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Dolphins Senior Bowl Watchlist

Travis Wingfield

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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.

Mandatory Credit: Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Quarterback

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

Nov 17, 2018; College Station, TX, USA; UAB Blazers quarterback Tyler Johnston III (17) is sacked by Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Daylon Mack (34) during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Secondary

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

@WingfieldNFL

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Scouting Reports

Face of the Franchise Series: Tua Tagovailoa

Travis Wingfield

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Two decades removed from his retirement, the Miami Dolphins are still in-search of Dan Marino’s replacement

Foreword:

7,091 days, 308 games. That arduous, ceaseless waiting period spans the time from Dan Marino’s last buckle of the chin strap, to present day. The Packers and Colts were fortunate enough to hand the ball from one legend to another without skipping a beat. For Dolphins fans, Marino’s retirement coincides not only with the turn of the century, but with the downturn of the once winningest franchise in professional sports.

Chad Pennington’s 2008 MVP runner-up season sits a mere blip on the radar of futility. Ryan Tannehill teased fans for five years before an injury brought all hope to a fiery end. Daunte Culpepper was the worst consolation prize ever contrived and John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White each qualify as second-round busts.

The misery feels perpetual yet, somehow, not defeating. At least the Dolphins got the bat off the shoulder this offseason by taking a crack at Josh Rosen, but his rookie tape leaves plenty to be desired. A first-round signal-caller is the odds-on-favorite for Miami in next April’s draft; a class brimming with quarterback talent.

If patience truly is a virtue, then Dolphins fans have waited long enough. The collective has earned the right to unanimously appoint the next hero of professional football in South Florida. No more arguments, no more debates; just an unequivocal beast of a quarterback capable of willing the aqua and orange to victory on any given Sunday.

The same way #13 did for so many years.

Over the summer we will look at the top quarterback prospects entering the 2019 college football season.

We start with the consensus number-one player, as we sit 10 months out from draft night, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Tua Tagovailoa 2018 Film Study

Searching for a third consecutive appearance in college football’s championship game, Tua Tagovailoa enters his junior campaign as the most decorated quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012.

“He does a lot of things you can’t coach — [he] sees the field, throws accurately, [he’s] athletic. He’s got a really unique package.” An anonymous NFL scout told AL.com. “He anticipates throws. He can really visualize a throw. Guys don’t have to be open, he sees openings before they happen.”

Jim Nagy, the Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, made his proclamation that Tagovailoa would’ve been the first pick this April were he draft eligible. He was not. And so he returns to Tuscaloosa to pilot yet another loaded Crimson Tide team under the watchful eye of both Nick Saban and the entire NFL community.

What Sets Tagovailoa Apart:

Accuracy and Natural Throwing Motion –

After just a couple of throws, it’s easy to decipher whether a passer is natural or conditioned. Whether on traditional drops and, or setting up on the move, Tagovailoa’s arm shows natural elasticity. This trait makes him a threat on structured set-ups, moving left or right, and when attacking the line-of-scrimmage.

The ability to drop the arm angle without sacrificing accuracy is what sets great quarterbacks apart from the good ones — especially in the modern NFL. Regardless of the circumstance, Tagovailoa finds his way back to proper mechanics, using his base to drive the football.

Everything is hard-wired across Tagovailoa’s mechanics. From his feet to his eyes, and his hips to his shoulders, his proper alignment creates impressive torque and spin on a variety of different throw-types (touch, drive, deep). Tagovailoa is the best deep ball thrower on the planet not named Russell Wilson.

Light Feet, Escapability, Poise Under Duress –

A lot of quarterbacks excel at the professional level without seamless weight-transfer. Legends like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger make up for heavy feet with anticipation of the rush, landmark identification of the rusher, but also the poise to pick up the route progression under pressure.

Tagovailoa has that inherent poise trait, but he couples it with effortless capabilities to freely glide in crowded areas. His sound, initial lower-half mechanics put him in a position to drive off his plant foot. This puts him in a position to climb, or throw drive-leg out and flea the pocket laterally.

This marriage of exceptional traits makes Tagovailoa a difficult passer to sack, a legitimate big-play scramble threat, and most importantly, a dangerous off-script play maker.

Processing and Cerebral Aptitude within the Structure of the Offense –

Alabama’s offense is loaded across the board. Opposing defenses often have to send pressure packages to rattle Tagovailoa, but his skill set usually renders those attempts futile. The Bama offense is chocked full of NFL concepts with three-man combinations and full-field reads.

Tagovailoa not only identifies and understands most pre-snap coverages and post-snap rotations, he knows which route combinations are designed to attack those particular coverages. His photographic-like memory allows him to blindly read the backside of a play and rip through his progressions in a flash.

Designed-Run Package –

There aren’t many superlatives needed for this bullet point; Tagovailoa can scoot.

Focused Areas of Improvement:

Short Memory –

Tagovailoa’s shortcomings feel like nitpicking — he’s exceptional. One universal knock on his game is the back-to-back underwhelming showings in the two championship games this past season. Tagovailoa showed a minor penchant to let bad play cavalcade and attempted to press his way through some struggles.

This wasn’t frequent enough of an occurrence to call it a habit, and that’s to be expected from a 21-year-old, but it’s something to watch this upcoming postseason when Bama is inevitably in the hunt once again.

Drive Throws –

Tagovailoa’s arm isn’t on the level of Matthew Stafford, but it’s more than adequate for the professional level. His anticipation prowess helps mask the lack of velocity on field-side drive throws, but the difficulty of those throws increases at the next level (elite athletes all over the field will do that).

Again, this is nitpicking. A good coordinator can work around something like this, but it’s a common throw in the NFL that could potentially prove problematic for Tagovailoa.

Getting Healthy –

The biggest gripe I found with Tagovailoa’s poor performances (poor relative to his early-season magic act) was the limitations of nagging knee and ankle injuries. Tagovailoa hurt the knee mid-season, and the ankle injury in the SEC Championship Game required surgery. The lingering effects were apparent in the National Title Game against a ferocious Clemson defense.

Two injuries in one season is the beginning of a red flag. Another season of nicks and bruises could give scouts pause regarding Tagovailoa’s long-term durability.

Potential Fit with the Miami Dolphins:

Tagovailoa’s anticipation, processing, and recognition of leverage and soft spots in coverage makes him a fit in any scheme. Miami’s offense, under former Patriots Assistant Chad O’Shea, figures to feature a lot of variety devised to attack that particular week’s opponent.

The Patriots controlled, short passing game is indefensible at its peak, and that’s Tagovailoa’s true ceiling. His pre-snap prowess would help Miami attack vulnerable matchups and keep the offense on-schedule. Tagovailoa’s deep ball could finally unlock the true potential of Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant.

In New England, the Pats built shot plays into the structure of the regular offense. Tagovailoa’s attention to detail and general feel for the flow of the game can give the play caller (O’Shea) a set of eyes on the field to relay tendencies and weaknesses.

Conclusion:

Tagovailoa is the apple of every scout’s eye this college football season. His first colligate action — as a true freshman — was a heroic, championship rescuing performance on the game’s biggest stage. Since that game, Tagovailoa’s ascension has continued on the track of a generational prospect.

Tagovailoa is going to be the first player to hear his name called next April, should he declare (he’s eligible to return to Alabama for 2020). The Dolphins will likely have to obtain the first pick to get a crack at the Heisman hopeful.

If they do, the fortunes of this Miami Dolphins organization will change for the foreseeable future.

@WingfieldNFL

Up Next: Georgia Junior, Jake Fromm

Additional Videos

Anticipation and recognition of three-man route combination

Perfect back-shoulder ball

Footwork to help mitigate immediate pressure

Off-script dynamics

Poor ball placement costs Bama a TD

Rare occurrence where Tua doesn’t account for backside robber coverage

Finds a passing lane, resets and throws a strike

Rare mental mistake

High-level anticipation

Aerial assault on display

One of Tagovailoa’s six interceptions

Push up, avoid pressure, throw an accurate ball

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Miami Dolphins

How did the Miami Dolphins shape up in Lindy’s NFL Preview?

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Xavien Howard USA Today Sports
Star cornerback Xavien Howard. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Lindy’s has released its annual NFL Preview. It not only covers each individual team but ranks all the best players at each position. There were some surprises, good and bad, but overall, the Miami Dolphins did not get a lot of recognition.

Lindy’s NFL Preview made its rounds on the Twittersphere on Wednesday, and with it came plenty of disagreement. The preview breaks down all the NFL rosters and ranks all the position groups of each team. So, did the Miami Dolphins fare very well with any of the position rankings? Let’s dive in and find out.

Let’s start with the quarterback. The list has three categories: Pocket Passers, All-Purpose, and Best of the Depth. I’ll give you second to think about which category might have a Dolphins QB.

Did you guess Josh Rosen in the Pocket Passer category? I hope not, because that’d be dead wrong. The winning answer is Ryan Fitzpatrick in the penultimate slot in Best of the Depth. In this case, he’s ranked fourth out of five in that category. He falls in between Jacoby Brissett and Blake Bortles.

Now, let’s move on to the pass catchers. The first ranked wide receiver on the list is Kenny Stills and he comes in at 15th on the rankings for the Deep Threat category. He’s tied with Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins, but at least Stills made the first tier (The Ones). The next tier (The Twos) starts at 16 with Oakland’s Tyrell Williams.

DeVante Parker is the next name to make it on the list. He’s listed at sixth in The Twos. Parker and Stills were the only two Fins WRs to make the cut, which shouldn’t come across as a major plot twist since the Miami Dolphins receiving corps isn’t full of world beaters.

The next position on the list was tight ends. You might already know which direction this is headed since the Dolphins currently have a dearth of tight ends that is made up of B-list veterans and untapped-potential second-year players on the depth chart. Neither Mike Gesicki or Durham Smythe were mentioned, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Nick O’Leary didn’t make the list, either, but Dwayne Allen did. Allen landed on the list at third on the Best of the Depth portion of the list. Allen falls between Virgil Green at two and Cameron Brate at four. The upper echelon rankings featured 16 other tight ends, which leaves an overall ranking of 19 for Dwayne Allen.

Don’t get bent out of shape from the first three categories, the best is yet to come. But not for the running backs. There was no mention of a single Miami running back in any of the three groups: The Ones, All-Purpose, Ground-Based, and Best of the Depth. That doesn’t speak well of the Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage duo.

On to the offensive line, the rankings were separated into five categories: center, left and right guard, and left and right tackles. The Dolphins had two total representatives in those five categories. And one of them wasn’t even on the team a month ago.

Laremy Tunsil is the obvious one and he made it to number 13 on the left tackle list. That seems criminally low to me. Tunsil was behind the likes of Carolina’s Taylor Moton, Atlanta’s Jake Matthews, and New Orleans’ Terron Armstead.

The only other entrant on these rankings was Jordan Mills, who was signed earlier this year after the Buffalo Bills let him hit free agency.

Lindy’s Preview also ranks the top five passing games, running games, and offensive lines for both the AFC and the NFC. I’ll just rip this bandaid off right now; the Dolphins weren’t in any of them.

Let’s move on to the defense; that ought to lighten the mood, somewhat. There’s not anything to mention in the 3-4 Ends/Tackles, Nose Tackles, 4-3 Ends, 4-3 Tackles, 3-4 Inside Linebackers, 3-4 Outside Linebackers, 4-3 Middle Linebackers, or 4-3 MIKE Linebackers

Let’s just skip ahead to the WILL Linebacker rankings to get our next Miami Dolphins plug. And in this case, we’ve got two names: Kiko Alonso at five and Jerome Baker at nine. That’s an encouraging thing to see after going nine categories without seeing any Dolphins. I’m also surprised that I didn’t see any mention of Raekwon McMillan, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

Another surprise was that there was no Miami safety named, either. Neither Reshad Jones nor Minkah Fitzpatrick made the cut, but I expect the latter to make his presence felt in the near future.

The biggest, and essentially only, bright spot in the Lindy rankings was Xavien Howard coming in at number one for all the corners. You read that right. While it’s certainly up for a lot of debate whether Howard is truly the best corner in the game right now, I’m not going to argue with it. I’m just going to rest on my laurels on X being recognized as the best by someone and be on my merry way.

Another smaller and less-expected surprise was the Dolphins being ranked in the AFC Best Linebackers. They came in at fourth in the conference and nine overall. That speaks volumes of the potential of the position group, namely Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan.

 

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Miami Dolphins

Ranking Miami Dolphins Starting Quarterbacks (since Dan Marino) #10-1

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen both likely to start for the Miami Dolphins this year, we’re about to scream “blackjack!” when it comes to how many starting quarterbacks the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino retired.

No, this doesn’t win you any kind of jackpot, nor does it pay out 3-2 odds if you’re ever-so-lucky. This just means that the Dolphins have yet to solve the elusive quarterback riddle since they used to be the best quarterback-centric team of the 20th-century.

As we depicted in our #19-11 starting quarterbacks list, below is a basic chart of every starting quarterback Miami has had since that fateful 1999 season.

Note: Games Started, Starting Record and Winning % only depict regular season #s (not like there are too many playoff numbers to add). Passing TDs, INTs, Passing yards and Completion % take into account every regular season throw by that quarterback, whether they were a starter or if they came in as a backup.

A couple things to keep in mind with this list:

  • Rankings are based on a multitude of aspects:
    • What did the player cost?
    • What was their lasting impact with the team?
    • Their overall statistical performance and starting record with the team

Check out who cracked the list of top-10 “best” starting quarterback since Marino retired. Take note of the fact that it’s pretty freakin’ easy to accomplish, all you needed was a winning record (in just 40% of the cases, that is) and a positive TD/INT ratio to do so. Yeah, it’s been that bad, Dolphins fans:

~~~

Whether it’s losing records, terrible completion %, pathetic TD/INT ratios or overall incompetence, these quarterbacks are the reasons we have so many nightmares when we think of the starting quarterback position as a whole. It’s thanks to them that we believe less-than-stellar quarterbacks are the best “solutions” we’ve had this 21st-century.

~~~

10) Chad Henne

Chad Henne doesn’t crack the top-10 because he was good. In fact, the only positive highlight I can remember is him throwing a perfect touch pass to Ted Ginn Jr. over three New York Jets defenders.

Outside of that one touchdown pass, as well as the “duel” he had with Tom Brady to open the 2011 season – when Brady (517 yards) and Henne (416) broke the NFL record for most combined passing yards between two starting QBs in a game with 933 (ironically enough, they broke the record previously held by Dan Mario and Ken O’Brien – 927 passing yards) – Henne was a lost cause in Miami.

Essentially destined to be a backup, Henne never amounted to much. Rumor has it, the Dolphins wanted to grab Joe Flacco in the 2008 draft, but ended up getting outsmarted by Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens. Leaving Miami with the next-best option (and apparently, an option they didn’t really want).

As a “waste” of a 2nd-round pick, Henne finds himself below most of these journeymen, even if he accumulated more starts and starting numbers than the rest.

9) Jay Cutler

Smoking Jay Cutler.

He was entertaining for the rest of America, but in the eyes of every Dolphins fan, he was a waste of $10m. It’s one thing if the team “had” to spend the money, but Miami could have carried over that $10m and set themselves up for a better 2018 season. Instead, Adam Gase thought he could salvage the season by luring Cutler out of retirement.

What a mistake.

Cutler was just as good as he was with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos. That is, he was completely underwhelming. Outside of outdueling Tom Brady in Week 14 of the 2017 season, Cutler is best known for not giving a single ***k during his Dolphins tenure. And why would he? Why risk injury when you can ride off into the sunset with an easy 8-figure paycheck?

You could have given me $10m and I would have been just as successful as Jay Cutler was. In fact, I would have won 0 games for the Dolphins, and that would have actually been more productive than Cutler’s 6-8 starting record.

The world thanks you for existing, Jay Cutler. Miami Dolphins fans do not.

8) Joey Harrington

At the expense of a 5th-round draft pick, the Miami Dolphins acquired one of the biggest draft busts of all time.

As if his 18-37 starting record with the Detroit Lions wasn’t enough to deter the Dolphins, it seemed like Miami really wanted to overpay for mediocre starting quarterbacks in the mid-2000s. What started with A.J. Feeley eventually took them down the path of Joey Harrington and Trent Green.

There’s a reason why these quarterbacks were available, and it’s not because their trade partners had someone like Philip Rivers waiting in the wings.

