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Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Journal – Day 2 (July 26)

Travis Wingfield

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Day 1 Report
Day 2 Report
Day 3 Report
Day 4 Report
Day 5 Report
Day 6 Report
Day 7 Report
Scrimmage Report

Mistakes Lead to Extra Conditioning as Dolphins Take a Step Back from Impressive Day-One

Dead legs, triumphs, and struggles are a part of any training camp across the National Football League. But if new Head Coach Brian Flores has anything to say about it the newest rendition of Dolphins football will limit the low-points from now until the ball kicks off in September.

After a crisp day-one, the follow-up was not as sharp. Coach’s pre-practice media availability provided the foreshadowing. A recording device fell from the podium prompting Flores to jokingly send the reporter to the T.N.T. wall.

That wouldn’t be the only trip to the wall on the day.

Flubbed exchanges, dropped passes, coverage breakdowns and inaccurate throws all made unwelcomed appearances on Friday.

Yesterday, I commended the players for doing conditioning post-practice on their own accord. Today, the entire roster had to register six 50-yard sprints prior to the final horn sounding for the morning.

Quarterbacks

It would be unfair to say everyone struggled. For the second consecutive day Ryan Fitzpatrick played like you’d expect a 15-year veteran of the league. His first two throws of the team portion were dimes over the top to Devante Parker and Brice Butler (roughly 35 and 45 yards respectively, more on those two in a moment).

Taking the first rep of every single drill, Fitzpatrick set a precedent, a mark that went unmatched by the other two for the entire day.

Most disparaging of all, Josh Rosen had a dreadful day from the word go. In the first individual period, the QBs ran a simulated pressure drill throwing to any one of three stationary coaches placed evenly across the field (left sideline, middle hashes, right sideline).

After the quarterbacks climbed from the top of their drop, a coach would verbally instruct the QB which target to shoot for. Fitzpatrick executed the drill, Rudock did the same, and Rosen sailed a throw.

Jul 25, 2019; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) during practice drills at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

This wouldn’t normally be of concern, but this was a regularity on Rosen’s Arizona tape. Any time he had to snap to the next read in his progression, his accuracy waned. The same was true of his work throwing into the flats — at that awkward angle — and that showed up today as well. Completion percentage is a misleading statistic. Putting the ball on the wrong hip or shoulder hinders the pass catcher’s ability to turn up-field, even though it goes in the books as a completion.

He would later sail another pass in a similar drill — time fleeing the imaginary pocket to the right — throwing a pass too tall for a stationary Kenny Stills. The lack of execution is one thing, but Rosen’s body language looked more like sulking than aggravation.

The quarterbacks were mixing reps with the first team receivers, but the offensive line stayed relatively similar throughout. As a result, Rosen is working on chemistry with the players that he would be throwing to on Sundays once he gets the call.

I feel confident saying that Jake Rudock was better than Rosen today, and that neither is in the same class as Fitzpatrick — yet.

Running Backs

Hopefully this is exclusive to today, but the vast majority of practice occurred on the far-field. The near-field was a combination of the specialist goofing around and install work.

One of the units that did install work was the running backs — both in the ground game and in pass protection.

Eric Studesville — who, if you’re a follower of this blog and the podcast, you know I love — was coaching his butt off today. Animated, vocal, and even using the pad a couple of times himself, there’s a high expectation for guys to pick up the blitz if they want to play.

Kalen Ballage started with the first team for the second-straight day. He began the opening goal line work as the deep back in 21-personnel, and started off the team portion in the same position.

The 21-personnel package was deployed early and often. Chandler Cox will need an ice bath tonight — he was in as much as any skill position player.

The two-back sets were not exclusive to the use of a fullback. Ballage and Kenyan Drake shared the backfield at times.

I’ve harped on first down passes to running backs since my inundation with Warren Sharp’s work, and since that has been a staple of the Patriots offense for years, it should come as little surprise that Chad O’Shea is bringing that with him to Miami. Flexing backs out wide and throwing the quick hitches against mis-matched (linebackers) off-coverage ought to be a staple of the offense.

The ground game install isn’t something I’m allowed to report on, but we did see a far-more-multiple running game last year with the addition of Studesville — no reason to think that changes.

Wide Receivers

Allen Hurns was on the field after signing a one-year deal early this morning with Miami. Though he was on the stationary bike for the majority of the day, his presence might’ve had something to do with the two stars of the day (aside from Fitzpatrick, who looks like he’ll be a regular in this category going forward).

The recipients of Fitzpatrick’s two bombs were Devante Parker and Brice Butler — two players likely in competition for snaps at the same position Hurns will compete for.

Parker has been known to do this, but something looks different this year. And to clarify on my tweet that piqued a lot of interest this morning, that phrase “ass, calves and ankles” is a scouting term. If all power comes from the lower half, then we (scouts) want to see well-defined muscle in these areas. Ankles are naturally thick or thin, but the other two can be worked on.

And Devante Parker worked on that aspect of his game this offseason. He has the look of a guy that knows his opportunities are running thin.

Brice Butler was a dangerous vertical threat in Dallas (averaged over 21 yards-per-catch in 2015 and 2017 respectively). At 6-3, 215 pounds, Miami might not be as keen on replacing him as the fans seem to be — especially after his performance today.

Seemingly the fan’s cup of tea for that job isn’t producing at that same level. Preston Williams continues to look stiff in the way he transitions in-and-out of breaks. He ran a route in one-on-one in which he changed directions several times — that’s not going to work against a live pass rush.

