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Blown Out by Baltimore Again – Miami Dolphins Week 1 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Tanking might not be a strong enough word after the Dolphins endured its worst home defeat in franchise history

Odds makers had Miami as a touchdown underdog in the 2019 season opener. Playing at home is worth three points alone, and the Ravens — winners of eight of the last nine head-to-head matchups with Miami — have always given this Dolphins team fits.

None of those losses, even with most of them coming in embarrassing fashion, were as convincing as the beating Brian Flores and his team took in the Rookie Head Coach’s debut.

 

Stat Dolphins Ravens
Total Yards 200 643
Rushing 21 265
Passing 179 378
Penalties 9 for 64 yards 4 for 40 yards
3rd/4thDown 3/10 (30%) 9/13 (69.2%)
Sacks For 1 3
TOP 19:53 40:07

 

We knew the offensive line play was going to be bad — to the tune of three sacks, 12 additional quarterback pressure, and six tackles for loss.

We knew the quarterback play would be spotty — surprisingly decent after a truly terrible interception on Miami first drive.

It was the issues on defense, particularly in the back-seven, that were alarming. The alarms were allegedly going off in the Dolphins post-game locker room as well, as Pro Football Talk reported that multiple Miami veterans phoned their agents in hopes of getting out of town via a trade.

Many questions arise from this upsetting report, none bigger than those directed at the individuals attached to the rumor. And if these players were part of the 49-point loss, the biggest home defeat in franchise history, do we actually want those guys as part of the future? Especially if they can bring back draft compensation?

Speculation would point to veterans like Reshad Jones, Daniel Kilgore, Albert Wilson or Bobby McCain, but might Minkah Fitzpatrick be involved in that conversation? We’ll get to his performance in the position-by-position portion of this column, but complaints of misusage can be traced back to training camp.

Fitzpatrick made no qualms about his frustration on the field. Going from playing for college football’s national title every year, to the perpetually mediocre (and now basement dwellers) Dolphins is a difficult pill to swallow. Multiple occasions saw Fitzpatrick throwing his head back is disbelief of the defensive effort.

Communication, tackling, defeating blocks; all the core principles of Brian Flores program came up patently empty in the first rendition of the post-Adam Gase era.

The plan on either side of the ball was uninspiring. Working with a roster that was turned over by 20% just in the last week alone, and 60% from last season, Flores and company had to feel as if they were playing against a stacked deck — and it showed.

With busted coverages down the middle of the field, minimal safety-help any time the Ravens attacked vertically, zero pass rush to speak of, and run-fits that were reminiscent of old coaching staffs, this tape belongs securely in the fireplace.

Let’s go unit-by-unit

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick made about as much hay as one could’ve expected from the 36-year-old veteran. Completing less than 50% of his balls, winding up on his back nearly every play, Fitzpatrick managed to evade some of the consistently compromised pockets, and stretched the field a few times.

His interception was vintage Fitz, as he mis-identified a two-deep, post-snap rotation, and somehow failed to account for Earl Thomas, who made Fitzpatrick pay. He did, however, throw a touchdown pass, making him the first quarterback to ever do so for eight different teams.

Josh Rosen threw three passes. One hit the turf and two were caught, one by either team. His interception was a bad ball that turned into a turnover because the receiver (Jakeem Grant) didn’t come back to the football).

Running Back

So much for using Kenyan Drake early and often. Miami only rushed for 21 yards and never had a chance to get the run-game going because of the lopsided scoreboard, but it’s night and day which back offers more explosion.

Drake rushed for just 12 yards on four carries — not much, but substantially better than Kalen Ballage’s five carries for -1 yard — and caught two of his three targets for 15 yards. His most impressive work came in pass protection, however.

Wide Receiver

Devante Parker leaping to make full extension catches is a treat to watch. When Parker adds the vertical element to his game, he can be a more than viable option in 11-personnel sets. He caught less than 50% of his targets (3 of 7) but he posted 75 yards to double up the team’s second leading receiver.

Preston Williams owns the lone Dolphins touchdown on the year. It came in familiar fashion as Williams — as he did all camp long — worked the end-line in a goal-to-go situation for a gorgeous touchdown stab. The impressive part was the release, and consequent stacking of the defender.

It’s unfair to speculate which veterans might be interested in a departure, but Albert Wilson’s body language certainly didn’t send an endorsing message — but who can blame him?

Tight Ends

Durham Smythe opened the game as the starter, but he and Nick O’Leary were not targeted. Miami only rushed the ball 12 times, so the 12-personnel pairing was naturally uninvolved most of the game.