Harrington could land anywhere on this list and you wouldn’t be wrong with your placement. Accumulating a 5-6 record during his time as a starting quarterback with the Dolphins, Harrington threw 12 touchdowns to go along with 15 interceptions and a 57.5% completion percentage. He wasn’t as bad as he was in Detroit, but he was just as worthless to this organization as he was to the Lions.

That is, he was a complete waste of time.

Harrington was actually one of the most controversial placements for me. I could have placed him somewhere in the bottom-10 and it would have been justified. My main reason for including him this high has to do with the overall number of games he started. If any of the quarterbacks below him had started 11 games, I feel like their statistics would be even worse than they already were (a big assumption to make, I know).

Jay Cutler and Chad Henne get lower ranks due to their cost, not their overall numbers.

7) Brock Osweiler

Here’s a man who nearly saved a Dolphins season after Ryan Tannehill injured himself (yet again).

Though his play was erratic, and each throw was an adventure in-and-of-itself, Brock Osweiler was (almost) what you wanted in a backup quarterback. A guy who wouldn’t sink your season if he had to spot-start a few games, and costing just $880k against the cap, his value is what propels him above most of these other starting quarterbacks on the list.

His stats don’t tell the entire story of how his starts went, but the only negative here is his 2-3 record. Everything else? Like I said, just what you want out of your backup.

Due to the Houston Texans vastly overpaying him, Osweiler has turned into a league-wide joke, but that shouldn’t nullify his admirably average performance with the Dolphins in 2018.

Any excuse I get to include this video in a post, I will take advantage of it every. single. time:

6) Damon Huard

Like Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard is a product of having a phenomenal team around him.

That 5-1 record is a sick joke when you look at the potential those Dolphins’ teams had. And when it comes down to it, it was pretty evident that the Miami Dolphins didn’t have much potential to work with at the starting quarterback position.

Huard infamously replaced Dan Marino in that fateful 62-7 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars – Marino’s last game in a Dolphins uniform. Ironically, Jay Fiedler replaced Mark Brunell during that game and had a better statline than Marino and Huard combined (click here at your own risk).

Huard was essentially a holdover until the Dolphins found a new franchise quarterback (which they still haven’t found). It’s not that Huard did anything wrong (which is why he’s #6 on our list), it’s more the fact that he didn’t do much right.

Place Huard on the same teams Ryan Tannehill had, and you’re looking at a much lower ranking.

5) Matt Moore

The golden boy for much of the Dolphins fanbase, Matt Moore was never anything more than an overhyped backup quarterback.

Clamoring for Moore to start is all the evidence you need to notice how far this franchise has fallen since Dan Marino retired. It was more-than-evident that Moore wasn’t the answer at quarterback, but the backup quarterback is always the most popular player on your football team.

Moore didn’t offer us much hope, but he did solidify the Miami Dolphins playoff berth during the 2016 season. Taking over for an injured Ryan Tannehill after the former 1st-round pick led the team to a 8-6 record, Moore was tasked with keeping the Dolphins afloat for the final 3 games of the season.

And by George, he did just that. Winning 2 of the final 3 games of the season, Moore helped the Dolphins earn their first playoff berth since the 2008 season.

The thing is, Miami most likely would have made the playoffs if Ryan Tannehill remained under center, bringing forth the question whether or not Moore was worthy this entire time or if he was just in the right place at the right time.

Retrospect tells us, he was definitely in the right place at the right time.

4) Gus Frerotte

Gus Frerotte is probably the most-boring quarterback on this list.

Not speaking personality wise (RoboHenne was a thing for awhile), but Frerotte was just a generic starter for this team. Accumulating a 9-6 record as a starter the one year he was with the Dolphins, Frerotte was just another journeyman quarterback making a pit-stop in Miami.

Throwing for 2,996 yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, a 52% completion percentage and a 71.9 quarterback rating, there’s really isn’t much to say about Frerotte. He wasn’t horrible, and his starting record reflects the last remnant of those stellar Dolphins teams from the early-2000s.

3) Jay Fiedler

The main reason Dave Wannstedt and his Ron Jeremy mustache failed as the Dolphins head coach.

How do you establish one of the greatest defenses since the Chicago Bears’ 1985 Monster’s of the Midway team and not advance to the AFC Championship game at least once? Answer: Jay Fiedler is your quarterback.

Forever underwhelming Dolphins fans and eternally wasting the early-2000s Dolphins teams, Fiedler was a “competent” quarterback that prevented Miami from reaching their well-deserved apex as an organization.

A 66/63 TD/INT ratio says virtually all you need to know about Fiedler’s potential. Every time you thought the team would take a step forward, you’d come to realize that they were just stuck in neutral.

Fiedler has the honor of being the last Dolphins quarterback to win a playoff game, but was it really Fiedler that earned that honor, or was it the phenomenal teams he was playing with? (rhetorical question, we all know it was the teams he played for).

And the most disappoint part is, when all is said and done, he’s the 3rd-best starting quarterback this team has had in the 21st-century. Ouch.

2) Ryan Tannehill

We all want to bury Ryan Tannehill as a starting quarterback for this team, but is it because he was such a terrible player? Or is it because we are dealing with 20 years of futility and he was just another failed “answer” at the position?

Tannehill cost this team a 1st-round pick, but drafting him really wasn’t the wrong decision. Yes, Miami should have went with their gut and drafted Russell Wilson, but we can’t fault the team for trying to solve the most important position on the gridiron. Since Marino, Tannehill was the first (and only) quarterback the Dolphins have drafted in the 1st-round. If you’re going to be cheap with the most-vital position on the team, you deserve all the failures that come with it.

Tannehill is easily the second-best quarterback the Dolphins have run out there since Marino retired, and it’s not even that close. If Tannehill played with the same teams Jay Fielder had, he would be staring at a better starting record and a much better statline than he currently has. Truth is, Tannehill is the unfortunate byproduct of a franchise that has been inept for so long.

We have rightfully concluded that you can’t bring back a quarterback who has “failed” for 7 years, but is it entirely his fault? Yes and no.

Yes, Tannehill wasn’t “good enough” to lead the Dolphins to the promise land that is productive postseason football, but he wasn’t all that detrimental to the franchise either. The most detrimental thing you can say regarding RT17 is that the team took too long to move on from him. Not his fault.

A b******t tackle during the 2016 season meant Tannehill was unable to “lead” the team to the 2016 playoff berth. Allowing him to reaggravate the knee injury in 2017 was both the fault of the team’s medical staff and his own doing for insisting he avoid surgery and heal his knee naturally (this is the same medical staff that convinced Nick Saban that Daunte Culpepper was a better option than Drew Brees; exactly how much trust do you have in them?).

If it weren’t for the fact that Tannehill’s Dolphins’ career was simply average, he would be the number one quarterback on this list. And that says all you need to know about the team’s anemic answer(s) at the position.

Tannehill threw for 20,434 yards, 123 touchdowns and just 75 interceptions – all while accumulating a 62.8% completion percentage – better than every quarterback on this list except for Chad Pennington‘s 67.6% completion percentage (known for his ability to be a game-manager, and his ineptitude to throw a deep ball) and Brock Osweiler’s minimal playing time (63.5% completion percentage). Thank you bubble screens.

1) Chad Pennington

Here you have it, Dolphins fans. The only glimmer of hope we’ve experienced over a two-decade stretch. Unless you count Jay Fiedler failing to bring Hall of Fame talent far into the playoffs during the early-2000s, we all clamor to that one season Chad Pennington had.

We easily forget that Pennington was on the Dolphins’ roster for 3 years of his career, mainly because his deteriorating shoulder prevented him from playing meaningful football throughout that time.

Instead, the best quarterback the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino retired gave us one magical season. ONE!

Don’t get me wrong, going from 1-15 to 11-5 is one of the most impressive story lines any team experienced in the 21st-century, but it wasn’t enough to solidify the quarterback position for this team. It wasn’t even enough to earn the Dolphins a playoff win – losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wildcard game that 2008 season.

The runner-up MVP – and one of the most-accurate passers in NFL history – threw 4 interceptions that Wildcard game, giving the Dolphins virtually no chance at succeeding. That playoff game epitomizes the Dolphins 21st-century. Just when you think we’ve taken the next step, we get smacked in the face and put back in our place.

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