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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

25 Things We’ve Learned 25 Days into the 2019 Miami Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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Camp kicked off 25 days ago, giving us a month’s worth of visual evidence; here’s what we know so far

Preseason reps are not the end-all-be-all, and training camp practices won’t put players in the Hall of Fame, but there’s a purpose every time the chinstrap is buckled. For a team that harps on the fundamentals and executing the job that has been asked on a down-by-down basis, every rep has meaning.

The NFL calendar never sleeps, but the true beginning of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season began on July 25, exactly 25 days ago. With 10 practices under my belt, an intra-squad scrimmage, and two preseason games digested to the max, these are the 25 things I’ve learned over this first month.

Some of these things are big, some are small, some are encouraging, some are concerning. We start with the biggest of them all.

Big Things:

1. Xavien Howard – Money Well Spent

Xavien Howard’s been targeted a lot over the last month. He’s allowed a few catches, mainly in unjust 1-on-1 periods, but he’s also pulled some down, too. A lot of them. And that trend has continued through a scrimmage, joint-practices with an opponent, and one live game. X, as he’s so aptly named, exemplifies Brian Flores’ message on and off the field.

2. Laremy Tunsil – Next in Line

There’s a term — set and forget — that refers to such a comfort level with said player, that you don’t even bother watching him. He’s got it. Laremy’s got it. The feet, hands, strength, athleticism, quickness; a trip to Tunsil island is a dreadful way to spend a Sunday afternoon for edge rushers.

3. Jerome Baker – Glow Up

His rookie year looked promising, but no one could’ve seen this coming, not this fast. Baker had a strong debut season, but he wasn’t a full-time player, and he had his vulnerabilities. Now, he’s doing everything under the sun with supreme professionalism and execution. He plays at a different speed and contributes in all three phases (blitz, cover, run-support).

4. Josh Rosen – Signs of Life

USA Today Sports Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations always should’ve been low for a kid who is brand new to the league — brand new to his now third new home in three years, but that’s football. It was whatever in May. It was concerning in July. Then, in August, Miami’s second-round investment started playing a little freer. Getting into his second, third, sometimes fourth read, while moving away from a compromised pocket, things could be clicking.

It’s not a consistent theme yet — and it needs to be very good, and very consistent to push Miami off the 2020 QB Class — but that coveted trait, the consistency, is progressing. That much at least deserves monitoring.

5. Pass Rush Scheme – As Advertised

Saying goodbye to Cam Wake and Robert Quinn took a lot of juice off the edge for Miami. Those departures, and the Dolphins unsubstantiated interest in Trey Flowers, all but confirmed the shift to a new scheme that relied on games, gap integrity, and blitz packages to get after the quarterback.

Jerome Baker has been running free on QBs all camp and preseason. Charles Harris, Christian Wilkins, Tank Carradine, Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Ledbetter — a host of Dolphins blood-thirsty rushers are turning up the heat on opposing passers with regularity.

Encouraging Things –

6. Preston Williams – Star potential 

Despite his two-drop showing on the first-team Thursday, Preston Williams has shown true number-one receiver potential all summer. He’s crafty in the way he jostles for position, his strong hands are evident at the release from the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in catching the football. He transitions well enough out of breaks for a man of his size and stature.

At that build, with that catch radius, Williams’ deep-ball prowess has been the most encouraging. If he takes off in this capacity, once the games begin to count, this Miami receiving corps looks much more imposing.

7. Sam Eguavoen – Canadian Pipeline Still Flowing

Minor warts in Eguavoen’s game show up periodically, but his strengths far outweigh the parts of his game Miami will look to mask. He’s plenty adept at defending the edge, rushing the quarterback, and dropping into coverage.

The ability to close down on an underneath pass, but also fall off 15-yards downfield, is the type of versatility needed for a modern-day linebacker.

