For the first time, the pads come on, and some new stars emerge
“Tough, smart, disciplined has been beat into my head my entire life.” New Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores has quickly cultivated a mantra in Miami, and everything he says and does is with that adage in mind.
Asked what it means to play disciplined football, Flores responded in a manner that almost seemed rehearsed. “A team that doesn’t beat itself, a team that stays poised when it’s chippy and when they’re tired,” Flores said.
Every player in the National Football League is talented, but it’s the work ethic and drive that turns a good player into a superstar. “To maximize your potential you have to show the determination, grit, and discipline to work harder. Especially when you’re tired. When it’s hot, and you have to fight through it.”
Three days into practice, and it’s abundantly clear — this team has taken on the personality of the head coach. His energy and strict structure permeates through the coaching staff, throughout the roster, and the organization.
The practice structure and script is finely orchestrated to achieve maximum efficiency, and keep players engaged. Drill periods are brief. Players bounce from drill-to-drill with minimal downtime.
As has been the case all week, particular periods are the focus of the day. The team will split off into these drills, then gather for team periods, and then return to the specific fundamental drills. Players that may have struggled in the team period will get specific teaching sessions from their position coaches.
With players donning full pads for the first time, the focus of the day was about the basics of the game. “The stuff you learn in Pop Warner,” Flores said. “Shoulders over knees, knees over toes. You can never forget about the physicality of the game. You can’t make the tackle until you defeat the block.”
Tackling, blocking and defeating blocks; that was the message of the day. The team opened with blocking drills all across the field. A fun moment, the receivers were acting as dummies for their position mates in these drills. One such event brought Trenton Irwin in to block Jakeem Grant. Irwin nailed the hand placement and lifted Grant like Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing.
Game on! After a pair of difficult days, Josh Rosen was the best of the group; though it could’ve come as a default happenstance. Rosen’s struggles from day’s one and two spilled over into the individual and one-on-one portions of practice. In the same drill I discussed yesterday — throwing to stationary targets — Rosen put his first ball on the outside knee cap of the coach. Then, in combination route drills he threw a pick, missed a middle-of-the-field read, and had some more accuracy issues.
Rosen responded in a big way in the team and red zone periods. There’s no question about who throws the prettiest ball in this room. When Rosen gets his mechanics aligned, he drives the ball with elite-level spin and velocity. The concern is that these mechanics come-and-go too often. As I detailed in the Book On Josh Rosen scouting report this offseason, the leg-drive and hip-rotation both sometimes vanish, causing Rosen to open his front shoulder and lose power on his passes.
Rosen put on a touch-passing clinic, however. He picked up a pair of touchdowns that most quarterbacks probably aren’t hitting — one an over route to the pylon to Irwin; another on a wheel at the pylon to Nick O’Leary between an underneath corner and a rotating safety.
Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled from the first throw as well. The ball was coming out of his hand wobbly at times, he turned it over, and was sent to the T.N.T. wall, after receiving a tongue-lashing from Coach Flores. The cause of the verbal abuse came when Fitzpatrick and Chris Reed flubbed a quarterback-center exchange (more on the OL reps later). Maybe it was the pads, maybe it was an off-day, but Fitz just didn’t have the command on the ball (accuracy) today.
The difference can essentially be boiled down to this:
Rosen has the more talented, live arm. Fitzpatrick’s trust in his eyes and reads are on another level. The gap between the two in the latter category is greater than the gap in the former; especially considering Rosen’s accuracy digressions.
I’ve neglected this group through the first two days because it’s difficult to get a good idea without the pads on. A nightmare goal line session to end practice — more on that on the defensive units — put an ominous cloud over what was an otherwise solid day from the group.
Chris Reed kicked ass in a veritable package of assignments, including some work at center. He looks the part of, not just a starting NFL guard, but an above average one. Jesse Davis operates well in space too, this has the makings of the best guard pairing the Dolphins have featured in some time.
Jordan Mills had a nice day including a nice block off the edge to spring a Kalen Ballage touchdown run. The nice thing about being here is the opportunity to see effort-level and how the guys interact with one another. The final period of the day was a hurry-up drill where the offense ran a play, and then the punt team sprinted onto the field. Mills beat everybody off the field — everybody. A nice finish to a promising day.
