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Dolphins Aerial Assault Beats Birds – Dolphins Eagles Week 13 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Under Flores, Dolphins swimming upstream; and winning

If the comedy franchise ‘Major League’ were nonfiction, they’d probably follow a similar storyline to the 2019 Miami Dolphins. With everything imaginable working against Brian Flores and his roster, the coach who was projected to finish the season without a victory has now found the winner’s circle. Three times.

The future of the Dolphins is uncertain, just as it is for the other 31 franchises in the NFL. Obtaining the first pick in the draft is the believed best way to minimize that uncertainty with regards to the league’s most important position — the quarterback. While selecting QB1, and hitting on the pick, is the quickest way to change a franchise, finding the correct man to lead the team finished in a close second.

In Brian Flores, the Dolphins found the right man to guide this team back to prominence.

Stat Dolphins Eagles
Total Yards 409 386
Rushing 58 92
Passing 351 294
3rd /4th Down 8/15 (53.3%) 7/14 (50%)
Penalties 7 (59 yards) 10 (91 yards)
Sacks For 2 3
TOP 31:18 28:42

DolphinsEagles

Throughout the season, we’ve shown you sound structure on defense and an offensive game plan that schemes open players with regularity. We’ve also shown you the shortcomings in protection, the occasional dropped pass and — this season, the even more rare miss from the quarterback.

Showcasing the improvements over the previous coaching staffs, in losing efforts, was enough to nudge the pessimist towards hope. Now, the Dolphins are learning how to close those games, and showing sustained bite from unsung players that nobody thought had a chance to become part of the next era of Dolphins football.

Miami aren’t just finding success from players like Undrafted Cornerback Nik Needham, or the previously injured fellow UDFA Preston Williams. The Fins are finding contributions from players valued as bottom-tier acquisitions, whether it’s the draft of free agency.

Devante Parker re-signed in Miami on a two-year deal worth $10 million. Parker is the AFC’s second-leading receiver since the bye week, and has already surpassed career-highs across the board. Parker makes the same amount as Cordarrelle Patterson.

Eric Rowe would be the 93rd-highest paid cornerback in the league were he still playing that position. Since his shift to safety after the bye week, Rowe allows less than 4.5 yards-per-target in coverage.

Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a contract that pays him less than Brian Hoyer. I won’t suggest that Fitzpatrick is the long-term solution at the position, but the way he’s playing shows how the right guy, who is wired the right way, can excel in this scheme. Fitzpatrick threw for 365 yards despite his top back rushing for 20 yards in the game. It’s the fourth time Fitzpatrick has surpassed 280 yards passing, behind an offensive line that allows more hits, pressures and sacks than any unit in the league.

Mike Gesicki has come on like gangbusters. Some fans preferred Dallas Goedert (Eagles Tight End) in the second-round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Miami’s actual pick, Gesicki, topped Goedert’s 66-yard performance with 79 of his own, including a touchdown. Gesicki has more receptions and yards than Goedert on the season.

If this is the type of production Miami are capable of cultivating from low-end investments, what should we expect from five premium draft picks, and the biggest free agent budget in the league?

This team is going to be form-fit to suit the needs of Chad O’Shea, Patrick Graham and the entire operation that Brian Flores has established in just his first year on the job. Targeted free agents carefully picked with distinct jobs envisioned, before the ink dries on the contract, and a bunch of young five-stars for this successful coaching staff — who are garnering Coach of the Year talk — to get their hands on.

Be excited, Fins fans. Be very excited.

Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterbacks

The 365-yard performance Fitzpatrick posted on Sunday can’t be praised enough. He was under immense pressure from the first snap of the game, and the Eagles completely shut down Miami’s offensive operation through three series. Until it all clicked.

Fitzpatrick was still getting forced off the spot, but found lanes to set up and deliver an onslaught of vertical shots to his two trees (Parker and Gesicki) or underneath to Allen Hurns, Albert Wilson and Patrick Laird. Miami closed the game out with five consecutive touchdown drives if you discount a kneel down at the end of the half, and a clock extraction drive at the end of the game.

His statistics are not indicative of what he’s meant to this team. During the broadcast the commentators mentioned that even the defense admits to absorbing the energy that Fitzpatrick brings to work every day.

Running Backs

It took an injury to Kalen Ballage to finally get something going from the tailbacks. Ballage finished the day with three carries, no yards, and a long of 1-yard. Seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin and undrafted rookie Patrick Laird — A.K.A The Intern — combined for 74 total yards.

Gaskin had the best rushing day with 20 yards on two carries, but Laird made the biggest impact in the game. He caught a 2nd and 10 pass at the plus-15, made a man miss and burrowed ahead for a first down. On the next play, he plowed into the end zone from five yards out, and capped it off by catching a two-point conversion pass in the end zone.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

What more can we say about Parker? In a breakout season, Parker enjoyed his breakout game; just two weeks after his initial breakout. His last three games have totaled 20 receptions for 335 yards and a pair of scores. The catches he made Sunday were highlight reel plays that somehow continuously topped the one prior.

Mike Gesicki was up next, and wanted in on the “Mossing” action. Plucking the football off the helmets of unsuspecting defensive backs, finding space in soft spots, making big runs after the catch — this is the athletic tight end we all thought we were getting two Aprils ago.

Allen Hurns is a reliable slot option that has earned the trust of Fitzpatrick. He often presents a the target at the correct time while the window exists. He continues to pick up key first downs at critical moments.