Mike Gesicki was the team’s second leading receiver. He caught only two of his six targets, but picked 31 yards (26 on one play). He continues to show his skill set as a flex, supped-up receiver type.

Offensive Line

It’s going to be an unbalanced evaluation for the skill players all year long, and we have the line to thank for it. We’ll get to the horrendous defense, but this unit was responsible for the measly 10 points and 12 first downs on 10 offensive possessions.

Jesse Davis signed an extension on Saturday, and moved to left tackle full-time starting with today’s game. We’ll have more on this in the podcast that coincides with this article, but Davis’ performance triggers some early buyer’s remorse. He doesn’t get off the football (kick-slide) smooth enough to deal with the speed rushers off that edge, letting up his fair share of pressures.

Daniel Kilgore has to be one of the trade requests — he has to be. We heard about a veteran of the line becoming very upset over the Tunsil trade, and the extra duty he has to pull to pick up the slack on this line is…. well it’s a lot.

Julie’n Davenport was a tire fire in Houston, and he brought the show to Miami today. Miami’s new right tackle frequently put his teammates in danger because of his shortcomings, but also a fuzzy understanding of his assignments (can you blame him? He’s been here for a week).

Danny Isidora wiped a booger on Pernell McPhee on one inside rush, but it only slowed McPhee’s move down by a fraction of a second.

Michael Deiter pitched in with his own pass protection issues.

Defensive Line

Two players in this group were issued playbooks last week, and deployed for significant workloads Sunday. John Jenkins and Avery Moss are unrecognizable to the fans (first time wearing their new jerseys today) but they both became quickly acquainted, and did so for all the wrong reasons.

Christian Wilkins was knocked back badly on one of Baltimore’s touchdown runs, but he responded and played one of the better games up front.

The same was true of Davon Godchaux, who made his feelings about a potential locker room mutiny known after the game

Charles Harris’ preseason looked like fool’s gold in this game, he was back on the milk carton.

Jonathan Ledbetter is a fit and a find from this scouting staff. In addition to falling in-line with the expectation for playing the edge (as well as condensing inside), Ledbetter made a number of hustle plays in the game.

Linebackers

What a swift departure this was from the preseason and camp this unit had. Sam Eguavoen was exposed big time in this game. He was regularly tossed aside in his attempts to set the edge or fill inside, and was a beat late in coverage on a few occasions.

The same was true for Raekwon McMillan. He made one nifty run-stuff early in the game, but got caught in coverage, had a terrible run fit on a Ravens touchdown run, and eventually left with an injury.

Jerome Baker’s hot camp and preseason didn’t translate. A few folks are concerned about his fit in this defense because of his size, and those limitations showed up in this game — he still needs to get stronger.

Defensive Backs

Xavien Howard was targeted one time that I remember, and he damn near picked it off. He’s still elite.

The rest of Miami’s corners had a dreadful game. Eric Rowe got lost in coverage multiple times and, on more than one occasion, didn’t appear all that interested in helping his team.

Minkah Fitzpatrick was slow roasted. He was put in some precarious positions, including in man-coverage against Hollywood Brown with a 12-yard cushion and no safety help. This sounds normal, but Minkah had to close down in a quasi-robber role on the over route, and once Brown caught Fitzpatrick leaning, it was game over.

Jomal Wiltz was burnt for at least two touchdown that will go against him. He was overmatched, especially on a vertical route from Willie Snead, who is not known for his blazing speed.

Reshad Jones had a pretty typical Reshad Jones game. He made a weak-side C-gap run-stuff down around the goal line, and made three additional tackles.

The Bobby McCain free safety experiment might already be over. The insult came via multiple coverage busts and vacated zones in the middle of the field; the injury came when McCain aggravated the shoulder that listed him on the injury report this week.

Recap

This is probably going to be the painstaking norm this season. The Dolphins lopped off most of the talent it had back in the winter, and continued that purge over the last couple of weeks, with no real regard for winning football games this season.

Repairing years of poor management — which put the balance sheets out of whack, without much talent to account for the expenses — is an arduous process. A process that we are smack-dab in the middle of.

The light at the end of the tunnel comes by-way of the 2020 draft class — which is 227 days away, for those scoring at home.

This year’s class is impressive, and it’s spearheaded by a generational talent. Miami’s moves — namely the left tackle extension for Davis (more in the podcast) — suggest that Tua is the target. In fact, I can confirm that Tua Tagovailoa is the target.

