Film Room: Dolphins’ Offensive Scouting Report

This year, Josh Carney and I will break down the opposing team’s offense in our weekly scouting report. Like last year, I will be looking at the opposing team in a more broad, scheme-approach. Josh will have a closer eye on the individual players.

Your Miami Dolphins’ offense.

Alex’s Scheme Report

Dolphins’ Run Game

Mercifully, the Dolphins’ offensive line is getting healthier this week. Last week, they were McChickens – an imitation of an offensive line. This week, they’re more like the real thing. Branden Albert should be back at left tackle and Laremy Tunsil at left guard.

Here’s how the OL should start.

LT: Branden Albert
LG: Laremy Tunsil
C: Mike Pouncey
RG: Jermon Bushrod
RT: Ja’Wuan James

Left guard Dallas Thomas started last week and played probably the worst game I’ve ever seen by a guard. He and left tackle Billy Turner were cut.

The line has been a mess with only James and Bushrod playing at least 85% of the offensive snaps this year. Only three have played at least 70%.

They’ve run the ball just 91 times this season, the third fewest in the league, largely because they fall behind so quickly. Miami has score just 14 points in the first quarter this season, held scoreless in three games. They’ve been outscored 34-14 in the first quarter ad 80-37 in the first half.

So yeah, hard to find your groove in the running game.

It should be no surprise they rank poorly in the 10 and 20 yard run categories. Just nine runs of 10+ yards, tied for 27th in the league, and zero runs of 20+, one of three teams who have failed to. New Orleans and Houston are the others.

Keith Butler was correct when he said the backs are tough runners but that’s because they have to be. Running lanes are hard to come by. I will say this week is probably going to have their best shot with a healthy Albert, Mike Pouncey, and Tunsil.

Personnel wise, Arian Foster should start if healthy. If he can’t, that nod will likely go to Jay Ajayi but there’s a pretty big committee going on. Rookie Kenyan Drake, a dynamic player but one who has struggled, and Damien Williams, are also in the mix.

I’ve seen them use a little bit of a Pony backfield. Here, Ajayi and Drake are in the backfield.


Miami does attack you in a variety of ways. Inside/outside zone, power (usually with the left guard pulling), some man concepts, some split zone. Their struggles aren’t for a lack of trying, I’ll give Adam Gase and company that much.

Also ran a jet sweep to Jarvis Landry early in last week’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.


Dolphins’ Pass Game

It all starts with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. And he’s been…not great. His line hasn’t helped him, 17 sacks this season, including six last week (again, the line is healthier), but he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, 7 to 6.

He’s struggling on third down, completing only 54.8% of his throws. Only six quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts have a worse number. Their red zone offense is middle of the back – 54% – while their third down offense overall is 28.6%, 31st in the league.

The offense is stuck in the mud. That isn’t all his fault but hey, he’s the quarterback. So far this year, they’ve gone three and out 21 times. That’s tied for the most in the league with the San Francisco 49ers. They’ve had 26 total drives end within three plays if you include ones that had a turnover.

They’ve had 10 three and outs over the last two weeks.


One thing they do well is get some chunk plays. The Dolphins have 20 completions of 20+ yards, tied for fourth most this season. They’re also tied for 4th with five receptions of 40+ yards and they’ve spread the wealth. One by Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Arian Foster, and Damien Williams.

Parker and Stills are deep threats. Parker because of size (6’2 209) and Stills because of speed (4.38 coming out of college). 33% of Stills’ catches have gone for 20+ yards while a whopping 40% of Parker’s has.

The sample sizes are pretty small though. Landry and Parker are the only players with at least 10 grabs through five weeks. By comparison, the Steelers have five.

Landry and Stills are the starters with Parker coming in as the third receiver, shifting Landry to the slot.

They’ll take vertical shots but there’s a lot of short stuff too. Watch for any motion across the formation by an off-ball tight end. Alert for their – somewhere Jon Gruden is swooning – Spider 2 Y Banana concept. Saw it on 1st and 10 and 3rd and 1 so hard to pin down exactly when they want to go to it.


Have seen some split dig and snag concepts from them. Snag is something else they’ll go to in third and short. Try to create space with a lot of bunch looks.


