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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs Packers Instant Reaction

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

We knew this was going to be an embarrassment, we just didn’t think it would be this painful.

Miami, already decimated with injuries, simply had to limp into the bye week without accumulating any other casualties.

Instead, the Dolphins will look to rely on Leonte Carroo to save their season.

A lot happened in this 31-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers, and contrary to the final score, there were some bright spots in this game. Though, like always, this team leaves us with more questions than answers.

Honestly, the best thing we’re going to enjoy today is the New York Jets getting slaughtered by the Buffalo Bills and Tom Brady‘s New England Patriots falling flat on their face against the Tennessee Titans.

Below are a few things we noticed from the now 5-5 Miami Dolphins loss to the Packers:

Offensive Guru Wanted

Listen, we, as fans, expected nothing coming into this game. It was going to be a massacre, and we were all going to play masochist and watch the game anyway.

This team played without its starting offensive tackles, its starting center, its starting left guard, its starting tight end, its biggest wildcard/play maker/offensive threat (Albert Wilson) and the most obvious omission, its starting quarterback.

And yet, if I told you that Brock Osweiler had more passing yards than Aaron Rodgers, and that Frank Gore would average almost 7 yards a carry on 13 carries, you would think Miami got into some crazy offensive shootout.

But alas, Miami’s offense is shooting a slingshot while every other offense (except the Jets) is living in the 21st century.

After watching Miami fail to score a touchdown against the Jets last week, we weren’t expected an offensive unit that was decimated by more injuries to perform better. Then again, we also didn’t think we’d go two full football games without an offensive touchdown. It’s extremely deflating to watch this team convert three early trips to the red zone into just 9 points; especially when the rest of the team is able to produce turnovers, get a 4th-down stop in Packers territory, and block punts close to the endzone.

This team is doing everything it can to put the offense in a position to capitalize and they just can’t do it. Finishing a drive is more toxic to this organization than Miko Grimes.

The obvious scapegoat is the guru behind this entire offense, Adam Gase. And while there’s merit to removing Gase as offensive coordinator (so he can focus on being an actual head coach), I can’t pin this specific performance on Gase. He was working with an injury-riddled offensive line and a quarterback who’s red zone fumble wasn’t even his most embarrassing play of the night (his interception to one-time free agent visitor Bashaud Breeland was pretty bad, and possibly more costly given that it happened on Miami’s 38 yard line).

Thing is, for as much success Gase has had with backups, he hasn’t accomplished much on offense. Sean McVay has better talent with the Los Angeles Rams, but Jeff Fisher had much of the same offensive talent and got himself fired. McVay revamped that offense, and turned it into the threat they now are…THAT is an offensive guru.

Again, it’s hard to fault Adam Gase for having a weak cast of characters, but I do blame Gase for leading an offense that hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown in over two games.

The only saving grace Miami has right now on offense is Frank Gore. Gore rushed for 90 yards on 13 carries and continues to be the number one back ahead of Kenyan Drake. Drake was banged up a little bit this game, but he only saw 8 rushes. Reason being? One running back had 6.9 yards per carry while the other had a mere 3.4.

At this point, 10 weeks in, I’m not sure the Dolphins are misusing Drake, he just may not have been ready to handle everything that comes with being a number one back (blitz pickup, pass protecting, etc). He’s flashy and a playmaker, and Miami needs to figure out a way to better utilize his raw skill set.

Maybe with DeVante Parker and Jakeem Grant being injured, Miami can flex him out wide. It’s not like they have that many options available for them, anyway.

While cutting on a route, Jakeem Grant went down and appeared to injure his Achilles. He had been dealing with an Achilles injury prior to this, and was trying to play through it. Though it’s pretty easy to say it now, they probably shouldn’t have let a player who lives off of their shiftiness and speed play with one of their most vital muscles injured. After such a promising and productive year for the returner and wide receiver, Grant will most likely have a long recovery before returning to game action. If Tony Lippett‘s Achilles injury is any indication, we might not see Grant perform in a Dolphins uniform again.

After the game, Parker’s arm was in a sling.

Darren Rizzi is the Team’s MVP

There’s a reason why Darren Rizzi has survived three head coaching regimes, and why he currently owns the title of “Assistant Head Coach”.

Originally hired by Tony Sparano, Rizzi has always had an exceptional special teams unit. He started his Dolphins tenure with two really good special teams players – Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields – but he hasn’t been afraid to move on from a player when he sees a better opportunity available.

