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2019 Scouting Combine Through a Dolphins Lens – Defense

Travis Wingfield

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Players, Traits, and Scheme Fits for the Miami Dolphins

Jump to Offensive Review

“If you removed all offensive players from the equation and only allowed defensive players to be drafted, New England would still get a great player with the 32nd pick in this draft. That’s the depth of this defensive group.”

Daniel Jeremiah made no qualms about the strength of the 2019 NFL Draft. With stars abound, particularly on the line, the Dolphins have an opportunity to inject Brian Flores’ young, ascending defensive personnel with blue chip talent.

First, some housekeeping as it pertains to one incumbent pass rusher.

 

Rumors have attached Trey Flowers to the Dolphins over the weekend, but a source close to Flores told me that he’d “be shocked if [Flores] overpays for Flowers…he was helped by the scheme.”

Before we dive into the rookie prospects, a brief review on the measurements and metrics of the 2018 Patriots defense. This will give us an idea of what Flores and company are searching for across all three levels of the defense.

Interior Defensive Line

Malcolm Brown 320 lbs. 5.05 40-yard dash, 7.84 3-cone, 32.5 arms, 98 broad, 29.5 vert
Lawrence Guy 315 lbs. 4.96 40-yard dash, 7.6 3-cone, 32.75 arm, 29 vert
Danny Shelton 345 lbs. 5.64 40-yard dash, 7.99 3-cone, 32 arm, 30.5 vert, 95 broad
Adam Butler 300 lbs. 5.23 40-yard dash, 7.51 3-cone, arm, 28.5 vert, 101 broad

Defensive Ends

Adrian Clayborn 280 lbs. 4.83 40-yard dash, 7.30 3-cone,32.5 arm, 113 broad, 33 vert
Trey Flowers 265 lbs. 4.93 40-yard dash, 7.34 3-cone, 34.25 arm, 121 broad, 36.5 vert
Derek Rivers 250 lbs. 4.61 40-yard dash, 6.94 3-cone, 32.75 arm, 35 vert, 123 broad
John Simon 260 lbs. 4.62 40-yard dash, 7.10 3-cone, 34.25 arm, 34 vert, 121 broad
Dietrich Wise 275 lbs. 4.92 40-yard dash, 7.07 3-cone, 35.5arm, 33 vert, 125 broad

Inside ‘Backers

Elandon Roberts 238 lbs. 4.60 40-yard dash, 7.23 3-cone, 36 vert, 120 broad

Outside ‘Backers

Dont’a Hightower 260 lbs. 4.68 40-yard dash, 7.55 3-cone, 32.5 arm, 32 vert, 117 broad
Kyle Van Noy 250 lbs. 4.71 40-yard dash, 7.22 3-cone, 31.5 arm, 32.5 vert, 112 broad
Brandon King 220 lbs. 4.49 40-yard dash, 7.28 3-cone, 38 vert, 127 broad
Albert McClellan 235 lbs. 4.81 40-yard dash, 7.24 3-cone, 36.5 vert, 119 broad

Cornerback

Duke Dawson 190 lbs. 4.46 40-yard dash, 7.02 3-cone
Stephone Gilmore 202 lbs. 4.40 40-yard dash, 6.61 3-cone, 31 arm, 36 vert, 123 broad
J.C. Jackson 198 lbs. 4.46 40-yard dash, 6.92 3-cone, 31.5 arm, 35.5 vert, 120 broad
Cyrus Jones 195 lbs. 4.33 40-yard dash, 7.25 3-cone, 30.25 arm, 36 vert, 123 broad
Jason McCourty 195 lbs.  4.3 40-yard dash, 6.67 3-cone, 36.5 vert, 125 broad
Obi Melifonwu 225 lbs. 4.40 40-yard dash, 4.58 3-cone, 32.5 arm, 44 vert, 141 broad

Safety

Devin McCourty 195 lbs. 4.48 40-yard dash, 6.70 3-cone, 32 arms, 36 vert, 126 broad
Patrick Chung 215 lbs. 4.51 40-yard dash, 7.11 3-cone, 34 vert, 119 broad
Duron Harmon 205 lbs. 4.51 40-yard dash, 7.02 3-cone, 36 vert, 125 broad
Nate Ebner 215 lbs. 4.51 40-yard dash, 6.59 3-cone, 39 vert, 128 broad

Defensive Edge (Options for 5-techs, 7-techs, and on-ball outside linebackers)

Montez Sweat (Mississippi State) stole the show with a 4.42 forty, but the jaw-dropping didn’t stop there. With 35.75” arms, a 36” vert, 125” broad, and 7.0 three-cone, Sweat might’ve worked his way ahead of Miami’s pick at 13. The tape and all-star performance (Senior Bowl) corroborates the impressive workout.

Another Senior Bowl standout, TCU’s Ben Banogu is a candidate to stand up and play on-the-ball linebacker in Miami. He testes through the roof at 250 pounds with 33.5” arms, 40” vert, and 134” broad jump. He’s quick as all get out and can drop into the flats and hook zone in coverage.

Rahsaan Gary (Michigan) isn’t likely to make it 13, but the Michigan product would be a plug-and-play impact player on day-one. 280 pounds, 34.25” arms, 38” vert, 120” broad, 7.26 3-cone, and a 4.58 forty, it’s safe to say Gary made some money Sunday.

Gary’s Michigan teammate Chase Winovich had a monster day in his own right. A master of the push and pull (stack and shed) technique, Winovich is all gas all the time. His athleticism is questionable on tape, but he blew the door’s off the combine with a sub 7.0 three-cone, 30.5” vert, 116” broad jump, and a 1.57 10-yard split. Winovich checked in at 260 pounds and could be a plug-and-play starter on day-two of the draft.

Son of a former Dolphins cheerleader, Boston College’s Zach Allen is a prototypical fit in Miami’s defense. A trophy case full of hardware, including the Campbell Trophy for academic prowess, Allen’s work ethic and intelligence jive well with Miami’s vision. He’s 281 pounds with 34.25” arms, 32” vert, and 112” broad jump.

If the Dolphins strikeout on Trey Flowers (or opt to save the cash), Charles Oeenihu (Texas) is comparable from a measurement standpoint. The Texas product is 275 pounds with an absurd 36 inch arms.

Eastern Michigan’s Max Crosby tested better than expected He’s 255 pounds with 33” arms, a 36” vert, 122” broad, and a ripping-quick 6.89 three-cone.

Interior Defensive Line (Options for 3-techs, 4i, 2i, 2, and nose tackle)

We can safely remove Quinnen Williams (Alabama) from this group. He played like Ndamukong Suh at Nebraska, tested like Suh, and will be draft as highly as Suh.

Christian Wilkins (Clemson) is well within the Dolphins range and will likely be squarely in their crosshairs. He had a great workout and checks every box Miami looks for in a player.

UCF’s Trysten Hill made a lot of money on Sunday. After starting every game for the undefeated 2017 team, Hill started just one in 2018, but flashed the big-time measurables that made him a wrecking ball inside. Hill’s explosion metrics (10-yard split, 35” vert, 115” broad) and length (34” arms) puts this specimen on the Dolphins’ radar. At 308 pounds, Hill fits the 4i, 3, 2i, and 2-techinuqe requirements.

Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery tested off the charts, but antiquated scouting techniques could turn Miami away. Tillery has many interests outside of football, but that didn’t stop him from flashing elite potential in a few games (Stanford tape, four sacks) and blowing up the combine.

L.J. Collier, from TCU, fits the prototype inside. At 283 pounds, Collier jumped 30” in the vert, 118” in the broad jump, and measured with 34” arms. Collier can two-gap and might come off the board in the second round.

Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones fits the part. At 281 pounds with 34 inch arms, Jones has the heavy hands Dolphins DC Patrick Graham is looking for. Jones has the make-up to play all over the defensive line and cause havoc as an interior rusher on passing downs. His 31” vert showcases the explosion in his lower half.

