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Brian Flores Updates Status of Miami Dolphins

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Miami Dolphins / Jason Hrina

“Adapt or Die”

One day after Chris Grier spoke to the media and revealed absolutely nothing about the Miami Dolphins future, it was Brian Flores‘ turn to go through the merry-go-round.

It even started with an old friend of Flores stopping by to wish him well:

But the normally reserved Flores was able to elaborate a bit more on what he believes the Dolphins should be doing going forward. Most answers were vague and cliche, but there were some answers that may have tipped us off to what the Dolphins’ plan may be.

Check out everything Brian Flores elaborated on during the hour-plus interview session he conducted earlier this morning, as well as our conspiracies behind some of the interesting comments. It’s a bit lengthy, but we appreciate the insight Flores was able to give – even if some of his answers reminded us of a specific head coach in New England:

On “Tanking”:

“No, there’s no tanking. You can write that over and over and over again”

“I think the term tanking is disrespectful to the game. I don’t like the term. I don’t like when people use it. This game has done a lot for me, personally…it’s the one thing that leveled the playing field for me…to disrespect the game and use that term…it stirs something up inside of me.”

“I’m going into every game trying to win….I’m going into everything I do trying to win.”

“My conversations with (Chris Grier) have been about rebuilding the roster…but at the same time, he knows we’re not going to go out and win every game we play.”

“Yeah, (tanking) struck a nerve. It’ll always strike a nerve. It’s disrespectful to the game.”
“It’s a disrespect to the game I love. Quite honestly, I won’t stand for it.”

“We’re going to try and win every game.”

In case you weren’t able to gather from Flores’ comments about tanking, the Miami Dolphins will not be doing that in 2019. Instead, we should kindly say that the Dolphins are “rebuilding” or “evaluating their future” – because they are certainly not tanking….

On drafting QB in 2019 and/or 2020:

“Maybe there’s a better nose tackle than QB at the time, but obviously quarterback is a position that’s wide open”

“We’re not opposed to (it)…maybe we do take a QB this year and next year…maybe we take a (offensive) tackle this year and next year…”

“We’re going to make the roster moves and selections that we believe will best help the team overall”

Flores didn’t give us much here. As you’ll notice with plenty of topics today, Flores did his best Bill Belichick and listed every outcome as a possibility. Thanks for the recap, Brian…

On Creating Competition:

“Any time you can create competition at a position, you do it”

“Competition (brings out) the best”

“You want to build that competition on your roster”

It seems like Flores went out of his way to reiterate that the Miami Dolphins are trying to obtain the best players possible, regardless of how it affects the egos of the current players on the roster. This is probably one of the biggest pain points for both Dolphins fans and Dolphins players over the past 5 years, as Ryan Tannehill has been able to skirt by without any legitimate competition for his job.

On the Roster (in general):

“I think right now, as a team, we’re looking to improve everyday and get better”

“It’s ongoing. I think we have a pretty good feel for the guys on the roster.”

“Having that competition will yield the best players…everyone needs competition”

“If you’re one of the best 11 you’ll be on the field”

“The big thing is getting guys into the building. Seeing how much they can retain and handle schematically.”

“I don’t want to make a prediction on that…we’re going to do everything possible to bring the best players possible onto the team.”

“(The) second we got in the building that was the #1 objective (evaluating the roster). To find out what we have. The skill sets of each individual. How they are as people. Their work habits; their training habits.”

On 2020:

“I don’t think too far ahead…when you think too far ahead you aren’t thinking about the present.”

“I’m doing a disservice to our coaching staff, our players, our support staff…I’m doing them a disservice if I’m thinking about December”

“Some of the moves we’ve made is with that in mind”

“To win games…to go out and compete and win on a weekly basis.”

“We’ll always have an eye on the future. Our acquisitions…it’s good business practice. Regardless of your record, you should always try and do what’s best for the team now and in the future”

Goal for 2020? “Get better everyday….improve and get better everyday”

“Just keep being who I’ve been for 38 years”

On the Offensive Line:

This first quote may be one of the most eye-opening of Flores’ media session. This is the time of year for smokescreens, but judging by the tone of his voice and the manner in which he answered the question, it makes me (heavily) wonder if offensive line is priority #1 for Miami. The quote itself doesn’t reveal too much, but reading into all of the quotes surrounding the offensive line and you come away with the impression that the Dolphins are looking to build their OL before anything else:

“We’ll obviously have an emphasis on the offensive line in the draft”

“The OL, the protection, that’s something near-and-dear to me as well.”

“Definitely something we’ll invest in…we’ll build this offensive line.”

“That was something Chris, myself, Steve…really during the interview stages…something we really talked about: how we’re going to build the offensive and defensive line”

“We’re not there yet, I think it’s obvious to everyone looking at it”

“We have to build the depth there. We have some good young players. We’re going to try and develop them”

On Charles Harris:

This may have been the most interesting stretch of questions Flores answered during the media session. He does his best to compliment Charles Harris, but the descriptions he provides couldn’t have been more generic. Of course Harris still has a chance to impress the new coaching regime, but Flores couldn’t pinpoint one specific thing about Harris that could have provided us fans with any bit of optimism:

The generic description: “I watched a lot of tape. He’s got size, speed, athleticism…plays hard…does a lot of things we like as a staff….he’s an interesting player on our team”

The backhanded compliment: “He can do a lot of things. He can rush. Play in space a little bit. Tackles fairly well.”

The fatality: “I think everyone’s timetable is a little bit different. There are a lot of factors in that. Could be a thousand factors.”

And yet, as a defensive coach (who has played against Harris four times during his two-year career), Flores couldn’t name one factor. Ouch.

On Ryan Fitzpatrick:

Why did Miami sign Ryan Fitzpatrick? “Because he’s a leader, first and foremost”

“I watched Ryan for a long time…I coached against him…the one thing you hear over and over and over again is his ability to connect with players – offensively and defensively – and kind of lead…he’s a great fit for us. We’re excited to have him”

“We have a lot of the same beliefs…working hard…he’s obviously a very intelligent guy. Learning so many different systems. Understanding the game; understanding the concepts of the game. A lot of things that are important to me line up (with Fitzpatrick).”

On Kenyan Drake:

“I think (Kenyan) Drake is an explosive player; I’ve seen it first-hand unfortunately…”

“He’s a talented player, he catches the ball well. Good runner. Runs hard. Does a lot of very good things. But…I’ll say this to all the players…the opportunities they get on the field will be up to them. Period. If they practice well, if they’re smart, tough, block, catch the ball consistently, hit the hole correctly, they’re going to play.”

“By committee or workhorse…those are phrases people throw out there. But I think the guys that perform in practice and produce in games, those are the guys that are going to be out there”

Can Drake handle the pressure of being a “workhorse”?
“If that’s what’s best for the team, that’s what we’ll do. If that’s best for the Miami Dolphins, that’s what we’ll do. We have some good backs. (Kalen) Ballage is a good back. We may draft a back, we may not draft a back. We may pick up a back as a college free agent.”

This was yet another quote where Flores listed every possible outcome for what the Dolphins will do at running back. Personally, I get the impression that Flores is not sold on his running back room and will look to improve it with a mid to late-round draft pick.

On Jesse Davis:

“Versatility on the offensive line is critical”

“Ability to play tackle and guard is very good…we’re excited about Jesse (Davis)”

“We’re going to put players where we need them and where they help the team the most”

“We’re going to move guys around. Players are going to move, they’re going to play different positions.”

“Only 46 can go to the game, someone has to be able to play multiple positions”

Overall, Flores was very generic about Davis. He did praise him for his durability and versatility, but didn’t say much else outside of the fact that he believes he has a solution at RG or RT with Jesse Davis. Problem is, we watched him decline as a sophomore last season, so we’re a tad hesitant to make him our replacement for Ja’Wuan James at right tackle.

On Communication:

Not sure if Flores understands Dolphins fans this early in his tenure and had something to say about previous coaching regimes, or if this response coincidentally hits close to home for all of us, but his comments about communication is both refreshing for us and insulting to previous Dolphins head coaches:

“I think communication first and foremost (is vital). Ownership, managers, presidents, head coaches – there has to be an alignment of philosophies and a communication on a day-to-day basis that allows for a good working environment”

“That being said, there will always be differences of opinion…but you have to work through them”

“In my short time in Miami we’ve been aligned”

“We can’t ask the players to communicate if we can’t communicate…we need to practice what we preach…I think we have guys willing to do that”

Looks like Flores is able to do the one thing Jeff Ireland/Tony Sparano, Jeff Ireland/Joe Philbin, Mike Tannenbaum/Adam Gase/Stephen Ross were unable to do during their tenures, and that’s exhibit some form of cohesion across the franchise.

On Rob Gronkowski:

There was a few-minute stretch during the session where Flores was asked extensively about Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement.

In short, Flores complimented and praised Gronkowski for a few minutes – which honestly, is nothing any Dolphins fan needs to hear right now – so we’ll just leave that part of the session alone. If you’re really a masochist (or a New England Patriots fan on this website for some reason), skip to the 13-minute mark of the interview

On Minkah Fitzpatrick:

“(Minkah Fitzpatrick) is a football player. His strength is he can play a lot of positions. He’s versatile.”

“I’m not going to give up the goods on (how we’ll use Fitzpatrick)”

“Versatility will be very important and he’s a very versatile player. We’re excited to work with him.”

I get the feeling that the Miami Dolphins are looking to use Fitzpatrick as a safety or a slot corner. Given Bobby McCain‘s status as an active member of this roster in 2019, I’d say it’s more likely we see Minkah at safety than boundary cornerback.

