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Week 12 Film Review: Miami Dolphins’ Offense May Need to Adjust with Reserve Tackles

The 49ers will challenge an already depleted offensive line

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The Miami Dolphins rolled to a comfortable victory against the Houston Texans, but this game definitely had its difficult moments. Tua was under pressure for much of the afternoon and the offensive line lost their two starting tackles for the afternoon and possibly multiple games.

The Miami Dolphins signed Terron Armstead this offseason knowing that he’s dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career... and for the record, 10-12 games of Armstead playing and a full season of his leadership is still a bargain at $15 million a season. With that said they may need to navigate some tough games without him.

Pressure Makes Diamonds

Even with Terron Armstead in the lineup, Tua Tagovailoa was under pressure more than he had been previously this season. That was partly because Austin Jackson had a difficult day back in the office, allowing 6 pressures on his own.

Tagovailoa was pressured on 32.5% of his dropbacks, which is significantly higher than his figure coming into this game (22.3%). While the offensive line has improved this season, that low-pressure rate also has a lot to do with Tagovailoa’s quick release and decision-making. He’s had the 6th fastest time to throw in the NFL this season with 2.51 seconds and had an identical figure in this game. (advanced stats courtesy of PFF)

In other words, the ball was coming out quickly but he was still facing a ton of quick pressure. Luckily for the Miami Dolphins, he was fantastic under pressure in this contest.

His final stat line under pressure was 6 of 9 for 93 yards and a touchdown for a cool 137.7 quarterback rating and 85.8 PFF Passing Grade. Both marks are really high-level, even for a passer from a clean pocket.

Sometimes it Makes Coal...

It was encouraging to see him thrive under pressure because he may be facing more of it over the next few weeks. The Dolphins lost both of their tackles to injury in this contest. While Terron Armstead is luckily only dealing with a pectoral strain (and not something season-ending) it’s possible that he misses at least a game or two.

Austin Jackson injured the same ankle that had kept him out of the lineup for much of this season and there is currently no timetable for when he can suit back up. Let’s talk about how things played out after Armstead left the lineup.

Like he did earlier in the season, Brandon Shell struggled at left tackle. He’s been a right tackle for the entirety of his NFL career and the difference between Shell on the right and the left side is astounding. With Armstead out of the lineup Robert Jones also had his worst game of the season. This has been a bottom-third group without Armstead in the lineup.

What can Miami do?

Well first and foremost, history doesn’t necessarily dictate the future. They could show up in San Francisco and play a better brand of football. Moving Shell back to right tackle should stabilize the right side of the offensive line with the big hole being at left tackle.

Earlier in the season when Armstead went down with an injury we saw Shell and Little fill in on the left side. To say they struggled might be an understatement. Possibly new addition Kendall Lamm can get spun up quickly enough to fill in. He’s been a solid pass protector throughout his career and would instantly become a fan favorite with a strong performance.

Miami can also make schematic adjustments on offense to compensate for deficient offensive tackle play. What would that look like? Well, a heavier emphasis on the RPO game is an obvious choice. The fortunate part of this is that Miami uses their RPO game to attack defenses down the field, so it isn’t like they would have to resort to a dink-and-dunk offense.

Some other ways to help out are calling more max-protect (6 and 7 blockers staying in), chipping the ends with tight ends and running backs, getting Tagovailoa on the perimeter by calling roll-outs and moving the pocket, and of course, running the ball. If Armstead does indeed miss this contest, I would expect to see a much lower percentage of standard 5 or 7-step drops in San Francisco.


Quarterback performance under pressure can be incredibly inconsistent. It’s great that Tagovailoa has thrived in these situations, but it isn’t a sustainable or desirable situation. You want to keep the pocket (and subsequently your quarterback) as clean as possible-especially when your quarterback has had scary injuries in the past. There are several ways to help a struggling offensive line and hopefully, Mike McDaniel and his coaching staff can effectively deploy a few this weekend.