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Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores is Sabotaging His Career

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: USA Today

Brian Flores is sabotaging his career, and do you think he even cares?

Every win puts the Miami Dolphins further and further from that #1 draft pick…that #1 quarterback who is supposed to ensure the future success of this franchise.

Their path to prominence was just a few short months away. Simply lie down and let the rest of the league walk all over you. Heck, you can be as terrible as you want to be at your job, and you’ll still have the security to return next year. What an easy thing for Flores and company to do.

Except, he hasn’t done that one bit.

Chris Grier‘s plan all along was to starve the team of talent so it became nearly impossible for them to win, regardless of how hard they tried.

It was a plan that Grier and Flores crafted together, presented to Stephen Ross and set out to orchestrate in unison with his blessing.

And Flores is voluntarily sabotaging it all.

What do a few measly wins in November mean when your franchise is perpetually staring at 9-7 due to a second-rate quarterback?

At the moment, the Dolphins have the #4 pick in the 2020 NFL draft. That means, theoretically, Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow are both out of your grasp. Unless you can convince the Washington Redskins to accept a king’s ransom in exchange for the #2 overall pick – which I wouldn’t expect them to do – it looks like you’re settling for the bronze medal.

Which means you’re risking your future on an inconsistent Jake Fromm, or an unpolished Justin Herbert.

Think this is a maneuver a man hellbent on securing the easiest path to future success would make? I think you all know the answer to that rhetorical question.

Wins Won’t Be Gifted, They’ll Be Earned

If there’s one thing we’ve come to learn from Brian Flores, it’s that he doesn’t settle for the easier option.

It was only a month ago that national pundits everywhere were genuinely imploring Roger Goodell to investigate the Dolphins’ method for tanking.

The Dolphins validated the embarrassing narrative (that started when the team traded away Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills) when they were dominated by the Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys to open up the season.

At a glance, it’s easy to discount what Brian Flores was building. Miami had yet to score a single point in the second half of a game, players like Jakeem Grant and Charles Harris were regressing, and Minkah Fitzpatrick was on the verge of demanding a trade that would turn him into a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan favorite.

It appeared like no one respected the rookie head coach. Fans started to proclaim that he wasn’t the right leader for this team, even though we all knew what 2019 was about from the start.

We were under the impression that the locker room was crumbling, that camaraderie didn’t exist, and that Flores was simply here to keep the seat warm for the next head coach.

But, against our behest, Flores reminded us weekly that this team had a lot of fight in them and that they were yearning for a victory. None of them were laying down and adopting the “tanking” narrative.

We scoffed, but in reality, we were just afraid of what this meant for the future of this franchise.

Though these two meaningless victories won’t mean much years from now, it shows us the kind of team we should come to expect with Brian Flores leading the Miami Dolphins.

Making Wine Out of Water

The narrative around Miami is that the Dolphins watch talent walk out the door and perform well for other teams.

For all the blame we place on Grier for mis-scouting these players, there seem to be enough of them.

Which means there’s really only one conclusion we can deduce from all of this: the problem isn’t the players, but the coaches who are supposed to put them in the best position to perform each week.

Including those currently on Injured Reserve, the Dolphins returned just 21 players from their 2018 team (if you include players like Nick O’Leary, Kenyan Drake and Minkah Fitzpatrick, you can bump it up to 24).

With an entirely new coaching staff and a roster of players that, for the most part, hadn’t played with each other before, there were going to be a few hiccups.

Communication issues were present, players weren’t lined up in the right spots, and, let’s be honest, the coaching staff wasn’t entirely sure where to slot their players.

Raekwon McMillan was underutilized, Eric Rowe was still covering the boundary, and their (mis)handling of Minkah Fitzpatrick cost them the most-promising defensive player on the their roster.

Fans openly wondered why Mike Gesicki was still running routes, why Jomal Wiltz was still a starter, why Nik Needham had a spot on the roster, and why Evan Boehm was playing ahead of Chris Reed.

But Flores knew that his team was facing some of the most-adverse conditions any team in recent memory was up against. The Dolphins had:

  • 2 Pro Bowlers on their entire roster (Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard).
  • Less than half their roster featured players that had accumulated more than 2 full seasons in the NFL.
    • And of the players that had more than 2 full years of experience, we’re talking about guys like Matt Haack, Ken Crawley, Deon Lacey, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Clive Walford and Walt Aikens. Not necessarily the cream of the crop.
  • 2 of their 1st-round picks since 2010 still on the roster (DeVante Parker and Charles Harris).

In short, the Dolphins talent was barren. And yet here we are, staring two wins in the face – with a 3rd victory falling through Kenyan Drake’s grasp at the 2-yard line.

It’s not a record that earns you an easy ticket to the playoffs for the foreseeable future (thanks to the college prospect you were able to pluck at will). Instead, it’s a record that will mock Dolphins fans for years as they watch this year’s top two quarterback prospects perform outside of Miami.

Think Brian Flores cares? Not one bit. Why? Because he’s going to coach whoever his quarterback is into a winner.

A Real Coach Coaches

It seems we were the only ones befuddled by Flores’ coaching potential.

After a rocky start to the year – where Miami faced 3 of the top 6 scoring offenses in the NFL – the team started to settle down.

Jomal Wiltz went from being burned on basic running plays to providing tight coverage on a consistent basis.

Nik Needham went from being one of the fan’s scapegoats to earning a spot on this roster in 2020.

Mike Gesicki went from being cut to becoming a legitimate seam threat in this league.

Eric Rowe went from a forgettable boundary cornerback to a potential solution for opposing tightends (after all these years).

Vince Biegel is what Kiko Alonso should have been when we traded for him years ago.

Preston Williams is what DeVante Parker should have been when we drafted him in the 1st-round.

DeVante Parker is even looking like the DeVante Parker we expected to receive 4 seasons ago.

Christian Wilkins is providing instant production, and will be a starter beside Davon Godchaux (hopefully) for the next 5 years.

Exactly how many players on this roster have gotten worse from 2018 to now?

