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Miami Dolphins

5 Most Disappointing Miami Dolphins of 2018

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In a year littered with disappointment, it was hard to pick 5 players that outweighed the others.

On one hand, we didn’t have to bribe a quarterback out of retirement, Miami’s bye week occurred right on time, and no one was (caught) snorting cocaine at the office.

By most accounts, 2018 was actually an improvement over its predecessor. But that improvement doesn’t mean we weren’t disappointed with the outcome.

Our savior, Ryan Tannehill, was finally back after being resurrected for a 7th NFL season. Our mad scientist, Adam Gase, finally recruited the army of minions he always wanted; building “his” culture.

And then Miami finished 7-9; right back into the same familiar territory any Dolphins fan under 30-years old is used to.

While there is plenty of blame to go around, we can focus that energy on a handful of players who decided to stand up above the rest and become our 5 most disappointing players of 2018:

5) Charles Harris

Based on his 2017 performance and his 2018 salary, Charles Harris performed as expected. But that’s the problem, he was simply “Just A Guy”.

Former 1st-round picks don’t always pan out, but the hope is that they develop into cheap roster space that can supplement the more-expensive veterans on the roster.

Miami already had a dud of a 1st-round pick in DeVante Parker, so they really couldn’t afford another one in Harris. Though ultimately, it’s what they deserve.

Similar to DeVante Parker (and Mike Gesicki, as well as others), the Dolphins believed they could take a “talented” athlete and turn them into a football player. They were wrong in the past, and they are wrong once again. The last time the Dolphins went against that train of thought, and drafted a football player while ignoring the person’s (possibly lackluster) physical attributes, they drafted Jarvis Landry.

It’s possible Harris still evolves and develops, especially with a new coaching staff. But with a new defensive scheme expected to be implemented, Harris is an odd-man out. His ability to diagnose the run and set the edge is poor, he isn’t reliable in coverage, and his pass-rushing ability isn’t great either, which means he’ll be unable to survive in a 3-4 defensive front as an outside linebacker. And in this scheme, he’s too skinny to play with his hand in the dirt.

You have a better likelihood of William Hayes returning and being more productive than Charles Harris.

Like a bunch of other players on the roster, it’ll be interesting to see if the team tries to get something in return for the underwhelming defensive end. Though I’m hesitant to think that the team will desperately trade their under-performing talent, as Chris Grier was behind the selections of Harris, Parker and Gesicki; selling these players for pennies on the dollar is admitting a defeat that Grier might not be able to afford to admit.

Although it’s easy to play this game in retrospect, Miami drafting Harris at 22 cost them players like Evan Engram (drafted one spot after Harris, at 23), Jabrill Peppers (25), Takkarist McKinley (26), Tre’Davious White (27), David Njoku (29), T.J. Watt (30) and Ryan Ramczyk (32). Or in other words, everyone drafted after Harris in the 1st-round was a better option other than Reuben Foster. Even Taco Charlton has been more-productive than Harris, and at least he comes with a name we could meme.

4) Mike Gesicki

Saying the Miami Dolphins drafted the worst tight end in the 2018 NFL draft is actually not that much of an exaggeration. The only tight ends that performed less than Gesicki were either injured before their careers could get started, or they were lower-round draft picks. 1st-round pick Hayden Hurst did have less receptions and less yards than Gesicki, but he also participated in 4 less games than the former Penn State tight end.

Combined with the lackluster performance of our other rookie tight end, Durham Smythe, it’s clear this team is working without any production from a quarterback’s friendliest receiver.

While Smythe’s production can be excused because of his blocking ability, there is nothing we can excuse with Gesicki.

Another example of a superior athlete that has no business being on the football field, Gesicki was drafted to be the redzone threat the Dolphins have been missing since Charles Clay.

Instead, his biggest threat came when the defender had no idea what Gesicki was doing…only to find out he was tripping on air and falling before he could break his route. Sometimes he didn’t even break his block before falling to the ground.

If you enjoyed teasing Brian Hartline for all of the shoestring tackles he endured, you’d get a real kick out of Gesicki’s phantom falls.

Also, this never happened:

3) DeVante Parker

You would think DeVante Parker’s inclusion on this list would have more to do with the culmination of his NFL career rather than the 2018 season alone; but even by Parker’s standards this was a poor year.

