Coinciding with the Dolphins’ three-game winning streak, there is some emergence for an offense that was otherwise dormant in the team’s 1-7 start.
The last two games produced three of the team’s biggest games of the season. The offense ran 100 yards against the New York Jets in Sunday’s victory, the first time the unit has reached that mark since Week 7. Intermediate quarterbacks continue to be a hindrance for an attack that still only has 18.3 points per game, which ranks 26th. in the NFL.
However, in the last few weeks there have been more games of tricks and wagering in the hands of more skilled players. While Wildcat lineup has been used throughout the season, it has come to light more in short-range situations in recent weeks, including rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle’s one-yard touchdown run against New York. Tight end Durham Smythe recorded an 18-yard reception against the Jets on a rigged game. And part of Albert Wilson’s increased use included a pair of setbacks for the former high school quarterback, although it didn’t result in any completion.
Asked about widening the net offensively, offensive coordinator and running backs coach Eric Studesville said there had been no concerted effort to pull out trick plays, and rather it was about ‘continuous efforts of staff trying to find opportunities to write successful plays.
“We are always trying to find what gives us the best chances,” he said on Tuesday. “We watch the tape and we study and we plan things. Lots of conversations come up. We have plenty of ideas in the room. One of the advantages of doing this together with all the staff is that everyone is involved and can brainstorm ideas. Some of them never get anywhere. But some of them do, and if they’re good ideas and we can control them and we think they give us a chance to run and make good plays, then we will.
After facing off against the Jets, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans, all of the teams that place in the league’s bottom 10 in yards per game allowed, the Dolphins’ game against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday will be the defense. tougher they’ve faced since Week 8 against the Buffalo Bills. Carolina is second in the league, behind Buffalo, with the fewest yards per play allowed, and Football Outsiders ranks the Panthers’ defense the third most effective unit in the league.
Playing cornerback like martial arts, Dolphins DC says
The cornerback is arguably the most difficult position to play in the NFL, with defensive backs often left on an island to follow the league’s most dynamic athletes. It’s even more of a task if you’re Xavien Howard or Byron Jones and you’re asked to do it at a higher pace than usual in the Dolphins’ aggressive and intensive schedule.
In explaining the position, defensive coordinator Josh Boyer drew a parallel to another intense, high-stakes sport.
“I’ve always kind of compared it to martial arts,” he said. “It’s a skill set and if you don’t practice your skills, your skills will decrease. And these guys work really hard at it everyday because it’s not a really easy thing to do. So we feel very lucky for the two guys that we have and we feel very lucky for the places we can put them in and these guys have done a great job for us.
Although Jones covered both of the Jets’ touchdown passes, improved pound-corner coverage played a big part in the defense’s turnaround in the mid-season. According to Next Gen Stats, Howard has been targeted eight times against New York and allowed four receptions for 37 yards.
“That’s the nature of the job,” Boyer said. “I coached in this position for many years. There are going to be teams, whatever your pattern, the majority of teams you see when it comes to third down, red [zone] domain, at some point you’re going to get a human version [coverage]whether it’s a lightning blanket or a man with help. We ask them to do a lot of things, but at the end of the day you are responsible for covering the guy that we need you to cover when we ask you to do it.