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Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Journal – Day 4 (July 28)

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

Sloppy practice results in harsh discipline, opportunity to set a precedent

The monotony of a NFL season can breed complacency — especially during the dog days of training camp. From the morning alarm, to lights out in the evening, the operation is one of repetition. Without sound leadership, players can slip through the cracks.

A key trait of leadership is consistency. Delivering an unwavering message, while maintaining an undeviating persona, is crucial for a quarterback to earn the respect of his teammates.

For a Head Coach, the imperative nature of that consistency is tenfold. And that’s who Brian Flores has been since his hiring back in February.

Toughness, fundamentals, and the will to compete regardless of the circumstances — those will be the staples of the Flores regime, for better or worse.

The second day of padded practice saw the team back in the South Florida heat drilling the same fundamentals from yesterday. Tackling, blocking, and defeating blocks. The rampant pace of each drill — some lasting less than five minutes — continues to keep the players active and moving about the practice field at Nova Southeastern University.

A watered down version of Oklahoma drills made two appearances on the day, and the goal line competition wrapped up the session for the second-consecutive day.

Perhaps it was the redundancy that made the team think it could coast through the final half-hour of practice, and into the first off-day of the season. Instead, that mentality was met with a harsh reminder that Brian Flores is all business.

Through the first three days of camp, individual players have made trips to the now infamous ‘Takes No Talent’ wall. On Sunday, however, the entire offensive unit made an excursion after multiple mistakes in the goal-line session.

The defense was sent packing on two separate occasions — one for a substitution error that saw the positional coaches join the players on the trek.

Flores spoke about the value of every minute during the work day, and he wasn’t about to let the team sleepwalk through the final moments under the grueling sunshine.

The new sheriff in town is developing a program that sets expectations, follows through on the standards of those expectations, and incorporates a rinse-repeat mentality until things are done the correct way.

Accountability isn’t the only drastic change under new management. Keeping tabs on Flores throughout the two-hour session is a difficult task. He spends time with each positional unit, but also finds the balance to allow the assistants to execute their jobs.

Quarterbacks

It’s probably best that the team is off tomorrow. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen can take the down time to learn from the first four days, and try to apply new lessons to correct mistakes — those mistakes were aplenty on Sunday.

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

We’ll start with Rosen. Once again, in the warm-up period, he was extremely erratic. On three consecutive throws against air, he located passes off the mark on a basic 10-yard out-routes. The first was on the back hip and uncatchable. The next was on the back shoulder, forcing the receiver to contort to make the grab. The third short-hopped the intended target.

This isn’t the type of thrower Josh Rosen is, not on air. Perhaps he’s adjusting to the humidity and all the sweat that comes with playing football in Miami in July — at the end of practice he removed and wrung out his wristbands; it looked like he was emptying a full 20-ounce bottle of water with each one — but he’s just not feeling it right now.

That is, at least until things go live. He improves in this area each day, and this corroborates what I saw on his tape with the Cardinals. He struggles with the routine, and then makes the splash plays on third-and-long and in the fourth quarter.

If the Dolphins start this version of Josh Rosen, Brian Flores risks undoing all the good groundwork he has laid over the last six months. Preaching competition does not coincide with playing this current version of Rosen on Sundays, no matter how bad you want to see his evaluation begin.

Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t any better. He was his usual sharp-self in the warm-ups, and he was once again on the field before anybody else, but his day was littered with mistakes. Missed throws will happen, but the number of failed exchanges is awfully strange for a 15-year veteran.

After the first team session, all other units returned to individual drills while the quarterbacks had a pow wow with Jerry Schuplinski (QB Coach) for at least five minutes. After regrouping, however, things did not get better.

Jake Rudock is doing his job just fine. His place on the roster is clear — he’s the scout team quarterback. He was sent to the side field to help throw passes to defensive backs while the other two quarterbacks were doing install on the near-field. He has a grasp on what’s expected of him and is every bit as valuable as a late-round developmental quarterback. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’s groomed as the long-term backup QB.

Tight Ends

This was an area of focus today for Flores, a position that will be important in this scheme. There are multiple alignments for these players from slot, flex, traditional Y, H-back, and even as a fullback.

The tight ends drilled blocking more than usual today, including Mike Gesicki. The second-year pro seems to have found some confidence in his game. He won a match up on Reshad Jones in one-on-one, nailing the hand placement, driving Jones’ shoulder pads up into his helmet.

Additionally, Gesicki continues to get a lot of red zone work and is paying it off with touchdowns. Today he ran a pivot route from the slot for an easy score. If he can add that element to his leaping prowess he’ll put some points on the board.