On Eric Rowe:

“He’s tall, long; good speed; tackles well. Does a lot of good things. Has been hit with the injury bug a couple of times, but when healthy he’s been a productive player…we obviously know the kind of person he is, his work ethic. I think he’s a good player, a good talent”

“He will compete to play…he’s played on the left side, right side, inside, safety in college. Another guy who’s versatile. Mentally he can handle it. We’re excited to have (him)”

On T.J. McDonald:

“I think (T.J. McDonald) is another versatile player. He can play safety. Linebacker. Blitz pretty well.”

“Lays into some of the things I’ve done defensively…as far as moving pieces into different locations.”

“He’s big, he’s fast, he can tackle. We’ll find space for guys who are big, fast and can tackle. Those are at the top of my list of things I’m looking for defensively.”

I feel like Brian Flores is pumping up T.J. McDonald in an attempt to maintain trade value this offseason. While McDonald may serve a purpose in Flores’ 2019 defense, he most certainly isn’t a player that will be around in the future. Miami would love nothing more than to obtain a draft pick for a player who has a higher dead cap hit than regular salary cap hit this season (courtesy of Mike Tannebaum’s contract wizardry). I wouldn’t be surprised to see McDonald traded before the 2019 season begins.

On Kiko Alonso:

“I do see (Kiko Alonso) on this roster…he’s been a productive player in this league for a long time…his leadership…all the things I hear are positive.”

Due to the linebacking unit being so thin, as well as Kiko’s 2019 dead cap hit if he’s released, I’m not sure if the Dolphins can afford to kick Alonso off of the roster. Similar to McDonald, it’s possible Flores is pumping up Alonso to maintain trade value.

On Tight End:

“There is so much versatility at that position; you have to catch, you have to block, you have to lineup at multiple positions, you can have multiple tight ends on the field (at the same time).”

“Having depth at the position is important. Depth is vital just from a practice standpoint…you need that many guys.”

“Part of getting Dwayne (Allen) and Clive (Walford)” was because they were veteran guys.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Miami’s 2020 tight ends aren’t on the roster at this moment.

On the Draft:

“As we go through the draft process…Chris (Grier) and I are going to select the player that’s the best player for the Miami Dolphins.”

(After naming almost every position) “every position is important. Quarterback is of utmost importance…if we identify someone we like that we can develop and that can contribute to this team, that’s who we’re going to pick”

“You rely on the draft process from past years…we sat in with Minkah (Fitzpatrick) a few years ago…whether you take the guy or not, you’re just gathering information on specific players.”

“That process is on-going”

My expectation? Miami trades back to gather more draft picks for 2020 while using 2019’s draft picks for offensive line and defensive line depth.

On being the Head Coach up to this point:

“It’s been a blur. The last 6 weeks…the last 15 months really…lose a Super Bowl, get a new job, go through the process of being a defensive coordinator and getting in front of the room. Going through a season – the ups and downs. Win a super bowl, take a new job.”

“I’m fortunate to have these opportunities. I relish the moment to lead this team and to lead men”

“I got into coaching not for the fame or status, but to impact people. To impact young men, people in the building.”

“Try and make an impact every day and help people succeed.”

Image Credit: Mike Reiss

On which Coach can mentor him on Clock Management, etc:

“We have a few guys on staff that can fill that role…Jim Caldwell (he then named most of his staff)

On the Perception of the the Team:

“My focus…the daily focus…how to maneuver the pieces to – overall as an organization – to put the best product on the field.

“I don’t read headlines or go into all of that”

“(Preparation) will yield a good performance”

On these NFL Meetings:

“This being my first go-around, I think it’s incredible they spend a bunch of time on the competition committee”

“What’s been incredible the past couple of days…you’re sitting in a room with coaches, GMs, higher-ups….and the goal is to make the game better.”

“I’m one of 32.”

“I’m privileged and humbled to be in that room to try and give your opinion and make the game better”

Flores would go on to thank Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton for the effort they put into these meetings to prepare and represent all of the head coaches around the league.

On Minority HCs:

“I think there are a lot of quality, minority coaches in this league that have the ability to be head coaches in this league….I was fortunate to get an opportunity to interview. I interviewed at 4 places this year; interviewed at Arizona last year. I believe there are a lot of minority head coaches that, if given the opportunity, would excel”

“I think the Rooney Rule is a great rule. It allows guys to interview and get your name out there and show your leadership abilities”

“I know I’m an example for minority coaches in this league. With that in mind, I’m going to do my best to lead the Miami Dolphins and try and produce a winning product.”

I actually did not know that Flores received so many interviews this year and one with the Arizona Cardinals last year. It seems Flores was a known commodity, though it’s possible some teams were just looking to satisfy the Rooney Rule. This may be very fortunate for the Dolphins future.

As an Offensive coach, how does he identify Defensive coaches:

“Being a head coach is about leadership. It’s not about offense or defense or special teams, it’s about leadership. I have to stand in front of 90 guys on the roster, 53 in the season, 50-60 people in equipment to IT….and get them to follow me. That’s what being a head coach in this league is all about.”

