The Miami Dolphins had five selections in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft and picked up several more rookies thereafter, meaning the team has young players who are in line to be key contributors. Each week of the 2021 season, I’m reporting on the progression of said first-year players and their impact on the team. Let’s take a look at how the young bucks fared in their Week 16 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Jaylen Waddle, WR (Round 1, 6th overall): A
Waddle, once again, was sensational for the Dolphins. He racked up 10 receptions on 12 targets for 92 yards, a touchdown, and one of the best fumble recoveries you’ll ever see on a tremendous hustle play following a strip sack on Tua Tagovailoa. On a day where Miami’s offense struggled to move the ball against one of the league’s top defensive outfits, Waddle was the single-most reliable weapon. He was the primary reason Tagovailoa was able to move the chains and put the team in scoring position.
The sixth-overall pick has forced himself squarely into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation alongside wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals, offensive tackle Rashawn Slater of the Los Angeles Chargers, center Creed Humphrey of the Kansas City Chiefs, and quarterback Mac Jones of the New England Patriots. Given that offensive linemen are exceedingly unlikely to win the award and that the hype around Jones has faded in recent weeks, the race is likely down to Chase and Waddle. Waddle is Pro Football Focus’ highest graded rookie wide receiver on the year through Week 16.
Against the Saints, Waddle etched his name into the league history books. He tied Jerry Rice’s record for most receptions by a rookie on Monday Night Football (10) and is five receptions away from tying Anquan Boldin’s record for most receptions by a player in their rookie season (101). He also broke Chris Chambers’ record for most receiving yards by a Miami Dolphin in their rookie season (883) and now sits at 941 receiving yards on the year.
Jaelan Phillips, LB (1st round, 18th overall): C+
Phillips was unable to add to his sack total this week, and he failed to show up on the traditional stat sheet, but he still managed to apply some pressure to Saints rookie quarterback Ian Book. His most notable play saw him make a nice inside move that forced Book from the pocket and pressured the frazzled passer into making an errant throw that landed in the waiting arms of Dolphins defensive back Brandon Jones, giving Miami the ball with the game’s final minutes winding down.
Jevon Holland, S (2nd round, 35th overall): B+
In his return from the reserve/COVID-19 list, Holland played nearly every defensive snap (96%) for Miami, and his presence was immediately felt. He recorded five combined tackles and a half-sack against the Saints, crashing down on Book alongside linebacker Jerome Baker for the quarterback takedown. His hustle was also on full display when he ran down Saints receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey on a broken play along the sideline to prevent a touchdown. Holland’s continued dominance as a rookie has been so impressive over the course of the year that Monday Night Football color commentator Louis Riddick predicted that Holland has All-Pro potential, a remark that surely has Dolphins salivating for more from the budding star safety.
Liam Eichenberg, OT (2nd round, 42nd overall): D
Another week, another dive on the roller coaster ride that has been Liam Eichenberg’s rookie season. After a near-perfect performance against the New York Jets in Week 15, Eichenberg struggled immensely against the Saints. I guess that’s what happens when your offensive line switches from facing one of the weakest defensive units in the league to future Hall of Famer Cameron Jordan and his fearsome pass rushing compatriots. Eichenberg particularly floundered against Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport, who blew by the rookie left tackle to pressure Tagovailoa multiple times.
Hunter Long, TE (3rd round, 81st overall): N/A
With the return of Adam Shaheen, Long played just four snaps in Week 16.
Larnel Coleman, OT (7th round, 231st overall): N/A
Coleman is currently on Miami’s injured reserve list.
Gerrid Doaks, RB (7th round, 244th overall): N/A
Doaks is currently on Miami’s practice squad.
Trill Williams, DB (Undrafted Free Agent): N/A
Williams (hamstring) was inactive for Week 16.
Robert Jones, OL (Undrafted Free Agent): N/A
Jones was on the reserve/COVID-19 list for Week 16. He has since been activated.
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