8. Bobby McCain – Experiment No More, He’s a Safety

Watch the broadcast version of a Miami preseason game and you might miss McCain altogether. He’s typically 12-20-yards off the football, but the opposition’s lack of interest in trying anything vertical is a testament to McCain’s quick acclimation.

All camp long, McCain was working on reading route concepts, flipping the hips, and taking proper angles in help-coverage. He has the makeup to do it, and so far it’s working out.

9. Mike Gesicki – Playing to his Strengths

Some writers suggest that Gesicki is falling out of favor, but I see a player doing exactly what he was drafted to do. He’s flexing out into the slot, in plus-splits (outside the numbers) and he’s uncovering with regularity in the passing game.

He’s only played a handful of snaps, and he’s created separation on all five of his preseason targets. Gesicki caught three of them, while the other two were misfires from the quarterback.

10. Jonathan Ledbetter – Aptitude for the Scheme

Eye-discipline, heavy hands, stout at the point-of-attack — you’ll often hear these phrases when the coaches discuss the prototype for defensive linemen. Ledbetter plays with his hands in front of his eyes, keeps his pad-level low, strikes first, and adheres to his responsibilities in the two-gap scheme.

11. Jason Sanders – Money in the Bank

If he missed kicks in training camp, I didn’t see them. Every time Sanders lines it up, he’s right down the fairway. This was true on hid 45- and 49-yard kicks on a soaked playing surface on Friday, as well as his 48- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.Sanders added angled kickoffs to his game, and has been placing those chip shots precisely into the coffin corner.

Things that are Just Things:

12. Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun First-Team – Tipping the Offensive Plan

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that this pair of rookies have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both players frequently create push in the running game, but are a bit of a coin-flip in regards to pass protection.

Brian Flores spoke all offseason about his affinity for running the ball, and starting the rookies — — over a player like Chris Reed — serves as a pretty sound indicator for that preference. Our next bullet point speaks a similar language.

13. Chandler Cox – 21-Personnel Back in Miami

“Defending a fullback in the running game is a difficult thing for a linebacker to do.” That was Coach Flores’ comment back in minicamp when asked about the Chandler Cox selection. Miami has to play small-ball this year to find wins, and that means staying on schedule offensively.

Cox has had his ups-and-downs, and Miami gives reps to Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary as potential backups, but it doesn’t end with a fullback-tailback combination — Miami has regularly shown 21-personnel with dual tailbacks.

14. Jesse Davis – Tackle Tryout

A tackle in college, and position-less mutt through his first two years as a pro, Davis settled into a seemingly permanent right guard position last season. That didn’t go particularly well, and now Miami will kick him back outside with mixed results.

Davis, occasionally vulnerable in pass-pro, is better in the running game. He’s athletic enough to execute a number of pulls (counter trey, play-side), and should benefit from help by the running backs since Tunsil blocks out the sun on the other side.

Discouraging Things:

15. Devante Parker – Minor Ailments

Another ripping and roaring start to camp has since plateaued, both because of his play and another minor injury that sidelined the former first-rounder. Even if Parker posts career numbers this season, can Miami really trust him? The two-year contract was wise in that it gives the Dolphins the extended evaluation before pulling the trigger on a big extension.

At this stage, the emergence of Preston Williams might make that point entirely moot.

16. Chris Reed – Any Day Now

Training as the primary backup center to Daniel Kilgore, the chances are very likely that Reed has to come off the bench at some point this season, but I expected more. He has the intelligence and instincts to play above replacement level between a competent center-tackle bookend, but he’s not recaptured his first-team status since his day-three demotion.

17. Jalen Davis – Not Picking Up Where He Left Off

One of the pleasant surprises of yester-year, Davis’ strong finish to the 2018 season has yet to carry over. He’s been buried on the third-team and is struggling to find success at that level. It might be another year on the practice squad before Davis — primarily a slot — can contribute.

18. Matt Haack – Bottom Barrel Punting Average

Punting is not something I’m claiming expertise in, but I know that Haack ranked 25th in average last season, and he’s currently 27th this preseason. He has the ability to boom balls into the atmosphere, but the shanks are far too common.

