A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Monday night:
▪ Let’s be clear about this: Players deserve most of the credit for this 3-0 Dolphins start.
But here’s what else should make owner Stephen Ross very happy (besides Tua Tagovailoa’s improvement): This start also speaks very well of coach Mike McDaniel and general manager Chris Grier for reasons that were reinforced on Sunday.
Not only has McDaniel extracted the most out of Tagovailoa and shown a boldness and creativity with his play-calling, but he made a very smart strategic decision on Sunday.
As ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky noted, “I loved Miami’s plan offensively. They went to a bunch of seven man protections, hard ball play action so at least Tua would have the time to go through his progressions and so that pinpoint accuracy can shine.
“I counted 11 times where they made sure they had seven guys blocking four guys on that defense. Weeks 1 through 2, Buffalo led the league in pressures and sacks (nine).”
On Sunday? The Bills had five pressures and one sack.
“That’s great coaching to understand the likeliest way we lose this game is we allow Buffalo’s defensive line to dominate,” Orlovsky said. “They didn’t.”
Last season, the Dolphins allowed a ridiculous 52 pressures and eight sacks in the two games against Buffalo. On Sunday, they relinquished those five pressures (on 22 drop backs) and one sack.
And Grier’s offseason pickups - in conjunction with input from McDaniel and the personnel staff - have looked very good.
Connor Williams, a guard with Dallas, has made a seamless transition to center. He has permitted no sacks and three pressures in 115 pass-blocking chances; only two NFL centers have allowed fewer quarterback pressures on as many or more snaps.
Terron Armstead is the league’s No. 10 tackle, per Pro Football Focus. He got the better of future Hall of Famer Von Miller on Sunday.
In three games, despite playing through a toe injury, Armstead has permitted no sacks and four hurries in 113 pass-blocking chances. Only seven NFL tackles have yielded fewer pressures in as many or more pass-blocking opportunities.
Tyreek Hill is PFF’s No. 6 receiver and third in receiving yards at 317; credit Grier for doing what it took to make the trade to acquire him.
And Melvin Ingram - PFF’s No. 27 edge player - has been a helpful addition. Beyond the two sacks and a fumble recovery on Sunday, Ingram showed incredible hustle in nearly sacking Josh Allen, and then running downfield to tackle Isaiah McKenzie (and keep him in bounds) on Buffalo’s final play.
“He can just flat out play,” Dolphins guard Rob Hunt said of Ingram. “Lining up against him in camp, you got to be with it because he can do a lot of different things. He’s a dangerous rusher, man. He’s really good.”
▪ And here was a smart second-half adjustment from defensive coordinator Josh Boyer:
According to ESPN, the Dolphins blitzed Allen 57 percent of the time on Buffalo’s first three drives, and he completed 88 percent of his passes with two touchdown passes on those drives.
After that, Miami blitzed him just 20 percent of the time, and he completed 59 percent of his passes with no touchdowns.
The Dolphins pressured him 31 percent of his dropbacks, more than the Rams and Titans did.
“It was great looks up front, trying to confuse protection and make Josh Allen think he had to get the ball out of his hands fast,” ESPN’s Marcus Spears said. “Josh Allen wants to hit home run balls. This was one of those games you could see him getting a bit frustrated having to go to the backs, having to get the ball out of his hands early. Miami did a phenomenal job not only blitzing but disguising as well. Josh Allen is going to beat out when you blitz.”
▪ Tagovailoa is one of the league’s best quarterbacks since the start of 2021 in one score games in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Per ESPN, in that precise situation, his eight TD passes are tied for first in the league. His 77 completion percentage is first. And his QBR of 92 is second, behind only Matthew Stafford. The Dolphins are 6-3 in those games.
“Ball placement is what matters,” Orlovsky said in narrating a video of Tagovailoa’s excellent accuracy on Sunday. “That’s why I think he’s going to be a great pro. They won the game because of it.”
▪ More network pundit reaction on Monday:
ESPN’s Damien Woody: “You talk about a young team that’s finding ways to win games. That’s what good teams do.”
ESPN’s Jeff Saturday, on Buffalo running 90 plays to Miami’s 39 on Sunday: “When teams run 90 plays, they’re 32-31-9. They’re running a lot of plays, but no explosive plays.”
So are the Dolphins the best team in the AFC East?
“No way in heck,” ESPN’s Rex Ryan said. “The Bills are clearly the best team in the AFC East and the entire league. This [Dolphins] team got destroyed in the game everywhere but the scoreboard.
But.. “Tua is fantastic,” Ryan said.
▪ Coach Mike McDaniel loved how Armstead and Xavien Howard played through toe and groin injuries, respectively:
“When you have two captains like that do everything they possibly can to contribute as much as they can to the team, there’s a trickle-down effect that I think really it’s hard to just say their own play.
“Not only did they play very well – both of them – but I think you’re also setting a tone for your teammates to follow. And I think there’s a lot of straining, a lot of grit, a lot of battling in that game that is a function of a lot of captains really scratching and clawing.
▪ Pro Football Focus’ top five rated Dolphins on offense Sunday, in order: Hunt, Jaylen Waddle, Tagovailoa, River Cracraft and Hill.
PFF’s top five rated Dolphins on defense Sunday, in order: Jevon Holland, Keion Crossen, Christian Wilkins, Ingram and Andrew Van Ginkel.
PFF said the Dolphins pressured Allen 46 times on Sunday in his 70 drop backs.
Emmanuel Ogbah had seven pressures, Ingram six, Trey Flowers and Jaelan Phillips five apiece.
▪ Quick stuff: Good job by Nik Needham, who held the Bills to one catch in three targets in his coverage area (one 11 yard completion) after performing poorly against Buffalo the previous four games…
Holland allowed just two completions in four targets for 20 yards… Kader Kohou permitted 8 of 9 for 82 yards…
TV ratings in South Florida haven’t risen much for Dolphins games the past two weeks. Sunday’s game was viewed in 12.9 percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes with TV sets.