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Dolphins Eagles Week 13 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Eagles offense looks to take flight against Miami’s banged up secondary

Who: Dolphins (2-9) vs. Eagles (5-6)
When: Sunday December 1, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium — Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 80 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +10

A cornucopia of bad animal puns are available to us this week as the lifeless Eagles offense limps into Miami to face a reeling Dolphins defense; and offense, for that matter.

It should be an interesting final month of the 2019 season for the ‘Phins. A schedule that presented the probability of a winning record in December, only a couple of weeks ago, suddenly looks like a fast track to a 2-14 finish. The interesting distinction comes via the depths from Miami has had to scrape in order to put together a 53-man roster.

Nine of Miami’s projected opening day starters are done for the year in Miami, for one reason or another, and that initial roster lacked depth to begin with. The magic may have run out for a pass defense that ranked in the league’s top-10 for a month despite playing more undrafted and street free agents than any team in football.

That ravenous war of attrition that is an NFL season has feasted on Miami’s feeble roster. It extends from the secondary into the offensive backfield, along the offensive line and out at receiver. If the Dolphins can muster just one win in the final five, it’ll be yet another feather in the cap of Brian Flores.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Doug Pederson helped usher in a more aggressive NFL than our parents knew. After pushing all the right buttons on a magical Super Bowl run in 2017, Philadelphia returned to doing what it does best, booing every imaginable sports figure the town has ever seen.

Perhaps the vitriol needs to be slung in another direction. After losing both Frank Reich and John DeFilippo after the championship season, the Eagles promoted Wide Receivers Coach Mike Groh, and the unit hasn’t returned to the form is enjoyed in 2017.

Communication issues and receivers failing to make proper sight adjustments are an indictment on a coach who ran the receiver’s room before his promotion to coordinator.

The Eagles offense ranks 23rd in passing and sacks allowed, 13th in rushing (19th in yards per rush), and 18th in scoring.

Defense:

Jim Schwartz is the pioneer of many-a-defensive nuances that several teams still deploy today. Dolphins fans are most familiar with the wide-9 defense, a scheme that put a strenuous workload on the defensive ends.

Now, with some of his old-school principles, Schwartz has been taken to task for the coverage busts from inverted cover-2, but mostly via an under-manned back-seven.

The result is a unit that ranks 12th in passing, 5th in run defense, but 16th in scoring. Philadelphia blitz percentage falls in the middle of the pack (13th). The Eagles are tied for 3rd in quarterback knockdowns, 12th in pressure rate and 11th in sacks. The 81 missed tackles ranks Philly 10th  worst in that department.

The Players:

Offense:

Carson Wentz is a lightning rod of fodder and debate in the City of Brotherly Love. After an MVP caliber 2017 season — which ended on the injured reserve — Wentz’s production hasn’t returned to that level despite the fact that he’s had stretches of play that were superior to that injury-shortened campaign.

The Eagles shortcomings on this side of the ball are multi-layered, but it starts with the receiving corps. In unit that has battled injuries all season, the only reliable target (Alshon Jeffery) has played through ailments of his own. The story has been the same for Zach Ertz, one of the game’s top tight ends. He missed Wednesday’s practice which could force a heavier workload into the lap of second-year tight end Dallas Goedert (most notable among Fins fans for his draft position alignment with Mike Gesicki).

Miles Sanders is the multi-faceted back that was supposed to spark the Eagles backfield production, but it’s been a workshare with former Bears Tailback Jordan Howard. Together, the pair are on the verge of cracking 1,000 yards behind one of the game’s best offensive lines, when healthy.

But that unit, like the rest of the Birds offense, has also been restricted to the trainer’s room this season. Lane Johnson and Jason Peters are the best bookends in the business. Johnson was injured Sunday (expected to return in Miami) and Peters has missed three games this season. Fellow pro-bowler Brandon Brooks had to come out of the New England game, but he should be back for Sunday’s contest in South Florida.

Defense:

It’s been a down-year for a front-seven that typically enjoys success from a barrage of supremely talented football players. It all starts on the inside with Fletcher Cox. Cox’s production is on track to be his worst since 2014, his second as a pro.

The ripple effect of Cox’s surprising lack of dominance has been tangible. Brandon Graham is the best of the bunch, but Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett have combined for just five sacks on the season.

Sunday is likely a get-right game for this Eagles front facing a decimated Dolphins offensive line.

The linebacker corps is where the biggest goat of them all grazes — and we’re not talking greatest of all time. Nathan Gerry is to Eagles fans what Dannell Ellerbe was to 2014 Dolphins fans. Missed assignments, false steps, minimal production and the frequent gaffe that leads to big plays incites mini riots on Eagles Twitter.

Philadelphia have reduced the exposure of the linebacker corps by using more sub-packages, but the secondary lacks depth for that to be an effective counter. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Avonte Maddox each have lapses that lead to game-defining plays (see the Julio Jones touchdown to win the game in Atlanta).

Devante Parker and Mike Gesicki have favorable matchups in this game, if Miami can get the Eagles front blocked — no small task.

The Medical:

Update coming Friday

The Opportunities:

Devante Parker showed fans everywhere his premier potential in a 2017 preseason game in Philadelphia, then disappeared for the next two seasons. He’s back now and performing like a true number-one receiver. Parker’s been excellent at creating separation in all levels of the route (release and stem), and could have another major impact in this game.

If the Eagles are intent on covering Mike Gesicki with cornerbacks, or committing a safety to his side, that will open things up for Parker. My bold prediction for this game is that Gesicki plucks a 50/50 ball that makes highlight shows all over the country.

The Concerns:

Every game from here on out will bring a level of concern to either side of the trenches. Miami gets no push in the running game, and long third downs will aid an Eagles pass rush that’s looking to get healthy. The Dolphins difficulties with speed rushers on the edge, and power on the interior is a matchup nightmare in this game, and one that will surely have General Ryan Fitzpatrick on the move once again.

The Projected Outcome:

Much like the Cleveland game last week, this is a get-right game for the Eagles. A chance for the clipped-wing offense to soar once more, and for the pass rush to tee off. The Browns screened Miami to death early in the game, and I’d expect the same with Miles Sanders on Sunday.

Miami gets behind the eight ball again, but puts together some second-half touchdown drives to make the score somewhat respectable.

Dolphins 21
Eagles 37

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

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Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.

The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.

Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.

The Better Player Plays

With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.

In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?

We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.

Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.

Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.

Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?

I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.

Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.

Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.

Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.

There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…

Playoff Bound

The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.

Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.

A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.

In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.

And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.

Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:

  • Learn his way around the NFL
  • Understand the playbook better
  • Observe the game from the sideline
  • Gain chemistry with his receivers

Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.

While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.

The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.

Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.

Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.

The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After a breakout 2019 campaign, it looks like Mike Gesicki will have some competition.

According to Pro Football Talk, the Miami Dolphins have traded a 2021 6th-round pick to the Chicago Bears for tight end Adam Shaheen.

A former 2nd-round pick (2017) out of Ashland University (Division II), Shaheen excelled during the combine, which led to an increase in his draft stock. The Bears jumped at the opportunity of molding a raw prospect, and selected Shaheen with the 45th pick in the draft. He was the 5th tight end taken in the draft that year, well above where he was originally projected when he declared for the NFL.

Though the Bears were optimistic, it seems Shaheen hasn’t lived up to his draft status. After three seasons, Shaheen has 26 receptions for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns. His playtime has diminished from 239 offensive snaps in 2017, to 160 in 2018 and 174 in 2019; with injuries playing a part the past two seasons. For comparisons sake, Durham Smythe had 482 offensive snaps last season alone (Shaheen has 573 for his career).

Shaheen became expendable after the Bears drafted Cole Kmet in the 2nd-round of the 2020 draft and signed Jimmy Graham to a 2-year contract earlier this offseason. With 8 tight ends on the Chicago Bears roster, you know something had to give. And from the perspective of a Bears’ fan, receiving any compensation for a likely roster cut is rewarding enough.

Trading a 6th-round pick means Shaheen is a favorite to win one of the backup tight end spots, should the Dolphins keep 3 on their roster.

It’s unlikely that Shaheen is a possible replacement for Smythe, as Shaheen is meant to be a receiving threat more than an in-line blocker, but there is so much untapped potential with Shaheen that it’s hard to guess what the Dolphins will receive from him.

We assume Mike Gesicki will continue to grow, but behind him, the cupboard is pretty barren. Shaheen adds much-needed depth to a tight end room that currently includes Smythe, Michael Roberts, Chris Myarick and undrafted rookie Bryce Sterk.

 

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