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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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Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis

Travis Wingfield

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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)
2017 399 (38.2%)
2018 401 (39.2%)
2019 0

 

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.

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.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton

Chris Kowalewski

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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.

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.

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.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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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
Weather: Dome
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 Scheme:

Offense:

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.

Defense:

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.

The Players:

Offense:

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.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Defense:

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.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

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.

The Opportunities:

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.

Dolphins 6
Cowboys 31

@WingfieldNFL

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