Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

How Will Miami Approach DE this Offseason?

Kevin Dern

Published

on

Happy New Year all, I’m finally back.  I appreciate Travis putting up with my hiatus, during included a one-month span that included my mom’s birthday, my fiancé (now wife’s) birthday, our wedding, her mom’s birthday, our honeymoon, and a furnace that crapped out.  Now that the wedding is over, and the furnace is fixed, I’ve finally got some more time to write about the Dolphins.  If you’ve followed Travis on Twitter you know he’s got it bad for Derwin James as we enter draft season.  It’s been reported by both Armando Salguero and Barry Jackson that Miami’s interested in adding a third safety this offseason.  Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke even said prior to the season finale that Miami lacks a “dime player” on the roster.

I think Matt Burke is creative enough to try and incorporate a 3-safety look into the defense.  For example, just check out the role he gave to Walt Aikens in the finale against the Bills.  Personally, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for Miami to incorporate more big nickel looks and dime packages into the defense in 2018.  Joe Schad has even speculated that Miami may consider moving T.J. McDonald into a hybrid “dollar” linebacker role.  I think that’d make a lot of sense if they’re able to add someone like Minkah Fitzpatrick especially, or Derwin James in the Draft, or if they sign a Kenny Vaccaro, Tre Boston or Tyvon Branch in free agency.

That would help limit the total number of snaps you need to give to your top two linebackers – I’m looking at you Kiko Alonso – and helps you to use better resources in covering tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce, both of whom took Miami apart in games this past season.  If Miami are able to acquire that type of player, I think you can give a bunch of the 3rd down snaps that you gave to Kiko Alonso and Lawrence Timmons/Stephone Anthony to a 6th DB, thereby not making LB a huge priority this offseason.  Sorry, Roquan Smith fans.  I do, however, think that Miami should very much be interested in finding a long-term replacement for Kiko Alonso so that they can get rid of him going into 2019 and so that Miami has someone to team with Raekwon McMillan into the future.

The addition of a third safety and a linebacker to replace Alonso would be welcome additions.  However, they won’t fully fix the defense.  In my opinion, one of the greatest needs Miami has this offseason is to add another DE to the roster that could be a 3-down player.  Consider, in 2017 Miami was tied for 26th in the NFL with 30 sacks.  That’s a full 26 sacks behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, who led the NFL with 56.  More than a third of the league, 12 teams, had 40 or more sacks.  I also recall PFF posting a stat late in the year, I think before the Buffalo finale, that Miami was either worst, or second worst in the NFL in pressures per pass snap.  That’s really not good.  I think some of that is due to having a rookie in Charles Harris, Andre Branch battling injuries, William Hayes landing on IR, and Cameron Wake disappearing for a month, logging two sacks in a seven week stretch from the Baltimore game through the Monday Night victory over the Patriots.  It’s pretty impressive he recorded 10.5 sacks despite that stretch, and for the first time in his career, recorded double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons.

Moving forward at DE, I think Charles Harris with an NFL offseason program under his belt could put on 10-12lbs and if he learns to use his length, could very well develop into a good 3-down player.  I think Cameron Wake is damn fine as a nickel and dime package (we used to say 3rd down) pass-rush specialist.  I think a huge key for Miami would be adding a DE who is capable of starting and playing 3-downs to team with Charles Harris moving forward.  I think that still leaves plenty of pass-rush snaps for Cameron Wake.  In a dream scenario, I’d love to see Miami draft a DE early and stick him at LDE opposite Charles Harris (for the record, I don’t think Andre Branch is long for the roster).  When you need to go into nickel and pass-rush situations, you can simply bring Wake on the field at LDE, move the rookie to RDE as he has experience at both, and move Charles Harris inside to rush over guards as he did pretty effectively for Miami this past season, similar to the role the Minnesota Vikings have given veteran Brian Robison.

So, who are the candidates that Miami could be looking at this offseason? Let’s start with free agency.  William Hayes could be a candidate to be re-signed, and he’s even said he wants to stay here.  However, Barry Jackson has reported that Miami has yet to give Hayes and indication they’d like to bring him back.  He’s a great run-stopper, and I think he and Wake could team at LDE for another year together, but you’re banking on Wake playing more snaps than what a typical 36 year old would play, and a big jump by Charles Harris.  That jump isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but I think a third key cog in the rotation, someone better than Andre Branch, his what Miami needs.

