Ignore Miami Dolphin Smokescreens – It’s Roquan Smith

G-day Shouters! Before our esteemed Kenny V delves into his Miami Dolphin centric draft analysis, I’d like to follow up on Miami’s defensive needs as I see them.

A previous article dissected how Miami’s lack of a potent weapon at TE affected the team’s ability to take advantage of opposing defenses. The same position had a disastrous effect on the Miami Dolphin defense. When thinking about the draft or free agent player acquisitions, in Miami…

It all revolves around the tight end.

Looking at some startling stats, I heard a Bill Parcells echo, “Stats are for losers!” Of course, Bill’s won a couple more Super Bowls than this average writer, so his words should not be taken for granted. Specific stats probably have little value in the big picture, but a distinct accumulation in a single area shows undeniable trends. It would be equally foolish not to heed the warning these tendencies indicate.

Adam Gase said something like, “people (PFF) do not know the defensive call or Kiko Alonso’s responsibility and should not criticize him on things they don’t know. He may be pursuing a guy he wasn’t specifically covering, but without knowing the call, they assume he missed the coverage.”

Those were not his exact words, but pretty close and for the most part, I agree. I don’t know the call, but what I do know is, TEs caught the ball, over, and over, and over again in the middle of the Miami defense.

Making such a statement tells us a couple things; no kudos were given for the defensive scheme, and the other linebackers on the team were not exonerated from responsibility.

On to the facts…

In 2017, ProFootballFocus graded Kiko Alonso as the No. 75 ranked LB in the NFL. Lawrence Timmons ranked 67th at his position and was Miami’s highest-graded LB. Miami ended the season shuffling a mixture of inexperienced players led by Chase Allen, Stephone Anthony and Mike Hull in and out of the line-up. This came after Rey Maualuga was arrested at a downtown Miami nightclub for brawling with bouncers in the wee hours before an early practice.

B-Bye Rey, hope those margaritas were de-lish!

The Dolphins allowed 94 catches by tight ends (most in the league) and 1034 receiving yards to tight ends (only Oakland – at 1038 – relinquished more). Opposing tight ends scored 10 touchdowns against the Dolphins, tied with Cleveland for second-most and behind only the Giants (13).

The six teams that allowed the most yards against tight ends (Raiders, Dolphins, Broncos, Redskins, Giants, and Texans) went a combined 31-65 and all missed the playoffs. Of the nine teams that allowed the most catches to tight ends, all but Buffalo had losing records.

For a sanity check, the three teams that gave up the fewest yards to tight ends (Saints, Panthers, and Vikings) went a combined 35-13…

We can backpedal a little and lament the injuries to Raekwon McMillian and Koa Misi, but honestly McMillian was a rookie and Misi was never very good in coverage.

McMillian will be a welcome addition when he returns, but there’s no telling the effects knee surgery will have on his career. The tendency to count on players returning to their previous form is a dangerous flirtation with the unknown. Misi’s injury appears to be career ending and Miami paid for services rendered in 2017, Misi will not return.

All of this means, Miami must make a concentrated effort to sure up the middle of the defense and find a player capable of covering tight ends. Defenses in the NFL are more diverse than ever.

Claiming to run a 3-4 or a 4-3 is simply a placeholder for player packages based on down and distance. Slot corner Bobby McCain played more snaps in 2017 (662) than every linebacker except Alonso (1008) and Timmons (792).

The relevance of the snap counts comes into play when an opposing offense presents a scheme with two wideouts, a slot receiver and a tight end.

Miami is in a mismatch...

If Miami cannot cover a TE with a LB than the safeties must become involved in the coverage. By moving the TE in motion across the formation, the coverage safety moves with him, or not, in either case the defense is exposed. Man coverage if the safety moves, and zone coverage if he does not.

Yes, that explanation was very rudimentary, but it was also very true…

The next time you yell at the TV wondering how that big ass TE got so open, remember what you just read.

This is kinda what Gase was talking about when he defended Alonso. In a zone defense, Kiko is responsible for an area of the field, not a specific player. The TE runs a shallow cross, a skinny post or uses a legal pick to create space and it looks like Alonso blew the coverage.

He didn’t blow the coverage, he’s just not good enough to play zone or man coverage against a decent TE.

Therefore, if Alonso is the defense’s best coverage LB, it’s a serious issue…

The amount of money Miami is willing to pay for defensive linemen clearly indicates where they expect the pass rush to come from. This also means with four primary DL, the five offensive linemen should be tied up, because if they don’t double team Mr. Suh, most plays are going to get wrecked.

The point is, Miami does not need bruising middle linebackers, like they would in a 3-4, who constantly take on OL. Miami needs athletic, almost hybrid type LBs, that can sneak around behind the huge line and are fleet enough to cover TEs and slippery slot receivers.

As Miami looks forward to fixing the issues detailed in the stats above, it starts at LB. Alonso is not as bad as PFF seems to think. Miami doesn’t pay PFF to use their stats as many other NFL teams do.

No one will come out and say it, so I will… PFF is a paid service and the teams that pay for the service have higher ranked players overall than teams that do not.

No other linebacker on the Miami Dolphins in 2017 should expect to be a starting player in 2018 based on their performance. Timmons and Misi will be gone. If McMillian returns to form and it’s highly likely he will, that leaves Allen, Hull and Anthony fighting for a single position and playing special teams.

Getting right down to it, the defense is really not that far away. It simply needs a true impact player at the linebacker position.

In the coming weeks, you will hear QB talk, Baker Mayfield this and Josh Rosen that… You will hear Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey debated on the offensive line. Calvin Ridley will be thrown in to replace Jarvis Landry. Tremaine Edmunds will soon be the rage. Before it’s done, Derwin Jones will be the player destined to save the Miami defense.

Fa-Get-About-It!!! It’s all a smokescreen…

Roquan Smith is the player you will not hear a peep about from Miami. I’ll leave you with one quote…

“Roquan Smith is an ascending linebacker prospect with elite athletic ability, plus intelligence and an ability to be an effective cover linebacker on passing downs.”