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 Extend DeVante Parker
One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.
The #Dolphins and WR DeVante Parker are finalizing a four-year extension worth over $40 million, source said. Lot of guaranteed money. Another step in his remarkable turnaround. 💰
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 13, 2019
All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.
… Parker will make 4.5 M guaranteed in 2020 and 7.7 M guaranteed in 2021. Also, he's five catches and 120 yards from making another 1.5 M in incentives this season
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) December 13, 2019
Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.
Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.
His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).
Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 13, 2019
Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes
MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster
The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.
While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.
Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.
Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.
Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.
Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.
Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.
We have signed DB Nate Brooks off New England’s practice squad, signed LB Jamal Davis off Tennessee’s practice squad and been awarded T Adam Pankey off waivers from Green Bay.
We have also placed CB Ryan Lewis and CB Ken Webster on injured reserve and waived RB Zach Zenner.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 10, 2019
On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.
Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.
Dolphins add their sixth new player of the week, signing cornerback Linden Stephens off Seattle’s practice squad. To make room, they waived cornerback Chris Lammons.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) December 7, 2019
In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.
The #Dolphins have added former UCF and Davie University School DB Rashard Causey to their practice squad today.
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) December 12, 2019
Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview
Dolphins set to run it back in New York
Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3
The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.
The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.
Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.
Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.
Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.
The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.
A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.
Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.
The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.
The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.
James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.
The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.
New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.
The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.
Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.
New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.
Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.
This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.
Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.
On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.
Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.
The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.
This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.
If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.
If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.
The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.
Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.
The Projected Outcome:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.
Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.
A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.
- Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker December 13, 2019
- Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes December 13, 2019
- Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview December 12, 2019
- The Aftermath: Dolphins 21 Jets 22 December 10, 2019
- Fins Fall to Rivals, Officials – Dolphins Jets Week 14 Recap December 8, 2019
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