Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dolphins’ Mike McDaniel finds it hard to use Lamar Jackson decoy at practice: ‘You’re not going to replicate’

If there was any team that truly shut down Lamar Jackson since he entered the league, it was the Miami Dolphins. Miami took a huge gamble and used a zero blitz scheme in the hopes Jackson wouldn’t beat them deep. 

The strategy worked, as Jackson completed just 60.5% of his passes for 238 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 22-10 victory for Miami — the fewest points Baltimore ever scored in a Jackson start. Jackson was limited on the ground, too, with just nine carries for 39 yards as the Dolphins blitzed on 61.9% of his dropbacks, the fourth-highest of any quarterback in a single game in 2021.

Even with Miami’s success against Jackson last season, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel knows he’s developed more as a passer since then. The Dolphins can use a Jackson decoy at practice during the week, but it’s easier said than done. 

“You try to use a couple different people. But the bottom line is, you’re not going to replicate it,” McDaniel said Wednesday. “That’s part of the shock and awe on game day. … He’s the most dynamic athlete for sure, at that position. 

“He’s continued to develop his pass game skillset, which you guys saw a little on display in the second half of the Jets game. So regardless of who it is, I’m not going to put pressure on one person, put them on blast in the media. But we’ll just say it’s a collection of individuals because it takes a collection of individuals to stop him.”

Jackson finished 17 of 30 for 213 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, with all those touchdown passes traveling 15-plus air yards. The Baltimore Ravens finished with 63 rushing yards as a team, the fewest rushing yards in a game since Jackson became the team’s starting quarterback.

The Dolphins have to prepare for Jackson beating that zero blitz this time, part of the never-ending chess game with Jackson. 

“He’s got elite speed and quickness. His ability to get out of tight situations — he’s very slippery,” Dolphins safety Jevon Holland said. “He’s got a cannon with great touch. It’s difficult to try to keep him in the box, but also he can throw it deep.

“He’s going to do what he’s going to do. He’s his own man. I’m not looking to expect him to do anything other than to go out there and perform like we are.”

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