One week we always look forward to is when the Buffalo Bills travel down to Miami to take on the Dolphins. One of those reasons is whenever the Bills head south, their performance seems to be off the charts. This is also the case with Josh Allen seeing that in six games versus the Dolphins he has been named AFC Player of the Week three times. The other reason we love Dolphins week is that we get to talk to our good friend Kevin Nogle from The Phinsider to get a scouting report on Miami.
1. How would you grade the Week 1 performance?
The Dolphins were definitely up and down in Week 1. The offense put together a couple of beautiful drives, but then would come back and do nothing with the ball. Miami’s first half possessions were a touchdown, a three-and-out, a five-play drive to a punt, a three-and-out, and a field goal. Some of that was based on just not executing, including a bad drop from rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle who let the ball go straight through his hands on a third-down play. Some of it was just trying to find a rhythm. Hopefully some of it was simply Week 1 rust and they can shake it off and get moving in Week 2.
On defense, the team played more like the defense we expected to see. They are ripping at the ball constantly, trying to force fumbles. They did manage to get the ball out four times, with two recoveries, and I think you will continue to see that all season. Mac Jones stayed away from Xavien Howard all game, so no interceptions for the All-Pro after leading the league with ten last year, but he was one of the players who forced and recovered a fumble. The pass rush still needs to step up and prove itself. The Dolphins do not create pressure with just their front three, but they look to use different blitzes to keep the offense guessing from where the pressure will come, but, as we saw with the Steelers game for the Bills, Josh Allen does not do as well when there are more players in the secondary. The Dolphins have to find a way to create pressure while allowing for seven or eight players to be in coverage.
2. DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle had productive afternoons combining for 8 catches and over 100 yards with a touchdown, how are they going to complement each other?
They are going to become such a great pairing. We learned on Friday that wide receiver Will Fuller, who was suspended last week as the final game of a six-game suspension handed down last year, will not play on Sunday due to a personal issue that has taken him away from the team. Whenever Miami is able to put all three of those players - and that is not even counting Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant, and Mack Hollins - they are going to have a fun wide receiver group. Both Parker and Waddle play big, despite Waddle only being 5-foot-10, and Tua Tagovailoa does not seem to be afraid to throw the ball up and let them go get it. We started to see the longer passes last week that were missing in 2020, so that is a positive. Waddle’s speed makes him a danger in both the slot and outside, and he will pick up yards after the catch once he has the ball in his hands. He is obviously a rookie, so there is some projection in that and we will see if he continues to have success this year or if he hits the rookie wall, but he is looking good early.
Expect Waddle to run slants to try to open up the deep ball. Expect Parker to be more physical, not trying to create space but using his size to go get jump balls. The goal is absolutely to get the ball to the playmakers as quickly as possible, then let them make the plays.
3. On the flip side Mike Gesicki didn’t have a catch, is that a cause for concern?
It definitely was surprising because the expectation is Gesicki becomes one of the elite tight ends in the league this year. Maybe not Darren Waller or Travis Kelce levels, but definitely the tier below that. He has the potential to be a special tight end, and it started to really show up last year. I think part of the issue was simply Miami wanting to keep tight ends to help the offensive line. Miami’s o-line is still incredibly young, with rookie Liam Eichenberg, second-year Solomon Kindley, third-year Michael Deiter, second-year Robert Hunt, and fifth-year Jesse Davis all starting. Even if Austin Jackson resumes his role as the starting left tackle, that is just pulling a rookie out for a second-year player. Keeping tight ends to assist the younger guys acclimate to the speed of the game makes a lot of sense.
I expect Gesicki to be more involved in the passing game moving forward, especially if the Dolphins can have early success each week with Parker and Waddle to open up the middle of the field for Gesicki in the seams, but if they do not like the way the offensive line is protecting, you could see more blocking assignments for Gesicki.
4. In the past, Josh Allen has had plenty of success down in Miami, what adjustments do you hope the defense makes?
Just find a way to slow him down. I do not think you can stop Allen from picking up some yards on the ground, but you cannot let him have 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-yard runs against you, and Miami seems to always allow those. The Dolphins have been built to stop Tom Brady and get pressure up the middle, but that does not work when Allen simply runs around the end and takes off. Containment is critical this week. The Miami secondary should be a beast this year, so forcing Allen to stay in the pocket is key. I know that sounds crazy, given Allen’s passing last year, but if he starts pressing, we can see some of the overthrows and inaccuracy creep back in, in which case Xavien Howard and the rest of the secondary can make a play on the ball and create the turnover to get the ball away from Allen.
5. It is only Week 2 but this game could have major implications on the AFC East, would you agree?
It is crazy how much that is a true statement. If Miami comes out of this game with a win, they are 2-0 on the year, with both of those wins coming in the division, giving them the early head-to-head tiebreaker against both Buffalo and New England. If Buffalo wins, they jump into the AFC East lead and now have the tiebreaker against Miami. This game could mean a 2-0 Dolphins, a 1-1 Patriots or Jets, and 0-2 Bills and the loser from the Patriots-Jets. It could mean a 1-1 Bills, Dolphins, Patriots/Jets and the 0-2 Patriots/Jets. This game either separates Miami early or jumbles up everything, even while putting Buffalo back in the top spot in the division. There is so much football to be played, but this game in Week 2 really does seem like it has some meaning to it.