If there’s pessimism surrounding the Dolphins’ quarterback situation of the future, there should be plenty of optimism surrounding Miami’s player development going forward.

This is a team that wants to play hard for their head coach. Just look at all the problems the 2-7 New York Jets are having.

Le’Veon Bell is saying all the right things, but he’s unhappy there. Jamal Adams is one of the best young safeties in the league, and he’s constantly in a verbal brawl with the team’s general manager and head coach. Neither of these are even their biggest problem, as Kelechi Osemele is currently filing a grievance against the team for neglecting his injury.

That’s the look of a team that doesn’t have each other’s back. That’s a lost locker room.

The Miami Dolphins tell a completely different story. This is a team that wants to play hard for their head coach.

No one condones Bobby McCain (allegedly) spitting at a Buffalo Bills’ fan when he mocked the Dolphins’ roster, but you may subconsciously be glad he has that fire inside of him. He took that personally.

The best young safety in the league may have forced his way off your team, but there isn’t a single unhappy player on this roster right now. No one is butting heads with the front office or head coach. In fact, the Dolphins paid Kendrick Norton’s contract in full when he lost his arm during the offseason – forgoing any chance of living his dream as an NFL star.

This is a staff (and ownership group) that cares. They treat their players like genuine human beings. They’re honest with their intentions and upfront with the amount of work they’ll have to put in if they want to play for the Miami Dolphins.

Brian Flores isn’t just bringing grit to a franchise that hasn’t had a spark since Tony Sparano took over, he’s bringing respect and honor as well.

Want to know if Brian Flores has the attention of his players? Check this interesting stat out:

  • The Miami Dolphins were the least-penalized team in the NFL heading into their Week 10 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts. On the contrary, the Jets were the 30th-most penalized team heading into Week 10.

That says a lot about a team trying to learn an entirely new system (with all new vocabulary) while attempting to develop chemistry with players they’ve never played beside. One depicts a team that has bought in to what their coach is selling, another shows you how undisciplined they really are.

Maybe Minkah Fitzpatrick couldn’t handle the dedication Flores demanded? Maybe Vincent Taylor wasn’t willing to put in the time and felt his natural ability would be enough?

After back-to-back wins, it’s easy to dispel the notion that the coaches were at fault, but after what we’ve seen the past two weeks, it’s hard not to notice the growth and evolution happening before us.

Now, our emotions are torn.

The fan inside of us yearns for this team to win, but logic favors a defeated season. It’s a conundrum none of us have an answer for, because none of us know what the right answer is for another few years.

While we try and siphon our feelings, we can uniformally agree that the overall future of the Miami Dolphins is bright.

Which really means we have to pray that Jordan Love declares for the upcoming draft, just in case Flores decides to sabotage a few more games this season.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Michael Wise

    November 11, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Maybe if the media would think of something other than the dolphins tanking they might be able to figure out what the plan is. I’m sure that the dolphins have dozens of plans that they could follow. Here is one that I believe they are following. When the new begins in March of 2020 and free the agency window opens I believe that the dolphins will go after T. Bridgewater a free agent with New Orleans. He and Drew Brees are free agents in 2020. Brees will be signed before Bridgewater and I’m not certain he will sign another cheap contract. He wants to be a starter but I am sure that there will be other teams in the mix also. Last year when he said no to Miami and signed with the Saints he was having second thoughts before he actually signed. Anyway there may be another second level QB signed so they can tutor him and of course they will have Rosen and Fitz. That gives Miami an opportunity to draft for other needs and possibly trade back for additional picks for 2020 and 2021. Just one option of many that the dolphins have. So why don’t you start thinking a little before you write an article and use your imagination some. The tanking articles are really getting old especially when it is apparent the dolphins aren’t tanking and aren’t concerned with where they fall in the draft.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:53 am

      Michael, respectfully, I think you missed my overall point in this article. Your last sentence (starting with “when it is apparent”) is where I’m at.

  2. Avatar

    Ian

    November 11, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    Jordan love? Hell no! Jalen Hurts maybe but not Jordan love.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:51 am

      I think Miami has to take a flyer on a college prospect given the depth of this QB class, but if they don’t land one of those top 2 guys I think they spend on a veteran and wait for 2021. Your question then becomes, can Grier and Flores afford to wait.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:55 am

      Part of me feels like Tua is the only true QB in this class because he’s the only other QB prospect that doesn’t start with a J

  3. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    November 11, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    “That says a lot about a team trying to learn an entirely new system (with all new vocabulary) ”
    — My memory is that Adam Gase uses the Patriots offense (same vocabulary)(Erhardt-Perkins). So on the offensive side there is no new new system, no new vocabulary.

    On the defensive side, however, it is an entirely new system, with all new vocabulary.

    https://www.si.com/nfl/dolphins/gm-report/tutorial-on-chad-o-shea-s-new-dolphins-offensive-scheme-IzW7LY_3_EijeHpyc8HJiw/
    “the E&P leans on the run more than the league average. Adam Gase, a proponent of the scheme, brought this identity to Miami”

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:50 am

      Running a similar offense like that certainly helps, well pointed-out Rich. I would have to think the “codewords”, lingo and other attributes vary as New England would simply be able to understand Miami’s play call every time, but the similarity in offense does help. My only concern with that is: most of these players are new to this offense. The only starters you’re carrying over from 2018 are DeVante Parker, Daniel Kilgore, Jesse Davis, Kalen Ballage(?) and Mike Gesicki.

  4. Avatar

    John Edwards

    November 11, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    I agree with everything in this piece, especially that last part about if we miss out on the top picks drafting Jacob Eason.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:54 am

      How are you ranking the J’s: Eason, Love, Hurts?

