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Dolphins 2018 Training Camp Battles

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The lines have been drawn.

The Miami Dolphins completed their last public practice of training camp yesterday morning, and while we don’t have definitive answers to every question we had entering camp, we certainly have a much better perspective on how things will shake up.

For the most part, the Dolphins executed their offseason plan.

They acquired receivers who are more versatile and dedicated than Jarvis Landry….and they just so happen to cost less.

They were able to get out of the Ndamukong Suh contract a year earlier than expected, which has provided us with a couple surprises at defensive tackle (both good and bad).

Ryan Tannehill with Frank Gore. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

They obtained a legitimate tight end for the first time since Charles Clay, and also selected one of the top blocking tight ends in college – effectively crossing off two needs with two picks.

They’re also trying to diminish the desire for a “culture change”, but their actions speak otherwise.

Players like Frank Gore and Danny Amendola were brought in for their skill sets, but also because of their leadership abilities.

The team continues to get younger (Gore and Amendola are poor examples of that) while simultaneously getting better.

Of all the players currently on the Dolphins roster, only 11 of them are 30 or older:

John Denney (40), Cameron Wake (36), Gore (35), William Hayes (33), Josh Sitton (32), Amendola (32), Sam Young (31), Ted Larsen (31), Daniel Kilgore (30), Ryan Tannehill (30) and Reshad Jones (30).

Two of them aren’t human (Wake and Gore), one of them is a legend (Denney), three of them are role players (Hayes, Young and Larsen), and the other 5 are starters.

That leaves 16 offensive/defensive starters that are under 30 years old.

Now all that’s left is determining who some of those starters will be.

Below is where we believe the Dolphins stand with each training camp battle as we go into the final 3 preseason games:

Starting Defensive Tackle: Jordan Phillips vs Davon Godchaux vs Vincent Taylor vs Akeem Spence

This battle was never supposed to take place.

There was supposed to be some competition between Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, but the defensive line was essentially set once the Dolphins acquired Robert Quinn.

And then Jordan Phillips did his best Jordan Phillips impression and turned hot-and-cold.

Maybe Omar Kelly should call Phillips out more often, as his best day in camp came one day after he was called out for his inability to seize the starting job (that was basically already set for him).

And Kelly is not wrong. Why does Phillips step up when a reporter calls him out, but fades once the dramatics cease?

His motor is nothing like Kenny Stills‘ or Danny Amendola’s. The self-dedication is not there. Phillips does not “want it” – and it’s why he was available in the 2nd-round of the 2015 NFL draft, even though he was a 1st-round talent.

His motor is more like DeVante Parker‘s or Laremy Tunsil‘s, two players that need external motivation in order to tap their potential.

These aren’t exceptional football players, they’re stellar athletes, and it’s clear which type of person wins football games.

Instead, Phillips’ inconsistency paved the way for sophomore defensive tackles Godchaux and Taylor to turn heads and win the coaches over.

And it seems they’re doing just that.

This is great news if you’re a Dolphins fan! You have two starting defensive tackles that are extremely young and will be around for (at least) another 3 seasons (including 2018).

Vincent Taylor. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The negative? This position is thinner than expected.

Akeem Spence has had an average camp. He hasn’t exploded for many plays, but he hasn’t made too many mistakes either. He came exactly as advertised.

That said, he was always meant to provide depth, not start.

Of the four, Spence is the definitive backup/role player, but he’s bordering on passing Phillips for playing time.

And that’s not because Spence is that much better than Phillips, it’s just because Phillips performance is that frustrating.

It’s training camp, veterans (yikes, that’s not a term I want to tie to Phillips right now) just want to survive and avoid injury, and I expect Phillips to turn it on once the regular season begins. But he hasn’t done that too much in the past…I’m not holding my breath this is the first time it occurs.

Given how dominant they’ve been in camp, the starting spots deserve to go to Godchaux and Taylor. Anything different is a slap in the face to the players who are expecting to be rewarded for their performance, not their stature.

6th Wide Receiver: Leonte Carroo vs Francis Owusu vs Isaiah Ford vs Drew Morgan

This competition may lead to a good football player landing on a different team.

Leonte Carroo isn’t eligible for the practice squad, and Francis Owusu and Isaiah Ford will be poached by another team before they make it there.

Leonte Carroo. Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With Carroo’s lackluster performance the past two seasons, the former 3rd-round draft pick the Dolphins traded up to select has been a disappointment. While he has shown that he can be a competent receiver, he’s noticeably behind Owusu and Ford on the depth chart. Not where you should be entering your third season.

Unless he absolutely shines in the final 3 preseason games, Carroo will most likely be left off the team.

That leaves Owusu, Ford and Drew Morgan competing for that last spot.

Morgan has looked good in camp, but he hasn’t done much to outshine Owusu or Ford. He has practice squad eligibility, and he most likely won’t be taken by another team – which gives him a disadvantage entering the final stretch.

Between Owusu and Ford, it’ll be whoever has a better preseason. It’s possible Miami keeps both, but they’re already 5-starters deep at WR (Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant). Keeping 7 will be tough.

LCB (2nd Starting Cornerback): Cordrea Tankersley vs Tony Lippett vs Torry McTyer (vs Bobby McCain)

In yesterday’s training camp article, we broke down all the different variables that are being thrown at the cornerback room. There’s is a lot we know and a lot we can speculate based on how training camp has unfolded.

