Miami Dolphins’ personnel versatility showcased in win over Patriots

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All offseason long, all anyone talked about with narratives about the Miami Dolphins offense (aside of Tua Tagovailoa) was the wide receiver room. How much speed this team added at receiver. How much more explosive the team was going to be in the passing game because of it. And then Week 1 against the Patriots happened — and the only two wide receivers to catch the football were DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle.

What gives?

Did the Dolphins’ offense receive false advertising this summer? No. But instead, the Week 1 performance and personnel usage from the Dolphins affords a healthy reminder of what the Miami Dolphins want to be on any given day:

A team that can match the strengths of the opposition.

This Dolphins team is engineered to be a chameleon. To seamlessly transition their looks from one week to another in an effort to present the maximum number of matchup challenges. Or, alternatively, to help neutralize the strength of the opposition. And that’s how, when reviewing the final snap counts from Week 1 and Miami’s 17-16 victory over the Patriots, you saw so much of the tight ends.

Durham Smythe (38 snaps) took 70% of Miami’s offensive snaps as the base tight end. Mike Gesicki logged 21 snaps. Hunter Long took 18. Cethan Carter? 13.

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The Dolphins entered this week clearly intent on utilizing traditional tight end looks in order to manufacture wider edges in the run game and attempt to gather better spacing on the front to help find more room to run. And those tight ends weren’t just asked to run routes down the field (aside of Gesicki). Miami tried to aid their offensive line disadvantage against the Patriots with heavy tight end sets and instead relied on a handful of one on one matchups at receiver to create chunk plays.

It wasn’t pretty. But it worked.

And if the Dolphins enter into next week’s contest against Buffalo believing they’ll need 30 points to win the game (a reasonable expectation given Buffalo’s track record against Miami of late), you could see much more of the 11-personnel groupings and speed down the field. Miami clearly didn’t trust their young line to hold up in the opener against Bill Belichick’s exotic rush looks without a little extra help. But they won’t face Bill Belichick and a super deep swarm of pass rushers every week — and so don’t expect the heavy dosages of 12-personnel to be a staple of the team. Just consider it another club in the bag for when they need to change things up.