Not a lot of people bothered to give the Dolphins a chance to start out 1-0, but they did with a 27-20 homestand victory over the Titans. Several players, including Ryan Tannehill, Kenny Stills, Frank Gore, and Jakeem Grant were some of the keys to the upset victory.
Arguably the biggest factor in Miami’s win on Sunday was the safety combination of rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick and veteran Reshad Jones. Fitzpatrick was drafted in the first round of this year’s draft and should have no problem becoming a stud, while Jones is already one of the best safeties in the league.
In that week 1 game, Fitzpatrick had six tackles and a goal line stop while Jones returned two interceptions for 80 yards and had 1.5 tackles for a loss. Could we be looking at the very next star safety duo in the league? We very well could.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at both players’ performances separately.
Fitzpatrick wasted little time making an impact on this play. Titans receiver Corey Davis is set up to block Fitzpatrick on this Derrick Henry run. Henry breaks for the sideline, but Fitzpatrick spins away from Davis’ hands and stops Henry in his tracks. If Fitzpatrick wasn’t there, this likely would’ve been a first down for the Titans.
On the very next play, Fitzpatrick is spying on the backfield. He recognizes the play action fake in time, spins around again, and tracks down Davis, who only gains a yard. Fitzpatrick’s efforts on this drive helped stall the Titans offense as they were forced to kick a field goal.
Finally, Fitzpatrick came up big on the Dolphins’ goal line stand near the end of the first quarter. Marcus Mariota’s throw is behind, but it looks like Corey Davis could still have gotten in the end zone if not for Fitzpatrick’s presence. Fitzpatrick initially guards one of the receivers in the bunch set before letting him go and setting his sights on Davis. He’s able to stop him short of the end zone and turn the ball over on downs.
Minkah Fitzpatrick played like a stud in his debut, especially early on. Now let’s check Reshad Jones’ tape.
Jones came up big with two interceptions in this game, but he also had a massive tackle for a loss on Titans back Dion Lewis. Jones is sent in as an extra blitzer on this play and goes completely undetected. With the lane in front of him, he charges ahead and crushes Lewis for a loss.
Jones’ first interception was kind of a gimme, but his second interception was spectacular. Jones is guarding Delanie Walker on this play, and while it looks like a miscommunication between Walker’s route and Gabbert’s pass, Jones’ play on the ball was excellent: He cuts off Walker’s route, pushes off, and makes a great diving interception, returning it for 54 yards.
To conclude, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Reshad Jones were vital for the Dolphins winning this one. The ball tracking ability of both of these safeties came up big when the team needed them most, and Fitzpatrick in particular showed exactly why Miami took him in the first round. Time well tell what’s to come, but the combination of Fitzpatrick and Jones is something I’m looking forward to seeing for the rest of the 2018 season.