It was great to see Albert Wilson back and involved. He uncovered to the tune of five catches on five targets, and his biggest play came as a tailback in the Wildcat formation. Wilson still doesn’t look to be at the same speed as last year, but this is a big first step. Take a look at Parker’s block on Wilson’s long run.

Offensive Line

There were moments for the line Sunday, but the running game is still nonexistent, and a less aware quarterback would’ve been scraped off the field with a spatula Sunday.

Michael Deiter has ownership of some of those moments, including a punishing block to lead Laird in for a touchdown. His pass protection was better despite having to play next to two different tackles in the game.

The left tackle position continues to be the Achilles heel of this team.

Jesse Davis is always going to struggle with speed as a tackle. That fact has been evident all year, and he was getting all he could handle via speed and speed-to-power moves from Philadelphia early. Davis eventually settled down as the game went along and gave Fitzpatrick enough time to get the ball down the field.

Hopefully all the work Shaq Calhoun is getting at right guard can develop his prospects for the future, but it’s just not bearing a lot of fruit right now. We’ll have more on the line from the all-22.

Defensive Line and Linebackers

Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins continued on essentially the same plane they’ve been on for the last several weeks. Moments of dominance, position versatility, some reps they’d like to have back, but a good game in total.

The edge remains a problem as Miami allowed 83 rushing yards on 17 carries from Miles Sanders. A combination of Taco Charlton, Charles Harris, John Jenkins, Vince Biegel and Andrew Van Ginkel filled that role today. The plays were few and far between, as Biegel was the only one of the group to consistently hold the point of attack. He also provided pressure on a number of reps.

Jerome Baker left the game with an injury and was replaced by Sam Eguavoen as the green-dot communication player on defense. Eguavoen had his best day as a pro with a sack and a big stick on a screen pass.

Baker continues to show some concerning moments for how they want linebackers to play in this system. He’s asked to do jobs that are usually made for bigger, stronger players, and he gets washed out as a result.

Defensive Backs

Miami won this game on the back of its offense, but the 10 points allowed in the second half made the 14-point comeback possible. After allowing Philadelphia to pile up 28 points one possession into the second half, the Dolphins forced a missed field goal (49 yards) two punts, and a 37-yard field goal.

The missed field goal occurred after an Eguavoen sack, but the two punts and successful field goal all came as a result of big stops by the Dolphins defensive backfield.

Nik Needham was tested again. He’s proven to be Miami’s best cover corner as he draws the one-on-one responsibility in a seven-man coverage package that brackets every other route on the field.

Eric Rowe is in talks for a contraction extension, and he’s earned it post-bye week. Rowe made a pass breakup on Zach Ertz in the end zone, and was involved around many-a-running plays near the line of scrimmage for yet another week.

Ken Webster displayed the physical nature of his game that endeared this staff to his long-term prospects.

The best part of watching this secondary — though there are gaffes, and Miami had plenty against the consistent barrage of Philly mesh concepts — is that they all play together. There’s a belief in the scheme, and they all adhere to their responsibilities. They’ll get beat on the talent deficiency at times, but they are competing and coming up big on third downs and in the red zone.

Specialists

No way this article would be complete without mentioning the coolest special teams trickery I’ve ever seen. Matt Haack to Jason Sanders, and it’s the first kicker to score a touchdown since 1977.

Foundation = Established

This is the third time I’ve made an emphatic, landmark moment declaration on Brian Flores, and I gain more confidence with each one. Back in training camp I sensed a team that was hungry to play for this coach. A disciplined unit that was absorbing all the valuable information from individual techniques, to being in the right spot to help your teammate within the structure of the scheme.

I said it again after the Colts win when Brian Flores willed an undermanned roster to a second-straight victory. Now, up against a $30 million quarterback and a team with preseason Super Bowl expectations, I’m going to dig in deeper on the proclamation that Flores will finally break Miami’s string of coaches without making through year-five (Shula the last to do it in Miami, Wannstedt fired in year-five).

Finding production from the change lost in the couch cushion is a testament to so many people in the organization, not just Brian Flores. It’s a testament to the area scouts who discovered players like Preston Williams and Nik Needham. It’s a testament to Josh Boyer, who’s impressive resume developing unknown defensive backs tracks several years now. It’s a testament to the executives who decided to push the resources into the future so that Flores could establish the foundation, and then build the team around his image.

I saw it explained best on Twitter from a friend of mine with the handle @Desides01. He said, “Dare I say the Dolphins finally succeeded where other teams failed at extracting some of the Patriots coaching magic?”

Dare on, Desides01; because that’s exactly what’s happening here.

Brian Flores is Lou Brown and his roster was stripped down to a bunch of guys that otherwise wouldn’t be in the league. Flores rallied the team around that idea, and in turn, discovered a Pedro Cerrano of his own in homerun hitting Devante Parker. He found his veteran leader watching over it all with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking on Jake Taylor’s role.

Now, the challenge in 2020, will be getting Jack Parkman not only to sign the big free agent contract, but to buy into the program.

@WingfieldNFL

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1 Comment

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  1. Avatar

    Papapickett

    December 1, 2019 at 10:11 pm

    I want the team to play well and improve but winning games in a lost season doesnt do that. Also I to suspect Grier and Flores will be clicking on the same page but I give all the credit to the coaches this year. They have shuffled these guys around to figure out where they are best deployed even though I admit to being extremely annoyed and impatient with that process but it was largely because Grier took so long to get the ACTUAL 53 together. Week 4 was like the end of our preseason so all the improvement has been from the coaching staff. The best surprise is Eric Rowe. We cant forget he has a long injury history but since he has moved to safety wow. Just wow. His lack of speed has been covered up and his football savvy has been unlocked. Its interesting to see how talent dependent sacks are though. It is clear to see it is hard to scheme up sacks. Definitely going to need some pass rushers next year.