Regardless of the statistic, Parker had the worst year of his career:

  • Receptions: 24 (next lowest: 26, Year: 2015)
  • Targets: 47 (50, 2015)
  • Yards: 309 (494, 2015)
  • Yards per Reception: 12.9 (11.8, 2017)
  • Touchdowns: 1 (1, 2017)

This also coincides with Parker’s least-taxing season on his body, as he had his lowest snap count of his 4-year career.

  • 2018: 411
  • 2017: 675
  • 2016: 735
  • 2015: 468

Of course injuries play a part in this, but it’s not like the injuries are anything new for Parker. Over his career, Parker has been active for 55 (out of a possible 65) games (84.62%), but his status has been suspect in most of those games. What’s more eye-opening is the fact that Parker has started just 31 games out of a possible 65 in his career (47.69%). For a former 1st-round pick, that’s undesirable.

Offering the 5th-year extension to a constantly-injured and eternally-inconsistent player was evidence enough that the Miami Dolphins still believed Parker could eventually shine as the beacon of hope we originally (and continued to) believe he could be. Instead, there’s a good chance Parker is on another roster in 2019.

2) Robert Quinn

Mike Tannenbaum couldn’t stay away from shiny objects. Ndamukong Suh was exhibit A, and Robert Quinn is the latest attraction.

A former 2x Pro Bowler and First-team All-Pro over half a decade ago, the thought of obtaining someone who has a history of multiple-sack seasons in their early-20s was too much for Tannenbaum to pass up on.

Sold as a player the Dolphins could fix because the Los Angeles Rams were playing Quinn out of position and the Rams have no clue what they’re doing, Quinn was brought on to cover up the other mistake Tannenbaum made by drafting Charles Harris in the 1st-round of the 2017 draft.

After toying with Ndamukong Suh, overpaying Andre Branch, continuously paying Cameron Wake and obtaining Robert Quinn, we finally figured we had it all together.

Nope.

Quinn had a decent second-half of the year, but it wasn’t enough to mask the disappointment we felt the first 10 weeks of the season.

As the most expensive player on the team (cap hit wise), Quinn was expected to change the course of games – simultaneously forcing the opposing quarterback off his rhythm AND making life easier on the secondary – and instead, he finished with 6.5 sacks, 38 total tackles and only 9 tackles for a loss. He did hit the quarterback 15 times, but he also started 16 games for the Dolphins, so that average is still underwhelming. (For reference, Wake hit the QB 17 times in 14 starts – and that was a “down” year for him).

Rebuilding in 2019 may be the blessing the Miami Dolphins need in order to purge themselves of these shiny objects they believe they can “turn around”. They do a good job of obtaining guys who may bounce back (Branch, T.J. McDonald, Kiko Alonso), but they do a terrible job paying them.

Just to solidify how poor the team handled Robert Quinn, I give you an excerpt from an article by Jason Lieser back in June of 2018. It’s a tad long, but it encompasses this team’s inability pretty well:

“…When the Rams offered [Quinn] for the mere price of a fourth-round pick. Miami defensive coordinator Matt Burke thought Adam Gase must have been messing with him.

“Yes, I’m good,” Burke replied. “Absolutely, 100 percent. I’m on board.”

Still, Gase insisted they do their due diligence anyway, so Burke went to freshly hired defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and told him they needed to watch Quinn’s film from last season to make sure there weren’t any red flags. It’d have to be a quick review because Mike Tannenbaum, Gase and Chris Grier didn’t want this opportunity to get away from them.”

On the opposite end, the Rams were celebrating as they relieved themselves of Quinn’s huge cap hit, allowing them to spend more-freely on the rest of their roster. This allowed them acquire the likes of Aquib Talib, Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh. I don’t think I even need to ask which scenario you’d rather have.

Honorable Mentions

Below are some additional players that disappointed us this season…just not enough to revel in the pantheon of under-performers:

Stephone Anthony – Is it really his fault he was a 1st-round bust for another team and our team stupidly paid a 5th-round pick to relieve them of their problem?

Andre Branch – Even though we knew he would be bad, he was atrocious. He actually disappointed our already nonexistent expectations.

Isaac Asiata – Asiata hasn’t contributed in the past and he continued his lack of contributions in 2018.

Jesse Davis – Davis played all 920 offensive snaps for the Dolphins this season, but he was expected to evolve; instead, he regressed somewhat mightily. His reliability saves him from being on this list.

