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Miami Dolphins

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, and Everywhere in Between

Travis Wingfield

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The Dolphins are unanimously projected to finish last in the NFL, how they got here, and where they’re going

A friend of mine, with connections to the Miami Dolphins operation, used to refer to Mike Tannenbaum as Crack Pipe. Every time a notable veteran hit the market, Tannenbaum would begin putting his ducks in a row to measure the requisite premium to acquire said veteran — hence, Crack Pipe.

Tannenbaum’s no-sleep method spilled over into his first and only head coaching search of as the Executive Vice President of Football Operations with the Dolphins. He found a fellow sleepless lunatic with a penchant for burning the midnight oil in Adam Gase.

The easy path to take here, would be a mention of former Dolphins Offensive Line Coach Chris Forester, but that’s not where this trail of breadcrumbs is leading.

Rather, the personality of Gase and Tannenbaum became the standard operating procedure by which Dolphins football was built. Bandaging problem areas by borrowing from future budgets, and position allocations, sacrificing draft picks for present needs over long-term developments, and thinking inside of a one-year scope. These core principles put Miami on a perpetual wheel of mediocrity.

That’s how the Dolphins wound up paying out the follow salaries:

 

Player Contract Signed with Miami
LB Kiko Alonso 4 years, $29M total, $18.5M guaranteed
DE Andre Branch 3 years, $24M total, $16.8M guaranteed
LB Lawrence Timmons 2 years, $12M total, $11M guaranteed
SS T.J. McDonald 4 years, $24M total, $10M guaranteed
QB Jay Cutler 1 year, $10M total, fully guaranteed
WR Danny Amendola 2 years, $12M total, $8.25M guaranteed

 

Some of the deals Miami signed were bargain buys. Albert Wilson was earning every cent of his contract before an injury. Frank Gore significantly outperformed his deal, and Josh Sitton’s injury derailed what would’ve been an upgrade on the line.

Mostly, though, it was bad free agent signings compounded by drafting for immediate need.

So, that’s how the Dolphins arrived at this stage. A roster that has some nice pieces, but one that saw Miami say goodbye to over 30 players, not one receiving a waiver wire claim.

And as Miami repositions itself for a long-term overhaul, we look at the players coming in, and those that departed this offseason.

2019 Notable Veteran Departures and Arrivals

Departures Arrivals
OT Ja’Wuan James CB Eric Rowe
DE Cam Wake QB Josh Rosen
QB Ryan Tannehill QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
DE Robert Quinn OT Julien Davenport
RB Frank Gore OG Danny Isidora
WR Danny Amendola OL Evan Boehm
SS T.J. McDonald LB Sam Eguavoen
WR Kenny Stills
LT Laremy Tunsil
OG Josh Sitton
DE Andre Branch
OG Ted Larsen

 

For your accounting records, that’s a lot of expenses cut and not many debts accrued. It’s clear the plan was to position the team for the coming seasons, not 2019 — a three-year vision opposed to the antiquated one-year vacuum approach.

The Dolphins racked up resources for the future while balancing the spreadsheet in the interim. Misappropriating those resources will only put the organization back in the same spot three years down the road, but the odds are that Miami are going to come out of this smelling like roses.

Let’s put this into a position-by-position focus. We’ll split each spot into three sub-categories:

  1. Current situation
  2. Future Need
  3. Projected Resource Allocation

With 18 draft picks the next two years (I think), and a limitless credit card designated for free agent use, we’ll assign those resources to the most pertinent areas.

Quarterback

Now: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen — A 15-year veteran, a 22-year-old kid with the most adverse beginning to a career in recent memory, the current structure of the Dolphins Quarterback Room couldn’t be more polarizing. It’s only a matter of time before the Rosen audition begins. Or, as he puts it, “until the team is [his.”]

Future: Fitzpatrick’s contract expires after 2020, but Miami can get out of the deal next offseason with minimal penalty. Rosen’s value is tremendous to Miami — three years at an APY of $2 million, the Dolphins can retain Rosen’s rights for the foreseeable future, or pedal him for a draft pick.

Projected Resource Allocation: Miami will almost certainly spend a high draft pick on a quarterback in 2020 with that rookie competing with Josh Rosen.

Running Back

Now: First-contract players Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage sharing the bulk of the load with fellow first-contractors Mark Walton and Patrick Laird filling in for spot-duty. Myles Gaskin is likely a game day inactive with Chandler Cox serving as the fullback.

