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Miami Dolphins

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright… Right?

Chris Kowalewski

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Owner Stephen Ross attempted to give fans a pre-flight safety briefing back on 31st December 2018, informing them that for the Miami Dolphins – his 2.8 billion dollar baby – it’s going to be a difficult (but necessary) journey ahead.

Fast forward a little over 8 months and the NFL’s 100th season has taken off with Miami’s journey having already flown deep into significant turbulence. Despite Ross’ early warning, fans and media alike are split as to whether they should fasten their seatbelts and ride it out, destined for smooth sailing ahead; or whether the Dolphins are already tanking spiralling out of control towards inevitable doom.

Whatever their fate, the 2019 Miami Dolphins are 0-2 following a second deflating defeat at home.

After being outscored 102-10 through 2 games, you can tune into any NFL related media content and you’ll hear the endlessly repeated stats, the open mocking and a rising uncertainty as to whether the Dolphins have a plan of any kind to transform themselves into a future contender. 

Many had assumed that the correct approach for Miami’s rebuild would be to grow around a core group of young players who were already present within the building – including Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick – but grumbles and rumours quickly began to grow and circulate. GM Chris Grier and HC Brian Flores have claimed since Day 1 together that their vision for the team is aligned and Stephen Ross has openly supported the plan for the years ahead. Not weeks or even months ahead. For years ahead.

By now, everyone should be aware that there will be no quick fix.

The trade of Laremy Tunsil, widely considered to be among the NFL’s top left tackles, proved that the franchise currently considers every player to have a price – a value by which the team must consider whether the future years of the Dolphins can be made brighter through trade or release, despite darkening the days and months ahead.

The plan also includes a fundamental requirement for players to buy into the teaching and coaching systems which Brian Flores and his staff have begun to put in place. Key word being ‘begun’. Whatever development of the coaching staff itself is needed will continue to take place behind closed doors. For so many years, the Dolphins have talked both publicly and privately about the need for an ever-elusive culture change – to one which establishes commitment, discipline and a ‘team above all’ mentality.

In today’s NFL, establishing that culture change is likely harder than it ever has been.

Yes, for many players, Miami is Distraction City. Rookies have burnt out amidst the glitz and glamor, whilst experienced veterans have taken advantage of the weighty paycheck – their primary goal having been achieved – happy to relax on the sandy shores of South Beach among the young, rich and beautiful. It almost seems that running an NFL franchise in a city such as Miami would be an impossible task.

For some players, the focus is on personal fame and money. To them, football isn’t so much about achieving team success, but about gaining single status as the ‘highest paid’ at their respective position, to the extent that fans and front offices increasingly see players hold-out from their contracts and on-field work.

For others, social media remains king. Building a brand, however socially toxic, is of utmost importance to them as a way of brainwashing supporters into believing that the player is always right. They can burn their feet, abandon practice, complain about helmets and continue to receive the vocal support of their coaches, yet still social media can be used to break from their previous contractual and promise-filled bonds. Make no mistake about it, those players hold a significant level of power over the franchise and cause nothing but team distraction and division.

So how does a team find success in this ever-changing world? 

It all comes back to culture. A team must establish a culture to which it adheres for the longterm. It might not be an easy one to embrace, but it must also be one built upon the principal of working as a team. 

One which doesn’t give full control and advantage to over-priced free agents. 

One which might run practices hard, is demanding, but in which players know that the its sole purpose is to achieve team success.

We all know which franchise is constantly praised for its continuity at Head Coach, the discipline its system requires and the interchangeability of the roster pieces. 

Hint: The Dolphins just lost to them 43-0. 

And when players leave that team, you will hear about the difficult practices. It wasn’t fun, it was demanding. But that’s what it takes to find sustained success. 

Back in Miami, one of 2018’s brightest acquisitions was Alabama star safety, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Praised coming out of college for his unparalleled work ethic, he was considered to be a versatile defensive piece and after the hire of ‘defensive mastermind’ Brian Flores, one which could be shaped into an NFL superstar. 

Minkah’s unhappiness quickly came to light earlier this offseason. Granted, he had complained of former Dolphins’ DC Matt Burke’s scheme and the lateness with which he would know his role on a weekly basis. Last season, he had also confirmed directly to LockedOn Dolphins’ very own Travis Wingfield post-game that he embraced learning multiple positions, which helped him to understand the defense as a whole and to react instinctively. Despite his displeasure with the 2018 scheme, Minkah played well and was forecast to grow into one of the brightest shining stars on the roster.