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NFL Draft

Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Defense

Travis Wingfield

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Best Dolphins scheme fits, and the price to acquire said players, taking the field this week at the Senior Bowl

By the time the popcorn is popped, the ball is teed up, and the fans have filed into the Ladd-Pebble’s stadium, most of the scouts, evaluators and decision makers have vacated Mobile, Alabama, the home of the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

It’s not that the game is devoid of value; it just pales in comparison to the value of the entire week of practices. Simulated situations pit college football’s best players against one-another in true tests of their abilities.

Change-of-direction, clean mechanics, competitiveness, all of these important traits are readily apparent in the padded practices that occur from Tuesday through Thursday in front of everyone who is anyone in the National Football League.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to prospect evaluation. Even after a nine-month process that begins at summer camp for area scouts, the best-drafting teams in the NFL still only hit on roughly half of their picks. But if there were a way to expedite the process of rifling through the hundreds of draft-eligible players, these practices are it.

We get a first-hand look at how players fare against elite college competition, repeatedly. Game-speed is on display. Lateral agility and movement skills are tested. The bounce back from a bad rep and jumping right back into the fire gives us insight on how players respond to adversity in short order. The clues we find in Mobile sends us back to the tape to re-evaluate our boards, and ultimately spit our final rankings and evaluations.

In case you’re new to Locked On Dolphins, this is how we covered the Senior Bowl last January.

Since everything we do is Dolphins specific, we’re looking at scheme fits. We’ll track which players the Dolphins meet with, and who impresses the most at the biggest positions of need.

In addition to projecting best possible scheme fits, we’ll factor in draft value when selecting the best possible player from each group for your Miami Dolphins. For instance, neither Justin Herbert or Jordan Love will be the top QB selected simply because of their high-end first-round draft status. If Miami selects Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick, Herbet and Love are off the board entirely.

It’s one of my personal favorite weeks of the year, so let’s get into part-two, the defense.

Offensive Preview

Senior Bowl Defense

The defensive side of the ball is loaded this week in Mobile. Gap-control rushers, interior pocket collapsers, on-and-off-ball linebackers and a secondary chock full of ball hawks, there are multiple future Dolphins in this group.

By now, we know that Miami are one of three teams in the league — four now with Joe Judge at the top of a program — that shops from an exclusive store. Bigger, stronger edge players that make up for a lack of athleticism with brute power and gap integrity. Versatile defensive backs that must excel in man coverage. Linebackers that can rush the quarterback from a variety of positions. These are the core tenants of the Patriots, Lions, and Dolphins defense, and perhaps the Giants under new management with Patrick Graham.

It’ll be impossible to highlight just a couple of players, so unlike the offensive side, we’ll discuss multiple players at each spot. As always, we’ll have even more detail on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

Defensive Line

Bradlee Anae (UTAH), Darrion Daniels (NEB), Marlon Davidson (AUB), Raekwon Davis (ALA), Leki Fotu (UTAH), Neville Gallimore (OK), Trevis Gipson (TULS), Jonathan Greenard (FLA), Davon Hamilton (OSU), Trevon Hill (MIA), Benito Jones (MISS), Javon Kinlaw (SC), Larrell Murchison (NCST), Alton Robinson (SYR), Jason Strowbridge (UNC), Kenny Willekes (MSU), Robert Windsor (PSU), Jabari Zuniga (FLA)

Best Fins Fit — Bradlee Anae, Utah

Anae is a 6-foot-3, 260-plus-pound edge that Miami will covet in this year’s draft. He’s a refined rusher with multiple moves in the arsenal, and the ability to angle inside as a rusher to expand the stunt game on the defensive line.

He’s not the most athletic rusher, but that’s not part of the prerequisites of playing edge in this scheme. New England never valued athleticism at end, and I don’t suspect Brian Flores will either. Dig-out or kick-out blocks are often a futile effort against Anae because of his long arms and ability to disengage quickly.

Projected Required Investment — Mid-Round Pick, Rounds 3-4

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Base 5-Tech, Kick Inside in Nickle Rush Packages

Hardly a far cry from former Patriot, current Lion, and once a Near-Dolphin Trey Flowers, Anae is a power run defender that can redirect as a pass rusher on his way to stopping the ground game.

The moment the card is turned in, Anae becomes the best base defensive end on the team. While that’s an indictment of Miami’s roster, it’s also a testament to Anae’s skill set. He provides the versatility to kick inside on long yardage situations.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

This will be an area to either showcase Anae’s impressive heavy hands, or an opportunity to expose his limited athleticism. Again, the Dolphins don’t care much about the latter, and typically it’s the players with better moves in their arsenal that win in this drill.

Keep an Eye On — Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina

Something of a tweener for the rest of the league, Strowbridge fits right in at home in Miami. He entered college as a 245-pound end, and now he’s nearing three bills on the scale. Accordingly, Strowbridge has some explosion and wiggle that is unique to a player of his size.

He won’t be a base defensive tackle, but he is more than capable of fulfilling the 4-tech spot in bear fronts, or play the play-side 3-tech in even fronts. Leki Fotu is a Danny Shelton clone and Neville Gallimore and Javon Kinlaw are explosive, powerful interior rush presences, but will likely require a first-round selection. Strowbridge is a day-three player.

Linebackers

Zack Baun (WIS), Francis Bernard (UTAH), Jordyn Brooks (TT), Cameron Brown (PSU), Carter Coughlin (MIN), Akeem Davis-Gaither (APP), Troy Dye (ORE), Malik Harrison (OSU), Khaleke Hudson (MICH), Anfernee Jennings (ALA), Terrell Lewis (ALA), Kamal Martin (MIN), Davion Taylor (COL), Darrell Taylor (TEN), Josh Uche (MICH), Evan Weaver (CAL), Logan Wilson (WYO), D.J. Wonnum (SC)

Best Fins Fit — Zack Baun, Wisconsin

Baun, just like Vince Biegel and Andrew Van Ginkel before him, has the same traits that attracted Miami to the pair of Badger ‘Backers. Baun is the best of the three. He’s especially adept at executing games (stunts, twists, slants) because of his lateral agility.

He’s not the most fluid edge rusher, and isn’t going to line up in the wide alignment and win the corner, but he’s effective defending the pass as a flat and hook zone dropper. His rush move arsenal is already refined like that of a seasoned pro.

Projected Required Investment — Late-First, Early-Second, Pick 26 or 39

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting On-Ball Linebacker

Biegel almost never left the field last season upon showing his worth across a variety of formations. Baun could do the same and give Miami a pair of consistent Badger backers off either edge, in what could be a linebacker-driven front-seven this year. Drafting Baun would certainly suggest that to be the case, with Van Ginkel serving as the sixth-man — so to speak — first off the bench.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

My apologies for a lack of variety between these trench players, but nothing beats the pit drill; nothing. This is an area Baun will probably excel because he’s such a refined technician, and he’ll draw some smaller school players and athletes that aren’t great football players just yet.

Keep an Eye On — Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

Jennings has the requisite measurements to intrigue the Dolphins before even flipping on the film. Then, once you see him play, you see him actively engage those long arms and thick frame to bully the man across from him. He’s extremely stout against the run with the heavy hands to shed blockers en route to the tackler.

Cal’s Evan Weaver lacks speed and rush ability, but he’s the most reliable downhill run defender in the entire draft. Joshua Uche has some versatility to his game. He played for current Dolphins Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile in college.

Defensive Backs

Damon Arnette (OSU), Essang Bassey (WAKE), Julian Blackmon (UTAH), Antoine Brooks Jr. (MAR), Terrell Burgess (UTAH), Jeremy Chinn (SoILL), Brian Cole (MISS ST), Ashtyn Davis (CAL), Kyle Duggar (Lenoir-Rhyne), Jalen Elliot (ND), Kristian Fulton (LSU), Alohi Gilman (ND), A.J. Green (OKST), Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Lamar Jackson (NEB), Dane Jackson (PITT), Brandon Jones (TEX), Jared Mayden (ALA), Josh Metellus (MICH), Michael Ojemudia (IOWA), Troy Pride Jr. (ND), Reggie Robinson (TULS), Kindle Vildor (GEO SO), K’Von Wallace (CLEM)

Best Fins Fit — Ashtyn Davis

There are a few defensive backs in this class that match the prototype for what Brian Flores looks for, and Davis is certainly that, but he has one thing most of the other guys don’t. The sheer passion and love for playing the game the correct way. Not to say the others don’t, but Davis is a temperature changer that immediately improves the work environment around him.

Davis is a former track star, so when he tests in Indianapolis, it’s possible he elevates his stock into the first round. Hopefully that’s not the case, and Miami can pick up a round-two steal with this do-it-all safety. He can play the single-high role, cover in the slot, and is more than willing to hit somebody much larger than himself.

Projected Required Investment — Day 2, Pick 39

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Free Safety, Slot Corner

Davis‘ best trait is the paired combination of instincts and range. Because of that, he fits Miami’s press-man, single-high defense as well as anybody. He can also come down and cover the slot with the best of them — just the ideal defensive back for Brian Flores.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Live Team Period

Tackling hasn’t been the best trait for Davis in his collegiate career. It’s not that he’s not willing, he just lacks the size and frame to do it consistently. I want to see how he wraps and finishes in the live team periods when he has to come down and make a stick.

Keep an Eye On — Damon Arnette, Ohio State

Overlooked because of the presence of Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade in that Buckeye defensive backfield, Arnette took considerable strides this season in Columbus. He’s a long, aggressive press-corner that plays the ball exceptionally well.

Arnette will challenge every route at the three critical points — off the line, at the top of the stem, and at the catch point. He’s a sound tackler, but isn’t real interested in fighting off blocks. He’s more athletic than most players with his play-style which should bump his draft stock.

Utah’s Terrell Burgess is a good option in the middle rounds to play primary backup to Eric Rowe, and also serve as a core special teamer.

It would be quite a surprise if multiple players from this group don’t wind up with the Dolphins. There are so many potential scheme fits, and players that come from programs that stress the same core tenants that Miami’s system calls for. With all these Utah Utes, all these versatile defensive backs and multi-talented front-seven players, this is quite a week for Brian Flores and company.

@WingfieldNFL

Wednesday-Friday — Senior Bowl Practice Recaps

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Miami Dolphins

Kevin’s Senior Bowl Defensive Brain Dump

Kevin Dern

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As we head into Senior Bowl week, I just wanted to do a quick brain dump on some of the prospects I’m most interested to see on defense this week at the Senior Bowl.  One of my favorite prospects, Notre Dame DE Khalid Kareem, appears to have dropped out of the Senior Bowl for some reason (I’m looking into that, but if anyone knows, please comment below).  To keep this simple, I’m just going to go DLs, LBs and DBs with quick notes on the guys I like.

