Wild West Shootout


You can call him “Tuaman” from here on out because Tuanigamanuolepola Donny Tagovailoa is definitely that dude! Picture Tuaman, the outlaw gunslinger, stepping into an old Spanish villa style Californian saloon filled with biker gang ancestors on horseback slowly sipping their moonshine from mouths on faces hidden by the low brims of their worn out 10-gallon hats. Picture Tuaman confidently stepping up to the bar knowing he is in hostile territory but fully sanguine in his belief in his ability to get out alive because just moments ago he swaggered past the doorman who failed to disarm him of his ebony and ivory twin set Colt 45s on his waist. “There goes Tuaman, the righty who prefers to shoot with his left,” mumbles the barkeep nervously anticipating the shootout that will inevitably come next while filling Tuaman’s glass with his famous usual order. Before Tuaman’s enemies can stand or rush him to lay a hand on him, the snake-life reflexes of Tuaman grabs his most trusted piece Tyreek from his shoulder holster and unleashes a barrage of projectiles that hit all their targets true and center mass. Tuaman returns to sip his chosen cup of poison while his enemies hit the floor seconds after Tuaman had already returned to his seat but before they really knew what hit them. That’s exactly what transpired in Sunday’s wild west shootout in SoFi Stadium where Tuaman the Samoan gunslinger stood out above the rest.


No D in L.A.

In a game where there was absolutely zero complimentary football, Tuaman stepped up to the plate and like Jeter made the biggest hits of his career. One sided game full of offense? No problem. I’m your guy. I got your back! When Tuaman’s team needed him the most, he stepped up and delivered darts to his exceptional teammate: codename “The Cheetah.” Tyreek Hill has made no secret or apologies about his desire to hit 2,000 yards receiving this season and with this kind of start it seems possible. Hill was absolutely uncoverable and constantly got behind the Charger defense that gave Miami fits in SoFi stadium during their visit last year. There was no repeat of last season’s outcome. Tyreek was out for blood as he let the Chargers’ secondary know that they couldn’t guard him and he let the Chargers fans know that he was “here.” It was a Dolphins crowd though if we’re being honest. When the Chargers’ Justin Herbert got hit with an intentional ground penalty, the fans were so loud I thought the Dolphins were playing at home.

The lack of complimentary football is actually the politest way that I can state it. Instead of “where’s the beef” this game was more like “where’s the defense?” For most of the game the Dolphins defense could not stop a nosebleed and the Chargers defense could not cover a pimple scar with the most expensive MAC cosmetics collection. The Chargers offense was running all over the field like they were playing Madden on the rookie level and Tua looked like he was back in the SEC going against an FCS non-conference opponent like The Citadel. It was fun to watch but frustrating to analyze.

Since this is a Dolphins blog I am going to analyze this from a Dolfan’s point of view. I must say as excited as I was about the Dolphins’ offense today, I was equally quite disappointed with the Dolphins defense today. I am aware that the past is prologue and so I was fully expecting a fun high scoring shootout where the Chargers earned the right to be looked at as preseason home favorites but ultimately would go home with the L. I felt strongly that the Dolphins would find a way to win, which happened. I am quite happy about that. However, as an equities and commodities trader, I look at trendlines more than most and the trends in this game were quite stark for the Dolphins defense. There was no organic pass rush all game with our front four and the Dolphins could not stop the run whatsoever. Every touch for Ekeler felt like a first down. It was truly difficult to watch us get gashed over and over again. Giving up chunk plays over the top is one thing but getting punched in the mouth in the trenches for 234 yards on the ground is just tough to watch.


Fangio’s Philosophy

Vic Fangio is hailed as a brilliant defensive mind and deservingly so. He has earned the defensive guru moniker because he is one. However, that beautiful mind of his is also notoriously quite stubborn. Fangio’s tendencies are to play safe read-and-react defensive schemes. Fangio wants to rush 4, drop 7, and play sound fundamental football. Which sounds good when you have the dudes to do it. But what happens when you don’t? We have been here before, very recently with this roster. This Dolphins defense is built to be fast and aggressive. Causing havoc by sending free rushers is the brand that Brian Flores and Josh Boyer built when he started building this unit back in 2019.

