What We Saw: Dolphins at Saints

Jaylen Waddle and the Dolphins' defense pummeled the Saints all night long

Dolphins @ Saints

Final Score: Dolphins 20, Saints 3

Writer: Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL on Twitter)

 

This game started off as a defensive showdown between the two teams, with both teams combining for five sacks and only 13 points. Despite nearly tripling the Saints’ total yards in the first half, Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense was only able to put three points on the board after a missed 59 field goal at the end of the half by Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders.

However, the halftime score was 10-3 in favor of Miami because of a pick-six early in the first quarter that should have indicated how the night would progress for Saints QB Ian Book. His first career start was what some would call a disaster. While not entirely his fault (the Saints are still dealing with COVID issues), Book was thrown into a tough situation and struggled to make the most of it. He was sacked eight times and threw two interceptions as the Dolphins’ defense was all over him from the get-go.

On the other side of the ball, another rookie shined: Jaylen Waddle. Waddle had one of his best games as a professional, seeing usage all over the field while receiving nearly half of Tua Tagovailoa‘s targets on the night. He truly shined bright on an otherwise dull night and his 2022 fantasy draft stock is on the cilmb.

Miami has now won seven straight and is within sniffing distance of the playoffs, while the Saints continue to tumble after peaking against the Buccaneers.

 

 

Miami Dolphins

 

Quarterback

 

Tua Tagovailoa: 19/26, 198 yards, TD, INT, 2 Sacks, Fumble | 1 carry, 1 yard

Jacoby Brissett: Sack

 

Tua Tagovailoa was not spectacular in this game. He made the throws he needed to make and avoided mistakes for the most part. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first, though.

His interception was straight-up bad, forcing a ball downfield when he had an open receiver (Waddle, of course) across the middle.

 

 

I’m not sure what he was thinking here, but I think he just read the defense wrong. It’s pretty clear that the safety got turned around and left Waddle wide open over the middle of the field. This could have been a turning point in the game if the Saints offense had anything resembling capable at QB.

Tua’s fumble wasn’t exactly his fault, as his offensive line made a mistake that allowed Tua to take a vicious hit. He lost the ball as a result, but thankfully it was recovered by one of his linemen. You’d like to see him hold onto the football a little better but that happens to everyone in this league. So be it.

On the positive side, Tua did a great job of executing the offensive game plan – feeding Jaylen Waddle. Waddle was open for most of the night, so Tua didn’t feel the need to force it to anyone other than his favorite receiver and best playmaker on the field. He also had this phenomenal throw to Mack Hollins that was executed to perfection.

 

 

For most of the night, Tua was accurate and on point, which is about all you can ask for. Sure, the interception was bad, but he did all he could to put his team in a position to win and they came out of it with a victory. He didn’t light the world on fire, and if you were relying on him to do so for fantasy purposes you were likely very disappointed, but Tua is what he is, the Dolphins have realized that, and now they’ve won seven straight games.

 

Running Backs

 

Duke Johnson: 13 carries, 39 yards

Phillip Lindsay: 13 carries, 36 yards

Myles Gaskin: 3 carries, 10 yards | 3 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

 

It’s become clear in the last few weeks that Miami is content with this backfield being a split committee, and that’s exactly what it was on Monday night. Duke Johnson is a guy who Miami trusts to run straight into the line, gain what he can, and fall forward. He did that pretty much all night, though he did have one angry run where he bounced off multiple defenders and drove his way toward a ten-yard gain.

Phillip Lindsay wasn’t much better, though he still shows a burst that none of these guys have in their game. If he has open space he can make something happen, but there was no open space for him on Monday night. Miami wasn’t very creative in the ground game (they saved their creativity for Waddle) so his job was to just hang onto the ball and fall forward, which he did. Lindsay has never fumbled in his career, and he almost had his first one in this game but it was overturned after the booth looked at it.

Myles Gaskin only touched the ball four times all night and it appears that his starting job is gone. This has been the case off and on all year, which is unfortunate for the young back. He’s still a good receiving back, hence why he was the only back targeted out of the backfield, but maybe the coaching staff sees him as more of a one-dimensional back than we do. Either way, this is probably a backfield to avoid for your championship week matchups.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Jaylen Waddle: 12 targets, 10 receptions, 92 yards, TD

Mack Hollins: 2 targets, 1 reception, 40 yards

Durham Smythe: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 31 yards

Mike Gesicki: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 22 yards

Tommylee Lewis: 2 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards

 

When I say Jaylen Waddle was all over the field all night long, I mean it.

 

 

First, let’s get the records out of the way.

 

 

In the last few weeks, Waddle has done everything the Dolphins dreamed of when they drafted him in the 1st round of April’s draft, and last night was the cherry on top of it all. He lined up outside, in the slot, in the backfield, and caught passes on all of ’em. His touchdown catch was a well-drawn-up play where the Dolphins employed some misdirection and trickery to get Waddle the ball and give him a chance to make a play. And he did just that.

 

 

It’s clear that Miami saw something on tape against the usually tough Saints defense and thought “Hey, we’ve got this Waddle guy, if we do this, this, and this I bet we can get him the ball and move the chains.” They did exactly what they thought they could do.

Waddle was on the receiving end of a flea-flicker over the middle and he turned it into a long gain.

 

 

He found a soft spot in the Saints’ zone defense and converted a first down when Tua dropped a ball in to him.

 

 

And here he is catching a ball out of the backfield to convert another third down.

 

 

Man, I feel bad for the linebacker trying to cover him there. Waddle will get most of the credit for his huge game on Monday night, but the offensive coaching staff deserves some too because their creative play-calling gave him an opportunity to shine. And shine he did.

With Waddle going off, the rest of the offense reverted to complementary pieces on the night. DeVante Parker wasn’t even targeted in this one, a surprising development after his resurgence in the last few weeks. It was likely game script related as Waddle was feasting and the offense likely knew the Saints had no shot of catching up to them on the scoreboard.

The Miami tight ends, specifically Mike Gesicki, weren’t asked to do much either. Gesicki caught a few balls but otherwise, that was it. Again, it was the Waddle show and he just had a front seat to watch it all.

Let’s see that waddle again, shall we?

 

 

New Orleans Saints

 

Quarterbacks

 

Ian Book: 12/20, 135 yards, 2 INT | 3 carries, 6 yards

 

Ian Book, the former Notre Dame QB, got the start in this one with both Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian on the COVID list. It started off poorly and didn’t get much better throughout the rest of the game. Book’s second career pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, intercepted, then returned for a touchdown.

 

 

It wasn’t exactly his fault, but it set the tone for the rest of the game as Miami’s tenacious defense attacked Book all night long. Book was constantly dumping the ball off with pressure in his face or scrambling for his life, and he’s lucky he was only sacked a measly eight times.

The Saints didn’t earn a first down until the 2nd quarter, on what would end up to be Book’s best drive of the game. He made a couple of nice throws to Marquez Callaway, who was able to shake defenders twice and find open space. The drive resulted in a field goal, New Orleans’ only points on the night.

Book made more rookie mistakes as the game went on and the pressure mounted. At one point in the third quarter, he rolled to his right to avoid pressure. He then ran out of bounds for an 11 yard loss. The smart play would have been to just throw it away, but he didn’t do that. He was then sacked again on the next play, setting up a draw play to Alvin Kamara on 3rd and 31, which of course went nowhere (and almost resulted in a scoop and score, but was overturned on replay).

Book wrapped up his, um, appearance by throwing his second interception of the game into quadruple coverage. This was about as bad as it gets for a QB.

 

 

Book is a rookie that was thrust into a tough situation against a good football team, so it’s tough to criticize him like this given what he was handed. With that said, he still has a long way to go before he’s capable of handling a regular starting job in the NFL.

 

Running Backs

 

Alvin Kamara: 13 carries, 52 yards | 4 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards

Mark Ingram: 4 carries, 17 yards

Tony Jones Jr.: 2 carries, 6 yards

Adam Prentice: 1 carry, 2 yards

 

I think we all hoped that Alvin Kamara would shoulder the load in this game, getting huge usage numbers and helping take the pressure off of Book. Well, that didn’t happen. Book’s inability to push the ball downfield made the Saints’ offense very predictable, to the point where the Saints didn’t convert a single third down in the entire game. That’s 0/12 on the night. It’s really hard for a running back to put up good numbers on a night where he’s unable to string together a couple of long drives to accumulate yards and receptions on.

Kamara’s longest rush of the night was for 10 yards and came with five minutes left in the third quarter. He also had an opportunity for a 20+ yard reception on a screen but stumbled coming out of his break, then Book threw an errant pass that Kamara couldn’t corral. He had a ton of open space behind him and it was a huge missed opportunity, though it wouldn’t have mattered much in the grand scheme of things. Chalk this one up to poor offensive execution all around.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Marquez Callaway: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 46 yards

Lil’Jordan Humphrey: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 70 yards

Ethan Wolf: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 8 yards

Kenny Stills: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards

Nick Vannett: 1 target

 

Marquez Callaway and Lil’Jordan Humphrey are the only two names I recall hearing all night, and they’re pretty much the only two who did anything with Ian Book throwing to them. As I mentioned in the Book blurb, Callaway got open twice on one drive and that was the majority of his production on the night. Humphrey had one 56 yard catch and run but otherwise didn’t do much of anything. Again, chalk it up to poor offensive execution and call it a day.

 

 

Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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