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Linebackers: The Importance Of The Dolphins’ Deepest Group

Chris Kowalewski

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Dolphins fans have become accustomed to seeing it every week. 

The big play being given up. 

The converted 3rd down. 

The porous defense and loose coverage. 

Raise your hand if you can remember the last time the Dolphins had a defense which ranked in the top 10 in terms of yardage allowed.

I’ll wait…

If you’re there at the back with your hand in the air itching to shout about the days of Zach Thomas you’re not too far off.

Although Zach Thomas left the team in 2007, the Dolphins have not had a defensive unit which ranked in the top 10 for yards allowed since 2010, in which they managed an impressive 6th in the league. Whilst yardage was largely controlled, points were less so and they ended the year ranked 14th. Offensively, points scored counterbalanced any defensive success as the team finished in the lowly 30th spot.

Whilst the Dolphins’ offensive struggles have been charted and noted since the turn of the millennium, we’ll try to focus on the defensive group and how the Dolphins can try to return through respectability and back towards top-tier status with a lens focused on the talents of the linebackers.

The linebackers in 2010 were Karlos Dansby (78 tackles), Koa Misi (29 tackles) and Channing Crowder (33 tackles) with Cameron Wake leading the way with 14 sacks and stalwart safety Yeremiah Bell racking up 83 solo tackles.

For Dolfans, it may bring back fond memories as quite an impressive and promising group, but casting an eye back over the defensive statistics, it quickly becomes clear that for the best part of a decade the Dolphins have floundered between average and awful when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.

YEAR RANK (Points Allowed) RANK (Yards Allowed)
2010 14th 6th
2011 6th 15th
2012 7th 21st
2013 8th 21st
2014 20th 12th
2015 19th 25th
2016 18th 29th
2017 29th 16th
2018 27th 29th

The rankings for yardage and points allowed are particularly difficult to digest considering the defensive investments which the Dolphins had made over those years to try and plug the abyssal gaps in its defense with the costly signings of Ndamukong Suh (2015 – 6 years, $114m), Philip Wheeler (2013 – 5 years, $25m) and Dannell Ellerbe (2013 – 5 years, $35m), failed or underwhelming draft picks and whilst simultaneously attempting to manage and get the most out of the elite talents of a one-man-wrecking-crew in Cameron Wake.

The Dolphins have since been driven and guided by the ‘offensive minds’ of Joe Phibin and Adam Gase and whilst the hiring of Brian Flores now comes with a predominantly defensive background, he has a hand in all aspects of team-building and leadership and is looking to revamp the defensive scheme and lock down opposing teams once and for all..

It is inevitable and understandable that comparisons will ultimately be drawn and assumptions made from what we known about our North Eastern foes, due to the presence of a significant chunk of their coaching staff having recently transitioned to the warmer climes of Miami. With a proven track record in New England, the importance of the linebacking group cannot be understated and it is a system which Flores hopes to install in South Florida

As with any Belichick-based defense, the linebackers played a significant role in the success of the scheme as a whole and the 2018 group gave up a respectable 20.3 points per game which (similar to the 2010 Dolphins) was good enough for 6th in the NFL and saw them through to a superb performance under the direction of Coach Flores in the Super Bowl.

Flores himself, as a significant part of that success, clearly took pride in ensuring the focus of the players was strong upon their ability to stop the run, create pressure on the quarterback and provide coverage over the middle of the field. Too many times have Dolfans cursed at their TV sets watching linebacker get beaten for an easy 3rd down conversion, with opposing receivers and running backs seemingly free to graze on the pastures in the middle of the field on each snap.  It has become Flores’ primary mission to shut that down.

As the Dolphins took to the field on Thursday night for their first taste of 2019 pre-season football it offered the first glimpse into how Flores and Defensive Co-Ordinator Patrick Graham are likely to run Miami’s defensive scheme and how they intend on getting the most out of their players. As expected, the ‘base defense’ of 4-3/3-4 has evolved and the Dolphins lined up predominantly in 4-2-5 with a sprinkling of 3-2-6 and 3-3-5. It’s something which the Patriots have done very successfully during their reign of terror. 