“Offense. Defense….I’m just a coach. I can coach offense, I can coach defense, I can coach special teams…”

“I imagine people want leaders in leadership positions.”

Whereas Adam Gase was an offensive mind in a head coaching position, Brian Flores is an overall leader. That’s why many fans were interested in Darren Rizzi as a potential head coach for the Dolphins.

On top of having a successful special teams unit, Rizzi was viewed as more of a leader than Gase ever was. Fortunately for Dolphins fans, it seems Flores understands he’s not perfect and is willing to rely on his coaching staff for assistance.

Something Adam Gase never really did.

How does patience align with Flores personality:

This was probably one of the weirder questions, though I understand where it’s coming from – the organization and its fans need to be patient in 2019 as 2020 is the year to really look forward to.

“Patience is a virtue…it’s a quality that’s important to have.”

“At the same time, there has to be a balance between patience and urgency…I have a pretty good balance from that standpoint. We have to be patient and develop players”

“Try and create an environment of urgency to speed up the process of development”

Favorite quote of the session:

“We have a phrase in the building: ‘Adapt or Die'”

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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Miami Dolphins

25 Things We’ve Learned 25 Days into the 2019 Miami Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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Camp kicked off 25 days ago, giving us a month’s worth of visual evidence; here’s what we know so far

Preseason reps are not the end-all-be-all, and training camp practices won’t put players in the Hall of Fame, but there’s a purpose every time the chinstrap is buckled. For a team that harps on the fundamentals and executing the job that has been asked on a down-by-down basis, every rep has meaning.

The NFL calendar never sleeps, but the true beginning of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season began on July 25, exactly 25 days ago. With 10 practices under my belt, an intra-squad scrimmage, and two preseason games digested to the max, these are the 25 things I’ve learned over this first month.

Some of these things are big, some are small, some are encouraging, some are concerning. We start with the biggest of them all.

Big Things:

1. Xavien Howard – Money Well Spent

Xavien Howard’s been targeted a lot over the last month. He’s allowed a few catches, mainly in unjust 1-on-1 periods, but he’s also pulled some down, too. A lot of them. And that trend has continued through a scrimmage, joint-practices with an opponent, and one live game. X, as he’s so aptly named, exemplifies Brian Flores’ message on and off the field.

2. Laremy Tunsil – Next in Line

There’s a term — set and forget — that refers to such a comfort level with said player, that you don’t even bother watching him. He’s got it. Laremy’s got it. The feet, hands, strength, athleticism, quickness; a trip to Tunsil island is a dreadful way to spend a Sunday afternoon for edge rushers.

3. Jerome Baker – Glow Up

His rookie year looked promising, but no one could’ve seen this coming, not this fast. Baker had a strong debut season, but he wasn’t a full-time player, and he had his vulnerabilities. Now, he’s doing everything under the sun with supreme professionalism and execution. He plays at a different speed and contributes in all three phases (blitz, cover, run-support).

4. Josh Rosen – Signs of Life

USA Today Sports Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations always should’ve been low for a kid who is brand new to the league — brand new to his now third new home in three years, but that’s football. It was whatever in May. It was concerning in July. Then, in August, Miami’s second-round investment started playing a little freer. Getting into his second, third, sometimes fourth read, while moving away from a compromised pocket, things could be clicking.

It’s not a consistent theme yet — and it needs to be very good, and very consistent to push Miami off the 2020 QB Class — but that coveted trait, the consistency, is progressing. That much at least deserves monitoring.

5. Pass Rush Scheme – As Advertised

Saying goodbye to Cam Wake and Robert Quinn took a lot of juice off the edge for Miami. Those departures, and the Dolphins unsubstantiated interest in Trey Flowers, all but confirmed the shift to a new scheme that relied on games, gap integrity, and blitz packages to get after the quarterback.

Jerome Baker has been running free on QBs all camp and preseason. Charles Harris, Christian Wilkins, Tank Carradine, Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Ledbetter — a host of Dolphins blood-thirsty rushers are turning up the heat on opposing passers with regularity.

Encouraging Things –

6. Preston Williams – Star potential 

Despite his two-drop showing on the first-team Thursday, Preston Williams has shown true number-one receiver potential all summer. He’s crafty in the way he jostles for position, his strong hands are evident at the release from the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in catching the football. He transitions well enough out of breaks for a man of his size and stature.

At that build, with that catch radius, Williams’ deep-ball prowess has been the most encouraging. If he takes off in this capacity, once the games begin to count, this Miami receiving corps looks much more imposing.

7. Sam Eguavoen – Canadian Pipeline Still Flowing

Minor warts in Eguavoen’s game show up periodically, but his strengths far outweigh the parts of his game Miami will look to mask. He’s plenty adept at defending the edge, rushing the quarterback, and dropping into coverage.

The ability to close down on an underneath pass, but also fall off 15-yards downfield, is the type of versatility needed for a modern-day linebacker.

