From the depths of hell, we present you with the Miami Dolphins‘ 2019 roster situation.
There was lots of chatter on social media yesterday regarding the overall depth of this team. Plenty of fans wanted to defend the various position groups this team developed, while others pointed out the overall lack-of-talent this team possesses.
While I do believe this team is better than most people give them credit for, they are still just one injury away from being on life support.
We all know injuries happen to every team every single year – it’s a matter of containing them and praying those injuries don’t derail your season.
Shallow History of our Depth
Let’s take 2018 for example:
The moment Vincent Taylor went down, the defensive line relied on other team’s trash to fill the position. Ziggy Hood and Sylvester Williams were invisible on the field; backed up by their combined statistical output of 14 tackles, 0 sacks, 0 tackles for a loss, 0 quarterback hits and 0 turnovers (while active for a combined 16 games).
Once the coaching staff realized that Tony Lippett would be unable to return to form from his torn achilles, we all held out hope that Cordrea Tankersley would evolve as a player. And when he didn’t, we witnessed an avalanche of moves that mightily hurt this defense.
Minkah Fitzpatrick played 3 different positions rather than settling into one. Bobby McCain was taken out of his slot corner position (where he excels), and gave us one of the worst seasons of his career.
We all felt we had a deep wide receiver room last season, and by the end of the year we were relying on Brice Butler and Leonte Carroo.
How did last year’s offensive line hold up when Daniel Kilgore and Josh Sitton went down with season-ending injuries? It didn’t.
Here is the play where Dolphins center Daniel Kilgore tore the triceps muscle on his left arm. pic.twitter.com/ZFMRC58ftH
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) October 3, 2018
What about when Laremy Tunsil had to miss time and the season essentially crashed on us during that Cincinnati Bengals game?
When Ryan Tannehill went down, we relied on Brock Osweiler. And I don’t think I need to repeat what happened in 2017 when Adam Gase virtually admitted the team didn’t have a solution on the roster and attempted to salvage the season by wasting $10m on Jay Cutler.
On paper, everything looks nice and promising – especially when we’re still 3 months away from meaningful football. But the season will provide a different story, and unless the addition of Brian Flores gives us a magical elixir that can prevent substantial injuries from happening, this season will feature some similar detriments.
So just how well will the team hold up?
As many have pointed out, we don’t even know who the 2019 starters will be, so how exactly can we gauge our team’s depth?
That’s where the first problem lies. You can’t have depth if you don’t have starters. You can put bodies into positions and ask them to perform, but if they are consistently overmatched, you don’t have formidable players.
The deepest position the Miami Dolphins have is the same position this team has been looking to solve for the past 20 years.
The Dolphins actually have 2 “starting” quarterbacks on this team. If one of them goes down, we have another that can step in and perform as if an injury never happened.
Thing is, you’re going from a bottom-third performer (Ryan Fitzpatrick) to one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league last year (Josh Rosen); but at least you have 2 options that you can say are legitimate.
This isn’t downgrading Ryan Tannehill to Brock Osweiler or Matt Moore, so you can be assured that an injury to one of these players isn’t the most detrimental thing that could happen. But for now, we have no idea what kind of production we’re going to get.
Fitzpatrick has played on 7 different teams for a reason, and Rosen is either a complete unknown or we have to call a spade a spade and call out his 11/14 TD/INT ratio, his 55.2% completion percentage and 66.7 quarterback rating. And if your excuse revolves around the Arizona Cardinals offensive line, what exactly is he getting into with Miami?
(This article isn’t about Josh Rosen’s potential as a franchise quarterback, that’ll be debated plenty this offseason)
Most will say that Miami has depth at wide receiver as well, but that’s stretching it. We reminded you what happened last year, and this year’s team has the same cast of characters at the position. Except this year, two of those players are coming back from substantial injuries, so who knows how they’ll perform.
