Sir Johnson, Duke of Miami

It was the union that seemed like the inevitable natural fit but for some reason still had not happened. How was a running back the caliber of Duke Johnson sitting at home when his hometown team, the Miami Dolphins, was in desperate need of a quality every down back? One shouldn’t need a match maker or dating app when your perfect match is sitting a couple of feet across from you and is clearly single and ready to mingle. Duke was added to the Dolphins practice squad a few weeks ago and actually had a forgettable 4 carry 18 yard performance against the Jets when the Dolphins played them the first go around in week 11. It took some injuries and a Coronavirus outbreak within the team to finally get Sir Johnson the beloved Duke of Miami a fair shot! Boy was he ready to take advantage of his opportunity when the moment presented itself. He had sharpened up his craft and stayed ready so that he wouldn’t have to get ready when his hometown team would be in desperate need of his services.

Things got off to a shaky start when an indecisive Tua Tagovailoa put the ball in Duke Johnson’s belly at the RPO mesh point, but their clear lack of familiarity caused a fumble when Tua tried to pull the ball out and Duke stepped up to block in order to give Tua more time to throw. Tua was quick to recover the fumble so it wasn’t a turnover, but it was not a great omen of things to come. That all changed when Tua started handing the ball to Duke instead of pulling it out of his belly. It was clear that Johnson was not there to play around and it could be a special day on the ground for the Miami Hurricane legend.

It was clear that Johnson was pressing and attacking the holes differently than Gaskin. He was hitting the holes and seams instead of dancing and losing the moment. Johnson was bursting through holes and running hard and breaking tackles and flashing speed to get to edge and spinning away from defenders and moving the chains and getting us into third and manageable situations and falling forward to make something out of broken plays and pushing the pile and reaching to break the plane of the goal line. It was a breath of fresh air for a team that has struggled at the bottom of the league’s rushing rankings. It even inspired Tua Tagovailoa who broke off a few nice running plays of his own including a play where totally ran over the defender Carter instead of sliding. The low man usually wins, but Tua annihilated his would-be tackler on that play with pure aggression.

Duke’s virtuoso performance was perfect timing as well because Tua would be the first to tell you that he didn’t have his best day out there throwing the football. He’s human, no one has a perfect game every time out. Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Kyler Murray all struggled this week. Still, Tua made enough plays with his arms and legs to get the win. He followed up his mistakes with scoring drives which showed mental toughness in a young quarterback under intense pressure to perform every single week. I am sure that Tua was happy to have Sir Johnson, Duke of Miami in his backfield on Sunday. It took a lot of pressure off him to have to hit all the short quick throws that he usually does to substitute for the Dolphins lack of a running game. That was made even more difficult by the COVID-19 forced absence of Tua’s favorite target Jaylen Waddle.

The Dolphins defense also appreciated Duke Johnson’s performance as his ball control time of possession eating running plays allowed them time to regroup and reassess their game plan, because they got off to a pretty rough start as well when they allowed the Jets to take their opening drive right down the field for a score. It could have easily been a two-touchdown deficit after Tua threw an interception on the second possession. However, Brian Flores decided to quickly abandon his plan to confuse Zach Wilson with complex coverages and start sending pressure. The Dolphins defense held the Jets to an FG which made it 10-0 but it felt like a game saving sequence because it allowed the Dolphins to be able to continue chipping away with the running game and get back in the game eventually evening up the score by halftime and taking the lead in the 3rd quarter.

The Miami crowd that was in Hard Rock started to fall in love with Duke Johnson’s performance as he ripped off big run after big run. It brought back a nostalgic feeling that we had rooting for Duke when he was a Miami Hurricane running up and down that same stadium field. A stadium he grew up just minutes away from. Someone asked “why are they booing every time number 28 touches the ball?” We Miami Canes Dolfans had to explain that it was actually cascades of the cheer “Duuuuuuuuuuuuke” raining down from the rafters and soaking the field. I am sure that had to make Duke Johnson get goosebumps as his childhood dream of playing professionally for his hometown team had finally come true. He did not disappoint his fans. As amazing and unbelievable as it sounds, this was Duke’s first 100-yard rushing game in the NFL and his first two touchdown game since his college days. Most importantly, he did it in a win that brought the Dolphins back to level at 7 wins and 7 losses and back in the hunt for a playoff spot. Six wins in a row? That’s nothing to scoff at! So for that I say, thank you Sir Johnson the Duke of Miami, long may you reign.

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