Bad Things:

19. Offensive Line – Offensive

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo reacts during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Colts defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not been good. It’s the one position with a considerable amount of stink — cumulatively spread about — on the roster. From firing the coach of the room, to the on-field execution, only one thing aspect is consistently coming up on the list of pros: 78. This is mostly an individual’s checklist, but this group needs its condemning.

20. Dave DeGuglielmo – Where’s the Expertise?

Firing Pat Flaherty was an upgrade, according to many. So far, DeGuglielmo’s group is failing to properly communicate and pass off games from the defense, there are blown protections each week, and the backup units are utterly futile. He wasn’t given a lot to work with, but DeGuglielmo’s returns have not been pretty — Miami QBs have been sacked seven times in two games.

21. Swing Tackle – Swing and a Miss

Jordan Mills was thrown into the fire for an absent Laremy Tunsil in week-one, and the returns were disastrous. Mills missed Thursday’s game; taking his place, former AAF player, Jaryd Jones-Smith. The results were the same. If Miami loses either of Tunsil or Davis, things could get ugly quickly.

22. Secondary – Paper Thin

Xavien Howard is an all-pro, Eric Rowe looks the part, Minkah Fitzpatrick is excellent in coverage, and the safety trio is capable. Beyond those six, there might not be enough competent players to get through the season. The Patriots defense (similar schemes) rolls double digit defensive backs into the game plan throughout the year — the Dolphins are several bodies short of being able to say the same thing.

23. Reshad Jones – Cashing Checks

Jones missed 10 games in 2016 for a shoulder injury. He played through another shoulder ailment in 2017 and did not have a good season. Last year, he missed two more games, and voluntarily removed himself from a third. This year, he skipped OTAs (the voluntary portion), and has missed more practices than he’s been a part of.

Jones was running with the second-team throughout those healthy days, and he’s perfectly content to do that at his current pay rate.

24. Kenyan Drake – Time is Running Thin

Drake’s explosive skill set, versatility, and big-play ability was on display throughout camp, but an injury puts everything on hold. Miami are being discrete about the severity of the injury, but in a contract-year, Drake needs a consistent, strong showing for 17 weeks.

25. Raekwon McMillan – More Health Concerns

McMillan entered camp as a second-team ‘backer, earned first-team work early in camp, but has been missing ever since with an injury. As youngsters around him emerge, McMillan’s lack of involvement casts a cloud of uncertainty over his position on this roster.

It’s pretty clear what this Dolphins team is going to be this season. A smart team that — hopefully — doesn’t beat itself, but comes up short on talent in key areas. The defense should improve considerably from last season, and the offense remains a major question mark.

The showing of the defense in Tampa Bay is a great step in that direction, and further help is on the way (no Howard, Jones, McDonald, McMillan, or Andrew Van Ginkel for that game). Regardless of what happens on offense, with Miami’s deep free agent pockets, war chest of draft picks, and desire for that coveted top-five drafted quarterback, a surge on defense would spell a successful 2019 season.

Things are trending in that direction.

@WingfieldNFL

 

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Defense Dominates, Offensive Futility Leads to Defeat

Stat Dolphins Buccaneers
Total Yards 280 312
Rushing 118 75
Passing 162 237
Penalties 13/122 8/81
3rd/4thDown 2/15 4/15
Sacks For 4 5
TOP 27:43 32:17

 

Did Not Play:

CB: Xavien Howard
WR: Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant
S: Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, Walt Aikens
OL: Zach Sterup, Jordan Mills
LB: Kiko Alonso, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Quentin Poling
RB: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage

The Skinny

Which would you like first, the good news, or the bad news?

The strong winds and heavy rain Friday night impacted both offenses at Raymond James Stadium. The Dolphins and Bucs exchanged field goals and punts in an exhibition game that went 54 minutes before its first touchdown (each team scored in the final 3:35).