Daniel Kilgore had his best day as well. He looks healthy and ready to go after missing 12 games last season. His presence on the inside likely has an impact on this next bit.
The cohesion of the group appears to be ahead of where last year’s line was — even into the season. The protection slides, picking up blitzes, passing off…the first-team line might be best suited to stay as it has been when the season kicks off.
That first team line goes: Tunsil-Reed-Kilgore-Davis-Mills
Michael Deiter has been working in at left guard, right guard, and an occasional rep at center. He told me after practice that he basically only plays center when Dan [Kilgore] needs a breather. I followed up by asking him about his versatility in college and if he had a preferred position. Deiter doesn’t prefer a specific position, but he enjoys playing on the interior opposed to tackle.
The second team line wasn’t as effective and featured some shuffling. Newcomer Will Holden had a nice block on a pull, and name-UDFA Shaq Calhoun was beaten badly for a sack by Akeem Spence.
The goal line stands at the end of practice wrapped up a solid day from this group. Spence was active, Vincent Taylor and Adolphus Washington knifed into the backfield several times, Davon Godchaux continues to play with one of the best pad-levels in football, and the edge position stood out both in good and bad ways.
Despite a couple of gaffes off the edge in the running game, the candidates for the five-tech position made some noise. Tank Carradine has been very effective thus far, and Charles Harris is playing faster and with more confidence. Harris made the play of the day when he worked down the line-of-scrimmage, after Godchaux blew the play up inside, and put a stick on the ball carrier resulting in a tackle-for-loss.
Minkah Fitzpatrick LOVED this — more on him in a minute.
Dewayne Hendrix versus Jonathan Ledbetter has quickly become one of my favorite battles of camp. I’d wager that at least one of them is on the opening day roster. Hendrix roasted Jaryd Jones-Smith for a would be sack in the team period.
Christian Wilkins has been quite so far. His best play came with a reaming, however. Wilkins blew by the line with his signature quickness, but didn’t finish the rep as the ball-carrier took it outside. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham came unglued after the fact.
The term starter is probably an antiquated word in this defense. The package will determine the line-up, and one such lineup saw Wilkins and Carradine bookending Spence and Godcaux on the inside.
Sam Eguavoen raised eyebrows when he opened with the first-team in practice number one. Then he did it again on day-two, and was right there again on day-three.
The former CFL star really got people chirping with his performance today.
In the initial period, Eguavoen embodied the things Flores alluded to in his media availability. The ‘backer met the lead back in the hole, smacked him in the mouth, came off the block, and wrapped up the back. That hit set a tone for the rest of the practice.
In addition to taking to the defensive scheme with innate instincts early, he was on the first team in red-zone seven-on-seven, he was out there with the ones on goal line, and he made plays in nearly every portion — he’s been a star of camp so far.
As is the case with the defensive line, the linebackers will likely be package-based. Jerome Baker continues to open practice with Eguavoen, but varying fronts change bodies out.
Raekwon McMillan looks like the same player attacking downhill against the run, and Kiko Alonso figures to use his reckless abandon and aggressiveness as a strength in this defense.
Alonso ran into a not-so-welcomed foe again, however — coverage. The ‘backers faced up on the running backs in coverage in one-on-ones and Alonso attacked Kalen Ballage downhill. Ballage cooked the veteran on the rep.
We’ve speculated all offseason about the use the Patriots style of committing bodies to gaps to force the offense into throwing against the aggressive press coverage. This brings linebackers down on the ball, off the edge, with one off-ball linebacker placed over the center (five yards off) — that was McMillan.
Without offering much detail, Chase Allen has found some unique roles in the defense. The same is true of T.J. McDonald.
Nate Orchard was pinned in a couple of times working the edge in the run-game.
Just about everybody from the first-team snatched a pick today. Bobby McCain undercut Rosen, Eric Rowe took down an under-thrown fade route to Devante Parker, and Xavien Howard pulled one down after matching Kenny Stills step-for-step up the perimeter. Howard almost nabbed another in seven-on-seven when he came off his man and robbed a seam route (looked just like the first INT in the Colts game last year).
