Ryan Fitzpatrick, DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Patrick Laird all shine for Dolphins in third win in five games
MIAMI GARDENS — The Dolphins upset the Eagles, 37-31, on Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium.
Miami came from behind and won without some of these players who were on the roster when coach Brian Flores began his first spring camp: Kenyan Drake, Mark Walton, Preston Williams, Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, Laremy Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones, Bobby McCain, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kiko Alonso, T.J. McDonald.
Nearly half of Miami’s roster is undrafted. And as defensive back Chris Lammons, who sealed the game with an interception in the end zone told me after the game: “We’re hungry, man. We’re hungry. We know what we can do in this league.”
Ask any coach and he’s likely to say, “The tape don’t lie.” So each week we take a closer look and see what stands out. This one was fun. Here are some observations:
• When the Dolphins traded Tunsil and Stills to the Texans, the key to the deal was obviously two first-round picks and one second-round pick sent from Houston. But there was some hope defensive back/special teamer Johnson Bademosi and left tackle Julien Davenport could develop into more than throw-ins. Bademosi has since been waived. And Davenport has consistently given up pressures and sacks. Davenport has size and athleticism but he hasn’t yet figured out how to deal with speed rush. Miami seems likely to draft a left tackle in the first two rounds of the next NFL draft. Perhaps the mid- to late-first.
• We don’t wish to see anyone injured and it was unfortunate to see Kalen Ballage leave Sunday’s game with a leg injury. If Ballage’s season is over, however, it would be the second-worst season by a running back in NFL history. Three running backs have ever averaged less than 2 yards per carry on 70 or more attempts: Phil Sarboe (1936, Brooklyn/Chi.), Ed Storm (1935, Phil.), Billy Patterson (1940, Pitt.). Ballage has averaged 1.82 on 74 attempts, trailing only Sarboe at 1.24.
• Nik Needham broke up a third-and-7 pass from Carson Wentz in the first quarter. We’re not sure where Needham gets all that confidence from, but he has it and it serves him well. Instincts. Body position. Smarts. The Dolphins trust Needham as their top cornerback at this time, the man most often to be left in a 1-on-1 coverage situation.
Excellent coverage all around. Everyone funnels into a bracket, but they trust Nik Needham to handle his own on an island, which he does. pic.twitter.com/aA70Dzu4ld— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 1, 2019
• The Albert Wilson who took a handoff from Ballage and jetted 28 yards toward the left sideline looked nothing at all like the Albert Wilson we all saw in the last 11 games. When Wilson said he was feeling much better this week he was speaking the truth. It would be nice to see Wilson take a giant leap forward in the final four games of the season and perhaps put himself in position to stay on the roster in 2020.
Devante Parker makes a key block to spring Albert Wilson for a big run. pic.twitter.com/2X3XhG8KzO— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 1, 2019
• Remember when DeVante Parker used to lose 50-50 balls? Yeah, that was when Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler and Brock Osweiler were tossing it up there and it sometimes felt like Parker could have fought harder for balls intercepted or batted away. His former coaches publicly said so. Yeah, that was the old Parker. This new Parker jumps higher, fights more aggressively, plays with more of an Alpha mentality and is bringing a “dog” mentality that he once showed mostly on the practice field. Parker used to practice really well in the spring and summer and then fall in the fall.
DeVante Parker just #Mossed Ronald Darby for a 43-yard TD.
Now he’s playing really well on Sundays. And he is stronger. Physically as strong as ever. Parker also possesses the balance of a dancer. Size. Speed. Athleticism. There’s a reason this man was drafted where he was. Among those who also deserve credit for helping Parker this season: offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea and receivers coach Karl Dorrell. Clearly they are helping matters. Parker is motivated, focused and determined.
DeVante Parker has been unreal today.
- 6 grabs
- 151 yards
- 2 TD
You know what I think was the most important catch Parker made on Sunday? Not all those acrobatic, high-point snags. It was slant on a 4th-and-1 with 5:21 left and Miami leading 34-28. Ryan Fitzpatrick trusted Parker and Parker delivered. Parker once told me the slant is his favorite route. How about that? There is a breakthrough theme for Parker for 2019. His teammates trust him. His coaches trust him. He trusts himself.
• While it should be noted that Patrick Laird gained only five yards on 10 carries, he was a threat through the air on Sunday. Laird caught four passes for 43 yards, including a long of 19. He’s a natural pass-catcher. He finds open space. He catches the ball in a way that allows him to quickly turn up field and gain positive yardage. Again, he reminds us of a Danny Woodhead-type but is a bit taller and a bit heavier. Laird has a determination and a shifty hop-step to his game that is energizing.
the dolphins need to find a way to get patrick laird more involved pic.twitter.com/ujNrwAQa2Q— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
patrick laird with his first NFL TD pic.twitter.com/f40yv3QIZB— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
• Miami’s offensive line is clearly a factor in an inability to run the ball. Overall, Miami is averaging 3.1 yards per carry. By comparison, for example, opponents are averaging 4.7 per rush. Yes, Miami needs a quarterback. But the most important assignment for general manager Chris Grier in 2020 may be to fortify both trenches.
