Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D
Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21
The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.
This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.
Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.
The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.
The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.
Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.
Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.
On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.
With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.
Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.
Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.
Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.
Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.
The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.
Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.
Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.
Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.
Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.
Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.
If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.
— Jeff Kolb (@JeffKolbFOX4) September 20, 2019
Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.
Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.
Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.
Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.
The Projected Outcome:
The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.
Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.
Miami Dolphins Sign Tight End Michael Roberts
The Miami Dolphins are beginning to bulk up the depth of their roster as they head into free agency.
According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Dolphins have signed tight end Michael Roberts. The exact terms of the contract are currently unknown.
#Dolphins are signing former #Lions TE Michael Roberts, source says. Roberts had four workouts the past week and more on the docket but will sign with Miami. Missed last season with a shoulder injury that nixed a trade to the #Patriots. Healthy now. 3 TDs in 2018 and can block.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) February 19, 2020
Originally a 4th-round pick by the Detroit Lions, Roberts has served mostly as a backup tight end; accumulating 146 yards on 13 receptions in 23 active games between 2017-2018.
Roberts was placed on injured-reserve towards the end of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury, and was traded to the New England Patriots for a conditional 2020 7th-round pick prior to the 2019 season. Due to medical reasons, the trade was voided a couple of days later.
The Green Bay Packers claimed Roberts off of waivers, but he was subsequently released by the Packers two days later for failing a physical. Roberts was not active for any games in 2019.
Signing Roberts doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins aren’t going to pursue tight ends in free agency or in the draft. Mike Gesicki is the only “lock” to make the 2020 roster, as Durham Smythe‘s blocking ability might not survive if the Dolphins find themselves in an advantageous situation at the position.
Look at this as a way for Miami to get ahead of evaluations.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) June 13, 2019
A second Dolphins mock draft from someone who doesn’t watch football
(Locked On Dolphins) – Last week, Person A dazzled us with their blind mock draft, and now we’re back with the next entry in the series.
Person B is ready to go with their mock.
Keep in mind that all the blind mock draft contributors have little to no knowledge of the NFL.
I had all the contributors standardize their boards and the process so that everyone was on an even playing field.
They all used The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator with seven rounds, the predictive board, and had to choose the players manually.
Without further ado, here’s Person B’s mock draft.
(1) 5. Tua Tagovailoa – QB, Alabama
(1) 18. J.K. Dobbins – RB, Ohio State
(1) 26. Terrell Lewis – Edge, Alabama
(2) 39. Lloyd Cushenberry III – iOL, LSU
(2) 56. Xavier McKinney – S, Alabama
(3) 70. Rashard Lawrence – iDL, LSU
(5) 135. Chase Claypool – WR, Notre Dame
(5) 144. Justin Herron – OT, Wake Forest
(5) 147. Terrell Burgess – S, Utah
(6) 165. Lamar Jackson – CB, Nebraska
(6) 177. Jacob Breeland – TE, Oregon
(7) 223. David Reese II – LB, Florida
As I did with Person A, I reached out to Person B to get their reasoning behind the selections.
Me: “I noticed that you took Tua [Tagovailoa]. What led you to that decision with the fifth pick?”
Person B: “I knew the Dolphins wanted to get a QB, and Tua has been talked about so much that I just went with him.”
Me: “Which of your other selections did you feel particularly good about?”
Person B: “I need you to send me the link to my draft. I forgot who I picked since it took five attempts.”
[resends mock draft to Person B]
“I like my J.K. Dobbins pick. O-H-. And Rashard Lawrence. Because I figure he’s pretty good since LSU was really good this year.”
Me: “Your picks are really good. I’d put yours ahead of Person A. But it’s almost suspiciously good. Did you put your thumb on the scale somewhere along the line?”
Person B: “Well, by my 5th attempt (1 and 2: I didn’t select manual mode, 3: I didn’t pick 7 rounds from the drop-down menu, 4: I completed, but the site froze, and I lost everything), I figured out that I should probably pick from the top of the list first because if you don’t then those players just go like hotcakes.
So, I just matched up the positions the Dolphins needed to fill with the players highest on the list, and if I recognized a name or team, I would select them over someone I had never heard of.”
Me: “OK, well, we’re all out of time. Do you have any parting messages for Dolphins fans?”
Person B: “Well, I think the Dolphins are on the right track, and I hope that all of the true blue fans who have hung in with them for all these years will get to see another Super Bowl in the near future. GO FINS!”
And that wraps things up with Person B.
What are your thoughts on Person B’s mock draft? Leave a comment or tweet your thoughts at me directly on Twitter (@DIGITYnodoubt).
Tune in next time for Person C’s mock…
Top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019
The Miami Dolphins weren’t supposed to be a productive team in 2019.
