The Miami Dolphins lost 31-21 on Sunday, dropping their sixth game of the season and the first of two meetings this year with the Buffalo Bills. The game was a lot closer than the final score showed, with Miami pulling to within a field goal before the onside kick was returned for the final touchdown of the game. While the Dolphins remain winless on the year, they have looked better each week lately, and Sunday was a continuation of that.
There were several players who had solid to really good performances during the game. It felt more like watching a Dolphins game should feel each week, rather than watching a team that is “tanking” a season. It felt like a fun game, even as the Dolphins lost. We grade who saw their stock rise the most and who saw their stock value take a hit on Sunday.
Stock up: Mike Gesicki, tight end - Gesicki looked like a seam-threat tight end who can go up and use his size to high point a pass and muscle balls away from defenders. In other words, he looked like exactly the player Miami needs him to be. Tight end is a hard position to transition from college to the NFL, and add in the extra time Adam Gase used Gesicki as a blocking tight end rather than allowing him to be a receiving threat, and it could be that, under Brian Flores, we are starting to see Gesicki blossom into a threat for the team. He finished the game with four receptions on four targets, picking up 41 yards. Add in another catch for 28 yards, which was called back on a holding penalty, and drawing a pass interference call to change a 2nd-and-11 situation into 1st-and-10, and Gesicki had a really strong day.
Stock down: Kenyan Drake, running back - 14 carries for 66 yards. 6 carries for 21 yards. 6 carries for 13 yards and a touchdown. 3 carries for 7 yards and a touchdown. One of those four stat lines belongs to Drake, the presumed main running back for Miami this year. Mark Walton again started for the Dolphins, and received the most carries. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kalen Ballage each had a rushing touchdown. That leaves Drake as the player with six carries for 21 yards. He did have three receptions for 37 yards, but he is very quickly disappearing from Miami’s offensive game-plan. Drake was on the field for 30 offensive plays, 41 percent of Miami’s offensive snaps, but Walton played 38 snaps, 52 percent. Whatever made Adam Gase not fall in love with Drake last year appears to be carrying over to his playing time under Brian Flores this year. It feels like Drake could be sliding behind Ballage at this point on Miami’s depth chart.
Stock up: Offensive line - The Miami offensive line was actually successful on Sunday. They allowed one sack on the day, and it came on a gadget play with Albert Wilson trying to take a backwards pass and turn it into a double-pass play. The blocked for 109 yards of rushing, though 13 of that came from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as he scrambled away from pressure and two came on a fake punt with Matt Haack rushing for the conversion. It was definitely not perfect, but it was much better than what we had seen so far this year. Evan Boehm, thrown into the starting center position due to injury to Daniel Kilgore, and Shaq Calhoun moving into the right guard spot actually seemed to solidify a shaky unit. Boehm had some snap issues and he stepped on Fitzpatrick’s foot once, but he played well for the most part. The offensive line definitely raised their stock on Sunday.
Stock down: Josh Rosen, quarterback - The Dolphins had two active players not play on Sunday. One was safety Stephen Parker. The other was Rosen. Not taking a snap is why Rosen’s stock falls this week. Miami’s offense looked efficient and capable against one of the top defenses in the league, and that cannot help Rosen’s case to stick with the club next season. This is more of a case of not doing anything than it is that Rosen did something wrong, but Fitzpatrick looking more like FitzMagic than FitzTragic, has to have Rosen’s stock going down.
Stock up: Taco Charlton, defensive end / Vince Biegel, linebacker - Four games, three sacks. Those are the stats for Charlton, who Miami scored off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys in September. Four games, two sacks. Those are the stats for Biegel, who was sent to Miami as a part of the trade that sent Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints in September. That is Miami’s pass rush. It is not Charles Harris, it is not Jerome Baker - though he is disrupting enough - it is two players deemed expendable from their previous clubs who are breaking through for Miami. Both of them are showing that they should have an increased role this year and should have a spot on the team next year when Miami moves from tear-down to re-build. They are both impressing lately.
Stock down: Christian Wilkins, defensive tackle - Wilkins’ stock goes down because this is the second time in just a few weeks where he has been penalized for unnecessary roughness, this time leading to an ejection just 33 seconds into the game. The first time, he suplexed a player in order to tackle him. This week, he threw a punch right at the start of the game, and found himself in the locker room. He played two snaps because of the ejection - I swear it came on the first play for the defense, but it actually was the second - and Miami was scrambling from then on. Charles Harris played a lot more this game than he had the previous two, in part because Miami moved him into the defensive interior to cover for Wilkins’ absence. The former Clemson star is going to be a really good player in the league, but right now emotions are controlling him at times and it is leading to bad decisions that impact both him and the team.
Stock up: Mark Walton, running back - A bonus stock up. Walton looks like a starting running back in the league. He was effective with the ball in his hands on Sunday, picking up 66 yards on 14 carries. His 4.7 yards per carry average was well above the 3.5 yards average from Drake, who had the second highest average on the team. He looked like he could run with power and use speed and moves to get out of some tight places. He could be another steal the Dolphins found, joining Charlton and Biegel on that list. Miami acquired Walton after a minicamp tryout after his release from the Cincinnati Bengals following three arrests in the offseason. In two starts with the Dolphins, he has 20 carries for 98 yards. Miami will likely continue to platoon the running back responsibilities, with Drake and Ballage seeing playing time, but Walton looks like he could write himself into the number one role for now.
Honorable mention: DeVante Parker, wide receiver / Preston Williams, wide receiver - Maybe both receivers should receive stock up ratings, but I already have four of those and I do not want to seem like everything was great for Miami this week. There are plenty of things they need to fix, but Parker and Williams both played well. Williams caught six of eight passes targeting him for 82 yards, while Parker caught five of 10 for 55 yards with a score. There were some miscues, including Parker slipping on a route leading to an incomplete pass that could have easily been caught otherwise, and Williams fumbling, but both players look like good pieces for the Dolphins offense. Could they be the building blocks, along with Gesicki, for what Miami’s receiving corps looks like moving forward?