It took the 2022 Miami Dolphins the entire regular season to pick up their 9th win. These 2023 Miami Dolphins are a different story as they scored a resounding (30 point) 9th victory over the Commanders this past weekend in what was one of their cleanest games of the season. There were plenty of good performances from this team, but we’ll focus in on a few that were really key to this week 13 victory.
Replacing Jaelan Phillips
No matter what the Miami Dolphins do, their edge play isn’t going to be as good as it would be with Jaelan Phillips on the field. He brings a unique combination of explosiveness, speed, and power. Players like that aren’t available in December and some years they aren’t available at all. The best you can hope for is that the guys taking his reps will play good football and impact games down the stretch.
You aren't going to replace what Jaelan Phillips brings as an athlete, player, or person at this point in the season. You just aren't.— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 5, 2023
But, this is exactly the kind of game you want to see from the guys stepping in for him. Effort & production. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/N3KO0pBziE
So far, the Miami Dolphins are off to a good start on that front. Andrew Van Ginkel was an absolute game wrecker against the Commanders (kind of like he has been much of this season), and Emmanuel Ogbah had some really impressive reps as well. We don’t really need to worry about Chubb on the other side, but AVG and Ogbah are likely to combine to take up Jaelan’s usual reps. Hopefully they can continue playing like they did in this one.
Elite Quarterback/Receiver Connection
With the way this team finished last season, I think a lot of fins fans were holding their breath waiting to see how they would look in these final few games. Once Tua started dealing with multiple concussions and we saw backup QBs have to take meaningful snaps, the wheels started to fall off for the Miami Dolphins last year.
If you're waiting for Tua to fade down the stretch, keep waiting. This may have been his cleanest game of the season from a pocket presence and decision making standpoint. Fantastic stuff. #FinsUp pic.twitter.com/6KDo3WU4tW— George Forder (@GeorgeForder3) December 5, 2023
So far it looks like Tua’s offseason training is really paying off in multiple ways. Obviously his continued health is a fantastic development for him and this team, but we are also watching a much improved quarterback in comparison to his previous years. He’s always had superb pocket presence, but now he knows what the defense is showing him pre/post snap and where the ball needs to go. The velocity on his passes looks as good as it ever has as well. We are seeing him improve week in and week out and start to develop into a veteran quarterback before right before our eyes.
Give Butch Barry a Ten Year Extension
It’s hard to pick out just one offensive lineman to really highlight from this game. As a unit, they played fantastic football and we are seeing development from almost every player in that position room. Austin Jackson and Liam Eichenberg may have just had the best games of their respective careers. Kion Smith looks like a legitimate NFL tackle and the guys who were already good (Connor Williams, Rob Hunt, and Terron Armstead) have kept that level of play or gotten even better.
It has been a long time since the Miami Dolphins were successful in developing their offensive line, especially young players that they draft. Butch Barry came in with mixed reviews from his previous stints, but is quickly establishing himself as one of the NFL’s better offensive line coaches. Hopefully it will take the league a few years to catch on and poach him.
It has been enjoyable having so many stress free game days this season. The Miami Dolphins came out and took care of business early against this floundering Commanders squad. In spite of the weather and the Commanders showing the ability to stick with good teams, Miami blew them out of the water. Now, the narrative that they can’t win the big games will remain (until they do) but they are looking at two winnable games that could put them at 11-3 (Titans and Jets). If the Bills lose another game in that time period, the Dolphins could clinch the East and a home playoff game before they hit their difficult three game stretch to end the season. It is a good time to be a Dolphins fan.