• Why didn’t a Philadelphia Eagles player stay with kicker Jason Sanders when he was running a pass route on the fake field goal touchdown pass? If Sanders was covered, was punter Matt Haack going to try to run it in? Who else was Haack going to throw it to? It was amusing to see Christian Wilkins lined up all the way on the right side of the field acting as though he was a receiving target. Then again, maybe he was. Fun play. Well designed. Well executed. Ice water in that punters’ veins.
FAKE FIELD GOAL
Dolphins punter Matt Haack just threw a TD pass to kicker Jason Sanders. pic.twitter.com/q18oelOfAJ
• Safety Adrian Colbert had a chance to stop Alshon Jeffery after he caught a pass on third-and-5 at Miami’s 2-yard line but Jeffery scored. Not to say it would have been an easy play. But it could have been an important tackle. Colbert also failed to complete a possible interception on a deep pass that opened the fourth quarter. This was Colbert’s starting debut for Miami so we’ll give him a bit of a break.
• Mike Gesicki is playing a much more physical brand of football then he did last season. It’s as if he believes he has more of a right to the football than he did as a rookie. He really does have the hand-eye coordination and body control of an elite basketball player. Gesicki’s confidence was not aided at all by the 2018 coaching staff. Conversely, this coaching staff and Fitzpatrick have helped lift him up. Gesicki has his Jersey swag back.
Mike Gesicki elevates for the touchdown and the Dolphins are making things interesting against the Eagles!pic.twitter.com/v5aDxePw8s— Reverse K Sports (@ReverseKSports) December 1, 2019
A 21-yard catch that Gesicki made in the third quarter went a bit under the radar, but helped prompt Miami’s comeback from down 28-14. The same could be a said about a slant catch on a third down at the start of the fourth quarter. Why doesn’t Gesicki get more slant opportunities? Maybe he should? Gesicki has touchdowns in two consecutive games, so we’ll just go ahead and write him down for six for 2019. Too many?
mike gesicki with a flying knee pic.twitter.com/3Oza2lWzqH— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
• The combination of rookie running backs Laird and Myles Gaskin, while unheralded, should be interesting to watch down the stretch. Gaskin looked very quick on a stretch-play that gained 11 yards in the third quarter and later added another confident run. Laird inside. Gaskin outside. Poor man’s version of Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake, we suppose. Ah, those were the good old days of 2016, weren’t they?
• On a 3rd-and-7 with Philadelphia leading 28-20 late in the third quarter, Sam Eguavoen executed a nice delayed blitz as the team was in its amoeba look with players moving all around in a standing position before the snap. Eguavoen has come on a bit after a slow start. He’s playing faster and more aggressively, showing some of the traits he did in the spring and summer. That sack set up an important missed field goal by the Eagles. On the last play of the third quarter, Eguavoen dropped Eagles running back Myles Sanders for a 4-yard loss on a screen.
sam eguavoen with a big sack on third down. pic.twitter.com/qsOZcm9S7U— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
• How are the Dolphins 22nd in the NFL on third-down conversions when they were 31st and 32nd in the previous two years? Well, Fitzpatrick and Chad O’Shea over Ryan Tannehill/Brock Oswelier/Jay Cutler and Adam Gase, that’s how. Fitzpatrick has guts. And pocket presence. And is allowed/encouraged to be more aggressive on offense.
• Rookie fullback Chandler Cox picked up a nice block on Laird’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Cox has had several lead blocks lead to touchdowns this season, which is, of course, his role.
• Safety Eric Rowe, rewarded with a deserved three-year contract extension on Monday, broke up what should have been a touchdown catch by tight end Zach Ertz with less than three minutes to play on Sunday. Rowe can be a tight end-stopper which is a critical role in this defense. And to think of all the times Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan were left chasing tight ends over the last few years. Using a converted cornerback makes perfect sense. Go figure.
eric rowe saves a TD pic.twitter.com/GKfhJhycqP— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
• The Dolphins came a lot closer to losing 38-37 on a Philly Miracle than realized at first glance. Carson Wentz’s 49-yard Hail Mary attempt into the end zone had a real chance to be caught by Alshon Jeffery. The ball actually bounced into the air before Chris Lammons of Plantation grasped it for the Dolphins. “I was boxing my guy out. I saw the ball pop back up off of Walt (Aikens),” Lammons said after the game. “I saw Alshon right there and I said, ’I gotta get this. I just snatched it. Ball game.” You may or may not have noticed something the Dolphins did not have on the field for the final play of this game — a tight end.
Former #Gamecock Chris Lammons recorded his first career NFL INT while sealing the win for the Miami Dolphins. #VizorSZN
• The NFL Draft is in 142 days, or about 20 weeks, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
with the first pick in the 2020 nfl draft, the Miami #dolphins select... pic.twitter.com/v6nVyjqxK5— josh houtz (@houtz) September 28, 2019
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