A team meant to lose every game somehow ended up with a 5-11 record; simultaneously sabotaging their draft status and leaving us with a promising future at the same time.
Brian Flores, the former scout, scoured the transaction wire every day in an attempt to uncover potential “acorns” – as one former general manager infamously put it. And with a keen eye for development, his constant shuffling and retooling paid off for him.
You might think a 5-11 team wouldn’t have too many options for a Top 5 list, but the Dolphins were littered with productive “surprises”. Most have promising futures, while some have already solidified themselves as perennial starters.
Take a look at our top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019 down below. If you’d like to see who made our list of top 5 most disappointing players of 2019, click here.
5) Davon Godchaux
After two elite seasons, we’ve come to expect nothing less out of Davon Godchaux.
Starting 16 games for the second year in a row, Godchaux has continued to ascend as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. If the Dolphins weren’t so busy staying out of the lime light, Godchaux would be a household name across the nation.
His 52 solo tackles were tied for the most in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. His 2 sacks, 75 total tackles and 7 QB hits are all improvements over his 2018 campaign, which already had fans clamoring to extend the young, former 5th-round pick.
Though some might point to Miami’s overall defensive rushing numbers as a sign that Godchaux (and Christian Wilkins) weren’t good at their jobs, that’s wildly misleading. Godchaux was stout in the middle of the defensive line; inadvertently tasked with absorbing double teams and giving players like Vince Biegel or Jerome Baker room to blitz.
davon GODchaux is a disruptive force. this play never had a chance. pic.twitter.com/Icc92mJhCA
— josh houtz (@houtz) December 31, 2019
It’s quite possible that Godchaux is lower than he should be on this list, simply because we take his performance for granted.
4) Mike Gesicki
I’m going to hold my hand up high and admit that I thought Mike Gesicki was going to be an absolute bust for the Miami Dolphins.
More-notorious for not staying on his feet than Brian Hartline, Gesicki overcame a (very) rough rookie season and turned into a reliable seam threat for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Gesicki finished the year with 51 receptions, 570 receiving yards (an 11.2 yards-per-reception average) and five touchdowns – the first of his career. He proved to be a mismatch against linebackers; and whether he lines up in the slot or on the outside, the Dolphins are going to take advantage each time they see him 1-on-1 against an LB.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 3, 2019
Athletic and deceptively quicker than we might realize, Gesicki honed his route running and displayed a much better catch radius than what we saw his rookie year. The image of Brent Grimes wide-eyed after Gesicki went up for a touchdown says more than a thousand words – but if nothing else, it tells us that the Miami Dolphins have a legitimate tight end.
— Mr. Smith 👑 (@ChrisSmithPFN) December 2, 2019
3) Vince Biegel
Vince Biegel came to Miami as a complete afterthought.
The Dolphins traded incumbent linebacker Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints in an effort to alleviate cap space in 2020. In return, they received a little-known, former 4th-round pick who was about to play for his third team in 3 years.
For all the grief we’ve given Chris Grier over his scouting, we have to give him a ton of credit for this one. Saying the Saints got fleeced is an understatement.
In 13 games (4 starts) with the Saints, Alonso recorded 31 tackles, 0 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss (TFL) and 2 QB Hits.
In 15 games (10 starts), Biegel accumulated 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 13 QB Hits and an interception to boot.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 15, 2019
Biegel was such a force at linebacker, that Dolphins fans forgot he was going to be a free agent this offseason and just assumed they had him for years to come. Most of us hope the Dolphins find a way to keep Biegel around at a reasonable (yet worthy) price.
The growth he, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker can make with another year together could all together eliminate the need to use assets on a linebacker in the near-future. Especially when the team will get Andrew Van Ginkel back for a full, healthy season.
2) Jerome Baker
Arguably Chris Grier’s best draft pick, Jerome Baker has evolved into one of the best all-around linebackers in the league. You can consider that an overstatement, but his versatility, durability and play-making ability make him a prime candidate to burst into the national spotlight in 2020.
I hate losing more than I like winning.
— Jerome Baker Jr. (@Lastname_Baker) February 7, 2020
Baker and Eric Rowe were the only players who logged over 1,000 snaps last season (1,079 for Baker, 1,071 for Rowe).
After a rookie season that showed a ton of promise, Baker’s sophomore season ended with 124 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defended and 1 interception. Versatile in coverage, as a spy, diagnosing the run, and when he blitzes, Baker may be the real Swiss-Army knife of this Dolphins’ defense.
Jerome Baker is one of the more fun delayed rushers in the league. Poor Hoyer 😅 pic.twitter.com/ddrxfwTbHi
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 11, 2019
The biggest question we now have to ask is: what do the Miami Dolphins do with Jerome Baker? He’s still two years away from free agency, but if his 2020 season is any improvement over what we’ve seen, Baker is going to command A LOT of money when he enters the final year of his rookie deal.
