What started off as an innocuous reception in the flat turned into a Miami Dolphins first down and an appearance on a coveted morning show program.
Tight end Adam Shaheen caught one pass in the Dolphins 22-12 win over the Patriots Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, but he made the most of it. Angling towards the perimeter, Shaheen stuck his foot in the ground, dropped his shoulder and did his best bulldozer impression to rumble through four New England defenders.
NFL Network's Kyle Brandt brings a high-octane segment to Good Morning Football every Tuesday on the network where he awards 'The Scepter' to the run from the previous week's action that best matches his boisterous enthusiasm.
*Shaheen's segment starts at 1:41 of this clip on the show's Facebook page.
Shaheen's nomination didn't bring The Scepter back to South Florida, but the nomination fulfilled a season-long goal for the Miami tight ends.
"That's something we've talked about all season, trying to get on that," Smythe said. "(Dolphins Tight Ends Coach) George Godsey has talked about that segment since training camp."
Unsung Tight Ends
Bringing attention to a position that's more steak than sizzle is a welcomed sight from the bird's eye view, but the thankless work of Smythe and Shaheen does not go unnoticed inside the Dolphins' building.
"(Smythe) does a lot of things for us," Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey said. "He can play multiple positions, he's very intelligent, he's a tough guy … I feel like he's very valuable to us as a football team, as an offense. He plays special teams. I'm glad he's on our side."
While Smythe registered a career-high 40 receiving yards in the game and Shaheen chipped in with 15 from his rumblin', bumblin' charge that would get Chris Berman out of his chair, it was the thankless work of those two that helped produced the biggest rushing total of the season for Miami.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Dolphins rushed the football off right or left end a combined eight times in the game Sunday for an average of 9.4 yards per clip. The 75 rushing yards on outside runs accounted for 30 percent of the 250 total yards on the ground including jaunts of 31, 24, 14, and 13 yards; runs that don't happen without exceptional blocking from the tight ends and receivers.
"You seldom have a long run without those guys blocking," Gailey said. "That's something we've been working on and trying to get better at each week is how we can control those guys in the secondary, how we can affect them and get them blocked. They're getting better every week. It wasn't just yesterday. I thought they've been getting better each week doing that. So we've got to continue that."
More Unsung Dolphins
The bell cow for the rushing performance was Salvon Ahmed, a player who wasn't on the roster at the start of training camp. The Dolphins rookie running back didn't make his NFL debut until Week 9 after going undrafted at out the University of Washington. He would join Miami in late-August after being placed on waivers by the 49ers.
Ahmed has speed to burn, evident by his 31-yard scamper in the fourth quarter of Sunday's win. But it's more than speed that makes a productive back.
"He's got some awareness about blocks," Gailey said. "I think (Running Backs Coach) Eric Studesville does a great job of explaining principles of running. Who you're looking at, where you think the crease will be, when do you take the crease, when do you look for the next crease. I think Eric does a great job of teaching running backs about the theory of defense and defenders and how they see things."
Clever cap management and unearthing production from players like Ahmed has put the Dolphins in position not just to push for postseason play in 2020, but in an enviable perch ahead of the 2021 offseason.
Over The Cap, a publication that specializes in tracking the contracts of players and the salary cap position of each team, detailed the clubs who have created flexibility for the front office ahead of another NFL offseason.
Team three is the Dolphins who have really utilized their salary cap purge better than anyone ever has. Thus far they have embraced a different approach which gives them a ton of flexibility for a time when they want to create a ton of cap room.
On top of sitting four games over .500, the Dolphins possess the aforementioned cap flexibility and the most selections in the 2021 NFL Draft, including a pick from the Houston Texans that currently sits No. 6 overall if the season were to end today.
Xavien Howard Gets His Due
One Dolphins player that's garnering national recognition is the team's lone 2021 Pro Bowl selection in cornerback Xavien Howard. His next interception will tie the franchise record (10 by Dick Westmoreland in 1967) and make him the first player with double-digit picks in a single season since 2007 when the Chargers' Antonio Cromartie intercepted a career-best 10 passes.
Tuesday, Dolphins coaches explained the aspects of Howard's game that makes one of the game's premier ballhawks and defensive backs.
"He's gifted athletically," Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer said. "He's strong, he's able to diagnose plays, he's got a good feel, he doesn't really panic when the ball is in the air. And I would say the thing that pleases me most about Xavien is he's really a selfless player. He's done really well in the run game and he's really made some big plays for us. He's just a guy that you can count on consistently week-in and week-out."
Gerald Alexander played cornerback and safety in the league. Now, he oversees a secondary that has helped produce the No. 1 ranked scoring defense (18.4 points per game allowed), the NFL's top third-down defense (32.5 percent conversions allowed) and the best takeaway unit with 26 combined interceptions and fumbles recovered.
Tuesday, Alexander detailed what he believes to be Howard's greatest strength: his poise in critical moments.
"I think when you do get to that moment of truth, you see a lot of guys who do panic because they think about the things that could happen that go wrong," Alexander said. "It's one of those things where mentally, there's a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. I wouldn't be surprised if he was a receiver in high school and just kind of formulated those ball skills to attack the football and not panic in those situations."