After losing what felt like the closest 35-0 loss in NFL history, the Dolphins have entered a seemingly bleak scenario where Tua Tagovailoa is out for the foreseeable future thanks to fractured ribs. Jacoby Brissett is a capable backup, but there’s just one problem.
The offensive line has been terrible to start the year. In 2020 the line wasn’t perfect, but it only gave up 34 sacks and 82 quarterback hits (the averages in 2020 allowed were 35 sacks and 91 hits), middle of the pack numbers. Here’s the issue: with a 51 percent pass block win rate in ESPN’s advanced metrics, the Dolphins tied with the Steelers for that year’s fifth worst win rate.
As such, the 34 sacks allowed were not sustainable unless significant change on the line was made in the offseason. Through two games this has not been the case.
When your offensive line is on pace to allow 136 sacks in a full season, something is wrong. Of course, those numbers will cool down as the season progresses, but the Dolphins pass protection is still off to a dangerous start. And against a Raiders pass rush that has Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue this week, it’s looking like an avalanche down in Sin City.
Whereas the pass protection improved from 2019 to 2020, it seems as if the unit is returning to those 2019 numbers. Take a look at the hits allowed below.
The team is on pace to allow approximately 128 quarterback hits. Last year the Eagles allowed a league worst 150 hits on QBs, so it’s possible that these numbers don’t cool off. You never want numbers comparable to the worst of the worst, and that’s unfortunately what’s happening here.
But above all, Pass Block Win Rate tells a better tale of pressure allowed than sacks or quarterback hits. And indeed, the Dolphins too rank at the bottom of the barrel here.
This is no good. This isn’t an offensive line devoid of talent (Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hunt, and Michael Dieter exist), but it’s one anchored by a lack of congruence. the two tackle spots are held by Austin Jackson on the left and Jesse Davis on the right, and the combination has been awful to start.
Tua was injured on this 4th and short where Davis I guess tries to block, but it appears more like he’s pushing pressure right into his quarterback’s body. If you look closely, Austin Jackson allows pressure as well on this play, so however you look at it, Tua’s goose was pretty much cooked.
Now the run blocking according to ESPN has been pretty good, as the Dolphins are tied for fourth in run block win rate. How blockers play the run differs with the pass, as there’s more of an effort to push guys forward in the run than there is in the pass. But that glimmer of hope is offset by how terrible the pass protection has been.
It doesn’t matter how good the rest of the line performs if the two tackles continue playing this badly. Obviously they don’t mean it, but the quality of their play has gotten their quarterbacks killed, and in this instance fractured ribs. The strength of this Raiders defense also lies in its edge rushers, so Miami is in for a very bad time against Yannick Ngakoue and Maxx Crosby if the offense can’t provide help at either spot or use scheme to generate quick pass plays.