By: Matthew Morin
When the Dolphins drafted Jaylen Waddle with the 6th overall pick back in late April, they believed they were getting a top level receiver with game-breaking ability, strong hands, and electric route-running. They also had their starting QB, Tua Tagovailoa in mind when making the selection.
Seeing as the main goal of Miami’s offseason was to acquire more quality targets for an offense that lacked firepower, taking Waddle was a no-brainer. The Alabama product racked up just under 2000 yards receiving and averaged 18.9 yards per reception during his 3 seasons in Tuscaloosa.
Those numbers speak to Waddle’s freakish ability to create separation from defenders at the line of scrimmage, and or downfield. This is exactly the type of player Chris Grier & Brian Flores wanted to put aside their other offseason additions in Will Fuller and Albert Wilson back from a season opt out in 2020 (COVID-19).
Miami wants to have as many targets as possible that can consistently win in 1 on 1 coverage, so that Tua can go back to his roots of being what fans call a “gunslinger” at Alabama. Drafting Waddle only added to this new approach on offense and that got off to a noticeable start on Sunday afternoon when he played in his first NFL game in Foxborough against the New England Patriots.
Waddle was actually called upon for the first play from scrimmage as Miami ran a RPO to the left side of the field, Tua hit him in stride on a slant route that went for 17 yards. You could venture to say the new offensive play-calling staff wanted to get Waddle’s first target out of the way early, to rid him of any potential nervousness.
He answered the call, flashing his speed and elusiveness in the open field. Dolphins fans should get used to Waddle making things happen in the YAC department; if it wasn’t obvious enough on Sunday, it takes a crowd to bring him down. Almost as though a little bit of space is too much, NFL defenses will recognize that and commit more bodies to Waddle. This will only create more opportunities for Miami’s other speedy receivers.
Waddle continued his solid start when he lined up in the slot against Jalen Mills, Waddle sped past Mills with a deep inside fade route down the sideline. Tagovailoa looked off the safety and delivered a 36 yard pass to Waddle, who made a great grab in mid air over Mills, showing off his catch radius. A great kick-start to a drive that ended in a field goal for Miami. On the Dolphin’s following possession, Waddle caught his first NFL touchdown on a 3-yard quick hitter in the red zone.
Waddle streaked halfway across the formation pre-snap, faking a jet sweep. Once the ball was snapped, he flipped his hips and sprinted towards the flat where Tagovailoa delivered the quick pass. Waddle won the race to the endzone against 2 patriot defenders, capping off his ultra-impressive NFL debut. Waddle's 4 receptions, 61 yards and a TD, was the best statistical debut for a WR in Dolphins history.
Overall, Jaylen Waddle looked as advertised...showing us all his true versatility as a football player. Look for him to be having a strong rookie season, filled with game-breaking plays.