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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins 2018 Rookie Draft Class Guide

Travis Wingfield



Savor the outpouring of news and acquisitions from the last three days – it will have to hold us over till August. Till then, it’s an endless debate on how the Dolphins will trim the roster from 90 to 53 players in preparation for the 2018 season.

The Miami Dolphins added eight players to the roster during the NFL Draft, with plenty more to come in the UDFA-frenzy that begins now. Holding the cards close to the vest throughout the whole process, the Dolphins plan for the 2018 season was laid out on the table over the course of the weekend.

It began in free agency. Robert Quinn coming up on a contract, Josh Sitton a one or two-year band aid, Miami are opting for a year-by-year roster-construction strategy. The Draft only serves as confirmation of that approach.

Miami entered the weekend with a handful of needs:

– Supplementing the match-up pieces and coverage ability on defense
– Remake the tight end room
– Adding speed to the defense
– Finding a long-term running-mate to pair with Kenyan Drake
– An interior pass-rush presence
– Upgrading the backup quarterback position

Most of those boxes were checked over the course of a three-day, 256-pick extravaganza that is the NFL Draft. This is an examination of the newest Miami Dolphins, and the roles they will fill in their rookie seasons.

The pre-UDFA updated Miami roster with projected snap-counts and depth-chart.

  1. (11) SAF Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama –

Reshad Jones has been a premier safety for a half-decade. Miami has struggled to find a complementary piece capable of playing the free to Jones’ strong safety position. The Dolphins tried to make the safeties interchangeable with T.J. McDonald in 2018, and a litany of failed experiments before him.Enter Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The coach on the field at Alabama, “Coach Saban’s Son,” Fitzpatrick is a temperature changer for any defense he plays in. Manning the star position in Nick Saban’s defense in 2017, Fitzpatrick is capable of wearing any hat his coach asks of him. In Miami, Fitzpatrick will use his jack-of-all-trades skill set to play every rep. Slot corner, big nickel, single-high center field, Fitzpatrick can erase the tight ends that have plagued the middle of the Dolphins defense for a long time.

Depth Chart Projection: Starting safety
Biggest Competition: T.J. McDonald
Snap Count Projection: 100%
Role: Every package in the playbook

  1. (42) TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State –

The second tight end off the board, Gesicki’s selection tips the Dolphins hand for the direction of the offense. Throughout his career, Adam Gase has coached a bevy of pro-bowl tight ends. Marcus Pollard, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller became focal points of Gase’s obsession with the Y-iso mis-match piece.

Jordan Cameron, and a well-passed his prime Julius Thomas, handcuffed Gase’s ability to fully utilize his playbook in Miami. Now, with Gesicki, the backside safety or linebacker tasked with covering the Dolphins’ tight end will have a tall order – literally.

Gesicki won’t be asked to do much more than get in the way, or seal off the back-side edge in the running game, but his addition to an offense that struggles in the red zone is a major boon. He’s a leaper with strong hands at the catch point and knack for creating separation with quickness.

Depth Chart Projection: Starting tight end
Biggest Competition: None
Snap Count Projection: 80+%
Role: Primary TE in 11-personnel and 12-personnel, detached TE, red-zone

  1. (73) OLB Jerome Baker, Ohio State –

For far too long, the Dolphins have lacked speed and coverage-ability at the linebacker position. Kiko Alonso was often asked to spot-drop 10-15 yards down the field and find pass-catchers in space – a botched plan. With Baker, that defensive scheme is no more.

Baker won’t take on blocks, he won’t disengage in between the b-gaps and improve the run-defense, but he can defend the edge running game and add a dynamic option to the nickel defense. Miami has struggled with running quarterbacks for as long as they have been destroyed by tight ends, Baker helps in both of those areas.

Depth Chart Projection: 2ndor 3rd linebacker
Biggest Competition: Kiko Alonso
Snap Count Projection: 50%
Role: Nickel linebacker

  1. (123) TE Durham Symthe, Notre Dame –

Every area Mike Gesicki struggles with, Smythe excels in. Primarily an in-line blocker that can seal the edge in the inside and outside zone schemes, Smythe is a throwback tight end. He averaged 16 yards-per-catch, albeit on just 15 receptions in college.

Smythe provides the Dolphins with another option in the red zone and allows for deception near the goal line. The Dolphins have used a third offensive lineman occasionally under Gase, Smythe has served as a “heavy” package piece as the outside man. Using a tight end, opposed to a tackle, in that role allows the Dolphins play action game to have more options throwing the football on the most crucial part of the field.

Depth Chart Projection: #2 Tight End
Biggest Competition: Marqueis Gray
Snap Count Projection: 40%
Role: 12 personnel, short-yardage and red-zone

  1. (131) RB Kalen Ballage, Arizona State –

This was my favorite pick in the draft. Outside of Saquon Barkley, Ballage is the most athletically gifted back in this class. Breakaway speed, quick-twitch, soft hands, Ballage gives Gase another back capable of playing three downs.

A grounded, cerebral kid, Ballage prides himself on preparation. “I want to take responsibility and take care of the things I have to do before anyone has to ask me to do something. Rather than bringing in a slot receiver, just flex me out and I’ll fill that role.”

Another match-up piece, Ballage allows the Dolphins to disguise their intentions in terms of running or throwing the football on any given down.

Depth Chart Projection: #2 Running back
Biggest Competition: Frank Gore
Snap Count Projection: 50%
Role: Scheme diverse, the “2” in the 1-2 punch of Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage

  1. (209) CB Cornell Armstrong, Southern Miss –

The Dolphins have depth at the perimeter cornerback position, but the slot is a one-man band. Based purely on the merits of Miami’s defensive back prototype, Armstrong should compete to backup Bobby McCain. He’s a physical, competitive corner that loves to hit and tackle.

In his career at Southern Miss, Armstrong picked off five passes and registered 29 PBUs.

Depth Chart Projection: Last CB or practice squad
Biggest Competition: Torry McTyer
Snap Count Projection: 0%
Role: Nickel corner competing for a roster stop. Special teams

  1. (227) ILB Quentin Poling, Ohio –

The theme to get more athletic players that crave football continues for the Dolphins. Poling ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, leaped 10 feet, 7 inches on the broad-jump and is more of a coverage specialist than a downhill thumper. He registered 43.5 tackles-for-loss, 18 sacks and seven interceptions in his college career.

Depth Chart Projection: Last LB or practice squad
Biggest Competition: Terence Garvin and Chase Allen
Snap Count Projection: 0%
Role: Backup nickel linebacker

  1. (229) K Jason Sanders, New Mexico –

Sanders was 10 for 15 last year for the Lobos with a long of 53. He will be the Dolphins kicker in 2018.

Perhaps the biggest take away is the absence of a quarterback in the class. Ryan Tannehill has been receiving verbal endorsements from Gase and company all off-season. This weekend, the Dolphins backed-up their comments with an emphatic statement that Tannehill is the man.

Miami turns its focus now to the undrafted free agents. With only four defensive tackles on the roster, that position figures to get an infusion of UDFAs.

The Kenny Vaccaro and C.J. Anderson links to Miami were broken with the Fitzpatrick and Ballage picks. Jonathan Hankins is the big name on the free agent market, Miami could pursue the big DT post-June 1.

This roster underwent an overhaul and a philosophical shift. The offense is going to be an aerial assault (pass protecting offensive line, Mike Gesicki, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola all added and versatile pass catching backs).

Updating to a current model of an NFL defense, Miami now has match-up pieces and more speed. The days of Kiko Alonso running down the field in coverage are over.

This Dolphins team is much closer to a return to the post-season than the cellar dweller the national media makes it out to be.


