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Fantasy Football: Which Dolphins Players Could Lead You To Victory?

Chris Kowalewski

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In a matter of weeks, mandatory mini-camp will be over and NFL fans will be entering the darkest days of the football calendar as an uneasy silence reigns over the league from mid-June until the start of training camps in late July.

The stillness is occasionally broken with the news of player injury or arrest and fans eagerly wait through the heights of summer for camp to arrive.

While it may not be the time for on-field action, the virtual world of Fantasy Football begins to bloom during these months and web-traffic fills up with mock fantasy drafts and lists of player rankings for the season ahead.

Year after year the rankings remain remarkably similar with the same handful of players finding themselves among the top of their position on an annual basis, seemingly immovable from their perches of NFL stardom. Those players have such notoriety, reliability and resilience as the kings of fantasy football that, if you listen really closely, you can actually hear Sam Elliott narrating their résumés.

But anyone who has experienced even a single season of fantasy football – whether it was the gruelling lows or the thrilling highs – will be aware that there always seem to be a handful of players who surface from the depths of the mock drafts and countless rankings to save a season. 

It is those players who can find themselves evolving from a late round panic-grab or waiver wire trophy into a key weapon in the battle for the playoffs and a league championship trophy.

Whatever the stakes may be in your fantasy league, the thrill of landing one of those potential players is an exciting prospect. Rather than hedging all your bets on scouring the waiver wire each week, we’re going to have a look at a selection of Miami Dolphins players ay key positions who may be able to help your team this year whether as a hidden gem, or as a clear cut starter each week (Note: There aren’t many of those).

The Miami Dolphins’ roster is widely considered by national commentators to be among the thinnest and least talented in the NFL heading into 2019. It seems like the Dolphins’ injury-riddled 2018 season carried a higher body count than the fiery destruction of King’s Landing and the lacklustre results which followed did nothing to contradict this impression as to the quality of the team’s roster.

But sifting through the broken bones, torn tendons and jammed-up joints of last year is a number of Dolphins players, both veterans and newcomers, who could be the ones to come to the rescue and salvage your fantasy season. Others, you may wish to pick up but would be wiser to leave well alone. 

Either way, let’s dig through the roster and have a look at who those players might be; whether or not you should pick them up; whether they might be able to help and; where you might aim to pick them up when your fantasy draft rolls around.

We’ll assume you’re part of a common 10-team league and, to keep things standardised, use end-of-season stats and rankings using NFL.com’s scoring system.

QUARTERBACKS

We’ll start off short and sweet here. A Dolphins quarterback is likely to be a ‘no-no’ when it comes to your fantasy team. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick may have come out of the gates flying in 2018 throwing for 1,230 yards and 11 TDs and 97.4 fantasy points in the first 3 weeks (!!!) but the FitzMagic soon Fitzzled out (terrible pun, but I’m not sorry) and he quickly came crashing back down to earth in week 4 when he was benched and replaced by the returning Jameis Winston. Fitzpatrick subsequently ended the season as the 28th ranked QB in the league and his history of erratic play is what both prolongs his career and sees him move quickly on, now on his 8th team in 14 years. In addition, he’ll be competing for the job against Josh Rosen which means his position as a starter is uncertain. 

What Should I Do? Leave him alone, but keep an eye on him on the waiver wire if (1) the Dolphins roll with him as the starter, (2) your starter goes down and (3) you want to gamble on Fitzpatrick hitting a hot streak. However, Fitzpatrick should come with a warning sticker and only be used as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency QB.

Josh Rosen comes to Miami after having been plucked from the rubble in Arizona, where he had been temporarily anointed as the saviour of the Cardinals. Rosen started 13 games on a team devoid of talent at almost every position (Larry Fitzgerald being the clear exception) and looked every part of a rookie in the headlights. With 11 TD and 14 INTs for 2278 passing yards Rosen ranked as the league’s 34th best passer in 2018. He’s likely to grab the staring spot in Miami based on their inevitable need to assess him as part of the franchise’s future, but the unknowns surrounding his talent and ability at the NFL level heavily outweighs any consideration of drafting him in all but 12 team/2 QB leagues.

What Should I Do? Follow the example of the Dolphins front office and spend the season watching how Rosen develops, but leave him off your fantasy team on draft night.

RUNNING BACKS

This is where it gets interesting for Dolphins players and their fantasy-relevance. 

A clear rift had developed during 2018 between Kenyan Drake and former Head Coach, Adam Gase, before his departure. Fans clamoured from the stands about the lack of touches being given to the Dolphins’ most electrifying running back during the season, even as future HOF’er Frank Gore continued on his quest to defy Father Time.However, despite a limited workload, Drake quietly finished the year as the 14th ranked RB with 1,012 all purpose yards and 9 TDs for 206.20 points.

Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea had front row seats to witness the ‘Miracle in Miami’ and reportedly want to establish an offensive scheme which places a heavy focus on their running backs in both passing and ground game. James White (who Coach Flores has specifically asked Drake to study) amassed only 425 rushing yards as part of a busy Patriots backfield but also caught 87 passes for 751 yards and a combined 12 TDs which was good enough to place him as the 7th ranked fantasy RB in 2018.

Although Miami will unlikely field the same caliber of QB, the overall offensive plan will have clear similarities and Drake can expect a highly important role in O’Shea’s creative offense. Reports suggest that the Dolphins will eventually want to move towards a ‘ground and pound’ rushing attack but the O-Line issues, which have been problematic in Miami for far too long, could still provide some obstacles to this. Scheme and planning will therefore be the keys to a successful ground game and in taking some pressure off of the QB.

Dan Orlovsky, former QB and sky-rocketing as a talented football analyst was a guest on the Move The Sticks Podcast with Daniel Jeremiah on Monday this week. He made a valid point regarding Chad O’Shea’s experience at creating schemes to mask the deficiencies in offensive talent and it is certainly not just Dolphins homerism to expect him to find a way to get the most out of Kenyan Drake.

Entering his contract year as the clear starter, Drake will be keen to produce on the field to help in his search for an upcoming payday, whether in Miami or elsewhere.

What Should I Do? Drake is absolutely a target in the draft and one who might find himself sliding down draft boards considering the overall general perception of Miami’s ability to score. Using this to your advantage, you may expect to be able to pick up Drake as low as Round 4 as the 15th to 20th RB off the board, even though his actual value may warrant a significantly higher pick. With any luck you can find phenomenal value here with have filling an RB2 or even RB3 spot and sit back to watch him bring in those elusive points.

Kalen Ballage is the main threat to Drake’s fantasy value on Miami’s roster and he showed his speed against the Vikings with a blistering 75 yard touchdown run in Week 15. Possessing many of the same traits as Kenyan Drake, he’s unlikely to perform much of a power grab in goal-line situations, but in Year 2 his workload is expected to increase which should see him jump from the 87th ranked RB into the early-mid 30’s.

What Should I Do? As the Dolphins move towards heavy utilisation of their RBs, Kalen Ballage is certainly draft-worthy. Although he figures to sit behind Drake on the depth chart in Miami, Ballage should be drafted in the later rounds as a backup in case Drake or your fantasy starters go down with injury. He could end up being a steal as the 4th or 5th RB on your roster may be someone who brings you those much needed points later in the season.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Returning from a hip injury sustained last year, Albert Wilson is likely to be the most exciting WR prospect on the Dolphins from a fantasy POV. Although the severity of the injury is not without its concerns, Wilson’s potential is undeniable.

Taking what were essentially hand-offs to the house against the Raiders and showing his speed and elusiveness in the win over the Bears, Wilson was on pace for a stand-out season when healthy, hauling in 90.18 points in his 6 full games. Extrapolated over a full season, this would have been good for 240.48 points, which would have placed him as the 14th highest scoring WR in the league even with an injured Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler at the helm.

What Should I Do? Wilson’s recovery from a fracture and labrum tear will be something to pay close attention to, but there is some promising potential for Wilson to come in as a WR3 where he could bring some fiery depth to your fantasy roster when injury strikes. Even if fully healthy, Wilson may even come off the board as low as the 40-50th WR and you could find yourself a great value investment which brings in some fruitful returns.

