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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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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Adam Roe

    April 11, 2019 at 10:23 am

    great stuff!

  2. Avatar

    Tien

    April 11, 2019 at 11:59 am

    Whats your thoughts on Christian Miller he has the length and bend as well

    • Kevin Dern

      Kevin Dern

      April 18, 2019 at 8:19 pm

      I like Christian Miller as a player, but I think he’s more a true 3-4 OLB than a fit for what Miami’s going to end up doing. I think Miami will want someone who can also play off the ball in addition to playing like a 3-4 OLB. Harder to find those guys, but in this year’s class I’d look at: Justin Hollins, Tre Lamar, Jahlani Tavai, and Kaden Elliss.

  3. Avatar

    Chris J. Ephgrave

    April 14, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Seriously high quality breakdown and information. 7 more guys to keep my eyes out for 👊💯👊

    • Kevin Dern

      Kevin Dern

      April 18, 2019 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks, I appreciate it Chris!

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Miami Dolphins have exercised Laremy Tunsil’s fifth-year option

Shawn Digity

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Laremy Tunsil USA Today Sports
Laremy Tunsil taking on Khalil Mack. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Miami Dolphins have exercised Laremy Tunsil’s fifth-year option

The headline says it all; the Miami Dolphins have picked up Laremy Tunsil’s rookie contract fifth-year option. All 2016 first-round draftees are up for fifth-round options and the dominoes have started to fall with Tunsil.

The announcement tweet, which can be seen below, was broken on Twitter by Armando Salguero and shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to Dolphins fans. Laremy Tunsil is one of the key cogs of the team and will be the cornerstone of an otherwise enfeebled offensive line that will likely be addressed in next week’s Draft.

Laremy Tunsil is the surest thing on the Dolphins o-line in a unit that has seen better days and will require two to three new starters. While Tunsil was a no-brainer for the Dolphins to pick up that fifth-round option on, they’ll likely have to extend him at some point, which won’t come cheap since he’s one of the rising stars at left tackle.

But Laremy Tunsil is secured through the 2020 season. I hope between now and then the Dolphins spearhead an extension and get Tunsil locked up a little bit longer. Success in the trenches will start with Tunsil at left tackle and the Fins can fill in the rest during the draft.

Laremy Tunsil will realistically become the highest-paid left tackle at some point in the next few years, and the Dolphins would be wise to get ahead of the curve for that. I think that will happen.

The current frontrunner for left-tackle contracts is the Oakland Raiders’ Trent Brown, and he is making an APY (average per year) of $16.5 million with. The top ten left tackles are making from the aforementioned $16.5 million to $12 million for Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari, Kansas City’s Eric Fisher, and Cincinnati’s Cordy Glenn.

There’s an average APY of $14 million, but I expect Laremy Tunsil to eventually be well above that average when the time comes–I foresee the Dolphins making him the highest paid left tackle, remember. Full guarantees on those top-ten contracts are running between $16 and $36 million, so there’s much more variability with those portions of the contract.

Good and great left tackles aren’t cheap. Laremy Tunsil will break the bank in a few years and will be the highest paid left tackle if the Miami Dolphins intend on making him their franchise LT for years to come.

Laremy Tunsil was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2016 NFL draft after an unfortunate and unfair draft-day tumble that gave the team a golden opportunity. The 2016 class has proven to be extremely fruitful (for the most part). Along with Tunsil, Xavien Howard, Kenyan Drake, and Jakeem Grant were selected in the second, third and sixth rounds, respectively, and all have made major contributions in one form or another.

Exercising Tunsil’s fifth-year option is good news for Fins fans. It’s not a blockbuster trade or a splash signing, but taking care of the best players already on the team before it snowballs out of control a la Jarvis Landry or Ju’Wuan James is a step in the right direction. And while exercising Tunsil’s option is an obvious choice, it’s still an encouraging sign nonetheless.

All contractual information courtesy of Over the Cap.

 

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Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores’ Pre-Draft Update

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Miami Dolphins / Jason Hrina

Get used to this mantra, Miami Dolphins fans: Adapt or Die.

You might not find it printed on training camp t-shirts for the team to sport around, but you can expect head coach Brian Flores to repeat this line often. It’s about to become ingrained in both us and the players.

Flores spoke briefly with reporters before the team finished up their 3-day “voluntary” workout and prepares for the upcoming NFL draft.