Ted Larsen – He filled in and contributed 751 snaps at left guard, so it’s hard to fault him for his reliability. He was also reliably bad, so I guess we can’t fault him for being consistent, either. Larsen is also one of the main reasons why we beat the New England Patriots last season, so he gets a pass from the bottom-5.

Jordan Phillips – Phillips wasn’t on the roster long enough to completely disappoint us,  but his entire career has easily been a disappointment. So, like Andre Branch, his 2018 production isn’t a surprise, it’s just continuously disappointing. This is one draft bust we won’t forget, but we certainly won’t miss.

1) Ryan Tannehill

Come on, did you really expect it to be anyone else?

After starting 3-0 and being well on his way to purging any thought that he wasn’t a franchise quarterback, Ryan Tannehill shed his ironman status and missed time for his third-straight season.

Finishing the season at 5-6 as a starting quarterback, the future for Ryan Tannehill in Miami is about as bleak as the Dolphins projected record in 2019.

Statistically speaking, Tannehill didn’t have a “poor” season. Over the course of his 6 years as a starter, Tannehill’s stats were about as good as they have been:

  • Completion %: 3rd (best in his career – out of 6 seasons)
  • TD %: 1st
  • Yards per Attempt: tied-2nd
  • Yards per Reception: 4th
  • QB Rating: 3rd
  • Game Winning Drives: tied-1st

This probably explains why we should have discovered this problem earlier. 2018 was right on par with the rest of his Dolphins career. Problem is, it featured no evolution. No quarterback whisperer seducing him in his ear. No reason to believe that 2019 will be any better than 2018 (or 2017 or 2016 or any other year this century).

Between injuries, inconsistent quarterback play, inconsistent offensive line play, and an offensive gameplan that was predictably stale, our judgement is still clouded on the 7-year quarterback. We’re done with Tannehill because we don’t want to go through another year of uncertainty, not necessarily because he’s a poor choice.

We watch him do this:

And then we watch him do this:

Teammates simultaneously praise him and bash him as both a leader and a player. If the Miami Dolphins can’t mold Ryan Tannehill into a consistent franchise quarterback, it might be time to give someone else a try. Because all he’s going to do next year is continue to disappoint us.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Melody

    February 15, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t think Robert Quinn deserved to be on the list. Newcomers, I think should get a pass on their first year. I would have put Asiata or Anthony in there instead. He did struggle for most of the year but that last quarter the d-line really played well and Quinn was the star in that bunch as he accumulated 3 sacks, 3 TFLs and 5 qb hits in that timespan.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 1, 2019 at 11:22 am

      He did step up towards the end of the year, Melody, I agree! From my perspective, his inclusion centers more around his cap hit as well as the cost it took to acquire him (4th-round pick). It hit us pretty hard in two different areas and he didn’t make too much of a difference until that final stretch. I’m not against bringing Robert Quinn back and think he can still perform, it would just have to be on a much cheaper contract than what he cost us in 2018. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll get the chance and I think Miami parts ways with him in 2019.

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Miami Dolphins

25 Things We’ve Learned 25 Days into the 2019 Miami Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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Camp kicked off 25 days ago, giving us a month’s worth of visual evidence; here’s what we know so far

Preseason reps are not the end-all-be-all, and training camp practices won’t put players in the Hall of Fame, but there’s a purpose every time the chinstrap is buckled. For a team that harps on the fundamentals and executing the job that has been asked on a down-by-down basis, every rep has meaning.

The NFL calendar never sleeps, but the true beginning of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season began on July 25, exactly 25 days ago. With 10 practices under my belt, an intra-squad scrimmage, and two preseason games digested to the max, these are the 25 things I’ve learned over this first month.

Some of these things are big, some are small, some are encouraging, some are concerning. We start with the biggest of them all.

Big Things:

1. Xavien Howard – Money Well Spent

Xavien Howard’s been targeted a lot over the last month. He’s allowed a few catches, mainly in unjust 1-on-1 periods, but he’s also pulled some down, too. A lot of them. And that trend has continued through a scrimmage, joint-practices with an opponent, and one live game. X, as he’s so aptly named, exemplifies Brian Flores’ message on and off the field.

2. Laremy Tunsil – Next in Line

There’s a term — set and forget — that refers to such a comfort level with said player, that you don’t even bother watching him. He’s got it. Laremy’s got it. The feet, hands, strength, athleticism, quickness; a trip to Tunsil island is a dreadful way to spend a Sunday afternoon for edge rushers.

3. Jerome Baker – Glow Up

His rookie year looked promising, but no one could’ve seen this coming, not this fast. Baker had a strong debut season, but he wasn’t a full-time player, and he had his vulnerabilities. Now, he’s doing everything under the sun with supreme professionalism and execution. He plays at a different speed and contributes in all three phases (blitz, cover, run-support).

4. Josh Rosen – Signs of Life

USA Today Sports Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations always should’ve been low for a kid who is brand new to the league — brand new to his now third new home in three years, but that’s football. It was whatever in May. It was concerning in July. Then, in August, Miami’s second-round investment started playing a little freer. Getting into his second, third, sometimes fourth read, while moving away from a compromised pocket, things could be clicking.

It’s not a consistent theme yet — and it needs to be very good, and very consistent to push Miami off the 2020 QB Class — but that coveted trait, the consistency, is progressing. That much at least deserves monitoring.

5. Pass Rush Scheme – As Advertised

Saying goodbye to Cam Wake and Robert Quinn took a lot of juice off the edge for Miami. Those departures, and the Dolphins unsubstantiated interest in Trey Flowers, all but confirmed the shift to a new scheme that relied on games, gap integrity, and blitz packages to get after the quarterback.

Jerome Baker has been running free on QBs all camp and preseason. Charles Harris, Christian Wilkins, Tank Carradine, Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Ledbetter — a host of Dolphins blood-thirsty rushers are turning up the heat on opposing passers with regularity.

Encouraging Things –

6. Preston Williams – Star potential 

Despite his two-drop showing on the first-team Thursday, Preston Williams has shown true number-one receiver potential all summer. He’s crafty in the way he jostles for position, his strong hands are evident at the release from the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in catching the football. He transitions well enough out of breaks for a man of his size and stature.

At that build, with that catch radius, Williams’ deep-ball prowess has been the most encouraging. If he takes off in this capacity, once the games begin to count, this Miami receiving corps looks much more imposing.

7. Sam Eguavoen – Canadian Pipeline Still Flowing

Minor warts in Eguavoen’s game show up periodically, but his strengths far outweigh the parts of his game Miami will look to mask. He’s plenty adept at defending the edge, rushing the quarterback, and dropping into coverage.

The ability to close down on an underneath pass, but also fall off 15-yards downfield, is the type of versatility needed for a modern-day linebacker.

8. Bobby McCain – Experiment No More, He’s a Safety

Watch the broadcast version of a Miami preseason game and you might miss McCain altogether. He’s typically 12-20-yards off the football, but the opposition’s lack of interest in trying anything vertical is a testament to McCain’s quick acclimation.

All camp long, McCain was working on reading route concepts, flipping the hips, and taking proper angles in help-coverage. He has the makeup to do it, and so far it’s working out.

9. Mike Gesicki – Playing to his Strengths

Some writers suggest that Gesicki is falling out of favor, but I see a player doing exactly what he was drafted to do. He’s flexing out into the slot, in plus-splits (outside the numbers) and he’s uncovering with regularity in the passing game.

He’s only played a handful of snaps, and he’s created separation on all five of his preseason targets. Gesicki caught three of them, while the other two were misfires from the quarterback.

10. Jonathan Ledbetter – Aptitude for the Scheme

Eye-discipline, heavy hands, stout at the point-of-attack — you’ll often hear these phrases when the coaches discuss the prototype for defensive linemen. Ledbetter plays with his hands in front of his eyes, keeps his pad-level low, strikes first, and adheres to his responsibilities in the two-gap scheme.

11. Jason Sanders – Money in the Bank

If he missed kicks in training camp, I didn’t see them. Every time Sanders lines it up, he’s right down the fairway. This was true on hid 45- and 49-yard kicks on a soaked playing surface on Friday, as well as his 48- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.Sanders added angled kickoffs to his game, and has been placing those chip shots precisely into the coffin corner.

Things that are Just Things:

12. Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun First-Team – Tipping the Offensive Plan

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that this pair of rookies have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both players frequently create push in the running game, but are a bit of a coin-flip in regards to pass protection.

Brian Flores spoke all offseason about his affinity for running the ball, and starting the rookies — — over a player like Chris Reed — serves as a pretty sound indicator for that preference. Our next bullet point speaks a similar language.

13. Chandler Cox – 21-Personnel Back in Miami

“Defending a fullback in the running game is a difficult thing for a linebacker to do.” That was Coach Flores’ comment back in minicamp when asked about the Chandler Cox selection. Miami has to play small-ball this year to find wins, and that means staying on schedule offensively.

Cox has had his ups-and-downs, and Miami gives reps to Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary as potential backups, but it doesn’t end with a fullback-tailback combination — Miami has regularly shown 21-personnel with dual tailbacks.

14. Jesse Davis – Tackle Tryout

A tackle in college, and position-less mutt through his first two years as a pro, Davis settled into a seemingly permanent right guard position last season. That didn’t go particularly well, and now Miami will kick him back outside with mixed results.

Davis, occasionally vulnerable in pass-pro, is better in the running game. He’s athletic enough to execute a number of pulls (counter trey, play-side), and should benefit from help by the running backs since Tunsil blocks out the sun on the other side.

Discouraging Things:

15. Devante Parker – Minor Ailments

Another ripping and roaring start to camp has since plateaued, both because of his play and another minor injury that sidelined the former first-rounder. Even if Parker posts career numbers this season, can Miami really trust him? The two-year contract was wise in that it gives the Dolphins the extended evaluation before pulling the trigger on a big extension.

At this stage, the emergence of Preston Williams might make that point entirely moot.

16. Chris Reed – Any Day Now

Training as the primary backup center to Daniel Kilgore, the chances are very likely that Reed has to come off the bench at some point this season, but I expected more. He has the intelligence and instincts to play above replacement level between a competent center-tackle bookend, but he’s not recaptured his first-team status since his day-three demotion.

17. Jalen Davis – Not Picking Up Where He Left Off

One of the pleasant surprises of yester-year, Davis’ strong finish to the 2018 season has yet to carry over. He’s been buried on the third-team and is struggling to find success at that level. It might be another year on the practice squad before Davis — primarily a slot — can contribute.

18. Matt Haack – Bottom Barrel Punting Average

Punting is not something I’m claiming expertise in, but I know that Haack ranked 25thin average last season, and he’s currently 27ththis preseason. He has the ability to boom balls into the atmosphere, but the shanks are far too common.

Bad Things:

19. Offensive Line – Offensive

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo reacts during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Colts defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not been good. It’s the one position with a considerable amount of stink — cumulatively spread about — on the roster. From firing the coach of the room, to the on-field execution, only one thing aspect is consistently coming up on the list of pros: 78. This is mostly an individual’s checklist, but this group needs its condemning.

20. Dave DeGuglielmo – Where’s the Expertise?

Firing Pat Flaherty was an upgrade, according to many. So far, DeGuglielmo’s group is failing to properly communicate and pass off games from the defense, there are blown protections each week, and the backup units are utterly futile. He wasn’t given a lot to work with, but DeGuglielmo’s returns have not been pretty — Miami QBs have been sacked seven times in two games.

21. Swing Tackle – Swing and a Miss

Jordan Mills was thrown into the fire for an absent Laremy Tunsil in week-one, and the returns were disastrous. Mills missed Thursday’s game; taking his place, former AAF player, Jaryd Jones-Smith. The results were the same. If Miami loses either of Tunsil or Davis, things could get ugly quickly.

22. Secondary – Paper Thin

Xavien Howard is an all-pro, Eric Rowe looks the part, Minkah Fitzpatrick is excellent in coverage, and the safety trio is capable. Beyond those six, there might not be enough competent players to get through the season. The Patriots defense (similar schemes) rolls double digit defensive backs into the game plan throughout the year — the Dolphins are several bodies short of being able to say the same thing.

23. Reshad Jones – Cashing Checks

Jones missed 10 games in 2016 for a shoulder injury. He played through another shoulder ailment in 2017 and did not have a good season. Last year, he missed two more games, and voluntarily removed himself from a third. This year, he skipped OTAs (the voluntary portion), and has missed more practices than he’s been a part of.

Jones was running with the second-team throughout those healthy days, and he’s perfectly content to do that at his current pay rate.

24. Kenyan Drake – Time is Running Thin

Drake’s explosive skill set, versatility, and big-play ability was on display throughout camp, but an injury puts everything on hold. Miami are being discrete about the severity of the injury, but in a contract-year, Drake needs a consistent, strong showing for 17 weeks.

25. Raekwon McMillan – More Health Concerns

McMillan entered camp as a second-team ‘backer, earned first-team work early in camp, but has been missing ever since with an injury. As youngsters around him emerge, McMillan’s lack of involvement casts a cloud of uncertainty over his position on this roster.