I understand that Fangio does not like to over penetrate and have his lines get out of position, but he needs to break some of these tendencies earlier in the game rather than waiting until the end of the game when our backs are against the wall. Wilkins and Seiler are proven run stuffers and can create central pressure on the quarterback when you let those guys twist, stunt, get out of their gaps and go. Run blitzing to augment the penetration covers when the line loses integrity. Yes, it’s a feast or famine strategy, but those big guys tend to eat very well when they do. Let them loose. Making them fill gaps and take on double teams to free the edge guys just isn’t what they excel at, and since the Dolphins aren’t top notch in coverage when the quarterback has time to throw, you’re going to give up big plays in the passing game. That’s what happened in Sunday’s game.

When you have alpha males in the middle of your defensive line being handcuffed in their approach and not being able to attack the interior offensive linemen directly in front of them you get guys who are great at stopping the run giving up big run plays that lead to 11 plays 75 yard touchdown drives that get wrapped up in 3 minutes. No bueno. And what are we sacrificing them for? Because it’s not like Chubb and Phillips have thrived in their wide sets with this scheme either. I would argue that Phillips came alive at the end of the 4th quarter when Fangio finally turned the dawgs loose and started sending pressure. The film does not lie. Phillips comes from an attacking lineage of defenders at the University of Miami. He is an expert at taking advantage of one-on-one matchups when the protections are in conflict.

Case and point, on the Chargers’ ultimate drive where they needed just 3 points to win the game thanks to a Jason Sanders missed point after attempt, Fangio finally dialed up some pressure looks. First down and second down ended up being massive wins for the Dolphins defense. The Chargers ended up in 3rd and Alaska with the game on the line in a must pass situation. Then on 3rd down we came out in a rush 3 cover 8 zone look and I immediately threw up my hands because I knew what was coming next. I knew because it had been happening all game. As a matter of fact, it has been happening for the past 4 years. Herbert stands in the pocket with a whole dynastic era’s worth of time to throw and hits his receiver who is 5 yards wide open despite being surrounded by dropping defenders and the gain is 17 yards to make 3rd and 30 a manageable 4th and 13. Now I am beyond nervous and praying that Fangio brings the noise on 4th down! Thankfully, Fangio sent pressure on 4th down and Jaelan Phillips rewarded the defensive coordinator’s decision with a game winning sack.

Unfortunately, the Dolphins don’t have a dynamic front 7 that Fangio is used to having. However, the Dolphins are able to manufacture beneficial outcomes defensively with scheme. It’s going to be a long year if Fangio insists on playing rush four all year. It’s going to be a long year if we make our aggressive defensive tackles play gap sound all year instead of letting them penetrate, attack, and go on the hunt. I know that it’s not in Fangio’s nature, but it’s going to be a long season if he is this resistant to sending pressure all season. Both of the Dolphins stops in the 2nd half came as a result of Fangio sending pressure. Kader Kohou came on a corner blitz earlier in the 2nd half and almost got a safety out of it. Let’s do what our personnel is good at.


Tua vs Herbert

People often overhype the quarterback matchup considering that neither guy is going head-to-head against the other guy. Nevertheless, because of their draft day positions being selected back-to-back like the cover of “Lethal Weapon,” Tua and Herbert will always be linked and compared to each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until Canton and death do they part. Tua has the 2-1 advantage in those games and today’s game deserved to be on national television because the young man absolutely balled out. 28 completions on 45 attempts, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception in the end zone where he was being aggressive and threw Berrios a 50/50 jump ball against single coverage. I will take Tuaman on my team any day of the week. The way he was throwing lasers with anticipation all game and dropping bombs like the US Air Force was a thing to behold. His clutch throws are absolute heart stoppers. There is no situation in the game when Tua has the ball in his hands and I feel like he can’t make a positive play to put us in position to win.


We were told that the Dolphins were going to run the ball more this season. The Dolphins kept 5 RBs on their roster on final cut day to reinforce that theme. However, when you have Tyreek and Waddle and Tuaman throwing it to them, it is hard to make your gameplan be a divorce from your best players. There is no doubt in my mind that Tyreek and Tua are the best players on this team. As they go, so will the Dolphins. I always suspected McDaniel would have a hard time committing to the run because of this fact and my suspicions played out to be true in this first game of the season. Let’s see if McDaniel will run the ball more as the season goes on. Shoutout to the offensive line for doing an amazing job. Tua was not sacked all game and only hurried twice. Mack and Bosa only combined for 3 tackles and a big goose egg in the sack category. If you give Tuaman time, he will carve the opposing defense apart. Let’s keep Tua and Tyreek healthy and see how far they can carry us this season. Next up a divisional matchup on the road against the Patriots on Sunday Night. Fins up!



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