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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins at Benglas – Week Five Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Who: Dolphins (3-1) at Bengals (3-1)
When: October 7, 1:00 East
Where: Paul Brown Stadium – Cincinnati, OH
Weather: 86 degrees, 20% chance of rain
Vegas Slant: Bengals -6.5

Bengals Off-Season Changes

Dolphins at Bengals

Despite rushing out to a 3-1 record in the first quarter of the season, leading the AFC East and 13 of their intra-conference foes, the Dolphins are being left for dead – again.

All the goodwill built up through an unbeaten three-game stretch toppled in a matter of 60 minutes of sheer futility. Out-classed, out-coached and out-played, the Dolphins’ ship is taking on water – at least from a national perspective.

Walking wounded into the Jungle is the biggest cause for concern. A poor road team with injuries in key areas, going up against a white-hot offense, it’s understandable why Miami enters this sneaky-important game as touchdown underdogs.

Winning this game, however, strengthens Miami’s sole possession of first place in the division and it would register another crucial head-to-head win against a playoff contender (that victory over Tennessee will prove vital in three months).

The Bengals Scheme:

Offense:

Dolphins fans will recognize this Bengals attack. Bill Lazor runs a variation of the spread scheme with plenty of zone-read options in the running game.

What makes this entire offense more explosive than it ever has been is the vast options in the passing game. This is not the run-of-the-mill Bengals squad that went as A.J. Green went in year’s past. Lazor utilizes Tyler Boyd as his chain-mover, John Ross as his field-stretcher and a pair of highly skilled backs to stretch defenses extremely thin from a match-up standpoint.

The running game, much like it is in Miami, is predicated on getting preferable number counts in the box. Also similar to Miami, it has a built in adaptability to extend the run into a quick-screen substitution.

The football comes out of Dalton’s hands quickly, relying upon this supremely skilled group of pass catchers to win routes early. Lazor also displays a penchant for masking some of the short comings available to him in pass protection.

What makes this offense unique is its ability to attack vertically from the spread/quick-style that it’s centered around. Switch concepts, stacks, bunches and anyway to create a hesitation step from the secondary and Andy Dalton will put the ball up early, in order to let his guys make a play.

Defense:

Like the offense, the Bengals defense will look familiar to Dolphins fans. Coming from Detroit, a major influence on the current Miami stop-unit, Teryl Austin brings his aggressive zone-based coverage with an even, attacking front on the line of scrimmage.

At times, Austin will call man-coverage or even combo coverage that utilizes William Jackson as the MEG (man everywhere he goes) principle.

Also like Miami, Austin makes heavy use of his linebacker personnel. Unfortunately for Miami, Vontaze Burfict returns this week to bolster a suspect group. Playing downhill, the best counter for this defense is plenty of misdirection and stretch zone running concepts.

The more Miami can stretch this defense horizontally, the better off the offense will be.

For Miami to sustain drives, they will need to keep the offense on schedule, but also handle a variety of blitz packages and stunts from the Cincinnati front-seven – something of a chore for this team dating a few years back.

The Players:

Offense:

Andy Dalton is playing like the 2015-version of the Red Riffle that was in the MVP hunt before an injury cut his season short. He’s playing, fast, with confidence, and terrific downfield touch and accuracy.

Perhaps the biggest pendulum for this game is which Dalton shows up, and will Miami make him pay for his disaster decisions? He’s prone to throwing balls into heavily flooded areas and will give the defense opportunities for takeaways – Miami leads the NFL in interceptions.

Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

If Xavien Howard is going to attempt to keep up with A.J. Green, and Minkah Fitzpatrick follows Tyler Boyd into the slot, that leaves John Ross and a slew of backs and tight ends to contend with.

Joe Mixon’s availability looms large. By mere function of this offense, if Mixon plays, he will get reps against these Miami linebackers that struggle immensely in coverage.

Miami’s advantage on this side of the ball comes in the trenches. Cordy Glenn is a bit of a plodder while the right side of the Cincinnati offensive line is, well, offensive.

