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.
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.
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.
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’Leary–Durham 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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