Alright, this week the All-22 came out in time for me to get an article up ahead of Miami’s game on Thursday Night Football. We’re still only an eighth of the way into this NFL season and it seems as though the sky is falling in Miami, especially with respect to the defense. The most common qualms I’ve heard and read seem to be as follows:

– The defensive line gets pushed around and can’t generate a pass-rush.
– The scheme isn’t good.
– Bobby McCain isn’t a good free safety.

Has Miami’s defense disappointed through two weeks of the season? To me, the answer is yes based on the economics. They poured money and draft picks into the defensive line and secondary this offseason. Shouldn’t it be better than it was last year? It should be. And it likely will be by season’s end.

With that in mind, I set out to watch every snap of the Bills game on All-22 in order to investigate the three claims listed above. What can I say other than I’m a sucker for pain? I started breaking down film this morning around 9 am and ended up having a hectic schedule today and didn’t finish until 10:15 pm. Needless to say, this felt like trying to eat an elephant. The best way to go about it is one play at a time. I won’t bore you with all 57 plays (not counting the kneel-downs to end it), but this will be a meaty article, so stick with me here. I’ve got some cutups of plays and a few breakdowns from Dante Collinelli, another writer here at DolphinsTalk. What I’ve found is that the fanbase is off with one of them, and the jury is still out on two. But there are other culprits that haven’t been brought up much that are more responsible for Miami’s woes.

The Good
Let’s go ahead and acknowledge the good here and get that out of the way.

1) Christian Wilkins. Say what you want about Chris Grier’s drafting history or free-agent signings, but they got this one right. I know that’s easy to say about a 1st round pick whose defense line coach from college is on your staff, but my goodness did he have a whale of a game for the second week in a row. Here’s a nice run stop from Wilkins for you right off the bat.

2) Kyle Van Noy. He may not pile up stats, but he’s as advertised. Yeah, he missed two tackles and couldn’t quite haul in that Josh Allen pass after Miami’s botched 4th & goal attempt that would’ve likely led to a score. But, he can set the edge, he can play off the ball, he can rush. He’ll be fine. Here’s a snap with Van Noy playing edge LB outside Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah slants inside and forces the play to bounce right to Van Noy for a tackle.

3) Emmanuel Ogbah. He caught a lot of flak after week one. He played much better in week two. Like Wilkins, examples will follow. He had the team’s only sack and generated more pressure than anyone other than maybe big #94. He also had some nice plays setting the edge against the run that won’t count in the stat sheet.

And, that’s pretty much it unless you want to count Byron Jones’s snaps before he pulled his groin. Though he was as advertised a week ago against the Patriots. I think if he gets, and stays, healthy he’ll be fine.

The Explainable
Let’s start with part of the very first claim. The pass-rush. We’ll look at this specifically as it relates to the Bills game since I don’t have the time to dive back into the Pats All-22 film.

For starters, I think Miami came into this game AFRAID of Josh Allen’s running ability and prepared as best they could to take that away. And in my opinion they were right to proceed with caution here. In four career games leading up to Sunday, Josh Allen had rushed the ball for the following amounts:

December 2nd 2018 – 9 carries for 135 yards, 15ypc average.
December 30th 2018 – 9 carries for 95 yards for 2TDs, 10.6ypc average.
October 20th 2019 – 4 carries for 32 yards, 8ypc average.
November 17th 2019 – 8 carries for 56 yards and 1TD, 7ypc average.

In total, that’s 30 carries for 318yards and 3TDs, 10.6ypc average. That’s BAD. And just the week before, Cam Newton burned Miami for 75 yards on 15 carries and 2TDs. Miami had reason to be worried.

So, they installed a gameplan that required them to level rush Josh Allen. What this means is that Miami’s D-line didn’t tee off the way Cameron Wake used to do and end up flying past the quarterback if he stepped up in the pocket. They didn’t want to give Allen room to step out of the pocket, so they made sure all their players level-rushed and stayed in front of him and tried to close down any lanes for him to get outside. And they did a pretty damn good job of it, holding Allen to 2 carries for 21 yards (I’m not counting the two kneel downs), and 16 of that came on one play – more on that play later. For now, here’s a clip of Emmanuel Ogbah adding a sack (1.5 through two games) on a level rush. Notice how no Miami player gets deeper than Josh Allen? That’s what I’m talking about here.

Christian Wilkins, Godchaux, Raekwon Davis, and Kyle Van Noy all notched pressures as well. What I’ve Shaq Lawson? Well, he’s not played very well through two weeks. But I have a theory as to why. Let’s back up a bit to 2018 when Brian Flores called the defense for the Patriots and take a look at snap counts. The top four snap takers on the Patriots D-line and their percentage of total snaps taken throughout the year are listed below:

DE Trey Flowers – 70.2%
DE Deatrich Wise – 41.4%
DT Lawrence Guy – 49.7%
DT Malcom Brown – 43.7%

New England had a healthy D-line rotation that year. They also mixed in Adrian Clayborn, Keionta Davis, Danny Shelton, and Adam Butler along the line. Unfortunately for Miami, they don’t have that at the moment. Zach Sieler and Raekwon Davis’s snap percentages are lower, and Jason Strowbridge has been inactive both games, and apparently isn’t making the trip to Jacksonville Thursday Night. Yuck. Miami’s current snap percentages for this year look like this:

DE Shaq Lawson – 96%
DE Emmanuel Ogbah – 85%
DT Christian Wilkins – 78%
DT Davon Godchaux – 71%

Of that quartet, only Christian Wilkins’s snap percentages seem right to me. Considering that Lawson and Ogbah both came from rotation-heavy teams last year, their numbers are way too high. Last year Ogbah averaged 41 snaps a game and Lawson averaged 30. This year they’re at 50 and 56 respectively. For Lawson, that’s especially alarming to me as he’s on pace for 896 snaps. He only played 483 last year, so he’s at nearly double his pace. Finding a happy medium, meaning they need to round out their rotations better, is imperative for better play. That doesn’t excuse Lawson; he has to play better. But, I think this is a plausible reason for his struggles so far.

Miami’s made an effort at getting better at rotation from week one to week two, giving more snaps to Andrew Van Ginkel (8 to 13) and Zach Sieler (4 to 16). Sieler played a handful of his snaps at DE as well. Van Ginkel played all his snaps on the edge, including several as a DE. I think Miami will have to continue this moving forward.

I also think that after this “mini-bye” post Thursday Night Football, they’ll dive into this further and the pass-rush will improve. It doesn’t help that Miami’s played Cam Newton and Josh Allen already, and have Russell Wilson and Jeff Driskel on the horizon. Perhaps Josh Boyer will help get them into a better rhythm after that slate. A good test case will be what happens against Gardner Minshew.

The Scheme
In my opinion, the jury is still out on this one. Clearly the scheme has worked. New England’s won three of their six Super Bowls using a very similar variation of Brian Flores and Josh Boyer’s scheme. Hell, New England completely dismantled the high octane Rams in the Super Bowl two years ago. It works.

I think the better question is, does Miami have the right pieces in place to make it work? The answer is no. I think they’re lacking proven depth on the D-line. They have to figure out if Bobby McCain is the answer at FS. They need to see what exactly Brandon Jones is. Is he Patrick Chung? Is he Duron Harmon? A combination of those two? So far, that seems to be the case and I’m interested in his development this season. I think Miami have a lot of work to do at LB. At this point, anyone not named Kyle Van Noy should be on the chopping block heading into this offseason.

As bad as he was in week one, Miami missed Elandon Roberts in week two. Kamu Grugier-Hill didn’t play poorly in his absence. Calvin Munson didn’t have any egregious errors in his, what, eight snaps? Jerome Baker on the other hand was horrid. I don’t recall Kiko Alonso ever having a game as Baker had in week two. And that’s saying a helluva lot. Baker needs to improve, and quickly, if they’re going to keep his plate this full. Otherwise he’ll be shown the door. Much more on him later.

