Miami Dolphins 2021 Team Study

Part 4 of my 32-part series breaking down every team’s performance in 2021. Check out part 3 here: New York Jets. Part 5 now available: Dallas Cowboys.


Eff. Rating Adj. Rating Rank
4.53 -0.42 26th

Offensive Eff. Rating (teal and orange) v. opponent average allowed (grey).

Pass EPA Rush EPA Adj. Pass Rate
20th 31st 6th

It’s exceedingly difficult for an NFL offense to win with a poor offensive line. The Dolphins had arguably the worst offensive line in 2021, giving them little chance to succeed. The eye test and statistical metrics tell the same story here. I saw Tua harassed on dropbacks, forcing the Dolphins to employ a quick-hitting low-depth passing attack to have any chance to succeed. They finished with the 2nd-lowest average time in the pocket and still allowed the 17th-highest pressure rate.

Teams can succeed by employing a low-depth passing attack, but only if those passes lead to yards after the catch. This can result from effective scheme (like the 49ers) or a quarterback and weapons that can burn you deep on any play (like the Chiefs). The Dolphins had the 3rd-lowest yards after the catch per completion. This obviously meant they lacked explosive plays, as they didn’t throw deep or rip off big gains after the catch. They also didn’t run the ball effectively, thanks to their 3rd-worst yards per carry before contact. This once again illustrates weakness on the offensive line. 

Tua has failed to consistently threaten deep during his time in the NFL. Obviously his offensive line has not helped him out, but last year Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to take deep shots (and have some success) in the same offense. Maybe the coaching staff has wanted to protect him, or maybe he doesn’t like taking risks. When he has thrown deep, he has been inconsistent. This allows defenses to play tighter on receivers, which explains their lack of yards after the catch.

At his best, Tua is an extremely accurate quarterback who can put the ball in spots where only his receivers can make a play. I think he would do fairly well in an offense designed to his strengths, with good protection and a sound running game to lean on. But he doesn’t read and manipulate defenses or generate opportunities with elusiveness and mobility. He’s basically Kyler Murray in the pocket without Murray’s game-breaking scrambling ability. This puts him squarely in the tier of quarterbacks with Mayfield, Goff, Dalton, and others, whose performance varies greatly with their circumstances. Tua’s circumstances have not been great thus far.

Interestingly, the Dolphins did not step up their game against teams that did not exert pressure. Chart A shows Miami’s offensive Adj. Eff. Rating against each opponent ranked by its pressure rate on the season in games that Tua played. Outside of a fairly good performance against Atlanta, the Dolphins actually played their worst offensive football (adjusted for opponent) against low-pressure teams.

Chart A

Chart A: Adjusted Eff. Rating by opponent pressure rate on defense.
*Only games with Tua at QB included.

The Dolphins played at or above their average against most of the high-pressure teams they faced, including the Panthers, Patriots, and Saints. But they couldn't take advantage of the low-pressure defenses of the Giants and Jets. Despite winning both games, more drives ended in punts and turnovers than points. The defense did its job. This likely indicates that their offensive scheme was a permanent identity rather than a reaction to pressure-heavy teams. Time will tell what direction the new coaching staff takes, but the options are limited without significant improvements to the offensive line.

But to give credit where credit is due: Jaylen Waddle popped as a rookie, making plays all over the field. Mike Gesicki continues to make contested catches look easy and even Davante Parker has shown flashes during his career. With a year under his belt, I expect Waddle to become a matchup nightmare if the Dolphins can find a way to use him. He will be a crucial element of any offensive improvement.

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