Emmanuel Ogbah helps lead the Dolphins Defense vs the LA Rams

Miami’s Pressure Packages

“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.”

This was the final paragraph of my article from September 24th, “What’s Actually Wrong with the Defense?” What a difference a month-and-a-half makes! Obviously, the Chargers game was rescheduled. As things stand right now, Miami’s pass-rush has become fearsome and saw them unleash hell on Jared Goff on Sunday with zero blitzes. They’ve ripped off three wins in a row and four of five, to sit at 4-3 heading into the roadie against Arizona this weekend.

Back in September, Twitter offered up some hot-takes as to what was wrong with the defense: no pass-rush, Josh Boyer was out of his depth, the scheme doesn’t work, etc. I think it’s safe to say that Brian Flores and Josh Boyer know what they’re doing and can coach defense. Consider that as of right now:

– Miami is 1st in the NFL in points allowed at 130
– Miami is 1st in the NFL in points/game allowed at 18.6
– Miami is T-2nd in the NFL in 3rd Down Defense, allowing just a 33.3% conversion rate
– Miami is T-2nd in the NFL in Takeaways with 13
– Miami is T-7th in the NFL in Sacks with 19
– Miami is 4th in the NFL in Opponents Passer Rating allowed at 81.7
– Miami is T-5th in the NFL in Completion Percentage allowed at 61.1%
– Emmanuel Ogbah is T-7th in Sacks with 6.0
– Xavien Howard is T-1st in Interceptions with 4

As Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer pointed out on Tuesday after the Rams game, they don’t award points for yards allowed. I think the “bend but don’t break” thing is very, very real. If you look at what Brian Flores, and Matt Patricia before him, did in New England, their points per game averages were always pretty good despite giving up yards. I think that trend will continue this weekend against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals provided Miami’s defense isn’t exhausted from having played 95 snaps!

To see how Miami got to the totals I listed above, let’s take a look at what they’ve done in recent weeks.

First, let’s start with the Jets game, and we’ll focus on 3rd downs.

You can’t see it in the screen, but Bobby McCain is back deep in a single-high look. Miami is going to show six rushers and man coverage and the Jets will keep six blockers in to protect Joe Flacco. Miami is going to beat that protection with a “pick” game. Focus on Jerome Baker at the snap. Rather than attacking the A gap, he attacks the center, Conner McGovern. Baker and Kamu Grugier-Hill are mugged up in the A gaps, so Frank Gore chips Baker, as he’s the closest inside threat to him. But, because Baker set a “pick” on McGovern, Grugier-Hill is able to loop around into the backside A gap and pressure Flacco. Flacco gets the pass off but doesn’t get a full rotation into it and Byron Jones knocks the pass away.

In this next example, Miami’s going to show four rushers against the Jets in an empty-gun set. At the snap, Andrew Van Ginkel is going to drop into coverage and Emmanuel Ogbah is going to loop to the backside B gap. Zach Sieler is key here as he attacks the front side A gap occupying the center and right guard. Nik Needham gets a free run in from the slot and forces Flacco to slide to his left, where Emmanuel Ogbah is in his face and forces Flacco to stop and fade back when he throws, forcing another incompletion.

In the second quarter, Miami is going to use another pick game. This time it’s with Sam Eguavoen and Christian Wilkins. At the snap Wilkins attacks the frontside A gap from a 0-technique, forcing McGovern to open to the right. Eguavoen crosses the face of the left guard and “picks” McGovern, allowing Wilkins to loop around into the backside A gap where he closes on and sacks Joe Flacco. Flacco was stuck in the middle of the pocket because both Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah are able to collapse the edges.

So far we’ve seen pick games, having rushers across the face of the center from several gaps away, and a slot blitz. In the fourth quarter, we see Josh Boyer dial-up an interesting blitz look, which I’d guess was a trial run of something we’ll see later.

At the snap, Miami shows EIGHT rushers at the line of scrimmage with three players back in coverage. But Miami bluffs the all-out blitz here. After the snap, Brandon Jones, Jerome Baker, and Christian Wilkins(!) all drop back into short zone coverage. Jamal Perry comes inside Emmanuel Ogbah off Miami’s left side, and all other rushers – Eguavoen, Rowe, and Lawson attack gaps head-on. Rowe is able to beat the back and pressures Flacco. From there, cue up the circus music as Flacco retreats and Ogbah finishes him off.

So, while not quite a zero blitz, Miami showed they’re willing to bring heavy pressure. They’re willing to drop some unconventional players into short coverage – Christian Wilkins in this case. And they’re willing to simulate pressure and bring it from somewhere else. These things were all showcased against the Rams this past Sunday and helped induce Jared Goff into four turnovers resulting in a Dolphins win.

Let’s start with Andrew Van Ginkel’s scoop & score.

