Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs. Lions – Week Seven Preview

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Who: Dolphins (4-2) vs. Lions (2-3)
When: October 21, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Brock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 87 degrees, 72% humidity, 99 degrees real feel
Vegas Slant: Lions -2.5

Dolphins-Lions

Only six weeks into the new season and Dolphins fans find themselves in familiar, unwelcomed territory. Though plenty is different regarding the 2018 and 2017 teams, two primary factors head the marquee:

The Dolphins are 4-2 and turn to a backup quarterback for an undetermined period of time.

Something of a silver lining, at least this time around Miami has a signal-caller that puts off the appearance that the results matter. Evidence by everything from his sideline demeanor to his instantly classic role on the show Very Cavallari, Jay Cutler confirmed that he truly does not care.

That isn’t the case for Brock Osweiler (or Brock Lobster, Brocktober, Hard Brock Stadium – whatever it is we’re calling him). His press availability on Wednesday, immediately after being named Sunday’s starter was, dare I say…captivating?

Osweiler spent three years with Adam Gase in Denver, but only started seven games once Gase was gone to Chicago. The rest of that time was spent prepping Peyton Manning within this very scheme. There’s a quantifiable level of mental aptitude there, and it was on display in the game Sunday.

The fairy tale ending is the ultimate hope for all Dol-fans, but Osweiler’s physical limitations are the primary obstacle standing in the way for the perfect Hollywood script.

The Dolphins are 4-2 and have a chance to get to 5-2 for the first time since 2003. If that happens, Osweiler then gets a crack at his former team on a short week. Fans are either in for a really exhilarating five-day stretch, or back to the same old Dolphins.

It starts Sunday against Detroit.

The Lions’ Scheme:
Offense

Owner of the best name in sports, Detroit Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has drawn the ire of a significant portion of the Lions fan-base.

Cooter’s scheme is a variation of the West Coast offense with a gap-blocking scheme in the running game. This approach suits the Lions’ personnel, but the predictability of his play-calling is the primary reason fans want him out (then again, 30 fan bases around the league probably hate their play-caller).

Rub routes, angle routes and plenty of quick-game to involve the talented skill-set is the idea behind Detroit’s offense. Once Detroit has achieved a manageable down-and-distance, the deep shots being to flood in.

The Lions are a dead-even 50-50 split in terms of play choice on first down. From that, Cooter will operate with built-in shot plays off play-action and work off of the many screen looks his offense features.

Defense:

A copy and paste of the Patriots scheme would be a passable blurb for this passage. Matt Patricia brings his variation of Bill Belichick’s defense to the Motor City, but the Lions haven’t yet taken to the scheme.

Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Mixing up the fronts and operating out of sub-packages regardless off down-and-distance, Patricia will show the Miami offense as much as it can handle. The key for Miami will be countering that variety with multiplicity of its own.

With the Dolphins 12-personnel package, and the sudden emergence of Nick O’Leary, the Dolphins hurry-up could catch the Lions dime package on the field against a run-heavy set operated by Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore.

Peeling defensive linemen into coverage, stunts, twists, blitzing defensive backs, there’s no reason to think Patricia won’t send the kitchen sink at Osweiler.

The Players:
Offense

Matt Stafford is one the league’s best quarterbacks. His big arm, ability to adjust his platform and arm-angle, and passing lane manipulation make him a tough match-up. He is as aggressive as they come and has some boom-or-bust to him as a result.

The running game is vital for Detroit. Rookie Kerryon Johnson snapped a drought that spanned five years (70 games) without a 100-yard rusher. Johnson is the primary back, Theo Riddick is one of the best receivers from the backfield in the NFL and LeGarrette Blount is the hammer.

Johnson is far-and-away the most dangerous of the three and Miami needs to bring a lunch pail mentality to get him to the ground. None of the Detroit backs are in the top 50 in yards after contact average.

The pass catchers are the most dangerous group of this team. Golden Tate will challenge the tackling ability of the Miami secondary, Kenny Golladay is among the premier deep-threats in the business and Marvin Jones is a nuanced route runner.

Tate is 14th in the NFL in yards per route run and Golladay is 20th.

The tight end position hasn’t provided a lot of bite in either the passing game or the ground game, but the Detroit offensive line has played well. Right Tackle Rick Wagner has been excellent in both facets of the game (though he has allowed three sacks) and Taylor Decker has been a mauler in the ground game, but struggled with speed rushers.

Rookie Center-Turned-Guard Frank Ragnow is off to a difficult start. Ragnow has allowed a team-high 15 pressures, but has demonstrated some of the brute force in the running game that made him a first round pick.