8. Bobby McCain – Experiment No More, He’s a Safety

Watch the broadcast version of a Miami preseason game and you might miss McCain altogether. He’s typically 12-20-yards off the football, but the opposition’s lack of interest in trying anything vertical is a testament to McCain’s quick acclimation.

All camp long, McCain was working on reading route concepts, flipping the hips, and taking proper angles in help-coverage. He has the makeup to do it, and so far it’s working out.

9. Mike Gesicki – Playing to his Strengths

Some writers suggest that Gesicki is falling out of favor, but I see a player doing exactly what he was drafted to do. He’s flexing out into the slot, in plus-splits (outside the numbers) and he’s uncovering with regularity in the passing game.

He’s only played a handful of snaps, and he’s created separation on all five of his preseason targets. Gesicki caught three of them, while the other two were misfires from the quarterback.

10. Jonathan Ledbetter – Aptitude for the Scheme

Eye-discipline, heavy hands, stout at the point-of-attack — you’ll often hear these phrases when the coaches discuss the prototype for defensive linemen. Ledbetter plays with his hands in front of his eyes, keeps his pad-level low, strikes first, and adheres to his responsibilities in the two-gap scheme.

11. Jason Sanders – Money in the Bank

If he missed kicks in training camp, I didn’t see them. Every time Sanders lines it up, he’s right down the fairway. This was true on hid 45- and 49-yard kicks on a soaked playing surface on Friday, as well as his 48- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.Sanders added angled kickoffs to his game, and has been placing those chip shots precisely into the coffin corner.

Things that are Just Things:

12. Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun First-Team – Tipping the Offensive Plan

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that this pair of rookies have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both players frequently create push in the running game, but are a bit of a coin-flip in regards to pass protection.

Brian Flores spoke all offseason about his affinity for running the ball, and starting the rookies — — over a player like Chris Reed — serves as a pretty sound indicator for that preference. Our next bullet point speaks a similar language.

13. Chandler Cox – 21-Personnel Back in Miami

“Defending a fullback in the running game is a difficult thing for a linebacker to do.” That was Coach Flores’ comment back in minicamp when asked about the Chandler Cox selection. Miami has to play small-ball this year to find wins, and that means staying on schedule offensively.

Cox has had his ups-and-downs, and Miami gives reps to Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary as potential backups, but it doesn’t end with a fullback-tailback combination — Miami has regularly shown 21-personnel with dual tailbacks.

14. Jesse Davis – Tackle Tryout

A tackle in college, and position-less mutt through his first two years as a pro, Davis settled into a seemingly permanent right guard position last season. That didn’t go particularly well, and now Miami will kick him back outside with mixed results.

Davis, occasionally vulnerable in pass-pro, is better in the running game. He’s athletic enough to execute a number of pulls (counter trey, play-side), and should benefit from help by the running backs since Tunsil blocks out the sun on the other side.

Discouraging Things:

15. Devante Parker – Minor Ailments

Another ripping and roaring start to camp has since plateaued, both because of his play and another minor injury that sidelined the former first-rounder. Even if Parker posts career numbers this season, can Miami really trust him? The two-year contract was wise in that it gives the Dolphins the extended evaluation before pulling the trigger on a big extension.

At this stage, the emergence of Preston Williams might make that point entirely moot.

16. Chris Reed – Any Day Now

Training as the primary backup center to Daniel Kilgore, the chances are very likely that Reed has to come off the bench at some point this season, but I expected more. He has the intelligence and instincts to play above replacement level between a competent center-tackle bookend, but he’s not recaptured his first-team status since his day-three demotion.

17. Jalen Davis – Not Picking Up Where He Left Off

One of the pleasant surprises of yester-year, Davis’ strong finish to the 2018 season has yet to carry over. He’s been buried on the third-team and is struggling to find success at that level. It might be another year on the practice squad before Davis — primarily a slot — can contribute.

18. Matt Haack – Bottom Barrel Punting Average

Punting is not something I’m claiming expertise in, but I know that Haack ranked 25thin average last season, and he’s currently 27ththis preseason. He has the ability to boom balls into the atmosphere, but the shanks are far too common.

Bad Things:

19. Offensive Line – Offensive

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo reacts during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Colts defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not been good. It’s the one position with a considerable amount of stink — cumulatively spread about — on the roster. From firing the coach of the room, to the on-field execution, only one thing aspect is consistently coming up on the list of pros: 78. This is mostly an individual’s checklist, but this group needs its condemning.

20. Dave DeGuglielmo – Where’s the Expertise?

Firing Pat Flaherty was an upgrade, according to many. So far, DeGuglielmo’s group is failing to properly communicate and pass off games from the defense, there are blown protections each week, and the backup units are utterly futile. He wasn’t given a lot to work with, but DeGuglielmo’s returns have not been pretty — Miami QBs have been sacked seven times in two games.

