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Dolphins Week 17 Rookie Report Card: Few bright spots in crushing loss

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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 17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

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

So much for breaking records... In Week 17, Waddle was unable to surpass Anquan Boldin for most receptions by a wide receiver in a rookie season, though he’ll have one more shot to do so next week against the New England Patriots. Against the Titans, the uber-talented pass catcher struggled to get any momentum going, as he was clearly a focal point of Tennessee’s defensive game plan.

On seven targets, Waddle managed just three receptions for 47 yards. His inability to meaningfully contribute aside from one impressive downfield reception can be attributed in part to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa having the worst game of the signal caller’s sophomore season, but Waddle also dropped one pass that hit him squarely in the hands. We can probably chalk this one up to a blip on what has otherwise been a sensational rookie season.

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

Phillips was nearly invisible against the Titans, though that was partially due to the fact that he was limited to just 37% of the team’s defensive snaps. Given head coach Brian Flores’ propensity to rotate his front seven personnel with the objective of keeping everyone fresh, Phillips’ playing time has seesawed throughout the season, but his snap count against Tennessee was his lowest since Week 7 and his fourth lowest of the season. He registered two tackles in his 23 snaps and only provided occasional pressure against the pass. Phillips has certainly cooled off since his scorching five-game stretch at the outset of Miami’s win-streak.

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

Holland, once again, played every single defensive snap for the Dolphins, signaling Flores’ confidence in the star rookie. His highlight tackle of day was, as the late, great John Madden would appreciate, an absolute hit stick on Titans running back Dontrell Hilliard to prevent and first down. The play was broken down insightfully and enthusiastically by NFL Media analyst Brian Baldinger here. Holland finished with seven solo tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass defense on the day.

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

Despite the waves of pressure quarterback Tua Tagovailoa seemed to face against Tennessee, Eichenberg actually held up well against Titans pass rushers for most of the contest. He routinely matched up with 2021 big ticket free agent signee Bud Dupree, and despite Dupree’s athleticism and pedigree, Eichenberg was able to keep the former Pittsburgh Steelers star at bay for much of the game.

That said, by the end of the match, when the Titans defense knew that it could tee off against the pass with the Dolphins playing from behind, Miami’s rookie tackle was beaten on the edge a couple of times. He also helped open a few lanes in the running game the few times offensive coordinator George Godsey actually committed to handing the ball off.

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

Long was inactive for Week 17.

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 was inactive for Week 17.

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

Jones did not play any offensive snaps in Week 17.

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