The on-field display didn’t reveal everything we can expect (or at least hope for) from the 2019 Dolphins in terms of pass rush and QB pressure, but it is still far too early for any coach to show their hand. Regardless, training camp and Thursday’s performance have highlighted some reasons for hope as well as (more importantly) areas in need of work and following the game Coach Flores was the first to pound the table for at least one major improvement:

“I thought tackling was an issue, a major issue. And it’s something that we’ll work on, it’s something that we talk about. Tackling, communication, defending the deep part of the field. It wasn’t good enough. When you don’t tackle well you’re going to give up yardage. It’s as simple as that. That’s something we’ll spend a lot of time on.”

So as training camp continues to unfold and playbook installs continue to set themselves as second nature in the minds of the roster, let’s look at who Coach Flores (and the fans) will be looking at to improve the all-important linebacking unit in 2019.

At the top of the list is Jerome Baker, the promising second year player out of Ohio State. Over the course of his debut year, Baker has transitioned into the leader of the group, making the calls from his position and the expectation is on him to run the show on defense, making calls in both the running game and in coverage. Jerome Baker made strides throughout his rookie season and enters 2019 with a greater level of responsibility, greater swagger and greater trust from the defensive coaches – he is destined to have a big year if he can stay healthy. He is the leader of the defense will be a huge factor in their ability to generate pressure. He has electric burst and a high level of speed. Whether in practice or on the field, Baker seems to play at a different pace to everyone else around him leading the team in tackles in Thursday’s pre-season matchup. 

Entering his 3rd year in the NFL (yet only his 2nd with any regular season playing time due to an ACL tear in his rookie year) Raekwon McMillan is the setting himself to be the primary MLB in the Dolphins’ base defensive scheme. McMillan has however continued to struggle with ongoing injuries through training camp and did not see any action against the Falcons. His spot in camp has been replaced with heavy use of Sam Eguavoen – a practice monster who has also demonstrated power, speed and versatility to play multiple positions. Whilst hopes and expectations still remain equally high for McMillan, Sam Eguavoen’s practice reports have been very supportive and his confidence is expected to grow with continued playing time and reps – something which has clearly earned under Brian Flores’ close watch.

5th round rookie, Andrew Van Ginkel is a name to keep both eyes on. The Patriots had a habit of turning ‘no-name’ players into key playmakers and Van Ginkel could find himself occupying an important role as Flores’ scheme settles itself in South Beach. He is extremely versatile as a player and in a scheme which will undoubtedly change its face and adapt throughout the game, he could quickly find himself being an LBer who plays a lot of different positions and sees significant playing time. As well as bringing pressure from the edge, he has a nose for the football, can also transition inside and uses good recognition, speed and quickness in diagnosing and acting upon run plays. 

Another rookie, undrafted free agent TreWatson has been making a name for himself throughout training camp. With 4 tackles (2 solo) in his debut, Watson has shown throughout practice that he is a physical player with a good knack for disengaging himself from blocks and possesses a relentless pursuit. 

Terrill Hanks, a rookie at 6’2’’ and 241lbs is seemingly the fastest LB on the team and his 4 tackles (3 solo) against the Falcons showed coaches and fans alike that he has the speed and ability to make his presence felt on this team and provide depth to a group which will depend on versatility and flexibility. Hanks has an opportunity to make the most of his skills in chasing down players in pursuit as well as an ability to close the edge and makes plays in the backfield.

Whilst he continues to be listed as a starter on the ‘official’ depth chart, Kiko Alonso’s hold on the position is certainly under challenge by a group of young and hungry playmakers. But no-one should be complaining about the presence of competition on any level. Whilst Kiko received his fair share of criticism at times in coverage with his ‘boom-or-bust’ approach, it will be very interesting to see how he is used in a scheme which is without question going to be a much more tightly controlled than the recent defensive plans of Matt Burke. Alonso brings a level of leadership and hard-nosed playability to the young group, which only comes with veteran experience and the loosening of a few screws.

The group closes out its depth on with the return of backups Chase Allen (injured) Mike Hull (PUP), Quentin Poling and free agent addition Nick DeLuca. As they will continue to fight for playing time on the defense and special teams, a fact which has become a little lost in the franchise’s 2019 reboot is that the linebacker group could possibly be the deepest group on the field, outside of or even equalling the WR group – something which has been a complete rarity over the recent years.

No one should expect miracles as the team prepares to enter 2019, but don’t be surprised if you see those underwhelming defensive rankings rise and continue to steadily climb under Brian Flores and a speedy, young and talented defensive group.

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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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 Quarterback Prospects – Week 12

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 12 of the College Football Season

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

Those quarterbacks are:

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

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap
2019 Week 7 Recap
2019 Week 8 Recap
2019 Week 9 Recap
– No Week 10 Recap
2019 Week 11 Recap

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

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

Week 12 Recap

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mississippi State, Win
Stats: 14/18 (77.8%) 256 yards (14.22 YPA) 2 TD

Today was a collective “L” for the football community. One of the best collegiate players, and widely praised good guys, Tua Tagovailoa suffered a hip injury that leaves his football future in question.

What started out as an ordinary onslaught of explosive plays — a product of perfectly placed passes — ended in potential tragedy. Reports say that Tua’s hip is both dislocated, with a fracture of the wall that retains the ball joint. This injury calls for immediate surgery and significant recovery time, if a football career is possible at all.

Tagovailoa will do everything in his power for a full recovery, and hopefully the advances in modern medicine can allow him to make a triumphant return to the gridiron.

Jordan Love at Wyoming, Win 26-21
Stats: 18/29 (62.1%) 282 yards (9.72 YPA) 2 TD, 2 INT

This game was my favorite quarterback tape to watch this season. Jordan Love exhibited the sometimes unfathomably unique arm-talent that has endeared him to scouts nationally. After two interceptions — one a bad read, another bad luck — Love showed the shortstop-like arm, supreme athleticism, and general freaky traits that have scouts drooling.

The arm-strength to squeeze the football into a tight window from 40 yards away, the rare elasticity to sling it on a line across his body while on the move, the quick release to get the ball out in the face of pressure…it looks like he’s throwing a baseball.

The added element of a designed run package and RPO game, paired with the threat of throwing the ball to any blade of grass on the field, coaches will line up to get their hands on this prospect.

Jake Fromm vs. Missouri, Win 27-0
Stats: 13/28 (46.4%) 110 yards (3.93 YPA) 3 TD

Fromm hit his best throw of the season in another big SEC road victory. Few quarterbacks have the number of scalps that Fromm keeps in his back pocket, and he displayed tremendous poise in another hostile environment.

At times, the crowd noise was deafening, yet Fromm communicated his line checks and audibles with urgency and a steady heartbeat. He made cutch, accurate throws on third down, and beat the defense with his pre-snap prowess.

Fromm has quiet feet when he gets to the top of his drop. That’s not a trait he shares with a lot of the new-age, successful quarterbacks in the NFL. Kyler Murray went first in the draft for his ability to glide weightlessly about the pocket, creating passing lanes.

While Fromm is capable of mitigating some deficiencies with his ability to get the offense into the right play, and accurate passing, he’s not going to erase free rushers with his athleticism, and he’s not going to overcome situations with a fastball throw.

Joe Burrow at Ole Miss, Win 58-37
Stats: 32/42 (76.2%) 489 yards (11.64 YPA) 5 TD, 2 INT

And in one afternoon, Joe Burrow is left with nothing to prove. The now heavy favorite to come off the board with the first pick, the second half of Miami’s season would have to take some considerable turns to get the LSU Quarterback.

Burrow remains as cool as ever in this one. He rushed his Tiger offense out to a big lead with a couple of impressive improvisational plays. The big day was saddled by the two turnovers, but Burrow ends the day as the new QB1 due to Tua’s medical situation.

Justin Herbert vs. Arizona, 10:30 ESPN
Stats: 20/28 (71.4%) 333 yards (11.89 YPA) 4 TD, 1 INT

If this was your first viewing experience of Justin Herbert, you probably came away convinced he’s a top-10 draft pick — and he will be. If you’re a regular to his tape, this game was more of the same — flashes of brilliance when the circumstances permit, but the same inconsistencies in the most important aspects of the game.

Arizona’s defense hasn’t stopped a nose bleed this year, and they sure as hell weren’t going to stop the draft’s most physically impressive specimen behind the country’s best offensive line. Herbert’s long touchdown throws displayed the hand-cannon that has scouts conjuring up the prototypical quarterback build — particularly the toss in the second half.

On the rare occasions where Arizona got heat, you saw Herbert’s lack of quick-twitch to get off the spot, without the inherent ability to keep his eyes downfield to keep the play alive. You saw Herbert make an egregious decision to throw the ball into coverage (the INT was dropped) on a first-and-goal play from the two-yard-line.

The problem with Herbert, is that this has been the story for over 30 games. He still has no signature wins or moments, and the Oregon offense is still predicated on the running and screen game.

Herbert’s best bet at the next level is a run-heavy offense that can utilize his premiere weapon — throwing on the move. Lining up in 12-personnel (2 tight ends) and allowing Herbert to get out in space to throw into layers or flood concepts on the move will be the smoothest transition for the Oregon QB to have some success.

I’m of the belief that you have to put Herbert in an absolutely ideal situation, because he’s not going to mitigate your issues offensively.

Week 12 Conclusion

Reports from the University of Alabama doctor responsible for tending to Tagovailoa say the quarterback will make a full recovery, but he is certainly in for a long rehab process. If anyone can come back from this, it’s Tagovailoa, though his draft stock will surely be impacted. If Tua enters the draft and clears all the medical hurdles, he’ll still be a first-round pick.

Miami might be fortunate if Tagovailoa is still the target. With Brian Flores willing his team to underdog victories, the chances of obtaining the first pick was becoming grim, but so too are Tua’s chances at going off the board number one.

The Dolphins will have a difficult decision to make, though an apparent contingency plan is developing behind Tua.

Jordan Love is making progress the last two weeks in his overall effectiveness, and the highlights he produced today were utterly absurd. Though he has shortcomings in his approach for the game and playing the quarterback position, his physical tools give him — far and away — the highest upside in the class.

Miami’s interesting draft season took a jump to a whole other level of intrigue with the events of Saturday.

Week 13 Schedule

Fromm vs. Texas A&M, 3:30 CBS
Burrow vs. Arkansas, 7:00 ESPN
Love vs. Boise State, 10:30 CBSSN
Herbert at Arizona State TBD

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Videos

A.J. Epenesa – Iowa Defensive End 

Bravvion Roy – Baylor Defensive Tackle

Julian Blackmon – Utah Safety (former corner, invited to Mobile for the Sr. Bowl)

Ben Bredeson – Michigan Left Guard

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Miami Dolphins

Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Colin Kaepernick
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Miami (Locked On Dolphins) – Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

It was only a matter of time before someone posed the question, and maybe it’s already been asked. Does Colin Kaepernick make sense for the Miami Dolphins?

I think the answer could be yes but not in a vacuum. The circumstances would have to be aligned for it to work out.

As it stands, for 2019, I don’t think Kaepernick would be viewed as a starter to fuel any tank or non-tank talk, regardless of how good he looks in the jerry-built workout on Saturday.

Any potential for signing Kaepernick would come with a big asterisk. I think it would have more to do with the some of the draft-eligible quarterbacks that could be a Dolphin next year and the traits and abilities they possess than it does with Kaepernick and what he could do directly for the franchise.

It boils down to who the Miami Dolphins have on their quarterback short list in the 2020 Draft. A lot of this franchise’s future boils down to the quarterback. But I’ll save that lecture for another time.

I’m not sure who will be the quarterbacks on the roster next year. Josh Rosen is likely out, and I’m not sure about Ryan Fitzpatrick. Maybe he stays, maybe he goes.

Regardless, there will be a rookie quarterback on the team, maybe even two if the Dolphins double-dip like the Redskins did in 2012 with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. I’ll save that theory for another time, too.

But once the Dolphins have taken their guy next spring, I think they’ll look for an experienced veteran to fill in for a pedagogical role in the QB room.

One of them could still be Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it could be someone else, like Cam Newton…or Colin Kaepernick, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Newton would be a better fit for that role compared to Fitzpatrick, and he offers the ability to kill two birds with one stone. He can win games and bring up the rookie as he goes.

Travis Wingfield tossed around the idea of trading for Cam Newton on Tuesday’s LOD podcast. I liked the idea. Trade for Newton and draft someone like Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts, who are both much rawer than their Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa counterparts.

Of course, that’s Plan B. If Tagovailoa is still within reach, then draft him. If Burrow’s there, take him. If either of those two situations plays out, then all of the contingency plans go out the window.

But getting either Tagovailoa or Burrow is not a guarantee. So, having a scope on the other potential first-rounders is essential. I still like Jordan Love and his traits, but I also like Jalen Hurts, and I’m coming around on Justin Herbert. All three would benefit from redshirt seasons when entering the NFL.

And having the appropriate veteran guidance will be a huge blessing for the rookie’s development.

While I hope Plan A still comes to fruition, I also like the first backup plan. Here’s a caveat to Plan B, though. Trading for Newton is also not a guarantee.

There are several factors out of the Dolphins control, and that’s assuming that they are, in fact, interested in trading for Newton. If they are interested, then it becomes paramount that they can trade for him. At least they have their 2020 war chest of draft picks.

Now, back to my Kaepernick spiel. If Newton becomes a distant memory and Plan B crumbles, then Kaepernick jumps into the picture.

Kaepernick offers flexibility if the Dolphins do want Newton but can’t land him or if they’re going to save their picks outright.

If Newton is Plan B, then I’m viewing the signing of Kaepernick as a next-best Plan C. Newton and Kaepernick could both fit into the mold of teacher, but both also offer more upside than Ryan Fitzpatrick when it comes to winning games. It’s a way of having your cake and eating it too.

You wouldn’t have to trade for Kaepernick, and I doubt you’d have to fend off many other teams to sign him, either.

Allow an incubation period for the rookie quarterback while Newton or Kaepernick takes the reins for a season or two. Similar to how Patrick Mahomes held clipboards for most of his rookie season, grooming a rookie quarterback under the wings of a veteran could provide more sustainable growth for the rookie.

It’ll set up the rook to eventually blossom in a few years instead of being thrown to the wolves and also allow the Dolphins to find relevancy in short-term eras from one of the two mentioned veterans (Newton and Kaepernick).

So, would signing Kaepernick make sense? Yes, but only under certain conditions. I could see it become more likely that Kaepernick never joins the team, but there are scenarios, albeit limited ones, that could see him in orange and aqua.

But he could become a leader for the team and a teacher for the next-gen quarterback waiting in the wings.

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Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores – The Solution to Miami’s Two-Decade-Long Problem

Travis Wingfield

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The talent has been here all along, but the coaching hasn’t been, until now

Hot, muggy August mornings signal the best time of year for football fans in South Florida. As the Dolphins head to camp, the start of a new season looms on the horizon. This past August — Brian Flores’ first with the Dolphins — we saw a training camp in Davie unlike any before.

Individual drills, focusing on fundamentals and the core basics of the sport (blocking, defeating blocks, tackling, and drilling mental toughness and a mistake-free mindset), the practices featured very few team portions.

Boring as all get out for the fans in attendance, sure, but those foundational bricks have already laid the groundwork for the least-penalized team in the NFL. In the midst of a challenging season, those repetitive, grueling days have resulted in a team that ranks in the top 10 in tackling (9th-fewest missed tackles).