Robert Quinn and Cameron Wake have to make an impact on this game for the defense to have any success. So long as the coverage holds up for two seconds, the Miami pass rush could help win this game. Glenn is a great match-up for Quinn and Bobby Hart is favorable for Wake.

Defense:

Geno Atkins is a wrecker of worlds. He’s strong, laterally dominant and technically sound. Most teams will chip and try to use his leverage against him. If Miami can’t execute that, and has to commit a body inside, that frees up the edges of the Bengals pass rush.

This side of the ball will come down to the match-ups between Laremy Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James vs. Carl Lawson, Carlos Dunlap, Jordan Willis and Sam Hubbard. If the bookends can consistently win one-on-one match-ups, Miami has a shot.

Vontaze Burfict returns to a linebacker group that needs a shot in the arm. Because of their over-pursuit and aggressive one-gap style, this is the game that Kenyan Drake needs to be set free. Outside stretch zone with the bend-back lane will be vital to Miami establishing a ground game, but also getting Drake into the flat on swing and screen routes.

The Falcons used this aggressive nature against the Bengals last week with plenty of misdirection, but also variety in the running game (zone, split-zone and even power).

William Jackson isn’t having the year many expected him to, but he will likely stay on the left side of the offensive formation. Dre Kirkpatrick plays the other side with Darqueze Dennard in the slot – these corners are tough, so Miami needs to establish that running game to create the advantage of balance and uncertainty.

Rookie Jesse Bates is having a terrific season on the backend and it’ll be crucial for Ryan Tannehill to displace him with eye manipulation.

The Medical:

Miami is getting Reshad Jones back this week, a massively important addition to the secondary, leadership standpoint and overall tackling on the back-end.

Dolphins (Full participants not listed)

Player Injury WED THURS FRI Status
LB Chase Allen Foot Limited
RB Brandon Bolden Hamstring DNP
DE Andre Branch Foot DNP OUT
TE A.J. Derby Foot DNP OUT
CB Bobby McCain Knee DNP OUT
DE Cam Wake Knee DNP
WR Devante Parker Quad Limited

 

Bengals

Player Injury WED THURS FRI Status
RB Giovani Bernard Knee DNP
TE Tyler Eifert Ankle DNP OUT
OC Billy Price Foot DNP OUT
LB Preston Brown Shoulder Limited
DE Michael Johnson Knee Limited
RB Joe Mixon Knee Limited
WR John Ross Groin Limited
OG Alex Redmond Shoulder Limited

The Concerns:

Miami’s offensive line was supposed to be a strength of the team. Two season-ending injuries later, it’s a concern – particularly against a team as good in the trenches as Cincinnati. If the interior of the pocket is compromised, Tannehill’s game suffers and Miami’s offense becomes inoperable.

Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, tackling and handling the multiple looks Bill Lazor is sure to throw at the Dolphins will be paramount.

Under Adam Gase, Miami is an awful road team and a slow-starting squad. Both of those need to be improved if Miami are to stand a chance.

The Opportunities:

The Falcons offense, with its multiple looks, misdirection and two-man route combinations gave the Bengals’ defense all it could handle. Miami operates on a similar plane (just with less success) but they could copy Steve Sarkisian’s plan and keep pace with the Bengals offense.

Displacing linebackers and flooding the zone with drive concepts could create big run-after-the-catch opportunities. This can’t happen if the back has to stay in and help out with interior pressure, however.

The Keys:

1.) Tunsil and James lock down the edges – Part of the next man up philosophy is having the healthy soldiers elevate their game. They’re going to be on an island as the help will work inside with the new starters – James and Tunsil need to be great.

2.) Winning off the edge on defense – The converse of point one, Miami has to beat the Cincinnati tackles and create pressure on Dalton. If he’s able to scan his array of options, Miami has no chance.

3.) Stay on the damn field – Miami’s offense has been atrocious the last two games at sustaining drives. Giving the Bengals offense 80 plays will lead to a certain lopsided loss.

The Projected Result:

I’m changing my tune and picking a Dolphins win for the following reasons:

– This team plays better when it’s doubted compared to when it’s praised.
– There is typically a progression back up towards the mean after a blowout loss.
Ryan Tanenhill bounces back, he typically does after stinkers like that one last week.
Kenyan Drake gets involved in both the pass and running-game.
– Cincinnati, off a thrilling win last week, peeks ahead to Pittsburgh and plays flat.
– Miami gets some takeaways off the turnover-prone quarterback and protects the ball on offense.

I will say, I’m 4-0 picking Dolphins games this year (both straight up and against the spread) and this is my least confident pick. The match-ups lean in favor of Cincinnati, but I expect Gase and company to have this team ready and to hit the Bengals with variety in the play calling.

This game is crucial from a playoff position standpoint. Notching wins against the Titans and Bengals would go a long way towards tie-breaking scenarios.

Miami wins on a buzzer beater field goal with big days from Tannehill, Drake, Wake and Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Dolphins 27
Bengals 24

@WingfieldNFL

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Scouting Reports

Face of the Franchise Series: Best of the Rest

Travis Wingfield

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Two decades removed from his retirement, the Miami Dolphins are still in-search of Dan Marino’s replacement

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report
Best of the Rest

Foreword:

7,094 days, 308 games. That arduous, ceaseless waiting period spans the time from Dan Marino’s last buckle of the chin strap, to present day. The Packers and Colts were fortunate enough to hand the ball from one legend to another without skipping a beat. For Dolphins fans, Marino’s retirement coincides not only with the turn of the century, but with the downturn of the once winningest franchise in professional sports.

Chad Pennington’s 2008 MVP runner-up season sits a mere blip on the radar of futility. Ryan Tannehill teased fans for five years before an injury brought all hope to a fiery end. Daunte Culpepper was the worst consolation prize ever contrived and John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White each qualify as second-round busts.

The misery feels perpetual yet, somehow, not defeating. At least the Dolphins got the bat off the shoulder this offseason by taking a crack at Josh Rosen, but his rookie tape leaves plenty to be desired. A first-round signal-caller is the odds-on-favorite for Miami in next April’s draft; a class brimming with quarterback talent.

If patience truly is a virtue, then Dolphins fans have waited long enough. The collective has earned the right to unanimously appoint the next hero of professional football in South Florida. No more arguments, no more debates; just an unequivocal beast of a quarterback capable of willing the aqua and orange to victory on any given Sunday.

The same way #13 did for so many years.

Over the summer we will look at the top quarterback prospects entering the 2019 college football season.

Now, for the group battling to infiltrate the top four QBs — the best of the rest.

The Best of the Rest

Any prospect with professional aspirations would prefer to enter his final college season with considerable fanfare and expectations. More attention equals more eyeballs, and more eyeballs equals more opportunity to make an impression.

That’s not to say that expectations are the only path to a Thursday night selection during the NFL’s three-day draft extravaganza. Far from it. With the ever-changing landscape of the college game, each of the last two draft classes saw unknown signal-callers rise from afterthought, to bells of the ball.

Baker Mayfield was — at best — a distant fourth behind Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen entering the 2017 college football season. Kyler Murray was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Oakland A’s and off the radar of NFL scouts entirely. Yet, a short eight months after college football’s opening Saturday, both were standing on the podium with the commissioner before any of their peers.

Tua Tagovailoa is the prohibitive favorite to earn the honorable distinction of first overall pick. Dominant performances at a prominent school will have that affect.

Justin Herbert’s rare physical skills have scouts fawning over Oregon football this fall, while Jordan Love will garner similar jaw-dropping attention.

Then there’s the polished and professional Jake Fromm.

These four quarterbacks will take the field next month and begin their (potentially) final chapters before their NFL dreams are realized.

So who is the pick the rocket up the draft board from seemingly nowhere? The options are vast, and we’ll cover them right now (in no particular order).

D’Eriq King – Houston – 5-11, 195 lbs. (Senior)

The aforementioned Kyler Murray, one year after Baker Mayfield paved the way, ushers in a new way of thinking in regards to projecting passers from college to the professional ranks. King is an electric dual-threat QB — evident by his 50 touchdowns in 2018 despite missing 2.5 games with an ankle injury.

K.J. Costello – Stanford – 6-5, 215 lbs. (Senior)

With ideal size and natural arm talent Costello is a threat to climb draft boards next spring. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he can alter his release points and vary the velocity and touch of his throws for the circumstance. Costello took a big jump in 2018, but needs another significant climb in the mechanical portion of the game to garner first round consideration.

Khalil Tate – Arizona – 6-2, 216 lbs. (Senior)

The transition from Rich Rodriguez’s to Kevin Sumlin impacted Tate in the worst way possible. With game-breaking, dual-threat talent that rivals Kyler Murray, Tate was asked to play more within the structure of a traditional drop back game last season. The result, a dramatic efficiency drop-off across the board. Tate is electrifying with his legs and more than adequate with the arm — he’s a sleeper pick to join Tagovailoa, Fromm, Herbert and Love.

Jacob Eason – Washington – 6-6, 230 lbs. (Senior)

Eason barely has more collegiate accolades than anyone reading this piece. He was a five-star recruit that missed two years due to injury and ineligibility after transferring; this after showing minimal promise as a true freshman at Georgia. Eason is long, and a tad gangly, but he’s an accurate thrower with ideal size for the position.

Sam Ehlinger – Texas – 6-3 235 lbs. (Junior)

Following the trend of athletic quarterbacks taking over professional football, Ehlinger is another prototype player. He’s a threat to score on the ground on any given play, but that’s something of a cover up for some mechanical and arm talent short comings. Ehlinger exploded at the end of the 2018 season, and he needs to continue on that trajectory to vault his draft stock beyond day-three.

Brian Lewerke – Michigan State 6-3, 215 lbs. – (Senior)

Adding Lewerke to this list feels a little disingenuous because I’m clenching to his sophomore season. His junior year at East Lansing was an unmitigated disaster, but the processing, anticipation, accuracy, and off-script prowess were enough for some pundits to tab Lewerke as QB1 heading into 2018.

Honorable Mention: Bryce Perkins (Virginia), Nathan Stanley (Iowa), Cole McDonald (Hawaii)

If expectations play out this season for the Dolphins, a first round quarterback is likely the result at the conclusion of year-one of the rebuild. The future employment of everybody associated with the Dolphins would then depend on getting that draft pick right (Brian Flores, Chris Grier, and the entire coaching and scouting staffs).

Due to the urgency and importance of this evaluation for the ‘Phins, we will be covering the college quarterback landscape throughout the 2019 season with weekly progress reports.

As always, Locked On Dolphins is your exclusive provider of analysis, commentary, and news on the Miami Dolphins.

Way Too Early 2019 QB Prospect Ranking

 

(Rank) Player School
(1) Jordan Love Utah State
(2) Tua Tagovailoa Alabama
(3) Jake Fromm Georgia
(4) Justin Herbert Oregon
(5) Khalil Tate Arizona
(6) D’Eriq King Houston
(7) K.J. Costello Stanford
(8) Jacob Eason Washington
(9) Brian Lewerke Michigan State
(10) Sam Ehlinger Texas

 

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

5 Developments That Would Signal a Successful 2019 Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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In a bottom-line business, the Dolphins can find success elsewhere in 2019

Any coach, player, or essential personnel attached to the 2019 operation of the Miami Dolphins would immediately dispel the notion of this article. While the mindset is imperative for each of the 32 organizations in the NFL to enter a new season with championship aspirations, the truth tells us that, that is simply not realistic.

The Dolphins — like it or not — fall into the category of teams building for future success.

Since Stephen Ross’ Black Monday presser — held with the purpose of conveying sweeping organizational changes — the mantra of the 10th administration in franchise history has been the same — ‘we are only worried about today.’ Ross’ opening statements contradicted that idea, just as Miami’s offseason maneuvers have suggested something of a transitional year.

A reset. A step back. A “change from the way we’ve done things previously,” as Mr. Ross stated at that presser, was a necessary evil on the track to, “building a consistent team with sustained success.”

Any NFL team, regardless of its standing on the superiority hierarchy, will dispel any talk of Super Bowl dreams during the summer. But for the 2019 Miami Dolphins winning games is not the end-all-be-all.

Operating under protection from the end results the typical importance of the only numbers that ultimately matter — victories and defeats — Brian Flores and staff can focus on the true exigency of the 2019 season; the development of his program and young players.

Last year I wrote about the 25 most integral players to the 2018 Miami Dolphins success. In year-three, with an experienced quarterback and significant investment in veteran contracts, the only option for Adam Gase and company was to win football games.

Now, the focus takes a hard left turn. We hone in on the particular units, identity development, and most crucial aspects that must occur in 2019 to set Coach Flores up for success in the win-loss column in 2020 and beyond.

1. Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker Assert Their Standing

Linebackers are falling out of favor in many-an-NFL-defense, but not in this one. Versatile ‘backers helped drive Brian Flores’ defense to back-to-back championship caliber performances in the season’s two biggest games in 2018 (Super Bowl and AFCCG).

McMillan was one of Pro Football Focus’ highest graded run-defenders from October on last year while Jerome Baker flashed the pass rush skill set, speed, and coverage dynamics that helped him earn significant playing time as a rookie.

The Dont’a Hightower role — working both inside and on the ball as a rusher off the edge — has been imparted on McMillan. Baker, McMillan’s former Buckeye teammate, figures into a prominent rush role with the occasional buzz to the flat.

The Dolphins have club control on McMillan for the next two years with Baker under contract for the next three. Both have been lauded for their leadership and quick acclimation to the new scheme and program.

Anchoring the middle of the defense with 23 (McMillan) and 22-year-old (Baker) linebackers would be a sterling beginning to the construction of a championship stop-unit.

2. Discovering a Viable Counterpart to Xavien Howard

One of the many faulty pillars of the Mike Tannenbaum regime was poor financial structuring of the roster, i.e. paying exponentially above market value both starting safeties, and continually pumping financial resources into a middling pass rush.

Aug 17, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer (24) brings down Carolina Panthers running back C.J. Anderson (20) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

With Xavien Howard taken care of on one corner, the Dolphins can offset his cost by uncovering a viable second perimeter starter on a cheap contract. Eric Rowe gets first crack, but a clean bill of health and quality play likely earns him a big offseason paycheck — he’s signed on the cheap through 2019.

The other, more prudent options are homegrown talents. Cordrea Tankersley entered camp in 2018 with well-earned buzz, but has had the worst imaginable ensuing 11-month stretch since that time. He’s a candidate to start the year on P.U.P (which carries a distinction to return post-week-six).

Torry McTyer is on year-three of his rookie contract from 2017 and has the most playing time to his credit. Last season was a struggle for McTyer after a strong camp earned the UDFA a spot on the depth chart.

Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis flashed glimpses during their rookie seasons. Armstrong more so on special teams and Davis primarily in the slot.

Former Patriots practice squad member Jomal Wiltz and undrafted rookie Nik Needham have head their names called during offseason minicamps.

Pairing Howard with a rookie contract, while the team absorbs the immediate, steep costs #25’s new deal would be a massive boon heading into 2020.

3. An Unquestioned Star Skill Player Emerges

The last time the Dolphins featured an offensive threat that forced defensive coordinators to alter their game plan was Ricky Williams nearly two decades ago. The Dolphins need that spark to resurrect an offense that has been bottom-of-the-barrel for just as long.

Kenyan Drake is the favorite. His five-week slate of production to close 2017 is exactly what we’re looking for here. His versatile, game-breaking skill set could develop if he’s finally given the lion’s share of the workload.

Albert Wilson strung together a dominant stretch for two weeks last season before a serious hip injury stopped his breakout campaign short. Jakeem Grant flashes big-play ability regularly, but he’s yet to prove that he’s a permanent fixture as a wide receiver.

The dark horse option might be Tight End Mike Gesicki. His rookie tape is a difficult watch, but his Penn State cut-ups suggest that something is there — particularly in the red zone.

4. Two More Solutions on the Offensive Line Emerge

At press time the Dolphins have Laremy Tunsil and four question marks on the offensive line. Michael Deiter comes in with expectations, but a rookie third-round pick is hardly a slam dunk to provide a solution at a position that has been a problem for a decade-plus.