It might behoove Miami to dial-up similar A-gap pressure it showed in the Cincinnati game. The interior line of the Lions has shown some cohesion issues and Stafford is the 23rd ranked passer when under pressure.

Defense:

Aside from a few recognizable names, the Detroit defense is a who’s who of unproven players. Safeties Glover Quinn and Quandre Diggs (two stalwarts on the Lion D) have had slow starts to the season. Quinn has been victimized in coverage allowing all eight passes in his coverage area to go complete for 112 yards.

Darius Slay is best ignored by the Miami passing game. He’s a shutdown corner that will take the football away if you try him. Adam Gase will likely throw a lot of clear-out routes at the pro-bowl corner.

Jamal Agnew is out for the year and Teez Tabor left the Green Bay game with an injury; his status remains unclear for Sunday. Nevin Lawson mans the slot position primarily but the third cornerback role remains a concern for this Detroit defense.

Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Patricia’s defense is a sound tackling unit, and they’ll need to be in order to prevent Albert Wilson and company from going off. This, however, doesn’t extend into the linebacker group. Sophomore Jarrad Davis is struggling with six missed tackles on the season.

Davis and Christian Jones are the only ‘backers that have played significant reps – both have had their problems with the run and the pass.

Detroit’s pass rush has been largely non-existent in the early going this year. Ezekiel Ansah hasn’t been active since week one and his status remains unknown for Sunday. Devon Kennard leads the defense in snaps and he gets to the quarterback on 13% of his pass rush snaps.

Beyond Kennard, there isn’t a whole lot to write home about for the sack-artists on this team.

On the interior Da’Shawn Hand is having a great season but, like the other units, depth is lacking. A’Shawn Robinson is a stout run defender but has conditioning issues and offers nothing as a rusher.

On the tape and via Pro Football Focus, this unit has plenty of areas Miami could attack. The protection in the Chicago game was the best it has been for the Dolphins in years – and that might not change Sunday.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

South Florida is an unforgiving football environment. The Miami defense played a lot of snaps on Sunday in an emotional win. Conditioning could prove problematic even with the reinforcements arriving from the injury list.

As is the case every single week, running backs catching passes is a major concern. Theo Riddick on the angle route is a terrifying thought for Raekwon McMillan and Kiko Alonso. Miami will need to blitz Stafford in an effort to disrupt his timing and keep the back in to help with pass-pro.

The Opportunities:

Miami’s running game got healthy against Chicago and that trend ought to continue. The Lions are thin up front and Miami can use the weather, and its own deception, to keep those big boys on the move.

Leading the NFL in interceptions, Miami has been terrific at baiting quarterbacks into questionable decisions. Stafford is prone for the turnover-laden game once in a while and the Dolphins need to do all they can to help their backup quarterback.

The Keys:

1.) The ground game – This is Miami’s best chance all year to have a huge day on the ground. The Lions defense has struggled against the run and is short on bodies up front. That does not bode well for the road team in the Miami hotbox.

2.) Tackling – Detroit has a slew of guys that can burn defenses with the football. Chicago got the best of Miami with Tarik Cohen last week – time to get back to the fundamentals.

3.) Winning one-on-ones on offense – This is always the case but Miami needs another stellar pass protection effort (which seems likely against this Lions’ defense). Additionally, Miami needs its receivers to get off the line-of-scrimmage and present available targets for Osweiler early in the route.

4.) Health on defense – Miami has been thin for a few weeks now. With Bobby McCain and Cameron Wake likely back, the rotation can be implemented once more while simultaneously getting two of the team’s best players back on the field.

The Projected Result:

Who’s ready for Brocktober? The nicknames and the fun can continue with the benefit of a home game for the Dolphins. The Lions are off a bye, but so were the Bears last week. Teams coming off a bye week in 2018 are 1-3.

A couple of factors go against Miami here:

1.) Emotional, hard-fought victories tend to lead towards let-downs.
2.) Backup quarterbacks fare far worse in their second start.

But the match-up favors Miami in a lot of ways. This one has the potential to light up the scoreboard again, but as we’ve seen with this team over the last few years, beating the Dolphins in the fourth quarter is difficult.

With a lack of depth, or even starting-caliber players on defense, Miami’s offense can build off last week’s success.

The game follows an up-and-down pattern into the fourth quarter where Adam Gase’s Dolphins do what they do best – win football games late. Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore prove to be too much as the Dolphins get to 5-2 for the first time since 2003.

Dolphins 26
Lions 20

@WingfieldNFL

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending