Perched in the NFL’s middle ground for the better part of two decades, the 2018 season is an all too familiar movie for Dolphins fans. Miami’s .500 record, as Thanksgiving approaches, is a minor miracle given the state of the team’s medical report.
Outside of 2011, the Dolphins have been in the four-to-six-win range through 10 games every year since 2008. This position of purgatory puts fans on the fence between hoping for a run at January football, and clamoring for a total rebuild.
As is usually the case in football (and in life), the truth lies somewhere in-between the two extremes. Though 2018 feels different given the team’s lackluster showings against formidable competition, the pendulum feels more stuck in stagnation than ever before.
The NFL is a business of constant evaluation. A team of scouts and decision-makers mull the roster every day with an ear to the ground in search of improvements.
Six games remain in the 2018 rollercoaster ride through dreams of contention and utter despair. Wins in four of the six puts Miami in position to qualify for the post-season, but given the team’s health (or lack thereof) it’s difficult to imagine a December run.
So, with a bye week ahead, we’re going to categorize and take inventory of the Dolphins roster.
There are seven categories in this exercise. Arrows up and down, as well as blue and red distinctions, are the common practice for defining a player in the league, but we’re shooting for ultimate transparency here – thus the expansion.
Blue Chip Cornerstones – These are the example setters in the organization – the players that figure to play in multiple pro-bowls. For the sake of the exercise, we put age and experience restrictions into this category as well.
Established Veterans – Some of these names could climb into the cornerstone group. For a team that’s just as close to a rebuild as it is competing for titles, established players without a lot of room for growth fall into this section.
Core Foundation Pieces – Productive, young, and perhaps their best football ahead of them, this is the crop of players you rely upon to take your football team to the next level. The team’s improvement is dependent on their continued development.
Unknown Due to Medical – Injuries put everything on pause for some players – especially those on the wrong side of 30.
Role Players – Whether it’s depth or special teams value, these are the bottom of the roster players that have to ward off challengers every summer.
Greenies – Too early to make a declaration one way or the other, this list if full of rookies and second-year players.
Not in the Future Plans – The clock is ticking and unless something drastic occurs, these names are likely out the door in 2019.
Let’s start with Miami’s three prized possessions.
Blue Chip Cornerstones:
Laremy Tunsil – Miami’s 2016 First Round pick, Tunsil quickly ascended to the elite class of blindside protectors flourishing against the best pass rushers in all of football. Tunsil’s sudden kick-slide, smooth footwork and strong initial punch has fostered top-shelf production both in the run and pass game. Miami will certainly exercise Tunsil’s fifth-year option for 2020 before extending him on a lucrative deal.
Xavien Howard – Trading up in that same 2016 class, Miami nabbed its second consecutive cornerstone piece. Howard has premier cover skills, he’s scheme diverse and plays the ball exceptionally well. Howard’s contract is up after the 2019 season – expect Miami to make him a rich man prior to that expiration date.
Minkah Fitzpatrick – Earning this distinction through 10 career games speaks to Fitzpatrick’s skill set and football acumen. He has played four positions as a rookie, each better than the previous. Miami will have to figure out if they want the Alabama product to play corner or safety long-term – neither is a bad option.
Cam Wake – Still one of the game’s top pass rushers, even at age 36, Wake is an enigma. He feasts on slower-footed right tackles and has a chance to hit triple-digit career sacks this year. Wake’s contract is up at season’s end and nobody would blame him if he chased a title. But if Wake wants to come back, the Dolphins should welcome him with open arms.
Robert Quinn – This will be one of Miami’s most difficult decisions this coming spring. Quinn’s production hasn’t matched his impact, but he’s due nearly $12 million in 2019 and Miami simply needs more from its pass rush.
Reshad Jones – Jones could easily fall in the cornerstone category, but concerns over his durability persist on an annual basis. Injuries, a huge cap-figure and a tendency to freelance (leading to a first quarter benching last week) puts Jones’ value in limbo. At his best, he’s the NFL’s standard as a C-gap run defending safety, with ball skills to boot. Miami cannot get out of his contract, but he could be an interesting trade target this off-season.
Frank Gore – As he has done his entire career, Gore surprised everyone with another productive season. He surpassed 500 rushing yards for the 14thtime in his career – something nobody else has done. He signed a one-year deal, but all parties involved figure to have interest in extending the farewell tour another season.
Danny Amendola – The biggest medical risk among the group heading into the season is the only one left standing (Stills missed one game). He’s under contract for 2019 and it’s safe to assume he’ll finish out that deal.
Kiko Alonso – This was one of the more difficult players to place. The contract he received in 2016 was one of many curious decisions by Mike Tannenbaum and it would make sense that the team retains his services – though they probably shouldn’t. Alonso has a lot of shortcomings in his game that are masked by the occasional takeaway.
Core Foundation Pieces:
Kenny Stills – Shaky quarterback play has sent Stills’ production into a nose-dive the last two seasons. He’s one of the game’s best deep threats and an even better human being and teammate. Miami has an out on his contract at the end of this season, but Stills is well worth the $8 and $7 million he’s due in 2019 and 2020.
Albert Wilson – Flashing electric play-making ability, Wilson flat-out beat the Bears on his own. Though his season was cut short to an injury, he will return in 2019 as one of the focal points of this Miami offense.
Ja’Wuan James – Another tricky name to place, James could depart via free agency next spring. Given the depleted state of Miami’s offensive line, the smart money would be on an extension for the Right Tackle. Injuries and lengthy slumps could give the Dolphins pause on a multi-year deal.
Kenyan Drake – Sure to generate discussion, Drake lands in this group because of the inherent upside he offers. When he was the bell cow to close 2017, Drake was one of the league’s best backs. Relegated back to a secondary role, Drake’s big-play ability has almost vanished. He’s too dynamic in both phases of the game to be neglected like he has been.
Jakeem Grant – Like Drake, Grant has been criminally mismanaged. He’s another dynamic play maker that touches the ball far too infrequently. His added value as a return man solidifies his status in this group.
Davon Godchaux – A powerful tackle that can play a variety of techniques, Godchaux holds his ground at the point of attack in the run-game. As a two-down player he shouldn’t be too expensive to extend when his deal expires after the 2020 season.
Vincent Taylor – Had he finished out the season, Taylor could’ve climbed into the cornerstone group. He’s a dominant force against the run with a lot of upside as a rusher. In a league where they say, “the more you can do,” Taylor will block an occasional field goal. He might be the biggest upside player in this group.
Jerome Baker – Speed is the name of the game for linebackers in today’s NFL and Baker has that trait in spades. He’s a savvy player that understands leverage and gap integrity, he closes down on flat routes as well as anyone and he’s shown a penchant for the big play.
Bobby McCain – McCain’s run as a perimeter corner has likely come to an end – his value is in the slot. In the first year of a four-year deal, McCain is a team captain and leader of this defense.
Unknown Due to Medical:
Ryan Tannehill – The daily Tannehill saga continues. At press time, the hope is that Tannehill returns to play the Colts next Sunday. If he returns in impressive fashion, he’ll have a future on this team. That future, however, is shrouded in doubt as a cloud of mystery regarding the severity of his shoulder injury hovers over Davie.
Josh Sitton – Miami’s healthy offensive line was bordering on dominant through the pre-season and into week one, but things began to unravel when Sitton was lost for the season. He has missed games in each of the past three years and he’s due $7 million in 2019. The Dolphins can get out of the contract for a minimal penalty, but given the lack of options beyond Sitton, he’s probably back for one more year.
Role Players/Special Teams:
Nick O’Leary – Fulfilling the role previously occupied by MarQueis Gray, O’Leary has earned a spot on the roster as a complementary tight end. O’Leary is a free agent at season’s end.
A.J. Derby – Derby could fall into the undesirable “not in the future plans” category depending on what Miami does at the position this off-season, but he does offer value as a reserve.
Jonathan Woodard – Like Derrick Shelby and Terrance Fede before him, Woodard is the next “find” capable of playing in the defensive end rotation.
Chase Allen – A backup inside linebacker and an ace special teamer, Allen has shown some value between the B-gaps and as a nose-backer.
Stephone Anthony – In a similar vein as Allen, Anthony adds value to Miami’s special teams’ units. He has played limited reps on defense and a case could be made that he’s not in the team’s future plans. We’ll find out soon, Anthony is a free agent at year’s end as Miami declined his fifth-year option for 2019.
Mike Hull – Hull and Allen could force Anthony out of a job, but where Anthony gains ground is in the footspeed department. Hull missed half the season with an injury but has been a stalwart on Miami’s kick-coverage units.
Walt Aikens – Miami’s new special teams captain, Aikens was taken care of by the organization last off-season (signed a two-year $2.7 million deal this summer).
Brandon Bolden – Earning his keep as a key member of New England’s special teams’ units, Bolden has made an immediate impact in Miami. Bolden will likely have to hold off the next guy on the list.
Senorise Perry – A restricted free agent in 2019, Perry will find work in the league whether it’s with Miami or elsewhere. He’s been another core special teamer for Darren Rizzi’s superb group.
Greenies (Incomplete Evaluation):
Jesse Davis – Davis earned the Right Guard job late last year but has relinquished his stranglehold on the gig this season. He has the size and athleticism to excel, but he gets beat by the best three and one-techs in the league far too often.
Charles Harris – The injury that has cost Harris five games this year is one of the more prohibitive instances of the 2018 Dolphins’ season. The jury remains out despite a growing portion of the fan base pronouncing Harris as the dreaded “B-word.”
Raekwon McMillan – He’s only played 10 career games and flashed the looks of a quality two-down backer at times – but consistency has been an issue. Given his studious habits and work ethic, the smart money is on the former Buckeye developing in the coming years.
Jake Brendel – He played the best game of his career on Sunday in Green Bay. He likely earned the left guard job for the final six games and his performance, frankly, is one of the keys to watch for as Miami closes out the year.
Kalen Ballage – Only recently active on game day, Ballage has flashed the versatility that suggests he has a bright future.
Mike Gesicki – Green is the best way to describe the rookie tight end. He’s still finding his way as an in-line blocker, but his downfield play-making prowess has been constricted to the garage while he tries to develop into a complete player.
Durham Smythe – Smythe has barely played in 2018, though there are encouraging reps in the run game.
Cornell Armstrong – A physical, feisty corner, Armstrong could get some run down the stretch in his rookie season.
Torry McTyer – It’s been a rough 2018 campaign for McTyer. Giving up on second-year undrafted free agents that have shown some bite is poor practice, however.
Cordrea Tankersley – His ACL injury puts him behind the 8-ball. His status for 2019 is murky and he could go the way of Tony Lippett as a result.
Luke Falk – A sixth-round rookie QB on I.R., we won’t know what Falk is for at least another year.
Not in the Future Plans –
Devante Parker – Parker’s agent made a big deal about his client’s lack of playing time – then Parker got hurt, again. Without the fifth-year option and a medical history longer than his actual production, it’s time to part ways with the former first rounder.
William Hayes – Hayes has been terrific when he’s healthy, but he’s played nine games in two years with Miami.
Dan Kilgore – Coming off a triceps injury, on the wrong side of 30, Kilgore’s future is in doubt. His play in the four games he did play wasn’t enough to quell the aforementioned concerns.
T.J. McDonald – Owner of one of the strangest (and worst) contracts in the league, Miami can get out from that deal this spring.
MarQueis Gray – Gray was a low-key integral part of this team in 2018. Another serious injury and the emergence of O’Leary makes the versatile tight end expendable.
Leonte Carroo – Finding his way back onto the practice squad, Carroo has one last chance to redeem his Dolphin career over the next six games.
Brock Osweiler – (Space left empty)
David Fales – Unless Adam Gase surprises everyone and turns to Fales post-bye, it’s difficult to imagine he has a future in Miami.
Isaac Asiata – He was finally called up last week, but he’s been passed over by a lot of bad players. It’s safe to assume his technique never rounded into form.
Wesley Johnson – Johnson was a band aid on a broken o-line.
Ted Larsen – The next in a long line of failed left guard experiments.
Zach Sterup – The staff likes Sterup, but another year of un-rosterable tape brings his future into question.
Travis Swanson – Like Johnson, he’s nothing more than a band aid to finish out the season on a broken offensive line.
Sam Young – The swing tackle needs to be a viable option at both positions. Young can play right tackle, but his brief showing on the left side cost Miami a game in Cincinnati this year.
Andre Branch – The contract was never a good idea and Miami can finally get out of it after this season.
Akeem Spence – Spence’s splash plays as an aggressive one-gap penetrator have been few and far between. He’s too easily caught up in the wash.
Ziggy Hood – See Swanson and Johnson explanations, only on the D-line.
Sylvester Williams – See above.
This evaluation will be revisited in seven weeks when the season comes to its conclusion in Buffalo. The 18 players listed the final category would be about an average turnover for an NFL franchise, so Miami aren’t in bad shape as far as reshuffling the personnel for 2019.
The key, obviously, will be identifying the future at the quarterback position. Adam Gase likely gets one shot at finding his signal-caller.
The immediate future of the franchise depends on that one decision.
Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts
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.
Something special cookin’ down in Miami! 🤫 https://t.co/GDuC4Aogu5
— Jakeem Grant (@_TheDreamIsHere) November 9, 2020
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.
tua’s first career interception? pic.twitter.com/GkSn8KGeBw
— josh houtz (@houtz) November 8, 2020
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.
.@Tua said SEE YA
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 8, 2020
TUA WITH THE JUKES!!! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/FKScMk6wmR
— LasnerSport (@LasnerSport) November 8, 2020
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.
Ted Karras on Tua
That one scramble where he split those guys was exceptional. I don’t think any moment is too big for Tua. He works hard and has earned the respect of everyone in that huddle.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 9, 2020
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.
Darrell Daniels took it BACK. What a TD! #RedSea
— NFL (@NFL) November 8, 2020
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)
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) November 8, 2020
But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:
Deep ball DIME from Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk.
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) November 8, 2020
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.
Teria sido Wilkins que machucou Williams? pic.twitter.com/RdR0rHfapJ
— Phins BR 🐬 (@PhinsBr) November 8, 2020
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).
Xavien Howard has been flagged for pass interference 4 times now (3 accepted, 1 offsetting). It's the first time he's been flagged more than twice in a game.
Including the offsetting DPI, Howard's 4 PI penalties are the most by a player in a single game over the last 20 seasons pic.twitter.com/fanl15HP0i
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 8, 2020
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.
According to @ESPNStatsInfo; DeAndre Hopkins has yet to be targeted; that has only happened one other time in his career where he wasn't targeted in the first half – ('13 vs. the Raiders).
— Mike Tannenbaum (@RealTannenbaum) November 8, 2020
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.
Will take Austin Jackson time to get rust off; wasn't sharp there in that regrettable series. Though Jesse Davis is now at RG, I would expect to see Kindley again today. Fins trying to fit six guys into five spots, figure out what's best
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) November 8, 2020
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.
The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises
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.
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.
Miami undertook rebuilds in 2005 and 2008 under Nick Saban and then Bill Parcells. In both cases the decision was made that they needed to build a TEAM, and THEN get a QB. As a result of those priorities, they passed on Aaron Rodgers for Ronnie Brown, and Matt Ryan for Jake Long.
— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) January 15, 2019
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.
I love draft grades! A few From 2017
8. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina PanthersGrade: D+
10. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs Grade: C-
12. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans Grade: C+
22. Charles Harris, Miami Dolphins Grade: A
28. Taco Charlton, Dallas CowboysGrade: A-
— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) April 26, 2020
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.
First look at Tua Tagovailoa in a Dolphins uniform: pic.twitter.com/7N3Fh95Mqt
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 7, 2020
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.
Interesting stuff here. At press time, the Dolphins are the 2nd youngest team in the NFL by .1 years of age (Jacksonville). After having the 7th oldest roster in 2018, Miami had the youngest in 2019 and now 2nd youngest in 2020. https://t.co/Ns5IoesIQd
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 6, 2020
"He's a really good player. One thing that's really special about Noah is his maturity," Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones said of Igbinoghene. "It's really cool to see a young guy like that come into the league and be so prepared."
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 9, 2020
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.
NBC's Peter King picks Dolphins to win AFC East and be 4th seed, behind Baltimore, KC, Tennessee. And (if you missed this), CBS/NFL Net's Nate Burleson said Dolphins have best chance of any team of becoming a dynasty excluding KC: https://t.co/dOm5zhhVkV
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 7, 2020
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.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 4, 2020
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).
Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)
There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL
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.
I really though back in 2011 after the first opening drive of the season that it was the Dolphins year. This drive by Chad Henne was BEAUTIFUL. pic.twitter.com/dt7WlZoINy
— Cedrick Allen (@SeeCeddyRun) April 16, 2020
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.
Jay Cutler really sold his involvement in the Wildcat 😂 pic.twitter.com/WsjyRHyzoC
— NFL on ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsNFL) October 1, 2017
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.
The 18th pick in April's draft turns 21 today! https://t.co/teEPyKtGSe
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 11, 2020
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.
The Miami Dolphins have drafted a possibly transcendent QB, traded for an explosive, young, proven NFL RB, taken potential studs at LT and RT, added depth and strength to DL and interior OL and taken two talented, versatile DBs. How’s your draft going?
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 25, 2020
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.
Austin Jackson is young. He needs time to develop his technique and his play strength. I don't think he's ready to start in the NFL right now. He's got the talent to develop into something special, but a bunch of these "high upside, raw technique" guys don't get better in the NFL
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) April 24, 2020
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.
- Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts November 9, 2020
- The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises September 10, 2020
- There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL August 12, 2020
- Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts July 27, 2020
- In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game July 27, 2020