Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

Confidence in Miami Dolphins Defense

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In Miami’s defense, individually, the Dolphins’ defense has a very good group of players.

Reshad Jones is a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, Xavien Howard is an elite cornerback and Minkah Fitzpatrick is on his way to becoming one.

Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are phenomenal defensive tackles that cost a fraction of what they’re really worth, and both Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan give Miami a solid, young tandem in the middle of the field.

So with all of this “talent”, how did Miami end up with the 29th-ranked defense last season?

Individually, Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh were two of the top players at their position across the entire NFL; and yet, how well did those defenses do during their tenure?

  • 2015: 25th
  • 2016: 29th
  • 2017: 16th

We have no idea what kind of results Patrick Graham‘s defense is going to produce, but he has an opportunity to mold a group of talented individuals into a threatening team.

These starters all show promise, but do they provide us with a sense of confidence heading into 2019? See who’s letting us relax and who has us on edge down below:

Defensive Line
Confidence Level: 5
Confident Players: 2

Anchored by two late-round picks that came into their rookie training camp with minimal expectations, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor have stolen the show. Drafted in the 5th and 6th rounds respectively, both defensive tackles have transcended their “draft value” and evolved into reliable starters on the defensive line.

The foot injury to Taylor in Week 8 dampened an otherwise dominant season from the Oklahoma State product, to the point where we started to believe that Taylor may actually be the better defensive tackle between the two.

This is a glorious problem to have for any team, as both players will combine to cost $1.38m against the salary cap next season. These are the exceptional values you receive when you draft stellar talent deep in the draft, and Chris Grier deserves praise for identifying just that.

Where Grier deserves some skepticism is with the performance of his team’s defensive line since taking over as Director of College Scouting in 2007.

Since then, Miami has averaged the 19.5th-ranked rushing defense.

During that time, the team has had:

  • The top-10 rushing defense 3 times (25%)
  • The bottom-10 rushing defense 6 times (43%).
    • In fact, they’ve been bottom-3 as many times as they’ve been top-10.

Recent draft hauls help quell thoughts of incompetent defensive lines, but given the number of resources (money and draft picks) used to solve a defensive line that’s currently in shambles, it’s safe to say our confidence level is average at best.

Christian Wilkins should make it a triple threat on the defensive line, but he is an unknown commodity at this point. Charles Harris was selected #22 overall, and he has provided virtually no assistance to this defense during his two-year tenure.

Even if Wilkins is double the player Harris was, it’s still not enough to eliminate every concern at the position.

Akeem Spence returns and should be a quality backup rather than a starter turned boxer. The only player preventing this defensive tackle room from being the best in the league is the exclusion of William Hayes.

What the Dolphins don’t have are players that can rush the quarterback.

After losing Cameron Wake to the Tennessee Titans and trading Robert Quinn to the Dallas Cowboys, the Dolphins are left with Harris and a bunch of practice squad players.

It doesn’t matter how good Xavien Howard and Minkah Fitzpatrick are, if the opposing quarterback has all day to throw, a receiver is going to get open.

Think back to the Buffalo Bills game last year in Miami when Josh Allen was able to find Zay Jones for multiple touchdowns after each play lasted an elongated amount of time. Allen was also two inches away from hitting Charles Clay in the endzone on a desperate hail Mary attempt….on another play that was extended extensively.

Since 2007, Grier has had a hand in drafting 5 defensive linemen in the first 2 rounds. Combined, out of a possible 292 games they could have all played, they were active for 191 of those games (65.41%) and started just 51 (17.47%) of them:

Clean slate? We’ll give these players one. Confidence they’ll evolve into productive players? Neutral.

Linebackers
Confidence Level: 4
Confident Players: 1.5

You’re just as likely to find half of a human playing football as you are to find Kiko Alonso playing Jeopardy.

Since tearing his ACL in 2014, the former Oregon linebacker has been pretty durable. Up until his ankle injury towards the end of last season, Alonso played every defensive snap. In 2018, Alonso was responsible for another 1004 snaps (92.19%).

But that’s where the consistency ends.

Alonso is going to be on the field and he’s going to consistently give you 8 tackles a game. He is consistently around the ball, but it’s usually after the ball is caught by the opposing running back or tight end.

He diagnoses plays fairly well, but he doesn’t get to his opponent until they are already 3-yards up the field.

To be fair, this actually speaks volumes about the ineptitude of the Dolphins defensive line. If they were able to contain the run better, rush the quarterback with any kind of consistency, or had a 0-technique or 2-technique defensive tackle that was able to maintain the middle of the field, Miami’s linebackers would probably perform better than they have.

This unit makes up for a lot of defensive line failures.

But Kiko is not half the player we’re confident in. Raekwon McMillan’s ACL injury really dampened what could have been a more-promising career up to this point.

McMillan should have been able to get his “rookie mistakes” out of the way in 2017, and 2018 should have instilled more confidence in our defensive play caller.

Overall, he did an admirable job. There were instances where he was burned terribly in coverage, but he also had stretches during the season where he was one of the better defensive players on the field.

I’m simultaneously skeptical of what McMillan can become, but I also believe last season was both a recovery period and a learning curve.

Statistically, McMillan is not a better player than Kiko Alonso, which makes it debatable that he’s a player we’re confident in.

In this case, we’re not rounding up – and we’re being a bit generous with McMillan’s 0.5 – but maybe Kiko deserves a 0.5 himself, and together, they can make one, complete linebacker.

The youngest starter in this unit, Jerome Baker is expected to take the next step and become a better outside rusher and coverage linebacker. Ironic thing is, if you pay attention to the grapevine, it’s possible Baker is an odd-man out in Patrick Graham’s defense.

Personally, I think it’s asinine to leave your best player off the field for extended periods of time (think of what happened last year with Matt Burke and Minkah Fitzpatrick). Good coaches find ways to utilize good players.

Baker is the one of the only linebackers we’ve had confidence in since Zach Thomas or that one season Joey Porter went off (2008).

This unit’s productivity has a lot to do with the defensive line. If Miami can win their battles in the trenches, the team’s linebackers should prosper. Otherwise, “Tank for Tua” is in full-swing.

Secondary
Confidence Level: 7
Confident Players: 3

This position group easily has the capability of becoming a top-10 unit, and it’s not ludicrous to say it could even be a top-5 unit in 2019.

It’s also possible that this position group bottoms-out and ends up living in the bottom third of the league.

On paper, this unit should naturally improve from the 16th-ranked passing defense in 2018:

  • Eric Rowe is better than the missing #2 boundary cornerback we rolled out last season – even if it would be more-ideal if Rowe were a depth player.
  • The Dolphins are expected to solidify positions for both Minkah Fitzpatrick and Bobby McCain.
    • Allowing McCain to thrive in his natural slot cornerback position.
    • Giving Fitzpatrick the opportunity to become an elite talent at one, specific position rather than a valuable Swiss Army knife.
  • A complete season of chemistry under their belt.
    • T.J. McDonald has now worked with Reshad Jones for a full season.
    • Fitzpatrick isn’t trying to learn the ‘lay of the land’ while studying 3 different positions.
    • Defensive Captain Bobby McCain got the “I hope I can live up to my contract extension” butterflies out of his system.

Thing is, we used some of these similar reasons to excuse 2017.

After missing the first 8 games of the 2017 season due to a suspension, McDonald jumped into a starting role in Week 9 – fresh off of a contract extension he earned due to his training camp performance.

We expected vintage 2014 McDonald, and instead we received a player who wasn’t even as productive as Isa Abdul-Quddus.

And it’s not to say that the fans weren’t rooting for McDonald to succeed. We gave him an ample amount of excuses: he had to learn Matt Burke’s playbook, he was shaking off some rust, he had to figure out a way to coexist with Reshad Jones – both of whom are better-suited as strong safeties.

All of which may have some validity to them, but his 2018 performance reminded us why the Los Angeles Rams let a once-promising young player walk. Statistically, it seems like Miami made the right decision, but if you watched McDonald in coverage, he was more of a liability than he was a playmaker.

McCain was expected to settle in at his slot cornerback position last season when he received a $27m contract extension. He was thrust to the outside when Miami realized they actually needed to field someone opposite Xavien Howard.

It’s hard to say it’s entirely McCain’s fault for his subpar season, but when you’re making $6.75m a year (and you’re the 5th-most expensive player on the roster in 2019), you’re expected to provide a solution, not become a detriment.

Although there are only a few players we’re confident in, we aren’t really too concerned about this group either.

If McCain and McDonald are as bad as they were last year, you figure Miami’s passing defense should stay right around 16th again. However, if they perform closer to the expectations their contracts dictate for them, this secondary can carry this Dolphins team to more victories than the “2020 QB club” would like.

Is Reshad Jones “declining”? Yes.
Is Reshad Jones overpaid? Yes.
Did his attitude last season tick us off? Eh, kinda.

But, Jones is still a quality player to have in your backfield. Don’t let the lack of trade offers fool you, no one wants an aging $17.2m safety. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be productive for Miami this year.

The hard-hitting safety will burn us a few times when he takes the wrong coverage angle, but he’ll probably make up for it with an impressive interception or two.

Jones hauled in 3 interceptions last season, but it was also the first year of his career in which he didn’t record even half a sack.

Let’s not allow our emotions cloud the kind of player Jones is for this team. Could the situation be better? Absolutely. But would you rather Walt Aikens back there? What about McDonald? At least until 2020, you have Reshad Jones – and I’m confident he will produce for the Miami Dolphins in 2019.

Between the offense and defense, Miami has 9 players we are confident in. That’s nearly enough to field half a starting football team!

Stay strong, Dolphins fans. 2020 is the year this team is complete and competes. Allegedly.

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.

