As the Jacksonville Jaguars head down to Miami to take on the Dolphins this week, we continue our “Questions with the Enemy” pieces to get a better idea of the opponent.
This week we are talking to Kevon Nogle, managing editor of The Phinsider — SB Nation’s website for all things Miami Dolphins. We covered many topics regarding the Dolphons as a team and this Sunday’s matchup. Check out our conversation below.
1. The Miami Dolphins are still “in the hunt” for the playoffs. Do you predict we’ll see Miami in the postseason? Why or why not?
Kevin: I expect them to keep fighting, and I would not be shocked if they made it, but the odds are definitely stacked against them. I think it will come down to Week 17, but I guess I expect them to just miss out because of mistakes they made earlier in the season.
2. Do you expect the team to move on from quarterback Ryan Tannehill at the end of the season, or is he still looked at as the long-time starter?
Kevin: At 30-years-old, Tannehill is not the “long-term” answer anymore, whether you like him as the starter or not. Is he back next year? I think he is, but there are plenty of people and rumors that support the team moving on without him. His salary cap number jumps to the highest number it has been/will be in this current contract at $26.6 million. That number is split almost evenly between dead money and cap savings if he is cut, though if he is made a post-June 1 cut, it would be about $18.7 million in cap savings, so there are ways for Miami to move on if they choose. Again, I think he is back because who is going to be his replacement? I do not see anyone who will likely be available that can come in from day one and be a guaranteed upgrade. I feel like the 2020 NFL Draft will be the better year for finding a “franchise” quarterback, so I would go with Tannehill one more year — hope the Dolphins can finally figure out how to stay healthy — and see what happens before adding your future quarterback in 2020.
3. Walk us through the “Miami Miracle” against the New England Patriots and how it was executed. Would you say this was the most impressive play you’ve ever seen in your time covering the Dolphins?
Kevin: This was insane. I was sitting in a hotel in Iowa, traveling for a work conference, and I was trying so hard not to scream or make too much noise so as to not bother the neighbors. I am still not 100 percent sure the play really happened, and at some point, especially since it was against the Patriots, I still expect the referees to throw a flag negating the play. The play is officially “Boise” in the Dolphins’ playbook, because it is a play head coach Adam Gase saw Boise State run in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and it is a play the Dolphins walked through every Friday/Saturday each week, just to make sure that if they ever needed it, it would be there. With as weird as Dolphins-Patriots games are, especially in Miami, it makes complete sense that the Dolphins would break it out against New England.
As for the play itself, Miami had the ball at their 31-yard line, down five with seven seconds to play. Ryan Tannehill throws to Kenny Stills on a 15-yard in-route from the right side. Stills then laterals the ball back to DeVante Parker, who typically would run 10- to 15-yards down field before pitching the ball back to Kenyan Drake, who is trailing the play down the right sideline. From there, the script ends and the typical lateral madness is supposed to start. Except, during this game, Stills did a great job of recognizing he had a defender on his back he needed to lose, so he spun around him before making the first pitch to Parker. Then Parker only ran about four yards before he tossed it to Drake, a moment after the game Gase said upset him because he thought Parker could have gotten more yardage, but realized after the entire thing that Parker made the right play.
After getting the ball, Drake makes a couple of players miss, then starts running parallel to the goal line, rather than forward, clearly looking for someone to whom he can pitch the ball. Again, this is the part of the play where there is no script. It is backyard football at its finest. Drake realizes after a couple of seconds that there is an opening up field and that he can tuck the ball and run. As he heads downfield, he said he saw Rob Gronkowski, back playing deep safety in case of a Hail Mary attempt — despite Miami needing 69 yards and Tannehill having a shoulder injury most of the season — and told himself he can beat the tight end. From there it was just a footrace to the corner of the end zone. Gronkowski did not have the angle and Drake scored in the longest play from scrimmage to win an NFL game as time expired since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.
Watch this a million times and you still won’t believe what you saw. pic.twitter.com/GkylQZD7s7— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) December 9, 2018
4. The Dolphins have dealt with injuries and inconsistent play at the wide receiver position. The Jaguars have dealt with injuries and inconsistent play...well, everywhere. Still Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye aren’t anybody’s first choice to deal with. How do you think the Dolphins need to attack Jacksonville’s secondary with limited weapons available?
Kevin: Kenny Stills has to be involved. That has been an issue for Miami this year, and they need to get him the ball early so he can get into rhythm. Miami’s offense is supposed to be built around the play-action pass, getting the game started on the ground and with the short passing game before using play-action to take deep shots. They have struggled to do that for most of the year, in part because of injuries and in part because they have gotten away from that style for some reason.
As for the receivers themselves, it becomes interesting after Stills. Danny Amendola has not been spectacular by any means, but he is a factor at times. DeVante Parker is still a disappointment, but as soon as you write him off, he seems to suddenly have a giant game. Leonte Carroo and Brice Butler — especially Butler — have used the injuries to Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson to find their own roles, albeit supporting roles. The Dolphins have used Drake more as a receiving option than as a running back, and they are getting tight end Nick O’Leary — and to a lesser degree rookie Mike Gesicki — involved in the passing game as well. Look for them to start the game with slants and shorter routes before trying to open it up deep if they can get the right matchup and the play action is working.
5. Obviously, this was a disappointing season for the Jaguars coming of an AFC Championship game appearance. This has been a topic covered immensely on Big Cat Country, but from an outside opinion, did you expect the Jags to make it back to the playoffs this season, and from your view, why do you think the team struggled so much in 2018?
Kevin: I absolutely did. I do not know that I would have said back to the AFC Championship game or making it to the Super Bowl, but I thought they would walk away with the AFC South easily. I know a lot of people will automatically say it must be Blake Bortles’ fault, especially from outside the team/fanbase, and maybe it really is, but I think there are a lot of things that went wrong for the Jaguars this year. Injuries, as you mentioned, have been killer. Leonard Fournette has just not looked like himself this year, and that may be the biggest issue. Without him, more of the game lands on Bortles’ — and now Cody Kessler’s —shoulders, and that is not the way the Jaguars have been built. I know I am telling a Jaguars fan about his own team, but that is at least the way I have seen Jacksonville this year. The defense is still there, maybe not as dominant as last year because of the extended playing time they have had with an inept offense, but it is there. The offense has to be fixed.
Bonus: Score Prediction?
Kevin: I am not confident that this is easily Miami’s game or anything, but I will give the team the benefit of the doubt because it is in Miami and the Dolphins have played really well at home this year. I will say something along the lines of 23-17 Miami.
Thank you to Kevin for this thoughts and detailed analysis. Be sure to follow him/The Phinsider on Twitter.