It’s pretty clear what this Dolphins team is going to be this season. A smart team that — hopefully — doesn’t beat itself, but comes up short on talent in key areas. The defense should improve considerably from last season, and the offense remains a major question mark.

The showing of the defense in Tampa Bay is a great step in that direction, and further help is on the way (no Howard, Jones, McDonald, McMillan, or Andrew Van Ginkel for that game). Regardless of what happens on offense, with Miami’s deep free agent pockets, war chest of draft picks, and desire for that coveted top-five drafted quarterback, a surge on defense would spell a successful 2019 season.

Things are trending in that direction.

@WingfieldNFL

 

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Defense Dominates, Offensive Futility Leads to Defeat

Stat Dolphins Buccaneers
Total Yards 280 312
Rushing 118 75
Passing 162 237
Penalties 13/122 8/81
3rd/4thDown 2/15 4/15
Sacks For 4 5
TOP 27:43 32:17

 

Did Not Play:

CB: Xavien Howard
WR: Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant
S: Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, Walt Aikens
OL: Zach Sterup, Jordan Mills
LB: Kiko Alonso, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Quentin Poling
RB: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage

The Skinny

Which would you like first, the good news, or the bad news?

The strong winds and heavy rain Friday night impacted both offenses at Raymond James Stadium. The Dolphins and Bucs exchanged field goals and punts in an exhibition game that went 54 minutes before its first touchdown (each team scored in the final 3:35).

Defensively, the Dolphins showed their collective teeth with some creative blitzes, constant pressure, and sound coverage on the back0end without the team’s best player (Xavien Howard).

After a demotion to the second-team before Tuesday’s practice, Charles Harris responded with a monster game. The 2017 first-rounder picked up two sacks and four additional QB hits on the night.

CFL signing Sam Eguavoen flashed on a similar level. The linebacker forced a fumble, made a pair of run stops and got his hands on a deep in-cut after falling back into coverage.

Jerome Baker — as you see by the above video clip — answered our question in the preview piece about his blitzing prowess. Baker was a menace in all three phases once again.

On offense, it was a struggle for the ‘Phins. The quarterback battle suddenly leans in a new direction — albeit it coming by-way of default scenario — and the offensive line has gone beyond catastrophically awful.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen played the entire first half and effectively moved the ball on a couple of series. Still, some accuracy issues, a late read on fourth-and-goal from the two, and another woeful interceptable pass (which was dropped) undid a lot of the goods Rosen showcased.

Those “goods” featured adequate pocket mobility, improved body language, and a continued strong effort when the plays mattered most (third down, two-minute drill). Rosen often had to get off the spot, find a new passing avenue, reset, and deliver the ball.

Miami dropped multiple balls in their own right, further putting Rosen at a disadvantage. The body language and demeanor that Brian Flores criticized his young QB for was demonstrably better in this game. He battled through difficult conditions, a fierce pass rush, and once again delivered a scoring drive in the final two minutes.

Rosen — as it stands right now — deserves the opening day nod. Though it doesn’t appear he’s going to get it; Flores quickly announced Fitzpatrick as the starter for next week’s game vs. the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play hasn’t inspired a lot of hope if he is indeed declared the starter. Fitzpatrick matched Rosen’s poor decision making, and struggled with his own accuracy all night. The veteran was thrown to the wolves and was constantly under duress, but if you compare his second-team showing to Rosen’s effort last week, the youngin’ clearly won that battle.

It would be entirely disingenuous to leave this video out of the post-game column.

Jake Rudock threw an inexcusable interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but responded with the go-ahead touchdown-and-two-point drive in the final moments.

Running Backs

Kenyan Drake is out with an injury and Kalen Ballage did not play. Mark Walton was the beneficiary with plenty of work in the first half, excelling particularly in the passing game. Walton stuck a big time blitz pickup on a five-man rush and caught a slant, from a plus-split- for a first down.

Walton is pretty clearly the third best back on the roster, though he bounced a goal-line run that was built for a B-gap lead.

Patrick Laird ran for 45 yards on six carries. He’s a patient runner with quality vision and enough burst to make his runs work. Myles Gaskin teamed up in a few two-back sets, but he didn’t have a lot of room to work with.

Kenneth Farrow busted a big run, but it was the result of a massive lane opened up by the Miami blocking on a split zone, backside dig-out.

