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Miami Dolphins

Defensive Tackle Prospect Primer

Kevin Dern

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The tidal wave that is the NFL’s “Free Agency Frenzy” ended last week.

Now, just over a month from the NFL Draft in Dallas, teams are shopping, for the most part, for cheap veterans and unproven players to add to their 90-man rosters.  There are still some big fish out there, like Ndamukong Suh, but the Dolphins are pretty much done with big-name acquisitions until the first round of the NFL Draft.

Miami currently has Brock Osweiler in the building as I write this.  That gives you an idea of the bargain-bin shopping Miami is doing.  Mike Tannenbaum was on “The Audible”, the team’s official podcast, this week and talked a lot about how the team wants to have a lot of flexibility and the “opportunity” to be ready for any scenario that pops up in the Draft.

He offered the line, “Could our roster go out this weekend and play an NFL game?

We want to build as complete of a roster as we can as we head into the Draft.” Other than kicker, Miami’s filled enough holes to fill a 53-man roster.

But, are there still weak areas? Yes, absolutely.  Every team has them.  Every team still has “needs”, and the Dolphins are no different.  I think that’s what the Frank Gore signing, and the potential signing of Brock Osweiler, signify.  They can’t fill every weak area in the Draft, as Tannenbaum pointed out, “there’s too much you can’t control.”

Offensively, at this point, there’s really only one glaring weakness:  Tight End.  With the market mostly dried up, I think it’s darn near a certainty Miami’s going to draft at least one.  However, on the defensive side, I think there are several areas in which Miami needs to focus on.

So, let’s examine those spots working from the defensive line back to the secondary.  I’m going to tackle this in a 3-part series, and we’ll kick things off with Defensive Tackles.

Defensive Tackle:
Most fans in my experience bemoan the wide-9 defense mostly because they don’t understand how it works.  I think even fewer understand that Miami hasn’t compiled enough good parts to make it work either.

But, for those that don’t realize it, the Philadelphia Eagles just won a Super Bowl using the wide-9.  Now, it wasn’t a great defensive display in the game, but watch their film of how they got there and how that defense works.  Pay attention to their D-line and the rotation they use.

Philly was essentially 2-deep at every spot, and I think that’s what Miami are building toward now.  Miami’s got this lineup:

RDE  Robert Quinn – Charles Harris – Andre Branch
RDT  Davon Godchaux
LDT  Jordan Phillips – Vincent Taylor
LDE  Cameron Wake – William Hayes – Cameron Malveaux

*For the record, I’m not expecting much from Gabe Wright at DT, so I’m leaving him off the list.

Now, whether or not they keep all those DEs remains to be seen.  Detroit did that in several seasons when Jim Schwartz was there and did it again when Teryl Austin became the Defensive Coordinator.  The D-line Coach for both of those guys was Kris Kocurek, who is now the Dolphins D-line Coach.

I’m very interested to see what he does.  But, you can see the obvious hole that’s left in the wake of the team moving on from Ndamukong Suh.  I won’t get into Suh’s release other than this:  he was one of my three favorite college football players ever, and I loved him becoming a Dolphin.

But, I understand what the team needed to do with respect to the salary cap.  I wish him well.

With Davon Godchaux and Jordan Phillips both having starts next to Suh in their time with Miami under their belts, I think Miami can feel reasonably okay if those two are out there come week 1 with Vincent Taylor, who played the run very well in limited snaps, as the top backup.

But, I think Miami need to make a move here as Godchaux and Taylor don’t give you a whole lot in terms of pass-rush and Phillips, who was steady the last 7 games or so in 2017, has always run a little hot and cold to say the least.

I think the question is, where do they address DT?

Here’s some guys that I like with a brief rundown on them; some of them have been linked to Miami in the pre-Draft process.  I’ll list guys in alphabetical order by last name.

Round 1 Targets:
Maurice Hurst – Michigan – Smallish for an NFL DT at 6’2” 282lbs, Hurst is a 3-technique penetrator in the NFL.  Cleared to participate in Michigan’s Pro Day after getting red-flagged at the Combine for a heart problem, Hurst showed his burst in cranking out a 4.91 40-yard dash time.

Hurst comes in the size mold of guys like Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald.  While not as polished or physical as either of those two, I think Hurst could be a fit for Miami’s rotation, especially on 3rd downs.  He’s upfield burst is unique.  In this clip he’s able to knock the center three yards into the backfield as a NT in Michigan’s 3-man front and nearly makes the TFL.

For me, Hurst is a guy who is on the border of late-1st/early-2nd, but I think Miami may value him more due to need.

Da’Ron Payne – Alabama – Payne is probably my favorite DT in this class.  He had a dominant performance against the Georgia Bulldogs in the National Championship team.  He’s built like a square at 6’2” 311lbs and is very strong.  He reminds me of former Alabama lineman A’Shawn Robinson, now with Detroit.

Payne had a nice Combine posting a 10-yard split of 1.66.  He’s very strong and had 27 pressures in 2017.  For Miami, he’s a guy who could play both a 2i and 3 techniques, much like Jordan Phillips does, but be more of a run-stopper.  I think that’d fit nicely into a rotation with Phillips as Phillips has always been more of a rusher than run-stopper despite his 6’6” 323lbs frame.

Payne won’t work to play laterally as well, but I’d imagine Miami doesn’t place a huge priority on that.

Vita Vea – Washington – This 6’4” 347lbs monster is one of Travis’ favorite prospects in the Draft.  I like Vea a lot as well.  He’s got a tremendous initial burst off the ball for such a large human being.  He’s got tremendous power and is hard to move out of gaps when playing the run.

He’s got very strong hands and uses his leverage very well for someone who is 6’4”.  See this play against Stanford where he rips the center to the ground and clubs the FB to the side with ease.

One issue I have with Vea is that he reminds me in a way of Jared Odrick when Miami first drafted him.  Vea has a tremendous motor and does an outstanding job of keeping his feet moving.  However, despite having naturally heavy hands, he needs to improve his hand-fighting.

When offensive linemen are able to get their hands on him, he stops using his and reverts to raw power or trying to disengage the block by moving laterally.  Here’s an example of him stopping his hands and running himself out of his rush lane allowing the QB to scramble for a big gain.

I don’t think this will come into play as much if he ends up in Miami as he can use his raw power to bull-rush opponents.  Miami’s defensive has specific rules for pass-rushing in terms of staying in your lanes and rushing to particular spots, so he can use his raw power to help there, but he does need to keep his hands moving when he gets stoned initially.

You don’t see this as much with Da’Ron Payne, but Vea’s motor is superior to Payne’s.

Round 2-3 Targets:
Taven Bryan – Florida – This is a guy that I didn’t get to see a whole lot of during the fall but going back now and looking at some Gators film, he’s impressive.  Impressive enough it wouldn’t surprise me if a team took him in the last 8-10 picks of round one.

What jumps out to me most is his get-off at the snap.

At 6’4” 291lbs, Bryan almost looks like he could play DE in some looks if he were to end up in Miami.  Bryan possesses a nice swim move and rip move and is relentless (son of a Navy SEAL).  He can get caught in the wash inside and his lack of size makes him liable to be pushed out of holes in the run game.

However, his quickness off the ball and ability to provide pass-rush from the interior is impressive.

His quick-strike, penetrating style would be a nice addition to Miami’s D-line rotation.

Harrison Phillips – Stanford  “Horrible Harry” bested Vita Vea’s bench press number at the NFL Combine cranking out 42 reps.  Built like a guard, Phillips is more high-cut than Taven Bryan.  Despite this, Phillips simply makes plays.

He notched 7 sacks his last year in Palo Alto to go with 39 solo tackles.  For not being a massive prospect, he plays with strength and when he is able to use his hands and lockout, he can play the run well.

In this GIF, Phillips uses quickness off the ball, a nice arm over move and shows the ability to move laterally to make the tackle.

Phillips reminds me of Davon Godchaux.  Godchaux might have more power at the point of attack, but I think Phillips moves better laterally and when he redirects.  Phillips would be a welcome addition up front.

Round 4+ Targets:
Joshua Frazier – Alabama – Frazier is probably a priority free agent prospect that’s been linked to Miami.  He was a former top-100 recruit that had trouble cracking the regular rotation at Alabama.  Frazier boasts nice size at 6’4” 321lbs and doesn’t carry much bad weight.

The issue I see with him is that he’s more of a space-eater.  He’s got a decent first-step at times, but his game is more eating double-teams and trying to power through them.  You don’t see him move down the line very well, but he can plug the run well when it comes at him.

I think Frazier’s strictly a guy Miami would look at as a 7th rounder or UDFA with the idea that he could compete in camp and could be stashed on the practice squad.  You know he’s been well-coached at Alabama, and Alabama’s defense is always loaded so there may be some hidden upside in there.

Justin Jones – North Carolina State  Jones was part of a very good N.C. State D-line that boasted Bradley Chubb, B.J. Hill and Kentavius Street, all of whom will be in the Draft this year along with him.  Jones goes 6’2” 312lbs and has a good frame.  Jones doesn’t have any one outstanding trait; he uses his hands adequately, continues to try and move down the line and shows some quickness when running stunts.

Much like last year’s haul that netted Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor in rounds 5 and 6, I think Jones is probably a guy that gets drafted in that area and could offer Miami a good number of snaps.

He strikes me as someone Miami could use in tandem with Davon Godchaux as a primarily 2i-technique guy.  He’s got that same tree-stump build that Godchaux has.  Granted, this is a highlight video, but in it you can see him using his hands executing a swim move.

He’s got the ability to lock out his arms and shed blockers while standing his ground – a trait we see in Godchaux – and you can see him make some hustle plays.  He is both #27 and #93 in the video as he switched to #27 as a senior.

Michael Hill – Ohio State  Hill was suspended for 6 games in 2017 and finished on a sour note in Columbus.  The Dolphins met with him after the Ohio State Pro Day this past week.  Hill goes 6’3” 305lbs, but his strength is his athleticism.  He’s not what Taven Bryan is, but Hill can work down the line and has a nice burst off the ball.

Where he needs to get better is using his hands and he needs to get stronger.  He reminds me of Gabe Wright, who finished 2017 on the Dolphins 53-man roster.  I think with some good coaching and a year in an NFL program might allow Hill to be part of a rotation, but strictly as a 3-technique.

Conclusion
Obviously there are many other names out there that I’m sure Miami have or will meet with leading up to the Draft.  These are just a smattering of ones they’ve indicated interest in or have met with.  Other guys I like at DT include:

Poona Ford – Texas
B.J Hill – North Carolina State
Christian LaCouture – LSU
Nathan Shepherd – Fort Hays State
Kentavius Street – North Carolina State

Miami’s going to be adding some bodies to get through training camp, but I think they’d be foolish to simply roll with the group that finished 2017, minus Ndamukong Suh.  I think they have the makings of a nice rotation with Davon Godchaux, Jordan Phillips and Vincent Taylor, they just need to add a final piece.

That piece could come as early as pick 11 with guys like Payne and Vea on the board, or they might try and wait given their success in finding Godchaux and Taylor later on last year, but I think it’s near certain they’ll come out of the Draft with a DT having been selected.

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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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