Defensively, the Dolphins showed their collective teeth with some creative blitzes, constant pressure, and sound coverage on the back0end without the team’s best player (Xavien Howard).

After a demotion to the second-team before Tuesday’s practice, Charles Harris responded with a monster game. The 2017 first-rounder picked up two sacks and four additional QB hits on the night.

CFL signing Sam Eguavoen flashed on a similar level. The linebacker forced a fumble, made a pair of run stops and got his hands on a deep in-cut after falling back into coverage.

Jerome Baker — as you see by the above video clip — answered our question in the preview piece about his blitzing prowess. Baker was a menace in all three phases once again.

On offense, it was a struggle for the ‘Phins. The quarterback battle suddenly leans in a new direction — albeit it coming by-way of default scenario — and the offensive line has gone beyond catastrophically awful.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen played the entire first half and effectively moved the ball on a couple of series. Still, some accuracy issues, a late read on fourth-and-goal from the two, and another woeful interceptable pass (which was dropped) undid a lot of the goods Rosen showcased.

Those “goods” featured adequate pocket mobility, improved body language, and a continued strong effort when the plays mattered most (third down, two-minute drill). Rosen often had to get off the spot, find a new passing avenue, reset, and deliver the ball.

Miami dropped multiple balls in their own right, further putting Rosen at a disadvantage. The body language and demeanor that Brian Flores criticized his young QB for was demonstrably better in this game. He battled through difficult conditions, a fierce pass rush, and once again delivered a scoring drive in the final two minutes.

Rosen — as it stands right now — deserves the opening day nod. Though it doesn’t appear he’s going to get it; Flores quickly announced Fitzpatrick as the starter for next week’s game vs. the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play hasn’t inspired a lot of hope if he is indeed declared the starter. Fitzpatrick matched Rosen’s poor decision making, and struggled with his own accuracy all night. The veteran was thrown to the wolves and was constantly under duress, but if you compare his second-team showing to Rosen’s effort last week, the youngin’ clearly won that battle.

It would be entirely disingenuous to leave this video out of the post-game column.

Jake Rudock threw an inexcusable interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but responded with the go-ahead touchdown-and-two-point drive in the final moments.

Running Backs

Kenyan Drake is out with an injury and Kalen Ballage did not play. Mark Walton was the beneficiary with plenty of work in the first half, excelling particularly in the passing game. Walton stuck a big time blitz pickup on a five-man rush and caught a slant, from a plus-split- for a first down.

Walton is pretty clearly the third best back on the roster, though he bounced a goal-line run that was built for a B-gap lead.

Patrick Laird ran for 45 yards on six carries. He’s a patient runner with quality vision and enough burst to make his runs work. Myles Gaskin teamed up in a few two-back sets, but he didn’t have a lot of room to work with.

Kenneth Farrow busted a big run, but it was the result of a massive lane opened up by the Miami blocking on a split zone, backside dig-out.

Chandler Cox is mixed bag — and this feels redundant. He hit some nice lead blocks, but wound up on the ground too much again. He was hit with a holding penalty tonight as well.

Wide Receivers

Burn the wide out film from this one. Drops, minimal separation, failure to get clean releases against press — Miami’s deepest offensive position group did not hold up its end of the bargain in the loss.

Preston Williams had a dreadful night. He had at least two drops, both of which would’ve moved the chains. He nearly came down with another ridiculous highlight reel catch where he tipped the ball to himself, and brought it in at the pylon, but his foot was on the chalk.

Kenny Stills might’ve been credited with a drop on the first play of the game, though it’s unclear if the ball was tipped. He did, however, convert a third-and-short on a drag route. Stills came in short-motion to create a stack, and then won with a clean release.

Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler had the best nights among the group — they had two catches and moved the chains once each. Ford uncovered in the end zone on the fourth-and-two play, but Rosen was a beat late and a hair low.

