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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Mid-Season Inventory

Travis Wingfield

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Many pundits and detractors would’ve considered a .500 start to the 2018 season a success for the Miami Dolphins. But after a 3-0 sprint out of the gates, losers of four of the last five, Miami’s second straight collapse under Adam Gase seems like more of a certainty than a possibility.

The trade deadline is hours away and Miami has to make a decision between trying to patch the holes on this team with temporary band aids and taking more of a big-picture approach.

Today’s 4 ‘o’ clock deadline could prove telling regarding Miami’s future plans, not just with the roster, but from a coaching standpoint.

If Gase’s job is safe, Miami would be wise to weigh 2019 heavily into the decisions coming down the pipe any minute now.

But if Stephen Ross wants this 4-4 team to make a post-season surge, and tells Gase his future depends on it, we could see the same moves Dolphins fans have grown tired of – selling away future assets for less-than-desirable placeholders.

Before we get into the trade possibilities, let’s take the inventory of this current roster – both for the remainder of 2018, and looking ahead to next season.

Quarterback –

If anyone knows the long-term prognosis on Ryan Tannehill, please reach out and let me know. Tannehill’s latest injury is shrouded in as much uncertainty as the first knee injury that led the quarterback to miss games for the first time in his career (20 straight, now 23 of the last 28).

Sep 16, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;
New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson (96) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) in the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Unless Tannehill returns (and does so immediately) and plays as well or better than his 2016 season, his job in Miami is in serious danger.

Beyond Tannehill, Brock Osweiler is a known commodity (not in a good way) and Luke Falk is the type of talent teams will try to develop as a potential backup quarterback.

Running Back –

Mismanaging the tailback position is officially a trend under Adam Gase. First it was Jay Ajayi in 2016, then Kenyan Drake in 2017 and back again with the latter in 2018. Drake has exhibited the same elite qualities as far as a big-play back, pass protection, and working as a pass catcher.

Drake has been terribly managed in terms of workload this season, but the presence of Frank Gore has facilitated that mis-usage. Gore has been terrific – as good as any Dolphins fan could’ve hoped for, but he doesn’t have a future in Miami. Meanwhile, Kalen Ballage is marinating on the bench.

You would think, given the nature of the quarterback situation, Miami would lean on this trio of backs. Going into 2019, Miami might be able to stay the course at this position – perhaps acquiring sledgehammer type if Gore decides to retire.

Wide Receiver –

Miami is set up nicely at this position for the future. In the interim, the Dolphins need to put themselves in a position to make a long term decision on Devante Parker. If they decide not to move him today, he should be a featured weapon in the offense – the Dolphins need to find out if he can produce consistently for a chunk of games.

The Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant pairing is as electrifying as they come in the league. Kenny Stills figures back into the mix and Danny Amendola is under contract for another season. If it’s not Parker, Miami’s one move would be to find a bigger-bodied wide-out that can man the X position for the possession type of routes this offense asks for.

Tight End –

The biggest disaster unit of 2018, the Dolphins have to hope Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe show something before the season is over. Nick O’Leary can likely slide into 2019 in the MarQueis Gray role.

Gesicki’s growth in year-two is going to be paramount. It takes tight ends longer than most positons to get the professional game down (three phases of the game right from day one), so bringing in a veteran tight end to hedge against Gesicki might be necessary.

Offensive Line –

Laremy Tunsil is an elite left tackle, Jesse Davis is a starting quality guard and the rest is up in the air. Ja’Wuan James is set to hit the market, but his inconsistencies have to give Miami pause regarding his long-term viability. With the too frequent outhouse performances, a checkered medical history, and a huge pay day looming, this might be the toughest decision of the off-season.

Beyond that, Miami’s roster is full of swing-interior players. Josh Sitton should return in 2019, but banking on his continued health and performance would be negligible, to say the least.

Dan Kilgore was less than inspiring, Ted Larsen has been nothing short of a nightmare and Travis Swanson has been equal parts impressive and terrible in four games.

Going forward this season, Miami doesn’t have a lot of options for growth-type of players to step into the lineup. Zach Sterup is the top candidate to do so, but his path to playing time comes via either a position switch or an injury.

Defensive Ends –

This is the group in the direst of straights both for the 2018 season and beyond. Cam Wake and Robert Quinn haven’t provided the returns the Dolphins had hoped for, and long-term viability becomes an even greater concern.

Oct 8, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) sacks Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Cassel (16) near the end zone during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Wake is an ideal trade candidate today, but moving on from him would signal a punt on the season. The Dolphins have to make a decision on $12 million for Quinn in 2019, while 2017 first round pick Charles Harris is still dinged with an injury.

To get nothing out of this trio would set the defense and the franchise back significantly – that appears to be the case so far in 2018.

Outside of those three, Jonathan Woodard has the make-up of an edge-denting run defender, and Cameron Malveaux has flashed enough to warrant rotational work.

Miami desperately needs impact edge players this off-season.

Defensive Tackles –

Vincent Taylor continues to sit third in the rotation despite playing head and shoulders ahead of his depth chart superiors. Davon Godchaux is a damn fine player in his own right, so the pair ought to start alongside each other for the foreseeable future.

Akeem Spence figures to be a one-and-done project and the Dolphins have to find a pass rush presence on the interior this off-season. Supplementing the young tackles with a rotational player could get this DT group back to the success it had early in the season.

Linebackers –

Concerns over Raekwon McMillan’s long-term viability are real. He’s a liability in coverage and doesn’t have the sideline-to-sideline range you’d prefer in a middle linebacker. A scheme change could help out the Ohio State product, but he has a way to go.

Rookie Jerome Baker has flashed potential and could be the move-piece across this defense down the road. He needs more work as a blitzer and less responsibility in coverage (at least in the interim).

Kiko Alonso is probably in his final year in Miami. This position group will be an intriguing one at season’s end. Miami could opt to go into another year relying entirely on McMillan or make a move to upgrade the position.

The depth has to get a whole lot better than it has been.

Cornerback –

Xavien Howard figures to cash in very soon, and he’s earned every penny. Bobby McCain is showing that he belongs back inside in the slot and the disappearance of Cordrea Tankersley has sent a ripple-effect down this roster.

Miami would be wise to see what it has in Tankersley, but also rookie Cornell Armstrong, the rest of the way in 2018.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has been terrific in the nickel, but if his permanent residence is at safety, that move should come sooner rather than later.

Safety –

This plan was destined to fail from the start. Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald play the same position, yet are both on the field every play. Jones has earned that right – he’s a pro-bowl player. McDonald, on the other hand, has been an utter failure of a signing – he figures to exit this off-season.

Working Fitzpatrick into the safety position (base downs) would be a positive step in the right direction. This group could see considerable turnover this off-season, maybe even today with the deadline approaching.

Specialists – 

Jason Sanders has been a stabilizing change at the place kicker position, but Matt Haack has been unreliable in the punting game. John Denney has been injured most of the season, and made a few poor snaps as a result.

This trio, for all intents and purposes, could be left alone.

Self-Scouting

Perhaps in need of the most thorough self-scouting and inventory tracking is the coaching staff. The continued use of McDonald over Fitzpatrick, Spence over Taylor and the general construction of this defense, Matt Burke is at the head of the chopping block table.

The Dolphins have failed to unveil a dime package and brought in too many similar players to execute different jobs. The wide-9 front has been the primary point of contention for many fan complaints, and the lack of personnel to properly execute the scheme is rather discouraging.

On offense, the slow starts are more than a trend under Adam Gase, they are universal law – just as the poor road performances are.

The Dolphins have to find a way to fix this issue not just in 2018, but going forward in 2019 as well.

Trade Deadline

This is a touchy subject for a 4-4 football team. Some want to pursue a championship this season regardless of the vast holes on the roster, others want to punt and lose the rest of the games.

The ideal answer, as it usually does, lies somewhere in between. Miami has some competition on the schedule that has given the team more than it can handle in recent years (good quarterbacks on the road (Rodgers, Luck, Cousins)).

With that in mind, in association with the poor showings against quality teams, it’s my opinion that Miami should consider its ceiling for the 2018 season. What is the best case scenario for this team? Tannehill returns, the defense picks it back up, they win 10 games and maybe a playoff victory?

Then what? A trip to Arrowhead of Gillett Stadium? Don’t get me wrong, that’s a GOOD season, one many teams would be proud of. But if that’s your end-goal, things have gone seriously awry.

This opens up the possibility for some long-time stalwarts to be considered for trade:

Cam Wake
Reshad Jones

If Miami can get out of those deals, recoup draft capital and get an eight-game look at Minkah Fitzpatrick as the free safety, and Charles Harris as a starting end, that would be an excellent first step in the shift of this franchise.

Both of those players could bring back day-two draft picks.

Then there’s Devante Parker. Miami has already declared that they want to retain Parker’s rights as he approaches his fifth-year, option season. With Stills banged up and Wilson out for the year, Parker’s position on the roster could be out of necessity.

If that’s the case, then the Dolphins need to use this time to make a decision for 2019. If Parker shows the desire to earn that $9 million figure in 2019, that would mean he played at a high level for more than half a season (something he’s never done).

Because of that parenthetical, I would parlay Parker for a draft pick. The negotiation begins at a third round pick, but Miami should take any compensation they get for Parker.

Lastly, a pair of players that aren’t going anywhere, but could garner some discussion. Frank Gore and Ja’Wuan James are the two names that might enter the fray. James could help a contender and, as he heads into free agency, might provide Miami with its greatest return (a lot of teams need offensive line help).

Foundations of the Franchise –

Picking at the top of the draft is no sure bet to return to prominence, or even relevance, in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns earned high-draft-pick-after-high-draft-pick and still couldn’t manage multiple wins in back-to-back seasons.

Now, in the midst of the Hue Jackson firing, the Browns are suddenly a destination job because of the core building blocks on the roster.

For Miami, the story isn’t all that different. Outside of quarterback, Miami is well-stocked in some key areas.

Sep 23, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) intercepts a pass intended for Oakland Raiders wide receiver Martavis Bryant (12) in the end zone in the quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. The Dolphins defeated the Raiders 28-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Xavien Howard – There are maybe a handful of better man-cover corners in the league. Howard is going to get paid in the near future and he could be Miami’s Richard Sherman/Xavier Rhodes/Jalen Ramsey etc.

Minkah Fitzpatrick Even just eight games into his career, he’s shown the bite that he’ll be a mainstay on the AFC pro-bowl roster for years to come.

Vincent Taylor – This might be premature to some, but Taylor is an elite run-stuffer with an arsenal of moves good enough to make him an occasional pocket collapser.

Albert Wilson – There’s no greater compliment to a player than labeling him as a guy that can “make a play caller right.” If the play call was lacking, the player can bail the coach out and move the sticks or take it all the way home. Wilson is an electrifying play maker who was just getting started before an injury cut his season short.

Laremy Tunsil – He might be the best left tackle in football by the time the season is done. Shutting out Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack in the passing game, and creating huge lanes in the running game, Tunsil has realized his elite potential.

Kenyan Drake – This one likely draws the ire of the fan base, but I attribute his lack of production more to misuse than anything else. He’s gotten behind defenses, made the big run and has proven that he’s as good as anyone in pass protection. Free Kenyan Drake.

Building Blocks –

Jesse Davis – Davis has the requisite length and athleticism to perform regardless of the scheme. He needs more refinement in a phone booth against squatty bodies like Geno Atkins, but he has held up against all competition deemed to be not quite “elite.”

Kenny Stills – Instability at quarterback has impacted Stills’ production, but he’s a crucial piece to the offense for his speed and selflessness. Nobody on this team runs more clear-out routes, with as much dedication, as Kenny Stills.

Jakeem Grant – He could likely wind up in the foundation portion by the time the season is over. Like Drake, Grant needs more work. In the interim, he’s a big play threat and one of the best specialist in the league.

Davon Godchaux – His ability to anchor against doubles and create opportunities for the linebackers is such a crucial piece to early-down defense.

Jerome Baker – Ideally, Baker becomes a full-time player that can produce in all three phases of the game. Currently, he’s a plus sub-package player with keen instinct for gaps, blitzing responsibilities, and coverage to the flats.

Bobby McCain – The perimeter corner experiment has gone poorly post-injury as the lack of long-speed has been exposed. Getting McCain back in the slot is best for him and this team.

We can debate the current standing of some of the veterans on the roster. Reshad Jones is absolutely a foundation piece, but for how much longer? Those shoulder issues aren’t going away any time soon and that contract is not ideal.

Cam Wake can play as long he likes for my money, but the Dolphins can probably parlay him for the best return right now – and that might be doing right by the player.

This team isn’t years away, evidence by the Rams under Sean McVay. Turnarounds can happen in one off-season and, while Miami has some work to do to get there, it’s not untenable.

The 2019 off-season might not be where Miami finds its answer at quarterback, but the roster stands to improve at a few spots.

It’s about time the Dolphins start showing some foresight and self-scouting prowess.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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