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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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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

Tua Yards Away, One Step Closer – Miami-Washington Week 6 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins 2-Point Conversion Fails, Team Falls to 0-5

It’s difficult to imagine a better game-script for the Dolphins fan that finds him/herself in the cumbersome position of rooting for better draft positioning. A chance to win on the game’s final play, a strong effort and overall improvement, but the ultimate prize remains unspoiled for a team in transition. For the first time this season, the box score didn’t tip heavily in the opposition’s favor.

 

Stat Dolphins Washington
Total Yards 271 311
Rushing 84 145
Passing 187 166
Penalties 5 (45 yards) 6 (56 yards)
3rd / 4thDown 5/16 (31.3%) 2/11 (18.2%)
Sacks For 0 5
TOP 32:39 27:21

 

The Dolphins were dead in the water under the direction of second-year quarterback Josh Rosen. His three quarters of work produced a pair of interception, five sacks and three points from the Dolphins offense.

Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The fired-up Fitzmagic passed for 132 fourth quarter yards en route to two Dolphin touchdown drives. The final play of the game — a failed two-point conversion dropped by Kenyan Drake — was the third bizarre play in critical situations during Miami’s ferocious surge.

A common play in today’s league — especially from Chad O’Shea’s New England influence — Drake short-motioned into the formation behind a pair of bunched receivers. The throw was a little bit off Drake’s back hip, but the back never secured the ball, ending the play before it had ever a chance.

On an earlier third down and nine, nine-year veteran Center Daniel Kilgore rolled a snap to Fitzpatrick that killed the drive. The possession prior, Fitzpatrick threw a hook-up route over the middle to Mike Gesicki, who had already been thrown to the ground. If any of those three plays is executed, Miami probably comes out of this game with a victory.

Though out-gained for the fifth-consecutive game, the Dolphins moved the chains 21 times to Washington’s 13 first downs. Miami also won the time-of-possession battle for the first time, and scored multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time.

There was enough energy and excitement to fulfil the quota for an admirable Dolphins effort, but the scoreboard not only keeps Miami in the driver’s seat for the first pick of the draft, it essentially gives the Dolphins a two-game buffer over Washington.

With strength of schedule serving as the only draft order tie-breaker, Washington’s likely greater S.O.S. means that if both teams finished with the same number of victories, the higher pick would go to Miami.

The only team left in Miami’s way is the 0-6 Cincinnati Bengals.

Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterbacks

Last week, on The Locked On Dolphins Podcast, I referenced an article that featured quotes from prominent NFL Draft busts at the quarterback position. Joey Harrington and Brady Quinn discussed the difficult circumstances surrounding their respective insertions into the league. To summarize, they both feel that situations can ruin quarterbacks.

That feels prevalent in the case of Josh Rosen. From an armchair evaluator that was never big on Rosen’s game, the flaws he’s exhibiting have been developed. Consistently lifting his feet upon release, stepping out of clean platforms and into traffic, the kid has no trust in his surrounding parts or his own ability to dissect the defense.

His timing remains late, he’s not managing the pocket and finding space even at the level he was three weeks ago, and everything looks like a challenge for him in this offense.

Rosen will start going forward, I suppose, but this is broken quarterback that needs some time in the shop.

Fitzpatrick was excellent. He provided that classic, bearded spark that rejuvenates the team in a pinch. He was on-time, accurate, and navigated the same pass protection with no issues (no sacks, no turnovers).

Running Backs

The most interesting factoid from this position group came from Kenyan Drake’s post-game presser. Mark Walton began the game as Miami’s starting back, and Drake revealed that the two-point conversion play call had been repped all week by the Dolphins apparent new starter, and former Hurricane, Mark Walton.

Walton, after blowing a pass protection assignment on Miami’s first possession, was the most creative runner for the Dolphins. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, a season-high for a Phins back, on six carries. Walton’s production was greater in the passing game. He caught another five for 43 yards, giving him 75 yards from scrimmage on the game.

Drake consistently churned out yards as well (10 for 40). He added six receptions for 30 yards — he and Walton’s 15 targets made up more than a third of Miami’s target-share.

Then, there’s the forgotten man, Kalen Ballage. He had three carries and no pass targets. Though Ballage bulldozed into the end zone on a goal line plunge, he has been almost entirely phased out of the offense. He’s essentially a short yardage back at this stage — can’t catch, can’t play tailback in this offense.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

It was a lot of fun to see the Dolphins receivers make some plays in a functioning offense. Devante Parker’s touchdown reception was an extremely difficult catch sliding into the end zone (go out in your backyard and try to catch a ball at your knee caps in a full sprint).

Preston Williams catch-rate remains atrocious (caught 2 of 6 targets Sunday), but his 21-yard stab on Miami’s final touchdown drive put the offense in scoring range.

Mike Gesicki is coming on, and I will not shut up about out from now until further notice. The athletic ability to catch contested balls up the seam should not be underplayed, and that catch he made to start that final drive was a godsend for this offense.

We’ll have more to say about the other tight ends in the film room session on Wednesday’s podcast.

Offensive Line

Another week of shuffling, another week of heading back to the drawing board — or is it? With Rosen in the game, the line was manhandled (five sacks). Once Fitzpatrick entered, the quarterback remained clean, and the offense produced at a rate better than league average (13 points on four drives, more than a point better than NFL average).

Jesse Davis was a tough watch at left tackle before the injury, and things did not get better working on the right side. He’s frequently a beat slow, and can’t gain the necessary depth to take on elite speed rushers. And calling Ryan Kerrigan’s speed rush elite at this stage is probably generous.

Michael Deiter remains a considerable work in progress. His tendency to get out over his skies, which makes him vulnerable to tackles that can rush effectively with lateral agility, shows up on tape each week.

J’Marcus Webb continues to struggle with speed rushes off the blindside edge, but that should be expected. After all, Webb was a street free agent. Miami found a way to help him as much as possible, but the leaks from the other side caused Miami to dial up even more max protection.

Isaiah Prince is serving the role that I always thought was best for him — sixth lineman when the formation goes heavy. I’m intrigued to look at the job he did in that role today, but I don’t have that evaluation ready just yet.

Defensive Line

Christian Wilkins is getting better as this season goes along, and that should realistically be the most important development on the roster. Wilkins’ ability to collapse pockets from the inside will determine what kind of line this group is going to be on the other side of the rebuild. He’s not getting many opportunities to do it just yet, but he’s showing up every week with impressive reps against good players.

Taco Charlton has replaced Charles Harris at the left defensive end position. We’ll have snap counts tomorrow, but Charlton is a fundamentally sound edge defender that typically funnels things back inside — something Harris struggled to grasp for 2.5 years.

John Jenkins put a nice move on Washington Left Guard Ereck Flowers, but was quiet for the rest of the game.

Linebackers

Raekwon McMillan is probably the team’s MVP to this point. He’s a decisive run defender that finds his fit and explodes through contact. This staff has discovered the best route for McMillan to be an effective player, and he’s rising to that challenge.

Jerome Baker was better in this game. He was able to put pressure on the quarterback at least a couple of times from my count, including a nifty inside move on Washington’s Left Tackle.

Vince Biegel is an interesting rush-package player — he was in the Washington backfield at times.

Deon Lacey was with Miami in camp a few summers back. He went to Buffalo and contributed on special teams, but he’s back in South Florida doing the same thing for the Dolphins.

Defensive Backs

Xavien Howard practiced throughout the week, but didn’t play Sunday, and the impact was palpable. Washington Rookie Terry McLaurin made big plays in Howard’s absence, including a touchdown against his replacement, Ken Webster.

Eric Rowe had his best game as a Dolphin. He showed recovery speed and made plays on the football a couple of times.

The same was true of rookie Nik Needham. After his call-up from the practice squad, Needham had a pass breakup and didn’t allow any catches on the day.

Reshad Jones was active against the Washington run-heavy attack. He picked up nine tackles and was a regular in the backfield.

Bobby McCain’s had a good day that included a crucial pass break-up in the end zone, but it was his profanity-laced interview post-game that caught reporter’s attention. Expressing this frustration should come as no surprise for a team captain that pours his all into this game.

Recap

The Fitzpatrick jolt should provide fans with some confidence in the coaching and the plan going forward. Suddenly, the passing concepts were effective, Miami found chunk plays to the backs, and Gesicki was unlocked up the seam.

Brian Flores’ and Patrick Graham’s defensive structure has been sound for the most part this season, and the defense’s effort was good enough to win. Washington scored 17 points on 12 possessions Sunday. The rush scheme, and consequent effort to fill those vacated areas, made life difficult on Washington’s antiquated offensive attack.

The Dolphins simply have to get better in multiple areas from a talent standpoint. The quarterback play, the offensive line, the interior rotation and edge rush, and secondary all need an infusion of players. The draft capital will allow Miami to put premium assets into those groups, then, and only then, can we adequately judge this Dolphins staff.

The Steelers are railroading the Chargers currently, so the dream for a pair of top-three picks will be put on hold, for now.

Miami’s battle with Cincinnati for the top pick could come down to a week 16 showdown in South Florida. The Bengals do have dates with Pittsburgh, the Jets, Dolphins, and up-and-down Browns to round out the season.

Given the Dolphins weak S.O.S., a victory shouldn’t interrupt the Miami’s collision course with the first pick next April. Washington’s remaining slate features only two more losing teams — it’s difficult to find another win for a team that survived a last-minute scare from the NFL’s unanimous doormat.

A win today would’ve made the path to the first pick treacherous. The loss instead, however, keeps Miami in the catbird seat to land Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

@WingfieldNFL

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 QB Prospects – Week 7

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 7 of the College Football Season

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow has been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Justin Herbert vs. Colorado,Win 45-3
Stats: 18/33 (54.5%) 261 yards (7.9 YPA) 2 TDs

Regardless of what happens throughout Justin Herbert’s professional career, he will flash moments of brilliance. The consistency of those spurts, however, remains uncertain. When the defense reacts according to the play call, it’s over. Herbert’s ability to quickly drive the ball down the field excites scouts everywhere.

The issue of inconsistency remains, well, consistent. Lapses in accuracy, proper mechanical alignment and anticipatory throws raise concerns over Herbert’s ability to translate at the next level. When there’s no urgency, everything is rosy. Herbert can adequately process and adjust his throw type when he’s free of adverse circumstances.

When Herbert is forced to speed things up — get away from an unexpected free rusher, anticipate a route opening up against the leverage of the defense — errors occur. Balls on the wrong hip/shoulder, late throws into tight windows, there’s a lack of trust in what he sees post-snap.

The upside is difficult to ignore, but those issues have to become hardwired corrections for Herbert to ever realize that potential.

Jake Fromm vs. South Carolina, Loss 20-17 (OT)
Stats: 28/51 (54.9%) 295 yards (5.78 YPA) 1TD, 3 INTs

The first 54 minutes of this game were a struggle from Fromm and the Georgia offense. After early success that has Fromm accomplishing whatever he wanted against the Gamecock defense — man or zone — Fromm’s decision making and location went south during a 42-minute scoring drought.

The good version of Fromm showed anticipation, timing and location on point, as they all typically are. Fromm’s interception on a throwaway attempt to close out the first half started a cascade of poor football. His accuracy waned, his normally perfect communication with the receivers went awry, and Georgia trailed with just six minutes to play at home against an inferior football team. Fromm also lost a fumble on a failed quarterback-center exchange on the doorstep of the red zone.

Executing a 96-yard, game-tying drive when he had to have it speaks highly to Fromm’s character. The NFL will present adversity, and Fromm has showcased the ability to overcome hurdles. Still, at the end of the day, he made too mistakes for Georgia to win this game.

One week after elevating his draft stock ahead of Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, Fromm comes back to earth and makes one thing abundantly clear — there’s a big gap between Tua and the rest of this class.

Tua Tagovailoa at Texas A&M, Win 47-28
Stats: 21/34 (61.8%) 293 yards (8.62 YPA) 4 TDs, 1 INT

On a day where Tua wasn’t as finely tuned as we’ve come to expect, he surpasses A.J. McCarron for the career touchdown passes record at Alabama with another four touchdown day. Tua’s second touchdown was a classic example of his pre-snap acumen, post-snap mechanical alignment, and precise ball location against an A&M blitz. Quickly getting to his spot and setup, Tua throws it right in behind the blitz and right on the bullseye for a big play.

The fourth touchdown was a fantastic anticipation strike to Henry Ruggs. Tagovailoa’s trust in his own eyes and processor allows him to anticipate better than any passer in the country.

He also showcased his fluid pocket mobility. Whether it’s escaping, or climbing up and wading through the trash, the only thing more dangerous than Tua on-script, is the improvising version of Tua.

The trust can lead to some mistakes and easy turnovers, however. Tua’s interception was a carbon copy of one of his INTs in the SEC Championship Game in 2018 against Georgia. Tua checked his backside read and attacked play side with the information he gathered. He was wrong in thinking the safety was bailing out. Instead, the safety robbed a dig route from Jeudy, and Tua was late with the football for an easy pick.

There were additional accuracy issues (available in the video thread) in the game, but not by a significant margin. Typically, when he makes a mistake, he erases the wrongdoing on the next play. Tua can play better, certainly, but I sometimes wonder if we hold him to an unrealistic standard.

A career 9:1 TD:INT ratio will do that (81 TDs, 9 INTs).

Joe Burrow vs. Florida, Win 42-28
Stats: 21/24 (87.5%) 293 yards (12.2 YPA) 3 TDs

Kirk Herbstreit said it best early fourth quarter after Joe Burrow beat another Gators blitz. Herbie referred to Burrow having all the answers for the looks Florida threw at him, and it led to a strong, efficient performance.

Burrow not only threw on-time and on-target within the structure of the offense, he navigated murky pockets and extended plays with big results.

Burrow’s growth in year-two in this offensive system makes for a master attacking the middle, intermediate portion of the field. Dropping the ball in behind linebackers and underneath the safeties, Burrow’s accuracy on crossing routes leads to big plays after the catch for the talented Tigers receivers.

Burrow forced his way into this discussion. The big four have become the big five and Burrow could wind up top-three if he continues this success.

Recap

We’re entering the portion of the season where we can begin to compare common opponents. Fromm earned his way into QB2 status with steady, consistent play through six weeks, but Fromm had his ugliest showing of the year Saturday.

That three-interception performance comes against a defense that Tua carved up for 444 yards and five touchdowns. The already significant gap between QB1 and QB1 increased after the performances of Tagovailoa and Fromm this weekend.

Herbert has nothing to prove against inferior foes. His physical talents are too much for poor defense, especially units that are poorly coached like Colorado. For Herbert to enter QB2 status, he’ll have to show out in adverse circumstances — something he really hasn’t done in his career.

Love was off this week; perhaps the bye week we’ll supplement his familiarity in yet another system. Burrow has passed all of his tests this season, but he still has a way to go before he’s even considered a one-year wonder.

Half way through the college football season, my quarterback big board goes:

  1. Tua Tagoavailoa
  2. Jake Fromm
  3. Jordan Love
  4. Joe Burrow
  5. Justin Herbert

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Video Threads

Alabama Linebacker, Anfernee Jennings

Oklahoma Center, Creed Humphrey

Oklahoma Wide Receiver, Ceedee Lamb

Oklahoma Linebacker, Kenneth Murray

LSU Edge, K’Lavon Chaisson

Penn State Edge, Yetur Gross-Matos

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins Aren’t Tanking, They Just Suck

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of people want to tell you that the Miami Dolphins are tanking, and depending on how they’re looking at it, they’re either entirely right or woefully wrong.

You see, each player on this football team is attempting to put forth their best effort. They are trotting onto the field branding aqua and orange with the intent of being as successful as they can be.

There may be particular instances where a player prioritizes their health over a few extra yards, but overall, they aren’t going out there just to collect a paycheck.

These people have played football their entire lives. It’s insulting to assume they aren’t trying to maximize the one thing they’ve passionately performed since they were a toddler.

It’s also insulting to assume that this fanbase is so oblivious and naive that rooting to lose means they are not a “real fan”.

When linebacker Jerome Baker called out Dolphins fans (that are actively rooting for a “tank”), he was making a fair point, but he did so without acknowledging what these fans are actually rooting for deep down.

There isn’t a single fan that genuinely enjoys losing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that fans are rooting for one miserable season with the hope that it breeds 10 successful ones.

But Baker is right, the players are performing as hard as they can. They’re pridefully going out there and trying to build their resumes for the other 31 teams to see. These snaps will be meaningless in a few weeks (when the Dolphins are unofficially eliminated from the playoffs), but you can’t sell that to a person looking to boost (or, heck, just ensure) a paycheck going forward.

The thing is, the performance that these players are putting out there is the reason why Miami is not just 0-4, but historically one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The front office may have helped create this mess, but they aren’t the reason why people assume the players aren’t trying.

A Surprising Development

2019 was supposed to be a season filled with growth and progress. Establish who your building blocks are, and mold them into a youthful core that can lead the new franchise quarterback to victory.

But all of that growth and progress we expected to see has been virtually nonexistent. In fact, there have been more “surprises” than there have been developments that we can rely on. And while that’s great for the players we had lower expectations for, it speaks minimally for either the players we expected to develop, or the coaching staff we expected to develop them.

Raekwon McMillan has been Miami’s best linebacker so far this season. Though we have to provide the caveat that it comes with a limited snap count, McMillan has been a force in the running game. Did McMillan have too much on his plate last year? Did he finally (fully) recover from his torn ACL in 2017? Is he flourishing without the expectations? Is this really just a flash in the pan?

It’s hard to pinpoint why McMillan has improved so much this season, but this is a welcomed site to see. I’m not expecting 2020 starting middle linebacker or even an elite talent from the former second-round pick, but McMillan has gone from an afterthought to a necessity on this 2019 team.

With just 121 snaps (compared to Sam Eguavoen‘s 251 and Jerome Baker’s 279), I hope defensive coordinator Patrick Graham finds a way to incorporate McMillan a bit more.

After watching the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals for 5 weeks, fans are legitimately concerend that Josh Rosen will win too many games this year. While judging Rosen has always been one of the primary objectives of 2019, it was only 3 weeks ago that we expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to start a majority of the season because Rosen wasn’t picking up (or processing) the playbook well enough.

If it weren’t for so many dropped passes, Rosen would have a handful of highlights that make you think he’s the guy. Instead, those drops may be an omen that the Dolphins franchise quarterback isn’t currently on the roster.

But this is where the surprising storylines end. There have been plenty of other surprising developments in 2019, but none of them have been good. It’s these (lack of) developments that further explain why everyone believes the Dolphins are tanking.

Lack of Player Development

It all started somewhat shockingly before the season began when Vincent Taylor was cut. The former 6th-round pick was expected to be a starting defensive tackle for the next couple of years; instead, he was removed from the roster entirely with little explanation why.

Different coaching staffs have different philosophies and playing styles, but Taylor was a productive player with plenty of potential. Whether it was his attitude or the shape he was in when he reported to camp, Miami found a reason to remove a budding talent. Can’t blame the players for taking talent off the roster.

Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was expected to become a future starting linebacker for this team. And while he’s still raw, he hasn’t shown the same level of potential that fellow former CFL transfer Cameron Wake displayed when he joined Miami.

Next to John Denney, Jason Sanders was the only player you had unwavering confidence in.

Sanders has missed as many kicks through 4 games than he did in all of 2018. After making 18 of 20 kicks (and 35 of 36 PATs) in 2018, Sanders has made just 4 of 7 FGs so far this season. Are we adding kicker to the list of holes this team has to plug in 2020?

Jerome Baker hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. Is it the extra work stacked on his plate? Is it just a sophomore slump?

We expected Baker to be a jack-of-all-trades linebacker who could cover the pass, stunt the run and rush the quarterback. So far, he seems a bit over his head. Granted, he receives minimal help around him, but this defensive front isn’t that much weaker than last season’s.

It’s safe to say that we all expected Baker to be a bit better at this point. If you’re going to “call out” the fanbase for cheering on long term success at the expense of short term misery, you better make sure your performance gives those fans a reason to think otherwise.

If Baker was meant to do everything up front, Bobby McCain was expected to be a Swiss army knife in the secondary. Not only has that experiment been subpar, but it appears more and more like McCain is a player without a position rather than a player that can do it all. It just makes me wonder what McCain “could have been” if the coaching staff left him in his natural slot cornerback position all these years.

After receiving a 4-year, $24m contract extension this offseason, Jakeem Grant has gone from a threatening #3 receiver – and a menacing kick returner – to a player that becomes cringeworthy when the ball is in the air. There isn’t a single person reading this that is confident when the ball is headed in Grant’s direction. Yet, just last month we felt we had a competent wide receiver for the next 3+ years.

There was LOTS of hype around Kalen Ballage when camp broke this offseason. He looked faster, quicker, more-toned and ready to take the #1 running back role from Kenyan Drake. Instead, Ballage has contributed more touchdowns to the opposing team than he has recorded himself. His 1.5 yards-per-carry (YPC) isn’t entirely his fault, as the offensive line in front of him is pedestrian at best, but that logic doesn’t seem to fit Drake’s 3.6 YPC or Mark Walton‘s 3.9 YPC.

I don’t need to tell you that Ballage has been a disappointment, I think we’ve all come to that conclusion the moment he ducked away from an RB screen pass coming his way.

What the Fans Want

Fans are tired of witnessing performances like this.

Every team has draft picks that flame out, but the Dolphins seem to load up on under-performing players. Is it this team’s “culture”? Is it terrible ownership? Is it terrible scouting?

Easily enough, 20 years of mediocrity can be summed up by the quarterback position. And right now, there are two entities that have identified that obtaining an elite quarterback solves ineptitude: fans and the Front Office.

If you were to say that the players are tanking, you’d be terribly wrong. If you were to say that the intellectual minds that make decisions for the Miami Dolphins are tanking, you are absolutely right.

You don’t trade away a cornerstone left tackle, your best wide receiver, your most-experience linebacker, and a handful of other assets if you’re trying to win as many games as possible.

Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard may not miss as many games if every game was crucial.

These are active decisions made (or heavily suggested) by the Front Office. They’re not asking the players to under-perform, they’re doing a good job of that themselves.

When all is said and done, it’s possible this coaching staff is the reason for the lack of development. They could all be in over their heads, and Brian Flores is just a temporary band-aid that allows the next coach to reap the benefits of stocked draft picks and abundant cap space.

I understand that it’s deflating to watch your team’s fanatics root against you, but their apathy isn’t the most disappointing part of the 2019 season. Give the fans a reason to cheer, and you might actually be reciprocated with applause.

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