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Dolphins Score 22 Unanswered, Beat Jaguars — Preseason Game 3 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Bad offensive showing saved by Rosen resurgence, stout defensive effort

 

Stat Dolphins Jaguars
Total Yards 271 244
Rushing 89 67
Passing 177 182
Penalties 9 (102 yards) 12 (90 yards)
3rd/4thDown 6/14 1/11
Sacks For 3 1
TOP 32:32 27:28

 

Dolphins DNP list:

Laremy Tunsil (Coaches decision)
Kenyan Drake
Devante Parker
Albert Wilson
Jakeem Grant
Reshad Jones
T.J. McDonald
Walt Aikens
Andrew Van Ginkel
Raekwon McMillan
Kiko Alonso
Chase Allen
Vince Taylor

The expected theme for the 2019 season played out — pretty much to a T — throughout the first three exhibition games. The Dolphins offense is an unmitigated disaster, due in large part a non-functional line, but the defense is providing fans with some hope for the future.

To find the positive from this preseason, you’re going to have to take the Andy Dufresne route, and dig through a bunch of mess.

Most of the production the Dolphins put forth will come from young players on cheap contracts — that bodes well for the future. The holes, however, are vast and could derail development that could otherwise occur this season.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick did little to quiet the noise around the “start Josh Rosen campaign.” His 41.1 preseason passer rating (7 of 22, 43 yards) might be excused by a lot of pressure from poor blocking, but the veteran missed his fair share of throws.

Fitzpatrick had undrafted rookie sensation Preston Williams open on a pair of routes (one a deep-out that would’ve moved the chains on 3rd-and-10; another, a beautiful release and stack from Williams against Jalen Ramsey that was vastly under-thrown).

Under Fitzpatrick’s direction in the first half, the Dolphins gained just 47 yards of offense, picked up four first downs, and scored six points — three of which came on a short field, starting in plus-territory, following an interception.

The veteran was given one last hurrah and he marched his offense down the field to begin the third quarter. Fitzpatrick had a nice anticipation rip on an out from the slot (Kenny Stills), and floated a perfect screen flip to Mark Walton for a touchdown on a perfect play call against a jailbreak blitz.

If Fitzpatrick started the fireworks in the second half, Josh Rosen stole the show with his first series of the night. Backed up on his own goal line, Rosen extended two plays against compromised pockets — including a third-down scamper to move the chains — and a gorgeous downfield shot after he escaped pressure.

Rosen’s accuracy was good (sans one throw to Clive Walford into the flat), his decision making is speeding up on a weekly basis, but the processing is still a work in progress. On one play — thanks to the audio team from FOX — Rosen tried to identify the MIKE ‘backer, but it took him three tries to get it right.

At first, the idea of developing Rosen from the bench seemed like the obvious play — he wasn’t ready. He still has a long way to go to get this offense down, but he’s proven to give the offense more energy in each of the three preseason games.

Miami scored 36 points on Rosen’s 13 drives this preseason, and only 15 points on Fitzpatrick’s 14 possessions. Rosen should be starting week one against the Ravens, even if he’s going to get killed.

Running Backs

Kalen Ballage started the game, and Kenyan Drake is no longer in his walking boot, but the two stars of the game were considered afterthoughts coming into the season. Mark Walton is showing aptitude in all phases of the game — he’s an elusive runner, he’s adept in pass protection, and he’s a capable pass catcher.

Patrick Laird, undrafted from Cal, is the other. Laird’s work in the passing game likely got him on the roster, but his running skill set is going to be what keeps him around. His vision, ability to press the hole and set up blocks, and his tough running style is making him Miami’s most productive back (now over 100 yards this preseason).

Chandler Cox continues to play a lot, and he registered another bone-crushing block — this one wiped out three, maybe four Jags.

Wide Receivers

This position has been difficult to evaluate all preseason because of the line play, but Preston Williams shined again. Williams separated on two occasions, but Fitzpatrick missed both throws. The deep shot against Jalen Ramsey was a beautiful inside release, Williams worked back outside to stack Ramsey, and the ball just didn’t get there.

Isaiah Ford did well to keep working on the broken play by Rosen. Ford is the sixth receiver on the team — his fate depends on how many bodies the Dolphins will keep at the position.

Kenny Stills caught a 14-yard pass — the only other reception by a Dolphins receiver before late into the fourth quarter

Tight Ends

Mike Gesicki’s role has changed, and he’s taking well to it. Less work in-line, more flexed out wide and in the slot, Gesicki looks faster, stronger, and more confident. Where the game looked too fast for him as a rookie, he’s consistently uncovering, and he showcased his big-play ability in this one.

Nick O’Leary continues to excel in the run game, and he got out the gate on a little flat route due to some poor tackling by the Jaguars.

Dwayne Allen was a disaster. He had a really poor effort on a crack back block against Josh Allen, and consistently got beat up in the running game.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil was on the shelf and the results went as you’d expect. Zach Sterup took his turn at left tackle, and he fared as poorly as those before him.

Jesse Davis had his hands full with Josh Allen, the MVP of the game. It’s looking more likely that Miami will be back in the right tackle market next year after watching Ja’Wuan James leave in March.

The rookie guards (Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun) are an issue, but Miami seems intent to develop the youngster. Both of them get turned at the line of scrimmage with regularity, there are communication issues with games from the defensive line, and they aren’t exactly overpowering in the running game. Chris Reed belongs in the starting five.

Isaiah Prince had a rough game, including a penalty on a successful two-point play.

Daniel Kilgore is often late to his spot, pushed into the backfield, and he’s responsible for communicating the protection up front. It’s not fair to say all of those free rushers are Kilgore’s fault, but he has been given the difficult task of playing alongside two rookies.

With Davis playing poorly, and those issues on the interior, it’s going to be a long year for this Dolphins offense.

Defensive Line

Charles Harris is proving to be no fluke this preseason. He beat Cam Robinson and was involved on multiple pressures once more. He’s using his speed to reset tackles, then he’s able to convert that speed to power, but also work back underneath when the quarterback tries to step up — he’s taking very well to the new rush scheme in the pass game, and the stack-and-shed, two-gap mentality against the run.

Davon Godchaux doesn’t get enough love. It’s a broken record from me at this point, but he’s always the low-man, he fights off double teams, and disengages when he’s held up at the point-of-attack.

Christian Wilkins largely had a quiet night, but he made his way into the backfield with quickness on two occasions. Jacksonville only rushed the ball for 67 yards all night — nearly half of that coming in the fourth quarter.

Nate Orchard picked up his fourth sack, and he continues to line up all over the defensive line. He’ll condense down inside in Miami’s radar package (stand-up rushers all over the line), but also win one-on-ones off the offense’s right side.

Johnathan Ledbetter is one of many undrafted free agents that will make this team. Ledbetter’s fit in the scheme had him playing well as a five-technique, but he worked in as the three in this game — he’ll be a part of the opening day rotation.

Dewayne Hendrix flashed frequently in the fourth quarter. Tyrone Holmes continues to apply pressure with regularity, as well.

Linebackers

Sam Eguavoen missed a tackle on Leonard Fournette due to poor form, but he was good otherwise. His play can no longer be attributed to fluke, playing backups, or anything else folks will tell you this time of year. He’s making plays off the edge, inside, against the pass, and he has an inherent chemistry already with his fellow nickel ‘backer.

That fellow-backer is Jerome Baker, and he’s here to mess things up. Baker’s inside/outside skill set, and his speed and change of direction, allows Miami to do a lot of different looks in pressure and coverage packages.

Most of the positon was down tonight, but Tre Watson and Terrill Hanks staked their claims to kick Kiko Alonso off the roster. Hanks put the game on ice with a forced fumble, and Watson showed some of his versatility with A-gap pressures, stack-backer looks, and working off the edge.

Cornerbacks

Eric Rowe looks like a find — if he can stay healthy. He’s sticky in coverage, he’s physical, and he competes from the line-of-scrimmage, to the top of the route, and at the catch point. He picked off a pass and was regularly in phase when targeted.

Xavien Howard is the reason Rowe was tested so often. Miami’s premier player never had his name called, something that will probably happen a lot in 2019.

Minkah Fitzpatrick had a big bounce back. He played as a safety again, but we’ll keep him here in his natural position. Fitzpatrick said he’s not suited to play in the box, but he made multiple plays in run defense, and did this in coverage.

Cornell Armstrong and Chris Lammons had big nights on special teams — they’ll both make the team for their work on that unit, but Lammons is showing some bite as a defender as well.

For young players, playing fast is the first priority, and that’s Jomal Wiltz. Wiltz does well playing in zone and pulling his trigger coming up in run-support. He had a big open field tackle — just like last week — on a third down.

Safeties

The big news of the night was Bobby McCain’s shoulder injury. After McCain was beat for a touchdown (Jacksonville’s only score of the game) he laid the lumber on a pass over the middle and was removed. Reports are that he’s fine, which is great because the depth beyond him is worrisome.

Preseason Recap

This gets filed in the Kool Aid category by fans bothered by silver linings, but this preseason has been an encouraging one. The offensive line is a train wreck, the quarterback position is iffy — at best — and there are depth concerns everywhere.

Still, there’s a lot of young talent on this roster, both by-way of legitimate blue chip talent (Tunsil, Howard, Baker, Fitzpatrick, Wilkins all 26-years or younger), and core pieces.

Plus, players that were afterthoughts under the previous regime are already showing more bite with new management. Charles Harris’ preseason has been one of dominance, and Mike Gesicki has definitively carved out a role on this offense.

If those two players can show improvement, that speaks well to the coaching staff. Plus, the Dolphins look to have uncovered some gems in low places. Mark Walton is a find. The same is true of Sam Eguavoen, Preston Williams, Jonathan Ledbetter, and perhaps Patrick Laird, Chandler Cox, Jomal Wiltz and even the oft-injured Eric Rowe.

With continued development of those players, as well as the already established contributors, the Dolphins are in a position to fix the holes with the unlimited resources at their disposal next offseason.

Chris Grier has quietly drafted very well in recent years (don’t believe me, check this out), and the fundamental aspects of the game are already markedly better than what we’ve seen in the past.

This year is going to be a struggle, but you should embrace the process. The defense has the ability to play like a top-half unit, but will probably fade from offensive futility putting it in bad positions. The key is the development of all this young talent, the blue chip guys making that strong push into that particular stratosphere, and then hope for a home run next offseason.

Given what we’ve seen from a Brian Flores football team, this team will be put in advantageous situations, they’ll be prepared for those situations, and they’ll consistently develop under-the-radar talent.

Most of the draft pundits and national media are bullish on Miami’s future. As someone that has watched this current iteration of Dolphins football repeatedly, I’m completely confident in the hands this franchise has been entrusted to.

Is it cliché to say, “trust the process?” Like our Shawshank Redemption hero, when we get out from that 500-yard crawl through the mess, we just might come out clean on the other side.

@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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