21. Swing Tackle – Swing and a Miss

Jordan Mills was thrown into the fire for an absent Laremy Tunsil in week-one, and the returns were disastrous. Mills missed Thursday’s game; taking his place, former AAF player, Jaryd Jones-Smith. The results were the same. If Miami loses either of Tunsil or Davis, things could get ugly quickly.

22. Secondary – Paper Thin

Xavien Howard is an all-pro, Eric Rowe looks the part, Minkah Fitzpatrick is excellent in coverage, and the safety trio is capable. Beyond those six, there might not be enough competent players to get through the season. The Patriots defense (similar schemes) rolls double digit defensive backs into the game plan throughout the year — the Dolphins are several bodies short of being able to say the same thing.

23. Reshad Jones – Cashing Checks

Jones missed 10 games in 2016 for a shoulder injury. He played through another shoulder ailment in 2017 and did not have a good season. Last year, he missed two more games, and voluntarily removed himself from a third. This year, he skipped OTAs (the voluntary portion), and has missed more practices than he’s been a part of.

Jones was running with the second-team throughout those healthy days, and he’s perfectly content to do that at his current pay rate.

24. Kenyan Drake – Time is Running Thin

Drake’s explosive skill set, versatility, and big-play ability was on display throughout camp, but an injury puts everything on hold. Miami are being discrete about the severity of the injury, but in a contract-year, Drake needs a consistent, strong showing for 17 weeks.

25. Raekwon McMillan – More Health Concerns

McMillan entered camp as a second-team ‘backer, earned first-team work early in camp, but has been missing ever since with an injury. As youngsters around him emerge, McMillan’s lack of involvement casts a cloud of uncertainty over his position on this roster.

It’s pretty clear what this Dolphins team is going to be this season. A smart team that — hopefully — doesn’t beat itself, but comes up short on talent in key areas. The defense should improve considerably from last season, and the offense remains a major question mark.

The showing of the defense in Tampa Bay is a great step in that direction, and further help is on the way (no Howard, Jones, McDonald, McMillan, or Andrew Van Ginkel for that game). Regardless of what happens on offense, with Miami’s deep free agent pockets, war chest of draft picks, and desire for that coveted top-five drafted quarterback, a surge on defense would spell a successful 2019 season.

Things are trending in that direction.

@WingfieldNFL

 

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Defense Dominates, Offensive Futility Leads to Defeat

Stat Dolphins Buccaneers
Total Yards 280 312
Rushing 118 75
Passing 162 237
Penalties 13/122 8/81
3rd/4thDown 2/15 4/15
Sacks For 4 5
TOP 27:43 32:17

 

Did Not Play:

CB: Xavien Howard
WR: Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant
S: Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, Walt Aikens
OL: Zach Sterup, Jordan Mills
LB: Kiko Alonso, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Quentin Poling
RB: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage

The Skinny

Which would you like first, the good news, or the bad news?

The strong winds and heavy rain Friday night impacted both offenses at Raymond James Stadium. The Dolphins and Bucs exchanged field goals and punts in an exhibition game that went 54 minutes before its first touchdown (each team scored in the final 3:35).

Defensively, the Dolphins showed their collective teeth with some creative blitzes, constant pressure, and sound coverage on the back0end without the team’s best player (Xavien Howard).

After a demotion to the second-team before Tuesday’s practice, Charles Harris responded with a monster game. The 2017 first-rounder picked up two sacks and four additional QB hits on the night.

CFL signing Sam Eguavoen flashed on a similar level. The linebacker forced a fumble, made a pair of run stops and got his hands on a deep in-cut after falling back into coverage.

Jerome Baker — as you see by the above video clip — answered our question in the preview piece about his blitzing prowess. Baker was a menace in all three phases once again.

On offense, it was a struggle for the ‘Phins. The quarterback battle suddenly leans in a new direction — albeit it coming by-way of default scenario — and the offensive line has gone beyond catastrophically awful.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen played the entire first half and effectively moved the ball on a couple of series. Still, some accuracy issues, a late read on fourth-and-goal from the two, and another woeful interceptable pass (which was dropped) undid a lot of the goods Rosen showcased.

Those “goods” featured adequate pocket mobility, improved body language, and a continued strong effort when the plays mattered most (third down, two-minute drill). Rosen often had to get off the spot, find a new passing avenue, reset, and deliver the ball.

Miami dropped multiple balls in their own right, further putting Rosen at a disadvantage. The body language and demeanor that Brian Flores criticized his young QB for was demonstrably better in this game. He battled through difficult conditions, a fierce pass rush, and once again delivered a scoring drive in the final two minutes.

Rosen — as it stands right now — deserves the opening day nod. Though it doesn’t appear he’s going to get it; Flores quickly announced Fitzpatrick as the starter for next week’s game vs. the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play hasn’t inspired a lot of hope if he is indeed declared the starter. Fitzpatrick matched Rosen’s poor decision making, and struggled with his own accuracy all night. The veteran was thrown to the wolves and was constantly under duress, but if you compare his second-team showing to Rosen’s effort last week, the youngin’ clearly won that battle.