The Nick O’LearyDurham Smythe battle is heating up. If we are to assume Dwayne Allen comes back to a job, then there might only be room for one of these two (could be the case since there will be a fullback on the roster).

Smythe won the battle today. O’Leary was on the ground too often and Smythe is such a natural Y that it’ll be hard to supplant him. Today showcased why he was a focal point of Notre Dame’s 2017 nation-leading ground game.

Every rep from Clive Walford looks slow. Chris Myarick is a project.

Defensive Backs

Bobby McCain proclaimed himself as a full-time safety on Saturday, and that was apparent on Sunday. Brian Flores’ defense utilizes a lot of single-high safety with the rest of the unit on the line-of-scrimmage. McCain is the only one acting as that single-high in those cover-1 looks.

We probably don’t even need to mention Minkah Fitzpatrick anymore; everything he does is exceptional. Still, he found a way to outdo himself. In the way Patrick Chung supports the running game with a specific gap responsibility in New England, Fitzpatrick came down to fill the B-gap on a red zone snap, fought through traffic, and met Patrick Laird in the hole knocking the rookie backwards.

When your 205-pound nickel corner is making linebacker-type plays, you’ve found a gem.

Let’s put Xavien Howard in that category as well. He’s the perfect pairing of physical dominance matched by instincts and play-making ability. It’s easy to see why nobody has picked off more passes in the league going back to December 2017 — he’s always finding the football.

Fitzpatrick isn’t the only defensive back seeing time up around the line-of-scrimmage. T.J. McDonald has been everywhere from $LB to coming off the edge as a blitzer. Maurice Smith got involved in this way too.

McDonald had one of the plays of the day when he contested a tight end zone throw that started off in Trenton Irwin’s possession, but McDonald wrestled it away from the rookie and spiked the ball in celebration.

The depth in the secondary is a concern. The pass catchers tend to feast on the rest of the roster.

Fortunately, Eric Rowe has had a nice three-day stretch following a difficult day-one. He’s been challenging the bigger bodied receivers (Brice Butler, Devante Parker, Preston Williams) and is having success doing so. He did have one coverage gaffe where he jumped the flat and left Williams all alone for a touchdown.

Running Backs

I’ve stayed somewhat subdued over the Kalen Ballage hype, but I think it’s time to buy in. He was a versatile weapon at Arizona State, and he showed the receiving skill set on a seemingly impossible diving touchdown catch in 7-on-7 against Sam Eguavoen.

Jun 4, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Mark Walton (left) blocks teammate Kalen Ballage (right) during practice drills at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

He’s among the contenders for the best body on the field and it shows in his ability to maintain balance through contact — he was a force today.

Quick aside — Ballage and Running Backs Coach Eric Studesville came onto the field together to begin practice. Both were laughing and smiling for the duration of the 100-yard walk to the other end of the field. They have a pre-existing relationship that dates back to Ballage’s high school days.

Kenyan Drake should not be forgotten about by any stretch. He ran with the first team during install just as much as Ballage and continues to work on both kick and punt return units.

Mark Walton had a tough day. He tripped and fell on a swing route when the TURF monster — not the turd monster — got the best of him. He and Myles Gaskin have been relatively quiet so far.

Defensive Line

Vincent Taylor is fulfilling the prophecy of my foretold breakout season – he’s a menace inside. I’ve seen him win with power, with quickness, and I’ve seen him stack and shed with relative ease. He’s taking to the new system well.

So is Davon Godchaux. The precedent set by these two monsters in the goal-line drills provides an energy source for the entire defense.

Christian Wilkins was in at fullback yet again, and was even sent to the wall with the offense at one point. He had his best day on defense, however, showing that signature quickness, but also adapting to the read-and-react style this defense wants to play.

Between these three, and a quality start to camp from Akeem Spence, Adolphus Washington, and Joey Mbu, the panic over Miami’s defensive line is premature. There is a lot of power inherent to this group and the multiplicity is vast.

Whether it’s playing the even (over) front, or the odd (under) front, the defensive has flexibility to operate from the required 1-tech or 2i shade on the backside, as well as the play-side 3-tech. In an odd front, the play-side tackle will line-up in the 1-tech and Miami is adequately stocked to operate in that front should they choose to do so.

Jonathan Ledbetter and Dewayne Hendrix both showed up on my timeline today. Another day down, another step towards one — or both — making the 53-man roster.

Nate Orchard might be better suited to play in a different scheme. He’s one of the better pure edge rushers in a defense that doesn’t value pure edge rushers. He’s been a liability setting the edge in the run-game.

There are mixed opinions about Charles Harris’ showing, but I’m on the positive side. I saw him win back-to-back individual pass rush drills, and then I saw him dent the edge in the run game in the team period. He’s playing faster and stronger.