Sidebar here. Raekwon McMillan. I know fans miss him and think he’s the answer. He’s not. He was likely never going to be. He had his snap count reduced by 300+ snaps by Brian Flores in 2019. He was great against the run, don’t get me wrong, but was a liability in coverage and essentially was a rotational backup in this defense. Coming to an agreement on an extension would’ve been tough. I think Miami did right by him, and themselves, by giving him a chance to start anew while getting something for what they deemed a depreciating asset in return.

Back to the topic at hand. As it relates to the scheme, I think Josh Boyer made some good calls, and Miami executed poorly. He also made some bad calls, like this failed run blitz below. The Bills have a counter called here, which is perfect for them. But I think this design is flawed because you’re matching up Jerome Baker on Dion Dawkins with no one in the middle of the field, and it turns into a nice gain.


But, there were too many incidents of individuals making mental errors that really sunk Miami’s ship. I think Boyer was tasked with two difficult offenses to prep for right off the bat, so I think it’s fair to withhold judgement until we have a larger sample size. I’ll showcase some…well, a lot of those errors later. For now, I think it’s fair to question that he wasn’t aggressive enough at times. Miami ran two Cover 0 looks on Buffalo’s field goal drive in the first half and forced two straight incompletions. The problem was that Nik Needham got the brakes beat off him on the receiver’s release that he was covering and was flagged for defensive holding, an automatic first down. That would’ve ended Buffalo’s drive and forced a punt and kept three points off the board. Killer.

What’s interesting to note, is that this game seemed to have a Brian Flores 2018 Patriots defense feel to it in terms of the formations and personnel groupings used. For instance, we saw 57 Bills snaps (37 in the first half, YIKES!). Of those 57 snaps, 43 of them saw the Bills in 11 personnel. Miami tried to counter this in a number of ways. Miami had the following fronts:

DIME 3-2-6                         9 Snaps               (1 of these was with 2 DL & 3LBs with an edge LB walked up)
NICKEL 3-3-5 Bear            1 Snap                 (3DT and 3LB – standard for this look)
NICKEL 4-2-5                    21 Snaps              (6 of these were with 3 LBs, with one walked up on the edge)
BASE 3-4                              3 Snaps               (2 of these reps were w/a stand-up DE, only one was true 3-4)
BASE 4-3                              4 Snaps               (2 of these we saw an Under Front instead of an Even front)
MIXED 5-1                           6 Snaps               (3 snaps used 3 true DL, with LBs walked up and 3 with 4 DL)
MIXED 6-1                         11 Snaps               (Miami used 4-3 personnel on 7 of these snaps)
MIXED 8-0                          2 Snaps              (3DL and 3LB with safeties walked up; both were Cover 0 reps)
HEAVY                                  1 Snap                (6DL and 3LB in Goal Line front)

So, that’s 32 snaps with a four man line, regardless of how it was composed. That’s more compatible with the numbers I’ve posted in previous articles about Brian Flores’s use of 4-man fronts. Miami’s fairly liberal with how they use both Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah, as we’ve seen them play tight as true 5-techniques, wide-5 techniques both standing up and in a 3-point stance, 7 and 9 techniques so far this season. I expect to see more variation in the future, especially when there’s a better rotation and Miami’s facing less mobile quarterbacks than Allen and Newton.

So, while I’m holding out hope for Josh Boyer here, I think it’s imperative Miami have a firm list of what they need by season’s end. Linebacker is going to be on there for sure. But make sure you know exactly what else you need.

The Bad
I touched on Shaq Lawson earlier. He’s been a disappointment thus far, but I think we can partially explain why given his usage rate. And he had some nice snaps in the Bills game, one of which you’ll see here shortly. The three main culprits of Miami’s defensive woes were Jerome Baker, Bobby McCain, and Nik Needham. Jerome Baker was a special kind of bad Sunday against Buffalo.