Dion Sims will start at tight end. He’s caught seven passes this year.

Unsurprisingly, Landry leads them with nine catches on third down. He makes up for 6/13 third down receiving conversions they have this year. The other wide receivers have just two – one from Parker and one from barely-playing rookie Leonte Carroo. That’s so sad.

Dolphins’ Special Teams 

Jakeem Grant. Jakeem Grant. Jakeem Grant. That’s the dude Pittsburgh has to watch out for. I don’t normally watch a player’s highlight tape but I must have played Grant’s 20 times watching him at Texas Tech this year. One of the most exciting players on the field.

He’s also one of the smallest but legitimately runs in the 4.2’s with elite, I mean top five in the NFL right now, change of direction right now. He had a 74 yard punt return late in the half against Tennessee last week. Here’s a chunk of it.

He’s averaging over 14 yards per punt and 26.5 per kick. Yet to call a fair catch as a PR. Jarvis Landry does do the “safe” work, when oppositions is looking to pin Miami deep. He has three returns and seven fair catches. Grant comes in to handle the splash.

Tony Lippett and Bobby McCain appear to be the jammers on punts.

Looks like Miami likes to identify the kick coverage’s best player and try to take him out early, running a player at him immediately on the kick. That could be L.J. Fort this week so they’ll have to keep their head on a swivel.

Miami lines up in a 6-2-2-1 look on kicks.

Matt Darr is the Dolphins’ holder. He has not thrown or run the ball in the NFL. He did have a 30 yard run way back in 2011 when he was in college at Tennessee. I was unable to find out specifically what he did on the play, however.

Dion Sims is their lone skill player on field goals. He is the left wing.

Josh’s Individual Report

Sunday’s game in Miami against the dreadful Miami Dolphins franchise should be a cakewalk for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least on paper (or an electronic screen like the one you’re currently reading).

Miami’s offense comes into the Week 6 matchup at Hard Rock Stadium with one of the league’s worst offenses overall, from the quarterback, running back, tight end to the offensive line; it’s simply ugly.

As a unit, Miami is 29th in total offense (303.8 yards per game), 28th in points per game (17.6), 32nd in Time of Possession (24.38), 24th in passing yards per game (231.4), 17th in completion percentage (64.1), 31st in rushing yards per game (72.4), 32nd in rushing attempts per game (18.2) and are tied for eighth in the league with three fumbles from running backs.

Not good any way you try to spin it.

A large portion of the problems with the offensive unit starts up front with the offensive line, which has been decimated by injuries in 2016. With the big hit in injuries, the Dolphins’ lack of depth up front along the offensive line has been exposed in a bad way.

Star left tackle Branden Albert has missed time this season, which has forced Miami to shift rookie left guard Laremy Tunsil out to tackle in recent weeks. With Tunsil at tackle, it has opened up a hole at guard where Dallas Thomas had to step in.

He’s no longer on the team.

Same goes for tackle Billy Turner, who had to fill in at right tackle this season. He was cut this week along with Thomas.

The return of Mike Pouncey last week was a major boost for the unit up front, as will the return of Albert this week. That’s the good news for Miami.

Here’s how they line up along the offensive line from left to right:

LT — Branden Albert
LG — Laremy Tunsil
C — Mike Pouncey
RG — Jermon Bushrod
RT — Ja’Waun James

That looks like a solid unit on paper, but through five games Ryan Tannehill has been sacked 17 times. That’s never going to help a QB in his first year in a new system, let alone under a new head coach.

With Tannehill, there’s just no sugarcoating it:  he’s been downright terrible for Miami.

Through five games, Tannehill has thrown for 1,272 yards and six touchdowns, but has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled four times (two lost). He’s looked skittish in the pocket and indecisive as to when to cut it loose to his playmakers.

Tannehill has also struggled with accuracy and pocket awareness throughout the first five games, but the latter part should improve if his offensive line stays healthy and gels quickly.

Outside of Tannehill, there’s not much to get excited about in the Dolphins backfield. It’s a running back by committee approach with guys likeDamien Williams, Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake with free agent pickup Arian Foster missing time this season with groin and hamstring injuries.

