On September 26th, 2021 the Indianapolis Colts will take their talents to South Beach to face the Miami Dolphins. In this week four match-up, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our Colts.
A year ago the Dolphins finished the regular season with a record of 10-6. They narrowly missed the playoffs and they expected to be in contention again this year. So far both the Colts and the Dolphins have been disappointments considering the hope that both fanbases had for each promising team and both have a chance to start to turn their seasons around with a win this week.
Let’s see what we can expect in week four.
Last season the Dolphins offense came into the year by bringing Chan Gailey out of retirement. Prior to last season Gailey hadn’t coached since his 2016 disaster with the New York Jets. I wouldn’t call his 2020 season a disaster, after all the Dolphins ranked middle of the pack for points scored, while winning 10 games (but missing the playoffs, a spot the Colts took instead). But the Dolphins had something else in mind for their offensive future, Gailey once again rode off into the sunset and the Dolphins promoted not one, but two men, to fill their offensive coordinator duties.
George Godsey served as the Dolphins tight ends coach since 2019, but he has been a coordinator before. He served as the Houston Texans offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016 under
famed general manager Bill O’Brien. Eric Studesville was hired in 2018 as the Dolphins running backs coach. From 2010 until 2017 Studesville was the Denver Broncos running backs coach. And here’s an interesting piece of trivia for you: Eric Studesville was the man who took over as interim head coach of the Denver Broncos when they fired Josh McDaniels in 2010. Thank me for that little piece of information, later.
So how have the Dolphins looked after moving on from Gailey and hiring two men to do the job he left open? Well the 2021 Miami Dolphins offense isn’t good. In fact I would say that it might be worse than the 2021 Indianapolis Colts and I don’t say that lightly. I am aware that I pull for the Colts week in and week out so there’s a chance that I view things through slightly blue lenses. Having said that this Dolphins offense is bad. Arguing about which is worse is silly, both teams have bad offenses, but the Dolphins best plays this season haven’t come via great throws or runs and they haven’t been the result of amazing play design. No, the Dolphins best offensive plays have come from drawing penalties.
Dolphins QB- Still bein Jacoby. Gets the roughing the passer call. pic.twitter.com/mJjzVdEMGW— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Dolphins biggest offensive play- PI against the Raiders pic.twitter.com/sNCHyLNj06— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Having said that they have put some good play designs on tape this season. Here they timed this play up perfectly with what the defense called:
Movin’ the chains
Dolphins offense- nice play design on 3rd and short pic.twitter.com/enx05uiKr9— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Yes it was incomplete, it looks like the defensive end might have redirected the throw at the line. But that’s not the point here, the point is the Raiders had a corner in off coverage and someone underneath to cover the back. The receiver picked the man who was tasked with covering the running back out of the backfield and this play would have gone for a first down and maybe a lot more had the pass been able to get there. It was a simple but well designed play.
One area the Dolphins have been better at than the Colts this season is in goal line situations. This is obviously a very low bar and being better than the Colts near the goal line is like being taller than the shortest man in the world, you win nothing and nobody cares. But they aren’t without their questionable play calling decisions near the end zone, either.
All they need now is Ronnie Brown to come back
Dolphins goal line offense- the Wildcat is still alive pic.twitter.com/XgthAUG1In— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Dolphins goal line offense- the wildcat didn't work, why not try it again! pic.twitter.com/Iy8FnTywFv— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Dolphins goal line offense- whatever this is pic.twitter.com/Z4Hasuemjw— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Dolphins QB- Jacoby still being Jacoby. Plays like this give you so much hope. pic.twitter.com/eU6tFgWZom— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Overall this offense is super conservative. A false start or holding penalty all but guarantees they’re going to throw underneath on third and long.
Dolphins offense conservative to a fault. pic.twitter.com/X9xZEjN3pH— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
The Dolphins offense seems content to throw shorter passes on third and long and if they set up fourth and short and they’re in the right place on the field they’re not afraid to try to convert. The problem I’ve seen so far is they call a super conservative game until it’s fourth and short and then dial up a more aggressive play, which hasn’t really worked out.
Dolphins offense tries to be aggressive on 4th and 2 and finds out they don't know how to be aggressive pic.twitter.com/0THBNoViLZ— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
In theory this play was great. The inside receiver takes the defender in the middle of the field with him, opening up the middle of the field for the other slot receiver to run underneath, beating his man coverage. It’s a good design but between the receiver taking his time, hopping slowly into his route and the right tackle who didn’t seem to be able to even get out of his stance on this play, it never had a chance.
Dolphins offense- gave up on 3rd and 15 pic.twitter.com/hy5vuUFsf8— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
The one time I did see them go aggressive was on third and 20 while losing in overtime.
Jacoby with the bomb
Dolphins QB- underthrown. pic.twitter.com/ZsjLR6HaQr— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
I’ll talk more about Jacoby Brissett in a minute. Colts fans probably already know everything they need to know about the guy but I’ll talk about him a bit. But we all know that he’s good for a couple plays like this a game that just don’t make any sense but he makes it anyway:
Dolphins QB- Jacoby making an exciting play on 4th and 20. Once again, he's good for a few plays like this a week. pic.twitter.com/VnC87CgoSd— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
I do miss his end zone celebrations with the defense on turnovers. He might be able to join his Colts buddies in the end zone again this weekend if he’s feeling nostalgic.
Some people might be wondering how this Dolphins team was able to jump out to a 14 to nothing lead over the Raiders last week. After all if the offense was as bad as I say, surely they couldn’t score 28 points in Las Vegas, right?
But they really didn’t
The Dolphins defense has forced a turnover in 25 straight games.— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 27, 2021
Miscommunication for the Raiders on this one, results in the pick-6 pic.twitter.com/2VXWL6Yy5Q
I know we’re talking about offense but this should give you some context. For more context here’s another defensive play that helps explain all the points the Dolphins put on the board in week three:
And the 4th and 1 stop one play later pic.twitter.com/a3dtNXs3Ig— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 27, 2021
You’ll find out later in the week that this Dolphins defense is a real mixed bag who at their best are really good and at their worst are pretty bad. But they were really good here and it gave the Dolphins the ball back, already in field goal range, in the first quarter.
This is bad defense
Dolphins RB Malcom Brown goes 24 yards for the touchdown pic.twitter.com/rrJtbzRuNI— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 27, 2021
The Dolphins are still an NFL football team. They still have players that can hurt you if you they catch you in a bad play or if your defense can’t get a single player to get off a block, they can make you pay for it.
If you still don’t believe me. If you’re a Dolphins fan who isn’t familiar with my work and you think I’m just some Colts homer trying to find some ray of hope his team has a chance to win this weekend, then please explain this:
This throw was bad. This play call was bad. This result was bad for the Dolphins offense.— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Of all the dumb plays you can call on first and 10 from your own one yard line, this is one of the dumbest. The throw was bad but it shouldn’t have mattered, who calls this route in their own end zone? Why was this even an option for Brissett to throw to? Whose idea was this?
The bad news for the Colts defense is that this Dolphins offense can really only get better from here... probably.
I don’t know if Jacoby Brissett has been gone long enough for Colts fans to agree with me when I say:
I love Jacoby Brissett.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t love him as the Colts starting quarterback, but I did love him as the backup. There aren’t many backups better than Brissett and the guy was as fun to watch as he was frustrating. You expect frustrating play from a backup quarterback, you rarely get consistent excitement the way you get it from Jacoby.
Surely you haven’t forgotten all of the excitement?
Andrew Luck taught Jacoby Brissett how to slide. pic.twitter.com/bW1aSodA4U— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
I gave him a hard time for the hit that he took here but if he would have slid he wouldn’t have picked up the first down on third and 9 to keep the two minute drive, alive.
Plays like this
Dolphins QB- Jacoby bein' Jacoby pic.twitter.com/8z062qpely— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
This kind of a play can be so defeating for a defense. Brissett hangs in the pocket all day, fighting off the rush and throws a pass to a receiver that would have picked up the first down had that defender not made a great play. This is Jacoby at his best.
But then there’s the frustrating
Dolphins QB- Dolphins fans aren't tired of Brissett's late throws yet but I've seen this play a couple hundred times and eventually they will get tired of it too. pic.twitter.com/TRzLG0J0KZ— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
This play doesn’t even look that bad and it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t a permanent part of Jacoby Brissett’s game. Had this ball come out a split second earlier his receiver is able to make this catch.
Dolphins QB- not his worst effort but still could have thrown this one earlier pic.twitter.com/RUfXRLYfBf— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Jacoby Brissett has never met a receiver he trusted to get open, at least he’s never trusted one enough to throw the ball before they gain separation.
Holding on too long
I'm pretty sure I've seen enough of this Dolphins offense to be able to break it down. I might grab a couple highlights here and there if I see anything but there's just not much to see. pic.twitter.com/haxpXCjMvX— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
I didn’t keep track of how many times I watched Jacoby play and I said in a rushed tone “throw it, just get rid of it, throw it!” but I did it a lot.
He usually makes the right reads
Dolphins QB- I don't know how he thought this was open pic.twitter.com/2cb40GUgSO— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Brissett doesn’t usually turn the ball over that often. His entire career he’s been excellent at taking care of the ball and a big part of that is that he can read a defense. He just does it a beat too slow. Here the Raiders confused him by rolling the coverage after the snap. He doesn’t think that cornerback is able to fall off of the outside receiver to come make that play.
