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2019 Miami Dolphins Mock Offseason

Travis Wingfield

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Forecasting Miami’s Free Agency and Draft Classes for the 2019 Season

The new league year begins Wednesday, but we are merely hours away from the official legal tampering period. Under the guise of an oxymoron, the NFL doesn’t divulge the behind-the-scenes mischief of free agency. Discussions between agents and teams regarding the crop of players set to hit the market start way back in the fall, leading up to a primetime event as the league seizes the spotlight, yet again, in mid-March.

Retention of a coaching staff helps forecast the future of a given team. Under Adam Gase, predicting the Dolphins moves became easier each year. Now, with Brian Flores at the controls, pundits are left to connect their own dots.

Despite their best efforts, the Dolphins’ brass pulled back the curtain, ever-so-slightly, to give us an idea of the new direction. Under Flores, and first-time General Manager Chris Grier, we can gather that the Dolphins will seek the following traits in a player:

– High character
– High football acumen
– Prioritize football
– Team-oriented individuals
– Leadership and communication skills

Those are the buzz words provided to us by Flores and Grier during their otherwise mundane press availability appearances. We also ascertain the types of players Miami might prefer under the new tutelage. Based on previous roster decisions regarding individual position groups, coaching staff connections, draft visits, and the carefully crafted media responses, we assume the Dolphins will prioritize the following on-field traits:

Offense

– Athletic quarterback
– Capable backs in the passing game
– The reintroduction of a fullback in Miami
– Tight ends that can squeeze down in-line and block
– Offensive linemen that are athletic enough, but play with power (allows for scheme versatility)

Defense

– Heavy-handed defensive linemen with astute eye-discipline (two-gap players)
– Linebackers that can run, hit, blitz, and cover
– Cornerbacks that excel in change-of-direction (short-shuttle and 3-cone standouts)
– Match-up oriented and role-based safeties (cover the TE, play MOF SAF, etc.)

Limited by current cash considerations, the Dolphins need to clear the decks before any spending can occur. So, we start with player cuts (some already enacted).

Dolphins 2019 Cuts: ($5,900,000 available pre-cuts)

Position Player 2019 Cap Relief
QB Ryan Tannehill $13,188,332
WR Devante Parker $9,387,000
WR Danny Amendola $6,000,000
TE Nick O’Leary $900,000
LG Josh Sitton $5,000,000
OG Ted Larsen $1,524,998
DE Robert Quinn $12,932,332
DE Andre Branch $7,000,000
DT Akeem Spence $3,250,000
LB Kiko Alonso $4,772,500
SAF T.J. McDonald -$1,002,000

Total Cap Savings = $62,953,162
Estimated available cap space for 2019: ~$68.8 M 

Some serious house-cleaning had to be done. Mike Tannenbaum lived up to his reputation of burying the organization with contracts for veteran players priced way above the market. Miami could maintain the status quo by rolling these salaries forward and continue to kick the can down the road, and this will be looked out through a “tanking” lens, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Purging the roster of over-valued players isn’t taking, it’s smart business.

Dolphins Renewed Contracts:

Position Player Contract (Years/Total $)
RT Ja’Wuan James 4 years, $36 M ($9 M APY)
DE William Hayes 1 year, $4 M
DT Ziggy Hood 1 year, $1.5 M
RB Brandon Bolden 2 years, $3 M ($1.5 M APY)
ILB Mike Hull 1 year, $900 K
OC Jake Brendel 1 year, $650 K
WR Leonte Carroo 1 year, $700 K
WR Isaiah Ford 1 years, $600 K

Total 2019 Money Spent on Renewals: $18,850,000
Remaining Cap Allowance: $49,950,000

Future Ring of Honor inductee Cam Wake’s Dolphins’ career comes to an end with 98 sacks in aqua. Other notable names not renewed: LB Stephone Anthony, RB Frank Gore, TE MarQueis Gray, OT Sam Young, QB Brock Osweiler, QB David Fales.

This leaves significant holes at quarterback, interior offensive line, defensive line and cornerback. The safety position needs more bodies as well, as Miami will be playing exponentially more dime and quarter defense in 2019.

