been no slouch as Ramsey’s wingman and has held down the opposite side as well. Kader Kohou is back at his natural position in the slot where he has been dominant. Gone are the days of seeing Kohou get cooked on the boundary by outside receivers with no backup or calvary to relieve him. Lord Fangs has also redeemed himself high up in his ivory tower like press booth. Fangio has been giving out the kind of candy that gives OC’s stomach aches during the scary hours on Halloween. His mixed bag of coverages along with timely blitzes has proven to be the exact cocktail that this defense needed to be dominant.  We don’t have the kind of pass rush that will get home in 3 seconds, but with the defenders we have flying around securing the back end, it causes the opp triggerman to hold the ball and that’s when our guys like Phillips and Chubb feast.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Jalen Ramsey (5) intercepts a pass in the end ozone intended for Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tre Tucker (11) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 20-13. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee )
The Dolphins have a defense that can travel now. They have a defense that can compete for a championship now. They have done it on both coasts and on two continents. Early in the season as the Dolphins were giving up tons of yards and points to the likes of the Los Angeles Chargers and the Buffalo Bills, I believed that we needed to revert back to the blitz pressure scheme that we saw under Nate Boyer and originally innovated by Brian Flores. I was wrong. Sometimes Vanilla ice cream is just what the menu calls for. Just because we read and react in a vanilla scheme doesn’t mean that this defense is playing soft. Oh contraire mon frere. This isn’t soft serve in a waffle cone, these are artic blocks of bitter vanilla flavored heavy whipping cream and black ice that will freeze your fingertips on contact then knock you on your ass when the chill hits your chest. The irony of them serving it up in this Miami winter heat. Those dudes are thumping now. Kudos to them for sticking with it and dramatically improving. I don’t mind winning with my shield instead of my sword.
The Dolphins offense will figure out to be ruthless in the red zone once again. I am sure of it. This is not the Kansas City offense where suddenly nothing is working despite having the best QB and TE in all of football and one of the best offensive minds we have ever seen on the planet dialing up the plays. That is a true head scratcher. I believe the Dolphins need to clean up a few things execution wise and they will be every bit of that number one rating again. It seems that the dominance of Tyreek Hill this year has not been a simpatico resonance with Jaylen Waddle like it was last season. Last year both receivers played off each other. This season Waddle has not been targeted enough and when Cheetah got hurt on Sunday against the Raiders it definitely raised my antenna that suddenly Waddle came alive and was unguardable. He went from zero catches to 3 catches in a row and led us to a score when we needed someone to step up considering that Hill and Achane were both out hurt. Jaylen Waddle did so seamlessly. That let’s me know that Waddle is available to do that at any moment and McDaniel/Tua needs to utilize him more.
The Dolphins are dominant at home. They simply don’t lose there. Tua is 15-1 and while he hasn’t been perfect coming off byes at home (last year on Sunday night against Pittsburgh and this year against the Raiders), he has been remarkably efficient and scores enough to win. Winning is the name of the game and like Khalid, that’s all Tua Tagovailoa does. Braids or not. Would we have liked to see the offense get the first down and kill the game in the victory formation at the end of the game? Sure. However, our defense seems to be really good at closing out games in clutch moments for us. So it’s not a bad idea to lean on them until Tua and the offense is ready to do the same consistently. Last year against Pittsburgh the defense got an interception (Noah Igbinoghene) to seal the game. The Bills at home last season was an epic finale where our defense held on. Ken Dorsey lost it in the booth that day and now he has lost his job.
Against the Chargers in the season opener this year, the Miami defense confirmed the win with a sack of Justin Herbert and the Ramsey interception completed the victory over the Raiders this past Sunday. Tua and the offense have had some clutch final drive clinchers against the Ravens and Lions on the road last season, but it has been a mixed bag where they have faltered on final drives against the 49ers and Chiefs as well. We are a work in progress for sure but the exciting perspective is this: while the national media debates their foolish narratives about the Dolphins not having a win against a winning team and the number of combined losses their defeated opponents have, this team is 7-3, sits atop the AFC East, and we have yet to put a complete game together where our offense and defense both play to the top tier levels that we know they are capable of. Now think and marinate on that for a moment. Next up? Bad news for the Jets on Black Friday. Enjoy your turkey. Fins up!

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