Entering the 2018 NFL season, a lot of local buzz surrounded the Miami Dolphins regarding their playmaking talent on offense.
This was mainly due to their speed at running back and in the receiving core.
After all, they have Kenyan Drake who runs a 4.45 and busted long runs for touchdowns during the second half of the 2017 season when he was asked to be Miami’s featured back after the team traded away Jay Ajayi before the season’s deadline.
The Dolphins receivers–which include DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, and Albert Wilson– all run under 4.45 seconds in their respective 40-yard dashes.
So the Dolphins offense is fast, fast, fast.
At least… it should be.
But it’s not translating to the field. Especially over the Dolphins last 2 losses against the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals in which the receiving unit struggled to create separation against defenders and left Ryan Tannehill standing back in the pocket looking for someone to throw to.
So what’s the problem?
Well, maybe it’s because the weapons on this team… just aren’t that good.
(Cue gasp by Dolphins Nation)
Now, Now. Just hear me out.
Kenyan Drake – Fans love The Drake. They still love The Drake. The Drake is probably the best overall weapon the Dolphins have on offense. But The Drake isn’t used enough.
The Dolphins are not using Drake as the same featured back getting 20+ touches per game during the second-half of last season. This is a consequence of head coach Adam Gase’s philosophy of using a running back duo who can both catch and run inside the tackles. But it’s also who Drake always was going back to his college days at Alabama.
He was a running back who wasn’t trusted to handle the full workload. Throughout his college career, Drake took a backseat to other RB’s on the roster who were deemed more pro-ready like Eddy Lacy, T.J. Yeldon, and Derrick Henry.
Now, this is just something to think about with Drake. I fully believe he can be an all-around featured back in the NFL. He proved that already in 2017. He has the size, speed, hands, and toughness to do it. Adam Gase and the Dolphins believe that as well, but they are still stubbornly sticking with the split-backfield philosophy.
Kenny Stills – used to be a speedy WR-3 for the New Orleans Saints before Dolphins made a trade for him back in 2015. Since then, he maintained a similar role for the Dolphins after the team drafted a WR-1 prototype in DeVante Parker in the first round of the 2015 draft, and pro-bowler reception-machine Jarvis Landry maintained his role in the slot. Stills filled his role well during this time.
But Parker has only been able to play for 1 game this season while battling injuries, and Landry now finds himself moving the chains for the Cleveland Browns.
So Stills, the team’s longest-tenured receiver besides DeVante Parker, is now asked to be what in this offense?
A WR-1? 2? 3?
We have no idea.
But if he was a Number-1, I think we would see his targets and involvement increased significantly.
Albert Wilson – went undrafted and played with the Kansas City Chiefs since 2014.
During his time with the Chiefs the last few seasons, how many times have you heard his name throughout the NFL? And was he a focal-point of that Andy Reid offense?
I remember hearing names like Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Travis Kelce, Jeremy Maclin, Tyreek Hill, and Kareem Hunt… but not Albert Wilson.
During 2016, Wilson was the Chiefs 6th-leading receiver with 279 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In 2017, Wilson jumped up to 3rd on the team with 554 yards and 3 touchdowns (career-highs), but that yardage fell drastically short of tight end Travis Kelce’s and Tyreek Hill’s who both ended the season with over 1,000 yards and a combined 15 receiving touchdowns.
So Wilson has been at-best a WR-3 during his NFL career? Certainly a role-player, but not a featured receiver for an offense.
Jakeem Grant – When the Miami Dolphins decided to take a speedy 5’7 receiver with inconsistent hands in the 6th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, did that spell No. 1 or No. 2 WR to anyone?
Not to me, it didn’t.
Grant has been used as a returner early in his NFL career and due to his speed, has been developed into a contributing receiver for the Dolphins. He appears to have put those disappointing drops behind him. He’s got big-play ability, no doubt. But again, not a featured guy.
Grant would probably be a slot WR-3 or 4 in an ideal NFL offense and he still plays in this role for the Dolphins.
DeVante Parker – “Humpty Dumpty” continues to be put together by all the kings horses and all the kings men.
He is the Dolphins only true WR-1 who can divert defensive attention onto himself and away from the other receivers. Parker is the type of receiver who can be covered by an opponent’s No. 1 cornerback and allow his teammates to face lesser competition on the field.
But until he can become game-healthy, Grant, Stills, and Wilson will be stuck as role-playing receivers fighting those tougher battles against the league’s top cornerbacks.
So there you have it.
The Dolphins are presently playing with a highly-talented running back who they don’t feature enough, and a group of fast role-playing receivers while they wait for the planets to align for their WR-1 to return from injury.
Can they get by with this collection of player-caliber?
Well, I think we learned during their 3-2 span that it all depends on if they play one of the better teams in the NFL or not.