Torry McTyer. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The job was Cordrea Tankersley‘s to lose.

The former 3rd-round pick was expected to win the starting cornerback job coming out of camp; and although the sophomore cornerback flashed last season, and has performed decently in camp, he hasn’t alleviated all the concerns coaches have for him.

Is he still thinking too much? Is he causing his own mental errors?

We’re unsure what’s keeping Tankersley from confidently taking the next step, but the coaches are so unconvinced that they moved Bobby McCain out of the nickel corner spot so he can man the boundary.

Tony Lippett‘s struggle to stay healthy has essentially taken him out of the running for the starting spot…and this may not actually be a bad thing. This will give Lippett time to recover and perform like he did back in 2016 rather than forcing the Dolphins to play a cornerback at 75% (and then grilling him when he’s getting beat by a team’s top receiver performing at 100%).

McTyer will eventually play a bigger role in Miami’s defense, but he still needs a little more seasoning. His emergence means Miami doesn’t have to panic to find a cornerback.

The winner, due to no one else winning, is Bobby McCain.

Lets hope Tankersley begins to turn it on as the regular season approaches; Miami is much better when McCain is in the nickel and Minkah Fitzpatrick can play safety.

Tight End: MarQueis Gray vs AJ Derby vs Mike Gesicki vs Durham Smythe

This competition was for both tight end spots; and at the moment, it’s hard to tell if Miami has an answer for both.

MarQueis Gray and Mike Gesicki were on their way to becoming the starting tandem before Gray went down with a concussion yesterday. Whether or not this injury affects his regular season remains to be seen, but it does put a damper on the offense’s overall development.

MarQueis Gray. Image Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

He will be a starting tight end when he returns, but after going through Jordan Cameron and his concussion issues recently, I’m not going to rely on his immediate return just yet.

Gesicki looks like he’ll be the receiving/red zone threat he was drafted to be, and any depth chart that doesn’t list him as the #1 tight end is lying. He is a self-explanatory starter…as we expected.

With Gray out, Durham Smythe will attempt to take over as the second starting tight end (when the package calls for it).

He has had a couple drops in camp, further exemplifying the knock that he should stick to blocking and isn’t “too good” of a receiving tight end.

Ultimately, I think his receiving skills will be fine. If he’s in the lineup, I’m not erasing him as a receiving option…but you can bet he’s the last option on my list.

That’s where AJ Derby comes in.

He had the advantage of being picked up by the Dolphins late last season, and had the chance to learn the playbook and the team’s dynamics much earlier than either rookie that was drafted.

And although he’s looked decent, he hasn’t given the coaching staff any reason to bump another player off the roster so he can remain.

The best chance Derby has of staying on the roster is if Gray’s concussion needs more time to heal. I’m not sure he makes it.

Outside Linebacker (WILL): Jerome Baker vs Stephone Anthony

A tale of two draft picks.

Although he was acquired midway through last season, Stephone Anthony can be viewed as Miami’s 5th-round pick this year (as that’s what they gave up to get him).

He’s had time to get accustomed to the defense and learn the language.

And as a 1st-round pick in 2015, he’s had time to get accustomed to the NFL.

So with those two advantages, Anthony should be the clear-cut choice to begin the season as the starting WILL linebacker?

Not so much.

Anthony has produced more of the same results that we’ve already seen; meaning, he’s the same bench player we acquired last season.

If your view on trading this pick is “we obtained a role player, which is pretty good for a 5th-round pick”, you’re not wrong.

But, when you realize the current front office has selected Jay Ajayi, Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett and Davon Godchaux in the 5th-round (between 2015-2017), you realize we could have used this lottery ticket for something more than a disappointing backup.

Stephone Anthony. Image Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Baker came into the draft as an undersized linebacker who can blitz and cover, but was too small to handle the run without getting swallowed up.

This training camp has proved otherwise.

Baker has the speed that made him the Dolphins 3rd-round pick this year, and has the instincts to identify and react well. That’s what you want out of your linebacker.

What remains to be seen is how successful he’ll be once the regular season starts.

Once teams start to identify trends and weaknesses on tape, will the offense be able to expose Baker?

How does he really lineup against NFL tight ends?

The hope is that pairing Baker with his former Ohio State teammate, Raekwon McMillian, brings out the best in both football players. If they’re comfortably feeding off each other, they can be more productive that two lost players that are more athletic.

While the hope may have been that Anthony evolved into the player that made him the 31st overall selection in the 2015 draft, the reality is Baker was drafted to be the starter.

I just don’t think anyone assumed it would happen this quickly.

Kicker: Greg Joseph vs Jason Sanders

This one is tough. Both kickers have had their good and bad days.

Jason Sanders. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What’s impressive is each kicker has hit field goals from 61 yards out. I’m impressed any time there’s a 5 in front of the field goal distance, so hearing about these 61 yard bombs is cool to see.

But does any of this translate on gameday?

It’s great that they have the leg strength – seems like they’ll be able to send each kickoff out of the endzone – but how will they perform under pressure?

Between the two, Jason Sanders has to have the advantage after being drafted in the 7th round, but I don’t think that would stop Darren Rizzi from selecting the better player.

The final 3 preseason games will determine who the starting kicker is this season.

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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