If you’ve heard these kind of comments before, it’s because Flores has nailed the proper, cliche  press conference etiquette. Answers are “insightful”, but vague. He gives you an answer while also laying out all other possibilities. That said, he’ll sometimes respond with some sarcasm and wit that’ll reassure you that there is a personality inside of him.

If there is one thing we can take away from Flores’ demeanor and message, it’s that he isn’t about to tolerate the type of locker room culture that festered under Adam Gase. There will be both accountability and self-reflection; and that’s reassuring after witnessing Gase deflect blame to everyone but himself.

With the most important day of the offseason just one week away, we take a look at what Flores had to say at his press conference earlier this morning:

On the Draft:

Most important measuring tool?:

“Combination of production. Height. Weight. Speed. Intangibles. Fit. There’s a myriad of things there. To say it’s just one thing that’s important…they’re all important.”

“Is one more important than the other, I’d say no.”

“It’s the total fit of the player and how we feel they’ll fit with our team.”

Combine/Visits, what do you get out of it?:

“Try to get to know the person, that’s a big part of this.”

“Sometimes people see players as just players. You want to know about their mom, their dad, who was an important person in their life. What kind of adversity they have faced before. Does that person fit your style as a coach, your locker room, the culture you’re trying to build as a team. When you sit down with a player, you’re just trying to get to know him.”

I think Dolphins fans know this all too well after the Dez Bryant/Jeff Ireland prostitution episode back in 2010.

Flores’ Influence in the Draft:

“Chris and I definitely work well together. We speak the same language….when we come together it’s the same (language)”

“Have had (and) will have discussions on different scenarios (throughout the draft)”

On his New/Hybrid Defense:

What kind of players do you need for your Hybrid defense?:

“We need good players.”

“I think as a coach, you get a good player, (and you ask yourself) what does he do well? You try and do that.”

“That’s the good thing about having a versatile scheme, it fits a good player.”

“You try and get the best player and I feel me and my staff can fit what we’re going to do around that player.”

“Some guys are going to have a better fit than others, but you have to put the whole fit together.”

On Identity of this Team:

“You know, call it what you want.”

“I’m going to get my team to play hard. Play together. Play with good fundamentals and technique. Play as a team. Put the team first. You have to try and get 11 guys to play together and that’s a hard thing to accomplish as a coach.”

“That’s my goal, you can call it whatever you want. ‘The Patriot Way’….to me, it’s just good football.”

Flores seems to understand that he’s going to live under Bill Belichick‘s shadow for awhile, especially if he is unsuccessful. Seems like he’s also getting a little tired of it….and I kind of like it. I’m glad he’ll have this chip on his shoulder to prove that he isn’t just a Belichick clone. Then again, judging by all Flores has gone through, he doesn’t need this chip to drive him.

Does he expect his players to be on time?:

“If you’re early, you’re on time, if you’re on time, you’re late, and if you’re late you’re forgotten.”

“Is it a rule, no, it’s my personal mantra.”

“I have a lot of respect for time. I think it’s precious; we shouldn’t take it for granted. If you want to stay on schedule you have to stay on time.”

“We have a schedule, it’s laid out pretty well.”

There is absolutely no bull**** from Brian Flores when it comes to practice! That’s not to say Adam Gase or any of the other prior head coaches were more-lenient, but you get the feeling that Flores isn’t going to tolerate players who believe they are bigger than the team.

Gase showed a similar coaching style when he traded Jay Ajayi and released players like Byron Maxwell and Jordan Phillips, but that never translated to a productive locker room culture. It’ll be interesting to see how Flores’ style compares.

On His “Right-Hand Man”:

“Pick any of the 20 guys, they’re all my right-hand men.”

“We work well together. (We) try and put a staff together that embodies what I want our team to reflect.

“I want to be tough, I want to be smart, I want to work well together.”

On Mike Gesicki:

“Mike is a good, young player. Talented. Like everyone else on this team, there are places he can improve, develop, get better. As a young player, there’s a lot of room for development. Mike’s working hard. We see what everyone else sees: he has size, speed, can catch the ball.”

On Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker:

“Raekwon is big. Fast. Physical. (Has) good leadership. Smart. Can play a few different positions. (A) good, young player.”

“Jerome is another skilled player. Fast. Good tackler. Raekwon is a good tackler as well. Smart. Can do a few different things. Can cover; which, obviously in this league, going in a passing direction, it’s good to have an LB that can cover.”

“We’re glad to have them both.”

On Jake Rudock and Luke Falk:

“Like everyone else, they’re working hard. They are doing everything possible to try and improve their techniques, fundamentals. Footwork. Ball Handling. They’re doing a really good job. All 3 quarterbacks.”

“We’re excited to see what they can do moving forward.”

Flores couldn’t be more generic with the assessment of his players. Even going back to when he discussed Charles Harris at a previous press conference, Flores tends to speak about his players vaguely, as if to avoid tipping his hand in any regard.

From a player’s perspective, it’s nice to know your coach won’t throw you under the bus and will keep things private. From our fan perspective, it means we just have to go through every possible adjective and scenario with him. He’s not lying when one of them has to be true.

On his Mother’s Passing:

“It was hard. She’s someone I think about on a daily basis. Wish she was here to enjoy this with us, but she’s with me all the time.”

“She wouldn’t’ want me to dwell or be upset and she would want me to have peace.”

“I’m sad. I’m unhappy. I miss her. But I have peace knowing I did everything I can to make her proud.”

On New Surprises as a Head Coach:

“(I have had) A lot of conversations with head coaches around the league…one thing they said is something would come across your desk every day.”

“(That’s) kind of my approach coming in, being adaptable. A mantra of our team: ‘adapt or die’.”

“Part of (the job) is allowing other people to lead.”

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2019 Vegas Slant Schedule Breakdown

Travis Wingfield

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Future opponents are known years in advance in the NFL. With the exception of two games decided by divisional standing finish, fourteen opponents are determined based on the schedule rotation. The order in which those games will occur, like everything else the NFL does, has become a primetime event.

While the luck of the draw factors heavily (in-season injuries, particular teams playing their best/worst ball at a certain time of year, etc.) the order of the games provides intriguing details.

Traveling for a Thursday night game, for instance, is an extreme disadvantage for the visitor. The infamous “trap game” can occur when a team faces a lesser opponent before taking on a heavyweight. Lastly, for a team like the Dolphins, weather implications are always worth noting.

This column refers to the favors, or lack thereof, that the NFL gave the Dolphins based purely on travel, trap games, etcetera.

Week 1 – BALTIMORE RAVENS – September 8, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Ravens Sandwich Game: Week 2 Cardinals

September victories are difficult to come by for teams visiting Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins haven’t lost such an affair since 2015 with a multitude of early-season upsets under the franchise’s belt this century (2014 vs. New England and 2005 vs. Denver, most notably).

Baltimore’s ground-and-pound attack could have a converse affect, however, as the Dolphins defensive conditioning will have to be on-point from the word go.

Week 2 – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – September 15, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Patriots Sandwich Games: Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh, Week 3 vs. NY Jets

Dec 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) runs the ball after a flea flicker play to score a touchdown to defeat the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

New England’s 2018 meltdown in Miami came one week prior to a trip to Heinz Field. Now, the Pats will travel back to Tom Brady’s house of horrors in Miami one week after kicking the season off in primetime against those same Steelers.

This won’t serve as a trap game given the recent outcomes of games between these two teams, but Miami is catching the Pats at the right time. Over the last two seasons New England are just 4-4 in the first quarter of the schedule (September games), a .250-point decrease in winning percentage from their cumulative record.

Week 3 – @ Dallas Cowboys – September 22, 1:00 EST AT&T Stadium
Cowboys Sandwich Games: Week 2 @ Washington, Week 4 @ Saints

This is a classic trap game for the Cowboys. Coming off a game with its biggest rival, then heading to the toughest building to play in, in the NFC, the opportunity for Miami to steal a road win against a sleep-walking favorite is in the cards.

Week 4 – Los Angeles Chargers- September 29, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Chargers Sandwich Games: Week 3 @Texans, Week 5 Broncos

The early time slot for a west coast team is one of the biggest advantages, statistically, in football. The Chargers historically struggle in Miami but the talent discrepancy is probably too great for any of these advantages to factor in.

Week 5 – BYE WEEK

After a week-11 bye last year, Miami gets the burden of an early off-week. The Dolphins will play out the string for 12 weeks with zero breaks in between.

Week 6 – Washington – October 13, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Washington Sandwich Games: Week 5 @Patriots, Week 7 49ers

A let down following a potential beat down in New England bodes well for Miami. Washington is probably the one team on this entire schedule that Miami can matchup with from a talent perspective.

Week 7 – @ Buffalo Bills – October 20, 1:00 EST New Era Field
Bills Sandwich Games: Week 6 BYE, Week 8 Eagles

Miami’s first game against a team coming off a bye, in a building that has only provided the setting for one Miami win in the last five years, this one stacks the deck against the Dolphins.

