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5 Reasons to be Skeptical of the Miami Dolphins 2018 Season

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no surprise that the national narrative doesn’t align with the excitement Miami Dolphins fans have going into the 2018 season.

When your franchise has made the playoffs 3 times in the past 17 seasons, and one of the most exciting highlights during that stretch is a Greg Camarillo touchdown to prevent a possible 0-16 season, you can’t blame the casual, uneducated fan for thinking the Dolphins are going to fare worse than they did in 2017; even if everyone admits Jay Cutler was better suited for reality TV.

Real Dolphins fans know the real potential this team brings. Though it’s not saying much to claim that this team has the most potential of any Dolphins team over the past decade, deep down, we all know to curb our excitement until proven otherwise.

It’s been awhile since this excitement was warranted and I’m thrilled to see all of the Dolphins fans gleam with hope for 2018. But with that, comes the buzzkill truth we all know exists with this team.

Below are 5 reasons I don’t blame you for being skeptical about 2018:

1) Who Are My Linebackers?

While this might not end up being the case at season’s end, Kiko Alonso is our best linebacker.

Image Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

That’s enough to make any “expert” or fan queasy, until you take into account that it’s not all too far-fetched to say that he somewhat easily can finish as the best linebacker on the team.

The same player that has a decent likelihood of coming off the bench is currently the best of his position group.

The next best linebacker? Is already sitting in that reserve spot.

So outside of Stephone Anthony and Alonso, what are the Dolphins getting?

In a perfect world, the Dolphins have a pass-rushing and coverage specialist in Jerome Baker, as well as a middle linebacker that can (allegedly) read an offense and direct a defense in Raekwon McMillan.

Both of whom have played 0 snaps in the NFL.

The unit has potential to be successful and surprise just about all of us, but lets not hide behind the fact that, in its current state, our linebacking unit has regressed beyond the days of Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe. Even Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are a farcry from this unit.

This shouldn’t be the case by the end of the season.

Miami’s linebackers should grow into a respectable (albeit, still relatively weak) unit, but there’s no guarantee our best linebacker will even be starting Week 1 this year.

The team was trying to fix specific weaknesses by bringing in Anthony and drafting Baker, but it can backfire against them. Especially when you take into account their responsibility for maintaining the middle of the field.

And we all know they’re going to receive minimal help in that aspect because…

2) Did Anyone Patch That Hole Up The Middle? 

The Ndamukong Suh debate may never have a solidified answer.

On one hand, you got one of the best players at their position for three years in a row.

On the other, it’ll be hard to completely justify the contract he earned.

But what can’t be debated is the effect his departure has on the defensive line.

Image Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins are hoping sophomores Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor continue to evolve and that Jordan Phillips will continue to flash more consistently than he has in his first 3 seasons.

The only “new” addition is former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who the Dolphins acquired in a trade earlier this offseason.

Overall, the reduction in performance is worth the cap savings that comes with cutting Suh.

The three players on rookie deals will cost less against the cap than what Spence is making this season ($2.3m vs $2.5m). And when combined, will make much less than what Suh would have cost against the cap this season ($17m).

The front office really worked the financials well with this one. The problem? This leaves Miami with 4 viable DTs to complete a 16(+) game schedule.

Defensive End William Hayes is said to be in the DT rotation, and Miami also has Gabe Wright from the practice squad as depth, but these seem less like solutions and more like stop-gaps. If we are seeing either of these players getting starter-snaps during the season, the defensive line is going to be a mess.

Pair this with the uncertain linebacking unit and it’s possible Miami doesn’t even have to worry about how healthy or experienced their cornerbacks are.

3) What Have My Cornerbacks Proven?

Remember Jamar Taylor and Will Davis?

Both cornerbacks were taken with high draft picks in the 2013 NFL draft and combined to play 535 defensive snaps with the Dolphins over the course of their careers (for comparisons sake, Xavien Howard played 1017 defensive snaps in 2017 alone).

While Taylor has made a solid career for himself, he has not lived up to being a 2nd round corner – and certainly wasn’t much of a starter while with Miami (in fairness, mostly due to injury).

Will Davis was traded to the Baltimore Ravens in September of 2015, and was out of the league shortly after (though, again, that was due to a torn ACL, but he was already flirting with Egnew status before that).

Dolphins fans are hyped-up about their young cornerbacks, but there’s no proof the group will yield a Sam Madison or Patrick Surtain type player, let alone both.