Chandler Cox is mixed bag — and this feels redundant. He hit some nice lead blocks, but wound up on the ground too much again. He was hit with a holding penalty tonight as well.

Wide Receivers

Burn the wide out film from this one. Drops, minimal separation, failure to get clean releases against press — Miami’s deepest offensive position group did not hold up its end of the bargain in the loss.

Preston Williams had a dreadful night. He had at least two drops, both of which would’ve moved the chains. He nearly came down with another ridiculous highlight reel catch where he tipped the ball to himself, and brought it in at the pylon, but his foot was on the chalk.

Kenny Stills might’ve been credited with a drop on the first play of the game, though it’s unclear if the ball was tipped. He did, however, convert a third-and-short on a drag route. Stills came in short-motion to create a stack, and then won with a clean release.

Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler had the best nights among the group — they had two catches and moved the chains once each. Ford uncovered in the end zone on the fourth-and-two play, but Rosen was a beat late and a hair low.

Saeed Blacknail uncovered for a big gainer and Trenton Irwin caught the two-point conversion on a wide open flat route.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary’s block sealed the edge on the long Farrow gallop. He caught one pass for five yards, and did his usual work blocking the edge in both the run and the pass game.

Mike Gesicki is showing continual signs of progress. He uncovered three times, caught two of the targets, and the third was considerably behind him on an open slant route.

Dewayne Allen committed a hold on a run from inside the five, and Durham Smythe had a 22-yard reception.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil returned and showed Dolphins fans exactly why he needs an extension. The pay-day is coming, but the price goes up every time Tunsil gets isolated in protection and handles the task with ease. He’s so quick to gain depth and prevent speed rushes, or underneath moves — he’s elite.

The rest of the line…is not. Though Michael Deiter looked the part the majority of the night. He still has some reps where he bends at the waist, and is left to the vices of the man across from him, but he’s picking up combination blocks and playing sound, assignment football in this game. He was the next best behind Tunsil and reason for optimism on that left side.

Jesse Davis surrendered a sack when he overset, despite help available from the back, and lost on a counter move working inside.

It’s difficult to assign blame on some pressure looks, but Shaq Calhoun is often part of blown protections with a variety of right tackles. He does, however, continue to get adequate push in the running game.

The rest of the interior line was not good, Daniel Kilgore got taken for a couple of rides and communication issues continue to persist.

Miami’s search for a swing tackle is not going well. Jordan Mills was down tonight and his replacement — Jaryd Jones-Smith — was an absolute train wreck. He was consistently beat with a speed rush off the edge and just doesn’t have the quickness to play the left side.

Defensive Line

Coach Flores is going to test the mettle of his guys. He wants to put stress on a player, and when things appear to be coming together, take that strain up another notch.

For Charles Harris, perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Harris was a menace. He whipped starting Left Tackle Donovan Smith (video below) helping to end the Bucs first drive, and then went to work on poor backup tackle, Cole Boozer. Harris won with speed, with a counter moves, and he defended the run.

Welcome to the NFL, Christian Wilkins. The first-round pick was disruptive. Number 97 recorded his first sack, another bone-crushing hit on the quarterback, and consistent penetration all night long.

Davon Godchaux is bordering on the territory where we don’t need to mention him any more — he’s as steady as they come and a true power-player. He throws those hands and gets under his man with regularity.

Tank Carradine looks good pushing up field, chopping the tackles hands, and bending the edge. He disrupted a throw on his newly patented move, and laid a hit on the quarterback hit.

Jonathan Ledbetter checked in for some first-team work, and he continues to show why the coaches love him. He’s like Godchaux in the way he plays low, with heavy hands, and can really control the point-of-attack in the two-gap scheme.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker played 15 snaps last week, made five tackles, three for run-stuffs, but never blitzed. That changed tonight.

Baker has an innate sense for angles to the quarterback, coupled with a rare burst that allows him to effectively move the quarterback off the spot from any gap he rushes. He also continues to defend the edge as a run-stopper — he’s ultra-impressive.

So was Sam Eguavoen. With four splash plays in the first half — including a forced fumble — Eguavoen displayed everything that has earned him first-team work. He’s athletic enough to get 10-yards deep into a pass drop (one PBU from that position), he’s strong enough to stack the edge in the run-game (one TFL there), and he’s instinctive enough to knife between blocks between the tackles (another TFL there).

The 26-year-old rookie’s most impressive play came in coverage (second clip in the video below). Carrying coverage up the seam, locating the hook zone, and then quickly pulling the trigger as the ball goes out to the flat, Eguavoen punished the receiver and forced a turnover.

Nick Deluca played with the first-team. It’s pretty clear what he does well and how he fits in this defense. He can scrape the edge and assist in the run game — something Miami needs with the injuries at the position mounting.

 

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard was held out of this one, probably because of the weather, but we got our first look at Eric Rowe. Rowe’s appearance was brief and not memorable one way or the other.

Jomal Wiltz, Nik Needham, and Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled. Tackling was an issue for the two slots while Needham was bested in coverage again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick did contribute with a gorgeous pass breakup early on against former Bama teammate O.J. Howard, but these missed tackles are new for him — there’s no reason to think he won’t clean it up.

Torry McTyer competed for the second straight game, and this time against the two’s. He’s taking well to the press-man scheme this defense prefers to run.

Safeties

Chris Lammons flashed time-and-time again. A prominent fixture on special teams, his #30 jersey showed up against the run, the pass, and one very impressive tackle on a screen pass.

Bobby McCain is so often out of frame that it’s difficult to identify him on the broadcast. He did, however, come up once in run support like a missile, and has done well to click-and-close in deep coverage.

Montre Hartage is running as the second-team deep safety. He missed a tackle on a big play in the screen game, but it was whistled back on a holding call.

Maurice Smith was active in the middle of the field. If Reshad Jones and/or T.J. McDonald aren’t back for the season opener, Smith might be called on to play significant reps.

Recap

This is the team I expected to see last week. Strong defensive effort, creative and complex scheme that overwhelms the offense with its disguise, and an offense that can’t get out of its own way.

After the dominant first-half effort by the defense, Flores kept prominent defenders (Harris, Fitzpatrick, Eguavoen) on the field, which felt odd.

The primary specialist unit continues to look the same. Cornell Armstrong, Nick Deluca, Terrill Hanks, Cox, Smith, Hartage, Wiltz, Fitzpatrick, Smythe, and Lammons remain focal points of the unit.

Miami took the lead with only 34 seconds to play, and Flores will certainly express his displeasure for the inability to close. Not to mention the absurd number of penalties. This was simply a sloppy game on Flores’ road debut.

Jason Sanders is a hell of a kicker. He drilled kicks right down the middle from 45 and 49-yards out on a sloppy playing surface.

Regardless of who starts under center, this team needs several things to function on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant need to get back, and Laremy Tunsil has to stay healthy.

All things told, Rosen has been making more out of a bad situation than Fitzpatrick, but the plan was probably to start the veteran on opening day all along — and we’re almost assured of that with the decision to start Fitz in the third preseason game.

Game Balls:

Charles Harris
Sam Eguavoen
Jerome Baker
Christian Wilkins
Patrick Laird

Don’t forget to check out the post-game recap on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

 

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins First-Half Jiffy Report v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Preston Williams
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Who are the Miami Dolphins’ risers and fallers in the first half of the second preseason game v. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Risers

Sam Eguavoen

The former CFL linebacker has continued to impress, and that was on full display during the first half. Eguavoen was shooting gaps and hitting the ball-carrier in the backfield.

He also was responsible for a forced fumble that was recovered by the Miami Dolphins. All arrows are pointing up for Eguavoen to make the roster and an impact for the team during the regular season.

Jerome Baker

Baker quickly made an impact as a blitzer as he rapidly got to Jameis Winston and at least got hits out of that exchange. While Baker needs to get stronger to bring down the quarterbacks and get sacks, it was a great sign to see Baker show this type of pressure.

Charles Harris

Have you noticed all the Risers are defensive players? Well, many of the defensive guys have flashed and surprised me so far in the game.

Harris showed some progression going into his third year, especially in this game. He showed improved hand-placement techniques and used it to get two sacks.

Fallers

Preston Williams

Williams had two major drops that could’ve been first downs. Williams has been a hot name for the past couple of weeks but has cooled down a little bit if this first half is any indication.

I don’t think it’s anything major; I’m sure he’ll get it cleaned up, but he’s fallen back down to Earth somewhat with the easy drops.

Williams did almost redeem himself with a nearly acrobatic touchdown catch but had just barely gone out of bounds.

Michael Deiter

It was only a matter of time before Deiter started struggling. He’s a still a rookie after all. He was responsible for a false start and got lucky that another was missed. It was just all-around rough for Deiter.

 

 

 

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