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Miami Dolphins

7 Names for Miami’s New Front 7

Kevin Dern

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Special thanks to Travis for letting me post another piece on Locked On Dolphins. If you remember when Travis and I had our Phinalysis podcast in 2016-17 or have read my pieces on here, you know I’m a defensive guy at heart.  And you undoubtedly know that Miami’s defense will be dramatically changing in 2019 so I wanted to share eight names I think Miami fans should familiarize themselves with before the 2019 Draft, which is now less than a month away.

There’s no way I’m going to hit on as many guys as last year in my write-up and this year it’s going to be more challenging to predict picks like Fitzpatrick and Baker like last year.  The main reason for that is that Miami’s new defensive scheme, which is likely a carry-over from what the Patriots were running in 2018, is more focused on phenotypes rather than finding guys who have prototypical size or builds.  What the Patriots seemed to find are guys that have a set of observable traits that fit their defense.  If you remember, when Miami first hired their staff new Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham talked about finding players who 1) use their hands well/are heavy-handed, 2) play with good leverage and 3) play with good eye discipline.

This is related more towards guys who play in the front seven, but it’s applicable at all levels of the defense.  With that in mind I wanted to focus on seven players I think would be great fits in the Dolphins new defense that aren’t necessarily household names.  Let me be clear, there are more than these seven players that will fit with the Dolphins, I just think these seven possess those skills the Patriots…I mean Dolphins…will want to see.  So, with that in mind, here are my seven names for Miami fans to know leading up to the Draft.

L.J. Collier – DE – TCU #91

Obviously, there are other, bigger names like Bosa, Ferrell and Sweat that are also fits for Miami.  Even Charles Omenihu was I guy that caught my eye early in the process.  I remember texting Travis about him watching the Longhorns bowl game against Georgia at the beginning of the year as someone I was impressed with.  I was so impressed with Omenihu that he was my favorite under-the-radar prospect that I thought would be a great fit for Miami, until I dove into L.J. Collier.

I watched him last week and texted Travis that this dude has hammers for hands, and it’s true.  He’s well-built at 6’2” 283lbs with 34” arms and 10” hands.  He’s never going to confuse anyone for Cameron Wake as he ran a 4.91 forty at the Combine, but that’s not really something I think Miami will be concerned about.  Miami dispatched DL Coach Marion Hobby to work out Collier and teammate Ben Banogu privately, and Collier has been/will be coming to Davie on an Official 30 visit, so…yeah, they’re interested.  Here’s why.

1) Sets the edge:  in this play against Texas L.J. Collier sets a hard edge against the Longhorns RT using one arm.  Texas runs a zone-read on 3rd& 1 and Collier keeps his outside arm free and disengages when the back cuts toward him and makes a TFL.

https://youtu.be/Ul4EfIzQOiw?t=70

2) Motor:  against the Longhorns rushing from the other side Collier is going to be double-teamed late by the LG as he tries to counter-move inside against the LT. Using his long arms and heavy hands he’s able to split the double-team and gets a hand on Sam Ehlinger to slow him up enough for his teammates to arrive to finish off a sack.

https://youtu.be/Ul4EfIzQOiw?t=121

3) Work against double-teams:  In this GIF you’re going to see Collier doubled by the Cal LT and LG and he just bulls his way into the LG and drives him into the backfield to get a TFL.

https://thumbs.gfycat.com/IncompatibleFalseCricket-max-1mb.gif

4) Power:  This GIF is from the Senior Bowl practices.  Collier is lined up as a 3-technique over Wisconsin guard Beau Benzscahwel in the pit drill.  L.J. Collier bull-rushes him back 6 yards to the point where the coach and the camera guy have to back up.  Be still my heart.

https://thumbs.gfycat.com/LoneFavoriteCrow-max-1mb.gif

Quick Summary:  In my eyes, there’s not really one player in this Draft Class that can be what Trey Flowers was in this scheme outside of maybe Nick Bosa.  Collier is probably the next closest in my opinion. He’s got the requisite strength and power to play multiple spots along the D-line, much like Flowers.  While he’s not a speed-rusher and doesn’t have much bend or change of direction capability, it doesn’t tend to matter much. Much of the pass-rush pressure that this defense provides is scheme driven.  There are going to be multiple opportunities for him to rush over guards, perhaps even the center, where he can use his long arms and power.  He’s stout as hell against the run and can split double teams with the best of them.   It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Miami considered him if they traded down to the back part of round one, but I think Collier is a great fit as a second rounder for Miami.  Other teams may not value him as highly due to his lack of speed, but his skillset will be very attractive to Miami.

