NFL Roundtable: It's time to take the Miami Dolphins seriously
Each week we sit down with BetAmerica Extra columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news from around the NFL. This week they weigh in on Miami's hot streak, Russell Wilson's struggles, and David Bakhtiari's super-sized contract.
The Dolphins are in the midst of their first five-game winning streak since 2016. What do you like most about Miami this season?
Ashley: The defense, which averages 1.7 takeaways per game (tied for second most), 2.4 sacks, and surrenders the fifth fewest points per contest (20.2). As a Patriots fan, it has been equally fun and bittersweet to see former defensive assistant Brian Flores flourish with his new team, which now includes former Pats linebackers Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy. Cornerback Xavien Howard has been another bright spot for the defense, and is one pick away from tying the league leader in interceptions. Miami’s defensive dominance has eased some of the pressure off rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and has made the Dolphins a tough out each week.
James: After losing three of their first four games, Miami has improved in a number of areas. They’ve won five straight behind terrific defense, forcing turnovers, and controlling field position. Special teams and the offensive line have also been outstanding – unheralded rookie Salvon Ahmed posted 85 rushing yards in Week 10 as Matt Breida, Myles Gaskin, and Jordan Howard were all sidelined. Tua Tagovailoa is often put in favorable situations, and he has been efficient since taking the helm in Week 8. Over the last two games, the rookie has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Dolphins are starting fast (averaging 23 first-half points the last three weeks), and that’s allowed Tagovailoa, who is averaging 170 passing yards per game, to primarily play from ahead.
Scott: There is plenty to like about the way the Dolphins have played throughout their first five-game winning streak since 2016, but their defense has been what has impressed me most. A group that ranked dead last in Football Outsiders DVOA in 2019 has moved into the upper half of the NFL in the team defensive efficiency rating. Plus, they have forced at least one turnover in every game this season, which often has led directly to points. Head coach Brian Flores, general manager Chris Grier, and defensive coordinator Josh Boyer have done an amazing job turning the Miami defense around.
Russell Wilson has had 10 turnovers in his last four games. Has the rest of the league finally figured him out?
Ashley: I think the pressure of compensating for Seattle’s historically bad defense has caught up to Wilson, whose decision-making has grown surprisingly questionable for such an elite QB. Wilson is trying to do too much to carry his team, and without running back Chris Carson, the offense has become far too one-dimensional. The Seahawks ran for just 57 yards in a defeat to Buffalo, and in Sunday’s loss at the Rams, running backs Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas combined for 51 yards on the ground. With hardly any threat from Seattle’s run game, defenses can focus in on Wilson and continue to fluster the former shoo-in for the 2020 league MVP award.
James: No. Russell Wilson is under enormous pressure, with no running game (Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde have been out the last three games) and a defense that is statistically on track to be the worst in NFL history, and he’s forced some untimely interceptions as a result. Seattle has lost three of its last four games after opening 5-0, but the first two losses were not Wilson’s fault. He had an off game against Los Angeles in Week 10, but most teams don’t feature a shutdown cornerback like Jalen Ramsey who can take away D.K. Metcalf. Seattle’s weaknesses may prove too much to overcome, but they remain a Super Bowl contender because of Wilson.
Scott: Wilson has not been great over the last four games, but I do not think the league has figured him out. Instead, I think the Seattle quarterback is pressing too hard since the Seahawks defense is so bad. The pressure to put up 30 plus points a week, especially when your top two running backs are out of the lineup, appears to be taking its toll on Wilson. Hopefully he plays better down the stretch where Seattle has one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league.
The Green Bay Packers have made left tackle David Bakhtiari the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history. Will the deal come back to haunt them?
Ashley: Bakhtiari has been an exceptional player for Green Bay and deserved a huge contract. While players like Aaron Jones are due up next for an extension, and may walk if the money isn’t right, it would be far more difficult to replace Bakhtiari’s production. The two-time Pro Bowler recorded a 96% pass block win rate in 2019, the highest of any NFL tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. He is also incredibly durable, having missed just six games across seven full seasons. At just 29 years old, Bakhtiari shouldn’t slow down anytime soon and is an indispensable piece of Green Bay’s offense.
For 13 seconds, David Bakhtiari was speechless, chuckling only to mask the tears that were coming.— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) November 16, 2020
The new highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history has come a long way from a 1-11 college team to $23 mil per year as the #Packers left tackle.
Story: https://t.co/KmOtc07qlJ pic.twitter.com/Qj6dp4ynaR
James: I don’t think so. Green Bay’s championship window is growing smaller, and the offense will be bolstered by locking up their premier offensive tackle. Barring a trade or release, Aaron Rogers will be under contract for the next two seasons. It’s a good idea to protect him because when Rogers leaves, it will be rebuilding time in Green Bay. Resigning Bakhtiari removes financial flexibility, and the Packers must try to improve the defense and their depth at wide receiver during the offseason, but he’s a valuable piece for a Packers team with Super Bowl aspirations in the short-term.
Scott: Green Bay made an aggressive move making Bakhtiari the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history, but I do not think it will come back to haunt them. Left tackle is one of the most important positions, especially when you are protecting a Hall of Fame quarterback like Aaron Rodgers. The fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft has been named either first or second team All-Pro in four straight years and has been constantly ranked as one of Pro Football Focus’ top pass protectors in the NFL. It was money well spent assuming the 29-year old stays healthy.