The Miami Dolphins’ trade with the Arizona Cardinals to acquire Josh Rosen was perhaps the biggest story on the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Just a year earlier, the Cardinals had traded up in the first round to draft Rosen with the tenth overall pick and he was perceived to be Arizona’s future star. But Rosen’s debut season saw him struggle on a team devoid of talent, which earned the Cardinals the number 1 pick in April 2019.
Kliff Kingsbury stood by his word and drafted Kyler Murray, the diminutive but explosive QB phenomenon with the top overall spot, leaving Josh Rosen as surplus to requirements in the desert state.
Dolphins’ GM, Chris Grier, was widely praised for the trade which saw Rosen arrive in Miami – acquiring a further second round pick in 2020 from the New Orleans Saints before sending Miami’s 2019 second rounder and a 2020 fifth rounder to Arizona in exchange for the young and talented passer.
It is no secret that the Miami Dolphins are poised for a difficult season ahead, with many of the Cardinals’ fundamental issues from last year apparently set to plague the Dolphins as they forge ahead with their plan to rebuild for the future.
The circumstances are eerily similar. The 2018 Cardinals had a rookie Head Coach, a lacklustre offensive group (Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson aside), paper-thin protection for their new quarterback and cracks in the defense that no amount of Flex Seal products could resolve.
Whilst the trade for Josh Rosen may have him safely removed from a situation where he was never going to be given fair competition to compete against Arizona’s newest toy, it lands him in familiar and dangerous territory on a team which will have difficulty keeping the young quarterback on his feet behind a relatively inexperienced and/or talent-poor offensive line.
For far too long in Miami, the offensive line has truly lived up to its name. At times it has been downright disgusting. It has seen coaches and players fired or embroiled in scandal, quarterbacks decimated, games lost and seasons disappear into worthlessness.
Dolphins fans don’t want to have to think about it any longer but the annual talk of the Dolphins’ underwhelming talent level among the group resurfaces, overshadowing the Pro Bowl caliber of Miami’s elite LT, Laremy Tunsil. The group will remain a work–in–progress, about which fans can do nothing other than trust in yet another new regime to finally get it correct.
In 2018, Josh Rosen ended the season with a 3-10 record in 13 starts with 14 INTs (tied for 5th worst), 45 sacks (7th worst), 4 pick sixes, 10 fumbles and 11 TDs (tied for 30th).
His 2278 yards ranked 29th in the league and his completion percentage of 55.2% (217/393) ranked 33rd behind the league’s worst offensive line.
The result was a 66.7 Quarterback Rating which was good enough for 34th in the NFL.
The Miami Dolphins did have a higher ranked offensive line in 2018, ending the year ranked 31st. The risk of history repeating itself is real and it will be up to a new group of coaches and co-ordinators to figure out how to get the most out of Josh Rosen, whilst simultaneously evaluating his potential as part of Miami’s future.
The Dolphins do have a promising group of receivers – a rare combination of speedsters and powerful pass catchers. Whilst questions regarding injury and (in some cases) effort affect each and every one, the wide receiver room is a deep and talented bunch. They certainly have the talent to make plays on the NFL stage with Josh Rosen most notably showing promising chemistry with undrafted rookie sensation, Preston Williams.
After years of being placed on the back burner, tight end is evolving into a significant focus of the Dolphins offense under Brian Flores and a shifty yet powerful selection of young running backs look set to contribute heavily to the passing attack.
So focus returns to the quarterback position. Not so much to Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose veteran experience has been proven throughout his 16 years in the NFL – but to Rosen as the one who has the chance to establish himself as part of the Dolphins for years to come. Fitzpatrick will inevitably serve as an excellent mentor to Josh until he has proven he can take the lead and although that time is approaching, no one knows for sure when it will arrive.
In a close battle throughout training camp, it has been well reported that Fitzpatrick’s veteran savvy and awareness sees him placed ahead of the young buck, but Rosen has been gaining ground with a relatively impressive Dolphins debut in his first pre-season game which has seen Rosen begin to take more snaps with the starters in practice.
WHAT DOES ROSEN NEED TO DO?
However the year may play out, at the close of the season the Dolphins will have to make a decision regarding their QB spot heading into 2020.
The 2020 rookie class is likely to contain a number of attractive names worthy of the investment of a high first round pick and the Dolphins could find themselves with easy access to acquire another quarterback in the opening selections of Round 1.
Just to add extra pressure to Josh Rosen, the Dolphins have a multitude of draft picks which will help them to manoeuvre up and down the draft board together with a wide open wallet when it comes to cap space. It is therefore unlikely that they would be slow up to the Commissioner’s podium to hand in the card with any one of Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love or Jake Fromm’s names scribbled on it.
If Rosen wants to prove the Cardinals wrong in dealing him away, to show the Dolphins they were right to take a chance on him and quieten all the doubters, his time is NOW. The pressure is on and the clock is ticking.
So what does Josh Rosen have to do to get the Dolphins to look elsewhere at the top of the draft? What does he need to accomplish for the Dolphins to focus attention on other positions (perhaps even O-Line!) and seek to supplement the roster with other top-tier talent?
The first thing we will have to disregard for now is the offensive line. We all know it is a problem but Rosen must show flashes of ability to overcome some heavy team deficiencies.
The league’s top quarterbacks can still drive the offense behind broken protection. Russell Wilson has done it. Aaron Rodgers has done it. Andrew Luck has done it. Perhaps they have not always been able to drag their team to victory, but they have proved through their own performance and determination that they possess a winning combination of mental awareness and on-field talent to hide weaknesses and demonstrate capacity to lead which sees them constantly discussed as NFL elites.
A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
Quarterback in the NFL is often considered the most difficult position in all of sports. Memorising the playbook. Knowing exactly what the other 10 players on your team are doing on every snap. Commanding the offense, reading the defense and delivering the ball with accuracy and drive, whilst avoiding some of the world’s best athletes on defense and all under the pressure of the stadium lights, TV cameras and eyes of fans around the world. It’s an unenviable task.
Many try and many fail. Many set narratives from their rookie year which stick with them throughout their career.
But there are some who break away from the early narrative and raise their game above and beyond expectations.
A quick flick back through history and the rookie seasons of some notable names prove evidence of the same:
Terry Bradshaw, Hall of Farmer, 4x Super Bowl Champion and 2x Super Bowl MVP and the top overall pick for the Steelers in 1970 threw a record setting 24 INTS in 13 games (8 starts) with 6 TDs and a miserable 30.4 quarterback rating.
In 1979, his first year as a Dallas Cowboy, Troy Aikman threw for only 1749 yards with 18 INTs and 9 TDs.
Peyton Manning threw 28 INTs and finished with a 3-13 record in his rookie year (but still managed to put up 26 TDs and 3739 yards).
His brother, Eli Manning (again a first overall pick) threw for a lowly 48.2% completion rate, 6 TDs 9 INTs and 1043 yards in 7 games (1-6) as a starter.
Even, John Elway, first overall selection in 1983, future Hall of Famer, 9x Pro Bowler, 2x Super Bowl Champion, Super Bowl MVP and all-round NFL icon started his career with a 4-6 record, 47.5% completion, 7 TDs 14 INTs and 6 fumbles.
Of course, these players constitute a small handful of rare exceptions and the number of quarterbacks who ultimately fail rather than succeed is much larger.
But Josh Rosen does have the smarts. He does have the talent. He definitely has the self-confidence. He just needs to put everything together, something that only time will show us whether it can be done.
PROJECTING THE NUMBERS
I understand that placing figures and imaginary statistics on a player at this stage is an entirely arbitrary process. The evaluation of Josh Rosen will absolutely be an ‘eye–ball test’ rather than a simple review of the numbers. But I do consider there to be some benchmarks which he needs to meet (and hopefully exceed) before the Dolphins can properly consider Rosen as a promising prospect for the future to the extent that they can justifiably avoid taking a quarterback at the top of the 2020 draft.
Those key benchmarks are:
– Winning the training camp battle outright and being named starter before Week 1
– Showing continued growth in decision making, accuracy and vocal leadership
– Dragging the team to a .500+ record
– Throwing 26+ TDs with fewer than 10-12 INTs
– Throwing a 65%+ completion percentage
– Throwing for 4200+ yards
Those stats may even be a little too generous to Rosen and could even appear Tannehill-esque. But they would place him squarely in the top half of NFL rankings (compared to 2018 numbers) and be achieved on a roster with room for improvement.
I don’t for one minute mean that if Rosen achieves these numbers that the Dolphins have their quarterback of the future. Rather I set these numbers at a level to be met before I think the Dolphins could look elsewhere.
One of the fundamental criticisms of Ryan Tannehill was that he seemingly couldn’t elevate the players around him. He needed protection and the focused concentration of all those around him before he could fire on an impressive level. But not since 1972 has anything in the NFL been perfect and Josh Rosen has to show that he doesn’t need it to be in order to succeed.
Brian Flores already talked about Josh Rosen’s body language needing to improve. He has made clear statements about Fitzpatrick’s higher level of understanding of the offense. Most importantly, he has confirmed that the best player will ultimately play. If Rosen wants to avoid a repeat of 2018, it is on his shoulders to put the Dolphins out of reach of the number 1 draft pick by the end of the season.
Rosen knows himself that he has to put the work in, has to seize control of the offense and become a leader. He is battling not only against Ryan Fitzpatrick, but also against himself for starting quarterback position for 2019 and beyond.
Playing behind 2018’s 31st-ranked offensive (and one which is projected to continue to dredge the bottom of the rankings) Rosen has to demonstrate a considerable step-up in playmaking from a mental and physical aspect. The change in team, teammates, playbook and coaches simply adds to the inconsistency and adversity faced in his young career but he has to demonstrate that he can overcome those hurdles to be not just a ‘good’ player but show that he has the traits of a special player for the Dolphins to avoid taking a QB in 2020.
With his salary virtually fully paid by the Cardinals for another 3 years the Dolphins had nothing to lose by taking on Rosen. But they aren’t looking at him as the franchise’s saviour. Not yet, and most definitely not without proper evaluation.
The likelihood is that the Dolphins won’t be put off the top names of the 2020 or 2021 quarterback classes by anything Rosen does in 2019. Competition and depth at quarterback is key to development and continued success – something the Dolphins haven’t had for decades.
The time is now for to Josh Rosen to make the most of his opportunity to join a small but resilient group of quarterbacks who have battled through the pains of their rookie year and taken steps towards NFL stardom.
Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis
Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers
The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.
Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.
Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.
That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.
Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.
|Year||Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)|
A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.
Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.
Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.
Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.
First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.
The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.
His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.
This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.
That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.
The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.
Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.
The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.
Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.
If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.
Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.
Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.
Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.
The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.
Now, for the tape.
Quick Taco Charlton film thread. Looking at the applicable traits that make him a potential fit in Miami’s scheme, where he needs to get better, and why coaching can make a difference.
First, the get-off paired with lateral agility will suit him well in a stunt-heavy defense. pic.twitter.com/Qgd0kzPzlp
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 19, 2019
If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.
We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.
Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton
Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.
By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2019
Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.
While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.
Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.
Dolphins have claimed former Cowboys DE Taco Charlton, source confirms. Charlton was Dallas 2017 first-round pick who the team waived Wednesday.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 19, 2019
The Dolphins are getting Taco Charlton for a bargain: 2 years, $2.5M.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) September 19, 2019
Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.
Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview
Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D
Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21
The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.
This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.
Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.
The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.
The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.
Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.
Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.
On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.
With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.
Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.
Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.
Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.
Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.
The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.
Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.
Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.
Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.
Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.
Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.
If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.
— Jeff Kolb (@JeffKolbFOX4) September 20, 2019
Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.
Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.
Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.
Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.
The Projected Outcome:
The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.
Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.
- Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis September 19, 2019
- Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton September 19, 2019
- Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview September 19, 2019
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