1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mikey Moore

    April 29, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    Great Article

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Miami Dolphins

Pillaging the Pats

Travis Wingfield



Taking From the Rich and Giving to the Phins

De facto Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores is set to take over the big chair in Miami at the conclusion of New England’s 2018 season. Rumored to be coming with Flores are a pair of Pats staffers.

A master of delegation, Bill Belichick constantly maintains the smallest staff in the league. Flores’ intentions are to bring with him Pats’ Consultant Bret Bielema and Wide Receivers Coach Chad O’Shea.

*We’ll have a comprehensive breakdown of the offensive scheme that comes with O’Shea should this move push closer to official. And we’ll do so in the same capacity as the Defensive Crash Course piece.

If Flores is able to extract both Bielema and O’Shea, he’s plundering 16% of the 2018 Patriots’ staff (that includes Flores). Belichick’s coaching tree has yielded less than desirable results in their new destinations, but Flores is described as “different” from the rest.

By now Dolphins fans are tired of lip service. If Flores is the exception to the many before him, great – we’ll find out on Sundays. Flores is, however, off to a unique beginning compared to the lackluster rest.


Coach (Year Left New England) Additional Migrating Staffers
Charlies Weis (2005 – Notre Dame) 0
Romeo Crennel (2005 – Cleveland) 0
Eric Mangini (2007 – NY Jets) 0
Josh McDaniels (2009 – Denver) 0
Bill O’Brien (2012 – Penn State) 0
Matt Patricia (2018 – Detroit) 0


Goose eggs. I didn’t expect that when I began this study, hence the table. Interestingly, the greatest dearth in the Patriots run came between the 2008-2010 seasons. That sentence is a house of cards for two reasons:

1.) It’s sort of hilarious to call two playoff appearances and a combined record of 35-13 a dearth. Those three seasons were the last time New England weren’t participating in the Conference Championship – they’ve qualified for eight consecutive title games since.

2.) It’s something of a strawman to suggest New England’s 14-2 season was cut short at the divisional round because of a loss of coordinators. Not to mention the 2008 season that brought back 11 wins despite starting Matt Cassel for 15 games.

That three-year stretch did come after New England lost its offensive and defensive coordinators, and then Crennel’s replacement at DC (Mangini) two years later. No one is mistaking Flores, Bielema, and O’Shea for Weis, Crennel, and Mangini, but this would be a similar exodus – the difference being all at once opposed to three years.

It’s no secret that Belichick is a ruthless competitor that has no qualms about making enemies. The Patriots have blocked coaches from interviewing for outside positions in the past. Clearly, New England doesn’t block assistants from taking head coaching jobs, but the fact that zero staffers jumped ship might insinuate staffers are held hostage.

Maybe that’s where the idea that Flores is different from the rest comes from. His ability to separate himself from the Pats’ program. His intentions to implement his own initiative that doesn’t try to form as a carbon copy of Belichick’s well-oiled machine in Foxboro.

There are a million ways to splice this, but it all comes back to one conclusion: Brian Flores is beloved by everyone that knows him – even the heartless Hoodie.


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Miami Dolphins

Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme

Travis Wingfield



For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.

Enter Patrick Graham.

It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.

Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.

Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.

And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.

For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.

We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.

The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.

This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.

In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).

The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.

Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.

The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.

Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.

The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.

The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.

Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.

The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.

Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.

These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.

The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.


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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting

Skyler Trunck



It is that time of year again.  Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.

It’s mock draft season!  Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…

Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:


Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy.  Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.

Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”.  Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.


CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams.  It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.

For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection.  In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.


The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma

Now it’s getting exciting!  There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray.  As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.

Some question if he will be available at #13.  As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched.  Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size.  Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier.  Murray will be no exception.

2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring.  If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.


Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship.  Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.

Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs.  He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback.  Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.


Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.  

What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available.  Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.

Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald).  Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.


SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke

It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback.  Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach.  Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill?  There are other options out there at a cheaper price.

When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.

All that said, it’s the NFL draft.  Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out.  Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential?  I just don’t see it with Jones.



I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13.  Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.

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