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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

Miami Dolphins meeting with Jordan Love at the Senior Bowl

Shawn Digity

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Jordan Love Miami Dolphins interest
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Mobile, Alabama (Locked On Dolphins) – Senior Bowl week is underway, and Tuesday set into motion the first practice.

The Senior Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, January 25, at 1:30 p.m. Central Time.

Tuesday featured weigh-ins and measurements, and as per usual, the quarterback hand sizes became a viral trend on twitter.

As it relates to the headline, Jordan Love’s hands were measured at 10 5/8 inches, which was the biggest of all the quarterbacks.

It might not necessarily matter since coaches and analysts can go either way on a prospect’s hand size. But it could matter for someone who was already on the fence about Jordan Love.

It could’ve been the dealbreaker, too, for those who were already on the fence.

I mention the conflicting perspectives on hand sizes because it’s a perfect segue into the controversy and questions surrounding Jordan Love’s draft stock and pro prospects.

Now here’s the kicker.

The polarizing quarterback from Utah State will be meeting with the Dolphins at the Senior Bowl, per Joe Schad.

Hand sizes aside, it’s certainly worth noting that the Dolphins want to meet with Love.

It’s almost a certainty that the Dolphins want to and will address the quarterback position in the 2020 Draft, and Love offers a lot of desired characteristics for the job.

And there’s already been interest before from the Miami Dolphins, according to Tony Pauline.

Pauline has stated that the team was intrigued by the Aggie quarterback after his breakout 2018 season.

While Jordan Love’s 2019 season was tumultuous, to say the least, the moldable potential as a pro is evident.

Jordan Love is a likely draft riser now that the 2019 season is behind him. A good showing during the practices and the Senior Bowl will further help his cause, but Love is already looking at being selected in the teens or 20s.

The meeting, it’s fuel on the fire. In preparation for a scenario where the Dolphins cannot or do not get Tua Tagovailoa, the team could be exercising their due diligence to formulate a Plan B in that event.

It never hurts to be overprepared.

The content and reasoning of the meeting itself will remain surreptitious but will invite hypotheses regarding a Miami Dolphins-Jordan Love marriage.

Could he be the face of the franchise?

Is he the next Patrick Mahomes?

Can he make it as a pro?

Sure, there’s uncertainty with drafting Love, but the thing is, the connection makes sense. There’s a lot to like about Jordan Love, but he needs breathing room going into the NFL. The Miami Dolphins can offer him that, which would be favorable for his development.

It’s a good fit. And the logic is there.

It’s worth keeping tabs on Jordan Love’s draft journey, and we’ll see what unfolds from the meeting, if anything.

There’s a real shot that Jordan Love is the Miami Dolphins guy moving into 2020 and beyond. The meeting could be the first step in that process…

Or maybe they just want to talk about his hand size.

 

 

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NFL Draft

Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Defense

Travis Wingfield

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Best Dolphins scheme fits, and the price to acquire said players, taking the field this week at the Senior Bowl

By the time the popcorn is popped, the ball is teed up, and the fans have filed into the Ladd-Pebble’s stadium, most of the scouts, evaluators and decision makers have vacated Mobile, Alabama, the home of the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

It’s not that the game is devoid of value; it just pales in comparison to the value of the entire week of practices. Simulated situations pit college football’s best players against one-another in true tests of their abilities.

Change-of-direction, clean mechanics, competitiveness, all of these important traits are readily apparent in the padded practices that occur from Tuesday through Thursday in front of everyone who is anyone in the National Football League.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to prospect evaluation. Even after a nine-month process that begins at summer camp for area scouts, the best-drafting teams in the NFL still only hit on roughly half of their picks. But if there were a way to expedite the process of rifling through the hundreds of draft-eligible players, these practices are it.

We get a first-hand look at how players fare against elite college competition, repeatedly. Game-speed is on display. Lateral agility and movement skills are tested. The bounce back from a bad rep and jumping right back into the fire gives us insight on how players respond to adversity in short order. The clues we find in Mobile sends us back to the tape to re-evaluate our boards, and ultimately spit our final rankings and evaluations.

In case you’re new to Locked On Dolphins, this is how we covered the Senior Bowl last January.

Since everything we do is Dolphins specific, we’re looking at scheme fits. We’ll track which players the Dolphins meet with, and who impresses the most at the biggest positions of need.

In addition to projecting best possible scheme fits, we’ll factor in draft value when selecting the best possible player from each group for your Miami Dolphins. For instance, neither Justin Herbert or Jordan Love will be the top QB selected simply because of their high-end first-round draft status. If Miami selects Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick, Herbet and Love are off the board entirely.

It’s one of my personal favorite weeks of the year, so let’s get into part-two, the defense.

Offensive Preview

Senior Bowl Defense

The defensive side of the ball is loaded this week in Mobile. Gap-control rushers, interior pocket collapsers, on-and-off-ball linebackers and a secondary chock full of ball hawks, there are multiple future Dolphins in this group.

By now, we know that Miami are one of three teams in the league — four now with Joe Judge at the top of a program — that shops from an exclusive store. Bigger, stronger edge players that make up for a lack of athleticism with brute power and gap integrity. Versatile defensive backs that must excel in man coverage. Linebackers that can rush the quarterback from a variety of positions. These are the core tenants of the Patriots, Lions, and Dolphins defense, and perhaps the Giants under new management with Patrick Graham.

It’ll be impossible to highlight just a couple of players, so unlike the offensive side, we’ll discuss multiple players at each spot. As always, we’ll have even more detail on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

Defensive Line

Bradlee Anae (UTAH), Darrion Daniels (NEB), Marlon Davidson (AUB), Raekwon Davis (ALA), Leki Fotu (UTAH), Neville Gallimore (OK), Trevis Gipson (TULS), Jonathan Greenard (FLA), Davon Hamilton (OSU), Trevon Hill (MIA), Benito Jones (MISS), Javon Kinlaw (SC), Larrell Murchison (NCST), Alton Robinson (SYR), Jason Strowbridge (UNC), Kenny Willekes (MSU), Robert Windsor (PSU), Jabari Zuniga (FLA)

Best Fins Fit — Bradlee Anae, Utah

Anae is a 6-foot-3, 260-plus-pound edge that Miami will covet in this year’s draft. He’s a refined rusher with multiple moves in the arsenal, and the ability to angle inside as a rusher to expand the stunt game on the defensive line.

He’s not the most athletic rusher, but that’s not part of the prerequisites of playing edge in this scheme. New England never valued athleticism at end, and I don’t suspect Brian Flores will either. Dig-out or kick-out blocks are often a futile effort against Anae because of his long arms and ability to disengage quickly.

Projected Required Investment — Mid-Round Pick, Rounds 3-4

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Base 5-Tech, Kick Inside in Nickle Rush Packages

Hardly a far cry from former Patriot, current Lion, and once a Near-Dolphin Trey Flowers, Anae is a power run defender that can redirect as a pass rusher on his way to stopping the ground game.

The moment the card is turned in, Anae becomes the best base defensive end on the team. While that’s an indictment of Miami’s roster, it’s also a testament to Anae’s skill set. He provides the versatility to kick inside on long yardage situations.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

This will be an area to either showcase Anae’s impressive heavy hands, or an opportunity to expose his limited athleticism. Again, the Dolphins don’t care much about the latter, and typically it’s the players with better moves in their arsenal that win in this drill.

Keep an Eye On — Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina

Something of a tweener for the rest of the league, Strowbridge fits right in at home in Miami. He entered college as a 245-pound end, and now he’s nearing three bills on the scale. Accordingly, Strowbridge has some explosion and wiggle that is unique to a player of his size.

He won’t be a base defensive tackle, but he is more than capable of fulfilling the 4-tech spot in bear fronts, or play the play-side 3-tech in even fronts. Leki Fotu is a Danny Shelton clone and Neville Gallimore and Javon Kinlaw are explosive, powerful interior rush presences, but will likely require a first-round selection. Strowbridge is a day-three player.

Linebackers

Zack Baun (WIS), Francis Bernard (UTAH), Jordyn Brooks (TT), Cameron Brown (PSU), Carter Coughlin (MIN), Akeem Davis-Gaither (APP), Troy Dye (ORE), Malik Harrison (OSU), Khaleke Hudson (MICH), Anfernee Jennings (ALA), Terrell Lewis (ALA), Kamal Martin (MIN), Davion Taylor (COL), Darrell Taylor (TEN), Josh Uche (MICH), Evan Weaver (CAL), Logan Wilson (WYO), D.J. Wonnum (SC)

Best Fins Fit — Zack Baun, Wisconsin

Baun, just like Vince Biegel and Andrew Van Ginkel before him, has the same traits that attracted Miami to the pair of Badger ‘Backers. Baun is the best of the three. He’s especially adept at executing games (stunts, twists, slants) because of his lateral agility.

He’s not the most fluid edge rusher, and isn’t going to line up in the wide alignment and win the corner, but he’s effective defending the pass as a flat and hook zone dropper. His rush move arsenal is already refined like that of a seasoned pro.

Projected Required Investment — Late-First, Early-Second, Pick 26 or 39

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting On-Ball Linebacker

Biegel almost never left the field last season upon showing his worth across a variety of formations. Baun could do the same and give Miami a pair of consistent Badger backers off either edge, in what could be a linebacker-driven front-seven this year. Drafting Baun would certainly suggest that to be the case, with Van Ginkel serving as the sixth-man — so to speak — first off the bench.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

My apologies for a lack of variety between these trench players, but nothing beats the pit drill; nothing. This is an area Baun will probably excel because he’s such a refined technician, and he’ll draw some smaller school players and athletes that aren’t great football players just yet.

Keep an Eye On — Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

Jennings has the requisite measurements to intrigue the Dolphins before even flipping on the film. Then, once you see him play, you see him actively engage those long arms and thick frame to bully the man across from him. He’s extremely stout against the run with the heavy hands to shed blockers en route to the tackler.

Cal’s Evan Weaver lacks speed and rush ability, but he’s the most reliable downhill run defender in the entire draft. Joshua Uche has some versatility to his game. He played for current Dolphins Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile in college.

Defensive Backs

Damon Arnette (OSU), Essang Bassey (WAKE), Julian Blackmon (UTAH), Antoine Brooks Jr. (MAR), Terrell Burgess (UTAH), Jeremy Chinn (SoILL), Brian Cole (MISS ST), Ashtyn Davis (CAL), Kyle Duggar (Lenoir-Rhyne), Jalen Elliot (ND), Kristian Fulton (LSU), Alohi Gilman (ND), A.J. Green (OKST), Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Lamar Jackson (NEB), Dane Jackson (PITT), Brandon Jones (TEX), Jared Mayden (ALA), Josh Metellus (MICH), Michael Ojemudia (IOWA), Troy Pride Jr. (ND), Reggie Robinson (TULS), Kindle Vildor (GEO SO), K’Von Wallace (CLEM)

Best Fins Fit — Ashtyn Davis

There are a few defensive backs in this class that match the prototype for what Brian Flores looks for, and Davis is certainly that, but he has one thing most of the other guys don’t. The sheer passion and love for playing the game the correct way. Not to say the others don’t, but Davis is a temperature changer that immediately improves the work environment around him.

Davis is a former track star, so when he tests in Indianapolis, it’s possible he elevates his stock into the first round. Hopefully that’s not the case, and Miami can pick up a round-two steal with this do-it-all safety. He can play the single-high role, cover in the slot, and is more than willing to hit somebody much larger than himself.

Projected Required Investment — Day 2, Pick 39

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Free Safety, Slot Corner

Davis‘ best trait is the paired combination of instincts and range. Because of that, he fits Miami’s press-man, single-high defense as well as anybody. He can also come down and cover the slot with the best of them — just the ideal defensive back for Brian Flores.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Live Team Period

Tackling hasn’t been the best trait for Davis in his collegiate career. It’s not that he’s not willing, he just lacks the size and frame to do it consistently. I want to see how he wraps and finishes in the live team periods when he has to come down and make a stick.

Keep an Eye On — Damon Arnette, Ohio State

Overlooked because of the presence of Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade in that Buckeye defensive backfield, Arnette took considerable strides this season in Columbus. He’s a long, aggressive press-corner that plays the ball exceptionally well.

Arnette will challenge every route at the three critical points — off the line, at the top of the stem, and at the catch point. He’s a sound tackler, but isn’t real interested in fighting off blocks. He’s more athletic than most players with his play-style which should bump his draft stock.

Utah’s Terrell Burgess is a good option in the middle rounds to play primary backup to Eric Rowe, and also serve as a core special teamer.

It would be quite a surprise if multiple players from this group don’t wind up with the Dolphins. There are so many potential scheme fits, and players that come from programs that stress the same core tenants that Miami’s system calls for. With all these Utah Utes, all these versatile defensive backs and multi-talented front-seven players, this is quite a week for Brian Flores and company.

@WingfieldNFL

Wednesday-Friday — Senior Bowl Practice Recaps

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Miami Dolphins

Kevin’s Senior Bowl Defensive Brain Dump

Kevin Dern

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As we head into Senior Bowl week, I just wanted to do a quick brain dump on some of the prospects I’m most interested to see on defense this week at the Senior Bowl.  One of my favorite prospects, Notre Dame DE Khalid Kareem, appears to have dropped out of the Senior Bowl for some reason (I’m looking into that, but if anyone knows, please comment below).  To keep this simple, I’m just going to go DLs, LBs and DBs with quick notes on the guys I like.

Quick Glossary of Dolphins positions:

Big DE – bigger guy, usually 6’3”+ and 270lbs+ with 34”+ arms.  Usually plays some 4, 4i, 5 and 6 techniques, with the ability to reduce inside on passing downs.

Rush DE – think Trey Flowers.  Plays wider, usually 5, 6, 7, 9, and 8 (head up on a dual TE, pretty rare). 

Off-Ball LB – a LB that’s usually playing off the line of scrimmage.  Think Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen.

On-Ball LB – a LB who is playing the edges, akin to a 3-4 OLB, but may be playing in a 4-man line.  Think Vince Biegel and, especially late in the season, Andrew Van Ginkel. 

Safety Position – Miami breaks their safeties into three categories:  MOF (Middle of the Field – a deep FS), split safety (someone who can play ½ field in tandem with the FS), and box safety (think Patrick Chung for New England or Tavon Wilson for Detroit.  For Miami it was mostly Reshad Jones and Eric Rowe in this role in 2019). 

DL Prospects

DE – Jason Strowbridge – N. Carolina – Really excited to see him play in Mobile.  Was a 3-tech DT for the Tar Heels at 6’5” 285lbs.  Has length Miami will covet, experience playing inside.  Flashes some explosion in pursuit.  Plays well down the line (horizontally) against the run.  Violent hands.  Miami will like that.   Fits with the Dolphins as a

DT Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina – Long and explosive.  Can play anywhere on interior and may be able to play some Big DE in Miami’s scheme.  Wins with length and speed more than physicality; will have to be more consistent with leverage and pad level at NFL level.

DT DaVon Hamilton – Ohio State – Solid all around.  Physical, hustles, uses his hands.  Was part of a heavy rotation at Ohio State with Rob Landers, Jashon Cornell, Haskell Garrett, and Tommy Togiai.  Probably more set for a true 4-3 defense, but a solid player you can get in the mid-rounds.  For Miami, he’d likely fit as a backup to Christian Wilkins – someone who can play 2i, 2, 3, 4, 4i techniques.

Really Intrigued:  Marlon Davidson – Auburn – Was more hybrid 3-4 DE/stand-up edge player at Auburn.  Has good size.  Will be interesting to see how he plays as a DE in the game.  Would be a Big DE for Miami.

Want to see more of:  Leki Fotu – Utah – Got manhandled by Oregon in the Pac-12 Title Game.  Thought he was an intriguing prospect for a NT spot in Miami’s defense, but after that game…Yikes.  Can he rebound? Has some potential to play other techniques aside from a pure NT.  Is he strong enough at the NFL Level?

Others  I like:

Bradlee Anae – Utah – Rush DE from Utah who seems to fit the parameters, but just isn’t quite there for me. I want to see how he holds up against this level of competition.  Did well until he ran into Penei Sewell of Oregon.  Did notch some wins against USC’s Austin Jackson.

Jonathan Greenard – Florida – Another Rush DE candidate who had a fantastic season.  Had a tremendous season for the Gators and has solid size for what Miami will likely look for.  Does he have an arsenal of pass-rush moves or is he too reliant on speed-rush?

Darrell Taylor of Tennessee, Josh Uche of Michigan, and Alton Robinson of Syracuse also bear watching.  The first two might be more OLB candidates for Miami.  Robinson had a lot of hype heading into 2019 but didn’t have the best season with 2.5 of his 4.5 sacks coming against Liberty and Western Michigan.

LB Prospects

Malik Harrison – Ohio State – Just a good, smart, physical football player.  Can he play on the ball? Probably a little bit light for what Miami wants in someone who can play the off-ball and on-ball LB spot, but he’s so good.  Secure tackler.  Delivers pop when he squares up.  For Miami, if he can bulk up a bit and still retain his speed, he’s got a chance to play that off-ball ILB and on-ball OLB hybrid role, like Kyle Van Noy.  Guys like Biegel and Van Ginkel are pretty strictly on-ball guys, who fit the hybrid OLB/rush DE role for Miami.

Evan Weaver – California – Strictly a MLB in Miami’s system, but he may be more dynamic there than Raekwon McMillan; creates a logjam there if you take him though.  Can play in coverage, good tackler, deceptive quickness.

Really Intrigued:  Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis are both listed as ILBs for the Senior Bowl; not OLBs or edge players, which is what I think they’d be better suited for in the NFL and with Miami.  Is this a real thing?

