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Confidence in Miami Dolphins Offense

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When was the last time we were more confident in the lackeys running the Miami Dolphins‘ front office compared to the participants running around on the field?

Those lackeys have the luxury of batting 1.000%* since they haven’t done anything wrong (yet), which means they have the fans on their side and (most of) the media in their good graces.

*Chris Grier is like that skeptical player with an asterisk next to them during the Steroids Era in baseball. He’s finally the main man in charge, but he was also previously “in charge”…

After swinging a value-trade for former first-round quarterback Josh Rosen – and essentially slow-playing the market into his favor – Grier and his staff have given us enough reasons to trust his process just a few short months into it.

Our confidence is growing, even if the 2019 win total isn’t expected to follow.

But our confidence is growing in Brian Flores and Chris Grier, not necessarily the roster they’ve put together. That roster is a bit….frail.

In reality, there are only a handful of players we have genuine confidence in. You can skew that number a bit if you want to include Jason Sanders, John Denney and the special teams version of Walt Aikens; but truth be told, this team is a long way away from being properly built.

Is all of that 2020 draft capital for a quarterback? Or was it to build a better team around a player they knew they could obtain cheaply this year (Rosen)?

Free agency hasn’t concluded, but free agency isn’t going to yield Miami any more “confident” starters. Miami may fill out the rest of the roster by splurging for players other teams don’t want, but you’re not making your 2020 playoff run with any of these characters.

Below are the offensive players we are confident will be productive players for the Dolphins, both in 2019 or in the future:

Offensive Line
Confidence Level: 1
Confident Players: 1

Assuming the Dolphins front office has any kind of competence, Laremy Tunsil is expected to remain on the Miami Dolphins long-term.

He’s one of the best players at his position, and, assuming he’s healthy, will be an elite talent at the position for another 5-7 years.

Outside of Tunsil, are you confident in newly acquired 3rd-round pick Michael Deiter? He’s a completely different player and situation than any of these other previous draft picks, but when was the last time the Dolphins drafted a competent offensive lineman outside of the 1st-round?

Answer: Rex Hadnot
Year: 2004

Since then, the Dolphins have drafted the following offensive linemen between the 2nd and 5th rounds: Isaac Asiata, Jamil Douglas, Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas, Jonathan Martin, John Jerry, Shawn Murphy, Samson Satele, Joe Toledo, and Anthony Alabi.

Since becoming the director of college scouting in 2007, Grier hasn’t drafted (or convinced his general mangers to draft) a single competent starter on the offensive line outside of the first round. The team’s 1st-round picks? Jake Long, Mike Pouncey, Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil. All of them very good players for stints of time, but only one of them is worthy of being a franchise player.

I’m not going to exile Deiter from the offensive line before he plays a snap, but you can see why my confidence in this pick is timid at best.

Besides Deiter and Tunsil, you have Daniel Kilgore returning at the age of 31 to play center, and you have Jesse Davis playing somewhere on the right side of the offensive line.

Kilgore missed 11+ games last season after tearing his triceps in Week 4 against the New England Patriots. Aside from returning from a gruesome injury, Kilgore is another year older and isn’t all too great to begin with. He was supposed to act as the weakest link between Tunsil, Josh Sitton, Davis and James. Now he’s expected to anchor the middle of the offensive line as the 3rd-best player in the unit.

We expected much more out of Jesse Davis last season, and he certainly disappointed, but at least we know he’s durable, reliable, and will be in the starting lineup each week. That counts for something. It also leads to increased sack totals for the opposing defense, so that value only goes so far.

I’m not considering Davis a hole on the line, but I’m not confident in him either – and that’s a downgrade from where I would have viewed Davis after 2017.

The biggest problem for the offensive line hasn’t even been listed out yet, and that’s the fact that Miami only has four starters. You need five.

6th-round draft pick Isaiah Prince will have a fair shot at manning the right tackle position, but who knows how well that camp battle will go.

Without a solidified right tackle, Miami is tiptoeing dangerously into the regular season – especially with a quarterback they’re hoping to properly judge within a 16-game span.

The good thing about expectations is when you (literally) don’t have any, it can only pleasantly surprise you. Or it goes exactly as intended and you don’t even have to break a sweat.

Tight Ends
Confidence Level: 2
Confident Players: 0

An upgrade from the offensive line mainly because the position group isn’t as necessary and the Dolphins will be able to get by with Dwayne Allen as an average combination of receiver & blocker, the tight end group is about as barren as the team’s offensive line depth.

Former 2nd-round pick Mike Gesicki has gone from being the sexiest draft pick of 2018 to being overlooked as a productive player. For as likely as he is to have a breakout season, don’t be surprised to see him released if he has a subpar training camp. Gesicki is going to need to prove to this coaching staff that he belongs as a receiving threat – or that his blocking isn’t a complete liability.

If Gesicki can work on his route running, he might become a reliable target for Rosen or Ryan Fitzpatrick. Though do you have any confidence that’ll happen?

His fellow 2018 draftee Durham Smythe should find a spot on this roster a bit more easily, but how valuable is a blocking tight end when Allen serves the same purpose?

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Smythe off this roster if the team feels it doesn’t want to lose another player on the bubble (such as Dee Delaney or Jonathan Woodard).

Nick O’Leary received a contract extension shortly before Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase were relieved of their respective duties. Whether or not he remains on the team after training camp depends on how this coaching staff believes it can utilize O’Leary.

As another generic tight end, he has an equal shot of making or missing the roster as both Smythe and Gesicki do.

The only player “guaranteed” to make the 2019 roster is Allen, and, unless he doesn’t mind becoming a mentor assisting from the bench, it’s unlikely he’s still around in 2020. If he is, your plan for the position went more awry than the Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas experiments the past few years.

Wide Receivers
Confidence Level: 4
Confident Players: 1

This rating doesn’t reflect the “talent” the Miami Dolphins have on their roster.

I firmly believe that the combination of Kenny Stills, a healthy DeVante Parker and…..oh….wait….there is no combination anymore. That combination ceased in 2017 when Jarvis Landry played his final games for Miami.

Albert Wilson filled in admirably and was a better player (in terms of value) than Landry was in 2018, but that was only for the first 7 games of the season.

Landry played all 16 games, like every other year of his career, while Wilson limps into 2019 with the possibility of not making the roster. While unlikely for him to be released, if the team feels it cannot utilize Wilson properly at the start of the season, and a stint on IR (with the designation to return) doesn’t match his timetable to return, Miami may release the dynamic receiver.

That’s the last thing we want to happen to one of our 2018 Offensive MVPs, but we also didn’t expect Tony Lippett to be released following his torn achilles either.

This league is cruel and cutthroat, and for a team building towards 2020, it seems unlikely Wilson is around for the rebuild. Why block the growth and potential of other prospects while trying to rehab a player on the field?

Jakeem Grant proved to be a desired returner and supplemental receiver when the formation calls for it. His hands might as well have stared right into Medusa’s eyes with how hard they are, but his shiftiness was a welcomed compliment to an offense that thrived off of deception.

An achilles injury in Week 10 caused him to miss the remainder of the season, and possibly a bid to last year’s Pro Bowl. It also may have hindered the promising progress he was making up to this point.

Though his injury didn’t seem as detrimental as Wilson’s, at this moment, you can’t confidently say Grant is a reliable receiver worthy of the 3rd starting spot on the roster.

Like the rest of this century, this offensive group offers a lot of hope. Which, as Dolphins fans, means it’s most certainly going to disappoint…

Running Backs
Confidence Level: 6
Confident Players: 1

Outside of Ryan Tannehill individually, Miami’s running backs have received more excuses than anyone else on the team.

Whether it was an anemic offensive line, incompetent play calls from a former offensive guru, or quarterback play that was so putrid that opposing defenses knew to stack the box, Miami’s running backs have been let off of the hook.

Maybe it’s due to the fact that it’s the only position group that effectively produces on offense, fans have favored players like Jay Ajayi, Reggie Bush, Ricky Williams and Travis Minor. Fans let former #2-overall pick Ronnie Brown off the hook for being the most influential draft pick this century (could have had Aaron Rodgers). Even former flame-outs like Mike Gillislee get the benefit of the doubt for their unmemorable time in Miami.

These position groups perform, but do they perform as well as we believe or is this just a byproduct of having a piss-poor passing game?

Since Ricky Williams decided to retire the first time in 2004, the Dolphins have averaged 17th in rushing yards, 14th in yards per carry and 18th in rushing touchdowns:

Their best rushing season was 2009 (4th), but they only had 2 seasons within the top-10 (out of a possible 14 seasons – 14.3%). Only one of those was a top-5 season (7.1%) and only 6 seasons are within the top-15 (42.9%).

I’m confident Miami has running backs that will produce, but how well will they produce? Frank Gore left for the Buffalo Bills, and he had only 4 less rushing yards than Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage combined in 2018 (722 vs 726).

This is where the excuse of mismanagement comes into play. We have to think this coaching staff will figure out how to utilize Drake better than Adam Gase ever did, but is that guaranteed? In his three NFL seasons, Drake has averaged 453 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns per season.

And he’s the player we’re confident in.

Chandler Cox and Myles Gaskin look like powerful additions to the roster, but we have no idea how either will perform in training camp.

Ballage is the wildcard of the bunch – his evolution can turn this rushing attack into a legitimate duel threat. It can also hinder this unit from becoming any kind of threat at all.

If the offensive line can’t keep Rosen up long enough to establish a feared passing game, how is the running game going to thrive?

We hope Ballage’s evolution is legitimate, but we don’t know any of that until training camp begins.

What we do know is that the Dolphins have 3 offensive players we’re confident in. You play with 11 plays on each side of the ball. I’m no Dawn Aponte, but that ratio is atrocious.

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

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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