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Miami Dolphins

5 Reasons Why 2019 Will Be a Failure

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There are a myriad of reasons why 2019 can be deemed a failure, but not a single reason revolves around the Miami Dolphins record.

This team can go 8-8 (yet again), and I wouldn’t deem 2019 a failure. Miami can feature 0 Pro Bowlers, and I wouldn’t deem 2019 a failure. The Dolphins can “miss” on all of their draft picks, and I wouldn’t deem 2019 a failure.

This season is about building a future for an organization that seems to be in an eternal flux. It’s about establishing a thriving culture that can provide sustained success. And with that desire, comes some tough and somewhat contradictory decisions.

Brian Flores wants to have his best players on the field at all times. He wants to prove to his players that if you perform, you play. In theory that’s a wonderful idea, but just how far will that logic take the Dolphins beyond 2019….a year in which the team is not only expected to miss the playoffs, but compete for one of the top-5 draft spots?

See how the 2019 season can turn into the ultimate failure (and it has nothing to do with “tank for Tua”):

If you’re not going to start Josh Rosen…

Then why did you acquire him?

Why did you spend multiple draft picks on a failed quarterback experiment when you could have bolstered one of the worst offensive lines in the league? Not only have you wasted Josh Rosen‘s 2019 “tryout”, but you’ve now set your next franchise quarterback up for failure.

I think most of us have come around on the Josh Rosen trade as a whole. Outside of Chad Pennington‘s one healthy year, this team has been directionless since Dan Marino retired. We are ecstatic that this team is finally doing whatever it takes to identify the quarterback position. But Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the future, and if Josh Rosen is going to go from potential franchise quarterback to overdrafted backup, then did Chris Grier really learn from his past mistakes? Or are we still just throwing darts at a wall and hoping something sticks?

I highly doubt Flores and Grier sold Stephen Ross on Ryan Fitzpatrick being the answer. Most of us believe that they had a rebuilding plan in place; a plan that would finally set this team up for future success.

Fitzpatrick has looked like the better quarterback so far this offseason, and that’s to be expected. He has been with the team – and has been learning the playbook – a month longer than Rosen has. Fitzpatrick also has the luxury of being in the league for 14 years while Josh Rosen is still trying to get a grip on how things work.

Ryan Fitzpatrick may be the better option at this point, but Miami needs to make the most of Rosen’s opportunities; otherwise, this trade is going to be worse than the Leonte Carroo experiment.

If you’re not retaining Kenyan Drake…

Then why are we running him out there as our #1 running back?

Sure, we can state the obvious and say that Kenyan Drake is a much better running back than Kalen Ballage; you would receive no qualms from a single Dolphins fan about that statement. But if the team doesn’t want to “overpay” for a running back, then why is Kenyan Drake the focal point of the running game?

Run Ballage into the line 20 times a game and see if he can muster more than 3.31 yards-per-carry (if you eliminate Ballage’s 75 yard touchdown run last season, he accumulated just 116 yards on 35 rushing attempts).

Implement the sophomore running back into the passing game more and see if he can serve as a dual threat. Is he reliable in pass coverage? Can he pick up a blitz properly? How promptly does he diagnose openings in the offensive line and is he confident enough to hit them, or does he try to scamper to the outside as often as Jay Ajayi tried to do during his tenure?

Although stats tell a different story, we know Drake is a #1 back in this league. Game-planning for his success simultaneously raises his price tag and reduces the evidence we can utilize to judge Kalen Ballage.

But if you’re building for the future and you don’t expect Kenyan Drake to be part of it, then why is Drake about to receive the bulk of the carries?

In Drake’s 3 years in Miami, he has rushed for a total of 1,358 yards. His most-productive season was 2017 where he rushed for 644 yards on 133 carries (a 4.8 yards/carry average). Last year, Drake averaged as many yards-per-carry as Frank Gore did. In other words, that production is replaceable.

Miami just drafted two running backs in the 7th-round of the 2019 draft. One of them (Chandler Cox) is primarily a fullback, and he serves a different purpose on the field. The other (Myles Gaskin) is expected to provide a spark in the running game. He’s supposed to be as electric as Kenyan Drake. Was he brought aboard to eventually replace him?

If Flores’ intent is to win, then run Fitzpatrick and Drake out there every snap and try to win each football game. If the intent is to build sustained success going forward, I hope we see a much-more even split in carries for Drake and Ballage.

If Albert Wilson isn’t in the plans beyond 2019…

Then why is he going to be our #3 receiver?

Coming off of an intense injury last season, Albert Wilson seems to have recovered just fine. The shifty, agile, quick and elusive wide receiver was Adam Gase‘s best signing. Up until that injury, it was safe to say that Wilson was a more-valuable signing than Jarvis Landry. But Landry proved his worth with his durability, while Wilson was a forgotten asset (around the league) by the time Week 10 rolled around.

Wilson is set to cost $10.83m against the cap in 2020. That’s an astronomical number for a slot receiver who’s been most-successful completing “trick” plays for the Dolphins last season.

This isn’t to degrade or diminish what Wilson was able to accomplish. If it wasn’t for Frank Gore’s durability last year, Wilson would have been the team’s offensive MVP….and he only played in 7 games!