Does DeVante Parker step up in year 5 and with a new coaching staff? Does Chad O’Shea have a legitimate gameplan for an unconventional receiver (Albert Wilson)? Does Jakeem Grant produce more than 228 yards in a season (or more than the 583 receiving yards he’s accumulated his first three seasons combined)?
Preston Williams could be a phenomenal find, but we don’t know what he is yet. Players like Isaiah Ford and Francis Owusu flashed in prior training camps, and they weren’t even worthy of being poached by another team from our practice squad, let alone provide productive playing time when they were in the lineup.
— Stanford Football (@StanfordFball) August 11, 2017
You don’t sign Brice Butler if you think you have depth. You don’t run out Leonte Carroo if you think you have depth. Do the 2019 Miami Dolphins have depth at the position? I’m skeptical, at best.
What does the rest of the offense have? Hope. And hope doesn’t mean you have depth.
I don’t have to waste too much time explaining the offensive line. They only have 2 legitimate starters in Laremy Tunsil and Jesse Davis. You could argue Daniel Kilgore is another legitimate starter, but his presence was more of a negative than a positive last season. Outside of those 3? Hope.
You can say the Dolphins have a deep running back room after drafting Myles Gaskin and signing Mark Walton from the 2018 draft class. They can be excellent players or they can be duds – nobody knows.
Kenyan Drake is a #1 running back and can be considered underrated across the league, but he needs to prove he can be a 1,000-yard back in the NFL. Kalen Ballage can be a solid compliment to Drake, but outside of his 75 yard touchdown run last season, he averaged 3.3 yards-per-carry. Any running back off the scrap heap can muster that.
This isn’t to disparage the potential these players have; but for now, nothing is proven. All we can do is….hope.
The tight end group is basically in shambles. Mike Gesicki had an underwhelming rookie season, but if he evolves he can still become a legitimate threat in this league. Durham Smythe served his purpose as a blocking tight end last season, but doesn’t offer much else in the receiving game. Nick O’Leary and his 86 receiving yards in 2018 don’t raise any kind of concern for opposing defenders or defensive coordinators. And Dwayne Allen is the team’s most-complete player…at 29 years old and after accumulating 27 receiving yards last season.
Mike Gesicki, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/AKt21khQWW
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 18, 2018
Having a bunch of possibilities at a position is nice – you want to have options. But options aren’t answers, right now they’re simply….hopeful.
Now that we’ve obliterated any potential the offense has, let’s take a look at the Dolphins’ defense. This is where you can form a better argument for where your depth lies.
You can start with the team’s defensive line and realize you have zero starting defensive ends, but a plethora of defensive tackles. A ying-yang of a conundrum that isn’t all that harmonious.
Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Christian Wilkins and Akeem Spence provide us with a great group of defensive tackles. There is both depth and starting talent here. Unless Wilkins turns into the next Charles Harris (entirely possible), this unit could survive a terrible injury and still not miss a beat. Not sure if they would still excel during a 16-game stretch if someone went down and they had to continuously rotate to keep them fresh, but for now it seems like this team is just fine at defensive tackle.
Like we just mentioned, there are basically 0 defensive ends on the roster, and you can’t have depth if you don’t have starters.
Linebacker seems like it should be better in 2019 than it did in 2018. Jerome Baker was a great 3rd-round pick, and his evolution as both a linebacker and a pass-rusher will provide this defense with a scary threat for opposing offenses.
#Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker earned a season-high 83.7 overall grade in Week 9, racking up 6 tackles (3 stops) while allowing just 15 yards in coverage and returning his first career INT for a TD
— Ryan Smith (@PFF_RyanSmith) November 8, 2018
Raekwon McMillan should be more comfortable calling plays and leading the defense. Since this is his “year 2”, he should be able to perform while thinking less and reacting more. He’s also in the process of learning a new scheme, so it’s entirely possible we witness another “growing year” for McMillan. Kiko Alonso isn’t the greatest starter, but he’s still a starting-caliber linebacker in this league and is capable of making plays.
This means we have 3 starting linebackers, but we’re discussing depth, not starters. Who’s going to step up if any of them go down?
Chase Allen and Mike Hull are formidable backups, but they’re special team’s specialists that otherwise get picked on when they’re in the starting lineup. Quentin Poling was a 7th-round pick in 2018 who remained on the practice squad all year. Nate Orchard is entering his 5th season and is coming from the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. Jayrone Elliot is coming from the AAF. And 5th-round pick Andrew Van Ginkel is a complete unknown. Will he turn into someone like Davon Godchaux or Jay Ajayi (as former 5th-round picks), or will he be stashed on the practice squad by the time preseason is over?
Again, plenty of bodies at the position, but that doesn’t mean you have answers.
Cornerback seems like it’s settled, but that depends on a myriad of factors. Xavien Howard is a stud and Bobby McCain is a great slot corner, but what exactly are you doing with Minkah Fitzpatrick? If he’s going to predominantly play cornerback, you’ve now taken away your safety depth, and if he’s going to play safety, your cornerback group is somewhat barren at best.
We are hopeful Eric Rowe will turn his career around as a former 2nd-round pick, but it’s entirely possible he’s a worse solution than Byron Maxwell was.
Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis can evolve into starters or even worthwhile backups for this team, but that hasn’t been proven yet. Torry McTyer was a surprising training camp story last year, but when he was thrust into a starting role he was picked on pretty badly.
The Patriots did a nice job of exploiting mismatches in the Dolphins secondary with Xavien Howard out. Patterson's TD came against Walt Aikens, who'd played just 10 defensive snaps all season entering Sunday. Edelman beat rookie Cornell Armstrong (22 career def. snaps) for his TD
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) December 10, 2018
Lots of possibilities at this position group, and I can buy the argument that this group is “set”, but I’m pushing my luck here. We’re potential living on (false) hope, and that’s not enough to satisfy my confidence in this group’s depth.
Reshad Jones is overpaid and T.J. McDonald can be a force when placed in the right scheme/position, but he was not a reliable starter for us last year. An aging playmaker (who we all want traded) and an underwhelming strong safety doesn’t give me much confidence in our starting safeties, but I’ll temper my pessimism for a moment and say those two are “fine”.
Behind them? Maurice Smith? I have no idea what I’m getting there. Walt Aikens? He’s a special team’s captain for a reason. We saw what happened to him when he was playing defensive snaps last year. If you think opposing offenses scoring touchdowns means we have depth, then we’ve had the best linebacking group in the NFL over the past decade.
This team has plenty of players that can evolve into legitimate threats. This team has plenty of players that can become menacing starters. This team has plenty of players that can develop into draft steals or solid signings. But what this team doesn’t have are definitive answers.
It simply has hope.
Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis
Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers
The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.
Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.
Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.
That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.
Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.
|Year||Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)|
A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.
Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.
Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.
Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.
First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.
The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.
His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.
This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.
That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.
The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.
Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.
The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.
Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.
If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.
Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.
Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.
Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.
The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.
Now, for the tape.
Quick Taco Charlton film thread. Looking at the applicable traits that make him a potential fit in Miami’s scheme, where he needs to get better, and why coaching can make a difference.
First, the get-off paired with lateral agility will suit him well in a stunt-heavy defense. pic.twitter.com/Qgd0kzPzlp
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 19, 2019
If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.
We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.
Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton
Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.
By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2019
Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.
While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.
Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.
Dolphins have claimed former Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, source confirms. Charlton was Dallas 2017 first-round pick who the team waived Wednesday.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 19, 2019
The Dolphins are getting Taco Charlton for a bargain: 2 years, $2.5M.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) September 19, 2019
Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.
Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview
Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D
Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21
The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.
This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.
Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.
The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.
The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.
Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.
Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.
On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.
With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.
Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.
Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.
Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.
Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.
The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.
Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.
Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.
Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.
Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.
Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.
If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.
— Jeff Kolb (@JeffKolbFOX4) September 20, 2019
Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.
Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.
Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.
Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.
The Projected Outcome:
The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.
Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.
- Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis September 19, 2019
- Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton September 19, 2019
- Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview September 19, 2019
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