“That’s how you dominate!” - Raekwon Davis after Miami’s 33-10 victory against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday
Yes, Mr. Davis, yesterday’s win against the Carolina Panthers was definitely a dominant performance by the Miami Dolphins in nearly every facet of the game. The offense moved the ball with relative ease. The defense stifled a potent Panthers’ rushing attack while also grounding most attempts at moving the ball through the air. The special teams unit blocked a punt and took the subsequent recovery into the endzone for Miami’s first score of the game.
This four game win streak sure feels nice after such a disappointing start to the season. One has to wonder what could have been if Miami gets the ball to bounce their way just a couple of times early on in the year. But, alas, the past is the past, and we’re focused on the present, so let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly... wait! Check that.
We’re feeling positive about the direction of this franchise today, so we’re going to lean into that for this week’s column. We’ll analyze TWO goods, and only one bad. Sound good? GOOD!
Miami’s young stars shine bright against the Panthers
With so much criticism being hurled at Miami for “wasting” high picks over the past couple of drafts, us Fin fans can point to yesterday’s game as a reason for advocating for patience when it comes to the development of young players in the NFL.
Tua Tagovailoa has been much maligned by members of the national media, local media, and even a substantial segment of the Dolphins’ fanbase since being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Yesterday marked Tua’s 16th start in the NFL, so basically, the completion of his rookie year. His stats over that time frame?
351 completions on 524 attempts
67% completion percentage
21 passing touchdowns
6 rushing touchdowns
90.5 passer rating
That’s a good season. That’s a REALLY GOOD rookie season.
I’d love to see how his game would improve and progress with a competent offensive line, a serious rushing attack, and a complement of healthy pass catchers, but for now, I’m confident in saying that Miami should continue to invest in Tua Tagovailoa as the quarterback of the future and dismiss any prior notions of trading multiple first round picks, plus more, for a different QB who currently plays – or sits on the inactive list – for another franchise.
Over the first half of Jaylen Waddle’s rookie campaign, many folks were bemoaning the fact that he was only catching short passes and doing nothing with them after the completion was made. Well, yesterday saw Waddle reel in 9 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, including a 57 yard catch-and-run that set up a Myles Gaskin rushing touchdown just a short time later. It was Waddle’s best game as a pro. He’s currently on pace for 100+ catches for over 1,000 yards. Oh, and Miami’s trades that saw them drop from pick 3, to pick 12, and then land at pick 6 netted additional first and third round selections. That’s nice.
Jaelan Phillips was the first EDGE defender taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, however his career got off to a somewhat slow start while he adjusted to the nuances of the NFL game. During that stretch, many people had plenty to say about how Miami wasted yet another first round selection. Well, yesterday against the Panthers, Phillips shut everyone up by routinely getting to Carolina’s QBs, amassing 3 sacks on the day. In fact, Jaelan would have had a 4 sack day if PJ Walker wouldn’t have slipped his grasp late in the contest. Phillips has been coming on as of late, and if he continues this trajectory, Miami will have a monster along the defensive line – one that teams will have to gameplan for if they want to have success against the Dolphins.
When Jevon Holland was selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, many fans were livid that Miami once again passed on selecting a feature running back. I’ll own up to this, as I was one of those fans. However, Holland has been an absolute revelation for the Dolphins’ defense this season. Yesterday saw Jevon haul in another interception, this time against former MVP, Cam Newton. Holland’s play as of late is a major reason why Miami’s defense is performing as well as they have been during their 4-game winning streak.
Miami’s defense stifles Carolina’s offense, holding them to just 7 points
The Panthers managed just 10 points in yesterday’s game, yet Miami’s defense was only responsible for 7 of those points, as Austin Reiter’s pitiful snap at the end of the first half gift-wrapped a field goal for the Panthers going into halftime. After that, the Panthers did not score a single point for the rest of the game.
Let’s take a look at how each drive went for Carolina against the Dolphins yesterday.
Field goal (Reiter’s 3 point special)
Those are some pretty good results, if you ask me. As mentioned above, Holland had an interception. Xavien Howard did Xavien Howard like things, and reeled in another interception of his own. Nik Needham completed the trifecta of turnovers and snagged a pick as well. As this defense goes, so does the rest of the team. If the defense plays well, Miami’s offense has shown that they can do just enough to put another notch in the win column. Let’s hope that Brian Flores’ crew can continue to dominate on Sundays (and one Monday) through the end of the year.
Austin Reiter’s snap issues; Jesse Davis’ blocking issues hurt Miami’s offense
I’m not going to continue to hammer Austin Reiter for his bad snaps in this game, as he has been serviceable while filling in for the injured Michael Deiter this season. Deiter should be back next week, so the banged up Reiter will likely return to the bench.
Jesse Davis is another story, however. His poor play continues to harm Miami’s offensive production. The sack he allowed on Miami’s first drive nearly caused a turnover which would have given the Panthers great field position had he not recovered the fumble. As it was, the miscue took the Dolphins out of field goal position, taking a presumed 3 points off of the board.
As the game continued, Davis found himself being routinely beaten off of the edge against a formidable pass rush from Brian Burns. He only gave up the one sack to Burns, yet if you folow this team closely, (and if you’re reading this column, you do) you know that Tua Tagovailoa’s pocket presence has masked many issues along the offensive line. If I could have just one Christmas wish, it would be that Miami replaces Davis with a longterm quality solution at the right tackle position this offseason. I believe that could greatly help Miami to unlock Tua’s potential going forward.
How are you feeling after Miami’s fourth consecutive victory? Do you think they can handle their business against both New York teams to pull even at 7-7 after 14 games? Are you thinking playoffs at this time, or are you in a wait-and-see mode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @MBrave13. Fins up!