Looking at the big names out there, there’s really two:  Ezekiel Ansah (12 sacks) and Demarcus Lawrence (15 sacks).  Given Miami’s cap situation, at this time, it seems unlikely Miami would be in for either of those guys.  I think they’ll spend money to bring back Jarvis Landry before spending it on a DE in free agency.  One name that was on Miami’s list last year was Alex Okafor, who was having a heck of a season with the Saints, notching 4.5 sacks in 10 games before tearing his Achilles.  He might be a name to keep an eye on, but even still, that’s a risky proposition.  So, unless Miami frees up additional money, I think the best way for them to move would be to look at the Draft.

So, with that in mind, let’s dive into the prospects themselves.  Miami recently let go of DL Coach Terrell Williams and as of this writing no replacement has been named (I’d keep an eye on Clint Hurtt or Kris Kocurek), so whoever the DL Coach is could get himself a nice prospect to work with early on.  While it seems unlikely, I think we have to touch on N.C. State’s Bradley Chubb.  So let’s start with him.  Keep in mind I’m covering DEs that I like that I think are fit for Miami’s defense.  So, you won’t see Arden Key listed here.

Bradley Chubb – North Carolina State
Chubb is listed by N.C. State at 6’4” 275lbs and the senior turned out a nice final season for the Wolfpack notching 9.5 sacks 72 total tackles, 1 FF and 1 PD.  Chubb’s the consensus top DE on most every list you look at and for good reason.  He’s got a tremendous burst off the snap:

He can also play both RDE and LDE, which for Miami would be huge, as I think they need a LDE to team with Charles Harris moving forward.  Here’s a nice clip of him with a spin move at RDE:

Miami fans will recognize this.  Chubb rushes from LDE and easily gets a nice step off the ball, dips and rips under the RT who has to resort to trying to clothesline Chubb to keep him from getting a sack:

Things I like:  He’s got the prototypical size you want to see in a DE for the Wide-9 Defense.  Chubb has tremendous burst off the ball and he’s got some solid pass-rush moves to work with:  dip and rip, bull rush, speed rush, and he has a little something of a spin move.  He’s very long, and if you watch some of his run snaps, sometimes it looks like he’s going to overplay the ball carrier and run past him, only to stick out a pterodactyl wing to bring the back down.  He also doesn’t give up on plays.  Watch the Florida State game this year and how he chases down the QB to force a fumble 20+ yards down the field.  You also see him do a lot of the things Miami’s defense would require him to do.

Things to work on:  Leverage.  He’s a tall guy, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he measures out at every bit of 6’4”.  Sometimes with that height and length, he can play a bit high.  He also as a slight tendency to let his hands stop working.  Hayden Hurst, the TE from South Carolina, had a very nice rep where he’s able to engage Chubb in 1-on-1 pass-pro and basically handles a bull-rush as Chubb isn’t able to keep his hands working to try a counter move once he’s stalemated.

If you were wondering, he is cousins with Georgia RB Nick Chubb.  That said he figures likely to be taken before Miami’s pick at 11.  Perhaps if there’s a run on QBs, along with Saquon Barkley, Chubb may dip a bit back to 7 or 8; does Miami try and make a move that point? I’d hope so, but that’d seem to run counter to the M.O. of the front office.  So, let’s look at some other names.

I would’ve included Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell here as I thought he’d be front and center on the radar for Miami at 11, but he opted to return to Clemson for another year.  Surefire 1st rounder in 2019.  He’s really good.

Marcus Davenport – Texas-San Antonio
You might not have heard of Marcus Davenport of the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners, but you will come the Draft.  Davenport’s listed at 6’6” or 6’7” and anywhere from 245-255lbs, depending on where you look.  Let’s get one thing clear from the jump, he’s not going to be used the way Dolphins fans wanted to use Dion Jordan, despite UTSA’s using him in a myriad of ways.  I think at the next level he’s a DE straight away.

UTSA runs a bit of a hybrid defense mixing 3-4 and 4-3 looks and using Davenport as a bit of chess piece.  In some cases, he looks very much like he’s playing the role of a 3-4 OLB.  In others, he’s basically a stand-up 4-3 DE.  They also use him as a stand-up backer and rush him in the middle.  So, if you watch UTSA, keep your eyes on #93 as he’ll be lined up all over the place.

He’s got a tremendous burst off the ball:

He combines that burst with a tremendous punch and closing speed to get to the QB.  He’s tremendous in working in a straight line.  Here’s a great example of him using a rip move and flipping his hips to close on the QB for a sack:

If you go to 15:20 in Voch Lombardi’s Film Session on Davenport, look at what he does to the LG.  My goodness:

Now, take nothing away from the Roadrunners, but they play in Conference-USA, which isn’t exactly a powerhouse of teams.  So, I’ll be interested to see how Davenport looks when the Senior Bowl practices start up.  But, looking at him right now he sort of remind me of Carlos Dunlap when he was at the University of Florida.  I do think if Davenport’s drafted by the Dolphins, they’ll ask him to try and put on 10-15lbs of muscle to get into that 265-270lbs range, sort of like Ezekiel Ansah’s specs.  And, we’ve seen players like Danielle Hunter bulk up and maintain their speed/burst in recent years, so there is a precedent for that.

Things I like:  Burst.  Davenport’s burst is tremendous, and you can see some of the tactics he’s picked up in order to rush the passer.  He’s able to dip his shoulder, rip and flip his hips pretty effectively.  He’s got a really nice punch, and with his long arms he can put bigger linemen on skates.  His straight-line closing speed is pretty impressive, and I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t maintain that even if he puts on more muscle.  He hustles.  Take a look at this game from 2016 against Texas A&M; he makes several stops on RBs coming from the backside of the field:

Things to work on:  I don’t think it will matter a whole lot if Davenport ends up in Miami’s Wide-9, but he’s not as adept at moving laterally down the line.  Miami’s scheme is attacking, so I’m not concerned here.  I think he’s built sort of thin and is high cut, much like Carlos Dunlap, but I think he could work on his lower body strength to help increase his balance.

I wasn’t as high on Clemson’s Austin Bryant, but I would’ve listed him above Sam Hubbard here.

Sam Hubbard – Ohio State

Sam Hubbard is an interesting player and has an interesting story.  He was originally committed to Notre Dame as a lacrosse player and played safety in high school.  Urban Meyer went to Cincinnati Moeller to meet with another recruit and caught Hubbard playing dodgeball in the gym.  Meyer liked what he saw and recruit Hubbard to Ohio State as a safety.  Except Sam grew into the 6’5” 265lbs prospect we see now.  Hubbard look the part, but he’s not another Joey Bosa, let’s make that clear.  But Hubbard is a pretty good prospect in his own right.

He’s very long, and uses his wingspan to his advantage.  Here he stops a zone-read play:

Hubbard also packs a nice punch and is able to jar linemen at the point.  This time he rushes from the LDE spot:

Being a former safety, he’s got pretty good feet for someone as big and long as he is.  Check out this change of direction as he ball keys on the QB and stops the QB for no gain after he began an outside pass-rush move:

He also displays pretty good closing speed.  He beats Mason Cole with a rip move here and covers a lot of ground to notch a sack with teammate Tyquan Lewis:

Things I like:  Hubbard looks the part and can play either RDE or LDE.  He produced in some of Ohio State’s biggest games, notching 6 sacks in games against Oklahoma, Michigan and USC this past season.  He’s got long arms, good change of direction skills and a great motor.

Things to work on:  Ohio State had a pretty nice rotation at DE with Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes – more on him later, and Nick Bosa.  Hubbard was more pass-rusher than run-stopper for the Buckeyes and was in a rotation-heavy system at Ohio State.  That may or may not affect him in the NFL, but I remember it was always something that made people leery of Dion Jordan’s time at Oregon.  You also have to look at Hubbard’s production as he had an 8-game stretch without a sack this past season.  But, for a 2nd round pick, I think Miami would be getting someone they can plug into the rotation from day one; I’m just not sure how soon or not he’d develop into a 3-down player.

Duke Ejiofor – Wake Forest
Ejiofor goes 6’3” and 275lbs and moves pretty well.  He’s coming off a 6.5 sack season for the Demon Deacons and he’s a guy that flies under the radar a bit, though I have one more dark horse candidate for Miami later on.  Ejiofor’s hand are what sticks out to me.  They’re quick and violent.  And if you have good hands coming out of college, that’s going to give you a leg up in the NFL.  Check out this quick little 1-2 jab move to beat the RT to the outside:

Here, he’s able to get off the ball quick and uses a nice swim move to get inside of the left tackle to stop the run:

Ejiofor is able to play on either side, and I like how much ground he can cover with his first step.  Here he does a great job of flattening his rush and closing down the space for a sack:

He also does a nice job of keeping his pad level down and exploding off the ball.  Here he splits a double-team with a rip move and brings down Lamar Jackson for a sack:

Things I like:  Ejiofor’s hands are quick, active and physical.  He rushes with good pad-level and does a good job of flattening when he runs the arc.  He also makes plays when he seemingly doesn’t have the angle on the QB or the ball carrier.  I think that relates back to his hands and how strong they are and he’s got a nice wingspan.

Things to work on:  He doesn’t look like he’s 275lbs to me on film.  He looks more like Charles Harris’ size.  That’ll be something to check on.  Linemen can push him around in the ground game if they can lock on.  I’m not sure if that’s something with the Wake Forest scheme, but it seems like they ask their D-line to read and ball-key more than attack upfield.  That doesn’t play to Ejiofor’s strength; he’s explosive and has good hands.  If Miami drafts him, that may take care of itself with the way they ask their ends to play, but he can be pushed around and “Velcro’d” by bigger O-linemen.

Jalyn Holmes – Ohio State
I promised more on Hubbard’s teammate Jalyn Holmes, so here it is.  Holmes is a guy who was always a backup as a Buckeye, but played a healthy number of snaps in the D-line rotation.  Holmes is 6’5” 270lbs, and looks more like an NFL prospect than the rest of his Buckeye running mates.  Holmes in my eyes would be more of a direct replacement for William Hayes in Miami’s defense.  He’s got the size and length, but doesn’t have the burst off the ball that we’ve seen in Chubb, Davenport and Hubbard so far.  The Buckeyes used him as a 3rd down DT in the pass-rush lineup.  Here you can see him beating the RG with a spin move:

Here you see it again against USC in the bowl game against the LG.  Holmes loses the hand fight and stays stuck on his block, but he’s able to stay in his lane fairly well and helps close the door on Darnold when he tries to scramble:

Holmes is limited in terms of his pass-rush repertoire, and he sort of reminds me of Jason Jones.  I know that will make Miami fans cringe, but I think with Holmes you’re getting a guy who can do some of the dirty work to stop the run and free up other rushers by rushing from a DT spot on 3rd downs.

When Holmes gets it right and keeps his pad level down and uses his hands all the way through, you can get some pretty nice physical rushes:

Things I like:  He won’t wow you with his speed or burst off the snap, but he’s got the length, size and demeanor to play up and down the line.  You can put him at either end spot or inside and use him on all manner of stunts and blitzes.  I think there’s potential there in terms of making him an effective interior pass-rusher while playing the run and setting the edge as a base down defender.

Things to work on:  He’s going to have to work on his get-off on the snap.  Holmes strikes me as someone who isn’t going to have pretty numbers in Combine drills.  As I said, he reminds me of Jason Jones.  He’s tough, and when he keeps his hands moving and pads down, he can be difficult to deal with.  But, it’s not always consistent.  Holmes being 6’5”, much like Chubb, can play too tall at times and lets linemen get under his pads.

Davin Bellamy – Georgia
Davin Bellamy is my dark horse candidate.  He was a 3-4 OLB for the Georgia Bulldogs this past year, very much in the mold of Cornelius Washington and, Dolphins fans might remember this name, Quentin Moses before him.  Bellamy is listed at 6’5” 245lbs, but he may be bigger.  He spent a good portion of the year with his hand in a cast but still managed to produce 5 sacks, 2 FF, and 3 pass deflections to go with 34 tackles.

Here he beats Notre Dame LT Mike McGlinchey with a speed rush for the strip sack:

On this play he’s able to jam the TE at the LOS scrimmage, get off, and closes in for the sack:

One thing I like about him is that Georgia moves him around.  They’ll keep him up as a true 3-4 OLB.  On 3rd downs throughout the year they’d play him as a true DE in a 4-man line.  He even has a few reps rushing inside.  He sets a very hard edge against the run, and for someone who is listed at 245lbs I find it pretty impressive.

Much like Davenport, I like his straight-line speed.  He plays with a good motor and will chase down plays from behind.  He’s not a great lateral athlete.  But again, I think if he’s able to bulk up a bit, Miami’s scheme can help hide that deficiency if he’s a DE.  He gets overshadowed by Roquan Smith and Lorenzo Carter, but Bellamy is a fine mid-round prospect in his own right; I’m just not sure he’s for every scheme out there.

There are some other guys to keep an eye on leading up to the Draft like Tyquan Lewis of Ohio State, Kemoko Turay of Rutgers, Josh Sweat of Florida State, and Justin Lawler of SMU but the players above are the ones I really like for Miami.  I’ll follow this piece up with a look at some linebacker prospects I like for the Dolphins in the next few weeks.

 

 

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

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

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

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

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

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

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

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

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

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

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

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

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

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

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

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

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

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

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

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

Jason Sanders is a stud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

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

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

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

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future We Created

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

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

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

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

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

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

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

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

Full trade:

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

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

Published

on

Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending