DAVIE – It took the Miami Dolphins’ coaching staff 14 weeks to finally employ personnel packages they’d plan to utilize since the onset of the 2017 season. When they finally did elect to take advantage of their players’ versatility they didn’t disappoint.
Coach Adam Gase’s game plan on Monday night was a critical part of the Dolphins’ 27-20 win over the New England Patriots. His willingness place players in positions to exercise their versatility routinely put the Patriots’ defense in a bind, and they had a difficult time matching up with the Dolphins’ skill position players throughout the majority of the contest.
Running back Kenyan Drake occasionally lined up at wide receiver. When the Patriots lined up in man coverage in their base defense, Drake was able to exploit his match-ups against New England’s linebackers to the tune of 5 receptions for 79 yards.
The Dolphins also placed wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Jarvis Landry in the backfield, which helped keep the Patriots’ defense off balance according to offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen.
“The upside is if you do give them some looks where they’re regular calls and keys and tips and reminders don’t match-up because the [opposing defense] hasn’t seen it,” Christensen said. “So there’s a tradeoff … you kind of try to keep them to a minimum, but you want them to be effective. They were effective Monday night and that helped us a little bit just moving those guys around. … Jakeem [Grant] gave us a couple of big plays. “
While Christensen did like the fact that Gase was able to use different packages to exercise the versatility of his running backs and wide receivers, he cautioned that execution is not as easy as it looks.
“It does help – but again, it’s not Madden football. It’s not quite as easy, it’s hard to get it practiced, it’s hard to get it executed because all of a sudden they come with a blitz and you go, ‘Well who was supposed to pick him up?’ so it’s more complicated than just, ‘Hey lets put Jakeem here, and lets put Jarvis here, we’ll move No. 11 [DeVante Parker] over here and stick this guy in the backfield.’ But we need to, we have versatile guys; you love to use their versatility.”
Gase would like to continue building on getting his running backs and wide receivers the ball in unconventional spots, to take advantage of defenses keying in on Landry.
“Anything you can be multiple and keep the defense guessing what you’re doing in run-pass options and just try to find a way to get the ball in our playmakers’ hands, that’s the most important thing. It becomes tough too get Jarvis [Landry] the ball sometimes because like last game, he was doubled on so many snaps, and that’s why other guys were popping open. We had some guys running free because you know he’s being accounted for. It’s different ways teams do it. I think we saw like three or four different ways New England [Patriots] did it.”
Gase and Christensen are certainly enjoying seeing the likes of Drake catching the ball at wide receiver and tight end MarQueis Gray taking handoffs – but the players are enjoying it even more.
“Anytime I can get active into the offense, just making plays, that’s what I’m here for and I look forward to it,” said Gray.
Grant’s versatility has given his coaches more of a reason to insert him into the line-up.
“Being able to play inside and out gives the coaches more opportunity to put you in, and put you in different spots to get mismatches on defenses,” said Grant. “From last year I was playing inside receiver and this year I’m playing outside, so I know both roles. Being able to do that – it helps the coach to get mismatches across the defense.”