Offensive Line

This was the first day I really isolated Laremy Tunsil, and I was quickly reminded why I hadn’t bothered before. In that same drill that brought success to Harris, Tunsil locked out any contender foolish enough to think they could beat the future all-pro.

Both Jonathan Woodard and Tank Carradine tried to win with speed, were forced to counter because of Tunsil’s patient, efficient kick-slide, then were promptly stonewalled working back underneath — child’s play for Tunsil.

It wasn’t the best day for Jesse Davis and Chris Reed. They were largely responsible for some of the interior penetration in the goal-line drill. The first-team interior defensive line won the day rather convincingly.

Daniel Kilgore is off to a good start. He’s been used in some creative ways and is the unquestioned leader of the interior line.

Jordan Mills’ issues are — unsurprisingly — the same. He’s often victimized by speed-rushes, including a blow-by by Charles Harris.

Michael Deiter received some individual instruction from Pat Flaherty (OL Coach) at the outset of practice. As he worked on his hand fighting, something else stood out. He’s a natural knee-bender that can maintain his balance when he gets into his pass set and drops the anchor.

Deiter has been working at left guard, but has also been working extensively on his snapping in between drills.

Linebackers

Raekwon McMillan was back with the first-team and he showed why he always belonged there. He made two plays, in close succession, where he knocked some heads in the running game. The first was an off-tackle run from Ballage where he keyed, beat the block outside, and tagged off.

May 25, 2017; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan (52) catches a pass during OTAs practice drills at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The next one resulted in a pop that the folks in West Palm heard. Down around the goal line, McMillan shot the B-gap and met the back at the line-of-scrimmage for a loud, no-gain. The entire unit came to his side to give him dap after a collective “oooooh” reaction from the stick.

Jerome Baker flew around all day. The defense opened up some of the blitz packages and Baker found himself coming free in the A-gap a couple of times. His first step and explosiveness really stands out.

It was more of the same from Sam Eguavoen. In addition to taking more first-team reps, he was with the specialists during individual drills working on tackling.

Chase Allen didn’t practice today, and Terrill Hanks was the beneficiary. Hanks offers the inside-outside versatility and showcased some edge-setting skills, as well as working backwards in coverage.

Wide Receivers

It was a difficult evaluation because of the quarterback play, but Kenny Stills was the best of the bunch. He may be known for his deep-speed, but he consistently finds soft spots in the zone, and he knows how to chase the defender’s blind spot.

Stills and Isaiah Ford stayed on the field after practice and worked on deep passing with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ford had his best day of camp so far that started off with a blow-by of rookie Montre Hartage for a long touchdown in one-on-one.

Preston Williams isn’t going to wow you with his ability to get in-and-out of breaks, but his catch radius is rather absurd. He continued to rebound balls in one-on-one drills, and has found a penchant for working the end-line in red zone. The Dolphins likely prefer his size in that area to put the football where it’s either a leaping touchdown, or an incomplete pass.

Recap

It was a sloppy practice that was permeated throughout the offense, but the tone was set by the quarterbacks — they must be better. This provides us a great opportunity to see how effective the staff can be in getting a bounce back showing from this group.

A lot of the install work brought new looks into the offense, and perhaps that was the cause for the struggle (unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to discuss what I saw, but you will see it in games down the road).

Eguavoen wasn’t alone in skipping the individual drills to work with the specialists — Chandler Cox did as well; he’s set for a pretty big role this year. Defensive back Chris Lammons has seen extended run with the special teams packages as well.

The stands were packed despite the considerable perception that this team won’t be competitive. Either folks are excited about football coming back, or they’re buying into the program Brian Flores is developing — as well they should be.

We’ve got another week’s worth of practice before the scrimmage next Saturday. If things continue to progress as they have so far, Dolphins fans should have patience, but also faith in this process.

@WingfieldNFL

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ben Pierce

    July 28, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    Travis, as a Dolfan on the West Coast this is an extremely helpful breakdown. You know your stuff and I appreciate it. I’ll look for you in future postings. God bless, Ben Pierce

    • Avatar

      Darrius

      July 28, 2019 at 9:45 pm

      Great article, please post just like this.

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Miami Dolphins

25 Things We’ve Learned 25 Days into the 2019 Miami Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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Camp kicked off 25 days ago, giving us a month’s worth of visual evidence; here’s what we know so far

Preseason reps are not the end-all-be-all, and training camp practices won’t put players in the Hall of Fame, but there’s a purpose every time the chinstrap is buckled. For a team that harps on the fundamentals and executing the job that has been asked on a down-by-down basis, every rep has meaning.

The NFL calendar never sleeps, but the true beginning of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season began on July 25, exactly 25 days ago. With 10 practices under my belt, an intra-squad scrimmage, and two preseason games digested to the max, these are the 25 things I’ve learned over this first month.

Some of these things are big, some are small, some are encouraging, some are concerning. We start with the biggest of them all.

Big Things:

1. Xavien Howard – Money Well Spent

Xavien Howard’s been targeted a lot over the last month. He’s allowed a few catches, mainly in unjust 1-on-1 periods, but he’s also pulled some down, too. A lot of them. And that trend has continued through a scrimmage, joint-practices with an opponent, and one live game. X, as he’s so aptly named, exemplifies Brian Flores’ message on and off the field.

2. Laremy Tunsil – Next in Line

There’s a term — set and forget — that refers to such a comfort level with said player, that you don’t even bother watching him. He’s got it. Laremy’s got it. The feet, hands, strength, athleticism, quickness; a trip to Tunsil island is a dreadful way to spend a Sunday afternoon for edge rushers.

3. Jerome Baker – Glow Up

His rookie year looked promising, but no one could’ve seen this coming, not this fast. Baker had a strong debut season, but he wasn’t a full-time player, and he had his vulnerabilities. Now, he’s doing everything under the sun with supreme professionalism and execution. He plays at a different speed and contributes in all three phases (blitz, cover, run-support).

4. Josh Rosen – Signs of Life

USA Today Sports Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations always should’ve been low for a kid who is brand new to the league — brand new to his now third new home in three years, but that’s football. It was whatever in May. It was concerning in July. Then, in August, Miami’s second-round investment started playing a little freer. Getting into his second, third, sometimes fourth read, while moving away from a compromised pocket, things could be clicking.

It’s not a consistent theme yet — and it needs to be very good, and very consistent to push Miami off the 2020 QB Class — but that coveted trait, the consistency, is progressing. That much at least deserves monitoring.

5. Pass Rush Scheme – As Advertised

Saying goodbye to Cam Wake and Robert Quinn took a lot of juice off the edge for Miami. Those departures, and the Dolphins unsubstantiated interest in Trey Flowers, all but confirmed the shift to a new scheme that relied on games, gap integrity, and blitz packages to get after the quarterback.

Jerome Baker has been running free on QBs all camp and preseason. Charles Harris, Christian Wilkins, Tank Carradine, Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Ledbetter — a host of Dolphins blood-thirsty rushers are turning up the heat on opposing passers with regularity.

Encouraging Things –

6. Preston Williams – Star potential 

Despite his two-drop showing on the first-team Thursday, Preston Williams has shown true number-one receiver potential all summer. He’s crafty in the way he jostles for position, his strong hands are evident at the release from the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in catching the football. He transitions well enough out of breaks for a man of his size and stature.

At that build, with that catch radius, Williams’ deep-ball prowess has been the most encouraging. If he takes off in this capacity, once the games begin to count, this Miami receiving corps looks much more imposing.

7. Sam Eguavoen – Canadian Pipeline Still Flowing

Minor warts in Eguavoen’s game show up periodically, but his strengths far outweigh the parts of his game Miami will look to mask. He’s plenty adept at defending the edge, rushing the quarterback, and dropping into coverage.

The ability to close down on an underneath pass, but also fall off 15-yards downfield, is the type of versatility needed for a modern-day linebacker.

8. Bobby McCain – Experiment No More, He’s a Safety

Watch the broadcast version of a Miami preseason game and you might miss McCain altogether. He’s typically 12-20-yards off the football, but the opposition’s lack of interest in trying anything vertical is a testament to McCain’s quick acclimation.

All camp long, McCain was working on reading route concepts, flipping the hips, and taking proper angles in help-coverage. He has the makeup to do it, and so far it’s working out.

9. Mike Gesicki – Playing to his Strengths

Some writers suggest that Gesicki is falling out of favor, but I see a player doing exactly what he was drafted to do. He’s flexing out into the slot, in plus-splits (outside the numbers) and he’s uncovering with regularity in the passing game.

He’s only played a handful of snaps, and he’s created separation on all five of his preseason targets. Gesicki caught three of them, while the other two were misfires from the quarterback.

10. Jonathan Ledbetter – Aptitude for the Scheme

Eye-discipline, heavy hands, stout at the point-of-attack — you’ll often hear these phrases when the coaches discuss the prototype for defensive linemen. Ledbetter plays with his hands in front of his eyes, keeps his pad-level low, strikes first, and adheres to his responsibilities in the two-gap scheme.