Advertisement
2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    May 8, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    On the new hybrid defense… Flores on the Patriots, seemed to find a way to sneak in extra dbs (with a 3-2 and 3-3 defense). That will be interesting seeing 3 safeties on the field, or 4 corners. Not sure who those extra corners will be. Base 3-4 and 4-3 were 10% of plays combined.

    TJ lost 15 pounds and should be improved.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      May 8, 2019 at 2:59 pm

      I would love to see Howard, Fitzpatrick, McCain and Rowe on the field at all times (with Jones and McDonald acting as the safeties and with Fitzpatrick as a type of hybrid – maybe shading towards Rowe’s side). This team is going to need to rely on their secondary often, especially with the lack of pass rush coming from the DL.

      TJ is such a wildcard on defense – if he is able to step up in coverage the team should be very stout in the secondary. Also have to think McCain isn’t anywhere near as bad as he was in 2018 – not a given, but he can’t get much worse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Guide – Defensive Line (Interior)

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Over the next two weeks, Locked On Dolphins will bring you your one-stop shop for all things Miami Dolphins 2019 training camp

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Wide Receivers
Offensive Line
Defensive Interior
Defensive End – 7/18
Linebackers – 7/19
Cornerbacks – 7/22
Safeties – 7/23
Specialists – 7/24

Game-By-Game Predictions Part 1 – 7/24 (Part 2 coming in September)

Prologue:

For the majority of the Ryan Tannehill era, the Dolphins entered training camp as dark horse candidates to seize a wildcard playoff berth. Things have changed for the worse in 2019, but the step backward comes with the hopes of constructing a perennial AFC East contender capable of winning games in January.

That’s the big-picture snapshot of the Miami Dolphins rebuild. In the interim, however, establishing the core principles of the Brian Flores program, as well as developing young talent, both capture the forefront of this year’s training camp objectives.

Over the next two weeks, we will get you familiar with each player on the roster. With biographies, quick-hitter scouting notes, and a prediction on the player’s ultimate role on the 2019 Dolphins, this serves as your guide for Miami’s summer practice session.

Defensive Line (Interior)

Overview:

The entire Dolphins operation is under construction. No unit will see greater transformation than the defensive front seven, particularly the roles of the defensive line. The Patriots (Brian Flores) and Packers (Patrick Graham) operate two of the most advanced, modern-day style of stop-units predicated on a flurry of fronts, techniques, and varying roles for versatile players.

So as we look at the defensive front, it’s important to understand the classification of each player, as well as their respective position group. Interior defensive lineman traditionally refers to the tackles, but this position is being expanded to account for all non-two-point players — the larger fellas that do the dirty work.

We’re talking about nose tackles, five-techniques, and everything in-between.

This group is led by yet another coach with a polished resume. Between the Jaguars recent front-line resurgence, coupled with a six-year stint at Clemson, Marion Hobby has been in charge of the best-of-the-best at the professional and college levels.

Adapting from a wide-nine, one-gap, attacking style of aggressive rushing, Miami will veer towards a two-gap, read-and-react style predicated on intelligence and heavy hands. The Dolphins have paid out a lot of money for little production at spot in recent years. And without wholesale changes to the personnel, 2019 could serve as an extended audition in year-one of the rebuild.

Christian Wilkins – Rookie
Jersey: 97
College: Clemson
Opening Day Age: 23.7
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $15.4M total, $15.4M guaranteed

Wilkins’ Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

There isn’t a whole lot Christian Wilkins hasn’t accomplished in his young life. Before he’s of legal age to rent a vehicle, Wilkins has won two national championships, been named a unanimous, first-team All-American, and graduated with two degrees from Clemson.

Wilkins is a disruptive force inside with unique burst and wiggle. He has the aforementioned versatility (capable of playing every position from 5-tech to nose) that should keep him on the field more than any player at his position.

With rare athleticism, agility and general football instincts, Wilkins’ skillset is not limited to defensive line. We will probably see him on offense in goal-line packages and on the field goal block unit.

2019 Projected Role: Starting Defense (multiple techniques), 75% snap-taker

Davon Godchaux – 2 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 56
College: LSU
Opening Day Age: 24.8
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1.4M total, $0 guaranteed

Godchaux’s Story by Locked On Dolphins

One of Miami’s most consistent contributors of the last two years, Godchaux doesn’t score enough praise. He’s rarely knocked back at the point of attack, stands his ground against double teams, and started showing progress as a pass rusher late last season.

The scheme change could benefit Godchaux with his strong punch and low pad level. He’s likely to see most of his reps up over the nose, but he can slide out to the 2i and 3-tech spots seamlessly.

2019 Projected Role: Starting Nose, 60% snap-taker

Vincent Taylor – 2 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 96
College: Oklahoma State
Opening Day Age: 25.7
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1,5M total, $0 guaranteed

Taylor’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

A clean bill of health is the only thing standing between Vincent Taylor and league-wide recognition. His run-stuffing numbers — efficiency, not volume — are elite, and his pass rush arsenal developed last season to boot. Taylor, frustratingly, heeded playing time to inferior producers last season, but 2019 should offer a fresh opportunity.

