The Miami Dolphins had a handful of rookies contribute in their win over the Patriots on Sunday. Which ones stood out above the rest?
The Miami Dolphins have one of the youngest rosters in the league, thanks in part to a deep rookie class that will look to contribute immediately. Their Week 1 lineup featured two starters who were making their NFL debuts, but four of the Dolphins’ seven rookies received regular snaps on Sunday against the Patriots. Which one of them had the best performance? Here is the Rookie Report Card after Miami’s important victory in New England:
Liam Eichenberg: C-
The Miami Dolphins’ offensive line looks as though it will be a work in progress for the foreseeable future, and rookie left tackle Liam Eichenberg has plenty of work to do.
The Notre Dame product had some big mistakes that made his day look slightly worse than it actually was. The ugliest play of Eichenberg’s day came with less than 30 seconds left in the first half, when he was immediately knocked on his rear end by the Patriots’ Josh Uche, who sacked quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and killed momentum for the Dolphins who were deep in New England territory. The Dolphins settled for a field goal.
Another tough play for Eichenberg was his holding penalty late in the 4th quarter. Miami was backed up to their own end zone with just 3:30 left on the game clock when they ran a beautiful designed run for Tagovailoa that picked up a first down. The gain was called back due to a hold on the rookie, who grabbed a hold of the defender’s collar for a split-second on the rollout. The call was questionable, but Eichenberg was still in the wrong for feeling the need to grab in the first place.
But in reviewing the tape, it was clear that Eichenberg has some potential to improve. He was solid in the run game, even supplying a couple of seal blocks that sprung Myles Gaskin for handfuls of extra yards. The rookie will have his hands full next week against Buffalo’s experienced defensive line.
Jaylen Waddle: B
The most impressive rookie during Week 1 was 6th overall pick Jaylen Waddle. He was used in a variety of ways by the offense, and still only seemed to scratch the surface of his potential.
Miami’s first play of the game was a run-pass option, and Tagovailoa found Waddle over the middle for a 17-yard gain. He would go on to catch four balls on six targets, racking up 61 yards for a 15.3 yard per catch average.
A few of his grabs would make the highlight reel as well. The first was an impressive 36-yard grab down the left sideline in which Waddle showed off his breakaway speed, helping set up the Dolphins for a game-tying field goal before half time. The other was his first career touchdown, which was a three-yard hook up in which Waddle used that same speed to beat the defenders to the pylon. The score put the Dolphins in front, a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
He did have a big drop during the game that stuck out like a sore thumb, but that should be one of the biggest mistakes we see him make. We were unsure about how much action Waddle would see in such a crowded wide receiver room, but it looks as though the Miami Dolphins are doing all they can to get him involved. So far he has lived up to the challenge.
Jaelan Phillips: B-
It is tough to give grades to pass rushers, given that a lack of statistical output does not always equal a bad game. While the CBS commentators didn’t mention Jaelan Phillips’ name very much, he was noticeable in the Dolphins’ pass rush. His only official statistic comes as a single QB hit, and did not register any sacks or even a tackle. But in keeping a close eye on Phillips, it was easy to see why he was a first round pick.
On Sunday, he appeared on passing downs, and it was obvious that the Patriots had game planned for his presence and did what they could to contain him. There were times when New England blocked Phillips using two offensive linemen, which opened up opportunities for his teammates. When he found himself in single coverage, he was often pushing his opponent backwards toward the quarterback. He showed a handful of nice moves that he has in his bag of tricks, one that we could become more familiar with as Phillips begins to get comfortable on an NFL field.
Jevon Holland: B+
It may take a few weeks for rookie Jevon Holland to unseat Jason McCourty for one of the starting safety spots, but it will assuredly be exciting when he does.
Holland provided one of the highlight defensive plays for Miami with his hit on Jonnu Smith that jarred the ball loose in the second quarter. The low hit caused Smith to flip and lose control of the ball, but it was recovered by the Patriots. Holland was awarded a forced fumble to go along with his pair of tackles. The small sample size keeps us guessing about what type of player he’ll be for the defense.