11. Jason Sanders – Money in the Bank

If he missed kicks in training camp, I didn’t see them. Every time Sanders lines it up, he’s right down the fairway. This was true on hid 45- and 49-yard kicks on a soaked playing surface on Friday, as well as his 48- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.Sanders added angled kickoffs to his game, and has been placing those chip shots precisely into the coffin corner.

Things that are Just Things:

12. Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun First-Team – Tipping the Offensive Plan

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that this pair of rookies have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both players frequently create push in the running game, but are a bit of a coin-flip in regards to pass protection.

Brian Flores spoke all offseason about his affinity for running the ball, and starting the rookies — — over a player like Chris Reed — serves as a pretty sound indicator for that preference. Our next bullet point speaks a similar language.

13. Chandler Cox – 21-Personnel Back in Miami

“Defending a fullback in the running game is a difficult thing for a linebacker to do.” That was Coach Flores’ comment back in minicamp when asked about the Chandler Cox selection. Miami has to play small-ball this year to find wins, and that means staying on schedule offensively.

Cox has had his ups-and-downs, and Miami gives reps to Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary as potential backups, but it doesn’t end with a fullback-tailback combination — Miami has regularly shown 21-personnel with dual tailbacks.

14. Jesse Davis – Tackle Tryout

A tackle in college, and position-less mutt through his first two years as a pro, Davis settled into a seemingly permanent right guard position last season. That didn’t go particularly well, and now Miami will kick him back outside with mixed results.

Davis, occasionally vulnerable in pass-pro, is better in the running game. He’s athletic enough to execute a number of pulls (counter trey, play-side), and should benefit from help by the running backs since Tunsil blocks out the sun on the other side.

Discouraging Things:

15. Devante Parker – Minor Ailments

Another ripping and roaring start to camp has since plateaued, both because of his play and another minor injury that sidelined the former first-rounder. Even if Parker posts career numbers this season, can Miami really trust him? The two-year contract was wise in that it gives the Dolphins the extended evaluation before pulling the trigger on a big extension.

At this stage, the emergence of Preston Williams might make that point entirely moot.

16. Chris Reed – Any Day Now

Training as the primary backup center to Daniel Kilgore, the chances are very likely that Reed has to come off the bench at some point this season, but I expected more. He has the intelligence and instincts to play above replacement level between a competent center-tackle bookend, but he’s not recaptured his first-team status since his day-three demotion.

17. Jalen Davis – Not Picking Up Where He Left Off

One of the pleasant surprises of yester-year, Davis’ strong finish to the 2018 season has yet to carry over. He’s been buried on the third-team and is struggling to find success at that level. It might be another year on the practice squad before Davis — primarily a slot — can contribute.

18. Matt Haack – Bottom Barrel Punting Average

Punting is not something I’m claiming expertise in, but I know that Haack ranked 25thin average last season, and he’s currently 27ththis preseason. He has the ability to boom balls into the atmosphere, but the shanks are far too common.

Bad Things:

19. Offensive Line – Offensive

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo reacts during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Colts defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not been good. It’s the one position with a considerable amount of stink — cumulatively spread about — on the roster. From firing the coach of the room, to the on-field execution, only one thing aspect is consistently coming up on the list of pros: 78. This is mostly an individual’s checklist, but this group needs its condemning.

20. Dave DeGuglielmo – Where’s the Expertise?

Firing Pat Flaherty was an upgrade, according to many. So far, DeGuglielmo’s group is failing to properly communicate and pass off games from the defense, there are blown protections each week, and the backup units are utterly futile. He wasn’t given a lot to work with, but DeGuglielmo’s returns have not been pretty — Miami QBs have been sacked seven times in two games.

21. Swing Tackle – Swing and a Miss

Jordan Mills was thrown into the fire for an absent Laremy Tunsil in week-one, and the returns were disastrous. Mills missed Thursday’s game; taking his place, former AAF player, Jaryd Jones-Smith. The results were the same. If Miami loses either of Tunsil or Davis, things could get ugly quickly.

22. Secondary – Paper Thin

Xavien Howard is an all-pro, Eric Rowe looks the part, Minkah Fitzpatrick is excellent in coverage, and the safety trio is capable. Beyond those six, there might not be enough competent players to get through the season. The Patriots defense (similar schemes) rolls double digit defensive backs into the game plan throughout the year — the Dolphins are several bodies short of being able to say the same thing.

23. Reshad Jones – Cashing Checks

Jones missed 10 games in 2016 for a shoulder injury. He played through another shoulder ailment in 2017 and did not have a good season. Last year, he missed two more games, and voluntarily removed himself from a third. This year, he skipped OTAs (the voluntary portion), and has missed more practices than he’s been a part of.

