The Dolphins opened the second half of Sunday's 19-7 win over the Bengals with an up-tempo offensive pace. Until the Dolphins got inside the Bengals' 5-yard-line, every play from that drive saw the football snapped with 20 or more seconds on the play clock. In the process, the Dolphins moved the ball 70 yards in two minutes and 35 seconds. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed all four of his pass attempts for 71 yards working at that accelerated pace.
Miami finished the drive on a touchdown reception from tight end Mike Gesicki, then opened the next series in the same fashion. On those two possessions, Tagovailoa completed 9-of-12 passes for 137 yards and the aforementioned touchdown.
Tuesday, Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Chan Gailey discussed the benefits and challenges of running the offense at that urgency.
"He doesn't get as much time to see what's happening," Gailey said of the challenges for the quarterback in no huddle. "The benefits are the defense doesn't get as much time to see what's happening. That's the tradeoff. Are you gaining more by being up-tempo or are you handcuffing the quarterback's ability to see what's going on?"
The yin and yang of football, and of life, certainly. Gailey continued on the no-huddle attack and the possibility of using it more in the future.
"I think we will continue to use it. How much? It'll depend on the game and on the situation," he said. "We felt like that would help us in the second half of that game and obviously it did. As time goes on, I think we'll have to see how much of it use, which direction we go, but obviously it was good for him and for us. It'll be part of what we do from here on out."
The pace of the Dolphins offense matched the processing, decision-making and delivery of the football from the rookie signal-caller. ESPN's Dan Orlovsky was particularly fond of an out pattern from Tagovailoa to wide receiver DeVante Parker on that touchdown drive to open the third quarter.
Gailey was asked about that breakdown during his Tuesday press conference.
"I think he's learning every day about how to do that," Gailey said. "In college you look one way and you turn back and you throw and you can be kind of definitive about it. You have to be a lot more subtle here. Those defenders have seen a lot of things if they're not rookies. I think he's learning the subtleties of looking with his eyes or moving his shoulders instead of moving his eyes."
One way Gailey is helping make the post-snap picture more defined for his young quarterback is the utilization of empty packages (no running back alongside the quarterback in the backfield).
"It defines rushers. People have to go out and cover those guys ,so it defines who's rushing," Gailey said about going empty. "That means if they bring one more than you have blockers, then you have to be able to get rid of it … We feel like it gives him an opportunity to see where the rushers come from and where the matchups are. You can see who's on who."
Per Cameron Wolfe of ESPN, Tagovailoa completed 9-of-10 passes for 106 yards working out of empty packages. On the season, the rookie is completing 85 percent of his passes (17-of-20) from empty looks.
As the development of Tagovailoa continues, Miami is 4-1 in his starts. He's one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (Dak Prescott in 2016 and Kyle Allen in 2018-2019) to post a zero in the interception column through their first five career starts (min. 100 attempts). His 99.4 passer rating is 11th in the NFL and best among the rookie quarterbacks.
Tagovailoa is nominated for the Pepsi Zero Sugar NFL Rookie of the Week. Fans can cast their votes now.
The Dolphins' efficient offense pairs well with swarming special teams units and dominant defense. The common thread across the entire 53-man roster is a unified, selfless approach. Dolphins Outside Linebackers Coach Austin Clark talked about the defense's no-questions-asked mindset when it comes to fulfilling each role within the game plan.
"That kind of goes across the whole defense in terms of guys that are selfless," Clark said. "It may be their week to make the play, or the scheme calls for them to take on a double team. It's a credit to those guys and how selfless they are within the scheme. It allows Josh (Boyer) to call different things and be multiple and versatile."
Few players embody and perpetuate that mindset like cornerback Byron Jones. Earlier this season, Jones discussed the systemic approach under Head Coach Brian Flores and General Manager Chris Grier that has resulted in a roster full of selfless players.
"I think they do a good job of finding those types of players through recruiting, free agency," Jones said. "It's getting the right guys and having a coaching staff that understands matchups and putting guys in the right position to succeed."
Just as the coaching staff puts players in a position to succeed, Jones' lockdown coverage on one side of the field is forcing quarterbacks to test the NFL's leader in interceptions in Xavien Howard.
Only four cornerbacks have been targeted more than Howard (71) this season. In the two games that Jones missed, Howard was targeted nine times (4.5 per game). Since Jones returned, opposing quarterbacks are going after Howard 6.6 times per game.
Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Josh Boyer was effusive in his praise of the work Jones has done in his first season in Miami.
"You can have a great game as a corner and have a zero stat line," Boyer said. "If you don't give up a third down pass, a red area pass, you don't have any penalties, no missed tackles…for a corner they can have a great game and nobody would even know that they had a great game unless you went back and study the film."
"Byron works hard at a lot of those things and there's a lot of things that he does are unseen," Boyer concluded.
Dolphins Defensive Backs Coach, Gerald Alexander, appreciates the cerebral aptitude of Jones and the groupthink for learning and growing together as coaches and players.
"Byron is a very smart player," Alexander said. "All of us in the secondary, we really kind of challenge one another, especially for us as coaches, to be great teachers and to give these guys valuable and useful information that they can apply on a game day or on a specific rep to put themselves in position to make plays."
Last week on Top News we detailed the development of Miami's young roster. The youngest player in the league, Noah Igbinoghene, is taking advantage of his practice reps and the tutelage of a pair of premier cornerbacks on the perimeter in Jones and Howard.
"This is an athletic guy that doesn't really have a lot of the banked reps as a corner," Alexander said. "Something as small fundamentally as his patience and footwork at the line of scrimmage, which he works diligently on every single day. He's kind of worked himself into continuing to develop as we had planned for him all along. This guy was always going to be a developmental prospect with great skill."
Igbinoghene played 22 snaps in Sunday's win, and according to Pro Football Focus, he did not allow a reception in 18 coverage snaps matching up primarily with A.J. Green.