Saeed Blacknail uncovered for a big gainer and Trenton Irwin caught the two-point conversion on a wide open flat route.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary’s block sealed the edge on the long Farrow gallop. He caught one pass for five yards, and did his usual work blocking the edge in both the run and the pass game.

Mike Gesicki is showing continual signs of progress. He uncovered three times, caught two of the targets, and the third was considerably behind him on an open slant route.

Dewayne Allen committed a hold on a run from inside the five, and Durham Smythe had a 22-yard reception.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil returned and showed Dolphins fans exactly why he needs an extension. The pay-day is coming, but the price goes up every time Tunsil gets isolated in protection and handles the task with ease. He’s so quick to gain depth and prevent speed rushes, or underneath moves — he’s elite.

The rest of the line…is not. Though Michael Deiter looked the part the majority of the night. He still has some reps where he bends at the waist, and is left to the vices of the man across from him, but he’s picking up combination blocks and playing sound, assignment football in this game. He was the next best behind Tunsil and reason for optimism on that left side.

Jesse Davis surrendered a sack when he overset, despite help available from the back, and lost on a counter move working inside.

It’s difficult to assign blame on some pressure looks, but Shaq Calhoun is often part of blown protections with a variety of right tackles. He does, however, continue to get adequate push in the running game.

The rest of the interior line was not good, Daniel Kilgore got taken for a couple of rides and communication issues continue to persist.

Miami’s search for a swing tackle is not going well. Jordan Mills was down tonight and his replacement — Jaryd Jones-Smith — was an absolute train wreck. He was consistently beat with a speed rush off the edge and just doesn’t have the quickness to play the left side.

Defensive Line

Coach Flores is going to test the mettle of his guys. He wants to put stress on a player, and when things appear to be coming together, take that strain up another notch.

For Charles Harris, perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Harris was a menace. He whipped starting Left Tackle Donovan Smith (video below) helping to end the Bucs first drive, and then went to work on poor backup tackle, Cole Boozer. Harris won with speed, with a counter moves, and he defended the run.

Welcome to the NFL, Christian Wilkins. The first-round pick was disruptive. Number 97 recorded his first sack, another bone-crushing hit on the quarterback, and consistent penetration all night long.

Davon Godchaux is bordering on the territory where we don’t need to mention him any more — he’s as steady as they come and a true power-player. He throws those hands and gets under his man with regularity.

Tank Carradine looks good pushing up field, chopping the tackles hands, and bending the edge. He disrupted a throw on his newly patented move, and laid a hit on the quarterback hit.

Jonathan Ledbetter checked in for some first-team work, and he continues to show why the coaches love him. He’s like Godchaux in the way he plays low, with heavy hands, and can really control the point-of-attack in the two-gap scheme.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker played 15 snaps last week, made five tackles, three for run-stuffs, but never blitzed. That changed tonight.

Baker has an innate sense for angles to the quarterback, coupled with a rare burst that allows him to effectively move the quarterback off the spot from any gap he rushes. He also continues to defend the edge as a run-stopper — he’s ultra-impressive.

So was Sam Eguavoen. With four splash plays in the first half — including a forced fumble — Eguavoen displayed everything that has earned him first-team work. He’s athletic enough to get 10-yards deep into a pass drop (one PBU from that position), he’s strong enough to stack the edge in the run-game (one TFL there), and he’s instinctive enough to knife between blocks between the tackles (another TFL there).

The 26-year-old rookie’s most impressive play came in coverage (second clip in the video below). Carrying coverage up the seam, locating the hook zone, and then quickly pulling the trigger as the ball goes out to the flat, Eguavoen punished the receiver and forced a turnover.

Nick Deluca played with the first-team. It’s pretty clear what he does well and how he fits in this defense. He can scrape the edge and assist in the run game — something Miami needs with the injuries at the position mounting.

 

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard was held out of this one, probably because of the weather, but we got our first look at Eric Rowe. Rowe’s appearance was brief and not memorable one way or the other.