Jones was running with the second-team throughout those healthy days, and he’s perfectly content to do that at his current pay rate.

24. Kenyan Drake – Time is Running Thin

Drake’s explosive skill set, versatility, and big-play ability was on display throughout camp, but an injury puts everything on hold. Miami are being discrete about the severity of the injury, but in a contract-year, Drake needs a consistent, strong showing for 17 weeks.

25. Raekwon McMillan – More Health Concerns

McMillan entered camp as a second-team ‘backer, earned first-team work early in camp, but has been missing ever since with an injury. As youngsters around him emerge, McMillan’s lack of involvement casts a cloud of uncertainty over his position on this roster.

It’s pretty clear what this Dolphins team is going to be this season. A smart team that — hopefully — doesn’t beat itself, but comes up short on talent in key areas. The defense should improve considerably from last season, and the offense remains a major question mark.

The showing of the defense in Tampa Bay is a great step in that direction, and further help is on the way (no Howard, Jones, McDonald, McMillan, or Andrew Van Ginkel for that game). Regardless of what happens on offense, with Miami’s deep free agent pockets, war chest of draft picks, and desire for that coveted top-five drafted quarterback, a surge on defense would spell a successful 2019 season.

Things are trending in that direction.

@WingfieldNFL

 

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Defense Dominates, Offensive Futility Leads to Defeat

Stat Dolphins Buccaneers
Total Yards 280 312
Rushing 118 75
Passing 162 237
Penalties 13/122 8/81
3rd/4thDown 2/15 4/15
Sacks For 4 5
TOP 27:43 32:17

 

Did Not Play:

CB: Xavien Howard
WR: Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant
S: Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, Walt Aikens
OL: Zach Sterup, Jordan Mills
LB: Kiko Alonso, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Quentin Poling
RB: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage

The Skinny

Which would you like first, the good news, or the bad news?

The strong winds and heavy rain Friday night impacted both offenses at Raymond James Stadium. The Dolphins and Bucs exchanged field goals and punts in an exhibition game that went 54 minutes before its first touchdown (each team scored in the final 3:35).

Defensively, the Dolphins showed their collective teeth with some creative blitzes, constant pressure, and sound coverage on the back0end without the team’s best player (Xavien Howard).

After a demotion to the second-team before Tuesday’s practice, Charles Harris responded with a monster game. The 2017 first-rounder picked up two sacks and four additional QB hits on the night.

CFL signing Sam Eguavoen flashed on a similar level. The linebacker forced a fumble, made a pair of run stops and got his hands on a deep in-cut after falling back into coverage.

Jerome Baker — as you see by the above video clip — answered our question in the preview piece about his blitzing prowess. Baker was a menace in all three phases once again.

On offense, it was a struggle for the ‘Phins. The quarterback battle suddenly leans in a new direction — albeit it coming by-way of default scenario — and the offensive line has gone beyond catastrophically awful.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen played the entire first half and effectively moved the ball on a couple of series. Still, some accuracy issues, a late read on fourth-and-goal from the two, and another woeful interceptable pass (which was dropped) undid a lot of the goods Rosen showcased.

Those “goods” featured adequate pocket mobility, improved body language, and a continued strong effort when the plays mattered most (third down, two-minute drill). Rosen often had to get off the spot, find a new passing avenue, reset, and deliver the ball.

Miami dropped multiple balls in their own right, further putting Rosen at a disadvantage. The body language and demeanor that Brian Flores criticized his young QB for was demonstrably better in this game. He battled through difficult conditions, a fierce pass rush, and once again delivered a scoring drive in the final two minutes.

Rosen — as it stands right now — deserves the opening day nod. Though it doesn’t appear he’s going to get it; Flores quickly announced Fitzpatrick as the starter for next week’s game vs. the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play hasn’t inspired a lot of hope if he is indeed declared the starter. Fitzpatrick matched Rosen’s poor decision making, and struggled with his own accuracy all night. The veteran was thrown to the wolves and was constantly under duress, but if you compare his second-team showing to Rosen’s effort last week, the youngin’ clearly won that battle.

It would be entirely disingenuous to leave this video out of the post-game column.

Jake Rudock threw an inexcusable interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but responded with the go-ahead touchdown-and-two-point drive in the final moments.

Running Backs

Kenyan Drake is out with an injury and Kalen Ballage did not play. Mark Walton was the beneficiary with plenty of work in the first half, excelling particularly in the passing game. Walton stuck a big time blitz pickup on a five-man rush and caught a slant, from a plus-split- for a first down.

Walton is pretty clearly the third best back on the roster, though he bounced a goal-line run that was built for a B-gap lead.

Patrick Laird ran for 45 yards on six carries. He’s a patient runner with quality vision and enough burst to make his runs work. Myles Gaskin teamed up in a few two-back sets, but he didn’t have a lot of room to work with.

Kenneth Farrow busted a big run, but it was the result of a massive lane opened up by the Miami blocking on a split zone, backside dig-out.

Chandler Cox is mixed bag — and this feels redundant. He hit some nice lead blocks, but wound up on the ground too much again. He was hit with a holding penalty tonight as well.

Wide Receivers

Burn the wide out film from this one. Drops, minimal separation, failure to get clean releases against press — Miami’s deepest offensive position group did not hold up its end of the bargain in the loss.

Preston Williams had a dreadful night. He had at least two drops, both of which would’ve moved the chains. He nearly came down with another ridiculous highlight reel catch where he tipped the ball to himself, and brought it in at the pylon, but his foot was on the chalk.

Kenny Stills might’ve been credited with a drop on the first play of the game, though it’s unclear if the ball was tipped. He did, however, convert a third-and-short on a drag route. Stills came in short-motion to create a stack, and then won with a clean release.

Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler had the best nights among the group — they had two catches and moved the chains once each. Ford uncovered in the end zone on the fourth-and-two play, but Rosen was a beat late and a hair low.

Saeed Blacknail uncovered for a big gainer and Trenton Irwin caught the two-point conversion on a wide open flat route.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary’s block sealed the edge on the long Farrow gallop. He caught one pass for five yards, and did his usual work blocking the edge in both the run and the pass game.

Mike Gesicki is showing continual signs of progress. He uncovered three times, caught two of the targets, and the third was considerably behind him on an open slant route.

Dewayne Allen committed a hold on a run from inside the five, and Durham Smythe had a 22-yard reception.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil returned and showed Dolphins fans exactly why he needs an extension. The pay-day is coming, but the price goes up every time Tunsil gets isolated in protection and handles the task with ease. He’s so quick to gain depth and prevent speed rushes, or underneath moves — he’s elite.

The rest of the line…is not. Though Michael Deiter looked the part the majority of the night. He still has some reps where he bends at the waist, and is left to the vices of the man across from him, but he’s picking up combination blocks and playing sound, assignment football in this game. He was the next best behind Tunsil and reason for optimism on that left side.

Jesse Davis surrendered a sack when he overset, despite help available from the back, and lost on a counter move working inside.

It’s difficult to assign blame on some pressure looks, but Shaq Calhoun is often part of blown protections with a variety of right tackles. He does, however, continue to get adequate push in the running game.

The rest of the interior line was not good, Daniel Kilgore got taken for a couple of rides and communication issues continue to persist.

Miami’s search for a swing tackle is not going well. Jordan Mills was down tonight and his replacement — Jaryd Jones-Smith — was an absolute train wreck. He was consistently beat with a speed rush off the edge and just doesn’t have the quickness to play the left side.

Defensive Line

Coach Flores is going to test the mettle of his guys. He wants to put stress on a player, and when things appear to be coming together, take that strain up another notch.

For Charles Harris, perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Harris was a menace. He whipped starting Left Tackle Donovan Smith (video below) helping to end the Bucs first drive, and then went to work on poor backup tackle, Cole Boozer. Harris won with speed, with a counter moves, and he defended the run.

Welcome to the NFL, Christian Wilkins. The first-round pick was disruptive. Number 97 recorded his first sack, another bone-crushing hit on the quarterback, and consistent penetration all night long.

Davon Godchaux is bordering on the territory where we don’t need to mention him any more — he’s as steady as they come and a true power-player. He throws those hands and gets under his man with regularity.

Tank Carradine looks good pushing up field, chopping the tackles hands, and bending the edge. He disrupted a throw on his newly patented move, and laid a hit on the quarterback hit.

Jonathan Ledbetter checked in for some first-team work, and he continues to show why the coaches love him. He’s like Godchaux in the way he plays low, with heavy hands, and can really control the point-of-attack in the two-gap scheme.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker played 15 snaps last week, made five tackles, three for run-stuffs, but never blitzed. That changed tonight.

Baker has an innate sense for angles to the quarterback, coupled with a rare burst that allows him to effectively move the quarterback off the spot from any gap he rushes. He also continues to defend the edge as a run-stopper — he’s ultra-impressive.

So was Sam Eguavoen. With four splash plays in the first half — including a forced fumble — Eguavoen displayed everything that has earned him first-team work. He’s athletic enough to get 10-yards deep into a pass drop (one PBU from that position), he’s strong enough to stack the edge in the run-game (one TFL there), and he’s instinctive enough to knife between blocks between the tackles (another TFL there).