Khalen Saunders of Western Illinois didn’t test well after making a name for himself in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. Knocking him back a round or two could benefit the Dolphins lack of depth on the inside.

Kansas’ Daniel Wise has the length and ability to lock out the edge in Miami’s new scheme. Daniel is the brother of Patriots Defensive End Dietrich Wise.

Florida’s Jachai Polite left the combine early and has been accused of faking an injury. Polite made headlines in the media portion of the combine for expressing his displeasure with the entire process – he torpedoed his value, but he’s a supremely talented edge rusher.

Linebackers 

This is not a great crop of linebackers. The two Devin’s (Bush and White, from Michigan and LSU respectively) tore the lid off the forty-yard dash. Hit, run, cover – that’s the new age of linebackers.

Miami are in a tricky spot with this position. Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker, and Chase Allen all fill specific roles in a defense that doesn’t rely too heavily on linebackers, but the unicorn that is Dont’a Hightower, and the catalyst of the Pats front-seven, doesn’t have a carbon copy on the market this year.

USC’s Porter Gustin might be the closest to that mark. He goes 255 pounds with a 4.71 forty, 35.5” vert, 119” broad, and a tremendous tape reel of blitzes. The medical is a concern, however, he’s missed games three out of four years at USC.

Former Safety Bobby Okereke (Stanford) tested as expected. At 240 pounds Okereke ran a 4.58 forty, with a 33.5” vert, 120” broad, 7.25 three-cone and 34.5” arms. He’s a tremendous blitz and cover prospect.

Utah’s Cody Barton is an impressive ball of clay. He went 237 pounds, 4.67 forty, 32” arms with a 32.5” vert and 116” broad jump.

BYU’s Sione Takitaki has been linked to the Dolphins since the Shrine Game. Takitaki’s explosive tape showed up in the workouts. He’s 240 pounds with a 37” vert, 125” broad and a 7.21 three-cone.

Notre Dame’s Drue Tranquil had himself a Sunday. At 234 pounds Tranquil ran a 4.57 forty, jumped 37.5” in the vert and 122” in the broad with a 6.94 three-cone time.

New Mexico State’s Terrill Hanks went from Senior Bowl darling to undraftable. Light and unrefined, Hanks was supposed to run like the wind but checked in with a dismal 4.98 forty.

Cornerbacks

At the start of the 2016 season the Dolphins traded for Byron Maxwell, drafted Xavien Howard and entered year-two of the Tony Lippett project. This signaled a change towards lengthy corners without much concern over timed speeds.

This prototype has become widespread across the NFL landscape. Corners aren’t pedaling but, rather, they’re playing with their butts to the sideline and preventing the big play via a lot of bail technique and off-coverage.

You’ll notice the size of a lot of these corners is rather imposing – and why wouldn’t it be? When Megatron Part Two (D.K. Metcalf) comes blazing down the field, someone’s going to have to put hands on him.

New England’s model of cornerbacks hasn’t followed this trend, however. The highest timed 40 on New England’s cornerback roster in 2018 was 4.46 seconds. The Patriots played more man-coverage than any team in football – an element Brian Flores will certainly bring to Miami.

Georgia’s DeAndre Baker is my top corner in the class. He has the confidence, the physicality and technique to go man-up with any receiver. He lacks long speed but his 4.53 40-time is good enough. He wasn’t a great tester but nobody will match his competitiveness in this class.

The only player that can give Baker’s competitive spirit a run for its money is LSU’s Greedy Williams. Williams oozes confidence, swagger, and play-making ability. He sometimes shies away from contact and that has always been a massive red flag under the Patriot Way. Greedy ran an impressive 4.38 at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds.

Rock Ya-Sin (Temple) is in that conversation with Baker and Williams. A two-time state champion wrestler, Ya-Sin was awarded a single-digit number in his first year at Temple (voted the toughest players on the team, by the team). He’s six-foot and 190, but plays much larger. His 4.53 40-time is good enough.

The winner for strange combine question of the week goes to Texas’ Kris Boyd. Asked if he still had both of his testicular, Boyd didn’t let that unnecessary, intrusive line of questioning stop him from destroying the workouts. Running a 4.45 at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, Boyd’s 6.94 three-cone and 4.08 short-shuttle ranked near the top of the group.

Houston’s Isaiah Johnson (6-foot-2, 208 pounds and 4.40 forty) took a big leap up boards. He measured with 33 inch arms, a 36.5” vert, 133 inch broad, 6.81 three-cone and 4.06 short-shuttle.

Michigan’s David Long is going to be highly regarded by the Dolphins. Advanced on the white board and high-level recognition of route concepts, Long had the metrics to match. At 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, Long ran a 4.47, jumped 120” in the broad and 39.5” in the vert. He clocked a sub-4 short-shuttle (3.97) and a ridiculous 6.45 three-cone.

Central Michigan’s Sean Bunting killed the tests. He comes in at 6-foot, 195 pounds, 31 ¼” arms, 41.5” vert, and a 126” broad. He’s a pure press-man corner.

Auburn’s Jameel Dean had the best forty (4.30) at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.

The local product, Michael Jackson, made a case to stay in Miami. He measured 6-foot1, 200 pounds, and ran a 4.46 forty.

Safeties

The Dolphins are in a predicament at the position. A ton of money is tied up in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, but neither are long-term solutions for the defense. Eventually, Miami needs a match-up piece in the mold of Patrick Chung, and a middle-of-the-field safety cut from the same cloth as Duron Harmon.

Nov 22, 2018; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs safety Johnathan Abram (38) slaps Mississippi Rebels wide receiver A.J. Brown (1) during a fight at the end of the third quarter at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Thornhill of Virginia fits the latter description. He won the day measuring 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, with a 4.43 forty, 44” vert, and an eye-popping 141” broad jump.

Johnathan Abram is a player the Dolphins will adore. The Mississippi State product plays angry, fast, and yet, somehow in control. He’s 6-foot, 211 pounds with a 4.5 forty, 33.5” vert, 117” broad, 7.03 three-cone, and a 4.2 short-shuttle.

Delaware’s Nassir Adderley did not work out due to an injury (he will at his pro day), but he’s in the fold for Miami in that 20-50 range.

Miami’s Sheldrick Redwine had a terrific day measure 6-foot, 190 pounds with a 4.47 forty, 39” vert, and 130” broad jump.

USC’s Marvell Tell didn’t run but he jumped out of the building. The former Trojan goes 6-foot-2 195 pounds, with a 42” vert, and 136” broad jump.

Saquan Hampton (Rutgers) measured 6-foot-1, 207 pounds and ran a 4.48 forty. He’s a pure ball hawk and an intelligent, dedicated player.

Dolphins Confirmed Defensive Player Meetings (Shrine, Senior Bowl, Combine):

Defensive Ends

Montez Sweat – Mississippi State
Nick Bosa – Ohio State
Jachai Pollite – Florida
Zach Allen – Boston College
Jalen Jelks – Oregon
Jordan Brailford – Oklahoma State
L.J. Collier – TCU
Charles Omenihu – Texas

Defensive Tackles

Quinnen Williams – Alabama
ED Oliver – Houston
Dexter Lawrence – Clemson
Armon Watts – Arkansas

Linebackers

Sione Takitaki – BYU
Joe Dineen – Kansas
Ben Banogu – TCU

Cornerbacks

Greedy Williams – LSU
Byron Murphy – Washington
Blace Brown – Troy

Safeties

Tyree Kinnel – Michigan

First Round Options:

The way I see it, Miami aren’t trading up unless something unforeseen happens with Kyler Murray. Dwayne Haskins likely comes off early as well, leaving Miami with options, among others, as follows:

Stay at 13 and select:

DE Montez Sweat
DE Ed Oliver
DE Clellin Ferrell
DT Christian Wilkins
CB Greedy Williams
SAF Johnathan Abram

Trade Back and select:

CB DeAndre Baker
OC Garrett Bradbury
DT Dexter Lawrence
SAF Taylor Rapp
SAF Chaunce Gardner-Johnson
SAF Nassir Adderly

Lastly, this from Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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