  5. Avatar

    Ben

    November 11, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    This is a BS article. You don’t tank, you play with what you have and do the best you can, Always. Period. Otherwise, what example does it set? You will find players throughout the draft, or even undrafted, that many doubted. Tom Brady was 6th round right? F all that talk about tanking. Now yeah they traded a lot of people to build assets to get the type of players they want in the building. I’m down for that. He is still winning with what he has, the players are giving it their best, that’s what you want in your team. 0-16, 9-7, undefeated, I dont care as long as they are doing the best they can.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:44 am

      Ben, I agree that a coach (and his players) will always try and perform as best they can. This article talks about how Flores believes he can coach up a winner and how he isn’t settling for the top QB prospect.

  6. Avatar

    Black

    November 11, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Its articles like this that have us in the situation we are in today. Why the dolphins failed to make you their general manager.I think you have proven a point. You think the only how this coach can be successful is to get one of these two quarterbacks. I don’t think so. Let the coach do what he should do, coach the team. If you say they give him a team that was not suppose to win and he can coach these guys to now have two wins.What you think he will do with better players.
    This coach has a plan. We are looking at player we want them to draw, but do you think they have other plans? Do you think they are looking at a QB from another school? We are the ones who try to get every QB we see throw a ball in college. Sucess don’t necessarily comes from number one picks. Let’s wait and see what the plan is. Stop destroying the man coaching career before it start. Be positive for once. We have the right coach.

    • Avatar

      Gregandrea

      November 12, 2019 at 2:31 am

      We finally have a well coached team, those are all pro players, not the best but they are well coached now.if they didn’t learn how to win this year, it does not matter who they draft. This reminds me of the shula years with bill arnsparger as defensive coordinator. Well done flores

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:42 am

      Black, this article does praise Brian Flores.

  7. Avatar

    donv

    November 11, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I think you guys that replied missed the point,the first half of the piece was tongue in cheek…read the entire article! Jason does tend to write negative articles but this wasn’t. I hope he continues to be positive in the future and take the high road.

    Too much time in the twitter cesspool creates that negative thinking. It’s like the old sports talk radio callers over on twitter, the extreme haters are 90% of the posters, not worth the time IMO.If you hang out in the worst part of town your attitude will reflect that.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:57 am

      Years of being a fan have dragged me down that pessimistic road more than I’d like, but have to say that things are looking pretty positive right now. Appreciate it, donv.

  8. Avatar

    Papapickett

    November 12, 2019 at 6:53 am

    All we had to do was lose this year and turn the double corner blitzs loose next year. Now weve gone from tanking to just bad. There will be no reward for this.

  9. Avatar

    Pete Harrell

    November 12, 2019 at 8:42 am

    As I started reading this article I’m thinking man, this guy is bashing Flores but soon came to realize he is not bashing but pointing out how the players are being developed into a winning scheme by a HC with a winning attitude. Great article! As I said in an earlier post, One man does not a team make. Go Dolphins!! I am a stupid redneck @$$hole, lol, USA USA

  10. Avatar

    M. Beyant

    November 12, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    This article is so far out there anyone falling for this click bait. All he did was take your fears of your favorite football team and put it in a story not even thinking about what NFL teams ahead of the Dolphins that will actually need a QB come draft day. Definitely not the Jets or the Redskins, only the Bengals. So how are the Dolphins going to miss on their QB choice. This article made me SMH

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      November 13, 2019 at 5:40 am

      You’re assuming the Redskins & their new coaching staff don’t bring in one of these college prospects to be their franchise quarterback. Dwayne Haskins may be the guy, but he doesn’t look anything like that right now. This is also assuming the Redskins trade with Miami and not another team of their choice. The Dolphins certainly have an abundant amount of draft picks to play with, which obviously helps, but these past two wins void any kind of assumptions we can make about them getting their prospect-of-choice.

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Miami Dolphins

Are the Dolphins Done Reshaping the Roster for 2020?

Kevin Dern

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Unless you’ve been in the deepest of quarantines by now you’ve familiarized yourself with Miami’s offseason moves. The Dolphins brought in 12 free agents, 11 draft picks, traded for a running back, and signed 10 undrafted free agents. That’s 34 new names on the 90 man roster as we [hopefully] gear up for training camp in a month and a half.  Despite all the moves, Miami currently has four roster spots open. That’s 86 spots, not counting Durval Queiroz Neto, who is roster exempt, so the question has to be asked: Are they done for now?

We all know that changes will happen in camp. There could be a surprised UDFA or two that makes the roster. Someone could, and likely will, get injured to free up a spot. But, for right *NOW* are the Dolphins done?

I tend not to think so. So who might they be after? I don’t have any inside information, but from what media information we know, and some of my own speculation, I’ve got four names I suspect Miami might be onto. Two big fish and two guys that might be a little more under the radar.

Logan Ryan
The biggest name thus far Miami has been linked to is former Titans and Patriots Cornerback Logan Ryan. Sports Illustrated’s Alain Poupart had this story on May 14th.

https://www.si.com/nfl/dolphins/news/the-latest-on-the-status-of-logan-ryan-and-the-miami-dolphins-interest

Aside from the obvious connection to Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, Logan Ryan checks a lot of boxes Miami’s looked for this offseason.  Ryan’s a smart, team-first guy. He’s got position flexibility – able to play on the perimeter or in the slot and he already knows Miami’s defensive system.

But, corners in this league are expensive. It appears that Logan Ryan wants a one-year “prove it” deal. He’s betting on himself and cited Titans QB Ryan Tannehill as one of the reasons why. And per the Miami Herald, Logan Ryan’s agents have told the Dolphins he wants $10M or more for a year. That’s pricey, but Logan Ryan might be worth it; let’s take a look.

In this first clip, you can’t see him at the snap, but he’ll come in from the slot on the offense’s left side and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against the run and stops Nick Chubb for a short gain.

Later in the same game, he gets a sack on Baker Mayfield (Yes, this play was ruled a sack). Ryan will come in from the right side of the screen, again the offense’s left, on a slot blitz. He gets blocked but is able to redirect and chases Baker Mayfield down for the sack.

Finally, in this clip, he plays press man against T.Y. Hilton from the slot. That’s a valuable skill Miami will like. Hilton’s going to try and break outside, but Logan Ryan reads the play, and showcases a nice burst to secure the pick.