An interception was about the only thing missing from Minkah Fitzpatrick’s practice resume on the day. The “defensive player” as I’m calling him — because pigeonholing him at one position is simply not accurate — not only handles his coverage responsibilities like an all-pro, he’s involved in the running game.
Turn on Patriots film and you’ll see safeties coming down with particular gap responsibilities in the run-game, and while this might be best suited for Reshad Jones, Fitzpatrick is certainly going to be the lynchpin in this regard, and many other aspects of the defense. I can’t say one negative thing about Miami’s 2018 first-rounder — he and superstardom are on a collision course for one another.
The same press and mirror drills happened again — that’s been a daily occurrence.
Tyler Patmon has had a nice start to camp. He’s savvy when it comes to using the sideline as an extra defender.
The punt teams worked out on the near field for the first time and we received a good, consistent look at the players involved. Anytime Walt Aikens is involved, you know the surrounding parts are being considered for work.
With Bobby McCain the marquee name of the group, Cornell Armstrong, Nik Needham, Maurice Smith and Montre Hartage saw a lot of work in these periods.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Dolphins receiving group has been denigrated by the national media, and that’s a mistake on their part. Kenny Stills wins consistently, regardless of split, alignment, or route. Devante Parker looks strong and more competitive at the catch-point. Fool me three times, sure, but he’s playing hungry right now.
Albert Wilson had a limited day of work, but his fellow speedster, Jakeem Grant, continues to wow the crowd. His releases off the line-of-scrimmage are daily must-see action. He created a solid five yards of separation on Jalen Davis on one rep in a particular, but dropped the pass.
Grant consistently stacks the defensive back or puts them in the spin-cycle — Needham was a victim today.
Preston Williams had a nice practice. He got the best of NFL Network’s 55th-best player (Howard) in one-on-one. Williams is involved heavily in each portion, including some work as a gunner.
Trenton Irwin quietly makes plays every day, and he’s also back with Drake and Grant on punt return.
It was a quiet day from the tight ends in the passing game. The bulk of their work came in the ground game — understandable given the nature of today’s lessons. I’ll admit to not seeing a lot of Mike Gesicki action, but he wasn’t involved in the receiving game as much as he had been the first two days — possibly a concern given his penchant for struggling with contact.
Kalen Ballage continues to begin practice as the top back, but it’s more semantics than anything. The good news is that the Dolphins look to have two capable runners — Ballage was a perfect combination of explosive and patient. One run in particular saw him wait for Laremy Tunsil to gain leverage, throw a stutter step at the defense, and scamper into the end-zone from 14 yards out.
The knock on Ballage has been his poor vision — frankly, the most integral part to playing the position — but if he takes strides in that area, there’s no limit on how good he can potentially be.
Kenyan Drake scored a touchdown on an outside run and continues to get work on the punt return.
Undrafted free agent Patrick Laird had a nice day. He, like Ballage, showed some patience as a ball carrier and effectiveness in the passing game.
Chandler Cox is all gas no brakes. He either explodes the lead lane like a stick of dynamite, or winds up on the ground — very little in-between with him.
There are some plays I missed and some things I’m not permitted to discuss, but the day was a successful one from a team perspective. The pace of practice makes things difficult to track the entire thing, but also very entertaining for the fans.
Today had a little bit of everything. Highlight plays, big touchdowns, takeaways for the defense, quality communication, and varying packages on either side of the ball.
It hasn’t yet been announced if the pads will be back on for tomorrow’s work, but as always, I’ll be there with the Tweet machine running early and often.
Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts
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.
Something special cookin’ down in Miami! 🤫 https://t.co/GDuC4Aogu5
— Jakeem Grant (@_TheDreamIsHere) November 9, 2020
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.
tua’s first career interception? pic.twitter.com/GkSn8KGeBw
— josh houtz (@houtz) November 8, 2020
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.
.@Tua said SEE YA
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) November 8, 2020
TUA WITH THE JUKES!!! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/FKScMk6wmR
— LasnerSport (@LasnerSport) November 8, 2020
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.
Ted Karras on Tua
That one scramble where he split those guys was exceptional. I don’t think any moment is too big for Tua. He works hard and has earned the respect of everyone in that huddle.
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 9, 2020
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.
Darrell Daniels took it BACK. What a TD! #RedSea
— NFL (@NFL) November 8, 2020
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)
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) November 8, 2020
But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:
Deep ball DIME from Kyler Murray to Christian Kirk.
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) November 8, 2020
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.
Teria sido Wilkins que machucou Williams? pic.twitter.com/RdR0rHfapJ
— Phins BR 🐬 (@PhinsBr) November 8, 2020
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).
Xavien Howard has been flagged for pass interference 4 times now (3 accepted, 1 offsetting). It's the first time he's been flagged more than twice in a game.
Including the offsetting DPI, Howard's 4 PI penalties are the most by a player in a single game over the last 20 seasons pic.twitter.com/fanl15HP0i
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 8, 2020
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.
According to @ESPNStatsInfo; DeAndre Hopkins has yet to be targeted; that has only happened one other time in his career where he wasn't targeted in the first half – ('13 vs. the Raiders).
— Mike Tannenbaum (@RealTannenbaum) November 8, 2020
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.
Will take Austin Jackson time to get rust off; wasn't sharp there in that regrettable series. Though Jesse Davis is now at RG, I would expect to see Kindley again today. Fins trying to fit six guys into five spots, figure out what's best
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) November 8, 2020
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.
The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises
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.
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.
Miami undertook rebuilds in 2005 and 2008 under Nick Saban and then Bill Parcells. In both cases the decision was made that they needed to build a TEAM, and THEN get a QB. As a result of those priorities, they passed on Aaron Rodgers for Ronnie Brown, and Matt Ryan for Jake Long.
— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) January 15, 2019
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.
I love draft grades! A few From 2017
8. Christian McCaffrey, Carolina PanthersGrade: D+
10. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs Grade: C-
12. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans Grade: C+
22. Charles Harris, Miami Dolphins Grade: A
28. Taco Charlton, Dallas CowboysGrade: A-
— ThatsGoodSports (@BrandonPerna) April 26, 2020
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.
First look at Tua Tagovailoa in a Dolphins uniform: pic.twitter.com/7N3Fh95Mqt
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 7, 2020
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.
Interesting stuff here. At press time, the Dolphins are the 2nd youngest team in the NFL by .1 years of age (Jacksonville). After having the 7th oldest roster in 2018, Miami had the youngest in 2019 and now 2nd youngest in 2020. https://t.co/Ns5IoesIQd
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 6, 2020
"He's a really good player. One thing that's really special about Noah is his maturity," Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones said of Igbinoghene. "It's really cool to see a young guy like that come into the league and be so prepared."
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) September 9, 2020
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.
NBC's Peter King picks Dolphins to win AFC East and be 4th seed, behind Baltimore, KC, Tennessee. And (if you missed this), CBS/NFL Net's Nate Burleson said Dolphins have best chance of any team of becoming a dynasty excluding KC: https://t.co/dOm5zhhVkV
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) September 7, 2020
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.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 4, 2020
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).
Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)
There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL
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.
I really though back in 2011 after the first opening drive of the season that it was the Dolphins year. This drive by Chad Henne was BEAUTIFUL. pic.twitter.com/dt7WlZoINy
— Cedrick Allen (@SeeCeddyRun) April 16, 2020
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.
Jay Cutler really sold his involvement in the Wildcat 😂 pic.twitter.com/WsjyRHyzoC
— NFL on ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsNFL) October 1, 2017
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.
The 18th pick in April's draft turns 21 today! https://t.co/teEPyKtGSe
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 11, 2020
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.
The Miami Dolphins have drafted a possibly transcendent QB, traded for an explosive, young, proven NFL RB, taken potential studs at LT and RT, added depth and strength to DL and interior OL and taken two talented, versatile DBs. How’s your draft going?
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) April 25, 2020
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.
Austin Jackson is young. He needs time to develop his technique and his play strength. I don't think he's ready to start in the NFL right now. He's got the talent to develop into something special, but a bunch of these "high upside, raw technique" guys don't get better in the NFL
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) April 24, 2020
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.
- Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts November 9, 2020
- The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises September 10, 2020
- There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL August 12, 2020
- Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts July 27, 2020
- In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game July 27, 2020