Back in August, I wrote positional previews for the entire 2016 Miami Dolphins roster. Before even seeing him dress in aqua and orange, this was what I had to say about MarQueis Gray in the “Quarterbacks and Tight Ends Preview.”
“Gray spent the end of last season on Buffalo’s injured reserved and signed with the ‘Phins this March. He’s more of an H-back that can do some of the things Charles Clay did at a much lower level. His chances to make the team really depend on his special-teams ability and his fit in specific offensive packages.”
Charles Clay developed more as a seam threat that was rarely used as a blocking back. Gray has earned his salt on this team by excelling in the running game as his snap count has not just blossomed, but turned him into a full-time starter over the last two games.
Those specific offensive packages have been identified and clearly exploited in the two victories. He’s typically the tight end that lines up off the end of the formation (sometimes next to a tackle, sometimes next to another tight end.) And they will use him in a variety of ways with dig out blocks, wham traps, seal blocks, he does everything in the running game you’d ask of a player of his skillset.
Gray played 27 snaps against the Steelers and 62 against the Bills. Prior to that, he had seen only eight offensive reps, so he’s clearly earned the respect of Adam Gase and this coaching staff.
Getting Mike Pouncey, Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil back certainly was a key factor in getting this running game and offense going. Ja’Wuan James’ improvement, as well as Jermon Bushrod getting better push in the ground game has directly contributed to the winning as well.
But as Chris Kouffman (@CKparrot on Twitter) noted, the difference in offense is as follows when Gray is on the field compared to when he’s not.
1. The run game averages 6.6 yards per carry and the pass game 8.2 yards per attempt when Gray was on the field WITH the unicorn line.
2. The unicorn line with no MarQueis Gray averaged 5.9 yards per carry and 6.9 yards per attempt.
3. The unicorn line with Dion Sims averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
Let’s get into the coaches film screen shots again.
On this 11 yard gallop, Gray seals off the edge and opens the hole for Ajayi.
On this 14 yard play, Gray comes across the formation on a lead pull. This image shows the play design.
And just like that, Gray has beat the defender to the point of attack and walled him off giving Ajayi a cutback lane.
And what a cutback lane it is. When you have a tight end eliminating two defenders from the play, you’re going to get big yardage. 19 on this play, to be exact.
Here, he lines up inline next to the left tackle and is responsible for a one-on-one block with the defensive end/outside linebackers. Tight ends aren’t supposed to be able to do this.
Mike Pouncey delivers an excellent dig out block as well, but you see Gray completely erasing Lorenzo Alexander.
Gray is a multi-faceted player that would even function as the third, emergency quarterback if necessary (he was a wildcat quarterback in college at Minnesota.) He is the sole reason the Dolphins have been able to run these formations and have constant success with it.
I’d be willing to bet, his pass catching numbers are about to increase as they run more and more play action off these looks.
We break down stuff like this, and all the other coaches tape on The Phinalysis Podcast.
You can follow me on Twitter @Travis_writes.
Phins up! F*** the Jets!