Daniel Kilgore is back after a season-ending injury. His three showing prior to the injury left plenty to be desired, however. Chris Reed is a career backup that figures into the starting right guard position while Jesse Davis returns to right tackle (he played sparingly at the position in 2017).

Truthfully, if one of these players emerges to form 40% of a competent offensive line, that should be considered a victory. If the Dolphins, however, find two solutions on the offensive front, that fits right in line with the rest of the league at a position starving for talent.

5. A Definitive Answer on Josh Rosen

It’s safe to say most who read this article expected this to come in at number one. Rosen’s evaluation checks in at number five for two reasons:

1.) The 2020 QB class is loaded.
2.) The evaluation doesn’t have to find a conclusion this season.

May 21, 2019; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) during organized team activities at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks are unique from every other position on the field. Entrusted faces of the franchise, long-term solutions, these are labels that each fan base without the elusive franchise savior craves to slap on a young signal-caller.

While the argument that, without a quarterback you’re merely treading water is valid, it doesn’t always happen overnight. Russell Wilson spearheads a group of franchise quarterbacks that were discovered in unconventional forms (Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garappolo).

Even if Josh Rosen strikes out in 2019, and he’s greeted by stiff competition next year, that doesn’t necessarily equal the end of the road for the embattled passer. He’s under club control for three seasons, and not only is he under market-value for starting QBs, he’s cheaper than the league’s most-valued backups.

While it might not be preferable for the self-proclaimed Josh Rosen ‘Stans’, a QB depth chart that features Rosen, Fitzpatrick, and one of the prized first-round options in next year’s draft would put the Dolphins in terrific position to identify the long-term solution.

Should the Dolphins find resolutions to three or more of these critical areas of development in 2019 the season should be considered a success. The omissions of pass rusher and Minkah Fitzpatrick taking the next step towards superstardom were considered.

The reason for the pass rush omission is twofold. First, next year’s class has some elite, top-shelf talent, including a player that is a picture-perfect scheme fit (Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa). Second, the individual pass rush prowess simply isn’t a priority in this scheme.

For Fitzpatrick, there should be little doubt about his development. He’s a special player that will not come up short in his purist of becoming a household name in the league.

Of course, the Dolphins could send a massive middle finger to the entire premise of this article, and the entirety of the national media that is forecasting a rough, transitional season for Flores’ football team.

In that instance, it would probably be safe to assume that more than half of this checklist were satisfied.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Locked On Dolphins staff’s favorite current Fins player

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick exiting the tunnel. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Let’s try something a little different on this midsummer Friday. It’s always dead around this time of the year, so in a fun way to get amped up for the coming season, the LOD staff presents their favorite current Miami Dolphin and why. So without further ado, check out the team’s favorite Fins.

Jason Hrina – Kenny Stills

I’m going to preface all of this by saying this has nothing to do with his political standing. There is nothing I despise more than politics and everything it entails.

That said, Kenny Stills is one of the most selfless individuals the Miami Dolphins have ever had the luxury of calling one of their own. The amount of time and effort he puts towards people in less-fortunate situations is really something we should all strive to be like. Maybe it’s his paycheck or his platform as a recognizable figure that allows him to do all of this, but he isn’t required to go out of his way for anyone.

It’s the same reason why I was always a fan of former Phins Michael Thomas and Frank Gore. Their dedication to the South Florida community and those around the world have always stuck with me. I can see Christian Wilkins being the next Dolphins player to exude such selfless behavior; I mean, he already does! It’s only going to grow from here.

While Stills may not put up the most-gaudy numbers, nor is he a national figurehead like Jarvis Landry used to be, his charity, selflessness and ability to disregard his celebrity status for the benefit of others has always made me a huge fan of Kenny Stills.

Andrew Mitchell- Albert Wilson

My favorite current player, amongst so many options, is Albert Wilson. There’s so many guys I like; Tunsil, Howard, Drake, Minkah, Bobby McCain, and Kenny Stills to name a few.

However, Albert Wilson hails from where I was raised, Port St. Lucie, Florida. He balled out at one of my high school’s rival teams, Port St. Lucie High. Wilson would dominate as a running back/quarterback hybrid and then go onto college and make his way onto the Kansas City Chiefs roster. 