Kenny Stills developed a productive rapport with Ryan Tannehill during the 2016 campaign and demonstrated a talent for hauling in deep passes. Having only recently turned 27, his best football may still be ahead of him and he possesses dangerous speed as a downfield threat. Stills is absolutely due for a bounce-back year, though given the uncertain nature of the Dolphins’ ability to pass-protect, a dink-n’-dunk/ball control style of passing attack may be what we see on game days which would require a slight shift in Still’s game.

What Should I Do? Stills was reportedly taking reps as the slot receiver in OTAs this week – perhaps this is just a sign of WR versatility within the offense, but either way Kenny Stills figures to be a big part of the game plan and will likely find himself as the first Dolphins WR off the board. He will look to improve upon his 59th ranked WR position in 2018 (149.62 points) and would ideally be suited to a WR3 or WR4 spot on your own roster. 

Jakeem Grant is back on the field after suffering a calf/achilles injury in 2018 which unfortunately ended his season early. Jakeem’s speed prior to injury was unreal and only time will tell whether he is able to regain his full quickness, explosiveness and acceleration. Revealed on Tuesday’s OTA is that Grant is lining up at almost every WR position in practice and is expected to feature prominently in the game plan. 

What Should I Do? If the Dolphins are to have any success on offense in 2019, they are likely going to have to get creative and Jakeem Grant will be someone who may be able to help. There may well be weeks where Grant sees significant playing time in creative circumstances and is a playmaker just waiting for his chance. From a fantasy point of view, consistency as to the number of weekly targets may be a concern and unless you have a deep bench on your roster, Jakeem may just be someone you need to watch over on the waive wire.

If you’re a fan of the Dolphins, you’ve probably already learned the hard way that DeVante Parker hasn’t helped your fantasy team to any great degree. OTAs mean it is time for Parker to show the promise which landed him as the 14th overall pick in 2015 but as seemingly happens each year, the hype amounts to little production. Too many stories surround Parker with regards to his immaturity and lack of commitment off the field, perhaps some of which has contributed to a carousel of injuries which keep him on the sidelines for large stretches. Ranked as the 105th WR in 2018 with 60.9 points, Parker’s arrow only really points up but the question of whether he chooses to follow it’s direction remains.

What Should I Do? Parker regularly wins the title of practice MVP. His freakish athleticism and natural talent is obvious but it remains to be seen whether the new coaching regime can help him with the fundamentals necessary for sustained success. If so, Parker could turn into be a point-machine but just don’t hold your breath. DeVante is likely be picked up earlier than he should be based on name value alone – if so, be happy that the pick means someone else may fall to you when you’re on the clock. Stashing him on your bench for depth is fine if you’re one of his remaining believers, but history suggests you are unlikely to get much by way of return if you have to rely on him on a weekly basis.

The dark horse of the receiver group is potentially Preston Willliams. He arrives in Miami as a UDFA from Colorado State where he had 96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 TDs last season. His boatload of talent, size and physicality could even eventually land him the WR1 role if (and this is a BIG ‘if’) he stays out of trouble and is committed to following a professional training plan to the letter. Miami has been on the search for a true WR1 for years and Williams has a great opportunity in front of him to develop into it. 

What Should I Do? Unless he flourishes during training camp into an obvious starter for the Dolphins, Williams may initially find himself on the practice squad or sitting behind several veterans in a crowded and competitive receiver room. The talent is undoubtedly present, but it is still very early days for Williams’ career – keep an eye on his roster position (especially if injuries begin to mount up) and development for the future, particularly in deep dynasty leagues.

TIGHT ENDS

To say that Mike Gesicki had an underwhelming rookie year would be kind. He was routinely physically outmatched in blocking assignments and the receiving skills which he showed at Penn State were not put to good use in his debut season. From a fantasy perspective, Gesicki finished the season as the 50th ranked TE with 22 catches for 202 yards and 40.2 points. However, TE is notoriously one of the most difficult positions to learn in football and there is still valid and reasonable hope that Gesicki can take one of his giant, bounding steps forward in his second year.

The Dolphins currently have an array of TEs on their roster, including Durham Smythe, Dwayne Allen, Nick O’Leary, Clive Walford and Chris Myarick, making it all the more difficult to recommend drafting any as viable fantasy prospects. Mike Gesicki figures to place himself as the main passing target out of the group and certainly has the talent to do so. A full offseason of professional development and time in the weight room should benefit him greatly. 

What Should I Do? Gesicki will likely go undrafted in most 10 team leagues other than those with extensive bench space, especially considering the Dolphins crowded current TE room. However, he still poses as Miami’s most draft-worthy TE on the roster. His freakish pre-draft combine alone proved that there is a lot of athleticism to take advantage of, and he may make a good backup TE once the season starts if you have space to stash him on your bench. Otherwise keep an eye on his numbers if you tend to stream TEs or need a stand-in when your starter is on his bye week.

DEFENSE / IDP

Despite Brian Flores’ defensive masterpiece displayed in Super Bowl 53, the Dolphins defense/special teams is expected to rank near the bottom of the league after ranking 13th in 2018 with a total of 116 points. They are still young and inexperienced, especially entering their first year of a new scheme and are far from being a complete group. Whilst turnovers will come due to talents in Miami’s secondary, gaining sacks and giving up points is expected to be an issue. Steer clear of picking them to be your staring group as there will almost certainly be better fantasy value available elsewhere.

Having said that, for IDP leagues, there are still some bright, shiny and sparkly pieces on this Dolphins team which may help you increase your point totals on a weekly basis. You’ll likely only carry one of each of these in all but the deepest of leagues, but below are a few players you may want to grab before a run on defensive players begins.

At the top of that list is safety, Reshad Jones, despite an increasing age and a history of shoulder injuries which have cut his season short in previous years. There may be something still to keep an eye on with regards to Jones’ attendance when mandatory mini-camp rolls around but Flores has confirmed he expects Reshad to be there in early June. Reshad’s instagram videos of his boxing workouts should alleviate most concerns about his shoulders and it seems that his previous disagreements lay primarily with the team’s former coaching staff – Jones was publicly unhappy with Matt Burke’s scheme last year, pulling himself out of the game vs the Jets in Week 9. However, if Jones returns to the Dolphins as a happy man, he has potential to revert to his Pro Bowl form on the field and as a vital point machine as a DB on your fantasy team. Always good to rack up a mountain of tackles, a handful of picks, a sprinkle of sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries and the odd TD, Reshad Jones is a top-tier DB in fantasy football when healthy and offers the potential of those elusive extra points needed to give you the winning edge.

Xavien Howard will get his picks on the season, but unless your league counts broken-up passes, swatted balls and quarterbacks generally avoiding throwing his way when at all possible, Reshad Jones should still be the best fantasy option among Dolphins defensive backs.

The blatantly obvious other name to keep an eye on amongst defensive players is Minkah Fitzpatrick, especially when it comes to dynasty leagues. This versatile football junkie is a playmaker and studies opposing offences hard. Rumours circling in Miami that he will be used all over the field and he will certainly get his opportunities to make tackles and interceptions when presented with them. While Minkah has every potential, talent and drive to develop into one of the NFL’s top-tier defenders, his varied positioning could also result in a lack of consistency from a fantasy perspective, meaning he could still fall behind other DBs around the league when it comes to points.

Gone are the days when, as a Dolphins fan, you could select Cameron Wake as your DL option and watch him haul in fantasy numbers. Trying to focus on pass rushers who are still on Miami’s roster leaves everything looking a little blurry. Rookie DT, Christian Wilkins is the best bet for Dolphins ‘homers’ who insist on being able to cheer for their team both on the TV and on the fantasy battlefield, racking up 192 tackles, (including 40.5 for a loss) 21 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in his college career. Whilst unlikely to be a pure pass rusher in Patrick Graham’s defense, he may still show himself to a better option than Charles Harris who is entering his 3rd year with a lot to prove. Overall though, it’s best to look outside of Miami for your DL options.

KICKER

If you haven’t seen the videos online of Jason Sanders booting 70 yard field goals with ease, it might be worth tracking them down on YouTube just to see how impossible a field goal at that distance seems. Hand-picked by the Dolphins former special teams guru, Darren Rizzi, Sanders’s leg defies science and he could be primed for a big (in relative terms) fantasy season on a team which could find themselves settling for a lot of field goals. Making those kicks under pressure is another thing, but Sanders has proven he has the leg to make the long distance and could show himself to be a safe option in fantasy in the final round of your draft.

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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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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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.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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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)

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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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.

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