Ultimately, signing Logan Ryan gives Miami a proven slot player who can also play man coverage on the perimeter, allowing Miami to matchup their defense however they please. He’d also gives them a buffer from having to having to give Noah Igbinoghene a ton of snaps right off the bat, if they so desire. At worst, you could spoon feed Igbinoghene at first until he’s grasped his role, then you can increase his snaps. And with Ryan looking for a one year deal, that might be amenable to all parties.

Larry Warford
It’s not too often at this stage of the offseason there’s a 29 year old (turns 29 on June 18th), three-time Pro Bowl guard is available. But that’s just what Larry Warford is. Saints Coach Sean Payton once said that he likes his guards to “have mass and ass” in order to keep a clean, firm middle of the pocket for Drew Brees to operate. Well, if there’s one rookie quarterback this year that is built like and operates like Drew Brees, it’s Tua Tagovailoa. And, between you and me, I think Tua’s going to end up playing a lot sooner than people think.

What adding Larry Warford would likely do for Miami is solidify four of the five starting offensive line spots. If Miami signed him, I think it’s safe to assume Miami would have (from left to right) Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras, Larry Warford, and a battle between Jesse Davis and Robert Hunt. That’s a battle that Miami likely would want Hunt to win, as you can keep Jesse Davis as a swing tackle and guard. It would also allow them to bring Solomon Kindley along slowly. I didn’t watch it, but have heard that either Flores and/or Grier compared Kindley to Shaq Mason, who was a project that the Patriots brought along because he didn’t have much pass-blocking experience coming from Georgia Tech’s option offense. Well, with Kindley it gives you a chance to hone his game in total for a year or two while getting a veteran who walks in the door the best lineman the Dolphins would have.

Three quick clips of Larry Warford for you coming up.

First, we’ll see Warford and RT Ryan Ramczyk block up a T-E game. The DT is going to go outside and J.J. Watt comes inside to Warford. They switch it with relative ease and Warford is so big that J.J. Watt can’t generate a pop to knock Warford back and collapse the pocket.

Next, and this one is quick. It’s a jet sweep to Kamara going the other way, but look at Larry throwing bodies out the club! That kind of punch is something Miami haven’t had in a guard since Richie Incognito was in town.

Finally, we see a rep against DT D.J. Reader, who got paid this offseason. Reader’s listed at 347lbs, and someone that large shouldn’t be moved that easily.

Warford gives you size, smarts and strength inside. And, if Miami are going to possibly have a rookie RT in Robert Hunt, that kind of veteran presence can help bring him up to speed quickly. For my money, I’d sign Larry Warford over Logan Ryan since Miami’s Defensive Staff seemed to be able to bring in DBs off the street and get them up to speed enough to start in the same week. Kudos to Josh Boyer for that, but I think there’s more value in bringing in Warford now, and possibly for the next two or three years, than there is for Logan Ryan on a one year deal.

That said, both players would make the Dolphins better and I’m not opposed to Logan Ryan by any means.

Damon Harrison
Okay, so you’ve probably heard of “Snacks” Harrison before. But did you realize he was still out there as a free agent? Kudos if you did. Miami signing “Snacks” doesn’t seem like it’d be in the cards. Harrison is 31 years old, had a tough year last year with injuries in Detroit to the point he contemplated retirement, but hear me out.

Wind the clock back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense. Same defense Miami’s running now. The Patriots had over 1,000 total snaps on defense that year. Danny Shelton played just 31% of them, with 324 total snaps. NT in this defense is a part-time position.

That year the Patriots gave out the following snaps to interior defensive linemen:

Malcom Brown – 456 (43.7%)
Lawrence Guy – 519 (49.8%)
Adam Butler – 379 (36.3%)
Danny Shelton – 324 (31.1%)

With Miami’s drafting of Raekwon Davis, you sort of assume he and Godchaux are going to take on the roles of Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton. Christian Wilkins takes on the role of Lawrence Guy, and perhaps Raekwon Davis takes some of those snaps as well to keep him fresh. As of now, I’d expect Zach Sieler to take on Adam Butler’s workload, which was a rotational DT and someone who can be used on passing downs; Sieler has more skill there than Godchaux or Davis in my opinion.

But what if Miami were able to bring in “Snacks” Harrison to take on that NT role? It’d allow you to give Davis more focused snaps and let him use some of his upfield ability to help spell Godchaux and take on that Adam Butler role. It might mean the end for Zach Sieler in Miami, who is on an Exclusive Rights Free Agent Tender for this year. No harm if you move on.

So what would snacks bring to the table? First, like Logan Ryan, he knows the system to some degree having played under Matt Patricia in Detroit. There may be some differences here an there, but he can pick that up, and it’s a specialized role. Two, he’s a proven run-stopper. Even last year with the Lions with all his injuries he was still effective. Let’s take a look.

Here’s a back-to-back play sequence against the Eagles in Week 3.

First, Harrison’s actually lined up at 3-technique against Brandon Brooks, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. “Snacks” will never confuse for Aaron Donald and he doesn’t muster much of a rush, but he stays with the play and gets his hand up to deflect Carson Wentz’s pass.

The very next play is what he does best. Lined up as a true NT, he ushers Jason Kelce away with one arm, plays down the line horizontally and stops Miles Sanders for no gain. That’s what you like to see out of someone who is 6’3” and 350lbs.

Against the Packers you’ll see him as a 3-technique again and he defeats a double-team by Billy Turner and Bryan Bulaga and makes a run stop on Aaron Jones.

The final clip for “Snacks” comes when he gets a sack of Aaron Rodgers later in that same game. He’s going to work off a double-team by Billy Turner and Corey Linsley, gets around it, and though he’s out of his pass rush lane he keeps working and dumps Rodgers for a sack.

The knocks against “Snacks” are that he’s older than every player on the Dolphins roster save for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He battled through injuries, contemplated retirement and told ESPN that he was “hell-bent” on getting out of Detroit. Did he not like the system? The coaches? How does that parlay into Miami if he signs here considering Flores and Patricia’s backgrounds intertwine in Foxboro? While I think this signing might be more unlikely than both Logan Ryan and Larry Warford, it wouldn’t shock me given Miami’s defensive scheme and the players that Brian Flores has traditionally seen in that role.

