Dolphins' Rookies Breaking Out During Winning Streak

Photo: Photos courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

On Oct. 31, the Miami Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills to extend their losing streak to seven games. They hadn’t won since their Week 1 matchup with the New England Patriots, even dropping a game to the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars along the way. Then their rookies started to perform, and Miami started to win.

Entering this weekend, no team besides the 1994 New York Giants had won five straight games after a seven-game skid in NFL history. Fittingly, the Dolphins entered Week 13 with a chance to match that feat against the very franchise that had done it first. Just as they had done in their previous four wins, the Dolphins’ rookies showed up and showed out, and Miami won their fifth straight to move to 6-7 on the season.

Let’s start with the most obvious producer: Jaylen Waddle. His nine receptions on Sunday afternoon brought his season total to 86, passing Jarvis Landry for the most receptions by a rookie in Dolphins history. It also puts him ninth all-time in rookie receptions and just 15 catches away from matching Anquan Boldin’s record of 101 in his rookie season. The Dolphins still have four games left.

Waddle’s march toward a new rookie record has been helped in large part by the surge in catches he’s had during the win streak. He had 48 receptions in his first eight games. In the last five weeks, he’s had 38.

At the same time, the Alabama product’s yardage has jumped—not only in total volume, but in yards per catch as well. Waddle already has more total yards during the Dolphins’ win streak than he’s had all season—436 in his last five games compared to 413 in his first eight—and his 11.5 yards per reception is a significant leap from 8.6 to start the season. His rebuilt chemistry with Tua Tagovailoa has been a huge development for the Miami offense, and it’s a good sign for the future of this offense.

On the defensive side, fellow 2021 draftees Jaelan Phillips and Jevon Holland have also stepped up in recent weeks.

This Sunday, in the same game that Waddle set the new record for receptions by a Miami rookie, Phillips broke the all-time Dolphins rookie record for sacks. His two sacks of Mike Glennon on Sunday brought him to 8.5 on the season, breaking Bill Stanfil’s franchise record of eight that had stood since 1969. Like Waddle, a big chunk of the rookie edge rusher’s production has come in these last five weeks; he’s recorded seven of his 8.5 sacks this year during the active win streak.

In the secondary, Holland has come into his own alongside his fellow rookies in what has seemed like a sudden, synchronized effort by the rookies to just… ball out. During the Dolphins’ seven-game losing streak, the safety recorded a sack, no interceptions, one fumble recovery, and two passes defended. In the five games since, he’s put up another sack, plus the first two picks of his career, seven passes defended, and two more recovered fumbles.

The Dolphins’ rookies have chosen a helluva time to start producing at a higher level. With Waddle, Phillips, and Holland all clicking at the same time, this streaking Miami team looks completely different from the one that had lost seven straight games earlier this year. A 1-7 start that made this season look all but lost has become an unlikely 6-7 record as the Dolphins enter their bye week.

The way things look now, Miami very well could ride that winning streak up to nine in a row to end the season. Their final four opponents are the New York Jets, then the increasingly vulnerable-looking Tennessee Titans and New Orleans Saints before closing out the season hosting the Patriots. Those first three games out of the bye are definitely winnable. Should New England clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed by Week 18, Miami might just be taking on a Patriots team resting their starters ahead of the playoffs.

The Dolphins’ recent performances—especially by their rookies—have given their fans plenty to be excited about, both this year and beyond.

Written By:

Jack McKessy

Staff Writer

Jack McKessy is a recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism who grew up in Washington, D.C. As a student, he covered Northwestern’s football, women’s soccer, women’s basketball, and baseball teams. Previously, he was in charge of social media and contributed to both written and multimedia content creation for La Vida Baseball in Chicago. He has also assisted in the production of promotional content for the Big Ten Network. Jack initially joined the TDN team as an intern during the 2020 season. Now, he writes columns—primarily analysis of the New York Giants—and helps run TDN's YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.

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