Tonight’s debut for Brian Flores is more about pageantry than anything else
Landmark moments like today always wind up with me taking a personal inventory. Since the Dolphins last played a football game against another team, I’ve written 184 stories for this website and recorded 152 Locked On Dolphins podcasts.
Over that time, we’ve covered everything from in-depth profiles of all the new players, coaches, expected schemes, and the multi-year plan laid forth in this Miami Dolphins rebuild.
A rebuild that promises for a brighter future, even if the penance is a painful step backwards towards the ravine of the National Football League standings.
Head Coach Brian Flores makes his debut tonight in what promises to be a sloppy, dialed-back football game that hardly qualifies itself as such. This game holds intrigue in that it’s the first test; the first opportunity to evaluate just how far this organization has to go before it can muster up an operation fit to finally dethrone those damn Pats.
But that may well be the theme of the entire season — evaluation. In a year where the win-loss total — in sacrilegious fashion — might not be the primary objective, we turn to the developments of the individuals. Who will be deemed worthy of carrying the torch down through the depths, in hopes of re-emerging from the abyss?
Regardless, there’s tackle football in South Florida tonight. And, for that, we rejoice. Here are 10 things you can expect to see when the Dolphins tee it up against the Falcons.
10 Things to Expect from Dolphins–Falcons
Sunflower Seeds and Ball Caps for Key Players
The list of players held out of Tuesday’s practice for Miami is long. Jakeem Grant, Raekwon McMillan, Reshad Jones, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Woodard, Zach Sterup, Chase Allen and Cordrea Tankersley were down the last time the Dolphins practiced, and it’s probably safe to assume that Jerome Baker, Albert Wilson, Dwayne Allen and Kiko Alonso are held out for precautionary reasons.
The case could be made to sit some veterans, but this is merely speculation. Tank Carradine’s injury history suggests he probably doesn’t need the reps. The same could be said about Daniel Kilgore. Laremy Tunsil doesn’t need to risk getting rolled up on in August.
On the other side of the ball, Atlanta has plenty of established veterans with a penchant for skipping these week-one tune-up games.
Matt Ryan, strangely, has not been one of them — he’ll see one series at the most. According to The Falcoholic, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Deion Jones, Kaleb McGary, James Carpenter, Desmond Trufant, and Duke Riley are among those not expected to play.
That offensive firepower on the bench segues perfectly into our second bullet point.
No Points Allowed by the First Team Defense
Watching Matt Ryan take a second-team offense — albeit against many Dolphins backups in its own right — right down the field will be the precursor to a barrage of tanking tweets — something I prefer not to see 4 minutes into the new season.
Defenses are supposed to be ahead of the attack units this time of year, and the one great hope this season for Miami lies on this side of the ball. Keep Ryan scoreless, and if the Dolphins starters come back out for a second or third series, definitely don’t let Matt Schaub onto the scoreboard.
And if the Dolphins defense is to have success, then we can surely ascertain this next bullet point.
Take the Under
I’ve watched every Dolphins preseason game for the last two decades. I know this script. The score usually resembles that of a slow-pitch softball game, and features an inordinate amount of field goal kicking.
I became curious the other night and checked the scores of Miami’s preseason contests going back to 2006. The reason I stopped there was because of the redundancy of my discovery.
Every single year — except for 2013 when Miami played five preseason games — exactly 75% of Dolphins exhibition games went under the Vegas total. Do with that information what you will.
Josh Rosen Playing with at Least Some Starters
Miami’s depth chart, paired the rep distribution in practice, do not track. Even though Rosen hasn’t operated with the first-team in its entirety, he has thrown to some of the first-team receivers. Though that group currently includes Isaiah Ford filling in for the injured Jakeem Grant and limited Albert Wilson, expect Rosen to see at least one series with some of the current “starters.”
Schemes Bereft of Regular Season Nuance
The Dolphins install has been rampant and accelerated through the first two weeks of training camp. Everything we’ve seen at practice goes out the window as Coach Flores and Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea are certain to strip this thing down to its bare bones.
Putting players in position to win one-on-one matchups, without the clever and complex games of the Miami defense, will be the preferred operating procedure. On offense, it ought to be a steady dose of power, lead, and two-man route combinations built-in off of play-pass.
This group is important every preseason. Typically, the guys assigned to chase down punts and kickoffs are first-in-line for jobs on the back end of the roster. That’s certainly the case tonight, but if Flores is to bring some of his Patriots principles with him, we’ll see a lot of starters on the special teams’ units.
Perhaps that philosophy doesn’t carry into the preseason, but it will once the games count. Either way, the third phase bears watching.
A Long Night for Jake Rudock
The Atlanta bench provided plenty of heat on the Broncos offensive reserves in the Hall of Fame Game. The depth of the Dolphins offensive line is — well — it’s a concern. Getting all 11 players, each of whom are fighting for their NFL lives, to execute a relatively new scheme against live bullets for the first time is a tall order.
Rudock’s physical skill set isn’t anything extraordinary, and so he needs to be elevated by those around him. Do you feel confident that a group of undrafted free agents and former AAF players can do that? I don’t.
Positions are up for grabs all over this roster. Starting jobs, specific personnel grouping jobs, and jobs in general are within reach for just about every player on this roster.
We know about the quarterback battle, and that’s the headliner, but don’t expect this game to move that needle one way or the other.
Running back is a big one. No position changes the evaluation from practice to games like ball carriers. Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage sit comfortably atop the depth chart, but the third and potentially fourth spots are wide open. Keep it simple and check for who runs the hardest, and who shows the most in the passing game between Mark Walton, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, and Kenneth Farrow.
The wide receiver position might be set in stone at this point, but the option to keep a sixth could be decided by production. Trenton Irwin has had a nice camp. Isaiah Ford is doing well to keep his NFL life alive, and Allen Hurns and Brice Butler have some ground to make up.
The tight end group is also likely decided as far as who sticks around, but the order is up in the air. Personnel groupings have dictated who has played throughout camp, but keep an eye on that Nick O’Leary versus Durham Smythe matchup — particularly how they fare in 11-personnel. A close eye should be kept on Mike Gesicki; his biggest knock is the physical aspect of the game, and there’s no better barometer than facing another team in that regard.
Michael Deiter could be in for the most action. He’ll likely open up as the starting guard, but will probably see some work at center as well. The story is the same — at least in the latter portion — regarding Chris Reed. It’s important for the low-level free agent to show well in these game situations since his play dropped off once the pads came on. Jaryd Jones-Smith has a big opportunity with Zach Sterup down, while Kyle Fuller can inch closer to first-team work if he outperforms surprise starter Shaq Calhoun.
It’ll be fun to see Christian Wilkins in the full uniform for the first time. In fact, this Dolphins interior defensive line should have the most wins of any group. Miami is deep in this area and the Falcons likely won’t have many starters in the game for long, if at all. Knocking the offensive line back and shutting down the run game should be a focal point all night.
The sub-package rotation probably won’t be revealed, so it’s up to the guys to win their one-on-ones. How well does Andrew Van Ginkel handle a pass-rush role? Can Sam Eguavoen continue to carve out a considerable role on this defense? Will strong camps translate for Terrill Hanks and Tre Watson? The play of this foursome could make Kiko Alonso expendable.
With Eric Rowe down, it’s a big night for a lot of young corners. Nik Needham has been playing with the first-team and might start the game. Behind him, Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis need to show out in games after difficult camps respectively. Jomal Wiltz has earned considerable work with the first-team, he’s a spotlight player tonight.
Montre Hartage was a three-year starter at corner for Northwestern. He’s been working as a safety — and not as combo corner-safety like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jomal Wiltz — he’s been the primary backup when Bobby McCain leaves the field. Maurice Smith could get caught in the numbers game, but he’s shown promise in the preseason in the past; 2019 needs to be his best one yet.
Nothing in this game will bring about a final decision. Coach Flores already told us that the staff has a feel for about 95% of the roster, though he admitted he’s been wrong before. Every year, across the NFL, players shine in these games and still wind up unemployed.
This three-hour event is for the fans. The other 60 hours the coaches spend with the players every week provide a far better barometer for who will be here come September 8 when the Ravens come to town.
But hey, it’s football season. Phins up!
Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker
One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.
The #Dolphins and WR DeVante Parker are finalizing a four-year extension worth over $40 million, source said. Lot of guaranteed money. Another step in his remarkable turnaround. 💰
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 13, 2019
All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.
… Parker will make 4.5 M guaranteed in 2020 and 7.7 M guaranteed in 2021. Also, he's five catches and 120 yards from making another 1.5 M in incentives this season
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) December 13, 2019
Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.
Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.
His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).
Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 13, 2019
Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes
MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster
The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.
While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.
Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.
Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.
Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.
Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.
Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.
We have signed DB Nate Brooks off New England’s practice squad, signed LB Jamal Davis off Tennessee’s practice squad and been awarded T Adam Pankey off waivers from Green Bay.
We have also placed CB Ryan Lewis and CB Ken Webster on injured reserve and waived RB Zach Zenner.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 10, 2019
On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.
Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.
Dolphins add their sixth new player of the week, signing cornerback Linden Stephens off Seattle’s practice squad. To make room, they waived cornerback Chris Lammons.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) December 7, 2019
In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.
The #Dolphins have added former UCF and Davie University School DB Rashard Causey to their practice squad today.
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) December 12, 2019
Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview
Dolphins set to run it back in New York
Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3
The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.
The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.
Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.
Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.
Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.
The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.
A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.
Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.
The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.
The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.
James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.
The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.
New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.
The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.
Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.
New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.
Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.
This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.
Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.
On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.
Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.
The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.
This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.
If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.
If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.
The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.
Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.
The Projected Outcome:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.
Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.
A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.
- Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker December 13, 2019
- Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes December 13, 2019
- Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview December 12, 2019
- The Aftermath: Dolphins 21 Jets 22 December 10, 2019
- Fins Fall to Rivals, Officials – Dolphins Jets Week 14 Recap December 8, 2019
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