Player Comp:  Courtney Upshaw

Charles Omenihu – DE – Texas #90

Nov 18, 2017; Morgantown, WV, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Charles Omenihu (90) reacts during the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Omenihu is another of my favorites, and he was right at the top for me in terms of defensive ends for Miami until my dive into L.J. Collier.  Omenihu has the classic 4-3 DE build at 6’5” 280lbs with 36” arms and nearly 10” hands.  I know some have compared him to Trey Flowers, and while that’s not my favorite comparison, I can see why.  Like Flowers and L.J. Collier, Omenihu can play up and down the line.  He can play both left and right defensive end and has shown the ability to reduce inside and play 3 and 4i techniques in the Longhorns multiple front defense.

1) Length:  In this example against USC, you’ll see Omenihu use his long arms to execute a rip move, grab the QB with his left arm to hold him in the pocket then use his right arm to strip the ball to give the Longhorns a 4thdown stop.

https://youtu.be/63KI_HQV4ls?t=15

2) Quickness off the snap:  It’s hard to tell in this look whether Omenihu’s lined up as a 3-technique (I think he’s here) or as a 4i-technique, but either way he crosses the face of the RG and to stop the QB power play for a loss.

https://youtu.be/63KI_HQV4ls?t=23

Omenihu’s quickness is one skill that he has that’s better than L.J. Collier’s, whose reaction times aren’t great.  But, while it worked on this play, you’d like to see Omenihu play with better pad level.

3) Ability to redirect:  In this clip, you’re going to see Omenihu lined up at RDE in one of Texas’s sub-fronts. The Longhorns run a lot of 3-3 and 3-2 fronts (it’s the Big 12, what’d you expect?) and Omenihu is lined up as a 5-technique.  On this play he’s able get inside of the LT and play laterally to stop the stretch zone run for a loss.

https://youtu.be/63KI_HQV4ls?t=241

Quick Summary:  While Omenihu won’t win many races either, as he has a 4.92 forty, he’s more athletic on the field than L.J. Collier.  Omenihu can win with quickness and length off the snap more so than playing with good leverage and heavy hands.  That’s not to say he doesn’t possess those things, he does, just not to the degree of a guy like Collier or Nick Bosa.  His length is something Miami will like, and his familiarity with playing in multiple spots in multiple D-linemen packages will make his transition to this defense easier.  It’s hard to look at him without thinking that he could be a more athletic version version of Patriots DE Deatrich Wise, or some player whose role is akin to that, almost like Jason Jones when he was with Detroit.

Player Comp:  Jason Jones

Jerry Tillery – DT – Notre Dame #99

I had the opportunity to see Tillery play in-person last year as I was able to attend the Notre Dame vs. Stanford game.  I’m not a fan of either team, but one of my friends, a fan of the Irish, said that he thought Tillery would have to play well for Notre Dame to win. Tillery dominated with 4 sacks in that appearance on a defense with a lot of talent, and talent still to come (keep an eye on DE Khalid Kareem #53 if you watch the Irish this fall – he’s GOOD). Tillery looks like a prototypical 3-4 DE at 6’6” 295lbs with 34+” arms and nearly 11” hands.  However, he’s more of a pass-rusher than he is a dominant run-stopper, having racked up 8 sacks in 2018.

1) Pad level:  Despite being 6’6”, when Tillery plays with good pad-level (i.e. leverage) he’s able to split a double-team of the RG and RT and assist on this tackle for loss against Stanford.  He can get into trouble when he plays too high, but this rep is what Miami is looking for.

https://youtu.be/V_MHQHrNJUU

2) Big athlete:  Tillery is athletic and possesses a nice burst off the ball.  He can also change directions much quicker than his size would belie.  On this play, a 1st& goal situation from the 2, Tillery gets cut, gets up and helps tackle Bryce Love for a loss.  Notice how quickly he’s able to move laterally and help Kareem with the stop.

https://youtu.be/V_MHQHrNJUU?t=130

3) Length:  As I mentioned, Tillery is long, and in this rep he’s going to use a long-arm move against the RG to get home and sack K.J. Costello.

