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Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Journal – Day 6 (July 31)

Travis Wingfield

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Quick Notes:

– Dolphins legend Nick Buoniconti passed away at the age of 78. The flags at Dolphins headquarters were appropriately flown at half-staff.

Dwayne Allen was activated off the physically unable to performance list and participated in individual drills at Wednesday’s practice.

– Punter Stone Wilson has been waived — Matt Haack it is.

Albert Wilson continue to work in individual drills, while getting conditioning work off to the side during team drills. Today he was shadow boxing.

Kiko Alonso and Kalen Ballage were held out of practice.

Jakeem Grant left practice with an undisclosed injury, but later returned.

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

The pieces are being laid for a consistent, exciting program in South Florida

The sweeping coaching changes — and the consequential schematic overhaul this offseason — was integral to the growth of Locked On Dolphins this year. Brian Flores, Patrick Graham, and Chad O’Shea provided us with a platform to speculate on the vision for the plan on either side of the ball, with multiple influences to consider.

As the 2019 season is officially a week old — with six practices in the rear view — the picture might be coming clear as to what this team will look like. From personnel usage, to the assignments of that personnel, Stephen Ross had to envision something of a Foxboro-South-look with the third regime appointed under his watch.

And that’s what he’s getting.

Multiple looks on both sides of the ball, as well as specific jobs designed to make the players feel at ease, think less, and play faster, are incorporating an entirely new feel at Dolphins camp.

For the sixth-straight practice, teaching was at the forefront of day’s priority. Shortened team-periods are scattered throughout a day chock full of individual drills that accomplish two things:

1.) Improve technique
2.) Provide a conditioning apparatus

One such drill saw the linebackers and defensive backs dropping to the ground (up-downs) and then pursuing the ball carrier. In addition to providing extra conditioning, this simulates more real time feel as the players sniff out screen passes.

The offensive line was intently focused on combination blocks throughout the day, which makes sense given that the defense was throwing the kitchen sink at them with games (stunts, slants, twists).

Dave DeGuglielmo has brought a different intensity to the OL practices. Guys are getting extended work through rapid repetition (someone told me that one lineman in particular lost 15 pounds in water weight yesterday).

A separate drill saw the lineman shooting hands, then slowly working laterally, maintaining a wide base, in what looked like an outside zone simulation.

The practice as a whole was a lot sharper than the two previous showing. Fewer balls on the ground, a lot of creativity and play-making from either unit, and an effective install-day in front of a pretty small crowd at the training facility in Davie.

Quarterbacks

Since the pads went on, it’s been a rough few days for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He threw three interceptions and fumbled yet another snap. He was inaccurate with his throws, but his aggressiveness might’ve had more to do with the result than what you might see on a game day (then again, the gunslinger mentality often shows up on Sundays too).

In the warmup portion Fitzpatrick was really cutting things loose with some impressive drive throws. Perhaps he knew he was going to take some chances and wanted to heat up the old sidearm.

For the sixth-straight practice, Fitzpatrick was out on the field before the others with Rosen bringing up the rear. Maybe Rosen is getting extra meeting time in the facility. I don’t know.

Fitzpatrick provided the funniest moment of camp when Kenyan Drake reversed field on a run, and Fitz ran down field as the point man in an escort of blockers — luckily the defense heeded to the red shirt.

For the first time all camp, Josh Rosen was decidedly the best quarterback on the field. Like Fitzpatrick, he was more aggressive than normal — though he did settle for the check down a little too often in the team period. But he was far better with his processing in today’s practice completing more chunk throws than on any other day.

Comebacks were the route of the day and he was on time with a lot of these throws — and accurate. In the one-on-one period he dropped a pair of gorgeous deep balls in the bucket for long touchdowns.

Jake Rudock made a lot of mistakes with the third string unit, but he saw some work on second team and even with some starters after Fitzpatrick was pulled for throwing an interception.

While the rest of the team continued work on the far field, the quarterbacks gathered with Chad O’Shea and Jerry Schuplinski on the near field. This offseason we learned that Josh McDaniels typically spent his days with Tom Brady, while Schuplinski worked on developing the younger quarterbacks. The same thing occurred today as Fitzpatrick and O’Shea shared a walk-and-talk, while Schuplinski coached up Rosen and Rudock.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker continues to shine, and in a variety of roles. Standing over the ball, calling the defense, Baker has worked on rerouting, playing coverage, blitzing the A-gaps and rushing the edge — and he’s doing well in all of these areas.

