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Miami Dolphins

Comparing the 2007 Miami Dolphins to the Current Squad

Travis Wingfield

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The Dolphins have been to rock bottom before, but it was pretty different then

The 2019 Dolphins are going to be bad; very, very bad. In fitting juxtaposition, the Dolphins were almost the first team to capture a perfect season, and the first to take a winless trip around the sun.

The 2008 Detroit Lions became the first team to accomplish (endure?) the latter feat, and the 2017 Cleveland Browns have since encored the victory-free tour. Could the Dolphins join the obscurity of those rock bottom outfits?

It’s possible; very, very possible.

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably a survivor of the horrors that were the 2007 Miami Dolphins. The ‘Phins won only a single game, the Patriots breezed through the AFC Championship unscathed (and then Perfectville’s population was quickly quarantined at one), and Miami fired its Head Coach just 11 months after his appointment.

After what we saw Sunday, and what we expect to see from now through the bye week, we could be looking at a season that tops (bottoms?) that atrocities we saw in 2007. With that, let’s compare the two worst Miami Dolphins teams in the history of this once proud franchise.

On the Scoreboard

It’s only one game, but Miami’s average margin of victory is on track for the worst deficit in the history of professional football. The 2007 team was probably the same, right? Wrong.

Cam Cameron’s Dolphins point differential, after week-one, was 46 points better than the current Miami deficit. In fact, it took Washington five quarters (overtime) to take down Zach Thomas and the road team.

The close losses would continue. The 2007 Dolphins lost six of the first 11 games by exactly a field goal. The average point differential through those 11 games was negative 8.55 — but then things got ugly, which makes Greg Camarillo’s memorable moment that much more…memorable.

Miami lost three of its final five (the win sandwiched between) by at least three touchdowns, and a seven-point defeat in the season finale against the Bengals.

On the season, the Dolphins average point differential was negative 10.25 — a total of 164 points.

The current Dolphins are already nearly a 50-burger (49) in the hole. For Miami to equal the 2007 team’s negative 164-point differential, the average point-differential the rest of the year would have to be negative 7.67 points per game.

With the Patriots coming to town on Sunday — a team that just whopped Pittsburgh by 30 — the differential is likely to come in a lot closer to negative 49 than negative seven.

The Roster Construction

Miami’s plan to — shall we say, leverage this season for future gains — was discrete throughout the spring and summer, but the plan was ultimately unveiled just before the season kicked off.

Ushering in 13 new players — a 26% roster overhaul — just one week prior to the season opener, was a sure sign of two things. First, that the 2019 team is already unrecognizable from last season, and that the same sequence will be true in 2020. Second, it securely ensured that Miami would struggle off the bat.

Sep 8, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Eric Rowe (21) wraps up Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III (3) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason outgoing box was far busier than the incoming stack. Eric Rowe, at a whopping $3.5 million for one year, was the team’s prized free agent. The other, Dwayne Allen, didn’t survive August. The team made just one draft pick inside of the top 75.

Pushing resources down the road was the main objective, but the secondary effect was that this team would lose a lot of games, and wind up in position to select a quarterback early in next April’s draft.

The 2007 team took a different approach. Less than a week after he was cut by the Steelers, Miami inked Joey Porter to a deal worth $32 million in total value.

Veterans Vonnie Holliday and Keith Traylor were brought back before hitting the open market — both of those players were on the wrong side of age-30. Yeremiah Bell and Donnie Spragan were brought back on one-year deals after the initial wave of free agency ended, two more long-time vets.

Cameron and company added David Martin to the offense and spent $6 million on kicker Jay Feely. The brain trust then spent the 9th pick in the draft on the Ginn family, a move made for interim success, and without much foresight.

The total free agent money spent totaled in excess $45 million. The 2019 Dolphins spent less than $20 million in free agency, with half of that coming by-way of the Ryan Fitzpatrick contract. And consider the increase in overall cap space in the league from 2007 to 2019.

The 2007 team’s latest notable departure — aside from cut-down day — was the release of Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, on July 17. Naturally, Culpepper would return to town and lead the Raiders to a three-score victory over Miami, but I digress.

That team made moves to compete for that season, which is understandable in a pre-tanking era. And they almost won themselves right out of the first pick, which didn’t matter any way as they chose an offensive lineman over a quarterback that has played in a Super Bowl, 10 playoff games, and four pro bowls.

Coach’s Contracts

Cam Cameron was one-and-done in Miami. The commitment to Brian Flores almost assures that he won’t endure the same fate, especially when considering the differences in their contract values.

Cameron received the customary four-year deal, where Flores’ contract is for five years, and the deal is fully guaranteed. — perhaps a nod to the throwaway 2019 season. Of the eight coaches hired this offseason, Flores was the only one to receive a fully guaranteed contract.

Future Resources

While Miami’s available cap space entering 2008 is not readily available, we can rest assured that it didn’t come in anywhere close to the approximately $120 million available to the 2020 Dolphins powers that be.

And draft compensation isn’t even a comparison. The 2008 team picked up an additional second-round pick after dealing Chris Chambers at the deadline — an area in which the 2019 Dolphins will likely be active — in addition to three sixth-round picks.

In total, the 2008 team had nine draft picks, but just five in the top 110 picks.

The 2020 Dolphins are slated to make 11 selections in April’s draft, and then come back in 2021 with nine more picks. An estimated 12 of those picks will occur within the top 100 draft picks. All of this is to say, the 2007 team didn’t start tearing things down until it became bleak.

Losses certainly played a part in Miami punting at the trade deadline, but the mounting injuries certainly played a part. Trent Green suffered a horrific concussion, Ronnie Brown tore his ACL, and the secondary became so depleted that Cameron Worrell is forever remembered for making his way onto one of Randy Moss’ all-time greatest receptions highlight reel.

The one thing that turned around the 2008 Dolphins, just one year removed from an arduous 1-15 season, was the acquisition of Chad Pennington. The former Jets quarterback led Miami to an 11-5 mark, an AFC East title, and did so as the runner-up as league MVP.

Funny how a quarterback can do that.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers

The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.

Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.

Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.

That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.

Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.

 

Year Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)
2017 399 (38.2%)
2018 401 (39.2%)
2019 0

 

A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.

Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.

Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.

Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.

First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.

His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.

This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.

That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.

The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.

Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.

The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.

Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.

If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.

Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.

Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.

Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.

The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.

Now, for the tape.

If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.

We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton

Chris Kowalewski

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Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.

By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.

Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.

While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.

Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D

Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Weather: Dome
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21

The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.

This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.

Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.

The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.

The Scheme:

Offense:

The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.

Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.

Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.

Defense:

On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.

With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.

Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.

Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.

The Players:

Offense:

Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.

The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.

Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.

Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.

Defense:

Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.

Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.

Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.

If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.

Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.

The Opportunities:

Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.

Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.

The Projected Outcome:

The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.

Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.

Dolphins 6
Cowboys 31

@WingfieldNFL

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