https://youtu.be/V_MHQHrNJUU?t=216

4) Eye control:  In this rep against Michigan, Tillery is lined up at RDE.  He doesn’t win in his initial rush but is able to keep his eyes in the backfield and disengages from two linemen to come through and make a strip sack which sealed Notre Dame’s victory over Michigan.

https://youtu.be/Q_pZJkY2iqg?t=110

Quick Summary:  Tillery’s a very intriguing combination of length and athleticism, and while he’s not shaped quite like you’re traditional 3-technique DT, neither is the Patriots Adam Butler (6’4” 300lbs) who has found himself a lot of success as a pass-rushing DT.  Tillery plays the run well when he’s able to keep his pads down, but the ability to rush from the inside and be a cog in some of the rush games the Patriots play that Miami is likely to mimic will make him an intriguing possibility on Day 2.

Player Comp:  Malik Jackson

Armon Watts – DT – Arkansas #90

If there’s one player on this list that qualifies as a “diamond in the rough” it’s Armon Watts.  Watts redshirted his first year at Arkansas, played as a backup in 2015, then played in just 6 combined games in 2016 and 2017 before coming on strong in his final season for the Razorbacks tallying 7 sacks, 8.5 TFLs and 3 forced fumbles.  Watts made a nice impression at the East West Shrine Game and more so than Jerry Tillery, reminds me of Adam Butler who was an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt with a similar build.  Watts goes 6’5” 300lbs with 33” arms and nearly 10” hands.  He’s all over Draft Boards at this time as he’s only got one full season as a starter under his belt, but you can see why Miami met with him down at the Shrine Game.

1) Quickness:  In this rep Watts is lined up in a 2i-technique and steps across the face of the RG and uses a swipe move to get home with a strip sack.  Interior rushing ability is key in Miami’s new defense and considering the amount of stunts they are going to run, this is something they’ll value.

https://youtu.be/jUcTDr83WTA?t=50

2) Hand placement:  In this rep Watts is slow off the snap and the RG gets both hands on him before Watts can get into his rush.  But, Watts is able to re-punch with his right hand and lands it right on the chest plate allowing his power to take over.  Watts gets the RG on skates, runs him over, gets a hand on the QB and gets credit for a sack.

https://youtu.be/jUcTDr83WTA?t=94

3) Hands and hustle:  It’s one thing to get sacks against Eastern Illinois, Colorado State and Vanderbilt, but Watts was able to step up and get home against LSU as well.  In this rep he’s line up as a 1-technique and LSU slides their protection towards his side.  He clubs the LG and hustles to take down Joe Burrow.

https://youtu.be/jUcTDr83WTA?t=126

4) Strength:  Against Auburn’s potent rushing attack, Watts was able to showcase his strength early in the game.  In this clip he’s able to stone a double-team and play laterally down the line to make a tackle for no gain.

https://youtu.be/BjhfIatgUnY?t=37

Quick Summary:  Because of the lack of playing time, I think Watts is firmly a later Day 3 or an UDFA prospect, but you can see talent to work with.  The combination of length, strength and rush ability will remind Miami’s staff of a guy like Adam Butler and with a roster that would currently only need to make five cuts to get to 53 guys, Miami’s going to have an extensive UDFA list.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Watts is someone they look for late in the Draft or give a call to in the UDFA frenzy.

Player Comp:  Adam Butler

Enough with the D-line prospects, let’s move onto one of the tougher positions Miami will be tasked with finding over the next year or two.  The Belichick/Flores defense is a hybrid of multiple schemes and one of the components of it is that they still throw some pseudo 3-4 style looks at teams, especially in sub-packages, of which they have many and will play plenty of.  One of the hallmarks of that style is that the Patriots have made use of guys who are 3-4 style OLBs that can play off the ball as well.  Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings will remind people a lot of Dont’a Hightower…when he’s in the Draft in 2020.  There aren’t a whole lot of guys who I’ve seen that can fill that role. As I detailed in my previous piece, I think there are roles for both Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker, and I can see Miami’s staff finding a niche role for Kiko Alonso shooting off the weakside edge in certain looks, but I think Miami would like to upgrade over him. Whether or not they accomplish that this year or down the road remains to be seen, but here are two players that I think Miami would look at to accomplish finding a 3-4 style OLB that can play off the ball.

Justin Hollins – OLB – Oregon #11

Hollins was the Defensive MVP of the 2019 East-West Shrine Game, and that’s where I first notice him.  He was all over the place in that game.  Built more like Kyle Van Noy than Dont’a Hightower, Hollins goes 6’5” 248lbs with 33+” arms and 10+” hands.  He tested very well at the Combine comparing very closely with Anthony Barr.

Like Barr or even Kyle Van Noy, the versatility of Hollins’ game is one reason I think Miami will be onto him.  One way the Patriots have utilized Kyle Van Noy, and even his direct backup John Simon, is as a stand-up DE in sub-sets.  Hollins can be used in the same way with his athleticism.

1) Pass rush:  in this rep, seen from two angle, Hollins is lined up as a stand-up RDE and beats the Stanford LT with a speed rush.  He’s athletic enough to turn back upfield as he’d rushed past the QB to get home for a sack.

https://thumbs.gfycat.com/FancyMiserableGalapagossealion-max-1mb.gif

https://thumbs.gfycat.com/FamiliarGreedyCrane-max-1mb.gif

Because those GIFs aren’t that great, here’s a clip of Hollins getting a sack in the East-West Shrine game.  He’s wearing #48 in this clip.  He’s lined up as a stand-up DE in a 9-technique and beats the LT with an inside speed rush.  Keep in mind this is a Twist-stunt that New England incorporated a lot of that I suspect we’ll see in Miami.  Note that the DT on the same side as Hollins in this play is Armon Watts.

https://youtu.be/yS2SbnOof2Y?t=70

2)  Off-the-ball: In the Shrine Game defenses have to play in 4-3 packages on first and second downs, so Hollins was used as a traditional 4-3 Will LB during the game.  While this rep certainly isn’t the cleanest thing you’re going to see, it shows Hollins patience and eye control in pursuit of the play.  There’s no block to fight off or trash to avoid but I think this rep serves as framework to build that skillset.

https://youtu.be/yS2SbnOof2Y?t=128

3)  Discipline: Miami’s 2019 Defensive Playbook is going to be a lot thicker than what we saw under Vance Joseph and Matt Burke – it’s a very diverse system.  What I like about this rep is that Hollins is able to set the edge against the run, but Arizona State runs a trick play.  Hollins is able to stay at home on the back side and makes the TFL when the receiver reverses field back to his side.

https://youtu.be/NSpyELnO0pY?t=124

4) Balance: In this rep Hollins has a free run off the edge against a FB on a stretch lead play.  Hollins attacks the cut black and uses his hands to defeat it, keeps his balance and makes the tackle for a short gain.  We’ve seen too many occasions where players for the Dolphins who also played at Oregon tried to run around this block and make a play only to allow a big gain.  I like that Hollins stays assignment sound and executes here.

https://youtu.be/NSpyELnO0pY?t=133

Quick Summary:  I’d file Hollins in the category of player that might hold more value to teams like the Dolphins, Lions and Patriots – teams who are running the same, versatile defense – compared to traditional 4-3 or 3-4 style teams. Hollins athletic profile and versatility is something that will likely remind Brian Flores of some of the guys he had in New England.  While I struggled to find many, there are a few reps of Hollins in coverage in the flat, something that Kyle Van Noy was asked to do.  I think Hollins has the frame to add some more weight as I’d like to see him be a bit more physical, but the athletic package he has now is impressive.  Hollins, to me, is a Day to pick for a team like Miami.
Player Comp:  Anthony Barr (Lite version)

Jordan Brailford – DE – Oklahoma State #94

Sep 15, 2018; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys defensive end Jordan Brailford (94) sacks Boise State Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (4) creating a turnover during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Brailford is an interesting player who I think might fit the OLB role for Miami as well.  He measured in at 6’3” 252lbs (up from 241lbs at the Shrine Game).  His arms and hands are a little smaller than I think Miami would ideally like at 32.5” and just over 9” respectively.  Brailford played DE for the Cowboys in 2018, but has some experience playing MLB for them as well.

