Miami fans are getting excited about their offense after an explosive showing Thursday night against Philadelphia. Unfortunately, they are just as anxious about their defense after Carson Wentz picked them apart in a 38-31 loss.
Jay Cutler came out rough, losing the ball on a strip sack and following up with a three-and-out. From there on, however, he showed poise and big-strike ability that kept the Dolphins in this high-scoring affair.
DeVante Parker may prove to be the number one receiver in a Cutler-led offense after hauling in a jump ball with a leaping pirouette move, good for 72 yards. But by games’ end, Cutler completed passes to all three wide receivers (Parker, Jarvis Landry, and Kenny Stills) as well as tight end Julius Thomas.
Jay Ajayi looked strong and unaffected by his recent concussion. Kenyan Drake and Storm Johnson tried not to be forgotten in the running game, contributing almost five yards per carry themselves. Jakeem Grant took a pass from Brandon Doughty and broke a couple of tackles on the way to a 69-yard touchdown.
What did we learn?
After Jay Cutler declared DeVante Parker a faster version of Alshon Jeffery, there was some concern that he would lock on to him at the expense of the other receivers. Does anyone outside of Chicago remember who the second wide receiver was for the Bears?
Whether that concern was raised to Cutler or not is uncertain, but he equitably distributed targets to all involved parties. And he didn’t reserve his long-ball efforts to Parker, either. Only a mugging by Eagles’ cornerback Ronald Darby prevented a 42-yard touchdown throw to Kenny Stills.
Miami’s defense looks problematic. A large contributor to their woes was the recently acquired Byron Maxwell who just last week declared that he is the best cornerback in the game today. The former Eagle could not have painted a larger target on his back.
It would be nice to say it was an off night, but in two days of joint practices against the Dolphins defense, Carson Wentz reportedly completed 45 of 60 pass attempts (75%) and scored nine touchdowns. Obviously, it wasn’t all Maxwell. But it wasn’t all Wentz, either. Philadelphia’s third string quarterback, Matt McGloin, negotiated a six-play, 53-yard touchdown drive against Miami’s starters, too.
We might have to come up with a catchy nickname for Miami’s offensive leaders. Maybe something like “The Jay-Team” or the “Killer Jays”. Both Cutler and Ajayi have very high fantasy upsides. The quarterback is not afraid to force big passes deep and the running back is not afraid of running people over to make a good gain better.
There is still some concern, however. Ajayi was extremely uneven in his performances last year with only four good games (three of which were actually great games) accounting for more than half of his total rushing yards. The plan for 2017 was to make him a feature back, partly by introducing him to the passing game, but he did not catch a pass Thursday.
The way he runs is also a little risky for someone who just suffered a concussion. With Cutler throwing the ball, it would be wise for coach Adam Gase to consider spelling Ajayi a bit with his capable backups, at least in passing situations. As nervous as I would be drafting him at his first-round (RB8) ADP, I agree that his upside is worth the risk.
Jay Cutler also seems poised to have a good season. He is getting comfortable with his receivers and the playbook is very similar to his time under Gase in Chicago. On the downside, his first-drive fumble rekindled turnover concerns and his reputation as a grumpy teammate might come into play if his defense continues giving up 38 points in games.
Miami’s new quarterback will have some fantastic fantasy games this season, but I am hard-pressed to say any of the other second-tier quarterbacks ahead of his QB22 position are less worthy of your backup slot.
Parker’s ADP has climbed to WR32, not far behind Landry’s WR28. I believe both are potential bargains at those positions and would consider drafting Parker first. But at some point, Cutler has to recognize why Jarvis Landry is tied with former LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr for the most catches over three years. Cutler throws enough to make both Parker and Landry top 30 fantasy receivers, which is what will happen.
Those other fantasy guys
Julius Thomas’ game did nothing to settle the discussion of whether he is a draft-worthy tight end with his new team. Cutler went right to him when he needed a short catch in the red zone. If he becomes the primary red zone threat, that would be significant. But Parker can jump higher and Jay Ajayi will probably run the ball in most of the time. I will not have Thomas on my board, but I’ll pay attention in case I need a streamer later.
For all the issues on Miami’s defense, it could have been worse. Philadelphia scored on six of their first nine possessions, but the other three all ended with turnovers. Miami was expecting a stronger defense than they have shown so far. With several new pieces learning the system, it is entirely possible they will come together as the season develops. For now, though, I will consider them as a streaming option when they play the Jets.
Andrew Franks is not kicking badly, but I would be hesitant to draft a kicker playing in an outdoor stadium with ocean breezes and late-day rains.
So, that’s that
Miami has high hopes for the real-life season that are a little rattled after last night’s defensive display. Whether Carson Wentz and company prove to be an unstoppable juggernaut that other teams fall to as well remains to be seen.
But Jay-one and Jay-two showed they can keep Miami in high-scoring games. More importantly, they showed that Miami’s roster can provide us with serious fantasy points. And that’s all that really matters, right?
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