That’s not a problem for Jakeem Grant, however. The diminutive do-it-all play-maker might be the best route runner on the team. He can stack and work vertically off the top of his stem as well as any football player I’ve seen. Even watching him run speed-outs on air is entertaining — nobody does it like him on the roster. He did have a drop after winning on a nasty release against Torry McTyer.

Albert Wilson was held out of practice — he’s on a schedule for camp, says Coach Flores.

Tight Ends, Offensive Line, Linebackers, Defensive Line

Mike Gesicki is a highlight machine in practice, and that train continued rolling today. Miami implemented a lot of 13-personnel packages down around the goal line with mesh concepts, flats and rubs. Gesicki looks the part of a double-digit touchdown maker in the early going of camp.

Nick O’Leary looks good and has the dual functionality this staff will love. He and Durham Smythe were focal points in the running game install; you could argue that they play a different position altogether than Gesicki.

The first and second-team offensive lines were unchanged:

First: Tunsil-Reed-Kilgore-Davis-Mills
Second: Jones-Smith (one name)-Deiter-Fuller-Dunn-Sterup

It’s difficult to get a look at the pass rush vs. offensive line battle as it is in shells. Couple that with the practice occurring 100 yards away and it’s nearly impossible.

Miami varied its fronts with plenty of Jerome Baker and Charles Harris acting as overhang linebackers in odd fronts, but the little I saw showed minimal pressure against either line group.

Baker has been — sort of — the story of camp. After working all over the formation yesterday, he was out early for practice with Kiko Alonso working on first-step drills. They were attacking downhill in tandem, and the look of the drill suggests that Baker will play everything from on-ball edge to dollar-linebacker.

Baker looks the part — he’s jacked.

Sam Eguavoen’s run with the first-team continued. He’s quick and instinctive — he’s got a real shot to be a considerable special teams contributor.

In fact, if we are to apply New England principles, the Dolphins will have no issues playing prominent starters on special teams. That was the case at practice as a multitude of big names worked on punt team.

Akeem Spence worked inside on the starting-front, alongside Christian Wilkins and Davon Godchaux. Godchaux jumped offside at the beginning of a team period, but he’s been responsible for a lot of clogged running lane. Wilkins is still working to get his conditioning on-track — he’ll be fine.

Adolphus Washington had a good looking rep that resulted in an interior pressure.

Jonathan Ledbetter and Dewayne Hendrix both got into the opposing backfield as well – both look the part for the base five-tech and could emerge as one of the top camp battles between the two.

Terrill Hanks, Joey Mbu, Nate Orchard and Jonathan Woodard saw some run with the second team.

Andrew Van Ginkel was on the stationary bike. As he approached the autograph line after practice, he was favoring his left leg rather gingerly.

Defensive Backs

I’m running out of superlatives for Minkah Fitzpatrick. As we’ll discuss in the recap, there’s a certain energy and tempo to these practices, and the second-year pro does his part to set the tone. He’s always the first in-line for drills, and he doesn’t fraternize — it’s all ball for Miami’s star nickel, safety, corner (with plenty of looks at the big nickel position).

Sep 30, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) intercepts the ball intended for New England Patriots wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (13) (not pictured) in the second half at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated Miami 38-7. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Reshad Jones saw some run with the second-team — perhaps the biggest indicator that we shouldn’t look too far into the current depth chart, as it were.

Xavien Howard followed Jakeem Grant into the slot again and — again — put a stop to his dominance. Another day at the office for the league’s highest-paid corner. It would make sense that he travels with the opposition’s number one, but that will certainly be match-up based.

Eric Rowe had a nice bounce back. His time in New England, where the use of trail technique is prominent, will serve him well here. The idea is to get into the downfield hip pocket of the receiver, which forces the quarterback to put the ball in the bucket. If that happens, the DB must separate the hands of the receiver and Rowe acquitted himself well in that regard today.

So did newcomer Tyler Patmon. That technique can be stressful. Inviting the receiver up-field, without help, can create panic in younger players.

Nik Needham was the victim of the long Butler touchdown.

My favorite drill of the day came from this group. The coaches wore glove pads and the players simulated press coverage throwing punches into the bags.

Recap

Sloppy days can be out of the control of the induvial; even for professionals. It happens. The things you can always control — the things that “Take No Talent” — are in well-oiled-machine status early in camp.

There’s no walking between drills (something I’m told was normal under the previous regime), and the practices are efficient. At one point I counted nine separate drills going on at once and the players are, to a man, privy to the script. They bounce around and make the most of the 2-hour sessions.

Flores said himself that we shouldn’t be looking too far into depth chart distinctions right now. There are clear starters on the team, but Kenyan Drake and Raekwon McMillan’s apparent demotions can be explained by a variety of (non)-issues.

McMillan was nicked up in spring and is working back from that, and Drake working in-tandem behind Ballage is probably more about accelerating the learning curve for the second-year back. Ballage had some catching up to do in the passing game (receiver and blocker) and getting him acclimated is vital to Miami’s success this year.

If the team were wearing non-identifying clothing the last two days, you might think it was two separate clubs practicing. The coaches did well to vary the drills and the team portions of practice. The ball-security drill that was ran twice yesterday didn’t make it into today’s script.

This team will run the ball, run the ball, and run the ball some more. If that’s who they want to be, they need to make sure:

– They are in peak shape
Ballage is ready to rock week-one
– The variety in the ground game is fluent across all schemes

Based on what we’ve seen through two days they aren’t there on all accounts — but should be by opening day.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

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

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

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

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

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

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

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

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

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

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

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

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

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

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

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

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

Jason Sanders is a stud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

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

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

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

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future We Created

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

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

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

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

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

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

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

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

Full trade:

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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