This is about the future of the organization, and the future seems a tad more promising (and cheaper) with Jakeem Grant in the slot than it does Albert Wilson. Can Grant evolve into the kind of player Wilson was for Miami in 2018? That remains to be seen. The former Texas Tech receiver gives us as many highlight-reel plays as he does facepalm worthy ones. His hands are one of the biggest mysteries on this team – every time the ball is thrown his direction we hold our breath.

It’s evident the Dolphins want to see what they have in DeVante Parker. They wouldn’t have signed him to a 2-year, $13m extension if they thought his days were numbered. With Parker, there’s untapped potential. With Wilson, the potential is already there, it’s a matter of deciding if Wilson is worth his cap hit (or a renegotiation).

Remember, Wilson joined this team because he was sold on what Adam Gase had planned for him. He took less to sign with the Dolphins because of that versatility and potential. With Gase gone, does Chad O’Shea‘s offense rely as heavily on Wilson, or do they go a more-conventional route with gunslinger Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback?

We are beyond checkdown city and out of the bubblescreen purgatory we’ve witnessed the past few years. With a change in philosophy comes a change in player personnel, and if the offense isn’t going to revolve around Wilson’s trickery, then why is he taking snaps away from players like Grant, Preston Williams and other potential prospects?

If Reshad Jones is going to be cut after the season…

Then why is he our starting safety?

No, T.J. McDonald is not a better solution than Reshad Jones – there’s a reason Miami has been looking to trade both of them. But Miami is also flirting with Bobby McCain as the last man back, and we already know Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s versatility allows him to be a successful safety.

So if the plan is to see what you have in McCain and to further evolve Fitzpatrick as a complete & versatile player, then why is Jones going to be back there for the majority of the defensive snaps?

Are you trying to maintain trade value? Are you trying to prevent a toxic lockerroom? Jones seems to have already invited the toxicity when he quit on the team last year and then decided to avoid voluntary mini-camp last month. If you’re trying to make a good impression on the new coaching staff, Jones is doing the exact opposite of that.

If Flores wants to make a statement, treating Jones like a backup would send a deeper message than starting Jones at safety. But that contradicts the narrative that Flores is trying to win as many games as possible. It’s easy for me to say this as I sit in a chair analyzing my favorite football team, but Flores needs to decide which direction he wants to go in. Does he want to see what he has in McCain and Fitzpatrick? Or does he want to add wins to his resume?

If Chris Reed and Jordan Mills are stopgap solutions…

Then why are they penciled in as starting offensive linemen?

Unless we’re looking at the second coming of Isaac Asiata (in which case, why is Chris Grier so inept at drafting offensive linemen), Michael Deiter and Isaiah Prince should be starting on the offensive line, not Chris Reed or Jordan Mills.

We already know that Reed and Mills are (poor) stopgap solutions. Even if they are the “better player”, they’re career backups for a reason. Deiter and Prince are going to have plenty of instances where they’re beaten miserably, and we’re going to demand they’re ousted from the starting lineup, but do we expect a much different outcome from Reed and Mills?

No…no we do not.

As depth pieces, Reed and Mills are productive signings. If the team was on the verge of making a Super Bowl run, I’d be all for them being in the lineup as the weakest link. But 60% of this line is “weak” (Daniel Kilgore included), Jesse Davis is still an unknown commodity after having an amazing 2017, but a miserable 2018, and Laremy Tunsil is the only sure-fire thing we have.

I understand if you want to start Reed and Mills because they give you the best opportunity to judge Josh Rosen (by giving him the most time to throw), but it currently seems like we aren’t starting Josh Rosen, so why aren’t we giving our rookie offensive linemen the opportunity to evolve and gain the necessary experience to grow in this league?

I hope Flores confidently envisions this team making the playoffs, because it’s possible there are plenty of decisions that diminish the future of the organization; all while we’re on our way to another 7-9 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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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Tony F

    June 6, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Great article. I do have one issue though;
    You said “The Dolphins can “miss” on all of their draft picks, and I wouldn’t deem 2019 a failure.”
    If that isn’t a total failure I don’t know what is.

    Drafting has always been our most glaring weakness.
    Think about all of our draft picks we have had. Only three would be considered exceptional (All Time) picks.
    In over 50 YEARS of drafts, we only have three excellent picks.
    To me they would be Dan Marion, Larry Csonka and Dwight Stephenson.
    Those are the only ones who dominated their positions.
    Even when we did get these incredible players, we squandered their talents.

    We love drafting the Erik Kumoros and Jason Allens while passing on so many greats.
    I know drafting is hard, but how can one team be so inept at it for so long?

    Until we get people who know what talent looks like, we will be spinning our wheels is the sands of mediocrity.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 6, 2019 at 5:09 pm

      Tony, you make a VERY good point. While this season is more about sustaining future success, you can’t do that without young (and cheap) talent replacing the expensive players you currently have on the roster. If Wilkins and Deiter don’t end up being starters for this team by Year 2, it’s going to be a rough future for this team. I do believe Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick will change that draft narrative somewhat; and Xavien Howard looks like a stud draft pick from a few years ago, but that doesn’t change the fact that this team has been mediocre due to their poor drafting history. We need to make sure Wilkins isn’t another Charles Harris. If he can perform as well as Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor have for us, I’d say that’s a “win”. But you’re right, we need to start hitting on these picks.