Quick Glossary of Dolphins positions:

Big DE – bigger guy, usually 6’3”+ and 270lbs+ with 34”+ arms.  Usually plays some 4, 4i, 5 and 6 techniques, with the ability to reduce inside on passing downs.

Rush DE – think Trey Flowers.  Plays wider, usually 5, 6, 7, 9, and 8 (head up on a dual TE, pretty rare). 

Off-Ball LB – a LB that’s usually playing off the line of scrimmage.  Think Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen.

On-Ball LB – a LB who is playing the edges, akin to a 3-4 OLB, but may be playing in a 4-man line.  Think Vince Biegel and, especially late in the season, Andrew Van Ginkel. 

Safety Position – Miami breaks their safeties into three categories:  MOF (Middle of the Field – a deep FS), split safety (someone who can play ½ field in tandem with the FS), and box safety (think Patrick Chung for New England or Tavon Wilson for Detroit.  For Miami it was mostly Reshad Jones and Eric Rowe in this role in 2019). 

DL Prospects

DE – Jason Strowbridge – N. Carolina – Really excited to see him play in Mobile.  Was a 3-tech DT for the Tar Heels at 6’5” 285lbs.  Has length Miami will covet, experience playing inside.  Flashes some explosion in pursuit.  Plays well down the line (horizontally) against the run.  Violent hands.  Miami will like that.   Fits with the Dolphins as a

DT Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina – Long and explosive.  Can play anywhere on interior and may be able to play some Big DE in Miami’s scheme.  Wins with length and speed more than physicality; will have to be more consistent with leverage and pad level at NFL level.

DT DaVon Hamilton – Ohio State – Solid all around.  Physical, hustles, uses his hands.  Was part of a heavy rotation at Ohio State with Rob Landers, Jashon Cornell, Haskell Garrett, and Tommy Togiai.  Probably more set for a true 4-3 defense, but a solid player you can get in the mid-rounds.  For Miami, he’d likely fit as a backup to Christian Wilkins – someone who can play 2i, 2, 3, 4, 4i techniques.

Really Intrigued:  Marlon Davidson – Auburn – Was more hybrid 3-4 DE/stand-up edge player at Auburn.  Has good size.  Will be interesting to see how he plays as a DE in the game.  Would be a Big DE for Miami.

Want to see more of:  Leki Fotu – Utah – Got manhandled by Oregon in the Pac-12 Title Game.  Thought he was an intriguing prospect for a NT spot in Miami’s defense, but after that game…Yikes.  Can he rebound? Has some potential to play other techniques aside from a pure NT.  Is he strong enough at the NFL Level?

Others  I like:

Bradlee Anae – Utah – Rush DE from Utah who seems to fit the parameters, but just isn’t quite there for me. I want to see how he holds up against this level of competition.  Did well until he ran into Penei Sewell of Oregon.  Did notch some wins against USC’s Austin Jackson.

Jonathan Greenard – Florida – Another Rush DE candidate who had a fantastic season.  Had a tremendous season for the Gators and has solid size for what Miami will likely look for.  Does he have an arsenal of pass-rush moves or is he too reliant on speed-rush?

Darrell Taylor of Tennessee, Josh Uche of Michigan, and Alton Robinson of Syracuse also bear watching.  The first two might be more OLB candidates for Miami.  Robinson had a lot of hype heading into 2019 but didn’t have the best season with 2.5 of his 4.5 sacks coming against Liberty and Western Michigan.

LB Prospects

Malik Harrison – Ohio State – Just a good, smart, physical football player.  Can he play on the ball? Probably a little bit light for what Miami wants in someone who can play the off-ball and on-ball LB spot, but he’s so good.  Secure tackler.  Delivers pop when he squares up.  For Miami, if he can bulk up a bit and still retain his speed, he’s got a chance to play that off-ball ILB and on-ball OLB hybrid role, like Kyle Van Noy.  Guys like Biegel and Van Ginkel are pretty strictly on-ball guys, who fit the hybrid OLB/rush DE role for Miami.

Evan Weaver – California – Strictly a MLB in Miami’s system, but he may be more dynamic there than Raekwon McMillan; creates a logjam there if you take him though.  Can play in coverage, good tackler, deceptive quickness.

Really Intrigued:  Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis are both listed as ILBs for the Senior Bowl; not OLBs or edge players, which is what I think they’d be better suited for in the NFL and with Miami.  Is this a real thing?

Want to see more of:  Logan Wilson – Wyoming – Evan Weaver heavy.  Wilson isn’t as polished as even Weaver, but he’s got good size and moves will for it.  I’ve only seen one Wyoming game, so I myself want to watch Wilson this week.

Others I Like: 

Carter Coughlin – Minnesota – He’s listed as a DE for the Senior Bowl, but for Miami’s purposes, they’d likely view him as another OLB/DE hybrid.  Not that they need another at this point with Biegel and Van Ginkel, but it’s worth doing the due diligence on Coughlin.

DB Prospects

Damon Arnette – Ohio State – One of the few CBs I’ve seen multiple times and paid attention to.  He was the starter opposite Jeff Okudah and had a nice season.  He’s physical and is an excellent tackler for a corner.  Had to play with his hand/wrist in a cast for a chunk of the season and became a bit grabby, much like current Dolphin Xavien Howard when he was at Baylor.  With Arnette, as it relates to Miami, I think the tape is fine, but it may come down to the physical measurements.  Namely, does he have the long speed to play a lot of man coverage?

Dane Jackson – Pittsburgh – It seems like every year there’s a dirty, grimy football player from Pitt that just tends to stick in the league.  I thought Dwayne Hendrix had a chance for Miami last year, but he ended up with the Ravens after being on the practice squad.  Dane Jackson is another kid I can see Miami taking a liking to.  Though, like Arnette, I’m concerned if the speed is there or not.

Antoine Brooks Jr. – Maryland – I noticed him when the Terps got thumped by Ohio State.  He’s big, 5’11” 215lbs, and plays slot, SS and split safety.  I think his best position is probably playing in the Patrick Chung/Tavon Wilson role, if Miami is convinced, they can play Eric Rowe as a split safety when required.  Clicks & Closes quickly, like Reshad Jones.  Good tackler in space.  Physical.  67 solo tackles in 2019.  Displays good closing speed (watch the play against Penn State).  For the Dolphins, he’s on my short list of guys who can pay the Chung/Wilson role.  While he’s not in Mobile, keep an eye on SMU’s Patrick Nelson.  Hat tip to Chris Kouffman for turning me onto Nelson.

Alohi Gilman – Notre Dame – Antoine Brooks lite.  Better coverage player, but not as dynamic close to the LOS.  Good tackler who makes plays on the ball.  3 FFs in 2019, 6 total in his career at Notre Dame (3 years of playing time).  58 solo tackles in 2018 (better team defense).  Interested to see if he’s more of a slot player or can play SS in the NFL.  Versatility is something Miami will like.

Intrigued:  Kyle Dugger – Lenoir-Rhyne – Division II player at the Senior Bowl.  I know Jim Nagy really likes him.  Intrigued to see his size on display.  6’2” 220lbs.

Want to see more of:  All the CBs.  Other than Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and A.J. Terrell, I haven’t watched many corners throughout the year.  Curious to see if any stand out.

Others I Like:

Ashtyn Davis – California – I know Travis has, or is very likely to, talk about him a lot this week.  He’s one of the few ideal candidates in this year’s draft of the MOF FS spot in Miami’s defense.  They may be comfortable with Bobby McCain for that role, but in my eyes, moving McCain back to the slot and tabbing a guy like Davis would improve the secondary as a whole.

I also think it’s funny that we’ll see corners named Lamar Jackson and A.J. Green in Mobile this week.

Final Word

If I’m pressed into picking five names I think Miami will really like from this year’s Senior Bowl, I’d probably stack them as:

1) Ashtyn Davis – FS – California

2) Malik Harrison – LB – Ohio State

3) Jason Strowbridge – DE – North Carolina

4) Damon Arnette – CB – Ohio State

5) Evan Weaver – LB – California

I left off several guys like Darrell Taylor, Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings.  They’re all guys Miami will like, but with Biegel and Van Ginkel in the fold, are they really going to be that interested? Especially with a guy like Yannick Ngakoue lurking in free agency, who he himself has already teased some things about Miami and Jason Taylor on his Twitter timeline? Yeah, give me Ngakoue there.

As for my guy, Antoine Brooks Jr., I think he’d be a really nice fit for Miami.  But with Eric Rowe’s capability, I have to wonder whether or not they’d look at someone in that role or tend to focus on guys who can play FS and be able to play in split safety looks.  There’s also some intriguing names out there in free agency like Justin Simmons and Von Bell to watch out for.

It’ll be a fun week to watch, and feel free to @ me at @KevinMD4 if you have any questions about these guys.

 

 

 

 

 

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NFL Draft

Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Offense

Travis Wingfield

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Best Dolphins scheme fits, and the price to acquire said players, taking the field this week at the Senior Bowl

By the time the popcorn is popped, the ball is teed up, and the fans have filed into the Ladd-Pebble’s stadium, most of the scouts, evaluators and decision makers have vacated Mobile, Alabama, the home of the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

It’s not that the game is devoid of value; it just pales in comparison to the value of the entire week of practices. Simulated situations pit college football’s best players against one-another in true tests of their abilities.

Change-of-direction, clean mechanics, competitiveness, all of these important traits are readily apparent in the padded practices that occur from Tuesday through Thursday in front of everyone who is anyone in the National Football League.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to prospect evaluation. Even after a nine-month process that begins at summer camp for area scouts, the best-drafting teams in the NFL still only hit on roughly half of their picks. But if there were a way to expedite the process of rifling through the hundreds of draft-eligible players, these practices are it.

We get a first-hand look at how players fare against elite college competition, repeatedly. Game-speed is on display. Lateral agility and movement skills are tested. The bounce back from a bad rep and jumping right back into the fire gives us insight on how players respond to adversity in short order. The clues we find in Mobile sends us back to the tape to re-evaluate our boards, and ultimately spit our final rankings and evaluations.

In case you’re new to Locked On Dolphins, this is how we covered the Senior Bowl last January.

Since everything we do is Dolphins specific, we’re looking at scheme fits. We’ll track which players the Dolphins meet with, and who impresses the most at the biggest positions of need.

In addition to projecting best possible scheme fits, we’ll factor in draft value when selecting the best possible player from each group for your Miami Dolphins. For instance, neither Justin Herbert or Jordan Love will be the top QB selected simply because of their high-end first-round draft status. If Miami selects Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick, Herbet and Love are off the board entirely.

It’s one of my personal favorite weeks of the year, so let’s start with part-one of a two-part preview series — the offense.

Senior Bowl Offense

Quarterbacks

Anthony Gordon (WSU), Justin Herbert (ORE), Jalen Hurts (OK), Jordan Love (USU), Steven Montez (COL), Shea Patterson (MICH)

Best Fins Fit — Anthony Gordon, Washington State

Certainly not the premier player from this loaded bunch, Gordon’s upside makes him the ideal candidate for Miami to hedge a potential top-of-round-one pick at quarterback. Gordon has plus-athleticism for the position, and one of the liveliest arms in the entire class. He’s capable of throwing with pristine anticipation and doesn’t sacrifice velocity when he’s off-platform, or hasn’t completed each of the proverbial checkmarks from a mechanical delivery standpoint.

As a Washington State alum with Cougar Crimson blood pumping through my veins, I’d be remiss not to mention the reasons Gordon a Saturday pick. The inconsistencies in his decision making are problematic — if not baffling at times. He doesn’t lack confidence, and that results in some gorgeous balls, but he can put his offense in harm’s way with far too much regularity.

Projected Required Investment — Day 3 Pick, Rounds 4-6

Where He Fits on the Roster — Backup/Development Quarterback

The air raid is great for the amount of reps it affords young quarterbacks. Gordon spent a lot of time learning a timing and anticipation offense that operates primarily from empty sets. We could see a lot of those same formations in Miami under the new offensive direction.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Team Period Red Zone Work

When things are condensed, and the players are faster, how will Gordon operate in the tight spaces? He comes from a wide open offense, so growth throughout the week would be a terrific sign.

Keep an Eye On — Steven Montez, Colorado

Jalen Hurts’ omission will certainly ruffle some feathers, but the signs do not point towards Miami favoring a quarterback with major red flags as a passer. It would be foolish to omit Miami’s ability to build a scheme for Hurts, but a different direction makes more sense. Montez is big, with an arm to match, and can extend plays off-script.

Running Backs

Darius Anderson (TCU), Eno Benjamin (ASU), JaMycal Hasty (BAY), Joshua Kelly (UCLA), Zack Moss (UTAH), Lamical Perine (FLA), Ke’Shawn Vaughn (VAN)

Best Fins Fit — Zack Moss, Utah

Creating yardage was virtually the only hope for the running game last year in Miami — hence a 37-year-old quarterback leading the team in rushing. Kenyan Drake and Mark Walton were able to create yards behind this line, and Myles Gaskin late in the season to a lesser degree, but watching Kalen Ballage and Patrick Laird attempt the same was hard on the eyes.

Enter Zack Moss. Utah’s bell cow (1,804 YFS and 17 TD in 2019) might be the smartest runner in this class. Moss pairs exceptional patience, balance, and pitter-patter footwork behind the line-of-scrimmage to constantly change the angles on potential tacklers. His quick-but-not-in-a-hurry approach helps the line execute slower developing blocks (reaches, combos), and his best trait — he’s impossible to get to the turf with one single tackle.

There’s always a plan for the next defender as Moss sets up his moves beautifully. He’s fluid catching the football on the typical running back routes (swings, screens, flats and arrows).

Projected Required Investment — Day 2 Pick (Pick 56)

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Tailback

If Moss is handed an aqua jersey on draft day, it’s done so with the expectation that he will be the lead back. Miami could sign a veteran that makes for a 1a-1b situation, but using a premium resource on a back brings with it the expectation that said back will play, a lot.

Area of Intrigue This Week — 1-on-1 Pass Catching

This is always one of my favorite drills. Watching the way backs move in space, with a two-way go, is telling of their ability to create separation as flexed-out receivers. If Moss can nail the test in that regard in Mobile, then again at the combine, he’ll rocket up boards.

Keep an Eye On — Eno Benjamin, Arizona State

For his vision, instinctive nature, and hard-nosed running — Benjamin would be next behind Moss. He’s likely a late day-two or early day-three pick, knocked mostly because of poor pass catching.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Aiyuk (ASU), Chase Claypool (ND), Quartney Davis (TAM), Devin Duvernay (TEX), Bryan Edwards (SC), Antonio Gandy-Golden (LIB), Antonio Gibson (MEM), K.J. Hill (OSU), Van Jefferson (FLA), Jauan Jennings (TEN), Collin Johnson (TEX), Kalija Lipscomb (VAN), Denzel Mims (BAY), Michael Pittman JR (USC), James Proche (SMU)

Best Fins Fit — Devin Duvernay, Texas

Some of the other players in this group offer a little more wiggle off the line, and thus might be considered better options to play in the slot, but Duvernay has one trait that bursts off the tape — speed.

An electrifying fly-by receiver, Duvernay pairs world class track speed with a thick frame. That deadly combination makes him a difficult tackle once he secures the catch, but also a weapon for handoffs, pop passes, and a variety of short-game work to unlock his RAC abilities. Duvernay catches everything. He plucks the football away from his body with strong hands, helping to secure contested catches.

Projected Required Investment — Day 3, Round 4 Comp Pick (Ja’Wuan James)

Where He Fits on the Roster — Slot/Specialty Package Receiver

Albert Wilson currently fills this role, but it seems inconceivable that he is back at his current rate. If Miami can’t renegotiate Wilson’s contract, Duvernay could slide right into that role and compete with Isaiah Ford and Allen Hurns for reps.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Red Zone 1-on-1

Charged with hip tightness, Duvernay needs to work on his ability to release against press coverage. Although a lot of the routes he would run, from the desired alignments, would give him free access, every receiver needs to be able to beat press. These simulated situations will either expose or open eyes on Duvernay.