Miami’s showing six rushers against the Rams empty-gun set, which automatically gives Miami a 6-on-5 advantage. The Rams slide their protection to the left, Goff’s blindside. Because of the motion of the back, which looks like it’s setup for an outlet to the right flat (the left of the screen as you look at it), there’s no one to block Emmanuel Ogbah on Goff’s frontside. However, Goff reads immediately from the middle to the left, and he doesn’t see Ogbah who decks him and knocks the ball loose. All Miami’s rushers here attack directly upfield other than Van Noy, who looks like he’s either cutoff by Raekwon Davis drawing a double-team, or had a spy/Green Dog look. This is different from the first three clips I showed from the Jets game as there are no pick or twist games, nor is there a Blitzer coming from the slot on either side.

Here’s a zero blitz look from Miami, but it’s a simulated pressure look – they DON’T bring everyone. We see Bobby McCain settle in outside of Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah on the far hash. He’s coming! To the offense this looks like an overload for Miami, 7-on-6, because the TE releases into a route. The RB blocks Eric Rowe, and Raekwon Davis and Shaq Lawson drop into underneath coverage. This allows Emmanuel Ogbah to rush the left guard, and he generates nice push. Jerome Baker also gets a nice inside rush against Rob Havenstein, the right tackle, and gets in Goff’s face. The pressure and the positioning of Shaq Lawson’s drop force Goff to alter the throw and Miami gets an incompletion.

Raekwon Davis’s drop here is very similar to what Christian Wilkins did on his interception and in the 4th quarter of the Jets game.

Miami wasn’t all about the blitz in this game either. In this clip we see them line up in their Diamond front, their 3-3-5 nickel package. I apologize for cutting this off the screen, but the Rams have Trips to the right (your left), and Miami shifts to what is termed ‘lock-and-level’ coverage. This is a Nick Saban staple against Trips Bunch. What happens here is interesting because of all the prior pressure Miami had brought. Notice the Rams motion in Tyler Higbee. Rather than releasing into a pattern, he blocks Sam Eguavoen. This allows Miami to keep Eric Rowe as a robber, picking up the running back who released into a checkdown route. Xavien Howard covers his man deep across the formation, effectively running him into a double-team with Jerome Baker. Nik Needham sticks with Cooper Kupp in coverage allowing Shaq Lawson gets some pressure as Goff fires another incompletion.

This time Miami lines up in their Ruby front, their 3-2 dime package. They’re also going to bring that slot blitz, but this time Nick Needham comes from Goff’s backside. Sieler and Lawson execute a twist stunt, which gives Goff nowhere to climb the pocket. Ogbah gets a nice rush on the frontside and Goff has to take his chances throwing a 50/50 ball to a bad matchup, Byron Jones on Josh Reynolds. Another incompletion.

*A quick note about this rep as it relates to facing Kyler Murray this weekend. He’s lightning-fast, and Miami will likely try to keep him hemmed in the pocket. I expect more level-rushing and disguised coverages than blitzes to keep Murray from making plays with his legs.

Earlier I showed the zero blitz look where Miami didn’t bring everyone. This time they do. One deceptive wrinkle Josh installed on this play and the previous zero blitz look is that he lined up Emmanuel Ogbah next to Shaq Lawson. Because of the overload to Goff’s left side – four defenders there versus three to his right – he slides the protection left. This ends up having LT Andrew Whitworth block Bobby McCain, and the Rams left guard having to block BOTH Lawson and Ogbah. Notice Wilkins gets a one-on-one versus the center because of his alignment in the A gap. Lawson and Ogbah easily get pressure in Goff’s face with hands up and force him to chuck one off his back foot. The pass is inaccurate and sails several yards over his intended receiver.

The final play is Shaq Lawson’s strip-sack. From this angle, you can see that Miami is in a Cover 1 look and walk-up Brandon Jones to the left side of the defense (Goff’s right). This causes Goff to slide the protection to the right as there are four defenders to that side and only two to his left. He’d also just shifted TE Gerald Everett tight into the end of the formation. Shaq Lawson adjusts his alignment outside Everette into a 9-technique. Because Goff slid the protection to the right, when Van Noy feigned blitzing the B Gap, Andrew Whitworth, and the back both end up blocking nobody while Shaq Lawson easily beats Everett 1-on-1 for the strip-sack.

These adjustments from week-to-week are what makes Miami’s defense so lethal. They can take away what you do really well and exploit your weaknesses. In the case of the Jets, it was a bad line, susceptible to pick games. With the Rams, it was a predictable QB. My gut feeling is that Miami figured out how they could influence Goff to slide the protection to the incorrect side and exploit numbers games on the opposite side.

Keep your eye open for the above things against Arizona. I think we’ll see them in some capacity, but perhaps not with the frequency, we saw in the Rams game. I also think we’ll see some more disguised coverages against the Cardinals like we saw in the 49ers game. Miami made nice use of playing Cover 5 and Cover 6 Buzz while disguising it as Cover 1 and Cover 2 pre-snap; Detroit did similar things against Kyler Murray earlier this year and tallied three interceptions. Let’s hope Miami continues these efforts defensively and keeps the streak rolling. FinsUp!