With 266 of the slated 267 games on the 2018 NFL schedule in the books, the focus of the league shifts to Mobile, Alabama. The site of the college football’s most prestigious all-star game since 1951, Mobile transforms from to an otherwise quiet city to a veritable who’s who of NFL decision-makers.
The term “all-star” is rather fraudulent in its intention. This week isn’t about festivities or acknowledgement; it’s the first step on a long path towards elevating young men’s football lives from amateur to professional.
Two-hour practice sessions, endless meetings and whiteboard testing, these young men are about to be ran through the grind of an NFL work week. With scouts, coaches, and executives from every team (even Brian Flores and his unofficial status with Miami), this week in Mobile is the precursor to the meat market that is the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
The big question the casual observer has is, “what can I take away from this week?” The NFL Network airs practices from Tuesday through Thursday, and the game on Saturday. Additionally, plenty of credentialed media members will be covering the week (including plenty of our own at Locked On Podcasts), providing us with more resources than ever before.
Here on Locked On Dolphins, we will have a daily practice report that includes those that shined in the individual and team periods – but also a cumulative tracker for all of Miami’s meets and player interests.
In prior off-season preview columns, we have highlighted Miami’s core areas of need for the 2019 season. Here, we will list the positions in order of need, and discuss the players Miami should keep a close eye on at said positions of need. Also, a brief tidbit on what you should look for this week when you turn on the NFLN and see guys running around in shells and shorts.
Unfortunately, the top two prospects at this crucial position are underclassmen (Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins). Last year’s Senior Bowl provided a close-up look to Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen (both top 10 picks). This rendition features a trio of potential first round picks and plenty intriguing of day-two or day-three options.
1.) Daniel Jones, Duke – 6’5” 220
Propped up as a potential top-10 pick, Jones is the classic case of being elevated due to the urgent need of his position. Jones’ arm is teetering on the line of NFL-worthy and popgun. He doesn’t drive the ball to the field and he struggles with touch, accuracy, and anticipation. When he does find power on his throws, it comes from a long wind-up and a clean base. Any trash at his feet or flashing colors in his face presents problems for the elongated set-up.
Jones isn’t capable of extending plays or beating pressure with his arms or legs. He will chew up some yards with long speed, but his lateral agility and quickness aren’t there (think of Ryan Tannehill). He doesn’t process particularly well and will set himself up for huge shots in the pocket.
Frankly, I’m not seeing what other scouts do. I think he’s more of a day-three project than a first round pick.
2.) Drew Lock, Missouri – 6’4” 225
Physical traits aplenty, Lock has the biggest arm in Mobile this week. Because of that, and the lack of real in-game simulations, I expect him to help himself the most. He can drive the football vertically and to the perimeter, but his accuracy comes and goes. He doesn’t always establish a firm platform and will try the adjusted arm-angle throws, but he doesn’t exactly have the same control in that area as the originator, Patrick Mahomes.
Lock struggled against superior defenses that brought pressure. The bigger the SEC opponent, the more Lock’s game shrunk. He was overmatched by the likes of Georgia and Alabama.
Though he plays with the desired confidence and swagger, his game isn’t there to match. He’s rumored to be a fringe first-round prospect, though rumblings about Denver targeting him with the 10th pick have picked up steam. In my world, he’s in play for Miami’s second-round pick.
3.) Will Grier, West Virginia – 6’2” 223
Playing in a wide-open scheme in Morgantown, Grier’s deficiencies were overshadowed by his gaudy production and clutch moments. While the latter shouldn’t be neglected (he has some stones in critical moments), the former dampers the scouting report.
Grier simply doesn’t have the requisite arm to complete all the throws required in an NFL offense. With tighter windows and quicker defenders, he’s bound to be exposed at the next level. It’ll be extremely important for Grier to impress in the meeting rooms, but also show some velocity with all the scouts there to see him in person.
He does have a penchant for anticipatory throwing and the skill set to go off-platform and off-script, but he rarely had to do it in West Virginia. He’s a touch and timing thrower that looks terrific with sound protection. Grier might get pushed up the draft board, but I wouldn’t consider him an option prior to the third round.
4.) Tyree Jackson, Buffalo – 6’7” 245
Eligible for as a graduate transfer to a power-five program, Jackson instead opted to test the NFL waters before his stock could climb. Jackson is a physical marvel with a big-time arm, impressive stature, and enough escapability to make him a threat at the next level.
His mechanics will waver on occasion and his release point’s inconsistency causes a lot of inaccurate throws. He has plenty to clean up before he’s ready to compete for playing time at the next level. Jackson is a day-three option for the Dolphins.
5.) Gardner Minshew, Washington State – 6’2” 220
Taking Mike Leach’s Cougs from a projected sixth-place Pac 12 finish, all the way to a win-and-in season-finale for the conference championship game, Minshew was THE reason.
His leadership, high-level processing, and gamer-mentality hid the shortcomings in his physical prowess. Like a lot of his comrades in Mobile, Minshew’s arm strength is right on the boarder of acceptable at this level.
He’s prone to the fist-clenching decision once he goes off-script, while the wide-open nature of Leach’s air raid doesn’t do the former East Carolina Pirate any favors.
Minshew figures to be a day-three project with his upside falling somewhere between low-level starter and high-quality backup.
Edge (Linebackers) –
This position is going to be defined differently for the 2019 Miami Dolphins than it had been in the previous three seasons. Scrapping the disastrous wide-9 scheme, the Dolphins figure to adopt the linebacker-rush heavy scheme of Brian Flores and the New England Patriots.
So, because of that distinction, we are going to lump outside backers in with pure pass-rushing defensive ends for this group. The heftier defensive ends will be included with the interior down-linemen position as Miami’s scheme calls for new prototypes.
1.) Jalen Jelks, Oregon – 6’5” 245
A tad wiry, Jelks played with his hand in the dirt at Oregon. His quickness showed up both in the run and pass game through a variety of avenues. He’s capable of winning immediately off the snap and converting that speed to power with a steady base. He has the length, fluidity and instincts to win individually but also play within the framework of the defense.
The fit with Miami comes from a possible conversion an on-ball line-of-scrimmage defender. His thin frame causes issues when doubled, but Miami can counter that weakness by protecting Jelks via the scheme.
2.) Germaine Pratt, North Carolina State – 6’3”, 245
Pratt’s speed and coverage skills are evident of his conversion from safety to interior linebacker. He will surely convert to the outside in his pro career with terrific range and instincts in the passing game.
Though he added weight to his frame jumping into the front-seven, Pratt can still get over-powered. If he wants to be a true edge linebacker in this scheme, he’ll have to get stronger at the point of attack. His work in both zone and man coverage could help Miami’s pass defense immensely.
3.) Bobby Okereke, Stanford – 6’3’’ 234
Miami has been getting exposed by backs and tight ends in the passing game for far too long. Okereke covers a ton of ground in zone, but can match-up in man coverage as well. He will clean up plays as a rusher and struggles defeating blocks en route to the quarterback.
Okereke could be a sub-package coverage dynamo at the next level.
4.) Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion – 6’3” 247
Presenting the first truly physically dominant player in this group, Ximines offers the strength to anchor and defend the run better than his position-mates listed in this column. He’s not going to line-up one-on-one with a back or a tight end and win, but he does have a variety of pass rush moves and enough run-stuffing ability to make him an intriguing prospect.
5.) Otara Alaka, Texas A&M – 6’2’’ 240
Best suited as a SAM linebacker, Alaka draws intrigue from Miami’s multiple linebacker packages. In Sunday’s AFCCG win, the Patriots often deployed four linebackers in the line-up using stronger, sturdier outside ‘backers to shut down the Chiefs rush lanes early in the series. He’s a sure tackler with a high motor, but he offers very little by way of rush of coverage prowess.
The omission you’re looking for is Montez Sweat. With his prowess coming with a hand in the dirt, and his slight frame, I don’t foresee him being on Miami’s radar. This position requires speed, bend, a variety of moves and change of direction. When rushing the passer, watch how they square their opponent and if they have the hands and counter moves to initiate and beat contact. Burst and get-off top the list, obviously.
When it comes to coverage, mirroring is vital. Squaring up the target to initiate the jam will dictate the entirety of the route. Watch how these guys stay in control and on balance when they initiate the contact as it allows them to explode and cut down separation created once the pass catcher sheds the contact.
Interior Offensive Line
This side of the ball will provide more of a challenge with the uncertainty of the offensive play-caller in Miami. Jim Caldwell is set to coach the quarterbacks, but I think it’s disingenuous to glean any idea from his time in Detroit or Indianapolis regarding what Miami will do up front.
For the Dolphins, a complete rebuild could be in the works at this spot. Miami desperately needs stabilization at center and Josh Sitton and Jesse Davis hardly inspire hope as starting guards.
1.) Michael Deiter, Wisconsin – 6’6” 310
Wisconsin breeds offensive linemen and Deiter is the next in line to cash in with a lofty draft spot come Late-April. Deiter has played all three positions at a high level. He has the mental aptitude to regularly recognize and pick up stunts and he moves exceptionally well for a man of his size.
Deiter could be a first round trade-back option if the Dolphins are serious about refortifying the offensive line.
2.) Chris Lindstrom, Boston College – 6’4” 310
A mauler better suited for gap/man power-schemes, Lindstrom is as consistent as they come. Always available and scheme diverse, Lindstrom will be a quick transition into the league as an early starter.
He’s technically sound with strong hands and the movement skills to get out in space.
3.) Garrett Bradbury, North Carolina State – 6’3” 300
The theme at this position is the technical aptitude of these young men. Something of a lost art in the college game as teams focus more on pace than finishing, Bradbury is a breath of fresh air. The former tight end displays his fluid lower half, but didn’t sacrifice that movement when he added the requisite weight to kick inside.
4.) Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State – 6’4” 313
With athleticism to climb to the second level and operational functionality against games up front (stunts and twists (both have killed Miami recently)), Jenkins could be the answer to the black hole that is the center position in Miami.
If the Dolphins continue forward with a zone blocking scheme, Jenkins is right up there for interior options.
5.) Dru Samia, Oklahoma – 6’5” 303
Position-diverse, Samia played tackle his first year before kicking inside to guard for his final three in Norman, OK. The technical proficiency and athleticism required to play in the up-tempo scheme of the Sooners pops on tape each week.
His ability to pick up games and anchor against the rush throughout the week could really solidify Samia’s spot as a top interior line prospect.
This is a stellar crop of interior linemen. The colts rebranded their operation by doubling down on Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith in 2018 – that option is on the table for Miami in 2019.
When you watch these big boys this week, keep an eye on their pad level, waste bend, and ability to absorb contact and maintain balance. They have a tough time in the one-on-one drills designed to make rushers look good, but the initial stance and ability to strike the rusher between the shoulders is always a good sign.
Interior Defensive Line
This group includes more than just the beef on the inside for Miami. We’ve covered Trey Flowers’ importance in New England’s defense ad nauseam for the last two weeks. Size, two-gap quickness and technique versatility are Miami’s aims here at this position.
1.) Daylon Mack, Texas A&M – 6’1” 320
With a great squatty-body, Mack has the bubble and burst to dictate the point-of-attack inside. He’s deceptively quick off the ball which gives him even more value in this new scheme where the interior D-line will be asked to two-gap.
Mack, a five-star recruit out of high school, earned his way from the Shrine Game into Senior Bowl week. He’s not to be mistaken from an elite rush prospect on the interior, but Miami is severely lacking depth alongside Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. Mack could play the nose, 2-tech, 2i and 3-tech in this defense.
2.) Isiah Buggs, Alabama – 6’4”, 290
More of a 5-tech in the new varied front scheme, Buggs relies on strong hands and a powerful base to help set and dent the edge in the run game. Playing under Nick Saban, Buggs is instinctive enough to recognize and defeat leverage. He’s a violent, rocked-up house of bricks that’s ready to play immediately.
The keys to watch for are similar to what we want to see from the offensive line. Can they consistently knock the man across from them backwards in both team and individual portions? Also, don’t be afraid to up-and-down their backsides. We need to see big ankles, calves and booties to properly gage their sheer power. When they get into their set-up and stance, do they bend at the knees, or does their waste go parallel? You do not want to see the latter.
1.) Amani Oruwariye, Penn State – 6’1” 204 (Corner)
A lengthy, rangy corner with terrific ball skills makes Oruwariye an intriguing prospect to watch this week in Mobile. His ideal fit is in press coverage and in a zone scheme (two things Miami will do a lot of). His ball tracking and natural instincts allow him to make plays both in man, but also peering in from a cover-3 defense.
The rest of this group is lacking in a lot of the departmental traits Miami desires. The glut of this draft class’ prowess at the position comes from underclassmen.
2.) Nassir Adderley, Delaware – 5’11” 200 (Safety)
Miami should be active in their search for a third, rangy safety that can help patrol the back end in sub packages. With Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald filling similar roles, and Minkah Fitzpatrick as a quasi-slot corner/safety, there’s a need here.
Adderley has exceptional range playing the single-high position on the backend of Delaware’s defense. He’s physical with a desire to hit someone in the mouth and he excels in zone coverage.
The number one thing you want to see with these players is the hips. How well to the transition in-and-out of their pedal and how fast can they close on the football. The drills ran this week have a way of weeding out the stiff and unnatural players.
Of course, there are plenty of other players and positions to keep an eye on. We will have those daily reports on the podcast on the site.
Here are some other guys to keep an eye on this week.
RB – Karan Higdon
WR – Debo Samuel, David Sills V
TE – Drew Sample
OT – Andre Dillard
Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts
As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.
The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.
We have been awarded CB Javaris Davis from Kansas City and have waived/non-football injury TE Michael Roberts. We have also placed the following players on the reserve/COVID-19 list: LS Blake Ferguson, DT Benito Jones and CB Cordrea Tankersley. pic.twitter.com/0l3CD2H4Rv
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) July 27, 2020
Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.
A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.
Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.
At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.
In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game
If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.
Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.
The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.
Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.
The Better Player Plays
With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.
In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?
We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.
Not only did Brian Flores refuse to do anything he felt would not give his team the best chance to win, and not only were free agents impressed, but they got their QB. They got Tua. A new era for the Miami Dolphins.
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 24, 2020
Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.
Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.
Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?
I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.
Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.
Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.
Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.
There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…
The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.
Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.
A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.
Yards & TDs Given Up Over The Past 2 Seasons
Richard Sherman 713 / 3
Byron Jones 981 / 5
Joe Haden 1,068 / 9
Tre White 1,087 / 2
Stephon Gilmore 1,117 / 5
Darius Slay 1,214 / 9
Marcus Peters 1,376 / 12
Jalen Ramsey 1,405 / 4
Marshon Lattimore 1,492 / 6
Jaire Alexander 1,649 / 8
— A Fan’s Edition (@AFansEdition) July 23, 2020
In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.
And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.
Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:
- Learn his way around the NFL
- Understand the playbook better
- Observe the game from the sideline
- Gain chemistry with his receivers
Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…
I’m Sure He’s Healthy…
Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.
While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.
The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.
Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.
Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.
The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.
Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen
After a breakout 2019 campaign, it looks like Mike Gesicki will have some competition.
According to Pro Football Talk, the Miami Dolphins have traded a 2021 6th-round pick to the Chicago Bears for tight end Adam Shaheen.
Bears are trading TE Adam Shaheen to the Dolphins for a conditional 2021 sixth-round draft pick, per source with knowledge of the transaction.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) July 25, 2020
A former 2nd-round pick (2017) out of Ashland University (Division II), Shaheen excelled during the combine, which led to an increase in his draft stock. The Bears jumped at the opportunity of molding a raw prospect, and selected Shaheen with the 45th pick in the draft. He was the 5th tight end taken in the draft that year, well above where he was originally projected when he declared for the NFL.
Though the Bears were optimistic, it seems Shaheen hasn’t lived up to his draft status. After three seasons, Shaheen has 26 receptions for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns. His playtime has diminished from 239 offensive snaps in 2017, to 160 in 2018 and 174 in 2019; with injuries playing a part the past two seasons. For comparisons sake, Durham Smythe had 482 offensive snaps last season alone (Shaheen has 573 for his career).
Shaheen became expendable after the Bears drafted Cole Kmet in the 2nd-round of the 2020 draft and signed Jimmy Graham to a 2-year contract earlier this offseason. With 8 tight ends on the Chicago Bears roster, you know something had to give. And from the perspective of a Bears’ fan, receiving any compensation for a likely roster cut is rewarding enough.
Trading a 6th-round pick means Shaheen is a favorite to win one of the backup tight end spots, should the Dolphins keep 3 on their roster.
It’s unlikely that Shaheen is a possible replacement for Smythe, as Shaheen is meant to be a receiving threat more than an in-line blocker, but there is so much untapped potential with Shaheen that it’s hard to guess what the Dolphins will receive from him.
We assume Mike Gesicki will continue to grow, but behind him, the cupboard is pretty barren. Shaheen adds much-needed depth to a tight end room that currently includes Smythe, Michael Roberts, Chris Myarick and undrafted rookie Bryce Sterk.
These Adam Shaheen receptions are all from the same drive. Wouldn’t be a surprise to see him more comfortable in year two coming from Ashland.
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) August 12, 2018
- Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts July 27, 2020
- In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game July 27, 2020
- Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen July 25, 2020
- Miami Dolphins’ Jones and Howard land in top 10 CB rankings June 24, 2020
- Are the Dolphins Done Reshaping the Roster for 2020? May 19, 2020