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Xavien Howard took some major steps forward and Cordrea Tankersley flashed last season, but both have been hindered by injuries in their short careers and have yet to dominate opponents consistently.

Tankersley showed he can keep up with NFL receivers and Howard did have an elite stretch of games towards the end of last season, so it’s easy to see why Dolphins fans scoff when “experts” believe the team has a weak secondary.

This unit has a very high ceiling; we didn’t even mention the emergence of the NFL’s highest paid slot corner and team leader, Bobby McCain. Nor did we compensate for the versatility first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick brings. But the ceiling can quickly collapse if something goes wrong.

All it takes is another situation like Tony Lippett’s last season, where a starter is lost in training camp, and a strength quickly turns into an uncertainty.

Thankfully, Miami has a lot of depth at cornerback and should be able to overcome a couple games where a player is banged up.

Depth is certainly not a concern, but that’s where the strength of the unit lies. Deplete that, and the team is going to need another Alterraun Verner to hold the season together.

4) Will This Offensive Line Hold Up?

I am grinning from ear-to-ear when I say that this is the best offensive line Ryan Tannehill has had in his career.

Image Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After absorbing 213 sacks over his first 5 seasons – and finally succumbing to any kind of injury (due to a fluke tackle at a fragile part of any human’s leg) – Tannehill should finally be able to rest a little bit easier (like, 0.3 second easier than before….which is nice).

This offensive line is actually underrated.

Barring any of these players unforeseeably regressing, Miami’s line features a talented mix of veterans and young potential.

Though his first two seasons have been inconsistent, Laremy Tunsil is still a very good left tackle.

Fans love to use Ja’Wuan James as a punching bag, but when he’s healthy, he’s an elite right tackle.

The Dolphins finally have a center with healthy hips as well as a left guard who isn’t a liability.

The weakest link on the line is Jesse Davis, and it’s possible he becomes a better player than Tunsil or James by the end of his career.

But what happens if the line doesn’t make it through all 16(+) games?

James has finished two of his first four seasons on injured reserve and has missed 17 total games in his career.

Tunsil has started 29 out of a possible 32 games in his career, but he has played some of those games while injured – and his performance suffered from it.

Daniel Kilgore is relatively unknown to Dolphins fans, but there might be a reason why the San Francisco 49ers moved on from months after signing him to an extension. Over the course of his 7-year career, Kilgore has been active for 66% of the 49ers games and only started roughly half of the games he was active for.

If any of these starters go down, the depth behind them is relatively barren.

While players like Zach Sterup and Eric Smith can fill-in for a few drives, I wouldn’t want to rely on them for anything longer. At that point, the Dolphins might as well just bring Jermon Bushrod back.

If this offensive line can stay healthy, both the passing and running games should see a lift in performance.

Believe it or not, it’s actually possible that the offensive line is a strength for the team, rather than an atrocity. This should finally be the year we run out of excuses for Ryan Tannehill.

5) Will The Real Ryan Tannehill Please Stand Up

We all know what the 2018 season hangs on.

It’s the same reason the 2017 season was lost and why the 2016 season promised so much.

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

If our franchise quarterback isn’t the player Adam Gase thought he was, we’re in for a rude franchise reset.

There’s not much else to harp on with this point; the Dolphins ride or die with the performance and health of Ryan Tannehill.

If Tannehill progresses the way he was prior to his knee injury that ended his 2016 season, the Dolphins will be a favorite entering most regular season games rather than perpetually being an underdog.

The balance of skill players along with a solid offensive line around him should bode for a stellar 2018 campaign. The offense was molded and tailored to the skill set Tannehill brings to the Dolphins, even after missing 19 consecutive games.

We’ve watched Tom Brady return from a very similar injury years ago and it hasn’t hindered him one bit. Carson Wentz is currently dealing with a similar injury and, by all accounts, looks like he could be ready for Week 1 of the 2018 season.

None of this guarantees that Tannehill’s knee is immune from being reinjured, but it does give hope to an entire fanbase that they’re not about to witness two consecutive lost seasons.

Will Tannehill continue his trend and blossom into a franchise quarterback? Or will his time away and hampered knee prevent this team from progressing?

Lets just say, keep a couple Sundays open in January, Dolphins fans. Because amidst all the skepticism, you might want to be prepared for an extended football season.

