In a bottom-line business, the Dolphins can find success elsewhere in 2019
Any coach, player, or essential personnel attached to the 2019 operation of the Miami Dolphins would immediately dispel the notion of this article. While the mindset is imperative for each of the 32 organizations in the NFL to enter a new season with championship aspirations, the truth tells us that, that is simply not realistic.
The Dolphins — like it or not — fall into the category of teams building for future success.
Since Stephen Ross’ Black Monday presser — held with the purpose of conveying sweeping organizational changes — the mantra of the 10th administration in franchise history has been the same — ‘we are only worried about today.’ Ross’ opening statements contradicted that idea, just as Miami’s offseason maneuvers have suggested something of a transitional year.
A reset. A step back. A “change from the way we’ve done things previously,” as Mr. Ross stated at that presser, was a necessary evil on the track to, “building a consistent team with sustained success.”
Any NFL team, regardless of its standing on the superiority hierarchy, will dispel any talk of Super Bowl dreams during the summer. But for the 2019 Miami Dolphins winning games is not the end-all-be-all.
Operating under protection from the end results the typical importance of the only numbers that ultimately matter — victories and defeats — Brian Flores and staff can focus on the true exigency of the 2019 season; the development of his program and young players.
Last year I wrote about the 25 most integral players to the 2018 Miami Dolphins success. In year-three, with an experienced quarterback and significant investment in veteran contracts, the only option for Adam Gase and company was to win football games.
Now, the focus takes a hard left turn. We hone in on the particular units, identity development, and most crucial aspects that must occur in 2019 to set Coach Flores up for success in the win-loss column in 2020 and beyond.
1. Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker Assert Their Standing
Linebackers are falling out of favor in many-an-NFL-defense, but not in this one. Versatile ‘backers helped drive Brian Flores’ defense to back-to-back championship caliber performances in the season’s two biggest games in 2018 (Super Bowl and AFCCG).
McMillan was one of Pro Football Focus’ highest graded run-defenders from October on last year while Jerome Baker flashed the pass rush skill set, speed, and coverage dynamics that helped him earn significant playing time as a rookie.
The Dont’a Hightower role — working both inside and on the ball as a rusher off the edge — has been imparted on McMillan. Baker, McMillan’s former Buckeye teammate, figures into a prominent rush role with the occasional buzz to the flat.
The Dolphins have club control on McMillan for the next two years with Baker under contract for the next three. Both have been lauded for their leadership and quick acclimation to the new scheme and program.
Anchoring the middle of the defense with 23 (McMillan) and 22-year-old (Baker) linebackers would be a sterling beginning to the construction of a championship stop-unit.
2. Discovering a Viable Counterpart to Xavien Howard
One of the many faulty pillars of the Mike Tannenbaum regime was poor financial structuring of the roster, i.e. paying exponentially above market value both starting safeties, and continually pumping financial resources into a middling pass rush.
With Xavien Howard taken care of on one corner, the Dolphins can offset his cost by uncovering a viable second perimeter starter on a cheap contract. Eric Rowe gets first crack, but a clean bill of health and quality play likely earns him a big offseason paycheck — he’s signed on the cheap through 2019.
The other, more prudent options are homegrown talents. Cordrea Tankersley entered camp in 2018 with well-earned buzz, but has had the worst imaginable ensuing 11-month stretch since that time. He’s a candidate to start the year on P.U.P (which carries a distinction to return post-week-six).
Torry McTyer is on year-three of his rookie contract from 2017 and has the most playing time to his credit. Last season was a struggle for McTyer after a strong camp earned the UDFA a spot on the depth chart.
Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis flashed glimpses during their rookie seasons. Armstrong more so on special teams and Davis primarily in the slot.
Former Patriots practice squad member Jomal Wiltz and undrafted rookie Nik Needham have head their names called during offseason minicamps.
Pairing Howard with a rookie contract, while the team absorbs the immediate, steep costs #25’s new deal would be a massive boon heading into 2020.
3. An Unquestioned Star Skill Player Emerges
The last time the Dolphins featured an offensive threat that forced defensive coordinators to alter their game plan was Ricky Williams nearly two decades ago. The Dolphins need that spark to resurrect an offense that has been bottom-of-the-barrel for just as long.
Kenyan Drake is the favorite. His five-week slate of production to close 2017 is exactly what we’re looking for here. His versatile, game-breaking skill set could develop if he’s finally given the lion’s share of the workload.
Albert Wilson strung together a dominant stretch for two weeks last season before a serious hip injury stopped his breakout campaign short. Jakeem Grant flashes big-play ability regularly, but he’s yet to prove that he’s a permanent fixture as a wide receiver.
