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Miami Dolphins

A Mid-Season Review: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Andrew Mitchell

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The Good

Wide Receiver

We knew going into camp that this position was one of our deeper position groups. To be fair we were all high on the group before the season but in some ways, I think they have surpassed the expectations. Kenny Stills’ production has taken a recent hit since Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder injury, but Albert Wilson was blowing up before injuring his hip. Those 2, plus Jakeem Grant and Danny Amendola has shown as a point of strength. If DeVante Parker could play like he did vs Houston every week then this could be our strongest group in years.

 

Off-season Moves

The front office triumvirate of Chris Grier, Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase have shown they can do it right, sometimes. The additions of Josh Sitton, Daniel Kilgore, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Robert Quinn, and Frank Gore have all worked out nicely. Yes, half of them have been lost to injury but that doesn’t mean they were effective or building towards something positive when healthy.

The decision to replace Landry with Wilson was met with skepticism but I think the contract value has proven that point moot. Not to mention they also added Tight End Nick O’Leary about 2-3 weeks ago and he has been sensational as the Dolphins starting tight end used mostly in a blocking role.

 

Still in the Hunt

Yes, the Miami Dolphins started 3-0, yes, they got our hopes up. We are back to reality after a myriad of key injuries and sit at 4-4. They currently sit 2nd in the division, 2 games behind the New England Patriots and 1 game in front of the Jets whom they play next. They are 8th in the AFC standings vying for a spot in the top 6 in hopes of a wildcard spot. While it isn’t impossible, with games coming up against Green Bay, Minnesota and Jacksonville; 9-7 may be best case scenario.

 

The Bad

Play-calling

Ugly, predictable, frustrating and perplexing are words I would use to sum up Adam Gase’s play-calling this season as a whole. There’s been some bright spots, but for a sum of parts it has not been good. Not for someone who’s been dubbed as an “offensive genius” and “quarterback whisperer.” The Dolphins have yet to score a Touchdown on their opening drive at all this season, which should be the easiest to score because it’s fully scripted and hasn’t been influenced by the flow of the game. While Gase has shown he makes great adjustments throughout the game, he needs to remember to stick to what’s working. His play-calling in my opinion was why we lost the game vs the Bengals. Too many times he abandons the run too early and some of his play calls on 3rd and 4th and short have been questionable at best.

 

TJ McDonald

Okay, so this could just be me but…TJ has been pretty terrible all season. He does not look like the player he was for the Rams. A lot of this off-season there was talk on our site and in the Dolphins hierarchy to move him to linebacker, I am not sure that’s even viable anymore. I have seen so many big plays this season come at the hands of McDonald. Whether it’s a blown coverage, lack of speed, bad angles or just whiffing on tackles. In my opinion he isn’t fast enough to be in the secondary and he doesn’t tackle well enough for me to even feel great about him at linebacker. Luckily, we hit a home run by drafting Minkah Fitzpatrick, who no doubt should be lined up next to Reshad Jones at safety next season.

 

Cordrea Tankersley

Man, this is so perplexing, and nobody has answers. Last season Tank ended up starting 11 games for us as rookie and he played admirably. So much to the point that we figured we had a solid starter alongside Xavien Howard to play on the boundary while Bobby McCain held down the nickel slot corner position. For whatever reason, Tank hasn’t sniffed the field much at all and has lost playing time to 2017 undrafted rookie Torry McTyer. This hurts the team when a player falls off like this. If Tank was playing like he did last season we would have more options at corner which also would kick Bobby McCain back inside to slot corner and possibly allow Minkah to replace McDonald at safety. Hopefully he can rebound towards the end of this season or start fresh next off-season.

 

The Ugly

Injuries

The injury bug must be warm blooded because it seems to love South Florida lately. By week 3 we were already down 2 starters on a revamped offensive line. Then we lost Will Hayes, our most versatile defensive lineman for the season. For the last 3 weeks of the season we have had Brock Osweiler at Quarterback since Ryan Tannehill hurt his shoulder and most recently, we lost Albert Wilson for the season with a hip injury.  At the halfway mark of the season we are down 5 starters for the season. Not to mention the handful of games missed by key players such as Kenny Stills, Bobby McCain, Cam Wake and Laremy Tunsil.

 

DeVante Parker

This got slotted into the “Ugly” section due to his most recent performance vs Houston. Not because I think he can consistently play like that but because it did prove that he does possess the ability to be a game changer at the wide receiver position. Factor in his size, which no other receivers have on this roster and you have a possible monster at the position. Problem is he’s been inactive over injuries many thought he could still suit up with so then begged the question was it Adam Gase?

Then came comments from his agent as Parker’s name was thrown into some trade rumors and now you have a recipe for an ugly situation. With the injuries mounting, it will be telling if the organization decides to bank on DvP’s recent performance and get a good draft pick (3rd or 4th round) or do they put him in the fire and have him prove himself? Time will tell.

 

Defense

The defense has new starters in many positions and it has shown. Lately, defensive coordinator, Matt Burke, has had his job being questioned as many guys continue to blow coverages and lineup incorrectly. All in all, the defense has not been good. Robert Quinn and am Wake are not applying the pressure we though they would. The interior defensive line, after losing Suh, has shown it is a weak point as well despite Vincent Taylor playing well and making Jordan Phillips expendable.

The linebackers cannot cover anyone it seems, Raekwon McMillan more than most. He has been somewhat of a letdown, I would dare say that rookie Jerome Baker has played just as well if not slightly better. Add in the secondary issues at boundary corner opposite of Howard and TJ McDonald’s constant mistakes and it has been, Ugly. There’s a lot of talent and potential, eventually Matt Burke needs to get it together or else his services will no longer be needed.

 

Andrew is a lifelong Dolphins’ fan that has a deep passion for sports. He has a Multimedia Journalism Degree from Florida Atlantic University and also has interned for ESPN Radio. For all his opinions and articles you can follow him on Twitter: @mitchpr0

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Miami Dolphins

Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme

Travis Wingfield

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For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.

Enter Patrick Graham.

It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.

Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.

Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.

And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.

For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.

We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.

The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.

This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.

In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).

The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.

Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.

The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.

Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.

The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.

The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.

Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.

The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.

Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.

These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.

The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting

Skyler Trunck

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It is that time of year again.  Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.

It’s mock draft season!  Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…

Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:

 

Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy.  Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.

Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”.  Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.

 

CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams.  It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.

For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection.  In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.

 

The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma

Now it’s getting exciting!  There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray.  As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.

Some question if he will be available at #13.  As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched.  Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size.  Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier.  Murray will be no exception.

2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring.  If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.

 

Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship.  Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.

Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs.  He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback.  Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.

 

Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.  

What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available.  Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.

Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald).  Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.

 

SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke

It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback.  Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach.  Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill?  There are other options out there at a cheaper price.

When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.

All that said, it’s the NFL draft.  Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out.  Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential?  I just don’t see it with Jones.

 


 

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13.  Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.

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Miami Dolphins

Why Football Won’t Be Funny in 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Gase’s eyes may be the last thing we get to laugh at for a long time regarding the New York Jets/Miami Dolphins rivalry.

Monday afternoon was a pleasant day for Dolphins fans. Adam Gase was announced as the head coach of their bitter rivals, and the nation paid no attention to what Gase, owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan had to say about the franchise-altering move.

Everyone was either laughing too hard to listen, too curious to pay attention, or getting dizzy trying to follow Adam Gase’s eyes.

If there was any doubt that the Miami Dolphins made the wrong decision in releasing Adam Gase as their head coach, it was all but alleviated Monday afternoon.

Though I caution you, that feeling may only be temporary, as the permanent outlook for this rivalry is bleak for one, and promising for another.

Off-Broadway Production

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way and recognize that Adam Gase should no longer be heralded as an offensive guru or a quarterback whisperer. That lust and allure faded over the past two seasons with the Dolphins, even if some aspects (hurricanes, no bye week in 2017, QB injuries, offensive line woes) were out of his control.

That being said, Adam Gase is still very good at his job (as an offensive coordinator…). He was the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos when Tim Tebow transformed into an actual NFL player and took the Broncos into the Divisional Round of the 2011 playoffs. He was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning’s 4th-best season in his career, and the offensive coordinator for Manning’s best and 3rd-best seasons of his career.

Gase didn’t really maximize Jay Cutler like most people claim; his 2015 season as the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears produced a top-5 season for Cutler, but that’s not saying too much. His body of work with Ryan Tannehill will be scrutinized, but he elevated Tannehill to a playoff-caliber quarterback in 2016 prior to his knee injury. Like Tannehill’s entire career, it’s hard to get a grasp on what 2018 meant. Statistically, Tannehill didn’t have a “bad” season, but we all witnessed how poor it really was.

Still, Gase has shown that he can get more out of quarterbacks than others have prior – even hall of famers. So to think that his knowledge and experience won’t rub off and benefit sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold is wrongfully optimistic.

Sam Darnold didn’t flash a pretty stat line in 2018, and Dolphins fans will remember his two games against Miami as less-than-flattering; so it’s easy to think that Gase won’t succeed with a quarterback trending towards being a bust.

But we’re all smart enough to avoid placing that “bust” tag on Darnold (or any player) this early, especially a 21-year old quarterback who was originally projected to be the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Baker Mayfield took the rookie-class by storm, dampening Darnold’s rookie season into appearing less-productive than the standard learning curve.

Do we quickly forget how most current top-echelon quarterbacks faired their first season?

  • Sam Darnold: 57.7% completion, 2865 yards, 17 TDs / 15 INTs
  • Cam Newton: 60%, 4051, 21/17
  • Carson Wentz: 62.4%, 3782, 16/14
  • Jared Goff: 54.6%, 1089, 5/7
  • Matt Ryan: 61.1%, 3440, 16/11
  • Deshaun Watson: 61.8%, 1699, 19/8
  • Matthew Stafford: 53.3%, 2267, 13/20

Darnold’s numbers appear on the lower end of these quarterbacks, but they aren’t that far off. He can easily trend into another Tannehill (58.3%, 3294, 12/13 his rookie season), but Darnold comes with much more pedigree and a higher ceiling than Tannehill ever did.

Gase finally has a young quarterback that he can actually teach and groom. Assuming Darnold is healthy and Gase isn’t thrust back into quarterback oblivion, the main concern should revolve around the rest of the offense – the most important position is already locked down.

That’s where the Jets need a lot of work…but don’t the Dolphins as well?

The New York Jets already have Robby Anderson, a younger (and more-troubled) version of Kenny Stills, and Quincy Enunwa (a more-reliable, yet, less-athletic version of DeVante Parker), under contract for 2019 (Anderson is a RFA that I expect them to re-sign). Their up-and-coming running back, Elijah McGuire, seems more productive and threatening than Kalen Ballage (especially in Gase’s tricky offense). Their young tight end, Chris Herndon, is MUCH better than Mike Gesicki, and their offensive line is just as putrid, so that position is mute.

Actually, the Dolphins do have Laremy Tunsil, which is a huge upgrade over anything the Jets have on the offensive line, but the Jets have one major advantage over Miami heading into the future, one that will allow them to address their team much better than the Dolphins will be able to, and that’s assets.

The New York Jets Are Asset Guys

We can laugh at the Jets ineptitude all we’d like, but we might want to put a mirror in front of ourselves before we crack up too hard.

Prior to reworking any contracts or extending any players, the New York Jets have $98m in salary cap space to play with in 2019. They have so much available cap space that they are most likely going to rollover more money than the Dolphins currently have in 2019 cap space, and that’s $14.34m.

While the Dolphins have a tall task ahead of them maneuvering contracts and making decisions on current players on their roster, the Jets can sit back and play the market however they’d like.

Want to splurge for Antonio Brown, who’s about to be released from the Pittsburgh Steelers? No problem! Want to pair him with Le’Veon Bell so you can try and create a pro-bowl offense? Go for it! These might resemble Mike Tannenbaum moves, and aren’t really wise for the Jets organization, but they have the luxury of both making the move and making the mistake.

If they feel they can contain the locker room culture (a big ‘if’), they can certainly contain the contracts.

The only issue the Jets have to deal with, that Miami has the advantage on, is the team’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2019. That’s the only remaining cost derived from the trade that netted the Jets the 3rd-overall pick in the 2018 draft. They traded their 6th, 37th, and 48th-overall picks in the 2018 draft, and their 2nd-round pick in the 2019 draft to get their franchise quarterback.

Miami has their 2019 2nd-round pick, but it doesn’t look like they have a franchise quarterback. Which means they’re going to need to spend A LOT more of their assets going forward.

Pair the cost of obtaining a franchise quarterback with the cost of establishing the rest of the roster and you begin to realize that Miami doesn’t have enough money or draft picks to do this all in one season. And even if they do try and rebuild towards 2020, you better hope they get each step of the way right, because you’ll otherwise find yourself spinning your wheels for another 18 years while the Jets and Adam Gase walk a smooth line they grooved for themselves.

Not so funny anymore, huh?

We can nitpick who has the better defensive players, which offensive players have a higher ceiling, and which staff has a better trajectory, but it’s hard to deny that the New York Jets are currently in a better position than the Miami Dolphins are.

I hope you enjoyed that Monday news conference, because the Jets are probably going to get the last laugh this 2019 season.

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