Week 8 – @ Pittsburgh Steelers – October 28, 5:25 EST MONDAY Heinz Field
Steelers Sandwich Games: Week 7 BYE, Week 9 Colts

Another game, another opponent coming off of a bye. The Steelers will have the benefit of a 15-day break prior to lacing it up for Miami in primetime. The Dolphins road primetime woes should be noted as well – Miami are 0-for-it’s-last 8 in those games.

Week 9 – New York Jets – November 3, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Jets Sandwich Games: Week 8 @Jaguars, Week 10 Giants

Dec 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase looks on during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Adam Gase game will certainly have both teams on notice. The man that holds a grudge like no other will certainly have this date circled on his calendar, as will the countless Dolphins players that grew tired of Gase’s shtick. This might be the most entertaining football game Miami plays all season.

Week 10 – @ Indianapolis Colts – November 10, 1:00 EST Lucas Oil Stadium
Colts Sandwich Games: Week 9 @Steelers, Week 11 Jaguars

With a potentially crucial divisional game on-deck with the Jaguars, the Colts could fall victim to overlooking Miami here. The Colts are a difficult out in that building and are quietly building up one of the most talented rosters in the AFC.

Week 11 – Buffalo Bills – November 17, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Bills Sandwich Games: Week 10 @Browns, Week 12 Broncos

Divisional games rarely adhere to traditional trap procedures. Ideally the Dolphins would catch the Bills in September, but the week-7 trip to Western New York offsets the lack of weather advantages. This game should see peak effort from both teams.

Week 12 – @ Cleveland Browns – November 24, 1:00 EST First Energy Stadium
Browns Sandwich Games: Week 11 Steelers (TNF), Week 13 @Steelers

Somehow the NFL has this strange scheduling procedure where teams play each other twice over a three-week period. Cleveland sandwiches its two games with the Steelers with a home date against your Miami Dolphins – that’s the ultimate trap.Cleveland’s benefit comes from having 10 days to prepare for Brian Flores and Miami.

Week 13 – Philadelphia Eagles – December 1, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Eagles Sandwich Games: Week 12 Seahawks, Week 14 Giants

With a pivotal NFC matchup on the front end, and a divisional game on the backend, Philadelphia is in a potential trap game situation. The Dolphins home field advantage serves as another beneficial factor in this game as the weather contract between Philadelphia and Miami, in December, is stark.

Week 14 – @ New York Jets – December 8, 1:00 EST Met Life Stadium
Jets Sandwich Games: Week 13 @Bengals, Week 15 @Ravens (TNF)

The game before a road trip on a short week typically favors the opposition – that’s the spot the Adam Gase finds himself in here when the Jets welcome Miami to the Meadowlands. With two NFC games bookending this game for the Dolphins, this is a great spot for Miami to steal a road win.

Week 15 – @ New York Giants – December 15, 1:00 EST Met Life Stadium
Giants Sandwich Games: Week 14 @Eagles, Week 16 @ Washington

This is a trap game for both teams, believe it or not. A non-conference game, sandwiched by two divisional games, has the makings for a let down on either side. If the season plays out as expected, this game could have massive implications on the race for Tua Tagovailoa.

Week 16 – Cincinnati Bengals – December 22, 1:00 EST Hard Rock Stadium
Bengals Sandwich Games: Week 15 @Patriots, Week 17 Browns

Like the previous game, this might set up as a draft positioning game. Both teams that figure to finish at, or near, the bottom of their respective divisions, playing out the string with rookie coaches, there isn’t much of an advantage to take away from this one.

Week 17 – @ New England Patriots – December 29, 1:00 EST Gillette Stadium
Patriots Sandwich Games: Week 16 Bills

For the second consecutive year, the Patriots finish the season with two divisional home games – seems fishy, doesn’t it? The only potential saving grace here, for the ‘Phins, is that New England could have the AFC East wrapped up, as they typically do every year.

 

This is, no doubt, a difficult road to hoe for Miami. The order of the games, the stacks of road trips, it’s a lot to put on the plate of a first year head coach trying to set a foundation.

The troops of the tank train should be satisfied with this gamete — it likely puts Miami in a hole that will be difficult to climb out of, especially given Ryan Fitzpatrick’s medical history.

For more on this schedule, tune in to the Locked On Dolphins podcast – your daily dose of Miami Dolphins football.

@WingfieldNFL

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