Taylor’s best position is at the 3-tech, but he’s not limited to that role. He can win with quickness, power, and a relentless motor. Conditioning and consistency are the next steps for Taylor to take in his young career.

2019 Projected Role: Starting 3-tech, 50% snap-taker

Tank Carradine – 5 years of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 95
College: Florida State
Opening Day Age: 29.6
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $720K total, $0 guaranteed

Carradine’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

The first of Miami’s low-risk, potential high-reward signings this offseason, Carradine comes to Miami as damaged goods. The former second-round pick missed 23 games the last two years to injury, and has never stayed healthy from wire-to-wire in his NFL career.

Carradine has the long arms, heavy hands, and explosive metrics that this staff prefers for the position. He’s solid at the point of the attack, he’s effective setting the edge, and he can win one-on-one matchups as an edge rusher. Anything he gives the Dolphins, however, should be considered a bonus.

2019 Projected Role: Rotational 5, 7-tech, 30% snap-taker

Jonathan Woodard – 1 year of service (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 76
College: Central Arkansas
Opening Day Age: 26.0
Contract Details: 1 years remaining (ERFA), $645K total, $0 guaranteed

Woodard impressed in limited action last season. With a sack, two tackles-for-loss, and 10 total tackles in six games, Woodard often found work. His season ended prematurely due to injury, and he has a terrific shot to make his first opening day roster of his career.

The numbers game catches Woodard here, however. With so many bodies added at the position, one is left to wonder if the team wants to move in a different direction. His pre-draft scouting report questioned his awareness and feel for the position — traits that won’t fly with the new staff.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Akeem Spence – 6 years of service (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 93
College: Illinois
Opening Day Age: 27.8
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $3.2M total, $3.2M guaranteed

Spence had his moments in his first year with the Dolphins, but a lot of Miami’s run-game issues manifested when the opposition worked towards Spence. He’s a one-gap style of tackle that wants to win with quickness and react after he has done so.

This is a difficult proclamation with the entirety of Spence’s contract coming to him regardless, but two things paired together spell the end of his time in Miami: lack of scheme fit and the surprise emergence of lesser-known players in camp and preseason.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Adolphus Washington – 3 years of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 53
College: Ohio State
Opening Day Age: 24.8
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $720K total, $0 guaranteed

Washington’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

A Late-May signing, Washington was the latest to join the Dolphins roster. Another player that relies on quickness and initial burst, Washington has a little more by-way of counter moves than the guys he’s competing against for work.

His run defense could get him in trouble. He’s often too high off the snap, and he’s a tad light in the lower-half to properly execute a two-gap style of defense. He figures into the lineup as a sub-package interior pass rusher.

2019 Projected Role: Rotational 3, 4i, 5-tech, 15% snap-taker

Jamiyus Pittman – 1 year of service (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 65
College: UCF
Opening Day Age: 24.9
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1.2M total, $0 guaranteed

A late-season call-up, Pittman played 45 snaps as a UDFA last year. His draft stock plummeted after missing the East-West Shrine Game with an illness, yet he has persevered. A bit undersized, Pittman wins with surprising strength, change-of-direction, and effort.

Pittman is regularly lauded for his hard work; that type of determination will keep him around whether it’s on the opening day roster or the practice squad.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut, practice squad

Joey Mbu – 4 years of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 94
College: Houston
Opening Day Age: 26.5
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1.4M total, $0 guaranteed

For a team lacking a tried and true nose tackle, the 330-pound Joey Mbu could be the prescription for the problem. He’s a power player that uses his hands as weapons. Those active hands help keep Mbu clean as he searches for work down the line.

According to an anonymous AFC defensive line coach from his NFL.com draft page, Mbu was regularly praised for his leadership in college — the kind of player Flores wants on his team. Mbu was with the Packers last season with new Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham.

2019 Projected Role: Rotational Nose, 20% snap-taker

Dewayne Hendrix – Rookie
Jersey: 73
College: Pittsburgh
Opening Day Age: 24.7
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

Hendrix has the size (270 pounds) to play a base 5-tech in the new defense, but his lack of bulk and may require a year of work. He’s a natural pass rusher, but struggles to fight off blocks in the running game. Hendrix is a practice squad candidate.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Jonathan Ledbetter – Rookie
Jersey: 98
College: Georgia
Opening Day Age: 22.0
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

Surprisingly undrafted, Ledbetter was among Miami’s first UDFA signings. With 34.5-inch arms, standing 6-4 at 280 pounds, Ledbetter plays with a sturdy anchor and high motor (sensing a theme here?) He’s a natural read-and-react type with gap integrity and astute contact balance.

His versatility and scheme fit puts Ledbetter among the top potential UDFA’s to make the opening day roster.