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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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs. Raiders Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
When: September 23, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 88 degrees, 73% humidity, 60% precipitation
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -3

Raiders Off-Season Changes

Dolphins vs. Raiders

Favored for the first time in three outings, the Miami Dolphins return home to the building where, under Adam Gase, the organization is bordering on elite. Since Gase’s hire in 2016, the Dolphins are 11-5, riding a six-game winning-streak with Ryan Tannehill under-center, and average nearly four touchdowns per game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Beating the Titans was a commencement that this team wasn’t the pushover many projected it to be. Throttling the Jets to the tune of a 20-point halftime lead, Miami asserted itself into the discussion of potential playoff outfits.

Now the expectation is that the Dolphins will hit the showers on Sunday with an unblemished record through three games. Winning as an underdog can be attributed to the emotional influence of the game but, winning as favorites, that’s a different ballgame.

The Patriots are on-deck. Miami are in a perfect situation to set-up a Late-September statement game – a potential changing of the guard game, perhaps.

But first, the Raiders.

The Raiders’ Scheme

Offense:

Oakland have been a team of two halves under second-time Head Coach, Jon Gruden. Obliterated in the second half against a loaded Rams team, on national T.V. no less, the Raiders had an opportunity to right the ship with a 12-point halftime lead at divisional rival Denver.

Gruden’s play-script has yielded positive results. A healthy mix of 11 and 12-personnel focuses the offense around Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. Everything Oakland does offensively revolves around the running game. Establishing Marshawn Lynch and the zone running game early is the precursor for the play-action, bootleg layers’ concepts that we’ve seen regularly with Miami.

For a team that wanted to throw things back to 1998 (and they did, no roster is older than this veteran-laden group assembled in Oakland), Gruden’s offense sure struggles to convert third-and-short. On 10 attempts from five yards and in, the Raiders are moving the sticks just 40% of the time.

That issue, compounded by a lack of ingenuity once the game becomes about adjustments, are why the Raiders are starring an 0-3 start square in the face. Mixing plenty of variety early in the game (bunch 12-personnel followed up by an empty formation down in the red zone) kept the Broncos and Rams defenses guessing.

While the yardage ranks show success, the Raiders have the fifth-lowest scoring offense in the National Football League.

Defense:

Coordinator Paul Guenther believes in three things: Blitzing, blitzing and, you guessed it, blitzing. Though it didn’t start that way this season, Gruden has specifically stated he would prefer that Oakland brought heat more often.

The Raider defense increased the blitz-package last week and, as the pass rush continues to struggle in the post-Khalil Mack era, that trend likely continues this week.

A-Gap pressure has been a favorite for Guenther. He’s a disciple of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who’s defense is predicated on showing pressure down up the gun-barrel.

On the back-end, Oakland will mix-up zone and man-coverage. Because of a lack of pressure from the Raiders’ lackluster four-man front, the Dolphins could take Guenther’s defense to task in two ways:

– Throwing the football to the backs
– Setting up the quick screen game early and often

The Players:

Offense:

Derek Carr has regressed back to the norm after an anomaly in 2016. His propensity to succumb to heavy pressure and poor decision making has resulted in a rough start for the fifth-year pro.

Carr’s passer rating under pressure is 33.1 – 32nd in the NFL. Miami had Sam Darnold under constant duress Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Penn and Kolton Miller have surrendered eight pressures among the pair – keeping them each outside of the top 50 tackles in the league when it comes to pass blocking efficiency.

The interior of that offensive line is where the Raiders’ strength is supposed to lie – only it isn’t any better than the perimeter. Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele have allowed a combined nine pressures.

Neither Raiders’ tackle is a top-50 graded run blocker and the guards check in at 42nd and 24th respectively. Marshawn Lynch’s elusive rating is 35th among NFL backs.

Miami has three wide outs with an average yards-per-route-ran over 2.0 – Oakland has one (Martavis Bryant on just four targets). Jordy Nelson’s diminishing speed has made him a shell of his former-self and Amari Cooper still hasn’t recaptured the magic of his rookie season.

Jared Cook, however, is fifth among all tight ends with 3.82 YPPR.

Defense:

Miami have gashed teams on the ground through two games and that trend could continue in week-three. The Raiders interior defensive line is inexperienced and without much production. Jonathan Hankins arrives to reinforce a front that is allowing 5.7 yards-per-carry – worst in football.

The edge rushers might offer even less. The most efficient pass rusher through two games is Frostee Rucker. His pass-rush-productivity ranks 77th in the league.

Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin are off to solid starts on the perimeter of the Raider defense. Leon Hall, Oakland’s nickel corner has allowed 75 yards on just nine pass targets – Miami will make the grizzled-vet a target on Sunday.

Linebacker play isn’t any better. The collective group has just six run-stops and each of the three are allowing passer ratings over 100 in coverage.

Oakland cut Obi Melifonwu in order to keep Reggie Nelson on the field and the returns have not been great. His passer rating allowed is 150.7 (just 7.6 points shy of a perfect rating).

The Medical:

Raiders

(Pos) Player Injury Wednesday
CB Leon Hall Illness Limited
DT P.J. Hall Ankle DNP
WR Dwayne Harris Foot Full
C Rodney Hudson Ankle Limited
G Gabe Jackson Pectoral Limited
RB Marshawn Lynch Shoulder Limited
T Brandon Parker Ankle DNP

 

Dolphins

(Pos) Player Injury Wednesday
WR Danny Amendola Non-Injury DNP
LS John Denney Shoulder Limited
RB Kenyan Drake Abdomen Full
DE Williams Hayes Finger Full
S Reshad Jones Shoulder DNP
WR Devante Parker Knee Full
DT Jordan Phillips Knee Limited
QB Ryan Tannehill Knee/Ankle Full

The Concerns:

There’s an easy answer to this one and it would be ultra-contrarian to go away from said obvious conclusion. Jared Cook caused a multitude of problems for the Miami in last year’s meeting, and he’s off to a similar start this season.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland’s ability to stretch him both vertically and horizontally doesn’t bode well for the Miami linebackers. Raekwon McMillan is struggling immensely in this area and Kiko Alonso has been problematic in this department in his own right.

Tackling and poor angles have been a bit of an issue on the back-end. It’s a team effort to get Marshawn Lynch to the ground – if he has success, the Raiders’ offense will have success.

Miami needs these three things to go in their favor:

1.) Contain Oakland’s first down offense – Oakland’s tackle play has been suspect. With a wave of edge rusher’s ready to capitalize, if Oakland can’t find success on early downs, it won’t fare any better on the money down.

2.) Unleash the passing game – A balanced attack has been the prescription so far with early double-digit leads. The same could happen against these Raiders, but Miami has advantages all over the field in regards to the passing offense v. Oakland’s pass defense. Expect Oakland to commit to stopping the run, meaning the aerial show begins at 1 ‘o’ clock eastern standard time.

3.) Shut down Amari Cooper OR Jared Cook – Miami will pick its poison here, but if they can blank one of these two and make the Raiders passing game one-dimensional, the Dolphins can start robbing Derek Carr and force the mistake-prone quarterback into turnovers.

The Opportunities:

Frankly, they’re everywhere. Miami’s edge rush against Oakland’s substandard tackle play, the young interior defensive line of Oakland against Miami’s ever-evolving ground-game, the perimeter match-ups, Miami ought to be able to draw their weapon-of-choice from a hat and attack accordingly.

The Projected Result:

An angry Adam Gase is a dangerous Adam Gase. The absurd rumblings around his quarterback are sure to ignite a fire and create a run-up-the-score mentality in the snarky third-year coach. This game could very well be all gas and no breaks with plenty of scoring opportunities schemed into the passing game down in the red zone.

Coming east in the early-game window has proven difficult for this Raiders team. Sure, change has been rampant since The Visor regained control of the operation, but that doesn’t make the challenge of an out-of-whack body clock any easier.

In 2017 Oakland was 1-3 playing in the eastern time zone. Three of those games were in primetime and the Raiders were collectively outscored in the four games 104-61. The lone early-window game was a 34-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills.

The Raiders are about to find out how much resiliency they have under Gruden. The loss in Denver was devastating and will either foster a hungry, desperate team, or send the lads in the opposite direction with no hope in sight.

With the Dolphins tempo-based-attack, playing back at home in the brutal South Florida conditions, not many aspects of this game favor the road team.

Dolphins 41
Raiders 20

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Miami Dolphins

Week 3: Miami Dolphins Power Rankings Round Up

Gabe Hauari

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How did Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets in Week 2 affect their position in the eyes of the major national media outlets? Let’s take a look:

ESPN

Last Week: 24

This week: 16

NFL.com

Last week: 23

This week: 17

Bleacher Report

Last week: 28

This week: 21

CBS Sports

Last week: 17

This week: 12

Sports Illustrated

Last week: 19

This week: 15

As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on this Dolphins team. Bleacher Report continues to remain mum on Miami, saying “Undefeated or no, we’re still not ready to call the Dolphins contenders. Or even call them good.”