  2. Avatar

    WPK CA Fan

    June 6, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    It seems a waste to throw Rosen into the fire immediately until you know how the O Line can perform. Sorting that out as well as it can be FIRST in my opinion gives Rosen the best shot at showing what he can do. That will require adjustments based on how they play. Meanwhile Rosen continues to learn the system, pick up advice from Fitz & watch what he does & why.

    I don’t think Coach Flores will wait till the last game but I also don’t believe he’ll use Rosen before he’s ready or has a decent opportunity to perform well. Even then it will still be difficult & a challenge.

    Reminds me of childhood when new toys were quickly broken in the rush to play & abuse them.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 6, 2019 at 4:43 pm

      Very well said! Flores is not going to throw Rosen into the fire until he’s absolutely ready, and that may very well take a few weeks until it occurs. Like you said, I’d rather Flores wait until Rosen is more-polished with the playbook rather than throw him out there without completely understanding the system or his roll.

  3. Avatar

    Ripp

    June 6, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    I like the fact he is making everyone earn their spot. Players do need to develop. But to just hand someone a starting position just because of their draft status is a recipe for failure in it’s own right. If Rosen does not start, then fine, we know all we need to know of him, draft a QB next year where he can compete again. At worst, we spent a 2nd rd pick on a back up and his pay is justified. You have 2 rookie OL with potential, fine, let them earn that starting spot. In 2019 I am more interested in who will rise to the challenge oppose to how many games we win because if Flores keeps to his word, competition will be our foundation for years to come. As it stands, everyone has a chance to start, no matter draft status, pro bowls or experience.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 6, 2019 at 5:12 pm

      Agreed, I like that Flores is making everyone compete for their starting role – regardless of what their draft position indicates. The higher you’re drafted, the better chance you have at hitting the lottery. But as we know, there is nothing guaranteed about the lottery. If Rosen turns into an excellent backup, the pick is nearly justified. As we’ve seen, most quarterbacks go down at some point, and if you’re able to keep the season afloat because you have a backup who’s a fringe starter, that’s just as productive for your team.

      I like that Flores is making Deiter and Prince earn their starting spots – I just hope that they’re able to overtake Reed and Mills and earn that spot legitimately. Would be great for the future of this organization.

  4. Avatar

    Daniel

    June 6, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Dude, calm down. Let the preseason unfold, we’re not even at training camp yet and you’re already falling apart at the seems.

    • Avatar

      Daniel

      June 6, 2019 at 3:55 pm

      *seams

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 6, 2019 at 4:45 pm

      This is more of a precursor to the potential decisions we’re going to have to make in 2019. Obviously, a bunch is going to change between now and the start of the season – we’re still 3 (long) months away from that happening. Though you make a very good point, these questions would make more sense if this were August rather than the beginning of June.

  5. Avatar

    Steven

    June 7, 2019 at 5:59 am

    I honestly thing this was one of the most illogical and ridiculous columns I’ve ever read. I’ll give you just one example. You asked “If Reshad Jones is going to be cut after the season Then why is he our starting safety?”. Simple answer: Because they don’t have anyone better right now. They can’t build Rome in a day. They cannot fill every hole in one draft. They want to win games. Man, the entire article was quite simply, absurd.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 7, 2019 at 10:46 am

      That’s why throughout the article I question if Flores’ desire is to win as many games as possible or if he’s trying to build for the future. If your plan is to win games, then yeah, scrap everything I mentioned and start your best players. If you’re trying to build for the future, then why is Reshad out there? It’s fairly evident he is not going to be part of the future with the Miami Dolphins. I’m not about to hinder the progress of our younger players – players that need experience – just to satisfy Jones’ starting desire if this season isn’t about winning in 2019.

      And if it is about winning, then go ahead and throw Fitzpatrick, Drake, Jones, Wilson, Reed and Mills into the starting lineup. You “need” your best players.

  6. Avatar

    Todd

    June 7, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Play the best player at each position, period. This encourages every player to work hard to be the best they can be.

    If a guy is in a contract year, and you don’t expect to pay to keep him, let him play for that contract. 1) you may get a great year from the player. 2) you may get a compensation pick because the Browns, or the Jests over pay him.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      June 11, 2019 at 11:04 am

      Very well said, Todd. If you’re letting a guy go, you want him to help out with that compensatory pick in the future. And like you said, you may very well get an even better year out of him (because he’s trying to earn that contract).

      In this case, I hope Miami is pushing for victories – having guys like Jones and Drake play out of their mind may help with a playoff push, but if the team is “out” of the playoffs midway through the season, do we want to push for compensatory picks or do we want to try and grab a top draft pick so we get the better college athlete?

      It’s a pretty tough decision to make. Glad I’m not the one who has to make it.

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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 25th in average last season, and he’s currently 27th this 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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