Coaching changes of 2019 took place and Minkah’s mother soon enough took to Twitter to voice complaints on her son’s behalf that he didn’t feel he was in the ‘right position’ to be successful. Behind the scenes, experienced coaches requested that Minkah continued to learn multiple positions to ensure scheme flexibility – not to dilute his talents, but to enhance them. It requires a special talent to be able to absorb such a responsibility and the coaches believe he’s capable of doing it. They believe it will help the team.

But perhaps the task is too difficult for him. Perhaps arriving in the NFL on a rebuilding franchise from a National Champion college program is too tough to swallow.

And so Minkah becomes the latest Dolphin to bring added drama to the table, requesting and obtaining permission from the team to seek a trade. Although he stated that his usage in Week 2 was ‘more fun’, the extent to which Minkah’s relationship with the front office can now be repaired is debatable and several teams have already reportedly enquired about his availability and the potential cost of a trade. 

If Minkah wants out, there’s nothing any of us can do to change his mind. Highlighted as Nick Saban’s favourite player he’d ever coached, Minkah can be a special talent, but if his mindset cannot be compatible with the requests of the coaching staff, perhaps he is not a right fit for the culture which they wish to establish. The time of players having leverage over the heads of the franchise must end in Miami in order for there to be positive result out of this recent roster demolition. 

It seems that Stephen Ross finally acknowledges this. A man with notoriously deep pockets who has previously known little else other than success and is desperate for his team to be a perennial contender.

It seems that Chris Grier knows this, tasked with reducing the roster to its bare foundations and acquiring the draft capital and salary space needed to build it almost from scratch.

It seems that Brian Flores known this too. Let’s not forget where he’s come from, both professionally and personally as he has been brought in with a 5-year guaranteed contract to set the expectations, demands and work ethic to put this franchise on the right course.

Perhaps despite all the turbulence, their visions are indeed aligned and the Dolphins aren’t directionless as many others would have you believe.

Stephen Ross made it loud and clear that they would no longer be in ‘win now’ mode. That mentality had brought nothing but years of mediocrity and failure. For a franchise that has discarded, traded and sold the vast majority of its old foundation blocks, focus will shift to finding the pieces who fit the talent and mindset requirements of the Dolphins’ new regime. 

Speaking with the Sun Sentinel last week, Ross addressed the critics of the fans and the organization and reiterated his thoughts on the plan ahead:

When we hired Brian Flores, we were looking for someone who had certain qualities and one of them was handling challenges and adversity… The goal isn’t to patch some holes to go 9-7 and make the playoffs. I want to compete for and win Super Bowls. We took an objective look at our situation at the end of last year and realized that we were a long way away from where we need to be. Our roster, salary-cap situation, everything… We have to approach things differently and think outside the box… We are trying to win every game we play and grow and improve every day, but we also have to balance making decisions that help us build a championship organization.

We have some young players on this team that Chris and Brian and their staffs have been evaluating that we’re excited about being part of this team for a long time. Guys who are on board, talented, team-first and love the game of football. Those guys that put the team first and want to be a part of building something special together, we want them here for a long time and will want to reward them for that.

We have tremendous fans and to them I say thank you. We said it wouldn’t be easy, but it was something we are committed to and believe it’s the only way to build a team to win continually. Nothing great in life was ever achieved easily. There are no shortcuts or magic formulas. This is the NFL.”

So it’s confirmed that a ‘win now’ mentality isn’t the right approach at this stage for the Miami Dolphins. A lot of work is yet to be done to bring in players and establish a new upturn by finding players willing to grind through the difficult days, to win it all together as a team.

Some of those players may be on the team already, a lot of them won’t be.

2019 will be an evaluation period for everyone on the field.

But not all is lost. This team isn’t completely devoid of talent, nor is it absent of leaders who can see the larger scope and the light at the end of the tunnel.

Bobby McCain, another player who has bounced around in the defensive backfield realizes it. When asked whether Flores’ program is too mentally and physically difficult stated “It’s football; if it’s too hard for you, you can go play [elsewhere]. We want mentally, physically tough players.

Jerome Baker, a nominated a captain by his teammates at only 22 years old, instead of requesting a trade after the loss to Baltimore stated “I don’t want anybody to question that we’ll all stick together. It’s just one loss. We’ve got to bounce back and ultimately stick together. 

Even Jesse Davis – a player tasked with switching sides on an already jumbled offensive line – when questioned by beat-writer Joe Schad as to whether the Dolphins are positioning themselves to take over the AFC East in the future stated: “I think so. Especially when we get guys that want to get in here in the door, and we get those guys brought in. The faster everybody buys in, it’s going to be a lot smoother. I mean yeah, we have hell days. But you have to do that just to get that game feel. And the faster we quit b****in’ about it, the smoother it’s going to be”.

So fans, take some solace in the fact that beyond the superficial mess, complaints and lopsided on-field losses it’s clear that some guys get it. It’s likely that the majority of the locker room gets it too. They’ve already bought in to Brian Flores’ methods, but the roster is too thin, too inexperienced and too raw to realistically compete in 2019.

When Stephen Ross told that this would likely be the case, fans seemingly embraced the concept of a full rebuild. It brought the possibility of the first overall pick and the acquisition of multiple others over the next two drafts to reinforce this team with an influx of talented players, each equipped with the mindset that a Brian Flores led team requires.

Media and casual fans might continue to mock and moan as the season progresses, but the plan was always going to be clear. 

So in the end, is everything going to be alright? Will the plan work? No one can know for sure right now, but I applaud the Miami Dolphins for taking the difficult road and trying something different. It would have been too easy to maintain the course, sell the tickets, sell the jerseys and continue to fall flat at the end of the year.

Ross wants change. Grier wants change. And Flores has been brought in to ultimately deliver it – not now – but in the years ahead.

It’s going to be tough, but climbing down into the abyss may perhaps be the only way to save ourselves from perpetual disappointment.

You may as well try to embrace it.

Physically located across the pond, but mentally always in Miami. A qualified lawyer, NFL sponge, aspiring writer and self-proclaimed IKEA furniture construction expert, he’s looking ahead to a brighter future for the Dolphins after decades of wading in the depths of mediocrity. Always on the search for any excuse to talk all-things Dolphins.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    September 16, 2019 at 10:17 am

    The clock is ticking… They’ve got about a month to get a win. If they don’t, people are going to start comparing Flores to Cam Cameron.

  2. Avatar

    Keeb

    September 16, 2019 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you for this article. Very well written and does a great job of explaining the very thing most choose not to. The Dolphins are rebuilding from scratch and this season, along with next season possibly, will be tough for fans to watch. However you can not short change the process of rebuilding the roster/cap to build up a winner for years to come.

    I will be watching Dolphin player reactions through each week. I will also watch to see who seems to be doing their job well week-to-week, though that is not so easy for a fan to really know. But little improvements here and there are how I will judge the 2019-2020 Dolphins. Still hoping for a win against the Jets!

  3. Avatar

    MARK D WHITE

    September 16, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Good article. Thank you. However, this part of the plan was easy. Anyone could’ve tore this team down. The difficulty will be finding draftees and FAs that will want to play for the worst team in the NFL as well as picking/signing the right talent. Time will tell. They just bought a few more years of my devotion (45 yrs and counting). A speculative article about an approach to the build up would be interesting.

  4. Avatar

    Wayne

    September 16, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    Great article but come on man Brian Flores is not “defensive mastermind” if that was true we wouldn’t have the biggest blow out in Miami Dolphins history.

  5. Avatar

    Marchcool

    September 17, 2019 at 7:53 am

    This story is even more revolting that the team status right now. Clearly written by someone that is licking Ross’ as. “Rebuilding mode”, “football culture”, just word that they don’t even understand, including the author of this piece of garbage. I see no football culture whatsoever during Ross tenure as owner. Rather, completely the opposite, mainly due to the incompetence of the staff he chose himself in the past and present. For Ross and his current staff “rebuilding” means DESTRUCTION. Just see the trades during the past years, and most of them are scratch headings which produced chaos instead of a “rebuild”.
    I won’t be surprisef if by the end of the season and during the offseason, X. Howard, J. Sanders, Drake, Grant, Wilson, and the remaining of the few good players are gone. Still the front office and the author of this column will claim the “rebuilding mode” and the “football culture of excellence, commitment and discipline”. I simply don’t see how the best players in college football will be wishing to play with this putrid organization which only deliver words and zero results and by its actions disrespect the fans in the most awful way.

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Miami Dolphins

Tua Yards Away, One Step Closer – Miami-Washington Week 6 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins 2-Point Conversion Fails, Team Falls to 0-5

It’s difficult to imagine a better game-script for the Dolphins fan that finds him/herself in the cumbersome position of rooting for better draft positioning. A chance to win on the game’s final play, a strong effort and overall improvement, but the ultimate prize remains unspoiled for a team in transition. For the first time this season, the box score didn’t tip heavily in the opposition’s favor.

 

Stat Dolphins Washington
Total Yards 271 311
Rushing 84 145
Passing 187 166
Penalties 5 (45 yards) 6 (56 yards)
3rd / 4thDown 5/16 (31.3%) 2/11 (18.2%)
Sacks For 0 5
TOP 32:39 27:21

 

The Dolphins were dead in the water under the direction of second-year quarterback Josh Rosen. His three quarters of work produced a pair of interception, five sacks and three points from the Dolphins offense.

Enter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The fired-up Fitzmagic passed for 132 fourth quarter yards en route to two Dolphin touchdown drives. The final play of the game — a failed two-point conversion dropped by Kenyan Drake — was the third bizarre play in critical situations during Miami’s ferocious surge.

A common play in today’s league — especially from Chad O’Shea’s New England influence — Drake short-motioned into the formation behind a pair of bunched receivers. The throw was a little bit off Drake’s back hip, but the back never secured the ball, ending the play before it had ever a chance.

On an earlier third down and nine, nine-year veteran Center Daniel Kilgore rolled a snap to Fitzpatrick that killed the drive. The possession prior, Fitzpatrick threw a hook-up route over the middle to Mike Gesicki, who had already been thrown to the ground. If any of those three plays is executed, Miami probably comes out of this game with a victory.

Though out-gained for the fifth-consecutive game, the Dolphins moved the chains 21 times to Washington’s 13 first downs. Miami also won the time-of-possession battle for the first time, and scored multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time.

There was enough energy and excitement to fulfil the quota for an admirable Dolphins effort, but the scoreboard not only keeps Miami in the driver’s seat for the first pick of the draft, it essentially gives the Dolphins a two-game buffer over Washington.

With strength of schedule serving as the only draft order tie-breaker, Washington’s likely greater S.O.S. means that if both teams finished with the same number of victories, the higher pick would go to Miami.

The only team left in Miami’s way is the 0-6 Cincinnati Bengals.

Let’s get to the individuals.

Quarterbacks

Last week, on The Locked On Dolphins Podcast, I referenced an article that featured quotes from prominent NFL Draft busts at the quarterback position. Joey Harrington and Brady Quinn discussed the difficult circumstances surrounding their respective insertions into the league. To summarize, they both feel that situations can ruin quarterbacks.

That feels prevalent in the case of Josh Rosen. From an armchair evaluator that was never big on Rosen’s game, the flaws he’s exhibiting have been developed. Consistently lifting his feet upon release, stepping out of clean platforms and into traffic, the kid has no trust in his surrounding parts or his own ability to dissect the defense.

His timing remains late, he’s not managing the pocket and finding space even at the level he was three weeks ago, and everything looks like a challenge for him in this offense.

Rosen will start going forward, I suppose, but this is broken quarterback that needs some time in the shop.

Fitzpatrick was excellent. He provided that classic, bearded spark that rejuvenates the team in a pinch. He was on-time, accurate, and navigated the same pass protection with no issues (no sacks, no turnovers).

Running Backs

The most interesting factoid from this position group came from Kenyan Drake’s post-game presser. Mark Walton began the game as Miami’s starting back, and Drake revealed that the two-point conversion play call had been repped all week by the Dolphins apparent new starter, and former Hurricane, Mark Walton.

Walton, after blowing a pass protection assignment on Miami’s first possession, was the most creative runner for the Dolphins. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry, a season-high for a Phins back, on six carries. Walton’s production was greater in the passing game. He caught another five for 43 yards, giving him 75 yards from scrimmage on the game.

Drake consistently churned out yards as well (10 for 40). He added six receptions for 30 yards — he and Walton’s 15 targets made up more than a third of Miami’s target-share.

Then, there’s the forgotten man, Kalen Ballage. He had three carries and no pass targets. Though Ballage bulldozed into the end zone on a goal line plunge, he has been almost entirely phased out of the offense. He’s essentially a short yardage back at this stage — can’t catch, can’t play tailback in this offense.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

It was a lot of fun to see the Dolphins receivers make some plays in a functioning offense. Devante Parker’s touchdown reception was an extremely difficult catch sliding into the end zone (go out in your backyard and try to catch a ball at your knee caps in a full sprint).

Preston Williams catch-rate remains atrocious (caught 2 of 6 targets Sunday), but his 21-yard stab on Miami’s final touchdown drive put the offense in scoring range.

Mike Gesicki is coming on, and I will not shut up about out from now until further notice. The athletic ability to catch contested balls up the seam should not be underplayed, and that catch he made to start that final drive was a godsend for this offense.

We’ll have more to say about the other tight ends in the film room session on Wednesday’s podcast.

Offensive Line

Another week of shuffling, another week of heading back to the drawing board — or is it? With Rosen in the game, the line was manhandled (five sacks). Once Fitzpatrick entered, the quarterback remained clean, and the offense produced at a rate better than league average (13 points on four drives, more than a point better than NFL average).

Jesse Davis was a tough watch at left tackle before the injury, and things did not get better working on the right side. He’s frequently a beat slow, and can’t gain the necessary depth to take on elite speed rushers. And calling Ryan Kerrigan’s speed rush elite at this stage is probably generous.

Michael Deiter remains a considerable work in progress. His tendency to get out over his skies, which makes him vulnerable to tackles that can rush effectively with lateral agility, shows up on tape each week.

J’Marcus Webb continues to struggle with speed rushes off the blindside edge, but that should be expected. After all, Webb was a street free agent. Miami found a way to help him as much as possible, but the leaks from the other side caused Miami to dial up even more max protection.

Isaiah Prince is serving the role that I always thought was best for him — sixth lineman when the formation goes heavy. I’m intrigued to look at the job he did in that role today, but I don’t have that evaluation ready just yet.

Defensive Line

Christian Wilkins is getting better as this season goes along, and that should realistically be the most important development on the roster. Wilkins’ ability to collapse pockets from the inside will determine what kind of line this group is going to be on the other side of the rebuild. He’s not getting many opportunities to do it just yet, but he’s showing up every week with impressive reps against good players.

Taco Charlton has replaced Charles Harris at the left defensive end position. We’ll have snap counts tomorrow, but Charlton is a fundamentally sound edge defender that typically funnels things back inside — something Harris struggled to grasp for 2.5 years.

John Jenkins put a nice move on Washington Left Guard Ereck Flowers, but was quiet for the rest of the game.

Linebackers

Raekwon McMillan is probably the team’s MVP to this point. He’s a decisive run defender that finds his fit and explodes through contact. This staff has discovered the best route for McMillan to be an effective player, and he’s rising to that challenge.

Jerome Baker was better in this game. He was able to put pressure on the quarterback at least a couple of times from my count, including a nifty inside move on Washington’s Left Tackle.

Vince Biegel is an interesting rush-package player — he was in the Washington backfield at times.

Deon Lacey was with Miami in camp a few summers back. He went to Buffalo and contributed on special teams, but he’s back in South Florida doing the same thing for the Dolphins.

Defensive Backs

Xavien Howard practiced throughout the week, but didn’t play Sunday, and the impact was palpable. Washington Rookie Terry McLaurin made big plays in Howard’s absence, including a touchdown against his replacement, Ken Webster.

Eric Rowe had his best game as a Dolphin. He showed recovery speed and made plays on the football a couple of times.

The same was true of rookie Nik Needham. After his call-up from the practice squad, Needham had a pass breakup and didn’t allow any catches on the day.

Reshad Jones was active against the Washington run-heavy attack. He picked up nine tackles and was a regular in the backfield.

Bobby McCain’s had a good day that included a crucial pass break-up in the end zone, but it was his profanity-laced interview post-game that caught reporter’s attention. Expressing this frustration should come as no surprise for a team captain that pours his all into this game.

Recap

The Fitzpatrick jolt should provide fans with some confidence in the coaching and the plan going forward. Suddenly, the passing concepts were effective, Miami found chunk plays to the backs, and Gesicki was unlocked up the seam.

Brian Flores’ and Patrick Graham’s defensive structure has been sound for the most part this season, and the defense’s effort was good enough to win. Washington scored 17 points on 12 possessions Sunday. The rush scheme, and consequent effort to fill those vacated areas, made life difficult on Washington’s antiquated offensive attack.

The Dolphins simply have to get better in multiple areas from a talent standpoint. The quarterback play, the offensive line, the interior rotation and edge rush, and secondary all need an infusion of players. The draft capital will allow Miami to put premium assets into those groups, then, and only then, can we adequately judge this Dolphins staff.

The Steelers are railroading the Chargers currently, so the dream for a pair of top-three picks will be put on hold, for now.

Miami’s battle with Cincinnati for the top pick could come down to a week 16 showdown in South Florida. The Bengals do have dates with Pittsburgh, the Jets, Dolphins, and up-and-down Browns to round out the season.

Given the Dolphins weak S.O.S., a victory shouldn’t interrupt the Miami’s collision course with the first pick next April. Washington’s remaining slate features only two more losing teams — it’s difficult to find another win for a team that survived a last-minute scare from the NFL’s unanimous doormat.

A win today would’ve made the path to the first pick treacherous. The loss instead, however, keeps Miami in the catbird seat to land Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

@WingfieldNFL

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 QB Prospects – Week 7

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 7 of the College Football Season

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow has been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Justin Herbert vs. Colorado,Win 45-3
Stats: 18/33 (54.5%) 261 yards (7.9 YPA) 2 TDs

Regardless of what happens throughout Justin Herbert’s professional career, he will flash moments of brilliance. The consistency of those spurts, however, remains uncertain. When the defense reacts according to the play call, it’s over. Herbert’s ability to quickly drive the ball down the field excites scouts everywhere.

The issue of inconsistency remains, well, consistent. Lapses in accuracy, proper mechanical alignment and anticipatory throws raise concerns over Herbert’s ability to translate at the next level. When there’s no urgency, everything is rosy. Herbert can adequately process and adjust his throw type when he’s free of adverse circumstances.

When Herbert is forced to speed things up — get away from an unexpected free rusher, anticipate a route opening up against the leverage of the defense — errors occur. Balls on the wrong hip/shoulder, late throws into tight windows, there’s a lack of trust in what he sees post-snap.

The upside is difficult to ignore, but those issues have to become hardwired corrections for Herbert to ever realize that potential.

Jake Fromm vs. South Carolina, Loss 20-17 (OT)
Stats: 28/51 (54.9%) 295 yards (5.78 YPA) 1TD, 3 INTs

The first 54 minutes of this game were a struggle from Fromm and the Georgia offense. After early success that has Fromm accomplishing whatever he wanted against the Gamecock defense — man or zone — Fromm’s decision making and location went south during a 42-minute scoring drought.

The good version of Fromm showed anticipation, timing and location on point, as they all typically are. Fromm’s interception on a throwaway attempt to close out the first half started a cascade of poor football. His accuracy waned, his normally perfect communication with the receivers went awry, and Georgia trailed with just six minutes to play at home against an inferior football team. Fromm also lost a fumble on a failed quarterback-center exchange on the doorstep of the red zone.

Executing a 96-yard, game-tying drive when he had to have it speaks highly to Fromm’s character. The NFL will present adversity, and Fromm has showcased the ability to overcome hurdles. Still, at the end of the day, he made too mistakes for Georgia to win this game.

One week after elevating his draft stock ahead of Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, Fromm comes back to earth and makes one thing abundantly clear — there’s a big gap between Tua and the rest of this class.

Tua Tagovailoa at Texas A&M, Win 47-28
Stats: 21/34 (61.8%) 293 yards (8.62 YPA) 4 TDs, 1 INT

On a day where Tua wasn’t as finely tuned as we’ve come to expect, he surpasses A.J. McCarron for the career touchdown passes record at Alabama with another four touchdown day. Tua’s second touchdown was a classic example of his pre-snap acumen, post-snap mechanical alignment, and precise ball location against an A&M blitz. Quickly getting to his spot and setup, Tua throws it right in behind the blitz and right on the bullseye for a big play.

The fourth touchdown was a fantastic anticipation strike to Henry Ruggs. Tagovailoa’s trust in his own eyes and processor allows him to anticipate better than any passer in the country.

He also showcased his fluid pocket mobility. Whether it’s escaping, or climbing up and wading through the trash, the only thing more dangerous than Tua on-script, is the improvising version of Tua.

The trust can lead to some mistakes and easy turnovers, however. Tua’s interception was a carbon copy of one of his INTs in the SEC Championship Game in 2018 against Georgia. Tua checked his backside read and attacked play side with the information he gathered. He was wrong in thinking the safety was bailing out. Instead, the safety robbed a dig route from Jeudy, and Tua was late with the football for an easy pick.

There were additional accuracy issues (available in the video thread) in the game, but not by a significant margin. Typically, when he makes a mistake, he erases the wrongdoing on the next play. Tua can play better, certainly, but I sometimes wonder if we hold him to an unrealistic standard.

A career 9:1 TD:INT ratio will do that (81 TDs, 9 INTs).

Joe Burrow vs. Florida, Win 42-28
Stats: 21/24 (87.5%) 293 yards (12.2 YPA) 3 TDs

Kirk Herbstreit said it best early fourth quarter after Joe Burrow beat another Gators blitz. Herbie referred to Burrow having all the answers for the looks Florida threw at him, and it led to a strong, efficient performance.

Burrow not only threw on-time and on-target within the structure of the offense, he navigated murky pockets and extended plays with big results.

Burrow’s growth in year-two in this offensive system makes for a master attacking the middle, intermediate portion of the field. Dropping the ball in behind linebackers and underneath the safeties, Burrow’s accuracy on crossing routes leads to big plays after the catch for the talented Tigers receivers.

Burrow forced his way into this discussion. The big four have become the big five and Burrow could wind up top-three if he continues this success.

Recap

We’re entering the portion of the season where we can begin to compare common opponents. Fromm earned his way into QB2 status with steady, consistent play through six weeks, but Fromm had his ugliest showing of the year Saturday.

That three-interception performance comes against a defense that Tua carved up for 444 yards and five touchdowns. The already significant gap between QB1 and QB1 increased after the performances of Tagovailoa and Fromm this weekend.

Herbert has nothing to prove against inferior foes. His physical talents are too much for poor defense, especially units that are poorly coached like Colorado. For Herbert to enter QB2 status, he’ll have to show out in adverse circumstances — something he really hasn’t done in his career.

Love was off this week; perhaps the bye week we’ll supplement his familiarity in yet another system. Burrow has passed all of his tests this season, but he still has a way to go before he’s even considered a one-year wonder.

Half way through the college football season, my quarterback big board goes:

  1. Tua Tagoavailoa
  2. Jake Fromm
  3. Jordan Love
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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins Aren’t Tanking, They Just Suck

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of people want to tell you that the Miami Dolphins are tanking, and depending on how they’re looking at it, they’re either entirely right or woefully wrong.

You see, each player on this football team is attempting to put forth their best effort. They are trotting onto the field branding aqua and orange with the intent of being as successful as they can be.

There may be particular instances where a player prioritizes their health over a few extra yards, but overall, they aren’t going out there just to collect a paycheck.

These people have played football their entire lives. It’s insulting to assume they aren’t trying to maximize the one thing they’ve passionately performed since they were a toddler.

It’s also insulting to assume that this fanbase is so oblivious and naive that rooting to lose means they are not a “real fan”.

When linebacker Jerome Baker called out Dolphins fans (that are actively rooting for a “tank”), he was making a fair point, but he did so without acknowledging what these fans are actually rooting for deep down.

There isn’t a single fan that genuinely enjoys losing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that fans are rooting for one miserable season with the hope that it breeds 10 successful ones.

But Baker is right, the players are performing as hard as they can. They’re pridefully going out there and trying to build their resumes for the other 31 teams to see. These snaps will be meaningless in a few weeks (when the Dolphins are unofficially eliminated from the playoffs), but you can’t sell that to a person looking to boost (or, heck, just ensure) a paycheck going forward.

The thing is, the performance that these players are putting out there is the reason why Miami is not just 0-4, but historically one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The front office may have helped create this mess, but they aren’t the reason why people assume the players aren’t trying.

A Surprising Development

2019 was supposed to be a season filled with growth and progress. Establish who your building blocks are, and mold them into a youthful core that can lead the new franchise quarterback to victory.

But all of that growth and progress we expected to see has been virtually nonexistent. In fact, there have been more “surprises” than there have been developments that we can rely on. And while that’s great for the players we had lower expectations for, it speaks minimally for either the players we expected to develop, or the coaching staff we expected to develop them.

Raekwon McMillan has been Miami’s best linebacker so far this season. Though we have to provide the caveat that it comes with a limited snap count, McMillan has been a force in the running game. Did McMillan have too much on his plate last year? Did he finally (fully) recover from his torn ACL in 2017? Is he flourishing without the expectations? Is this really just a flash in the pan?

It’s hard to pinpoint why McMillan has improved so much this season, but this is a welcomed site to see. I’m not expecting 2020 starting middle linebacker or even an elite talent from the former second-round pick, but McMillan has gone from an afterthought to a necessity on this 2019 team.

With just 121 snaps (compared to Sam Eguavoen‘s 251 and Jerome Baker’s 279), I hope defensive coordinator Patrick Graham finds a way to incorporate McMillan a bit more.

After watching the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals for 5 weeks, fans are legitimately concerend that Josh Rosen will win too many games this year. While judging Rosen has always been one of the primary objectives of 2019, it was only 3 weeks ago that we expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to start a majority of the season because Rosen wasn’t picking up (or processing) the playbook well enough.

If it weren’t for so many dropped passes, Rosen would have a handful of highlights that make you think he’s the guy. Instead, those drops may be an omen that the Dolphins franchise quarterback isn’t currently on the roster.

But this is where the surprising storylines end. There have been plenty of other surprising developments in 2019, but none of them have been good. It’s these (lack of) developments that further explain why everyone believes the Dolphins are tanking.

Lack of Player Development

It all started somewhat shockingly before the season began when Vincent Taylor was cut. The former 6th-round pick was expected to be a starting defensive tackle for the next couple of years; instead, he was removed from the roster entirely with little explanation why.

Different coaching staffs have different philosophies and playing styles, but Taylor was a productive player with plenty of potential. Whether it was his attitude or the shape he was in when he reported to camp, Miami found a reason to remove a budding talent. Can’t blame the players for taking talent off the roster.

Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was expected to become a future starting linebacker for this team. And while he’s still raw, he hasn’t shown the same level of potential that fellow former CFL transfer Cameron Wake displayed when he joined Miami.

Next to John Denney, Jason Sanders was the only player you had unwavering confidence in.

Sanders has missed as many kicks through 4 games than he did in all of 2018. After making 18 of 20 kicks (and 35 of 36 PATs) in 2018, Sanders has made just 4 of 7 FGs so far this season. Are we adding kicker to the list of holes this team has to plug in 2020?

Jerome Baker hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. Is it the extra work stacked on his plate? Is it just a sophomore slump?

We expected Baker to be a jack-of-all-trades linebacker who could cover the pass, stunt the run and rush the quarterback. So far, he seems a bit over his head. Granted, he receives minimal help around him, but this defensive front isn’t that much weaker than last season’s.

It’s safe to say that we all expected Baker to be a bit better at this point. If you’re going to “call out” the fanbase for cheering on long term success at the expense of short term misery, you better make sure your performance gives those fans a reason to think otherwise.

If Baker was meant to do everything up front, Bobby McCain was expected to be a Swiss army knife in the secondary. Not only has that experiment been subpar, but it appears more and more like McCain is a player without a position rather than a player that can do it all. It just makes me wonder what McCain “could have been” if the coaching staff left him in his natural slot cornerback position all these years.

After receiving a 4-year, $24m contract extension this offseason, Jakeem Grant has gone from a threatening #3 receiver – and a menacing kick returner – to a player that becomes cringeworthy when the ball is in the air. There isn’t a single person reading this that is confident when the ball is headed in Grant’s direction. Yet, just last month we felt we had a competent wide receiver for the next 3+ years.

There was LOTS of hype around Kalen Ballage when camp broke this offseason. He looked faster, quicker, more-toned and ready to take the #1 running back role from Kenyan Drake. Instead, Ballage has contributed more touchdowns to the opposing team than he has recorded himself. His 1.5 yards-per-carry (YPC) isn’t entirely his fault, as the offensive line in front of him is pedestrian at best, but that logic doesn’t seem to fit Drake’s 3.6 YPC or Mark Walton‘s 3.9 YPC.

I don’t need to tell you that Ballage has been a disappointment, I think we’ve all come to that conclusion the moment he ducked away from an RB screen pass coming his way.

What the Fans Want

Fans are tired of witnessing performances like this.

Every team has draft picks that flame out, but the Dolphins seem to load up on under-performing players. Is it this team’s “culture”? Is it terrible ownership? Is it terrible scouting?

Easily enough, 20 years of mediocrity can be summed up by the quarterback position. And right now, there are two entities that have identified that obtaining an elite quarterback solves ineptitude: fans and the Front Office.

If you were to say that the players are tanking, you’d be terribly wrong. If you were to say that the intellectual minds that make decisions for the Miami Dolphins are tanking, you are absolutely right.

You don’t trade away a cornerstone left tackle, your best wide receiver, your most-experience linebacker, and a handful of other assets if you’re trying to win as many games as possible.

Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard may not miss as many games if every game was crucial.

These are active decisions made (or heavily suggested) by the Front Office. They’re not asking the players to under-perform, they’re doing a good job of that themselves.

When all is said and done, it’s possible this coaching staff is the reason for the lack of development. They could all be in over their heads, and Brian Flores is just a temporary band-aid that allows the next coach to reap the benefits of stocked draft picks and abundant cap space.

I understand that it’s deflating to watch your team’s fanatics root against you, but their apathy isn’t the most disappointing part of the 2019 season. Give the fans a reason to cheer, and you might actually be reciprocated with applause.

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