2019 Projected Role: Rotational 5-tech, 4i-tech, 10<% snap-taker

Cory Thomas – Rookie
Jersey: 48
College: Mississippi State
Opening Day Age: 23.5
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

Thomas is a nice project player, but he needs to play with more functional strength to make it at the next level. It’s possible that he hasn’t fully matured physically, but his athleticism and natural bulk make for an intriguing camp body.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Durval Neto – Rookie
Jersey: 69
College: International Pathway
Opening Day Age: 26.2
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

Durval Neto is a fascinating player. He’s massive. His ankles are bigger than most human being’s thighs, and he pairs that girth with eye-popping athleticism — he can do a standing backflip.

Neto arrives via the international pathway program and that earns him roster exemption. Neto allows Miami to keep 11 players on the practice squad, so long as the big Brazilian is one of them.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut, practice squad

2019 Dolphins Interior Defensive Line at a Glance:

Much like the offensive line, there are a lot of players that will cut out a heavy workload for this Dolphins staff. The top three are pretty well set in stone with the first-round pick Wilkins, and the proven players in Godchaux and Taylor. Beyond that, jobs are open for considerable rotational work.

Expect the Phins to divvy up playing time to every member on the active roster — specific roles, and the necessity for fresh legs, requires a solid eight-man rotation.

The shift to the new scheme could leave some casualties in the wake, and Miami’s new direction is rather evident by the player-types acquired this offseason. Taking some onus off the wide-nine edge defenders to rush the passer and set the edge in the ground game should make for a more effective run defense.

The two-gap style will require these players to play smart with sound eye discipline, and powerful lower bases to hold the point of attack. The job of these players is to free up the impressive, young linebackers on this roster. If this group can’t get that job done, there will be more turnover next offseason on the Dolphins defensive line.

@WingfieldNFL

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Dan the Man – Why #13 is my all-time Favorite Dolphin

Kevin Dern

Published

on

Unfortunately for me the months of June, July and the beginning of August are busiest for me at my day job, so my writing this summer has been a bit sparse.  I was late to press time for Shawn Digity’s latest piece on our staff picks for Favorite Dolphin of all-time, but he went the extra mile and embedded a tweet from me and added a quick blurb.  Surprisingly, maybe only to Shawn and myself, but we were the only two members to pick Daniel Constantine Marino.  When I learned this my wheels immediately began turning and claimed dibs on writing an ode to Dan The Man.  Travis obliged, so here it is.

To begin explaining why Dan Marino is my favorite Dolphin of all-time I need to back up a bit.  I was born in 1986 and didn’t really start following football until the second grade in 1993.  Suffice to say I missed Dan’s magical 1984 MVP season.  I missed him on Monday Night defeating the ’85 Bears.  I missed a lot really.

The first Dolphins game I ever watched was the “Leon Lett” Game, the miraculous win in snowy Dallas that put the Dolphins to 9-2 on the year.  This was after Marino’s Achilles injury in Week 6 of 1993 in Cleveland, so I still did not know who he was.  I fell in love with the Dolphins hook, line and sinker a few weeks later.  While on winter break, the Dolphins play at San Diego on Monday Night Football.  My dad let me stay up and watch Monday Night Football for the first time.  Games back then started at 9pm, which was usually past my bedtime as a young lad.  I couldn’t stay up until halftime, but the colors, the thrill of staying up late, and knowing that Miami had already beaten the Cowboys, who I knew to be arguably the best team in the NFL – they won the Super Bowl in ’93 – started me on this lifetime affair with the team in aqua and coral.

Fast forward a few months to Labor Day Weekend 1994.  I was at my grandparent’s house and my grandpa and I sat down and watched the NFL Game, which happened to be Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots against Dan Marino and the Dolphins.  Miami won, 39-35.  Marino and Bledsoe combined to throw for 894 yards and 9 touchdowns that day, with 473 and 5 TDs belonging to #13 in the white jersey.  None bigger than the following play.  Bill Zimpfer and Jim Mandich called it better than the TV crew, so I’ll let them narrate this masterstroke:

4th & 5 and you throw a 36 yard TD to Irving Fryar? I’d inject that feeling into my veins if possible.  Mandich waxes poetic about it as Marino swaggers off the field.  It was amazing, and Dan Marino ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated the following week.

 

My dad had a subscription to SI. After he read it, I snagged the cover and tacked it to my bedroom wall.  The cover stayed there until September 13th, 2001 when our family moved across town.  I lost the cover somewhere during the move.

For Christmas that year I received a Dan Marino Jersey and the book Marino:  On the Record.  I still
have the book to this day and must have flipped through it over a hundred times.  I was hooked.

Growing up in Cincinnati my brothers and I were subject to watching the Bengals during the worst of the “Bungles” years.  My brother Eric and I would wait for our dad to inevitably fall asleep during the first quarter of Bengals misery and we’d change the channel hoping to find a better game.  If we couldn’t I’d sit there and wait for the NFL on NBC updates.  Often there was Dan Marino throwing a touchdown pass.

One Sunday, it happened to be the “Fake Spike” play that Marino and back Bernie Kosar engineered to beat the hated Jets.  Mark Ingram caught that game-winner.  Miami opens against the Ravens and his son this year.  Small world.  That play made Dan Marino the ultimate quarterback to me…and I had no notion of what he’d done throughout his career up until the injury in 1993.

I remember the following year Marino leading a comeback drive against the Falcons to save the season, including this scramble and this game-winning TD to Irving Fryar on back-to-back plays.  The desire, the heart, the will to win Marino exhibited on this drive is what I’ll remember.

Since Dan retired after 1999, as a Dolfan, can you honestly say that you’ve felt comfortable with any of the quarterbacks Miami’s had under center to lead a 4th quarter comeback? I can’t.  Can you say that no matter what the deficit in a game was, did any of those quarterbacks make you feel like you were never out of the game the way Dan did? I can’t.

His ability to make the difficult throws stupidly possible was uncanny.  He made deep throws seem like 10 yards with the flick of the wrist.  Words don’t do these passes justice, so I won’t try.  Just watch.

***These are time stamped links***

Behind the Back!

Eventually all of our childhood heroes have to retire at some point.  But Dan the Man gave us one final 4th quarter comeback in this final victory, at the Kingdome in Seattle in the playoffs.

Dan Marino was the reason I wore #13 in baseball and basketball growing up.  Wearing his jersey on Halloween always netted me a King Size candy bar from my neighbor Mr. Bruns, a fellow Dolfan who introduced me to “Dolphin Digest”, when trick-or-treating.  No one else got one.  I wrote two papers about Dan Marino and his accomplishments in college.  Both were A’s.  Easy as a Dan Marino 25 yard laser in the breeze.

Upon his retirement, Dan Marino held the record for having the most NFL Records.  Greatness personified.

420 Touchdowns

61,361 Yards

4,967 Completions

8,358 Attempts

155 Career Wins

Think of the numbers Marino would have and the records he’d still hold if he played in this era.  The numbers would be eye-popping.

I remember watching Sunday Night Football when ESPN covered the Dolphins game against the Ravens and did a special halftime segment for Dan Marino’s jersey retirement.  Play these and listen to how many peers respect the Legendary Dan Marino.

One quarterback.  One team.  One city.  A lifetime of memories.  Dan Marino – my all-time favorite Miami Dolphins.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Guide – Offensive Line

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Over the next two weeks, Locked On Dolphins will bring you your one-stop shop for all things Miami Dolphins 2019 training camp

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Wide Receivers
Offensive Line
Defensive Interior
Defensive End – 7/18
Linebackers – 7/19
Cornerbacks – 7/22
Safeties – 7/23
Specialists – 7/24

Game-By-Game Predictions Part 1 – 7/24 (Part 2 coming in September)

Prologue:

For the majority of the Ryan Tannehill era, the Dolphins entered training camp as dark horse candidates to seize a wildcard playoff berth. Things have changed for the worse in 2019, but the step backward comes with the hopes of constructing a perennial AFC East contender capable of winning games in January.

That’s the big-picture snapshot of the Miami Dolphins rebuild. In the interim, however, establishing the core principles of the Brian Flores program, as well as developing young talent, both capture the forefront of this year’s training camp objectives.

Over the next two weeks, we will get you familiar with each player on the roster. With biographies, quick-hitter scouting notes, and a prediction on the player’s ultimate role on the 2019 Dolphins, this serves as your guide for Miami’s summer practice session.

Offensive Line

Overview:

One year removed from an embarrassing video leading to the dismissal of the Dolphins former offensive line coach, Miami makes its second change in as many years. Pat Flaherty departs from Jacksonville to lead-up the Dolphins offensive line room, but he’s not alone.

Miami solicited the help of Dave DeGuglielmo after the in-season firing of 2017 OL Coach (and Running Game Coordinator) Chris Forester. After the change, the Dolphins improved from the 21st-ranked pass blocking line to the 2nd-best in the NFL. Deguglielmo departed for Indianapolis in 2018 and turned around a historically awful Colts line. Indy improved from the 29th-ranked PBE (Pro Football Focus’ pass blocking efficiency) line to 10thlast year.

DeGuglielmo’s connection to the new Dolphins coaching staff led to his return. He spent two years with Flores in New England (2013-2014), and was a graduate assistant at Boston College — Flores alma mater. DeGuglielmo also has a connection to Flaherty from their time together with the Giants.

The room still belongs to Flaherty, however, and his resume is equally impressive. His first offensive line job came with the 2004 Giants where Flaherty learned Tom Coughlin’s style of smash mouth football. Flaherty brought that brand to Jacksonville when he joined Coughlin in 2017 en route to the NFL’s number-one rushing offense.

Flaherty’s work with the 2017 Jaguars line is more impressive considering the parts he had to work with. A second-round pick, two third-round picks, and a pair of UDFA’s is hardly a heavy investment into the positon. With the Dolphins, Flaherty gets a first-rounder, a third-rounder, a fifth-rounder, and two UDFA’s.