Baker was joined by Andrew Van Ginkel on a variety of these pressure packages, including showing double A-gap pressure. The Mike Zimmer staple, the idea is to confuse the protection call and mixing up the act of actually coming on the blitz, or pulling out with dummy pressure, puts added heat on the interior line and quarterback.

While those guys are busy making life hell on the protection scheme, Sam Eguavoen works tirelessly in coverage. At one point, Eguavoen was dropping down the pipe in what looks like a Tampa 2. Gone are the days of Kiko Alonso covering grass, and arriving are coverage specialists that can recognize route concepts and pick up bodies opposed to covering space.

Raekwon McMillan continues to begin with the second-team, but as Coach Flores said, he’s playing some mind games in regards to who plays on which team, and this is likely one of those players. He’s been effective working downhill, but he can get caught in coverage (that’s the player he is).

Defensive Line

Charles Harris had his best day of camp. The Dolphins were incorporating multiple different looks along the defensive line including some fun tandems and techniques that would provide stunts or dummy stunts (fake the loop, then rush the outside shoulder of the tackle). Harris spent a lot of the day in the backfield, but he continues to be inconsistent holding the point-of-attack in the run game.

Tank Carradine is having a marvelous camp. He — like Harris — is working with the first-team in even-fronts and he’s doing more than just holding the edge in the ground-game, he’s adding some pass rush to his arsenal.

Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Akeem Spence, and Adolphus Washington are likely the secondary cause of all the offensive line shuffling (more on that in a minute). All four have been sterling this camp creating push, walking the line back, and clogging up lanes in the running game.

If that group sustains that level of play, with this Dolphins line backing corps looking as good as it has, this stands to be the best front seven Miami has had in a long time. And forget the lack of true, pure, edge-rushers — that’s not what the scheme does. They want to beat you up inside and create the rush through clever blitzing and overloading pressure — and they’ve done that so far.

Jonathan Ledbetter’s strong camp was rewarded with first-team action. He was part of some interesting alignments, in tandem with Charles Harris, that I can’t go into detail on, and he continues to dent the edge against the run.

Christian Wilkins hasn’t been as impactful as you might like — not that he’s been bad — but the focus appears to be on getting him both conditioned and acclimated to the many roles he will play. He’s lined up everywhere and is clearly going to be counted on for a massive workload.

Nate Orchard had his best day. He’s played like a cut candidate so far, but he was constantly in the backfield on Wednesday

Defensive Backs

Another day, another pair of interceptions for Xavien Howard — he’s in mid-season form.

Joining him might be Eric Rowe, who has been as good as anyone in camp. Rowe probably leads all defensive backs in pass breakups, and he had two more today. He’s taking well to the mirror and bail techniques being asked of him, and he’s consistently winning against big, physical receivers like Parker and Williams.

The second-tier group had a better day. Nik Needham got his hands on two footballs, including an impressive, instinctive rep where he read a comeback and undercut the ball to break it up.

Jalen Davis saw some third-team work on the outside and handled that duty admirably. It’s been a bit of a disappointing camp for Cornell Armstrong, and specifically Jomal Wiltz — he’s been picked on regularly.

T.J. McDonald is off to a terrific start. His interception saw him lurking around the line of scrimmage, passing off a back into the flat and coming back for the backside crosser in the hook zone, and snatching the football.

Bobby McCain is showing a better comfort level with his role in the middle of the field. He drove on a dig route against Parker and broke it up, and has done well to head off potential seam shots in team drills.

Torry McTyer is involved in a lot of successful downfield passes. He’s not had the camp he was hoping for in year-three.

Wide Receivers

Today was the most interesting from an install perspective. The way Sean McVay has befuddled coordinators with jamming his slots in-tight to the formation, the Dolphins could look to create an extra gap in this way as well. Stacking receivers is common, but not as much so with a nasty split (just off the tight end).

Stacking and switching is a great way to beat man coverage. Chad O’Shea figures to bring these principles with him from New England, and he has some electric combinations with which to accomplish that look.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson (15) at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on May 23, 2018. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Devante Parker is having one hell of a camp. He’s not losing any speed or burst (a result of better health, perhaps?) He has not been among the guilty drop party, he’s stacking effectively stacking corners, and he’s winning on a variety of routes.

Parker’s chemistry with Fitzpatrick is apparent. The timing and possession-like rebounder traits are syncing up nicely.

Kenny Stills had another drop and was largely quiet in the team portion, just as Jakeem Grant has been of late. Grant is uncoverable in one-on-ones, but I’d like to see him get some more work in those team drills — it’s feasible that Grant is held out tomorrow after sustaining a minor injury.

I mentioned Wilson off the top, but he looked more explosive today than he has all camp — he clearly wants to get back in there. He ran a pivot route that looked just like peak Wilson from last October.

Preston Williams is going to make the team. Between the first-team inclusion, the red-zone prowess and extended work as a gunner on special teams, he’s enduring a large workload for a reason. The same could be said of fellow undrafted free agent Trenton Irwin. Irwin had a fun moment before practice where he caught five balls off the jugs punt machine (without putting any of them down).

Offensive Line

The interior line has struggled since the pads came on. Will Holden must be on his last leg because he received a first-team promotion yesterday, stayed there today, and continues to get worked over. He was whipped in the one-on-one pass rush drills and allowed constant pressure in team periods.

Shaq Calhoun was the other first-team elevated lineman, and he struggled with the power of Miami’s fierce interior line.

Jesse Davis was beaten for a sack, snap issues continued, and Michael Deiter is getting better each day. He had a drive-block on Eguavoen that proceeded 5-7 yards downfield.

Isaiah Prince had some run on the second team and looked formidable in the ground game — that’s his forte.

I think it’s pretty clear who the top five or six guys are. I’d prefer they went with that lineup (Tunsil-Deiter-Kilgore-Reed-Davis) and just work on continuity from here on out — the Holden experiment lasted two days too long.

Aaron Monteiro had a nice block to spring a big run, Kyler Fuller continues to get a lot of second-team work, and Tony Adams finally joined the group of three centers to work with the QBs before practice on exchanges.

Tight Ends

Dwayne Allen returned and gave a different look to the group — he is a thick, THICK dude. He was involved as a pass catcher and might get more opportunities in that regard than he previously has with the Patriots.

Allen’s return certainly motivated Nick O’Leary — he was awesome today. He made multiple catches in the team period including a nice contested catch working up the hash marks in the middle of the field.

Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe were very quiet and Clive Walford’s injury likely spells the end to his homecoming.

Running Backs

It’s really difficult to gage the success of the running back’s carries in these drills that don’t go live. Kenyan Drake is clearly the best one on the field (with Ballage down), but Patrick Laird just might be the one getting the longest look among the rest.

Another Patriots-like influence (see their final scoring drive in the Super Bowl) backs will split out wide and take an easy five-yard hitch, essentially given away by the defense. Laird was involved in this way frequently on Wednesday.

Mark Walton found the edge on a nice run and Myles Gaskin looked the part both in protection and the passing game. It’ll take game action to really separate this group.

Recap

These schemes are complex. Even as a self-proclaimed film junkie, it’s not easy to identify the multiple looks of the defense, the two and three-man route combinations, and the variety within the route tree. That could explain the struggles and lack of trust in the eyes of Josh Rosen in the early goings.

The biggest revelation is that this defense could be really good — and immediately. I tuned in to Move the Sticks on the way back to the hotel. Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks raved about Miami having a great start on defense — both from a leadership and production standpoint — with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Christian Wilkins. That doesn’t even include superstar Xavien Howard and breakout candidate Jerome Baker.

The Dolphins run defense is going to be miles better this year. The little mistakes should be less — in fact, they already are. Miami is drilling these fine details, working on establishing a program that executes and plays to its own advantages.

It’s probably not going to happen this year, but this team is on the right track. With the changes and progress, I’ve seen in just a week’s time, if the Dolphins hit next offseason out of the park, they’ll be the new sheriff in the Post-Brady-and-Belichick AFC East.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

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

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

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

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

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

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

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

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

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

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

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

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

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

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

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

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

Jason Sanders is a stud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

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

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

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

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future We Created

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

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

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

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

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

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

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

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

Full trade:

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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