The Dolphins enter Week 2 atop the AFC East with a 1-0 record, courtesy of a thrilling 17-16 season-opening win against the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Massachusetts. With the Buffalo Bills (0-1) heading to South Florida on Sunday, Miami has an opportunity to make another statement and establish a firm division lead after the first two weeks of the regular season.
In this week’s mailbag, I take a look at the mixed-bag debut of the offense, the defensive performance and more. And a reminder that if you have questions you would like me to answer in future mailbags, you can ask me on Twitter or email me.
Here we go:
Daniel, what were they doing on the two scoring drives to open each half that they weren’t doing the rest of the game? And did the OCs take different series or did one call every play? Thx. - @SweepTheLeg337
I’ll answer the second question first: It’s everyone’s assumption — and Bill Belichick revealed as much — that George Godsey has been calling plays and did so on Sunday and the responsibility on game day is not being shared with Eric Studesville.
Now to your first, this is the question on everyone’s mind after the offense brilliantly stormed out to a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on its first possession, faltered for the rest of the half, opened the second half with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive then had the same fate until it ran the clock out on the final possession.
The first one or two possessions of each half are typically scripted. The coaching staff will put together a list of 15 or so plays that they feel good about and want to run — not in a particular order — to get a feel for the game and how the defense is playing them. You could tell in the opening possessions of each half; the offense looked crisp and even incorporated a bit of tempo to open the game.
The Patriots made adjustments, stopped the run and put the Dolphins in tough third-down situations in which Miami couldn’t rely on the run-pass option. Some of the struggles come down to execution, however. If Jaylen Waddle is able to bring in a catchable pass on third-and-10 on the offense’s third possession, the Dolphins likely come away with at least three more points. If Liam Eichenberg doesn’t trip on Solomon Kindley’s foot and allow a sack, maybe the final drive of the first half ends in a touchdown rather than a field goal.
I also noticed that all of the offense’s explosive plays — pass plays that generate at least 20 yards and run plays that generate at least 10 yards — all came on the scoring drives. While the chunk plays, especially through the air, are good to see, but they won’t always be available. The Dolphins will have to prove they can be better in third-down opportunities and methodically work down the field. If they can do that, the offense will be much more consistent.
Any Week 2 veterans who can help this Run-D? Bring back McKinney, perhaps? - @Capt_Cavephin
Week 1 certainly didn’t do anything to ease concerns about the team’s run defense. The Patriots picked up a 35-yard run on the first play from scrimmage and often ran the ball with success to set up rookie quarterback Mac Jones with manageable third-down situations. It didn’t help that starting nose tackle Raekwon Davis got injured.
I wouldn’t bank on any significant outside help, particularly a veteran such as Bernadrick McKinney. The team did have him on the roster throughout training camp, and despite him taking a hefty pay cut, the Dolphins decided to release him. This always had the potential to backfire; the only other offseason additions to the front seven were defensive linemen Jonathan Jenkins and Adam Butler, both of whom could be in line for an increase in snaps if Davis’ knee injury keeps him sidelined.
I saw a lot of things that are correctable: outside linebackers not setting the edge, defensive linemen getting pushed out their gaps and inside linebackers misdiagnosing the play, leading to big gains. Coaches and players will tell you those things can be fixed. Time will tell if the decision to part ways with McKinney was a mistake.
Was the defensive performance actually amazing? Their game plan worked, the Stars showed up and created turnovers, new editions like McCourty played well, and they held a well coached team to 16 points in their own building. - @rtate4th
Any time you hold an offense to 16 points, you have to be pretty happy with the performance. The defense wasn’t perfect; it allowed way too many third-down conversions and allowed Jones to get more comfortable as the game went on.
But as we all saw, the unit got two timely turnovers, including the one to seal the game. Jason McCourty had one of the best plays of the game, providing incredible coverage to force an incompletion on one of New England’s few deep attempts.
I do leave the game wondering how long it will take to get the run defense cleaned up, and I do think the pass rush could be better. However, the strength of this unit is in its secondary, and if the defense can keep forcing turnovers at this rate, the Dolphins will be in almost every game they play this season.
Any insight into how Fuller will be implemented into the offense in Week 2? Will he simply replace the position Albert Wilson filled Week 1? - @Cintronz
Coach Brian Flores was coy when asked on Monday how Will Fuller’s addition to the lineup could boost the offense. He also mentioned that Fuller will have to work to get the chemistry down with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and the rest of the offense, which is a valid point. Fuller did miss a significant portion of training camp due to an injury.
However, Fuller is well-known throughout the NFL for his speed, and that’s obviously why the Dolphins brought him to South Florida. I don’t think we will see the offense necessarily do anything different with him on the field. He just serves as another player who can move interchangeably on this offense. We wil likely see him in some similar roles to Waddle — motioning presnap, running in-breaking routes on RPOs and, of course, trying to stress defenses with deep routes. He doesn’t come in to replace Albert Wilson or any other player so much as he is to provide another skilled receiver for Tagovailoa. I will admit, though, that the coaching staff will have a tough decision to make with Fuller returning to the active roster; that makes seven wideouts on the 53-man roster and two of them — Mack Hollins and Jakeem Grant — saw limited snaps against the Patriots.
A lot of talk of Jones outplaying Tua; how much of that was the coaches for NE simply out coached Miami’s new coaches? Mac Jones tore up Miami’s blitz...almost like he was ready for it to come. We need to start holding coaches accountable too.
I have seen this take a lot in the last 24 hours, and it really depends on how you look at it. New England had a clear plan for Jones early; they wanted to run the ball early and not put too much on his plate. On the other hand, Miami didn’t have the luxury of a good running game but ran a heavy dose of RPOs, which gives Tagovailoa full control to either hand the ball to a running back or throw to a receiver, depending on how the defense is set up.
Both coaching staffs had good game plans, and sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition for making a better play. Miami’s offense is in its infancy stages and it will continue to learn more about itself as the season progresses.
As for the Tua-Mac comparisons, get ready for this to be the norm for the next 10-15 years.