I’ll give rookie Noah Igbinoghene a pass for Sunday. My guess is that when Byron Jones went down, they turned to Igbinoghene to take on Stefon Diggs because I don’t think Xavien Howard’s 100% yet, and was better suited for the more linear route-running John Brown and Zay Jones. But taking on Stefon Diggs is a tough task, especially for a rookie. I think Josh Boyer could’ve helped him out more by playing a robber in Cover 1 or Cover 3 at times, but Miami used their LBs, Baker and Van Noy primarily, to spy Josh Allen and prevent him from scrambling. Boyer will have to put his thumb on the scale a little more moving forward to help Noah. He even had some bad luck. On the TD pass to Diggs, Noah and Kyle Van Noy ran into each other, and Igbinoghene got disoriented for a second and lost track of Diggs. That’s something to clean up. You can see Igbinoghene on the right side of the screen briefly here before he realizes where Diggs is.

Frankly, I accidentally deleted two cutups of Nik Needham and it’s after midnight as I’m writing this so I’m not going back to re-film them. Let’s just say that for now, Jamal Perry should be the slot corner. Needham. Was. Bad. One of the cutups was his holding penalty that wiped out Miami’s stop on 3rd and 9 before the half. And the penalty on that 3rd down play on Buffalo’s field goal drive made Vontae Davis look like child’s play (that’s a Hard Knocks reference if you didn’t get it – freaking Philbin and Anarumo). The other was him failing to stay with Cole Beasley on an over route that went for a first down. I think Needham’s better suited to play outside where he can use the sideline as an extra “defender” in coverage. He’s solid depth, but he should not be playing in the slot.

Editor’s Note – Dante has a cutup of Beasley winning the over route on Needham.

As for Bobby McCain, his tackling woes continued. But no play was bigger than Buffalo’s final touchdown, which all but sealed Miami’s fate Sunday. I know Xavien Howard took the blame here, but I’ll let Dante Collinelli explain this play.

McCain had several other plays where Josh Allen was able to either steer him to one side of the field and throw the other way, or hold him in the middle long enough to get a throw off, like the long pass to Stefon Diggs on Buffalo’s final scoring drive. Diggs beat Igbinoghene on a double move and McCain was too far away to close over the top to help.

Jerome Baker
Finally, Jerome Baker. Yes, he deserves his own category this week. Dolfans, I know we all love him (and I’m a Buckeye fan so this is especially hard for me), but he’s a liability in this defense. Yes, he’s had nice moments like the sack last week of Cam Newton. He had some nice plays in this game. The problem is the bad far outnumbers the good, and the awful might have outnumbered the bad this week. I don’t think that’s going to change soon; he’s just not big enough, long enough, or strong enough to win consistently against blockers against the run, and he’s too often lost in space when in coverage. Let’s start at the beginning of the game. This is the very first play.


There’s nothing really wrong with what Jerome Baker does here. Christian Wilkins gets doubled hard and Darryl Williams, the Bills RT, does a great job of dumping Wilkins and latching onto Baker. Baker’s just not long and strong enough to wrong-arm this and keep an arm free to help make a tackle.

This is the very next play. Buffalo runs a similar concept, but instead of double-teaming Wilkins, they bring Dawson Knox through the hole on the lead Iso to get Baker. Knox squares him up easily and negates him from the play (and Baker’s lucky not to get flagged for hands to the face here). Fortunately, Kamu Grugier-Hill learned from first down and squeezed this play off the left edge (your right as you’re looking at it) and forced him into Shaq Lawson. But now, Buffalo’s got this in their back pocket. Knox can handle Baker. Sorry for the background audio! (Volume down)

Buffalo later uses the same action on this play to throw a pass to Knox who comes through the A gap on the same action as the lead iso from earlier. This doesn’t seem like any type of a Blitz, I think this is Baker shooting the gap because he thinks he knows what’s coming.

We also have a straight up whiff by Baker here. He actually reads this play correctly, and Andrew Van Ginkel does a nice job to take on the puller, but Baker somehow doesn’t make this tackle.