Future: Talks of extensions for Drake have been non-existent, though his talent might garner a new deal. Ballage is in year-two of his rookie deal, so he’s currently of best value to the Dolphins. The reclamation of Mark Walton is one of the top storylines for this team while Laird’s terrific camp and excellent fit form an offensive philosophy standpoint is intriguing.

Projected Resource Allocation: In the event that Drake walks, the Dolphins could spend one of its many mid-round picks on a back to step in as back 1b to Ballage. We’ll call it a 4th

Wide Receiver

Now: Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant were an explosive play waiting to happen last year until injuries shortened breakthrough seasons. Both return this year, and joining them are promising undrafted rookie Preston Williams, and former first-round Devante Parker. Allen Hurns rounds out the unit.

Future: Grant is fresh off an extension that’ll keep him here through 2023, barring a surprise cut (the option is built into the deal) next offseason. Williams is in year-one of a three-year UDFA contract while Wilson and Parker on under contract for two more seasons.

Projected Resource Allocation: This depends on the development of many unknowns. Is Williams the real deal? Is Grant healthy and ready to exceed 300 snaps for the first time? Is Devante Parker going to re-write his Dolphins legacy? If the answers to these questions are all no, then we’ll assign a significant resource. I’m projecting this group turns out better than satisfactory.

Tight End

Now: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, and Nick O’Leary each offer different strengths for an offense that wants to utilize the tight end frequently. It’s a big year for Gesicki to establish himself as a matchup problem while Smythe and O’Leary do more of the dirty work.

Future: Gesicki and Smythe have three years left on their deals and it’s a contract year for O’Leary. The performances of Gesicki and Smythe will dictate what Miami does with O’Leary, and with the position in totality in the offseason.

Projected Resource Allocation: Expectations are low for this group, and with O’Leary’s deal expiring in March, Miami could dip into those middle rounds for his replacement. We’re allocating the fifth-round pick, or a free agent equivalent to the position.

Offensive Line

Now: Swapping out Laremy Tunsil for Julie’n Davenport is one of the greatest imaginable downgrades in the league. The one redeeming quality, Davenport is cheap, where Tunsil was going to cost a fortune. Michael Deiter, Shaq Calhoun, Chris Reed and Evan Boehm all have multiple years on their deals and will likely start at some point. Jesse Davis is in a contract year and Daniel Kilgore has a team option for 2020.

Future: Not so bright. Or is it? The Dolphins put a lot of low-risk investments into the position (three newcomers over the weekend, Deiter in the third-round, Prince in the sixth and Calhoun undrafted). One solution among the group would be a victory at this point; two would be a godsend.

Projected Resource Allocation: This is where most of Miami’s shopping will occur next spring. With the newly minted, top draft pick quarterback, the next move is to protect him. We’re spending a second-round pick (potentially #33) on a left tackle. We’re spending top dollar on either La’El Collins or Joe Thuney (the former is far more likely to be available), and using a bargain contract on another player.

The hope is that this gives us four definitive starters, competition for the fifth spot, and a bunch of depth from the 2019 haul.

Defensive Edge

Now: Charles Harris’ strong preseason is encouraging, but it’s time for him to produce when the games count. Nate Orchard, Jonathan Ledbetter, and a pair of waiver wire acquisitions (Avery Moss and Trent Harris) make up the rest of the group.

Future: If Harris’ growth is fool’s gold, then the Dolphins might be left with only Jonathan Ledbetter at the position. The need for a rebuild shouldn’t be that surprising, the Dolphins completely shifted the schematic focus of the position.

Projected Resource Allocation: Like the offensive line, this will be a position of premium resource spending. Miami was in on Jadeveon Clowney and Trey Flowers this offseason, and figure to circle back around the Clowney prospects in free agency. We’ll double up on the top-market free agent buy with our other second-round pick.

Interior Defensive Line

Now: Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux make for a nice, complementary pair. Vincent Taylor’s conditioning issues and scheme fit resulted in a surprise cut.

Future: Wilkins is in year-one of a first-round rookie deal while Godchaux is signed through 2020; he should be in-line for an extension soon. The depth at the position is alarming.

Projected Resource Allocation: With role-specific players and depth as the only required addition, we can dip into late draft picks and low-level free agency to bolster this unit’s depth.

Linebackers

Now: Jerome Baker is poised for a breakout year while Sam Eguavoen might’ve been Miami’s best buy of the offseason. If Raekwon McMillan can return to his late-2018 form, this threesome is talented, built for today’s NFL, and under club control for multiple years.

Future: Baker and Eguavoen have three years left while McMillan has two years on his deal. Rookie Andrew Van Ginkel satisfies a sub-package role while the team could have some plans about Vince Biegel — Van Ginkel’s former Badger teammate — as Batman and Robin situation for the pair.

Projected Resource Allocation: Minimal, if any. The expectation is for Baker and Eguavoen to prove capable of eating the majority of the snaps with McMillan providing the two-down pop. The depth is good with the former Badgers.

Cornerbacks

Now: Xavien Howard is Miami’s lone, proven elite player. Inside of X is the next best bet for an elite talent to develop in Minkah Fitzpatrick — he’s perfect for the star position in this defense. Eric Rowe looks great so far, but his medical history causes some apprehension. Jomal Wiltz is a coach’s pet that looks the part for the defense.

Future: The top is solid, but the depth is incredibly suspect. Rowe’s development is one of the top storylines this season; he could earn an extension if he stays healthy. Howard and Fitzpatrick are here for the long-term and Wiltz the best bet to develop into a contributor.

Projected Resource Allocation: We’re going to assume Rowe stays healthy and earns a new deal; he plays well within the structure of this defense and the risky nature of his medical could make for a team-friendly deal. If not Rowe, another bargain level free agent plus a mid-round pick — call it one of the third’s.

Safeties

Now: Bobby McCain is transitioning to a new position while Reshad Jones’ age and contract make him a safe bet for an exit, sooner rather than later. The depth at this position is the second scariest roster hole on this team outside of the offensive line.

Future: This unit needs to be remade, especially if Fitzpatrick remains at his preferred slot corner position. McCain’s contract has an out if the experiment goes awry, and Jones is as good as gone by no later than 2020.

Projected Resource Allocation: We’re using the Texans first-round pick here to select Isaiah Simmons from Clemson. This position drove Flores’ defense in New England and he needs some help by-way of natural fits for this scheme. Simmons is penciled in specifically because of his versatility, and the flexibility Flores would have pairing him with Fitzpatrick. We’ll also spend a late pick and/or a bargain free agent contract here, we need at least three players.

We’ll be doing a lot of exercises like this throughout the season and offseason. The options are endless and the Dolphins brass has its work cut out in what sets up as the biggest offseason in team history.

The only safe bets at this moment are an early pick on a quarterback and flushing the offensive line with resources.

The pay-off for a potential last place finish could prove to be franchise altering; in homerun fashion, or pink-slips-for-everybody style.

@WingfieldNFL

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rick

    September 3, 2019 at 10:15 am

    I like everything except using the HOU 1st round pick on defense.
    I think 1a QB, 1b OL/OT, 2a OL/OT
    Top priority – keep the QB out of ICU.

  2. Avatar

    David Holcomb

    September 3, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Bring in Branden Albert for a one year deal at LT!

  3. Avatar

    Richard Rodriguez

    September 3, 2019 at 10:41 am

    You left out Parcell’s original sin of picking Jake Long (LT) over Matt Ryan (QB) in ’08. That right there ruined the franchise and doomed it to years of mediocrity. Somehow Parcells is NEVER mentioned as being responsible for this franchise’s demise. That was a critical mistake. BTW, Long is no longer in the league. Ryan, well you know…

    • Avatar

      JOSE BELLON

      September 3, 2019 at 11:03 am

      Richard I have been saying the same thing for years Parcell put of back 15 years and them he quit on us , He was always an ego-maniac but notice that he didn’t won anything without Bellichik
      Parcell should always be mention as a BIG Mistake

  4. Avatar

    JOSE BELLON

    September 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

    If Rosen shows he can be the future I don’t think the Dolphins will spent the 1st pick in a QB
    OT and DE should them be the priorities the best QB in College is not coming out in 2020 he is coming out in 2021 my wish will be to take care of OL DE S in 2020 and the QB in 2021
    will see

    • Avatar

      Daniel Meehan

      September 3, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      Jose, the problem with that philosophy is their is no Guarentee that dolphins will have top pick in 2021. That would be ultimate gamble.

  5. Avatar

    Phil

    September 3, 2019 at 12:27 pm

    I get sick when i see Tannenbaum pretending to be a football expert on espn.

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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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