Free Agency:

SIGNED: DE Trey Flowers (Patriots)
Total: 5 years, $75,000,000
2019 hit: $15,000,000

The Dolphins entered the market with plans to avoid the big contract, but Brian Flores won the power-struggle and nabs his guy. Flowers is a unique exception to the big spending alarms during free agency. He’s already had success in this program and scheme, so Miami might view this as “keeping their own.”

Flowers slots in as a base five-technique with the flexibility to kick inside and play the three-technique, or slide outside and rush from the seven-technique; essentially, he can play any position on the defensive line. Expect Flowers’ 70% defensive workload from 2018 to increase closer to 80%.

This deal makes Flowers the sixth highest-paid defensive end in the NFL.

SIGNED: DT Mike Pennel (Jets)
Total: 2 years, $9,000,000
2019 hit: $4,500,000

At 330 pounds, Mike Pennell serves as the space eater in Patrick Graham’s defense. Pennell played with Graham in Green Bay from 2014-2016 and just finished a two-year stint with the Jets. Pennel is a productive player that fits the mold (heavy-handed, excels with his eye-discipline).

Pennel played 16 games in both of the last two seasons and functions as a two-gapping run-defending mountain.

This contract makes Pennel the 32nd highest paid interior defensive linemen in the NFL.

SIGNED: RG A.J. Cann (Jaguars)
Total: 3 years, $12,000,000
2019 hit: $4,000,000

Cann hit a valley in 2018 after an impressive 2017 campaign. Cann has the power Miami is looking for on the offensive line (drops his anchor, rarely allowing a bull rush), but bends and moves well enough to operate in space.

The Dolphins will value players of Cann’s makeup that allows the scheme to change from gap to zone on a week-by-week basis. Cann spend each of the last two seasons playing under Dolphins new Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty.

This contract makes Cann the 19th highest paid Right Guard in the NFL.

SIGNED: TE Dwayne Allen (Patriots)
Total: 2 years, $7,000,000
2019 Cap Hit: $3,000,000

The one signing already official, Allen serves as a beefed-up inline blocker to help institute Miami’s ground-and-pound attack. Fundamentally sound, capable in pass protection, and a force in the run game, Allen’s workload likely increases tenfold from his 32% snap percentage in 2018.

This contract makes Allen the 21st highest paid tight end in the NFL.

SIGNED: FB Anthony Sherman (Chiefs)
Total: 2 years, $4,000,000
2019 Cap Hit: $2,000,000

Miami will more than likely employ a fullback on the roster for the first time in several years. Anthony Sherman was recently cut by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he was drafted by Dolphins New Assistant G.M. Marvin Allen.

This contract makes Sherman the 3rd highest paid fullback in the NFL.

SIGNED: QB Teddy Bridgewater (Saints)
Total: 2 years, $20,000,000
2019 Cap Hit: $10,000,000

There’s the shoe everyone was waiting to drop. After much delineation on the best approach for the position, Miami caves and finds its 2019 starter in free agency. Brian Flores talked about mobility and accuracy as traits he likes in a quarterback. Bridgewater isn’t going to win a lot of footraces, but he’s mobile enough to navigate crowded pockets and was a 65% passer his two years starting in Minnesota.

Bridgewater is a Miami native and has expressed his interest in coming home. That, plus the glaring vacancy at the position, attracts Teddy-Two-Gloves to try to resurrect his career in his hometown.

This contract makes Bridgewater the 22nd highest paid quarterback in the NFL.

Positions to look for low-level deals are linebacker, safety, cornerback, and on the interior offensive line.

Remaining Money: $11,400,000

The Draft:

Finding a dance partner for a trade-down is no easy task. The Raiders are flushed with draft picks and, after missing out on Kyler Murray, Jon Gruden goes to work building the offense around Derek Carr. So when all of the offensive line prospects slide to the Dolphins pick at 13, Gruden and Mike Mayock pounce.