Don’t let Baker turn into another Olivier Vernon, Jarvis Landry or Lamar Miller. Pay the talent you successfully scouted and maintain a sense of culture and camaraderie.
Christian Wilkins came to the Miami Dolphins with a ton of charisma and a jovial personality unmatched by any top draft pick that came before him.
From the moment the 315lbs linebacker did a split after Clemson won their national championship in 2018, to the time he had Roger Goodell go up for a chest bump after he was drafted, Wilkins was a beloved figure.
Dolphins first-round pick Christian Wilkins said he doesn’t have a car. He’s borrowing his girlfriends car and is in the market for one. He’s super cheap so dealerships might want to holla for a sponsorship/advertisement deal. Maybe he can do a split in a commercial. pic.twitter.com/d8aZbZd5Y4
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) July 26, 2019
But personality can only take you so far, and when the season started Wilkins needed to back up his charity work and infectious smile with the brutality necessary to win at the line of scrimmage. And boy did he live up to it.
Wilkins may not have finished with the most-gaudy numbers, but they’re still impressive nonetheless. For his rookie season, Wilkins totaled 56 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 passes defended. He’s caught every pass ever thrown to him (1), and it even resulted in a touchdown.
His 888 total snaps (between defense, special teams and the 2 he accumulated on offense) are noteworthy for a rookie defensive tackle.
The other 1st-round defensive linemen drafted in 2019 finished with:
- Quinnen Williams (3rd-overall): 577 total snaps
- Clelin Ferrell (4th): 716 snaps
- Ed Oliver (9th): 572 snaps
- Wilkins (13th): 888 snaps
- Brian Burns (16th): 609 snaps
- Dexter Lawrence (17th): 866 snaps
- Jeffery Simmons (19th): 368 snaps
- Montez Sweat (26th): 817 snaps
- Jerry Tillery (28th): 436 snaps
The 2019 draft class was stacked on the defensive line, and yet, the Dolphins may have managed to draft the best one of the bunch midway through the round.
The Miami Dolphins signed Nik Needham as an undrafted free agent with the hope that he would provide depth for a position group that already featured plenty of expensive and starting-caliber players within it.
Instead, the Dolphins add another commodity to that list.
Competing for playing time with players like Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Minkah Fitzpatrick and a plethora of other roster invitees, Needham had an excellent camp, but found himself just missing the final 53-man roster.
That didn’t stop him from honing his craft and earning a promotion from the practice squad one day before the Dolphins were set to take on the Washington Redskins in Week 6.
Needham went on to start the final 11 games of the season, and ended the year with 2 interceptions, 11 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack and 54 total tackles.
YEAR ☝🏾 pic.twitter.com/gJj1BYQqyr
— Nik Needham (@FoetyGlock) February 14, 2020
As a rookie cornerback, you’re expected to be picked on, but Needham was bullied by the refs more than he was by opposing quarterbacks. Questionable calls against Needham towards the end of the year put a slight damper on his otherwise stellar season.
Though in the eyes of some Dolphins fans, that erroneous (non-existent) pass interference penalty that was overturned on the final drive during the New York Jets loss was a blessing in disguise.
1) DeVante Parker
It may have taken slightly longer than we originally hoped, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s aggressive style highlighted just how elite DeVante Parker can be when you just throw him the damn ball.
Previously marred by the occasional health concern and offensive schemes that didn’t cater to his skillset, Parker was deemed a “bust” by most Dolphins fans. Drafted 14th-overall in the 2014 NFL draft, Parker was expected to transcend the offense. Instead, bubble screens became the focal point for an offense that was littered with deep threat specialists (Parker, Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant).
DeVante Parker, my goodness! pic.twitter.com/9BpxYtrs9J
— Sports Notes (@TheSportsNotes) September 8, 2019
Parker’s recent 4-year, $40m extension is a reward not only for the production Parker put up in 2019, but for the potential Parker still has left in him.
In 16 games this past season (the first time he’s been active for 16 games his entire career), Parker caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. In his four years prior to 2019, Parker caught a combined 163 passes for 2,217 yards and 9 TDs.
As long as he can stay healthy, and the Dolphins don’t revert back to a scared, anemic offense, you can expect annual 1,000 yard seasons from the team’s #1 receiver.
- Miami Dolphins Sign Tight End Michael Roberts February 19, 2020
- A second Dolphins mock draft from someone who doesn’t watch football February 19, 2020
- Top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019 February 14, 2020
- A Miami Dolphins mock draft from someone who doesn’t watch football February 12, 2020
- Top 5 Most Disappointing Miami Dolphins of 2019 February 10, 2020