It would be entirely disingenuous to leave this video out of the post-game column.

Jake Rudock threw an inexcusable interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but responded with the go-ahead touchdown-and-two-point drive in the final moments.

Running Backs

Kenyan Drake is out with an injury and Kalen Ballage did not play. Mark Walton was the beneficiary with plenty of work in the first half, excelling particularly in the passing game. Walton stuck a big time blitz pickup on a five-man rush and caught a slant, from a plus-split- for a first down.

Walton is pretty clearly the third best back on the roster, though he bounced a goal-line run that was built for a B-gap lead.

Patrick Laird ran for 45 yards on six carries. He’s a patient runner with quality vision and enough burst to make his runs work. Myles Gaskin teamed up in a few two-back sets, but he didn’t have a lot of room to work with.

Kenneth Farrow busted a big run, but it was the result of a massive lane opened up by the Miami blocking on a split zone, backside dig-out.

Chandler Cox is mixed bag — and this feels redundant. He hit some nice lead blocks, but wound up on the ground too much again. He was hit with a holding penalty tonight as well.

Wide Receivers

Burn the wide out film from this one. Drops, minimal separation, failure to get clean releases against press — Miami’s deepest offensive position group did not hold up its end of the bargain in the loss.

Preston Williams had a dreadful night. He had at least two drops, both of which would’ve moved the chains. He nearly came down with another ridiculous highlight reel catch where he tipped the ball to himself, and brought it in at the pylon, but his foot was on the chalk.

Kenny Stills might’ve been credited with a drop on the first play of the game, though it’s unclear if the ball was tipped. He did, however, convert a third-and-short on a drag route. Stills came in short-motion to create a stack, and then won with a clean release.

Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler had the best nights among the group — they had two catches and moved the chains once each. Ford uncovered in the end zone on the fourth-and-two play, but Rosen was a beat late and a hair low.

Saeed Blacknail uncovered for a big gainer and Trenton Irwin caught the two-point conversion on a wide open flat route.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary’s block sealed the edge on the long Farrow gallop. He caught one pass for five yards, and did his usual work blocking the edge in both the run and the pass game.

Mike Gesicki is showing continual signs of progress. He uncovered three times, caught two of the targets, and the third was considerably behind him on an open slant route.

Dewayne Allen committed a hold on a run from inside the five, and Durham Smythe had a 22-yard reception.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil returned and showed Dolphins fans exactly why he needs an extension. The pay-day is coming, but the price goes up every time Tunsil gets isolated in protection and handles the task with ease. He’s so quick to gain depth and prevent speed rushes, or underneath moves — he’s elite.

The rest of the line…is not. Though Michael Deiter looked the part the majority of the night. He still has some reps where he bends at the waist, and is left to the vices of the man across from him, but he’s picking up combination blocks and playing sound, assignment football in this game. He was the next best behind Tunsil and reason for optimism on that left side.

Jesse Davis surrendered a sack when he overset, despite help available from the back, and lost on a counter move working inside.

It’s difficult to assign blame on some pressure looks, but Shaq Calhoun is often part of blown protections with a variety of right tackles. He does, however, continue to get adequate push in the running game.

The rest of the interior line was not good, Daniel Kilgore got taken for a couple of rides and communication issues continue to persist.

Miami’s search for a swing tackle is not going well. Jordan Mills was down tonight and his replacement — Jaryd Jones-Smith — was an absolute train wreck. He was consistently beat with a speed rush off the edge and just doesn’t have the quickness to play the left side.

Defensive Line

Coach Flores is going to test the mettle of his guys. He wants to put stress on a player, and when things appear to be coming together, take that strain up another notch.

For Charles Harris, perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Harris was a menace. He whipped starting Left Tackle Donovan Smith (video below) helping to end the Bucs first drive, and then went to work on poor backup tackle, Cole Boozer. Harris won with speed, with a counter moves, and he defended the run.

Welcome to the NFL, Christian Wilkins. The first-round pick was disruptive. Number 97 recorded his first sack, another bone-crushing hit on the quarterback, and consistent penetration all night long.

Davon Godchaux is bordering on the territory where we don’t need to mention him any more — he’s as steady as they come and a true power-player. He throws those hands and gets under his man with regularity.

Tank Carradine looks good pushing up field, chopping the tackles hands, and bending the edge. He disrupted a throw on his newly patented move, and laid a hit on the quarterback hit.

Jonathan Ledbetter checked in for some first-team work, and he continues to show why the coaches love him. He’s like Godchaux in the way he plays low, with heavy hands, and can really control the point-of-attack in the two-gap scheme.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker played 15 snaps last week, made five tackles, three for run-stuffs, but never blitzed. That changed tonight.

Baker has an innate sense for angles to the quarterback, coupled with a rare burst that allows him to effectively move the quarterback off the spot from any gap he rushes. He also continues to defend the edge as a run-stopper — he’s ultra-impressive.