The 26-year-old rookie’s most impressive play came in coverage (second clip in the video below). Carrying coverage up the seam, locating the hook zone, and then quickly pulling the trigger as the ball goes out to the flat, Eguavoen punished the receiver and forced a turnover.

Nick Deluca played with the first-team. It’s pretty clear what he does well and how he fits in this defense. He can scrape the edge and assist in the run game — something Miami needs with the injuries at the position mounting.

 

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard was held out of this one, probably because of the weather, but we got our first look at Eric Rowe. Rowe’s appearance was brief and not memorable one way or the other.

Jomal Wiltz, Nik Needham, and Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled. Tackling was an issue for the two slots while Needham was bested in coverage again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick did contribute with a gorgeous pass breakup early on against former Bama teammate O.J. Howard, but these missed tackles are new for him — there’s no reason to think he won’t clean it up.

Torry McTyer competed for the second straight game, and this time against the two’s. He’s taking well to the press-man scheme this defense prefers to run.

Safeties

Chris Lammons flashed time-and-time again. A prominent fixture on special teams, his #30 jersey showed up against the run, the pass, and one very impressive tackle on a screen pass.

Bobby McCain is so often out of frame that it’s difficult to identify him on the broadcast. He did, however, come up once in run support like a missile, and has done well to click-and-close in deep coverage.

Montre Hartage is running as the second-team deep safety. He missed a tackle on a big play in the screen game, but it was whistled back on a holding call.

Maurice Smith was active in the middle of the field. If Reshad Jones and/or T.J. McDonald aren’t back for the season opener, Smith might be called on to play significant reps.

Recap

This is the team I expected to see last week. Strong defensive effort, creative and complex scheme that overwhelms the offense with its disguise, and an offense that can’t get out of its own way.

After the dominant first-half effort by the defense, Flores kept prominent defenders (Harris, Fitzpatrick, Eguavoen) on the field, which felt odd.

The primary specialist unit continues to look the same. Cornell Armstrong, Nick Deluca, Terrill Hanks, Cox, Smith, Hartage, Wiltz, Fitzpatrick, Smythe, and Lammons remain focal points of the unit.

Miami took the lead with only 34 seconds to play, and Flores will certainly express his displeasure for the inability to close. Not to mention the absurd number of penalties. This was simply a sloppy game on Flores’ road debut.

Jason Sanders is a hell of a kicker. He drilled kicks right down the middle from 45 and 49-yards out on a sloppy playing surface.

Regardless of who starts under center, this team needs several things to function on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant need to get back, and Laremy Tunsil has to stay healthy.

All things told, Rosen has been making more out of a bad situation than Fitzpatrick, but the plan was probably to start the veteran on opening day all along — and we’re almost assured of that with the decision to start Fitz in the third preseason game.

Game Balls:

Charles Harris
Sam Eguavoen
Jerome Baker
Christian Wilkins
Patrick Laird

Don’t forget to check out the post-game recap on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

 

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins First-Half Jiffy Report v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Preston Williams
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Who are the Miami Dolphins’ risers and fallers in the first half of the second preseason game v. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Risers

Sam Eguavoen

The former CFL linebacker has continued to impress, and that was on full display during the first half. Eguavoen was shooting gaps and hitting the ball-carrier in the backfield.

He also was responsible for a forced fumble that was recovered by the Miami Dolphins. All arrows are pointing up for Eguavoen to make the roster and an impact for the team during the regular season.

Jerome Baker

Baker quickly made an impact as a blitzer as he rapidly got to Jameis Winston and at least got hits out of that exchange. While Baker needs to get stronger to bring down the quarterbacks and get sacks, it was a great sign to see Baker show this type of pressure.

Charles Harris

Have you noticed all the Risers are defensive players? Well, many of the defensive guys have flashed and surprised me so far in the game.

Harris showed some progression going into his third year, especially in this game. He showed improved hand-placement techniques and used it to get two sacks.

Fallers

Preston Williams

Williams had two major drops that could’ve been first downs. Williams has been a hot name for the past couple of weeks but has cooled down a little bit if this first half is any indication.

I don’t think it’s anything major; I’m sure he’ll get it cleaned up, but he’s fallen back down to Earth somewhat with the easy drops.

Williams did almost redeem himself with a nearly acrobatic touchdown catch but had just barely gone out of bounds.

Michael Deiter

It was only a matter of time before Deiter started struggling. He’s a still a rookie after all. He was responsible for a false start and got lucky that another was missed. It was just all-around rough for Deiter.

 

 

 

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