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Week 3 Dolphins Rookie Report Card: Waddle’s usage confounds, Eichenberg struggles

Miami Dolphins v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins had five selections in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, meaning the team has several rookies who are in line to be key contributors this season. Each week of the 2021 season, I’ll be 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 3 contest against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Jaylen Waddle, WR (Round 1, 6th overall): B

Jaylen Waddle made history on Sunday. Unfortunately, it was not the good kind of history. Per Stathead.com, Waddle produced the lowest receiving yards total (58 yards) of any non-running back with 12 or more receptions in a single game since 1950. Waddle, for the record, had exactly 12 receptions on 13 targets for a glorious 4.83 yards per reception mark. This is not a knock on Waddle himself. The rookie wideout who paced Miami’s skill position players with an 88% snap count got open all game long. Unfortunately, nearly all of his routes landed him within five yards of the line of scrimmage, giving him little room to make any game-changing plays.

Right now, it appears the offensive coaching staff is dead set on using the explosive college superstar as a glorified scat back. To make the best use of Waddle’s talents, the team needs to deploy him on deep crossers, slants, and go routes as opposed to the screen passes (let’s not even talk about that safety), curls, and hooks that Waddle ran all day against Las Vegas. While it’s tough to know exactly why his usage has been so peculiar, one can point to an offensive line that isn’t protecting long enough to let deeper routes develop. Regardless, Waddle is doing the best he can given the situation; the offensive game plan just isn’t setting him up for success.

Jaelan Phillips, LB (1st round, 18th overall): B+

After spending his first two NFL games coming off the bench, Jaelan Phillips started Miami’s Week 3 matchup. He wound up playing 59% of the defensive snaps (more than double either of the previous two contests) and made some noise all over the field. Phillips totaled six combined tackles and made an impact in Las Vegas’ defensive backfield as a pass rusher early in the game. Now that he’s had a few weeks to get acclimated after missing a substantial portion of training camp due to injury, the coaching staff appears to be making a more concerted effort to get the team’s second 2021 first-round pick involved.

Jevon Holland, S (2nd round, 35th overall): B-

Holland started off the season in a big way, as he was Pro Football Focus’ highest graded rookie through the first two weeks of the season. His play was less notable this week. Holland had three combined tackles and made a minimal impact otherwise. The Raiders completed a few deep balls in Holland’s coverage area, but none seemed to be solely on the second-round safety. He played on 51% of Miami’s defensive snaps after being on the field for 32% in Week 1 and 77% in Week 2.

Liam Eichenberg, OT (2nd round, 42nd overall): D+

Eichenberg struggled in this one, but I’m not sure what the coaching staff expects in having a rookie play in three different spots along the front five in three games. This week, Miami shook up the starting offensive line, moving veteran Jesse Davis from right tackle to left guard, Eichenberg over to right tackle, and Solomon Kindley to the bench. Eichenberg let up several pressures and received the lowest pass-blocking grade on the line (30.5), per PFF, though he fared slightly better in run-blocking (56.5). Hopefully, the coaching staff allows Eichenberg to settle down in one position and develop, even if it’s not his natural left tackle spot that he thrived in at Notre Dame.

Hunter Long, TE (3rd round, 81st overall): N/A

After being inactive in Week 2, Long was on the game day active roster for the second time in three weeks. He saw just two snaps against the Raiders.

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 has been inactive for all three of Miami’s games this season.

Robert Jones, OL (Undrafted Free Agent): N/A

Jones saw zero snaps in Week 3’s contest.

Follow Justin Hier on Twitter @HierJustin.