Other than the curious case of Andrew Franks from 2015 – 2016, Rizzi has nailed every move he’s made with his kickers and punters. Rizzi made his most surprising move when he kept Matt Darr over Brandon Fields in 2015. Then, after a subpar rookie season, fans were wondering why Rizzi ditched a successful Matt Darr for the lefty-kicking Matt Haack. 2018 proved that Rizzi both knew what he was investing in, and knew how to evolve Haack into a weapon rather than a liability. In comparison, Darr hasn’t played since the 2016 season.

Today, the Dolphins special teams unit was the only reason Miami looked like a relevant football team for 40 minutes.

Overall, Leonte Carroo may be a 3rd-round disappointment for Dolphins fans, but he was the most valuable Dolphins player this game, and he’s going to have a much larger role for the last 6 games of the season.

Carroo recovered a blocked punt, recovered another fumble on special teams, converted a fake punt for a 1st-down and also had himself a 20-yard reception on 3rd-and-19 to top it all off.

Although his kick out of bounds ended up being the catalyst for Green Bay’s dominance during the second half, Jason Sanders had a good game – making 4 of 4 field goals – and continues to be a reliable kicker for this team. Most Dolphins fans felt losing Cody Parkey was a big deal this offseason, but the boy from Jupiter has missed 5 field goals and 2 extra points so far this season (after missing both field goal attempts and 2 of his 4 extra points earlier today), and doesn’t look worth anywhere near the $15m kicker the Chicago Bears signed this offseason.

Green Bay ended up pulling off a fake punt on Miami, which will certainly blemish the otherwise phenomenal game the special teams unit had. If it weren’t for them, 14-12 in the 3rd-quarter against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers wouldn’t have been possible.

Miami’s Defense Consistently Underperforms

The Green Bay Packers were beatable today. Aaron Rodgers did not look too good, and Miami was able to contain the future hall of fame quarterback for a majority of the game.

They just forgot to compensate for the other Aaron on the team.

Aaron Jones ran for only 54 less yards than what Rodgers passed for, as the sophomore running back drafted in the 5th-round gashed Miami’s putrid rushing defense for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Miami’s linebackers looked overwhelmed, and their defensive tackles didn’t do much in terms of containment. Robert Quinn was able to record 1.5 sacks, but he’s been better at setting the edge than sacking the quarterback. And that’s fine when that’s your job as a role player, not when you’re making over $11m and expected to swing games in your team’s favor.

With more communication issues and questionable play calls this game, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Matt Burke during the bye week. I’m not too sure that changing the defensive coordinator will suddenly spark the defense, but it’s almost conclusive that Burke is not going to be returning as defensive coordinator next season.

Xavien Howard looked lost on a touchdown to Davante Adams, settling in the endzone while the receiver stopped on the 3-yard line and jogged in for the score. He still had a “good” game overall, but he also needs to cut down on the few negative plays he has each game. He has now allowed a touchdown in two of the last three games.

Reshad Jones sat the first quarter and part of the second quarter as punishment for quitting on the team last week. The team certainly missed him during Green Bay’s first two touchdown drives, but it’s not like he became a difference maker while in the lineup. That’s not to imply that the team is better when Jones isn’t in the lineup, but something has been amiss recently with the lifelong Dolphin.

The only clear-cut difference maker on defense continues to be Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had a great game as the boundary cornerback.

Bobby McCain was beat by Davante Adams in the first-quarter on an inside slant while he was on the boundary. He returned to the slot in the 2nd-quarter and played adequately before being blindsided by Packers receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in the 3rd-quarter. McCain was knocked out for a minute before popping to his feet. He walked to the locker room on his own power, but did not return to the game. The safe assumption is he suffered a concussion, and will have the next week to rest from most football activity.

By the way, remember when we thought the Buffalo Bills were two easy wins on our schedule? Might have to rethink that. One week after the Dolphins beat the Jets 13-6 (and failed to score an offensive touchdown), the Bills and Matt Barkley – his first game since 2016 – won 41-10.

This might be a long winter.

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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  1. Avatar

    Pacificfinfan1

    November 12, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    Good article Jason you put a massive amount of info into it. I have to disagree hard on your take about WR Jakeem Grant not being a Dolphin ever again. Grant not only stepped up his game as a returner he has worked his ass off to become the Dolphins best WR even if Adam Gase refuses to use him that way just because he is only 5’6 is wrong.

    This was one of your best articles that I have read.

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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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