Like I said most of the time Jacoby Brissett makes good reads and protects the football. But if there’s anyone in the world who understands what confuses Jacoby Brissett it’s this guy:
One of the reasons I feel as good about this game as I do is because there is no one in professional football who knows Jacoby Brissett as well as Frank Reich does.
Brissett isn’t someone who lacks fundamental flaws in his game and even though we can all see what some of those flaws are, Frank Reich deeply understands why Jacoby Brissett plays with those flaws. He coached him for three years, he talked to him, got feedback from him, he charted his throws, he knows what routes and concepts he likes to throw, he knows what coverages he hopes to get, he knows what he’s good at and what he just can’t do.
Jacoby Brissett is someone you can plan for and Frank Reich should be able to sit down with Matt Eberflus this week and work out a plan that will confuse, frustrate and punish Brissett for 60 minutes on Sunday. He’s still going to have his handful of plays that he extends and makes things exciting, those plays are almost impossible to defend. But all of the other plays, if most of those don’t go well for the Colts defense, someone has a lot of explaining to do.
The Dolphins heard the running back position had been devalued and they took that information to the bank. This cupboard is almost bare.
Myles Gaskin appears to be the Dolphins best back but counting on a 5’10” 195 pound running back to lead your NFL team in carries is a tall order, he just doesn’t seem like he’s built to carry the ball 13-20 times a game despite the fact that he’s been really effective this season rushing for 139 yards on 27 carries. He’s also caught 12 passes, good for fourth on the team.
Dolphins RB- Myles Gaskin pic.twitter.com/Ra6Zj83aRd— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Beyond Gaskin the team will send out Malcolm Brown, who came over from the LA Rams in the offseason. So far Brown has rushed 17 times for 68 yards, including that 24 yard touchdown rush I posted a video of above. All things considered Brown hasn’t been lighting defenses up. You might also see Salvon Ahmed get a snap or two, but he has yet to do much in 2021 logging just 9 carries through three games.
Dolphins fans on Twitter have an idea of how to improve their running back situation after news broke that the Colts and Marlon Mack’s agent are seeking a trade:
Hey @MiamiDolphins MARLON MACK IS AVAILABLE FOR TRADE— Miami Dolphins (1-2) (@RonaldP96103792) September 28, 2021
I doubt they do it but Marlon Mack would immediately become the most talented RB on the Dolphins roster. https://t.co/1BjQXCRcfV— Daniel (@DanielEliesen) September 28, 2021
I agree wholeheartedly as a life long Dolphins fan. We should trade Tua to the Colts for Sam Tevi and Marlon Mack.— J’Daniel Fan Club (@HighSportsGuy2) August 14, 2021
I thought he was joking.
Mack is a top 15 RB when healthy. And is a South Florida guy. The Dolphins should give up the house for him imo— J’Daniel Fan Club (@HighSportsGuy2) August 14, 2021
He was not joking.
Also Travis Green thought it was ridiculous that the other Dolphins fan wanted Mack over Jonathan Taylor not the fact that he said that they should trade Tua Tagovailoa for him or the fact he called Sam Tevi a starting tackle.
I’m telling you guys, the Dolphins have some problems on offense.
The Dolphins pass catchers are a talented bunch but that talent hasn’t translated to production as the rest of the offense has struggled. The Dolphins used the sixth overall pick of the 2021 draft on Jalen Waddle out of Alabama. Through three games Waddle has caught 22 passes on 26 targets, he’s on pace to have 125 catches, which would smash Anquon Bolden’s rookie record of 101. But he’s only on pace to have 946 yards... If you don’t feel like breaking out your calculator that’s 7.6 yards per reception. This isn’t Waddle’s fault, it’s the rest of the offense, but it’s not good.
Dolphins Offense- end around to Waddle pic.twitter.com/q010jHqRMD— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Mike Gesicki has 13 catches on the season for 127 yards. The talented tight end will be a matchup problem at 6’6” tall and moving as fluidly as he does, he can be tough to cover.
Dolphins receivers- TE Mike Gesicki pic.twitter.com/IfhrsYeIyq— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
I wish I had a much more exciting Gesicki play to show you. I do not.
Also with 13 catches on the season is DeVante Parker who has gone for 165 yards. Also on this team are Albert Wilson and Will Fuller who have caught four and three balls, respectively. Both men have 20 yards on the year.
The amazing thing about the Dolphins so far this season is that only two of their receivers are averaging more than 10 yards per reception. The first is DeVante Parker at 12.7 YPC and the second is third string running back Salvon Ahmed who has caught two passes for 24 yards and a 12.0 YPC average. No one else on the Miami Dolphins is averaging 10 yards per catch.
For some context, the Indianapolis Colts, who by all accounts have a bad offense only have two offensive players who are averaging less than 10 yards per catch. Jonathan Taylor averages 8.8 yards per catch and Nyheim Hines is averaging 9.9. That’s it. Everyone else, even the Ashton Dulin’s and Mike Strachan’s of the world are over the 10.0 mark.
I might have buried the lead a little but for all of this offenses shortcomings, the shortest coming of all belongs to the Miami Dolphins offensive line.
The Miami Dolphins starting offensive line (as seen in week three vs. the Raiders) from left to right:
Austin Jackson, Jesse Davis, Michael Deiter, Robert Hunt, Liam Eichenberg
The Dolphins took Austin Jackson with the 18th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Jackson was thought to be a high level athlete for the position would need some time to grow into the pro game early on. Instead the Dolphins have thrown him into the deep end- sink or swim and in pass pro Jackson might not be able to sink much deeper.
Jesse Davis is a really interesting player. Not because he’s so good, he’s not. He’s average at absolute best, but since latching on with the Dolphins in 2017 he’s started 56 games for them. He’s never been very good but instead of moving on and trying to upgrade the position it’s almost like the Dolphins saw a guard that was better than terrible and said “yeah, good enough”. He’s starting at guard, which isn’t usually a high impact position, so it’s not some massive revelation, but it is interesting that they seem to have just been fine with him playing just better than bad going into his fifth year as a starter with the team.
Former Wisconsin Badger Michael Deiter was taken in the third round of the 2018 draft and I hated him as a prospect. To be fair, I’ve hated every Wisconsin offensive linemen I’ve ever evaluated. He was big, unathletic, stiff, he couldn’t move in space and if I remember correctly spent more time on the ground than anyone should have been happy about. I was in the minority on Deiter. Most draft evaluators cited his game experience and polished technique and while those things were fine, I couldn’t get passed everything else. So far, three years in, I was right. This year Deiter is starting at center where his athletic deficiencies might be able to hide and his extensive on field experience could help him if the Dolphins wish to rely on him to make calls at the line. So far he’s been better than bad, but not by much.
Robert Hunt is a second year player out of Louisiana. Last season Hunt played at right tackle but slides inside this year to man the right guard spot. Hunt is a good run blocker but like the rest of the unit has struggled so far this season.
Liam Eichenberg is a name a lot of Colts fans will remember from the 2021 NFL draft. His play style and movement ability reminded me a lot of Anthony Castonzo. Chris Ballard talked about the tackles in last years class not being true left tackles and the Dolphins drafted Eichenberg to play on the right side considering they’re still hoping Jackson will grow at left tackle. Like most rookies playing in the first month of their professional careers Eichenberg has struggled.
I wish I had more positive to say about this group but I really don’t. This is a bad offensive line.
Dolphins OL- having some trouble pic.twitter.com/2ueDMRUfjx— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Here Eichenberg and Davis both get absolutely destroyed. Austin Jackson gets beat but it’s impossible to know what would have happened if the rest of the line had done... anything to slow down the Raiders pass rush.
Dolphins OL- more trouble pic.twitter.com/cg9lJK9lmE— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
First, this seemed like a classic Jacoby move, holding the ball just a little too long. But go back up and watch the right guard and right tackle both get destroyed and fall to the ground a half a second apart. It looks like a video game animation and not in a good way.
This happened a lot against the Bills
Dolphins OL confused by late shift and DB blitz off the edge pic.twitter.com/EEgcDOZMvy— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
Dolphins OL 2 plays later. The Bills show 7 rushers but drop two into coverage, the OL is unable to adjust and once again the DB comes off the edge, no one there to block him. pic.twitter.com/ApQNdRoXKv— Not Chris Shepherd's Burner Account (@NotShepsBurner) September 28, 2021
This outside pressure from the left side happened three or four plays in a row, so much so that the (not great) Fox announcers actually noticed it was happening, commented on it and then had it happen again, seconds after they commented on it.
Not every play is a dumpster fire for this offensive line. There will be times when they, somehow, manage to block up the rushers that their opponents send their way but I’m afraid if the Colts can’t find a pass rush this week, against this unit, they probably won’t find one at all this year.
This Dolphins offense is very bad. Frank Reich knows all of Jacoby Brissett’s secrets. If the Colts can just finish two drives with touchdowns and go another game without turning the ball over, they absolutely should win this game.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, I’m not sure that’s realistic for the Colts offense. What is realistic is that the Colts defense can play smart, limit penalties and hit Jacoby Brissett early and often and if they do those things I don’t think this Dolphins offense can score more than 13-17 points.
I don’t gamble very often.
I don’t know what the over/under is for this game.
If I get the chance I’m putting $50 on the under.
Which means both teams will probably score 30+ points and I’ll lose $50.
Things can get worse, a lot worse, believe it or not. So let’s hope for the best, Colts fans.