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranked the Dolphins No. 12, and said: “They are off to a 2-0 start and have a winnable game at home against Oakland. Adam Gase has this team playing good football.”

If the Dolphins get to 3-0 by beating the Oakland Raiders at home this Sunday, they may start to get some more national recognition as a team who could contend for a playoff spot.

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Miami Dolphins

5 potential landing spots should Miami trade Devante Parker

Kadeem Simmonds

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Following Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets on Sunday, Devante Parker was upset he didn’t see the field, claiming he was fit and ready to go.

The reaction to the quote was mixed, some fans were pleased Parker wanted in on the action while others felt he was overshadowing the victory and making it all about himself.

We saw this with Jay Ajayi, complaining he didn’t see enough off the ball after the Dolphins won games and the last thing Adam Gase wants is another player putting his personal needs above the team’s.

Parker has failed to live up the hype when he was drafted 14th overall in 2015.

Yet to get a contract extension, it may be time for #11 to move on.

The team are not short at receiver with Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant all proving to be Gase’s guys.

Parker doesn’t fit in to what Gase is trying to build in Miami and instead of letting him hit free agency when the time comes, it may be worth trading him to a WR needy franchise.

Below are five teams who could be interested in Parker should he be available:

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Ajayi texts Parker.

“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“He didn’t give me enough touches when I was in Miami and I left to win a Super Bowl. JOIN ME!”

On a serious note, this is a move which we could actually see happen.

The SB champs are short at receiver due to a few injuries.

While they have Alshon Jeffrey to return, Mike Wallace may not see the field again this season and Mack Hollins is on IR.

Carson Wentz returns this Sunday and giving him a new shiny toy to play with in Parker could be the perfect welcome back gift.

Eagles Twitter want it to happen and know the franchise have a good relationship with the Dolphins after acquiring Ajayi for what seems to be a steal.

Can Howie Roseman do it again?

 

Cleveland Browns

Landry texts Parker.

“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“He gave me loads of touches when I was in Miami and I left to lose with the Browns. JOIN ME!”

The Browns’ receiver core is shrinking.

Corey Coleman? Gone.

Josh Gordon? Gone.

For Thursday Night Football against the Jets, their current depth chart at WR reads:

1. Jarvis Landry

2. Rashard Higgins

3. Derrick Willies

1. Antonio Callaway

2. Damion Ratley

3. Rod Streater.

If Cleveland are serious about actually winning a game of football, giving Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield some actual weapons could be a start.

Should Miami work out a deal, better than the one they got for Landry, they could be looking at a pretty decent draft pick in 2019.

Cleveland has the cap room to offer him a long-term deal and Parker gets moved to a team looking to rebuild for the future.

 

Dallas Cowboys

The win against the Giants on Sunday Night Football didn’t mask the fact that Dak Prescott has a lack of good options to throw to.

The team has seven WRs after adding Brice Butler to give the receiver room some much-needed height but still lack an X-factor player on the perimeter.

Jason Garrett must be worried about the amount of snaps Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley are seeing and Parker can potentially bring to this team what they lost in Dez Bryant over the summer.

It would mean getting rid of two or three WRs but given the list of names on the Cowboys depth chart, that shouldn’t be too hard to make room for a former first round pick.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson needs help.

First and foremost, he needs an offensive line.

But he also has no-one to throw to.

Pete Carroll’s days seem to be numbered and he may not last the entire season given their start and the changes in Seattle the past 18 months.

But should he need a quick fix to try and save his job, Parker could help alleviate the pressure on Wilson while also taking some of the attention Doug Baldwin is shown by opponents.

Should trade talks take place, instead of going for a draft pick, Miami’s front office should see if Seattle would send Earl Thomas the other way.

Yes Miami has T.J. McDonald but would you turn down the opportunity to partner Reshad Jones with ETIII?

One can dream.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Like Seattle, this team needs all the help it can get.

Badly.

Larry Fitzgerald cannot keep single-handedly saving this franchise.

Christian Kirk looks a nice pick up but if they want to give Josh Rosen the best chance to succeed when he does step in for Sam Bradford, he needs more weapons.

Parker can immediately step in and be productive in a team which failed to get past the half-way line until the final drive of the game against the LA Rams and were shut out.

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