We start today’s guide with that first-round pick, perhaps the NFL’s most dominant Left Tackle, Laremy Tunsil.

Laremy Tunsil – 3 years of service (4th in MIA)
Jersey: 78
College: Ole Miss
Opening Day Age: 25.0
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $12.5M total, $0 guaranteed

Tunsil’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

After blanking Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney in a three-week span, Tunsil etched his name among the best linemen in the game. He’s technically sound with the best feet at the position. He’s often left alone on an island against the game’s best, and wins with an effective kick-slide, initial punch, leverage, and a sturdy anchor.

Tunsil is no slouch in the ground game either. He can initiate contact and dictate the direction of his man with ease. He’s adept at combination blocks and more than capable of getting into space as the lead.

Tunsil allowed one sack in 2018 and has a case for the best player at his position. The one area he could stand to improve is in the penalty department — he has committed 21 fouls in the last two years.

(Second video)

2019 Projected Role: Starting Left Tackle

Michael Deiter – Rookie
Jersey: 63
College: Wisconsin
Opening Day Age: 23.0
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $3.8M total, $1M guaranteed

Deiter’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

Expectations are high for Deiter. With a 53-game collegiate start-streak that spanned three positions (LT, LG, C), Deiter’s durability, toughness and competitiveness attracted Miami to the Wisconsin product. Deiter moonlights as a hockey player and has the feet and athleticism to prove it.

Deiter’s experience shows in the way he executes his combination blocks and his penchant for recognizing games from the defensive line. He figures to begin the year at left guard but some of his best college tape came from the center position, and with Kilgore’s injury history, that move feels imminent.

2019 Projected Role: Starting Left Guard

Daniel Kilgore – 8 years of service (2nd in MIA)
Jersey: 67
College: Appalachian State
Opening Day Age: 31.7
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $6.1M total, $0 guaranteed

Kilgore’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

The eldest member of the offensive line, Kilgore is a surprise holdover from the previous regime. A torn triceps muscle ended Kilgore’s debut Dolphins season after 4 games, but those four games were worrisome in their own right.

Kilgore needs to show better strength at the point of attack to sustain his position as the starting anchor on the middle of the Dolphins line.

2019 Projected Role: Starting Center

Chris Reed – 3 years of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 64
College: Minnesota St.
Opening Day Age: 27.1
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $3M total, $500K guaranteed

Reed’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

The unheralded signing of the offseason, Reed has a chance to buck his label as a career backup. In spot duty for the Jags (under Coach Flaherty) Reed showed a knack for cohesive pass protection and the occasional push in the ground game.

Reed can play either guard spot and, at worst, serve as Miami’s swing interior lineman. Based on his tape (link above), Reed might be the team’s second best player at the position.

2019 Projected Role: Starting Right Guard

Jesse Davis – 3 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 77
College: Idaho
Opening Day Age: 28.0
Contract Details: 1 year remaining (RFA), $645K total, $0 guaranteed

Davis’ Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

Despite earning the distinction of only lineman to play all 16 games in 2018 for Miami, last year was a struggle for Davis. After bouncing around the line in 2017, David settled into his permanent residence at right guard, but struggled in pass protection. Prone to over-setting, Davis can get beat inside with a stab and dip or the club and swim move.

Davis’ limited work at right tackle was impressive in 2017 and gives the Dolphins more options to pull the backside of the formation. Davis competes against Jordan Mills and the guard combination of Reed and Deiter — he should win a starting job somewhere.

2019 Projected Role: Starting Right Tackle

Jordan Mills – 6 years of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 79
College: Louisiana Tech
Opening Day Age: 28.7
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $3M total, $0 guaranteed

Mills’ Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

The swing tackle position is vital in today’s NFL — especially in Miami where the tackle tandem has missed a combined 11 games the last two seasons. Mills will compete for a starting job, and his durability is definitely something that attracted Miami to his services, but his performance leaves much to be desired.

Mills is a plodder that can be repeatedly victimized by speed-rushers. When Mills latches onto his man, the rep is usually over, it’s just a battle to get to that point; there isn’t a lot of pop in the ground game either.

Mills has played over 3,000 snaps going back three seasons, all at right tackle.

2019 Projected Role: Swing Tackle

Zach Sterup – 2 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 74
College: Nebraska
Opening Day Age: 27.4
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $645K total, $0 guaranteed

The film has not been kind to Sterup the last two seasons. He allowed seven pressures (including four sacks) on just 58 pass blocking snaps, and in 2017 Sterup surrendered seven more pressures (albeit all seven hurries) on 53 reps.

Some natural talent, bend, and ideal size exist for Sterup, he is just yet to put it together and time may be running out.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Tony Adams – 1 year of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 78
College: North Carolina State
Opening Day Age: 20.7
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1.1M total, $0 guaranteed

Falling into the categories of required traits sought out by the Dolphins this offseason, Adams combines durability (a product of toughness) and size into a road-grading style. His initial punch is devastating, and when he’s properly aligned in his technique, he puts together teaching tape.

The issue is the consistency in that technique and the slow feet. Adams is a people-mover, not someone who will impress in the wave drill (tests for change of direction).

Adams clearly has fans in the building. Undrafted, Adams signed with the Jaguars (Pat Flaherty), but failed a physical and had his offer revoked. He then re-signed with the team, but was cut after training camp and eventually wound up with New England in December.

2019 Projected Role: Swing Interior Lineman

Isaiah Prince – Rookie
Jersey: 72
College: Ohio State
Opening Day Age: 22.1
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $2.7M total, $150K guaranteed

Prince’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

The Dolphins wanted to get mean on the offensive line and that trend continued in the sixth-round of April’s draft. Prince’s college career was one of peaks and valleys. On one series he’d appear undraftable, then Prince would follow it up with a punishing block to spring the Buckeye’s deadly ground game.

He is a work-in-progress and the Dolphins will have to hope he survives the practice squad in the interim. With Tunsil, Davis, and Mills on-board, there’s not enough room for another tackle on the active roster.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut, practice squad

Michael Dunn – Rookie
Jersey: 70
College: Maryland
Opening Day Age: 25.0
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1.1M total, $0 guaranteed

One of seven Dolphins signings from the defunct AAF, Michael Dunn was a promising prospect at Maryland. In three years as a starter Dunn surrendered only 43 pressures on 1,151 pass blocking reps (3.7% pressures allowed rate).

At 6-5, 320 pounds, Dunn uses his wide frame and effective initial kick slide to wall off edge rushers. With a great camp, he could force the Dolphins hand and win a roster spot over potentially complacent veterans.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Jaryd Jones-Smith – Rookie
Jersey: 71
College: Pittsburgh
Opening Day Age: 24.0
Contract Details: 2 years remaining, $1.1M total, $0 guaranteed

The second of two former AAF linemen on the Dolphins roster, Jones-Smith is built like a tackle, but plays guard. Jones-Smith won the Pterodactyl Award — awarded to the player with the longest wingspan — at the 2018 NFL Combine. His 88.5-inch measurement matches that of basketball’s Dwight Howard.

Jones-Smith gets caught in the numbers game, but has a shot to stick to the Miami practice squad.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Kyle Fuller – 2 years of service (1st in MIA)
Jersey: 61
College: Baylor
Opening Day Age: 25.5
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $645K total, $0 guaranteed

A seventh-round pick in 2017, Fuller played in nine games as a rookie with the Houston Texans. He didn’t make the team in 2018, but was signed to the practice squad before eventually winding up on Washington’s practice squad to finish the season.

Fuller played a clean 26 snaps in pass protection (no pressures allowed) but never received a favorable run-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

Shaq Calhoun – Rookie
Jersey: 62
College: Mississippi State
Opening Day Age: 23.4
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

A hot pick to make the opening day roster, Calhoun sliding all the way out of this year’s draft was a surprise. His birth name is Deion, but he goes by Shaq because of his size and basketball skill.

Calhoun is knocked by scouts for stiff, upright movement and a lack of instinctual awareness. Like the rest of Miami’s newly acquired linemen, though, Calhoun is built like an oak tree and plays with a high motor and nasty mean-streak.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut, practice squad

Ryan Anderson – Rookie
Jersey: 60
College: Wake Forest
Opening Day Age: 23.4
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

With 42 consecutive starts to close out his colligate career, Anderson offers Miami the versatility the team covets. He started 16 games at tackle, 25 at center, and one at guard.

The Draft Network lauds Anderson for his length and technique. That, and a connection with Coach Flaherty, earns Anderson a surprise spot on the Dolphins opening day roster.

2019 Projected Role: Backup Interior Lineman

Aaron Monteiro – Rookie
Jersey: 66
College: Boston College
Opening Day Age: 22.0
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $1.8M total, $0 guaranteed

Coming from Coach Flores’ alma mater is always a nice feather in the cap, but its Monteiro’s style that earned him a job with the Dolphins for the summer. Meeting with the Patriots, Ravens and Jaguars after his pro day, there’s an indication into which blocking schemes are best suited for Monteiro.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

2019 Dolphins Offensive Line at a Glance:

This position group is a complete teardown of the previous, unsatisfactory protection units trotted out by the Dolphins. It could be something of a learning year with new techniques and a bevy of new players that offer a stark contrast in traits to the previous regime.

Miami wanted to get bigger, stronger, and tougher at the position. Evident by the offseason acquisitions, the Dolphins place a lot of value on durability and versatility, and that’s exactly what the team acquired in these lesser-known signings.

If Flaherty and DeGuglielmo can cultivate one quality starter alongside Tunsil, it’ll be a success. If the pair can uncover two hidden gems, then Miami will have hit the lottery at a position that has been a thorn for the better part of a decade.

@WingfieldNFL

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending