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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs Bills Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

For how cursed the Miami Dolphins are, someone must really love them.

All of these injures seem unnatural, but playing against Sam Darnold and Josh Allen twice a year is the kind of luck Miami needs to stay in the playoff hunt.

Couple Steven Hauschka‘s kicking woes with Cody Parkey‘s kicking misfortunes earlier this season and Miami should be closer to 4-8 than 8-4. At the very least, those meltdowns against the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals are a wash.

Maybe it was meant to be from the start; with plenty of alumni on-hand to introduce 6 former Dolphins into the Walk of Fame. Dan Marino was hanging out with his former teammates as the Marks Brothers (Mark Clayton and Mark Duper) received their own stars near each other. Safety Dick Anderson looks like he can still cover better than T.J. McDonald, while Jason Taylor looks like he can easily be more productive than Charles Harris at defensive end.

The Dolphins could really use a 2x All Pro linebacker like John Offerdahl to compliment this linebacking room that is wildly inconsistent (more on Kiko below). And after watching Jesse Davis allow two sacks, commit a holding penalty and get called for a false start all within the first half, Miami could most certainly use a reliable offensive lineman like Jon Giesler.

The Dolphins definitely didn’t deserve the victory, but they continue their push for a playoff spot while the Buffalo Bills pray that Josh Allen can learn to throw a football accurately.

Offensive Dearth

There is plenty to pick apart with this team.

If you didn’t watch this game, the box score would be lying. The final score shows a Dolphins 21-17 victory; Ryan Tannehill displayed a quarterback rating of 103.6 on his way to throwing for 3 touchdowns and only 1 interception while his rookie counterpart looked the part by compiling a 71.7 passer rating with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

But anyone who watched the game can point to a few more stats that tell a better picture. Ryan Tannehill threw for 137 yards while Josh Allen ran for 135 yards. None of this accounts for all the scrambling Allen did to extend plays while Tannehill is immune to sensing pressure and continues to pad the opposing defense’s sack total.

We watched Allen nearly win the game by heaving a bomb to a wide open Charles Clay in the end zone, while on the other end, we almost witnessed Tannehill absorb an inexcusable safety. Yes, I agree that the offensive line was leaky (as always), but he needs to analyze and understand situational football better than he does.

If you caught the ‘Victory Monday’ podcast earlier today, you’ll notice a few of these points, but it’s evident Tannehill does not have a natural grasp of the quarterback position. We are playing with a performer who is smart and exceptional when he studies a craft, but we don’t have a player that can react and improvise well.

The offensive woes of this team continue. Miami managed to score a touchdown on their opening drive for their second-consecutive game. From there, I’d say it was going downhill, but that would be way too much momentum for this team.

Within the first 5 minutes, Miami scored 7 points. For the next 55 minutes, they only scored 14 points. The offensive line didn’t help, but this game wasn’t on them. Ryan Tannehill and Miami’s skill position players need to execute more. You don’t spend a:

  • 1st-round pick on Ryan Tannehill
  • 1st-round pick on DeVante Parker
  • 2nd-round pick on Mike Gesicki
  • 3rd-round pick on Kenyan Drake
  • 3rd-round pick on Kenny Stills (via trade)

Have 1st-round picks handling the most important positions on the offensive line, and yet only manage to score 20.3 points a game.

An argument can be made that Tannehill’s injured shoulder along with Brock Osweiler‘s 5-game stretch are reasons for the team’s offensive woes, but in the four games before Tannehill’s injury against the Bengals, when he (and their biggest playmaker, Albert Wilson) were completely healthy, the team was averaging just 20.5 points per game.

It’s evident Tannehill’s shoulder is still bothering him. You can tell his longer passes don’t have the same strength and they flutter at their peak. His linedrives don’t have the same zip. I’ll give him credit, the touchdown pass to DeVante Parker on the opening drive was impressive. It wasn’t his best throw, but he was about to take a shot to his legs as he put enough strength on the ball to hit Parker in the chest.

Parker absorbed a big shot in the end zone to earn that touchdown reception, his first in 28 weeks.

The Dolphins are going to need Parker’s big body to absorb plenty more hits this season, as Tannehill’s injured shoulder is going to nullify much of the vertical game going forward.

One of the most interesting disparities to see was the number of snaps Nick O’Leary received over Mike Gesicki (32 snaps vs 22). There’s no reason to give up on the 2nd-round tight end. He should see a significant boost in production next season as a sophomore (though, partially by default), but he has been nearly invisible during his rookie season. How long can Miami get away without significant contributions from their tight ends?

This Defense Bends and Receives Breaks

Playing Sam Darnold (six interceptions) and Josh Allen (two interceptions) in four games will certainly benefit the Dolphins chances of making the playoffs this season.

We watched Allen torment the Dolphins defense on a hot, sunny day in South Florida as he smoothly scrambled to extend and (attempt to) make plays. He had Miami’s defensive lines turned every which way, and while Matt Burke understood he needed to put a spy on the opposing quarterback, it didn’t translate too well, as Allen would outmaneuver and embarrass our linebackers while on his way to rushing for 135 yards.

Miami’s throwback jersey’s must have brought the team some good luck, as Josh Allen missed some wide open receivers. There were a few throws that were just off the receiver’s fingertips, but there were also passes that weren’t anywhere near a Buffalo Bills receiver.

Miami’s pass rush was misleadingly effective, totaling 8 pressures on Josh Allen, but they were only able to connect on two sacks (one of them from cornerback Bobby McCain). The defensive line is the most expensive unit on the roster and it continues to underwhelm. While they’re able to pressure opposing quarterbacks, they’re never able to finish.

The Bills came into the game with two injured offensive linemen and played the majority this game with only two healthy starters as Buffalo Bills starting center Russell Bdoine left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury and did not return.

Xavien Howard continues to be the antithesis of the Dolphins defensive line as the inexpensive second-round pick recorded another multi-interception game – impressively picking off Josh Allen twice in this game. Howard isn’t going to be inexpensive for long, as the young corner is getting ready to enter the final year of his rookie contract and speculated to be on the verge of signing a contract extension.

Minkah Fitzpatrick continues to be a star for this team. The rookie cornerback blankets opposing receivers exceptionally, which is rare to see from a rookie and even rarer to see from a Dolphins first-round draft pick.

While Minkah plays a smart and sound game, the rest of the Dolphins secondary has had a tendency to leave receivers open on the field. Whether it’s scheme or a misunderstanding by the young defensive players, there seems to be a string of communication breakdowns tied to this team.

Bobby McCain was found passing Buffalo’s receiver Zay Jones to nobody in the back of the endzone for the Bills second touchdown of the game. While that probably wasn’t his intended zone to cover, he has to realize that there is nobody in that area. Were the linebackers supposed to cover their zone deeper? Was another corner supposed to cover the right side of the endzone? It’s tough to convict a specific player without knowing all of the other variables, but something needs to be cleaned up with the team’s communication.

I asked Minkah about the team’s communication issues after the game and he assured me that “there isn’t too much of a communication issue”.

I respect Minkah for sticking up for his defense, he certainly isn’t going to throw his team under the bus, but the communication problems exist. And for all of the plays where they have tight coverage, there’s an equal amount of plays where receivers are running free.

Though after all of this, we’re back to the linebackers; they are still a liability in coverage. Raekwon McMillan still needs to gain a step (possibly as he still recovers from his ACL injury last season), but there’s no excuse for Kiko Alonso.

Kiko looks like he knows what he’s supposed to do on every play, and yet he still gets beat. Kiko is great going downhill and will recover running sideline to sideline. His motor is relentless and his durability while with the Dolphins has been impressive, but he should never take a step backwards when the ball is snapped, he is a complete liability in coverage. Why Matt Burke makes Kiko the spy is beyond me.

If it weren’t for Darren Rizzi‘s special team’s unit being so crisp, and the Buffalo Bills committing so many mistakes, the Miami Dolphins are looking at a 5-7 record and an end to their 2018 NFL season.

The Locked on Dolphins crew will be back at Hard Rock Stadium next week against the New England Patriots. Make sure to check out all of the exclusive content throughout the week leading into the Dolphins most pivotal game of the year….until the following week when they have to win again.

We would like to take a moment to thank Hard Rock Stadium, the Public Relations staff (especially Scott Stone) and the Pepsi team for being so kind and helpful to us.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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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.

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.

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Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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…

Playoff Bound

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.

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.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Trade for Tight End Adam Shaheen

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

 

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