Not too long ago, everyone was predicting doom and gloom for the 2018 Miami Dolphins, with some even penciling them in as the worst team in football.
Fast forward to the end of Week 2 and the Dolphins are 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. (We’ll see how long that lasts...) Sure, they’ve won against teams like the Titans who had an injured Marcus Mariota throw two interceptions and the Jets with a rookie quarterback, but getting those wins isn’t something a bottom of the barrel team does though, right?
Anyway, several factors can be played into why Miami has started their season off successfully: Ryan Tannehill has had his issues, but his return has been an upgrade for the Dolphins at quarterback. The secondary has been really good, with the safety combination of Reshad Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick in particular standing out. The trade for Robert Quinn has also paid off so far, filling a hole at defensive end.
One big upgrade that has gone under the radar, however, comes with Miami’s wide receiving corps. In the offseason, Jarvis Landry was traded to the Browns, paving the way for the signings of Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola, as well as increased roles for Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant.
Landry was a god for PPR leagues, but his massive usage was sort of an anchor for the Dolphins, as they constantly force fed him underneath, making the offense a little predictable. With the new look receiving corps, however, the Dolphins have a fresh set of skill players each with unique attributes brought to the table.
This hasn’t been an outstanding offense so far, but it’s one that’s an upgrade over previous units, so to illustrate why that is, let’s look at why the Dolphins’ receiving corps has been so enticing.
Jakeem Grant flashed a little in 2017, and with a bigger role he’s made good and proved why the coaching staff was high on him. His speed and agility make him a dangerous option on screen passes, and he’s been reliable if you’re looking for yards after the catch.
In today’s NFL, you need guys who can get you yards after the catch. Speed is the name of the game and the Dolphins have it in spades.
Albert Wilson is another deadly option as a screen receiver, and while he’s not quite as fast as Grant is, he’s a little more versatile as a player, being able to work screens, shot plays and the slot.
Here, Wilson is inserted in the slot on a shallow crossing route. Ryan Tannehill is able to fire a rocket to him and he does the rest. Wilson makes a subtle—but outstanding—wiggle outside that allows him to turn the corner and turn this dumpoff into a Dolphins touchdown.
Last year with the Chiefs, Albert Wilson was eighth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA measurement (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average), which looks at a wide receiver’s value per play. This season he’s only 42nd, but he’s still higher than Jarvis Landry, who is 49th in DVOA.
But it’s Kenny Stills who will likely see the biggest impact in this new look Dolphins receiving corps. Stills is currently ranked 4th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA for the start of the season, only behind Desean Jackson, Tyreek Hill and Mike Williams. While Stills never received the target share Jarvis Landry did in Miami, I always thought he was the more efficient receiver, and he’s shown that so far this season.
With the improved receiving corps, the Dolphins have been able to run a more versatile, efficient passing offense, one that includes a significantly higher amount of switch concept passing plays. Stills happens to be the recipient of this particular switch concept, as Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains do a great job of scheming Stills open for the touchdown.
On Stills’ second touchdown of the game, he doesn’t do anything spectacular to get open, but with an increased focus going to him as the #1 wide receiver, his skill set is able to thrive and we can see just how good he truly is. His downfield speed allows him to get easy separation as Tannehill easily connects with him for the 75-yard touchdown.
It’s true that the Dolphins offense has had its issues: Ryan Tannehill has taken a few bad sacks and would like to have several throws back, and Josh Sitton’s season ending injury leaves a hole at offensive line that will be tough to overcome. But as far as skill players go, this is a much more talented unit than before, one in particular that I can buy into. With Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant, Miami has a talented, diverse cast of receivers that can create successful plays in different ways.
Now if DeVante Parker ever gets his career going.....