Now, we have some communication issues with Baker here. Two plays. Here’s Josh Allen’s long run on the day. Baker leaves the middle of the field wide open!

The endzone view makes it look worse.

Here’s the second play. I’m not sure if there’s a miscommunication here between Baker and Van Noy, which shouldn’t be happening regardless, but it seems pretty clear that Van Noy is responsible for either spying Josh Allen and/or taking on any underneath crossing routes, or at least walling them off. None of that really happens, but it doesn’t matter because Jerome Baker who is deep, just gets bamboozled by this play and has no idea to cover Cole Beasley. Keep in mind that this play is on 3RD AND 24 AND PICKS UP A 1ST DOWN! This drive ultimately ended up leading to Buffalo’s go-ahead touchdown to make it 24-20. At the very least, Baker should see this route developing and engage Beasley here and make a stop to limit the Bills to a semi-long field goal, but it doesn’t happen.

Later that drive, we’ll see Baker lose eye discipline here and run himself into a block. Shaq Lawson doesn’t do him any favors here, but he has to be able to fight around or through this and he cannot.

You simply cannot have one of your two main linebackers be this bad in a game, especially in crucial spots. But that goes for Needham on the 3rd & 9 penalty, and McCain on Buffalo’s final touchdown. Players didn’t execute.

Frankly, I’m not sure much will of this will be cleaned up tonight against the Jaguars. It’s just a lot on a short week. I think Miami’s going to have to make great use of the “mini-bye” coming up. In other words, it needs to be a long weekend for the coaches and they need to take a long hard look at how they’re using Baker, McCain and Needham. Of the three, I think you have options for McCain and Needham. Sort of. With Needham, I think the answer’s cut and dry. Keep him as a backup to play corner on the perimeter. He’s not a slot guy, and I don’t think you should waste reps lining him up there.

With McCain, I think you could make some use of him as a slot corner. But because of how Miami matches their top three corners – Jones, Howard and Igbinoghene – you may be drastically cutting down Bobby’s snaps. And I’m not sure you have an in-house replacement at FS at this point. I don’t think we really know what Brandon Jones is best at yet, so you’d like to give him time both in the box and in deeper looks. I think it’s appropriate to call out that so far, he’s only been a split safety in Cover 2 when lined up deep. So, more to be seen with McCain’s situation. I think ideally the coaching staff would like for him to improve at FS.

Finally, with Jerome Baker, short of trading him in-season, there’s really not a whole lot you can do. I think for starters, you could hope that Elandon Roberts starts to play better and you use him as your second highest snap-taking LB behind Kyle Van Noy, and make Baker your third guy for use in specific looks. But is that ideal? Probably not. I think this season is more about figuring out who you can keep next year. Remember, Roberts and Grugier-Hill both signed one year deals, so there’s no guarantee they’ll come back. With Baker, I think it’s maybe a prospect of short-term pain for long-term gain; you’re stuck with him now, and maybe he gets better. Or, he doesn’t and you can do with him what you did with Raekwon McMillan a few weeks ago. This assumes that Miami finds a suitable replacement in free agency or the Draft (Micah Parsons or Joseph Ossai would do nicely). For now though, I think we just have to hope Baker gets better.

With that in mind, Thursday night notwithstanding, I think it’ll be interesting to see how Brian Flores and Josh Boyer adjust. I think they need to work on improving the rotation on the Defensive Line first and foremost. That should, in theory, help improve Lawson and Ogbah in terms of keeping them fresh and able to reliably rush the passer in earnest on third downs. I think Boyer could be more aggressive at times, and perhaps he was hamstrung by losing Byron Jones and the prospect of Josh Allen scrambling and having to use as spy. But, I think there’s more room for Cover 0 looks and more aggressive blitzes to be called. Here’s to hoping that Miami avoids an 0-3 start tonight and they can get back to 3-3 by the Chargers game. I think that’s a fair goal that’d allow them to stay in the race. If they don’t avoid the loss in Jacksonville, is it Tua time? Guess we’ll find out. FinsUp, Dolfans!