A Damien Harris fumble gave them a one-point win over the Patriots in Week 1. Then they lost seven games in a row. Then they won seven games in a row. Then they were blown out by the Titans and their former quarterback.
The 2021 edition of Brian Flores’ Miami Dolphins have certainly had one of the stranger seasons an NFL team has experienced in recent years, and it will come to an end this Sunday at home against the Patriots.
The fine print on Miami’s losing streak not only involved major injury issues, but five of the seven teams are likely to be playoff teams. Three of these games were decided by a field goal or less, while the rest were two-plus score losses.
On the other hand, the only potential playoff team Miami faced during their win streak was the Saints with Ian Book under center. However you cut it, floating around .500 is exactly where this team should be. But it doesn’t bode well for the team’s likelihood to compete in the AFC East going forward.
Way back in Week 1, I wrote about how Flores’ Belichick-like knack for scheming up interceptions was a major strength of his coaching. Miami is going to drop from first in interception% last season to right around the middle of the league this season – not unexpected for a team that experienced as many injuries in the defensive backfield as they did, but disappointing given that they had the second-highest pressure percentage rushing the opposing passer as well as the highest quarterback knockdown percentage in the NFL.
They fixed their pass rush issue, but then their defensive backfield regressed.
Similar situation on offense: Miami finally got its hands on some playmakers, namely Jaylen Waddle as well as a big step forward from Mike Gesicki, but their offensive line was 30th in DVOA. The worst part is, Miami did make moves on the offensive line, both in the draft and in free agency – the moves just didn’t work.
The lack of a high first-round pick – which they traded to the Eagles – and their continued circling of Deshaun Watson indicates that the offensive line may not be a priority this year, even with the first round pick they do have from the Trey Lance trade.
Miami may have experienced both a fluky losing streak and a fluky winning streak this year, as most streaks are by nature, but going forward we pretty much know what they are.
Here are three more aspects of the Miami Dolphins to keep an eye on this Sunday...
The “TuAnon” movement, a trend of Dolphins fans on social media who think the Dolphins should buy in 100% on Tua Tagovailoa as their quarterback of the future, was one of the more entertaining social media gimmicks by NFL fans this season.
Tagovailoa heads into the inaugural Week 18 with 15 touchdown passes to ten interceptions on the year. He also will finish the year right around league average in metrics like adjusted completion percentage, adjusted net yards per attempt, average depth of target, etc.
Two metrics of note on Tagovailoa are his second-most turnover worthy plays and his third-least time to throw, both which are mostly indicative of having a horrible offensive line.
From a team building perspective, he hasn’t shown enough to not try to invent a time machine and draft Justin Herbert instead, but he has shown at least enough to warrant giving him some protection so he can throw to the weapons he does have while maybe not giving away every asset the team has to acquire Watson.
And Then He Waddled Away, Waddle Waddle.
Jaylen Waddle needs just three catches to break Anquan Boldin’s record for receptions in a season by a rookie. Waddle is the legit number one receiver the Dolphins have lacked since…the Brian Hartline season? Brandon Marshall? Who knows. But he unlocks Tagovailoa as well as the number two and three receivers the Dolphins have been littered with in past years. At least this time a Dolphins win wouldn't cost he Patriots a bye week, as it did when DeVante Parker feasted on the Patriots back in Week 17 of 2019.
Austin Jackson Powers-less
Some metrics that indicate just how bad this offensive line has been this season: of the four linemen who played more than half Miami’s offensive snaps, three of them were on the bottom ten in pressures allowed in the entire NFL. Liam Eichenberg is just a rookie, while Austin Jackson was expected to make some progress on becoming the franchise left tackle he was drafted to be, and the Jesse Davis experiment should probably be over.
The other unmentioned lineman, Bob Hunt, was much better than his fellow lineman -- and he provided us with one of the funniest plays this season in the NFL.