Before his injury last season, he was arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL! His insane quickness and pure speed help him create separation from defenders. Pair that up with his ability and ability to make defenders miss and you have a dangerous weapon when in open space. 

My local area has produced talents like Kevin Smith (Detroit RB), Jamar Chaney (Eagles LB), Khalil Mack (Bears DE) and of course Wilson. While Mack is the biggest known name, if Wilson stays healthy all season he could 100% contend for that title! 

Gabe Hauari – Christian Wilkins

When you start your NFL career by chest bumping Rodger Goodell at the draft, you immediately become my new favorite player. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
In all seriousness, Wilkins appears to have an infectious personality mixed with some dominant tape in college.
If he can live up to his draft billing with Miami, I think the new regime got a perfect player from both a culture and football perspective.

Chris Kowalewski – Kenyan Drake

Whether as a result of conflicts with coaching staff (Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry), money issues (Ndamukong Suh) or not factoring into the franchise’s future plans (Ryan Tannehill, Cameron Wake) the past couple of seasons have seen the exodus of a number of Miami’s most popular and talented players. It’s almost at that point where I’m afraid to buy any more Dolphins jerseys because I don’t want to curse anyone else on the team – a throwback Reshad Jones jersey hangs precariously in my cupboard as the final current one.

Kenyan Drake is safe for now, as I’ll leave his jersey in stores and (together with countless other fans) be eternally grateful for his electric on-field play in the ‘Miami Miracle’. There’s plenty to like about Drake and he has a humble nature which encourages you to root for him. He didn’t complain (at least not publicly) when the Dolphins brought in Frank Gore and openly embraced the opportunity to learn from a future HOF’er.

Kenyan was on Good Morning Football about a month ago dissecting the Miami Miracle and the first thing he spoke about was the team effort which the play required, heaping praise on Ted Larsen for his key block which allowed room to make the highlight score.

I think it’s very indicative of the franchise’s view of Kenyan that Tom Garfinkel and Stephen Ross collaborated to pay for the return of the Miami Miracle ball and gave it to him as a present. However, although hugely appreciative to see its return, Drake maintained that the play was a team accomplishment and, as such, its rightful place remained at Hard Rock Stadium.

A threat to score any time he touches the ball, Drake is bottled lightning and fans everywhere should be clamouring to see more of him on the field. A quiet warrior, in the same image as Cameron Wake (another all-time favourite) he’s the lead-by-example type of player who you can’t help but want to see succeed.

Kevin Dern – Laremy Tunsil

As I’ve gotten older, which has coincidentally progressed along with more dynamic free agency rules, it’s been harder and harder for me to become attached to players like Dan Marino, JT, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, and Pat Surtain.  That being said, I do have a favorite current Dolphin, Laremy Tunsil.
I may be a bit biased towards left tackles – I worked for two years for Anthony Munoz (the best LT and best offensive lineman in history) – and have an extra appreciation for what the position entails.  Tunsil’s footwork and movement skills are superb; his punch is excellent and he’s improving rapidly in the ground game.  If he produces consecutive years like he did last year, I’m not sure who you can honestly say is a better left tackle in the NFL at that point.  He’s a cornerstone for this franchise and should be paid as such.
My favorite Dolphin is likely a very unique choice: Ryan Fitzpatrick. He hasn’t even taken an official snap for the team, but I was all about his signing a few months ago. Quarterback is my favorite position, so it starts there.

FitzMagic is just a colorful one-of-a-kind character that I would love to meet one day. He’s been an NFL journeyman so his career is unorthodox, but he has made his hay on the zeniths of a crazy roller coaster ride, and I’ve enjoyed the chaos of it all.

I went and bought a FitzMagic x Miami Dolphins shirt almost as soon as the Dolphins signed him. I’m all-in on the Fitzpatrick experience for 2019. And I’ll especially enjoy any of the locker room antics like last year in Tampa Bay when he hijacked DeSean Jackson’s wardrobe and wore it out to the media presser and uttered the quoteworthy “We just gotta stay humble”. Classic Fitzpatrick.

I’m looking forward to his on-field wackiness and his off-field bravado.

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