Mike Weber
Going a little off the beaten path here. The Chiefs waived Mike Weber, who was a seventh round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. Weber rushed for 1,000+ yards as a redshirt freshman at Ohio State, replacing Ezekiel Elliott. An injury in summer workouts the next year opened the door and J.K. Dobbins passed him on the depth chart, but Weber still rushed for 626 yards and 10 TDs that year. He tallied nearly 1,100 yards and nine more TDs as Dobbins backup in 2018, and declared for the Draft.

Going to Dallas, Weber wasn’t going to get much of a shot behind Ezekiel Elliott, especially after Elliott’s contract extension. He also was beaten out by Tony Pollard in 2019 for the backup job. Weber spent time with the Chiefs on their practice squad during their Super Bowl Run.

Weber has yet to collect a carry in the NFL during the Regular Season, so I don’t have clips for you here. My rationale for Miami possibly being interested in Weber is that Miami had a strong interest in J.K. Dobbins during the Draft this year. Weber played in that same offense at Ohio State and put up big numbers as well. In my opinion, he was more physical as a runner, but lacked the explosiveness. He goes 5’10” 210lbs, so he’s bridging the gap in size between Jordan Howard and Matt Breida.

Kalen Ballage hasn’t proven very effective doing much of anything. Patrick Laird is a nice story, but is probably best served by playing on special teams. We didn’t see much of Myles Gaskin in 2019, save for the Bengals game in Week 16, so he’s still a bit of an unknown. With four open roster spots, what’s the harm in bringing in Weber for a look?

We’ll see what Miami does, and they could very well opt to do nothing. But Logan Ryan, Larry Warford, Damon Harrison, are three guys I think they ought to consider. Each of the three, in my opinion, makes the position group on the Dolphins better they moment they walk in the door. Mike Weber would be more of a reclamation project, but I like his odds of competing against Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, and Myles Gaskin for a potential roster spot.

Stay safe and FinsUp!

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Setting the Edge: Miami’s New Additions Up Front

Kevin Dern

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It’s no secret that Miami’s defense was bad last year. The Dolphins ranked 32nd in the league in points allowed, mostly due to giving up 102 points in the first two games alone. Their run defense, which was an eyesore under Vance Joseph and Matt Burke during the Adam Gase tenure remained problematic in Brian Flores’s first year. Miami gave up 135.4 yards per game, 27th in the league, and 4.2 yards per carry, 22nd in the league. Not good.

Miami’s pass defense wasn’t sterling by any means. Injuries to Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain hurt. Trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t help. But I think we all can appreciate that Miami’s passing defense progressed throughout the year despite having to field a secondary that consisted of: Eric Rowe playing two positions, Nik Needham, Ryan Lewis, Ken Webster, Tae Hayes, Nate Brooks, Adrian Colbert, Walt Aikens, and Montre Hartage at various points.

The Dolphins will have a hopefully healthy Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain back. They signed the premier free agent corner in Byron Jones, drafted Noah Igbinoghene in the first round and drafted Brandon Jones in the third. They also signed safeties Clayton Fejedelem and Kavon Frazier, who have some starting experience in the past with Cincinnati and Dallas respectively. Things are pointing up more solidly in the back end of the defense.

But what about the additions to the front?

The interior players from last season remain largely intact with Davon Godchaux, Christian Wilkins, Jerome Baker, and Raekwon McMillan all returning. Zach Sieler only played in three games but looks promising and his Week 16 performance against the Bengals was arguably the best game for a Miami defensive lineman since Cameron Wake was still on the roster. Kyle Van Noy will likely play a good chunk of his snaps off the ball, as he did under Brian Flores in 2018. Elandon Roberts will at the very least be good depth up the middle.

And the edges of the defense?

First, I think it’s important to distinguish that Miami uses both defensive ends and outside linebackers as edge defenders in different formations. So, to label them all as EDGE players, as seems to be common practice these days, is a bit misleading as it relates to the Dolphins defense. My purpose for this article is to breakdown how the Dolphins got better on the edges this offseason and what we can expect from them in 2020.  Here’s whose on the roster right now:

Defensive Ends
Shaq Lawson
Avery Moss
Emmanuel Ogbah
Jason Strowbridge
Curtis Weaver

*Emmanuel Ogbah, Jason Strowbridge and Shaq Lawson all can play tighter techniques to the ball when called upon (ex: 3, 4i, 4 and in some cases 0).

Outside Linebackers
Vince Biegel
Trent Harris
Andrew Van Ginkel
Kyle Van Noy

*Kyle Van Noy will very likely see snaps off-the-ball as a traditional ILB in addition to edge reps as an OLB. Biegel and Van Ginkel will also get snaps as stand-up DEs (ex: standup 5 or 6 tech in a 3-3-5 Bear front)

If you’ve read my articles on LockedOn before, you’ll know that I believe we’ll see Brian Flores defense really take shape this year. When Flores ran the Patriots defense in 2018, his most used formations were the 4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps), 3-2-6 (132 snaps), and 4-3 (97 snaps). Last year’s use of the 3-4 I think was more built out of necessity. Miami’s edge players were bad at setting the edge, and with their ever-changing personnel I think Patrick Graham used more 3-4 looks because it was easier to coordinate. I think this year, with the improved personnel, we’ll see more of what Brian Flores was running in New England in 2018.

One note to consider is that prior to the bye week, we saw more examples of the 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 formations, often with the same personnel. Below are several screenshots from Miami’s games in Weeks 1-3.

Standard 4-2-5
DL:  Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins Harris
LB:  Baker, Eguavoen

3-3-5 formation with 4-2-5 personnel
D-line: Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins, Charlton (OLB)
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

3-2-6 formation with three DEs (Ruby)
D-line: Biegel, C. Harris, Moss
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

4-3 Over
D-line: Moss, Wilkins, Godchaux, C. Harris
LBs: Eguavoen, McMillan, Baker

* Note Miami will play under and even looks out of 4-3 personnel.

Let’s get one thing straight. Miami’s defense is very multiple. They will play these formations with non-traditional personnel. For example, if we go back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense, watch their Sunday Night Game against the Packers. New England opens that game with 4-2-5 personnel but using three DEs in the grouping. They used Trey Flowers as a 3-technique on 1st and 2nd downs that drive. Miami will do similar things, for instance, they had Taco Charlton line up as an OLB in their 3-3-5 look seen above.

My gut feeling is that this year, Miami’s defense will more closely resemble the 2018 Patriots in terms of what they deploy, both in formations and in personnel packages, than it will resemble anything Miami ran last year post-bye week.

For a more in-depth look at that, I’ll reference you to this piece I wrote in February of 2019 shortly after Brian Flores was hired. Inside the Film Room.

The remainder of this piece will cover the following additions Miami made this offseason and how they will fit: Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, Jason Strowbridge, and Curtis Weaver.

As a whole, this group should give Miami much improve ability up front on the edges of the defense. Primarily, Ogbah, Lawson, Van Noy and Strowbridge should provide an immediate shot in the arm for the run defense. The first three and Curtis Weaver should all prove to be better pass-rushers than anyone Miami deployed on the edge last year, be it a DE or OLB.

Emmanuel Ogbah
First things first about Ogbah. He’s big. And he’s long. At 6’4” 275lbs he’s got 35.5” arms and 10” hands. He’s got power and some explosiveness – 35.5” vert and 121” broad jumps. These are things to note about him. Ogbah was having a really nice year with the Chiefs notching 5.5 sacks before an injury cut short his 2019 campaign. He uses that length and power really well to set the edge against the run, and those long arms have come in handy as he’s got 20 career deflected passes.

In this first clip, you’ll see Ogbah (#90) at LDE for the Chiefs. His play recognition here is excellent as he feels the tackle release to setup for a screen. Ogbah slows his rush immediately and looks to get into the pass lane. The Jaguars had a double screen called and Foles goes the opposite way.

Clip number two shows Ogbah’s ability to affect the passing lanes. His rush against Ronnie Stanley seems a bit off, and I think this may have been a game-planned spy attempt as the Chiefs blitz a corner from that side. If it’s not, then Ogbah has good recognition to stop his rush and drop into the passing lane and get his hands up to deflect Lamar Jackson’s pass for an incompletion.

Against the Packers, Ogbah showcases his length and speed in this pass-rush. He uses his long arms well to engage Bryan Bulaga in a bull-rush move. He’s able to start to turn the corner and executes a rip move to free himself and sack Aaron Rodgers.

In our final clip of Emmanuel Ogbah, we’ll see him against the Vikings. Here he’s able to set a hard edge against LT Riley Rieff and he’s able to get upfield enough to force Dalvin Cook to cut inside into traffic where he’s stopped for a short gain.

Overall, Ogbah’s a guy that is going to set a hard edge and has some pass-rush ability. While I get that Dolfans may be upset that 91 isn’t “retired” the way 54 and 99 are, I think it’s fitting as he’ll be deployed like how the Patriots deployed their #91 Deatrich Wise. Ogbah can play on the edge all three downs. He’s long enough and strong enough to play tighter techniques inside. There are a number of reps of him at a 4i-technique being able to stop the run. It wouldn’t surprise me if Miami tries to utilize him as an inside rusher on 3rd downs, much like the Patriots did with Wise. The plus for Ogbah is that he’s a better athlete. He’ll be able to collect some wins as a pass-rusher from 6, 7 and 9 technique looks on 1st and 2nd downs in addition to setting the edge against the run.

Shaq Lawson
Another player coached by Marion Hobby here. Shaq is a player that’s had an odd start to his career. Drafted by the Rex Ryan coached Bills, he wasn’t a super scheme fit there and dealt with some injuries. Starting only 17 career games, none in 2019, Lawson carved out a nice niche for himself in the rotation-happy Bills D-line last year. My thought is that he is going to get opportunities to replicate some of the looks that Trey Flowers did for the Patriots and continues to be put in with the Lions, coached by Matt Patricia, who runs another Patriot-styled scheme.

Our first clip of Shaq is against the Dolphins in Week 11. He’s going to be lined up outside RT Jesse Davis in what you’d call a wide-5 technique. Lawson’s a bit slow off the snap, but he’s able to make himself small and is able to cross Jesse Davis’s face with a quick swipe move and makes a tackle for no gain.

The second clip isn’t necessarily a great pass-rush rep, but the reason I want to showcase it is because of where Lawson’s aligned. He’s in a 3-technique look against RG Evan Boehm. Lawson does a nice job hand-fighting with Boehm, eventually getting free inside despite giving up more than 50lbs to Boehm. This is important because Miami incorporates a lot of the 3-3-5 looks and 3-2-6 looks in passing situations that necessitate DEs being able to play inside. A lot of the pass-rush games, which we’ll see when I talk about Kyle Van Noy, come from a wider edge player coming around into the backside A or B gap. Lawson’s ability to get push in the pocket here is key in executing those games, and in this rep he’s able to get in Fitzpatrick’s face to help force an incompletion.

We’ll move to Buffalo’s week 12 matchup against the Broncos for our next rep. Part of the pass-rush games that is so important in this defense it the ability for players to be able to rush inside and get into A and B gaps. Here Lawson is lined up in a 4-technique over Broncos LT Garrett Boles. He gets a good jump on the snap and is able to cross into the backside A gap, beating the LG across his face to get middle pressure and a sack against Brandon Allen.

Our final clip of Shaq Lawson comes from the Bills vs. Patriots Game in Week 16. You probably already know what it is. Lawson’s lined up in a 5-technique and reads the fake jet sweep play and is able to stop Sony Michel for a big loss. He’s able to fight inside of the double-team block by the LT and WR from a nasty split. This shows Lawson’s get-off and is play recognition skill. He makes a great play tracking this down from inside. At worst, even if he misses the tackle, he’s mucked the play long enough for the CB to be able to force this back inside where it’s going to get a very minimal gain if anything.