Jomal Wiltz, Nik Needham, and Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled. Tackling was an issue for the two slots while Needham was bested in coverage again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick did contribute with a gorgeous pass breakup early on against former Bama teammate O.J. Howard, but these missed tackles are new for him — there’s no reason to think he won’t clean it up.

Torry McTyer competed for the second straight game, and this time against the two’s. He’s taking well to the press-man scheme this defense prefers to run.

Safeties

Chris Lammons flashed time-and-time again. A prominent fixture on special teams, his #30 jersey showed up against the run, the pass, and one very impressive tackle on a screen pass.

Bobby McCain is so often out of frame that it’s difficult to identify him on the broadcast. He did, however, come up once in run support like a missile, and has done well to click-and-close in deep coverage.

Montre Hartage is running as the second-team deep safety. He missed a tackle on a big play in the screen game, but it was whistled back on a holding call.

Maurice Smith was active in the middle of the field. If Reshad Jones and/or T.J. McDonald aren’t back for the season opener, Smith might be called on to play significant reps.

Recap

This is the team I expected to see last week. Strong defensive effort, creative and complex scheme that overwhelms the offense with its disguise, and an offense that can’t get out of its own way.

After the dominant first-half effort by the defense, Flores kept prominent defenders (Harris, Fitzpatrick, Eguavoen) on the field, which felt odd.

The primary specialist unit continues to look the same. Cornell Armstrong, Nick Deluca, Terrill Hanks, Cox, Smith, Hartage, Wiltz, Fitzpatrick, Smythe, and Lammons remain focal points of the unit.

Miami took the lead with only 34 seconds to play, and Flores will certainly express his displeasure for the inability to close. Not to mention the absurd number of penalties. This was simply a sloppy game on Flores’ road debut.

Jason Sanders is a hell of a kicker. He drilled kicks right down the middle from 45 and 49-yards out on a sloppy playing surface.

Regardless of who starts under center, this team needs several things to function on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant need to get back, and Laremy Tunsil has to stay healthy.

All things told, Rosen has been making more out of a bad situation than Fitzpatrick, but the plan was probably to start the veteran on opening day all along — and we’re almost assured of that with the decision to start Fitz in the third preseason game.

Game Balls:

Charles Harris
Sam Eguavoen
Jerome Baker
Christian Wilkins
Patrick Laird

Don’t forget to check out the post-game recap on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

 

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins First-Half Jiffy Report v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Preston Williams
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Who are the Miami Dolphins’ risers and fallers in the first half of the second preseason game v. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Risers

Sam Eguavoen

The former CFL linebacker has continued to impress, and that was on full display during the first half. Eguavoen was shooting gaps and hitting the ball-carrier in the backfield.

He also was responsible for a forced fumble that was recovered by the Miami Dolphins. All arrows are pointing up for Eguavoen to make the roster and an impact for the team during the regular season.

Jerome Baker

Baker quickly made an impact as a blitzer as he rapidly got to Jameis Winston and at least got hits out of that exchange. While Baker needs to get stronger to bring down the quarterbacks and get sacks, it was a great sign to see Baker show this type of pressure.

Charles Harris

Have you noticed all the Risers are defensive players? Well, many of the defensive guys have flashed and surprised me so far in the game.

Harris showed some progression going into his third year, especially in this game. He showed improved hand-placement techniques and used it to get two sacks.

Fallers

Preston Williams

Williams had two major drops that could’ve been first downs. Williams has been a hot name for the past couple of weeks but has cooled down a little bit if this first half is any indication.

I don’t think it’s anything major; I’m sure he’ll get it cleaned up, but he’s fallen back down to Earth somewhat with the easy drops.

Williams did almost redeem himself with a nearly acrobatic touchdown catch but had just barely gone out of bounds.

Michael Deiter

It was only a matter of time before Deiter started struggling. He’s a still a rookie after all. He was responsible for a false start and got lucky that another was missed. It was just all-around rough for Deiter.

 

 

 

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