So was Sam Eguavoen. With four splash plays in the first half — including a forced fumble — Eguavoen displayed everything that has earned him first-team work. He’s athletic enough to get 10-yards deep into a pass drop (one PBU from that position), he’s strong enough to stack the edge in the run-game (one TFL there), and he’s instinctive enough to knife between blocks between the tackles (another TFL there).

The 26-year-old rookie’s most impressive play came in coverage (second clip in the video below). Carrying coverage up the seam, locating the hook zone, and then quickly pulling the trigger as the ball goes out to the flat, Eguavoen punished the receiver and forced a turnover.

Nick Deluca played with the first-team. It’s pretty clear what he does well and how he fits in this defense. He can scrape the edge and assist in the run game — something Miami needs with the injuries at the position mounting.

 

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard was held out of this one, probably because of the weather, but we got our first look at Eric Rowe. Rowe’s appearance was brief and not memorable one way or the other.

Jomal Wiltz, Nik Needham, and Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled. Tackling was an issue for the two slots while Needham was bested in coverage again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick did contribute with a gorgeous pass breakup early on against former Bama teammate O.J. Howard, but these missed tackles are new for him — there’s no reason to think he won’t clean it up.

Torry McTyer competed for the second straight game, and this time against the two’s. He’s taking well to the press-man scheme this defense prefers to run.

Safeties

Chris Lammons flashed time-and-time again. A prominent fixture on special teams, his #30 jersey showed up against the run, the pass, and one very impressive tackle on a screen pass.

Bobby McCain is so often out of frame that it’s difficult to identify him on the broadcast. He did, however, come up once in run support like a missile, and has done well to click-and-close in deep coverage.

Montre Hartage is running as the second-team deep safety. He missed a tackle on a big play in the screen game, but it was whistled back on a holding call.

Maurice Smith was active in the middle of the field. If Reshad Jones and/or T.J. McDonald aren’t back for the season opener, Smith might be called on to play significant reps.

Recap

This is the team I expected to see last week. Strong defensive effort, creative and complex scheme that overwhelms the offense with its disguise, and an offense that can’t get out of its own way.

After the dominant first-half effort by the defense, Flores kept prominent defenders (Harris, Fitzpatrick, Eguavoen) on the field, which felt odd.

The primary specialist unit continues to look the same. Cornell Armstrong, Nick Deluca, Terrill Hanks, Cox, Smith, Hartage, Wiltz, Fitzpatrick, Smythe, and Lammons remain focal points of the unit.

Miami took the lead with only 34 seconds to play, and Flores will certainly express his displeasure for the inability to close. Not to mention the absurd number of penalties. This was simply a sloppy game on Flores’ road debut.

Jason Sanders is a hell of a kicker. He drilled kicks right down the middle from 45 and 49-yards out on a sloppy playing surface.

Regardless of who starts under center, this team needs several things to function on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant need to get back, and Laremy Tunsil has to stay healthy.

All things told, Rosen has been making more out of a bad situation than Fitzpatrick, but the plan was probably to start the veteran on opening day all along — and we’re almost assured of that with the decision to start Fitz in the third preseason game.

Game Balls:

Charles Harris
Sam Eguavoen
Jerome Baker
Christian Wilkins
Patrick Laird

Don’t forget to check out the post-game recap on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

 

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins First-Half Jiffy Report v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Preston Williams
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Who are the Miami Dolphins’ risers and fallers in the first half of the second preseason game v. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Risers

Sam Eguavoen

The former CFL linebacker has continued to impress, and that was on full display during the first half. Eguavoen was shooting gaps and hitting the ball-carrier in the backfield.

He also was responsible for a forced fumble that was recovered by the Miami Dolphins. All arrows are pointing up for Eguavoen to make the roster and an impact for the team during the regular season.

Jerome Baker

Baker quickly made an impact as a blitzer as he rapidly got to Jameis Winston and at least got hits out of that exchange. While Baker needs to get stronger to bring down the quarterbacks and get sacks, it was a great sign to see Baker show this type of pressure.

Charles Harris

Have you noticed all the Risers are defensive players? Well, many of the defensive guys have flashed and surprised me so far in the game.

Harris showed some progression going into his third year, especially in this game. He showed improved hand-placement techniques and used it to get two sacks.

Fallers

Preston Williams

Williams had two major drops that could’ve been first downs. Williams has been a hot name for the past couple of weeks but has cooled down a little bit if this first half is any indication.

I don’t think it’s anything major; I’m sure he’ll get it cleaned up, but he’s fallen back down to Earth somewhat with the easy drops.

Williams did almost redeem himself with a nearly acrobatic touchdown catch but had just barely gone out of bounds.

Michael Deiter

It was only a matter of time before Deiter started struggling. He’s a still a rookie after all. He was responsible for a false start and got lucky that another was missed. It was just all-around rough for Deiter.

 

 

 

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