Overall, I think Emmanuel Ogbah might end up being the better of the two DEs signed for Miami. Especially at the start. But I think there’s more to unlock with Shaq Lawson. If Marion Hobby can get him to work on his explosiveness of the snap and getting that more consistent, that will go a long way toward helping him. He’s a strong end capable of lining up in tight techniques like 3, 4i and 4. He’s shown ability to rush interior gaps, and that ability may lend itself to doing some, let’s say unique, things that Trey Flowers got to do with the Patriots, like playing a 0-technique in some of their LB heavy nickel looks and in their “playground”/radar defense. While I’m not sure Lawson will get looks like that off the bat, I think that’s something feasible down the road a bit if he can make his get-off more consistent and continue to develop his hand fighting abilities.

Kyle Van Noy
The Dolphins had to, HAD TO get better on the edges of the defense. Case in point they signed two DEs and drafted two more. Brian Flores spoke after the Draft about how players not filling the stat sheet doesn’t mean they had a bad game.  I believe that was in reference to Miami drafting Raekwon Davis. But it could be applied to Kyle Van Noy.

Van Noy may be the most important free agent signing and his impact will likely be rivaled only by Byron Jones for the hidden benefits they bring to the defense.  Why do I say this? It’s because of the many different things Brian Flores and Josh Boyer will be able to do on defense because of Van Noy.

First, he’s able to play ILB, and play it quite well. He can do this in 4-2-5 looks where he’s paired with someone. He can do it in 3-3-5 looks where he’s the guy.

Here you can see him lined up behind Adam Butler in a 3-3-5 look. The interesting thing to note here is that the Patriots had 4-2-5 personnel on the field with Deatrich Wise, Butler and Adrian Clayborn up front. They used Trey Flowers as an OLB in this look opposite Dont’a Hightower.

You want him to rush off the edge? No problem. Here in this GIF you can see the Patriots “playground” defense. Van Noy will be on the left side and rushes outside the left tackle.

In this clip against Dallas from 2019, we’ll see the Patriots in a 2-4-5 look (which is a 4-man front, but with OLBs instead of DEs. Miami rain this a lot against Philly and in Week 17 against the Patriots last year). Jason Witten shifts over to Van Noy’s side and Kyle is able use his arms, get extension and maintain good leverage to set the edge and help with the tackle as other defenders arrive to make the stop. Textbook!

Going back in time to 2018 against the Vikings, I want to give you two plays that were back-to-back in the game. First, we see Van Noy lined up over the RT. At the snap he’s going to drop into the short middle and read Kirk Cousins. He follows Cousins’ eyes to TE Kyle Rudolph and Van Noy just sits down in the zone right in front of him and Adam Butler gets a sack. That’s a hidden play there because Rudolph was open until Van Noy flowed that way.

But the real treat to Van Noy’s game is his prowess with pass-rush games. This is the very next play. The Patriots are in their 3-2-6 look, Diamond, but have RE Adrian Clayborn lined up head-up on TE Kyle Rudolph, whose got a short split. Clayborn helps reroute him at the snap then rushes (something we could see Ogbah and Lawson do?). But watch Van Noy here. He’s going to be lined up off-ball over the Vikings RT. He feints a rush upfield, stops and then loops around to the backside A gap. Adam Butler and Dont’a Hightower crash towards the strongside to effectively set “picks” (Ogbah, Lawson, Raekwon Davis, Wilkins) to allow Van Noy the free run at Cousins. Van Noy unloads on him and forces an incompletion.

He doesn’t notch a tackle, sack or pass deflection. Merely a pressure here. But his ability do run these pass-rush games is OUTSTANDING. Watch the 2018 AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl victories.

Want one more? Okay, fine you’ve got me! This is in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams on a 3rd down in the first half. The Patriots are lined up in a 4-2-5 look, their marble concept (DB inserted over the nasty split or TE) and Van Noy is the MLB. He simply sits in the underneath zone and takes away two different receivers – almost like a spy. Then Jared Goff scrambles and Van Noy explodes to chase him down for a 14 yard loss on a sack!

I expect Kyle Van Noy to be featured in multiple roles in this defense. Remember the picture of Miami’s 4-2-5 look way at the beginning? He can play either LB spot in that look – outside where Eguavoen is or as the MLB where Jerome Baker is. He can play ILB in 3-3-5 looks. He can set the edge as an OLB in 2-4-5 looks. You can use him in all manner of ways in pass-rush games. And regardless of where he plays, he’s very smart! You’re going to get good reps out of him. Knowing this system already will likely propel him into a leadership role on the defense, which in my view, will help younger guys like Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan and Andrew Van Ginkel. He can make sure they’re on top of their alignments and assignments and give them a living, breathing example of what it means to be a smart, tough and physical player. Do I sound like Coach Flores yet?

Jason Strowbridge
If you’ve followed me on Twitter leading up to the Draft, you know I’ve mentioned Strowbridge frequently as someone I’ve liked for Miami. And getting him in the 5th round is a bit of a steal in my opinion. He took on a role as a DT and 3-4 DE at North Carolina, getting minimal reps as a DE in a four man D-line. With the Dolphins, I think he’ll slot into the same position as Emmanuel Ogbah and be a part of the rotation behind him.

His experience playing tighter techniques as a Tar Heel will be one thing Miami will likely try to build on in pass-rush packages. Here’s a clip from Voch Lombardi’s film review of the Senior Bowl with Strowbridge rushing as a 3-technique.

Our next clip of Strowbridge comes from the Tar Heels Bowl Game against Temple. We’ll see Strowbridge lined up at LDE in a 4-man line. He’s able to use an arm over move to defeat the TE and uses his explosion to get into the gap ahead of the pulling guard and help make a TFL.