Keep an Eye On — Quartney Davis, Texas A&M

Davis is more Jarvis Landry-like than Duvernay, so an argument could be made for his value over the long-speed of the his in-state rival. He’s drawn comparisons to Deebo Samuel (Kyle Crabbs of TDN) for his body control, and industrious route running. Davis’ positional versatility in the Aggie offense will intrigue Miami.

Tight Ends

Harrison Bryant (FAU), Josiah Deguara (CIN), Brycen Hopkins (PUR), Sean McKeon (MICH), Jared Pinkney (VAN), Stephen Sullivan (LSU), Charlie Taumoepeau (PORT), Adam Trautman (DAY)

Best Fins Fit — Adam Trautman, Dayton

Trautman isn’t the best blocker of this bunch — in fact that’s what will keep him from getting drafted early — but his pass catching upside is bordering on ludicrous. A former basketball player with limited football experience, Trautman is almost always bigger than his opponent, more explosive, and could factor in significantly as a bit of a chess piece.

Projected Required Investment — Day 3, Rounds 4-6

Where He Fits on the Roster — Developmental Tight End, Joker Position

Chan Gailey’s resume comes with a variety of offensive approaches. In 2015, Gailey utilized Quincy Enunwa in the role that serves as a glorified slot receiver who can take end-arounds and catch shovels working against the grain on misdirection under the formation.

Trautman can get vertical with the best of them, but Dayton used him on a lot of shovels and quick-hitters that put him in space.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Functional Strength

There’s some Mike Gesicki in here in the sense that we know what he can do athletically, but the best way for Trautman to rise up boards comes via his ability to function as an in-line blocker. He has the frame to make it work, but it will only come with relentless repetition and technical refinement.

Keep an Eye On — Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati

Much more of a classic tight end, Deguara is well-rounded. He’s not going to test at the top of the class, but he takes great angles as an open-space blocker and does well to strike and reposition his hands in the run game. He’s a savvy route runner with feel for openings in zone, and leverage in man coverage.

Offensive Line

Trey Adams (WASH), Hakeem Adeniji (KAN), Tremayne Anchrum (CLEM), Ben Bartch (STJ), Ben Bredeson (MICH), Lloyd Cushenberry (LSU), Nick Harris (WASH), Matt Hennessey (TEM), Justin Herron (WAKE), Robert Hunt (ULL), Keith Ismael (SDSU), Jonah Jackson (OSU), Josh Jones (HOU), Shane Lemieux (ORE), Damien Lewis (LSU), Colton McKivitz (WVU), Matt Peart (UCONN), Tyre Phillips (MISS ST), John Simpson (CLEM), Terence Steele (TT), Logan Stenberg (KEN), Alex Taylor (SCSU), Prince Tega Wanogho (AUB)

Best Fins Fit — Josh Jones, Houston

Never mind the fact that the additions were bottom-tier free agents, AAF products, or other players with less-than inspiring track records, Miami told us they prefer length, size, and athleticism at tackle last offseason.

Jones checks each of those boxes in emphatic fashion.

When Jones wins initially, the defender can wave the white flag. With an effective first strike, Jones engulfs the edge, which then allows him to reposition and adjust his angle accordingly. The length — and smooth feet — allow him to recover in pass protection when he does lose that initial hand fight.

The only thing keeping Jones from a top-15 selection is the lack of technical refinement in his game; he needs some work. Ideally, you get Jones at the top of round-two, but tackles are always pushed up the board; particularly in the back of the first round with that fifth-year option looming.

Projected Required Investment — 1st Round, Pick 26

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Left Tackle

Miami’s biggest need is left tackle. More so than the lack of a future franchise quarterback, complete vacancy of an edge rush, or defensive back help, the left tackle position killed more plays than any other for the Fins this year. Using a first round pick on Jones — or someone else — puts that player in the starting lineup the day Miami opens training camp.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

It’s always the pit drill. Outside of watching games as a fan, evaluating the pit drill is my unequivocal favorite element of the game. It’s a pad-smacking, agility and technical proficiency test to the nth-degree. Jones is certainly going to draw athletes unlike the players the America Conference supplied during his collegiate career. Given Jones’ athletic profile on tape, he should acquit himself just fine in this regard.

Keep an Eye On — Shane Lemieux, Oregon

Lemieux checks a lot of boxes for the types of interior lineman Miami coveted a year ago. Lemieux has a consecutive starts streak that spans four years and proves his reliability. He’s not going to be fooled by disguise from the rush games deployed by the opposition, and he is exceptional at catching and climbing on combination blocks in the run game.

It’s impossible to highlight the strengths, weaknesses, and potential scheme fit of each player in this game, but we’ll do our best to highlight more players on the podcast this week.

This year’s Senior Bowl has the makings of the deepest group that I personally have evaluated. A great crop of quarterbacks and depth on the offensive line will make the jobs of the skill players easier, though the defensive skill guys have the advantage in that regard.

The Dolphins will be all over this game given their perch as the pole-sitters of this year’s draft. Several of these players are likely to be in camp with Miami next July, so getting this first look and first impression will be an imperative step in shaping the future of the organization as we know it.

@WingfieldNFL

Tuesday: Defense
Wednesday-Friday: Practice Day 1-3 Reports

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