In case you aren’t convinced about what an electrifying, upstart quarterback can do for a bad football team, take a look at Kyler Murray in Arizona. After a dreadful first half of his own, Kyler went 17 of 21 in the fourth quarter, and engineered an 18-point comeback in the process (the game would end in a tie after the Cardinals defense gave the overtime field back to the Lions).

We will track the college quarterbacks each week here on Locked On Dolphins.

For now, we are Andy Dufresne in the middle of that sewage-filled pipe. On the other side, freedom.

We hope.

@WingfieldNFL

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    PapaPickett

    September 8, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    The front seven was so bad the Secondary was using their Safeties man to man in off coverages with no help over the top. It was an all around team failure but no one deserves a game ball quite like Chris Grier. I hope someone else is choosing for the draft picks he traded for.

  2. Avatar

    Andy Breakstone

    September 9, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    GREAT ARTICLE MAN YOUR GOOD OMAR JEALOUS .BOBBY MCCAIN SUKS WHEREVER U PUT HIM.PUT MINKAH AND REHAD AT SAFETY.ERIC ROWE LOST PATS SB HES TERRIBLE.MCTYER MAYBE AT OTHER CB.TRAVIS THIS TEAM HAS NO ABOVE AVG PLAYERS EXCEPT X MAN AND RESHAD.55 HASNT DONE SHT YET.THIS IS GONNA TAKE AT LEAST 3 YEARS TO PUT A GOOD TEAM TOGETHER UNLESS TUA IS BRADY WHICH HE ISNT.WOW WERE THE MARLINS OF FOOTBALL.IM 63 SO I SAW THE GOOD SHULA YEARS.THIS SHT HARD TO BELIEVE.ROSS IS THE CULPRIT HIRING SHT COACHES.AND GMS.HE NEEDS TO SELL TEAM HES CLUELESS

  3. Avatar

    MM

    September 10, 2019 at 6:27 am

    In the context of the rebuild: 1) why the extension for Grant? He can’t play WR and while a HR threat is also inconsistent catching kicks; 2) why start guys like Davenport who are not NFL caliber and who are never going to be? 3) where were the D scheme changes? Looked like a very similar approach start to finish with the same guys making the same mistakes

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

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Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.

The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.

Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.

The Better Player Plays

With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.

In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?

We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.

Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.

Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.

Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?

I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.

Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.

Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.

Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.

There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…

Playoff Bound

The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.

Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.

A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.

In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.

And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.

Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:

  • Learn his way around the NFL
  • Understand the playbook better
  • Observe the game from the sideline
  • Gain chemistry with his receivers

Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.

While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.

The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.

Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.

Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.

The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After a breakout 2019 campaign, it looks like Mike Gesicki will have some competition.

According to Pro Football Talk, the Miami Dolphins have traded a 2021 6th-round pick to the Chicago Bears for tight end Adam Shaheen.

A former 2nd-round pick (2017) out of Ashland University (Division II), Shaheen excelled during the combine, which led to an increase in his draft stock. The Bears jumped at the opportunity of molding a raw prospect, and selected Shaheen with the 45th pick in the draft. He was the 5th tight end taken in the draft that year, well above where he was originally projected when he declared for the NFL.

Though the Bears were optimistic, it seems Shaheen hasn’t lived up to his draft status. After three seasons, Shaheen has 26 receptions for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns. His playtime has diminished from 239 offensive snaps in 2017, to 160 in 2018 and 174 in 2019; with injuries playing a part the past two seasons. For comparisons sake, Durham Smythe had 482 offensive snaps last season alone (Shaheen has 573 for his career).

Shaheen became expendable after the Bears drafted Cole Kmet in the 2nd-round of the 2020 draft and signed Jimmy Graham to a 2-year contract earlier this offseason. With 8 tight ends on the Chicago Bears roster, you know something had to give. And from the perspective of a Bears’ fan, receiving any compensation for a likely roster cut is rewarding enough.

Trading a 6th-round pick means Shaheen is a favorite to win one of the backup tight end spots, should the Dolphins keep 3 on their roster.

It’s unlikely that Shaheen is a possible replacement for Smythe, as Shaheen is meant to be a receiving threat more than an in-line blocker, but there is so much untapped potential with Shaheen that it’s hard to guess what the Dolphins will receive from him.

We assume Mike Gesicki will continue to grow, but behind him, the cupboard is pretty barren. Shaheen adds much-needed depth to a tight end room that currently includes Smythe, Michael Roberts, Chris Myarick and undrafted rookie Bryce Sterk.

 

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