Want to see more of:  Logan Wilson – Wyoming – Evan Weaver heavy.  Wilson isn’t as polished as even Weaver, but he’s got good size and moves will for it.  I’ve only seen one Wyoming game, so I myself want to watch Wilson this week.

Others I Like: 

Carter Coughlin – Minnesota – He’s listed as a DE for the Senior Bowl, but for Miami’s purposes, they’d likely view him as another OLB/DE hybrid.  Not that they need another at this point with Biegel and Van Ginkel, but it’s worth doing the due diligence on Coughlin.

DB Prospects

Damon Arnette – Ohio State – One of the few CBs I’ve seen multiple times and paid attention to.  He was the starter opposite Jeff Okudah and had a nice season.  He’s physical and is an excellent tackler for a corner.  Had to play with his hand/wrist in a cast for a chunk of the season and became a bit grabby, much like current Dolphin Xavien Howard when he was at Baylor.  With Arnette, as it relates to Miami, I think the tape is fine, but it may come down to the physical measurements.  Namely, does he have the long speed to play a lot of man coverage?

Dane Jackson – Pittsburgh – It seems like every year there’s a dirty, grimy football player from Pitt that just tends to stick in the league.  I thought Dwayne Hendrix had a chance for Miami last year, but he ended up with the Ravens after being on the practice squad.  Dane Jackson is another kid I can see Miami taking a liking to.  Though, like Arnette, I’m concerned if the speed is there or not.

Antoine Brooks Jr. – Maryland – I noticed him when the Terps got thumped by Ohio State.  He’s big, 5’11” 215lbs, and plays slot, SS and split safety.  I think his best position is probably playing in the Patrick Chung/Tavon Wilson role, if Miami is convinced, they can play Eric Rowe as a split safety when required.  Clicks & Closes quickly, like Reshad Jones.  Good tackler in space.  Physical.  67 solo tackles in 2019.  Displays good closing speed (watch the play against Penn State).  For the Dolphins, he’s on my short list of guys who can pay the Chung/Wilson role.  While he’s not in Mobile, keep an eye on SMU’s Patrick Nelson.  Hat tip to Chris Kouffman for turning me onto Nelson.

Alohi Gilman – Notre Dame – Antoine Brooks lite.  Better coverage player, but not as dynamic close to the LOS.  Good tackler who makes plays on the ball.  3 FFs in 2019, 6 total in his career at Notre Dame (3 years of playing time).  58 solo tackles in 2018 (better team defense).  Interested to see if he’s more of a slot player or can play SS in the NFL.  Versatility is something Miami will like.

Intrigued:  Kyle Dugger – Lenoir-Rhyne – Division II player at the Senior Bowl.  I know Jim Nagy really likes him.  Intrigued to see his size on display.  6’2” 220lbs.

Want to see more of:  All the CBs.  Other than Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and A.J. Terrell, I haven’t watched many corners throughout the year.  Curious to see if any stand out.

Others I Like:

Ashtyn Davis – California – I know Travis has, or is very likely to, talk about him a lot this week.  He’s one of the few ideal candidates in this year’s draft of the MOF FS spot in Miami’s defense.  They may be comfortable with Bobby McCain for that role, but in my eyes, moving McCain back to the slot and tabbing a guy like Davis would improve the secondary as a whole.

I also think it’s funny that we’ll see corners named Lamar Jackson and A.J. Green in Mobile this week.

Final Word

If I’m pressed into picking five names I think Miami will really like from this year’s Senior Bowl, I’d probably stack them as:

1) Ashtyn Davis – FS – California

2) Malik Harrison – LB – Ohio State

3) Jason Strowbridge – DE – North Carolina

4) Damon Arnette – CB – Ohio State

5) Evan Weaver – LB – California

I left off several guys like Darrell Taylor, Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings.  They’re all guys Miami will like, but with Biegel and Van Ginkel in the fold, are they really going to be that interested? Especially with a guy like Yannick Ngakoue lurking in free agency, who he himself has already teased some things about Miami and Jason Taylor on his Twitter timeline? Yeah, give me Ngakoue there.

As for my guy, Antoine Brooks Jr., I think he’d be a really nice fit for Miami.  But with Eric Rowe’s capability, I have to wonder whether or not they’d look at someone in that role or tend to focus on guys who can play FS and be able to play in split safety looks.  There’s also some intriguing names out there in free agency like Justin Simmons and Von Bell to watch out for.

It’ll be a fun week to watch, and feel free to @ me at @KevinMD4 if you have any questions about these guys.

 

 

 

 

 

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