In this clip against Virginia Tech he’s able to use quickly recognize that both the RG and RT down block and he’s able to get inside of the TE who’s trying to reach him and gets inside of the backside guard pulling. That play recognition is key and he’s able to make a tackle for no gain. Strowbridge doesn’t always exhibit the greatest get off/explosiveness off the snap, but when he does, his eyes take him to the ball well.

In our final clip, we’re looking at something subtle that I think the Dolphins will appreciate. Remember Kyle Van Noy’s pass-rush against the Vikings from above? Well, it’s plays like this from the front line that allow those pass-rush games to happen. Here we see Strowbridge lined up at 3-technique to the near side. He rushes from the B gap to the A gap and is able to occupy the RG and the C, allowing the LB to have a free run at the QB. While the LB fails to make the sack, you can see how this translates to what Miami will be wanting to do.

Jason Strowbridge will need some coaching up, there’s no denying that. But his length, power and experience playing tighter techniques will come in handy. I think his workload will steadily increase as the season moves on. But at first, I think he can help spell Ogbah at Big DE in 4-man lines and might give Miami something as an interior player on 3rd down pass-rush packages.

Curtis Weaver
I think most people are aware of the “good player, bad body” stigma that Curtis Weaver’s carried throughout the Draft process. Daniel Jeremiah said as much when Miami selected him. Weaver could be a tremendous value pick for the Dolphins. I haven’t seen Boise State a lot, but Weaver seems to be strictly a stand-up DE, and I’d think that he’d be that for Miami starting off. Think Chris Long at the end of his run with the Patriots. Weaver can be a 3rd down pass-rusher right off the bat. But I think he’ll need to learn to play the run better in order to earn more snaps.

In our first clip we’ll see that Air Force brings a wing-back into pitch phase to fake an option play. Weaver is the stand-up DE nearest to us. He’s able to read that the motion player isn’t getting the ball before he fully steps into his rush. He uses a rip move to get around the RT and does a nice job turning his rush path into the QB.

This clip showcases Weaver’s strength. Here he’s able to split a double team for a sack.

In the final clip with Curtis Weaver, we’ll see him use his length to set the edge against the run. Marion Hobby will be charged with coaxing this ability out of him more consistently. But when he does, this will help him see more reps.

How all these pieces come together should be very fun to watch. Miami now has a pair of Big DEs – Ogbah and Strowbridge and a pair of Rush ends in Lawson and Weaver. Kyle Van Noy will be playing himself. We’ll also likely see guys like Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel and Raekwon McMillan get some snaps on the edge as Brian Flowers wasn’t shy about having those three play on the edge last year.

Another added benefit to this, could be that we see Christian Wilkin’s pass-rush potential unlocked more in his second season. With some of these new edge additions able to rush from multiple spots, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wilkins benefit on twists across the line.

While I won’t make any predictions on which of these guys leads the Dolphins in sacks, I will make two others:

1) These edge defenders will help Miami’s run defense improve. A lot.

2) In terms of pass-rush and the totality of the defense, this group of guys will allow Brian Flores and Josh Boyer to run the defense the way they want to and not be constrained into boiling it down like they did in 2019.

That final point is something we as Dolfans should all be very excited about! #FinsUp

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Trade Charles Harris to Atlanta Falcons

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are replacing former first-round picks with late-round prospects.

According to Jason Butt, the Falcons beat writer for The Athletic, the team has traded former 1st-round pick (22nd-overall in 2017) Charles Harris to the Atlanta Falcons for a conditional 7th-round draft pick in 2021.

Current conditions are unknown, but they’re expected to involve Harris either making the final roster, or being active for a certain number of games in 2020.

Trading Harris comes less than 24 hours after the Dolphins released fellow 2017 1st-round draft pick (28th-overall to the Dallas Cowboys), Taco Charlton. It was widely debated which of these pass rushers the Dolphins would draft that year, naively missing out on a much-better talent (drafted 30th-overall) in T.J. Watt.

Taco Charlton ironically ends up joining the Dolphins last year after being released by the Cowboys, and instantly saw more action than Harris. In 10 games with Miami, Charlton logged 396 defensive snaps (39.6 per game); in 14 games, Harris played 429 (30.64 per game).

Charles Harris showed promise his rookie season, but was never able to grow as a pass rusher. During his three years in Miami, Harris combined to accumulate: 3.5 sacks, 34 solo tackles, 10 tackles for a loss (TFL), and 23 quarterback hits. Think Cameron Wake had a down year for the Tennessee Titans last season? In the 9 games he was active for, Wake was still able to get 2.5 sacks and 11 QB hits.

Even more detrimental than his lackluster pass rush was Harris’ inability to set the edge in the running game. Infamously being flushed out on big runs, Harris was a liability on first & second down, and couldn’t generate the necessary pass rush on third down. The team tried their luck at outside linebacker, but the results were just as disappointing.

Teams can never have enough pass rush in today’s NFL, making defensive end a premium position to solve. That said, when Harris was drafted in 2017, Cameron Wake was still performing at a high level, and the team extended Andre Branch to a 3-year, $24m deal less than two months before the NFL draft. Defensive end wasn’t necessarily a need, and seeing such limited production from Harris only exemplifies our disappointment over the last decade.

A likely candidate to be cut after the team drafted defensive ends Jason Strowbridge (154th-overall) and Curtis Weaver (164th-overall) in the 5th-round, receiving compensation for Harris is a pleasant surprise, and speaks to the type of shrewd moves general manager Chris Grier has made over the past year, including:

  • The Laremy Tunsil haul.
  • The additional 2nd-round pick Miami acquired from the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 draft that led to them drafting Raekwon Davis.
  • The additional 6th-round pick they received from the Seattle Seahawks for the 5th-to-last pick in this year’s draft; which, at the bare minimum, is a 50-slot jump.

Miami now has 11 draft picks in 2021, with additional draft picks coming in rounds 1, 2, 6 and 7. And this doesn’t take potential compensatory picks in mind.

A new era is certainly blossoming under Brian Flores; unfortunately, it’s evident there wasn’t much of a foundation for him to build off of.

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