Dolphins get: Pick 24, pick 35
Raiders get: Pick 13

 

Round (Pick) Position Player School
1 (24) SAF Jonathan Abram Mississippi State
2 (35) CB David Long Michigan
2 (48) OG Chris Lindstrom Boston College
3 (78) OC Lamont Gaillard Georgia
4 (116) QB Tyree Jackson Buffalo
5 (151) WR David Sills V West Virginia
6 (188) RB James Williams Washington State
7 (234) LB Blake Cashman Minnesota

 

Final 53-man Roster:

QB: Bridgewater, Ruddock, Jackson
RB: Drake, Ballage, Williams, Bolden
FB: Sherman
WR: Wilson, Stills, Grant, Butler, Sills, Ford
TE: Allen, Gesicki, Smythe
OT: Tunsil, James, Davis
iOL: Cann, Lindstrom, Kilgore, Gaillard, Brendel

DL: Flowers, Hayes, Taylor, Godchaux, Pennel, Woodard, Carradine, Hood
LB: McMillan, Baker, Allen, Hull, Harris, Cashman
CB: Howard, Long, McCain, Tankersley, McTyer, Armstrong, Davis
SAF: Fitzpatrick, Jones, Abram, Aikens

Notes:

Jesse Davis serves as sixth man at every OL positions except center.
Charles Harris serves as a pseudo linebacker/outside rusher

There is still a lot of work to be done, but this roster keeps Miami competitive in the interim while not sacrificing the long-term future. The secondary is now equipped to run the defense Flores will deploy (the need for eight defensive backs each week). The offensive line looks much better on paper and there’s a small shot Bridgewater develops into “The Guy.”

Miami still likely isn’t a post-season contender until 2020, but this would set the team up for another strong offseason to make that dream a reality in one year’s time.

@WingfieldNFL

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Richard

    March 10, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Fun read but there are a number of problems with your approach. Most notably, the roster you outlined would continue with the 6/10, 7/9 or 8/8 end of season type of record. Which effectively makes the 2 prime QB’s for 2020 out of reach (unless you mortgage future #1’s in order to get one). So it’s either Bridgewater turns into “the guy” or you’re back to where you were. Second problem is… in a draft that has the best D-line talent for the past 10 years and you do not even pick one? Seriously?? Then finally based upon prospect ratings it just seems to me you are taking “most” of them 1 to 2 rounds earlier than where they’re projected to go. Just my take which could be totally wrong. I agree with your traits/capabilities of what we will be looking for but I think there a number of different choices both in free agency & the draft that would better serve the long term vision. Just my two cents….

  2. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    March 11, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Ndamukong Suh – 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks in 2018.
    Akeem Spence – 42 tackles, 2 sacks in 2018.
    Mike Pennell – 27 tackles, 0 sacks in 2018.

    Spence was a big downgrade from Suh. It looks like Pennell is a further downgrade from Spence. NT is the qb of the defense, so I’m not fond of this choice.
    ****
    How about skipping Flowers and signing C Mitch Morse + RG Roger Saffold.
    ****
    The trade down is Round 1 is intriguing… but why draft a safety? Is this in preparation for the departure of Rashad Jones? I don’t like drafting safeties in Round 1. I think you can grab a bigger impact position there.

  3. Avatar

    T-Bone

    March 11, 2019 at 4:25 am

    I agree with trading back but instead of getting Oakland’s 1st {#24} this year why not get their 1st next year {2020} while still acquiring #35 this year? Imo we need as much capital as possible for 2020 draft IF IF IF the plan is to get 1 of top QBs next year.

  4. Avatar

    Scott W Osborne

    March 11, 2019 at 5:46 am

    Interesting article Travis (you are a good writer- keep ’em coming) I think they will definitely draft a DL and I’m not sure they will be that active in free agency, but I love to consider your specific ideas.

  5. Avatar

    JOSE BELLON

    March 11, 2019 at 12:36 pm

    Good Article agree with some of the FA but IMO I don’t think they will go for Bridgewater I think it will be Taylor also I rather keep Spencer than to Paid 4.5M to Pennell
    In the Draft I will go all the way for DE at least 2 a Safety in the 1st round doesn’t make much sense to me but Travis you are a good writer and I do like to read your articles
    Keep up the good Job

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Miami Dolphins

Patriots-Dolphins Scheme Brief and Player Analogs

Kevin Dern

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With the Draft complete and undrafted free agents added, with a few other moves in the mix, we’ve finally got our first glimpse of Miami’s 90 (really 91) man roster as we head into summer OTAs and mandatory mini-camp.  If I were a betting man, I’d guess that Miami may not be quite done with roster additions.  I imagine we’ll see something between June 1st and the start of Training Camp.  With all that in mind there’s been a lot of speculation about Miami’s defense and how it will look.

This offseason has provided us with a few interesting bits about what we’ll see.  John Congemi state on “The Audible”, the Dolphins own podcast, that Raekwon McMillan asked Brian Flores about watching film and was told to look at Dont’a Hightower.  Eric Rowe also said that the scheme is the same as what he ran last year with the Patriots.  We also had Brian Flores answering a question during his OTA media availability saying that the formatting of defense would be different.  I would expect that answer given the personnel differences, perhaps better spelled “deficiencies” that Miami has in comparison to the Patriots defense from a year ago.  This is why I wanted to put together this piece – to examine what we’re likely to see and who from Miami’s roster is an analog of a Patriot defender from 2018.

The Scheme
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  This isn’t a 4-3 defense.  This isn’t a 3-4 defense.  Forget about those ideologies.  This defense is multiple.  Very multiple.  As I detailed in my piece earlier this year, New England is in a sub-package more than anything.  The top three personnel groupings the Patriots used last year were all sub-packages sets:  4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps) and 3-2-6 (162 snaps).  The Patriots were in a 4-3 (97 snaps) and 3-4 (13 snaps) much, much less.

Looking at the Pats top two formations, I think we’re likely to see these used by the Dolphins as well.  A good barometer for how the Patriots used them would be that if they were facing 12 or 21 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with three safeties instead of a slot corner.  If they were facing 11 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with two safeties and a slot corner or used a 3-3-5 formation.  Often times that formation saw one of the linebackers, often Kyle Van Noy, walked-up on the line of scrimmage effectively playing as a stand-up defensive end.

This defense will be versatile in that we’ll see some different things than what we saw under Matt Burke and Vance Joseph.  We’ll likely see more even fronts.

https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/sSpkRMR5QZSgWDvC-RHR8Hw/image?w=624&h=352&rev=5&ac=1

We’re likely to see their Diamond (nickel – 3-3-5) and Ruby (dime – 3-2-6) fronts quite a bit.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DVOxHjUW0AE-_sj.jpg  (Courtesy of James Light – @JamesALight)

Coach Flores has often talked about wanting to see what players can and can’t do, and slot them into roles based on those results.  Rather than trying to find prototype players, the Patriots have searched for phenotypes – particular skillsets that players possess – and have plugged them into their scheme.  For example as it relates to Miami, there really wasn’t a player in this year’s Draft that was a direct analog of Kyle Van Noy.  There just wasn’t.  Jahlani Tavai was probably the closest and Detroit snatched him in the second round.

With that let’s take a look at the various positions Miami will use and who might be fits – and those who are close analogs with Pats players.  To help digest this I’ll break it down into:  Position – what they ask those players to do; Analogs – if any; and Players – guys Miami has on the roster that will likely get a crack at the role.

PositionDefensive Ends – Let’s start here.  Miami’s defense has undergone a seismic shift philosophically.  What was once the focal point of the wide-9, Miami’s no longer going to be in the market for defensive ends that could potentially hit double-digit sacks on a regular basis.  The Patriots have used different body type over the years, ranging from Rob Ninkovich to Chandler Jones to Trey Flowers to Deatrich Wise all in order to help set the edge against the run and be cogs in the machine in the pass-rush scheme, not the focal point.

Analogs:  Miami doesn’t have a guy who can replicate what Trey Flowers offered the Patriots.  It’s why Miami were in on him in free agency and were outbid by Detroit, where another Belichick disciple resides as head coach, in free agency.  They do have several guys who can be used the way Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise were used, but until we see it on the field, I’m not comfortable labeling any as direct analogs.

Players:  For this defense, I think we’re likely to see guys classified as “Closed Ends” and “Open Ends” rather than left and right.  Closed meaning the strongside end, often with a LB outside or playing off of that player, and open side meaning the guy on the weakside of the formation, sometimes with no one outside of him.

Closed Ends:  Tank Carradine, Jonathan Woodard, Jonathan Ledbetter
Open Ends:  Charles Harris, Dewayne Hendrix, Jayrone Elliott*

*Jayrone Elliott may be more of a pass-rushing specialist in the mold of John Simon, whom the Patriots listed as a LB but played as a defensive end, sometimes standing up.  This is where I think Elliott slots in and he very well may have a shot to earn a roster spot.  He’s #91 for the Packers in the GIF below.

https://i2.wp.com/titletownsoundoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/12_elliott.gif

Position:  Defensive Tackles – The Patriots last year under Brian Flores used a rotation of four primary guys.  They also used DEs Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise as 3-techniques quite a bit, but the primary four were Malcom Brown as a 1-technique and shade NT, Lawrence Guy as a 3-technique, Danny Shelton as a true 0 and shade NT, and Adam Butler as a 0, 1, 2i or 3 technique – he was involved in a lot of the Pats’ pass-rush packages.  The Patriots would also use some packages with 3 DTs on the field at the same time, often having Lawrence Guy play as a “Big DE” as Brian Flores labeled it last week.

Analogs:  Davon Godchaux compares pretty favorably to Malcom Brown, in my opinion.  He’s country strong and has been Miami’s primary 2i-technique the past two seasons.  That’s not much of a variation from playing the 1-technique NT spot, which many fans seem to forget Godchaux played at LSU for two seasons before switching to 3-4 DE his final year in Baton Rouge.

Players:  For Miami, I think Davon Godchaux slots in as the primary 1-technique player.  Christian Wilkins and Vincent Taylor figure to handle the 3-technique snaps of Lawrence Guy, as well as potentially doing some of the 4i and 5-tech stuff, especially Wilkins.  Miami at the moment has setup a nice competition for that true NT spots.  They don’t really have a guy as yet but figure on a competition between Jamiyus Pittman, Joey Mbu, Kendrick Norton and Cory Thomas.  I think Wilkins will likely eat up the snaps that Adam Butler took, but Miami may keep Akeem Spence for that role.  Remember, Akeem Spence was traded to Miami last year by Matt Patricia because he didn’t fit the defense.  That’s Miami’s defense.

I do think there’s an opportunity for both Wilkins and Taylor to grab some snaps at 3-technique in the 3-3-5 “Bear” front with New England runs quite a bit *IF* Miami can find the OLBs to make this work.

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*VBysJsaw3lxF0Mduc7-Ueg.png

Position:  Linebackers – The Pats primarily used two linebackers on the field in most of their packages, except on third downs.  Those two guys were their Mac (Mc) and Money ($) LBs – Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.  Their responsibilities vary by formation and personnel grouping.  They’ll also use a Buck (B) when they have three linebackers on the field.  I’ll be working on a preview article as we get into Training Camp and preseason where I’ll do a deep dive on how they use these positions in each personnel package.  For now, I’ll summarize these parts.

Mac – This is Dont’a Hightower’s spot.  In the 4-2-5 and any 4-3 formations, Hightower is an off-ball LB or MLB in the 4-3 most of the time.  There are various formations, like the 3-3-5 picture above (see OLB Lee as Hightower was injured for this game), will line up on the ball in a position akin to where a 3-4 OLB would be, even though there’s only 3 LBs on the field.

$ – This is Kyle Van Noy.  Van Noy will line up off the ball in 4-3 formations or will be the SAM if they use an Under look – which is rare.  In the 4-2-5 groupings he and Hightower are the two main off-ball linebackers.  In the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts, Van Noy is often at the MLB spot, with Hightower and John Simon as the OLBs.  However, he will also line up on the line of scrimmage as a stand-up DE in their Diamond and Ruby sets that were shown before.  In these spots, he’ll 1) pass-rush 2) cover a RB or TE 3) cover the hook, curl or flat, or 4) act as a blitzer – either in a green dog capacity, or as looper coming through the backside A or B gap.  See the formation below:

Notice that Hightower is off-the-ball as it looks like a 4-2-5 formation.  This is one of the subtleties that the Patriots will use.

Buck – This role is sort of two-fold.  It is essentially the WILL LB in 4-3 spots, but can be an off-ball ILB in 4-2-5 fronts, and on the line of scrimmage edge rusher in the 3-3-5 and other sub fronts.

Analogs:  None.  The closest one, in my opinion, is Raekwon McMillan to Dont’a Hightower.  As indicated by John Congemi, McMillan was told by Brian Flores to watch film on Hightower.  I think McMillan will likely fill the Mac role in the 4-2-5 and he had some experience playing SAM at Ohio State, so we may see him as a stand-up on the LOS edge LB in some of the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  Though the fit in the “Bear” package may be dubious at best.  I do, however, think that Raekwon can line up as an on the line of scrimmage or “mugged up” ILB in the Patriots sub-fronts.  He’s got some familiarity with this playing “Nose-backer” in the wide-9 at times last year under Matt Burke.  I think Raekwon is big and strong enough to be used as a blitzer and “pin” player on stunts, much like this GIF of Hightower below, courtesy of Pro Football Focus:

https://media.profootballfocus.com/2019/02/HIGHT-GIFY-3.0.gif

Notice the stunt by Adrian Clayborn following Hightower, essentially a T-E stunt.  Miami’s defensive line coach Marion Hobby gives a great breakdown of those stunts here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2X2HjiynI0&t=5s

I included this here as Miami will likely have some of their linebackers playing on the edges or mugged up inside executing these pass-rush games and blitzes.

Players:   Separating these by position for simplicity:

Mac – Raekwon McMillan is your starter here.  As far as depth goes, I think we could see Chase Allen, Tre’ Watson and Quentin Poling compete here for the reps that are between-the-tackles.  I think guys like Charles Harris and Andrew Van Ginkel could very well get opportunities for some of the stand-up edge reps.  That said, the Patriots have always liked to find guys who can fulfill the entire role rather than piecemealing it.  Miami may not have that player in this case, but I think McMillan can handle the bulk of these duties and should thrive in this defense.

$ – Jerome Baker is likely who Miami starts with at this spot.  Baker recently reported on The Audible he’s trying to bulk up to 230lbs after playing last year at 220lbs.  This fit is dubious, in my opinion.  I know many Dolfans won’t like to read that, but it is what it is.  I think Baker can likely handle this role in the 4-2-5 looks and would likely be the lone off-ball MLB in the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  But Baker is more of a blitzer than true pass-rusher.  He’s also 6’1” and 227lbs currently.  Kyle Van Noy is a full 6’3” 250lbs.  Perhaps Baker’s speed is the equalizer here, but that length will be important.  I think this is where Andrew Van Ginkel could absolutely thrive.  He did the on the line of scrimmage stuff all the time at Wisconsin.  Charles Harris should, in my opinion, get a shot here with the edge stuff; Miami might be able to squeeze some football out of him this way.

Buck – Travis and I discussed this on the podcast on Sunday.  If Miami had limited Kiko Alonso’s role in last year’s defense he’d have been a pretty effective, albeit overpaid, third linebacker.  I see him here, though perhaps not right away.  The new staff may be more inclined to give him a shot at the $ linebacker spot given his veteran experience.  That’d be regrettable in my opinion.  If they can pare down his snaps, he could likely handle a lot of the duties the Buck LB spot handles on first and second downs…that is for what snaps there are.  The Patriots would often use John Simon in this role for their 3rd down packages or as an extra DE.  This is where I mentioned Jayrone Elliott fitting in, purely in the pass-rushing role.

In short, Miami just doesn’t have the horses that the Patriots have at linebacker, and though they may not want to, I think the coaching staff will be forced to piecemeal these LB roles with multiple parts.  Gun to my head, I’d expect we’ll see McMillan, Baker, Alonso, Van Ginkel all playing at least solid snaps, with perhaps Charles Harris and Jayrone Elliott having niche roles.

Position:  Safety – I’m skipping the corner position for right now as I want to do a little more research on that.  Let’s just get this out of the way, Xavien Howard looks like an analog for Stephon Gilmore.  X got the bag, deservedly so, and will hopefully be around to see this rebuild take flight.

At Safety, Miami have some fits, but I’m very, very curious to see how the players are slotted into roles.  New England often employs three safeties in their 4-2-5 looks, most often against 12 and 21 personnel rather than playing a third linebacker.  Those roles seem to stack up in the following spots:

SS – Strong safety – This is Patrick Chung, and he’ll often be lined up on the edge or in the box, where a linebacker would often be.  They’ll also use him as a robber in split safety looks, or in disguised looks with a deep safety dropping bac.

* – Star – This is Devin McCourty.  He’ll line up EVERYWHERE.  He’s often a FS in split safety looks, but he’ll find his way to the slot as an overhang defender. He’ll cover Flexed tight ends man-to-man.  He’ll cover them split out wide.  He handles a lot of the single-high safety responsibilities when they have two safeties on the field, but on 3rd downs, he’s often lined up in the slot or in the box with a coverage responsibility close to the line of scrimmage.

FS – Free Safety – this is played by McCourty in two safety looks, but is also played by Duron Harmon when they bring a third safety onto the field.

This video, courtesy of Samuel Gold, is required defensive study viewing.  Samuel does an outstanding job of breaking down how the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl.  You can see a lot of the versatility among the safeties in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLmyRYJHt4o&t=202s

Analogs:  Minkah Fitzpatrick is our second true analog.  While we haven’t seen him do everything that the Patriots ask Devin McCourty, in large part due to Matt Burke using Minkah at three different spots as a rookie, if you view his Alabama tape and Dolphins tape, it’s not hard to see the match here at all.  While most football fans acknowledge that Derwin James was just a freaking monster as a rookie, he was used EXACTLY has he should have been.  Kudos to the Chargers for doing so.  Minkah Fitzpatrick was, well, not used that way.  He was still outstanding but received much less notoriety.  That should change in 2019.

Players:  Reshad Jones caught a lot of flak for “quitting” on the team during the Jets game last year.  I don’t care.  He’s been one of the top two or three Dolphins players since 2012.  He should be in the Ring of Honor, and if you’re in favor of putting Ricky Williams there, you damn sure better vote for Reshad.

SS – That aside, I’d like to think that if Reshad’s fully recovered from offseason shoulders surgery – he was boxing in a video on Instagram last week – that he’d be the strong safety.  He did a lot of what Patrick Chung does in 2017 and had a Pro Bowl season.  He’s best attacking downhill or playing close to the line of scrimmage, so I think he fits that role well.  However, if his shoulders are still balky, we may see T.J. McDonald here.  I have another theory on him.

* – We already talked about Minkah Fitzpatrick filling in this role.  It’s his.  Leave him in this role.  Watch him flourish.

FS – This should really be spelled out as third safety.  My guess for now is that T.J. McDonald is penciled, lightly, into this role.  Barry Jackson reported a while back that T.J. wanted to drop weight from the 230lbs he played at a year ago and get down to 215lbs.  He had a little bit of success as a deep safety in 2017 when he came back from suspension.  That being said, I don’t think he or Reshad Jones, again if Jones’ shoulders are balky, are great fits for this role.  Their contract situations are, how to put it…not team friendly.  So, unless there’s a trade that develops, I expect they’ll be given opportunities

Also in consideration for this role should be Maurice Smith and Walt Aikens.  One has been a fringe roster player and the other is our best special teamer (and one of the top 5 special teamers in the entire NFL – Walt’s really good), but I’d imagine they’ll get a trial run here.  Aikens looks the part and is athletic, but wasn’t able to put it together when given a shot as a starting safety back in 2015 when Louis Delmas tore his ACL in preseason.  I do wonder if safeties coach Tony Oden may try to convert one of the myriad cornerbacks Miami have on their 90 man roster to safety.  He did so with Charles Washington while with Detroit in 2016.  The Patriots did it with Teez Tabor last year.  Perhaps someone will emerge for Miami here if McDonald or Jones falter.

We’ve covered quite a lot of ground in this piece already, so I’m going to wrap this up without taking up any more time until my next piece.  Overall, Dolfans are going to be wide-eyed trying to catch up with the philosophical seismic shift we’re going to see with the defense this year.  It’ll be multiple.  It’ll use a lot of players.  It’ll be different in some capacities on a weekly basis given opponents’ strengths.

All of this should be welcomed with open arms.

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 17 at Seattle

Travis Wingfield

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Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

Week 17 at Seattle –

By the time this season finale came to an end the entire Cardinals operation had to breathe a sigh of relief. A disaster season, that came to a crashing conclusion, was finally in the rearview. For Josh Rosen, the last month of the season was a recurring nightmare. Rosen threw 146 passes in December and the only one that crossed pay dirt was a busted coverage in this Seattle game.

Some of Rosen’s strong suits didn’t travel to the Pacific Northwest. Throwing into contested windows, play-action passing, and third down conversions each brought back less than satisfactory returns.

The Cardinal passing offense converted 3-of-14 3rd downs. Rosen was 2-of-14 for 23 yards on contested throws and 5-of-10 for 56 yards on play pass.

Rosen was chucking-and-praying once again. The average air yards per throw tallied 10.8 yards, while the Arizona receivers only amassed 51 yards after the catch (34.2% of Rosen’s passing total).

The short passing game was far more fruitful than the vertical attacks.

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

The game was littered with mistakes from the Cardinals QB. Rosen registered 14 mistakes (11 from accuracy, 2 ball security issues, and 1 poor read). Rosen lost two fumbles and had two would-be interceptions dropped by the Seattle defense.

The personnel deployment featured more versatility than recent weeks. Rosen’s passes were supplemented by the following personnel packages.

 

11-personnel 31 snaps
12-personnel 3 snaps
21-personnel 4 snaps

 

As has been the case all season, Rosen was under frequent pressure. Seattle arrived for 11 pressures (6 sacks, 3 hits, 2 hurries) at an average time from snap-to-pressure of 2.19 seconds.

The busted coverage touchdown was Rosen’s one red-zone completion (1-of-3). He was in the gun for 25 snaps and under-center for 13.

Another week, another low conversion rate. The Cardinal passing game converted 8-of-38 plays into first downs (21.1%)

It’s difficult to imagine a more trying rookie season than the one Rosen experienced. The offensive line play was poor, the only consistent pass catcher was Larry Fitzgerald, and Rosen had his own share of rookie mistakes to compound things.

This game goes into the losing performance category marking eight consecutive games that Rosen failed to reach the winning performance category.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 7 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR, @SEA)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 16 vs. LA Rams

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

 

Week 16 vs. LA Rams –

For the second consecutive game Josh Rosen didn’t finish under-center for the Cardinals. In a blowout loss, where it seemed like the entire game plan revolved around making life easy on Josh Rosen, Arizona still managed to get ran out of the building. Mike Glennon completed the final series for the Red Birds offense.

Rosen threw the ball only 23 times, but scrambled more than he has all season. The game plan also featured the least amount of variety, from a personnel grouping standpoint, all season.

 

11-personnel 30 snaps
12-personnel 1 snap

 

Rosen’s typical third down heroics didn’t show up. The Cardinals converted only 2-of-10 third downs in the passing game (one a QB scramble). Converting, as it has been all season, was a challenge in general — Arizona converted just 6-of-31 drop backs (19.4%).

Rosen was in the shotgun almost exclusively (3 under-center, 28 in the gun). This led to a limited play-action passing game (only one throw from play pass).

The four mistakes attributed to Rosen were largely deep shots. He missed on short pass, but two of the three inaccuracies came on balls down the field. One of those deep shots was an ill-advised throw into coverage despite a wide open Larry Fitzgerald coming across the formation (seen in the video thread).

Rosen’s depth splits were as follows:

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

More than half of Rosen’s 87 passing yards came from YAC (54%). The average depth of Rosen’s passes was 9.22 air yards per throw.

Throwing into tight window was a futile effort. Rosen completed 1-of-7 contested throws for 7 yards. Pressure was a regular fixture, yet again, as Rosen was under duress on 11 drop backs (4 sacks, 5 hits, 2 hurries). The average time from snap-to-pressure was 2.30 seconds.

The war of attrition seems to have finally broken the Cardinals spirit. The team’s execution was lacking all year, but this game was something of a “white flag” effort from the coaching staff. Rosen gets tabbed with a losing performance for a lack of big-time plays, a few mistakes, and an awful holistic result.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 6 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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