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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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  1. Avatar

    Michael

    August 1, 2019 at 10:37 am

    If Fitzpatrick starts week one imo Flores should be fire. Fitzpatrick is not is apart of the future he is actually wasting valuable first team reps right now that Rosen should be taking. Miami should have kept Gore and Wake if Fitzpatrick is starting. Ross and Grier preached rebuilding the team the right way having a 36 yr old journeyman qb start over a top 10 first round qb is not the right way.

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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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