The dark horse option might be Tight End Mike Gesicki. His rookie tape is a difficult watch, but his Penn State cut-ups suggest that something is there — particularly in the red zone.
4. Two More Solutions on the Offensive Line Emerge
At press time the Dolphins have Laremy Tunsil and four question marks on the offensive line. Michael Deiter comes in with expectations, but a rookie third-round pick is hardly a slam dunk to provide a solution at a position that has been a problem for a decade-plus.
Daniel Kilgore is back after a season-ending injury. His three showing prior to the injury left plenty to be desired, however. Chris Reed is a career backup that figures into the starting right guard position while Jesse Davis returns to right tackle (he played sparingly at the position in 2017).
Truthfully, if one of these players emerges to form 40% of a competent offensive line, that should be considered a victory. If the Dolphins, however, find two solutions on the offensive front, that fits right in line with the rest of the league at a position starving for talent.
5. A Definitive Answer on Josh Rosen
It’s safe to say most who read this article expected this to come in at number one. Rosen’s evaluation checks in at number five for two reasons:
1.) The 2020 QB class is loaded.
2.) The evaluation doesn’t have to find a conclusion this season.
Quarterbacks are unique from every other position on the field. Entrusted faces of the franchise, long-term solutions, these are labels that each fan base without the elusive franchise savior craves to slap on a young signal-caller.
While the argument that, without a quarterback you’re merely treading water is valid, it doesn’t always happen overnight. Russell Wilson spearheads a group of franchise quarterbacks that were discovered in unconventional forms (Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garappolo).
Even if Josh Rosen strikes out in 2019, and he’s greeted by stiff competition next year, that doesn’t necessarily equal the end of the road for the embattled passer. He’s under club control for three seasons, and not only is he under market-value for starting QBs, he’s cheaper than the league’s most-valued backups.
While it might not be preferable for the self-proclaimed Josh Rosen ‘Stans’, a QB depth chart that features Rosen, Fitzpatrick, and one of the prized first-round options in next year’s draft would put the Dolphins in terrific position to identify the long-term solution.
Should the Dolphins find resolutions to three or more of these critical areas of development in 2019 the season should be considered a success. The omissions of pass rusher and Minkah Fitzpatrick taking the next step towards superstardom were considered.
The reason for the pass rush omission is twofold. First, next year’s class has some elite, top-shelf talent, including a player that is a picture-perfect scheme fit (Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa). Second, the individual pass rush prowess simply isn’t a priority in this scheme.
For Fitzpatrick, there should be little doubt about his development. He’s a special player that will not come up short in his purist of becoming a household name in the league.
Of course, the Dolphins could send a massive middle finger to the entire premise of this article, and the entirety of the national media that is forecasting a rough, transitional season for Flores’ football team.
In that instance, it would probably be safe to assume that more than half of this checklist were satisfied.
Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker
One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.
The #Dolphins and WR DeVante Parker are finalizing a four-year extension worth over $40 million, source said. Lot of guaranteed money. Another step in his remarkable turnaround. 💰
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 13, 2019
All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.
… Parker will make 4.5 M guaranteed in 2020 and 7.7 M guaranteed in 2021. Also, he's five catches and 120 yards from making another 1.5 M in incentives this season
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) December 13, 2019
Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.
Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.
His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).
Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 13, 2019
Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes
MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster
The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.
While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.
Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.
Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.
Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.
Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.
Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.
We have signed DB Nate Brooks off New England’s practice squad, signed LB Jamal Davis off Tennessee’s practice squad and been awarded T Adam Pankey off waivers from Green Bay.
We have also placed CB Ryan Lewis and CB Ken Webster on injured reserve and waived RB Zach Zenner.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 10, 2019
On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.
Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.
Dolphins add their sixth new player of the week, signing cornerback Linden Stephens off Seattle’s practice squad. To make room, they waived cornerback Chris Lammons.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) December 7, 2019
In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.
The #Dolphins have added former UCF and Davie University School DB Rashard Causey to their practice squad today.
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) December 12, 2019
Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview
Dolphins set to run it back in New York
Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3
The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.
The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.
Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.
Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.
Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.
The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.
A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.
Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.
The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.
The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.
James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.
The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.
New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.
The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.
Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.
New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.
Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.
This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.
Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.
On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.
Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.
The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.
This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.
If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.
If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.
The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.
Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.
The Projected Outcome:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.
Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.
A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.
- Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker December 13, 2019
- Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes December 13, 2019
- Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview December 12, 2019
- The Aftermath: Dolphins 21 Jets 22 December 10, 2019
- Fins Fall to Rivals, Officials – Dolphins Jets Week 14 Recap December 8, 2019
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