1) Speed:  Brailford lines up at LDE here against Boise State and is able to beat the RT cleanly with a speed-rush.  Brailford hit a 4.65 forty time at the Combine and that burst shows up here or the sack.

https://youtu.be/kiT-GJ4drJY?t=19

2) Off the ball ability:  In this rep, again from the Boise State game, Brailford is lined up as a free-rusher basically playing a pseudo-MLB type of role.  He shoots the gap and makes a TFL against the run.

https://youtu.be/kiT-GJ4drJY?t=59

Here’s another clip of Brailford, this time in an overhang position knifing in to make a stop against the run.

https://youtu.be/kiT-GJ4drJY?t=87

Finally, here’s a clip of Brailford at MLB in a 3-3 package for the Cowboys, showcasing his ability to read his key, pursue and steady himself to make a tackle in the hole.

https://youtu.be/kiT-GJ4drJY?t=147

Quick Summary:  As you can see from the clips there are moments when Jordan Brailford looks like a run-and-hit LB that’d be a great fit for a defense like Seattle.  I think clips like this showcase that he’s got the athletic ability to be tried in the OLB spot for Miami, perhaps with the ability to be a sub-package rusher as well.

Player Comp:  Shane Ray – I admit, I ripped this comp straight from Lance Zierlein, but it makes too much sense.

Raekwon McMillan was recently on “The Audible”, the Dolphins team podcast.  Great kid, great interview, and he’s going to be really good.  This defense will lend itself nicely to him.  One thing that John Congemi, who was co-hosting that day, mentioned after the interview is that he’d asked McMillan off-air about Coach Flores. Raekwon stated that he’d asked Coach Flores about who he should watch when looking at Patriots film.  The answer:  Dont’a Hightower.

If you remember my previous piece about the Patriots system, I thought that McMillan might be a guy used in Hightower’s role when lined up between the OTs.

If that is the case, there will be times that Miami will line up Raekwon McMillan in spots other than as a traditional MLB.  Rather than a long-winded explanation, the easiest thing to do is watch some Patriots film and take note of all the places Dont’a Hightower lines up.  It happens, trust me.

But, for Miami to have that flexibility, they may need another option to play at MLB.  This would be doubly true if the end up moving on from Kiko Alonso at some point before the season.  I think that if they go that route, they’ll want someone in the fold to be able to play that spot in addition to using Jerome Baker and perhaps Chase Allen there. That brings us to our last player, a true LB.

Te’von Coney – LB – Notre Dame #4

The Dolphins have met with Coney who is a local guy from Palm Beach Gardens and he’s a pretty good football player to boot.  Here are some reasons why I think Miami might have him in mind, especially if they end up trading back and netting a surplus of picks.

1) Eye control and ability to disengage: Michigan is going to run a classic power in this rep.  Coney recognizes the play, sees that Karan Higdon is going to wind back the play and he fills the hole, disengages the pulling guard, and makes the tackle for a short gain.

https://youtu.be/0Uf13eb8JBk

2) Click and close:  In this rep against Ball State the Cardinals are going to run a play action with a delayed release by the TE in the bunch formation. Coney honors the run action but quickly recognizes it’s a play pass and stays home and reads the TE’s late release. He’s able to click and close quickly and make a TFL in coverage.  On it’s face, there’s nothing that’s spectacular about this play in any fashion, Coney just does his job.  Where have heard that before?

https://youtu.be/0Uf13eb8JBk?t=44

3) Fluidity in coverage: In this rep against Stanford Coney covers the Stanford TE on a short out route.  Notice how he doesn’t take any false steps, doesn’t waste any steps, and then he’s able to undercut the route and comes up with an interception.

https://youtu.be/0Uf13eb8JBk?t=114

Quick Summary:  At 6’1” 234lbs Coney’s measurements aren’t on the large scale and he’s got adequate athleticism, but one of the traits you see with him is that he’s got a knack for reading plays and getting off blocks to make tackles.  He’s not flashy, but he’s assignment sound, which will be huge with this coaching staff.

Player Comp:  Kevin Minter

As you’re aware by now, Miami’s new defense will be pretty DB-heavy.  As such, there’s going to be a need for Miami to start looking to replace guys like Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, as well as to find a middle of the field (MOF) safety to use.  This system will use a lot of three safety looks and with Minkah Fitzpatrick’s prowess in the slot and ability to play in multiple spots, Miami will likely need someone else who can play as a deep MOF safety. That’s a whole different ball of wax. With that being the case, look for another piece focusing on DBs leading up to the Draft.

Editor’s Note: Kevin is currently finishing up his defensive back preview column, and we will conclude his draft series with a podcast on Sunday evening (4/15). Follow Kevin @KevinMD4

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

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

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

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

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

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

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

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

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

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

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

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

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

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

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

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

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

Jason Sanders is a stud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

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

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

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

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future We Created

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

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

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

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

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

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

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

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

Full trade:

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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