The 2019 Miami Dolphins training camp period was the most important month of Flores’ tenure as the man-in-charge, and it’s already paying massive dividends. The top-of-the-league rankings in the minute, yet crucial details of the game are tremendous, and even more valuable when considering the gems Miami discovered along the way.

Those gems aren’t exclusive to undrafted free agents and reclamation projects. The Dolphins are getting career years out of former top 50 picks in Devante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Raekwon McMillan.

Good coaching with premium talent is the best way to curate household names across the league, but a team without depth is a team that can’t succeed in this league. Uncovering both bonafide starters, and rotational parts from that scrap heap is the most encouraging aspect of Brian Flores’ first year in Miami.

Vince Biegel’s pass rush productivity marks are top 10 at his position from an efficiency standpoint.

Nik Needham was an undrafted free agent who’s gone from Conference USA to holding his own against NFL receivers. Needham’s coming off a two-game stretch where he made 14 tackles, and his first career sack and interception.

Jomal Wiltz was on the Patriots practice squad last season, and now he’s a valuable, versatile part of the defensive backfield. Ryan Lewis, Ken Crawley, Ken Webster have all contributed as in-season defensive back free agent signings as well.

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by Miami Dolphins linebacker Vince Biegel (47) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

John Jenkins was a cut-down day acquisition, and all he’s done is led Miami in overall Pro Football Focus grade.

Eric Rowe was signed for close to nothing — a one-year, $3.5 million deal back in March. He struggled at cornerback early on, but since moving to a strong safety role — where he covers tight ends and plays a lot in the box — he’s playing some of the best ball of his career.

That list is impressive in its own right, and certainly inspires confidence in the Dolphins ability to succeed in this rebuild going forward. Even for the fan apprehensive to trust Chris Grier and company, it’s impossible to deny the widespread individual growth.

That’s where this next list comes into play. The Dolphins have had talent, and that’s evident by the players that have departed South Florida, and gone onto successful careers elsewhere.

For the sake of continuity and time elapsed relevance, we’ll go as far back as the beginning of the Joe Philbin era. Grier has been in Miami since 2007, but his role in each individual acquisition is impossible to gage. And that remains true even today as Miami — and all NFL teams — act as a gigantic collaboration.

With more than 30 scouts, college and professional personnel directors, a General Manager, Assistant General Manager, and nearly 20 coaches all serving underneath Owner Stephen Ross, nobody outside the walls in Miami knows who is responsible for which move.

To borrow the famed Bill Parcells mantra, the front office buys the groceries. From there, it’s up to the coaching staff to best prepare those ingredients and cook up a winning recipe. From Joe Philbin to Adam Gase, Miami have done very little to take on talent and produce an even better product on the other side.

We start in 2012 with the decision to trade the biggest name receiver this franchise has employed since Chris Chambers left at the 2007 trade deadline.

2012

Brandon Marshall – Marshall was an pro-bowl-level player at every stop except for Miami. His career fizzled towards retirement at the end, and he had a decent stretch in the 2011 season, but his two years in Miami produced the two worst statistical seasons out of the prime of his career. Marshall’s first year with the Bears resulted in a first-team All-Pro selection, a product of 1,508-yard season with 11 touchdowns — topping the two-year total (nine TD) with Miami.

Vontae Davis – The infamous grandma phone call request will never be forgotten, but Vontae got the last laugh on Miami. After three promising seasons with the Phins, Davis’ next four in Indianapolis produced two pro-bowls and 12 interceptions.

2013

Karlos Dansby – This move was a double whammy, as it was made to create space for all-time free agent bust in Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby didn’t make any pro-bowls after leaving Miami, but his first season in the dessert was a smashing success. He picked off four passes (two for touchdowns), broke up 19 passes, made 12 TFLs and registered his second-highest sack total of his career with 6.5.

Sean Smith – Smith infamously made a public comment during the Seahawks rise to prominence in 2012 about Richard Sherman and the freedom of Seattle’s cornerbacks within that scheme. Smith was promptly allowed to depart via free agency, but didn’t break the bank with the Kansas City Chiefs. Fresh off his new three-year, $18 million deal, Smith’s first year in KC resulted in an 84.7 passer rating against. Then, in 2014, Smith was PFF’s 6th-highest graded corner (Davis was 2nd.)

Tony McDaniel – Arriving via a conditional pick in 2009, McDaniel earned his way from the bottom of the depth chart into a rotational role. Then, in 2013, he left for Seattle and his career took off. His Pro Football Reference Approximate Value metric was never higher than 3 with Miami. His first two years in Seattle, McDaniel had an AV of 9 and 7. He made 94 tackles those two years, 12 more than his four-year total with the Dolphins.

2014

Nolan Carroll – A fifth-round pick in 2010, Carroll took some time to develop his game. Just as he did, the Dolphins allowed the Maryland product to walk in free agency. Carroll never became a lockdown cornerback, but he was a key role player for three years with the Eagles, starting 27 games his final two years there. His contract with Philadelphia paid him $5 million over two years — plenty affordable for cornerback depth.

2015

No notable losses. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Randy Starks never had jumps in production in their post-Miami careers.

2016

Olivier Vernon – Vernon received a monster contract from the Giants, but an extension could’ve reduced Miami’s cost on the hometown product. Drafted out of The U, Vernon’s breakout season happened in his contract year, and pushed Miami out of the market to bring him back entirely. Vernon’s highest AV mark in Miami was 8; his first season with the Giants nearly doubled that with an eye-popping 15 approximate value figure.

Lamar Miller – Another Miami native, Miller never took the league by storm the way some assumed he would, but he signed a cheap deal to move to Houston after the 2015 season. This is more of a nod to the Dolphins scouting staff to find a good player in the fourth round.

Rishard Matthews – Miami used a first-round pick on Devante Parker the year before, but that premium pick could’ve been used elsewhere if Miami were capable of self-scouting their own receiver corps. Matthews first season in Tennessee was the best of his career. His 945 yards and nine touchdowns were both career highs.

Billy Turner – A left tackle at North Dakota State, Turner was shuffled about the offensive line before flaming out in embarrassing fashion through a difficult 1-4 start to the 2016 season. Turner went on to start for the Broncos, where he impressed the Packers to the tune of a four-year, $28 million deal this past offseason.

2017

No notable departures

2018

Ndamukong Suh – The original signing was probably never a good idea, but Suh was an integral part of the Rams run to the Super Bowl last season. Again, this piece is to prove that Miami has done plenty to acquire talent over the years.

Mike Pouncey – Pouncey was a shell of his former self at this stage. Injuries were always the primary issue with Pouncey, but he was a first-round pick in 2011 that played in four pro bowls. There isn’t a football fan on earth that wouldn’t sign up for that return on the 15th pick in the draft.

2019

We can’t write the final story on Laremy Tunsil or Minkah Fitzpatrick yet, but those two, along with Kenyan Drake, provide Grier with quite the endorsement of the 2016 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick wasn’t a part of that class, but Xavien Howard was, and he remains in Miami.

We might look back on these trades of Tunsil and Fitzpatrick as catastrophic failures, but both will always hold superiority to Miami’s decision to part with so many of the names we just mentioned. The Dolphins received premium compensation for both players, including quarterback prices for Tunsil.

The Skinny

Now, with almost no considerable resources on his roster, Brian Flores is getting similar production from his stripped-down squad than what Adam Gase got the last two years. And Gase did it with far more money and accolades scattered throughout the locker room.

These types of blunders stretch all the way back to Rob Ninkovich, and Evan Mathis before him. The hope, with Brian Flores and his unique ability to develop players acquired off the scrap heap, is that those days are gone.

If they are, with all the premium resources Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie and the entire front office has to work with, the Dolphins can quickly become a team to be reckoned with for years to come.

@WingfieldNFL

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