With the committee approach, it’s clear to see why there’s very little production from the group so far. In fact, Ajayi is the team’s leading rusher with 117 yards on 31 carries and one touchdown, which won the game for Miami in overtime against Cleveland in Week 3.

None of the running backs in the stable will scare you, but Drake is a dual-threat guy that could do some damage in the short flat against the Steelers, should he get snaps this week.

That was pretty much his role at the University of Alabama under Nick Saban, and he did it quite well as a member of multiple National Championship teams.

Ajayi is a powerful runner with decent vision, but he simply can’t keep himself on the field due to nagging injuries and commitment issues between himself and the coaching staff.

While the running back group has been an abject disaster so far in 2016, the wide receiving group of Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills has shown flashes of major potential, but a lot of the issues with the receiving corps has to do with who’s throwing them the ball.

Landry is as steady as they come, as evidenced by his 34 receptions, 402 yards and one touchdown through five weeks. Although those numbers aren’t eye-popping and many pundits put down his skills due to manufactured touches for the slot receiver, Landry is a weapon that the Dolphins have relied on heavily over the last two seasons. That hasn’t changed this season.

He’ll line up in the slot, out wide, in the backfield and as the sidecar when the Dolphins set up in shotgun. Head Coach Adam Gase has been very good at getting him touches, but the Dolphins need to do a better job of getting him the ball in space where he can make defenders miss.

With Parker in his second year, the Dolphins have a little bit of everything at the receiver position to build a complete group. Parker is the big, physical threat that should draw the opposing team’s best corner on a week-to-week basis, but with consistency issues that hasn’t always been the case for the 6’3” receiver.

Parker has just 15 receptions through five games and one touchdown. That’s not good enough for the size and skills he possesses.

And then that brings us to Kenny Stills, aka Mr. Boom or Bust.

Stills is a major home run threat; one that Tannehill looks to often for deep shots to get the offense going.


But as you can see in the GIFs above, Stills is so hit-or-miss. In the GIF from the Seattle game, Stills was as wide open as he was in the Cincinnati GIF. What was the difference? Who knows, but that’s the maddening player that Stills has become.

Outside of Landry, Parker and Stills, rookie Leonte Carroo (who I was exceptionally high on coming out of Rutgers) is the only other receiver worth mentioning on this team, and he has just two catches on the year.

At tight end, Jordan Cameron was supposed to be the combination of Zach Miller and Julius Thomas that Gase had in Chicago and Denver, but Cameron can’t seem to stay on the field and hasn’t really developed any chemistry with Tannehill.

Cameron has toasted the Steelers in the past as a member of the Browns, but he’ll miss this week’s game with a concussion. That leaves the tight end duties to Dion Sims this week.

Sims isn’t much of a pass-catching threat, but he can work the middle of the field well and seems to have some level of trust from Tannehill, so he should get some decent work this week as the No. 1 TE.

On paper, the offense looks loaded outside of the running back position, but they just haven’t put it together in 2016. With the way Tannehill has looked in the last few weeks, I can’t see that changing in Week 6 against the Steelers.

Special Teams has actually been solid for the Dolphins as kicker Andrew Franks is 4-for-5 on the year with a long of 41 yards and hasn’t missed an extra point try in 10 attempts.

At punter, Matt Darr has been a major bright spot for Miami as the second-year punter out of Tennessee is averaging 48.7 yards per punt on 30 punts this season with an astounding 12 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

In the return game, Jakeem Grant is as electrifying with the ball in his hands as they come. The rookie out of Texas Tech returned his first career punt for a score from 74 yards out last week against Tennessee to get the Dolphins on the board, which you can see in Alex’s GIF above. On seven punt returns Grant is averaging 14.7 yards per return.

The same can be said for Landry as a punter returner as the veteran receiver is averaging 13.7 yards per return on three punts. However, the job looks to be Grant’s after his performance last week.

On kickoff returns, Grant holds down the job as well and already has a 45-yard return under his belt this season. He’s no doubt a game-breaker, so it will be interesting to see how the Steelers plan to neutralize him on kick and punt returns.

Drake and Williams have also gotten cracks at kick returns, but neither has had near the success that Grant has.

On paper this Dolphins team looks good, but the results on the field have been ghastly. We’ll see if that changes on Sunday.

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