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Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Journal – Day 7 (August 1)

Travis Wingfield

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Quick Notes:

– Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Kiko Alonso, Kalen Ballage, Dwayne Allen, Chase Allen, Cordrea Tankersley, and Mike Hull didn’t practice.
– Shaq Calhoun and Michael Deiter remained the first team guards.
– Jomal Wiltz began the session as the starting nickel.
– Nik Needham started at perimeter corner alongside Xavien Howard.
– Reshad Jones starts with the first-team for the first time all camp.

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

The puzzle is beginning to come together for the Dolphins new brain trust

“I can’t remember the last time I drew LB or DT when deploying defense on paper because everyone might play everywhere.”

After a week’s worth of putting the visual evidence on the field, Dolphins Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham verbally confirmed our suspicious about the makeup of the Dolphins new defensive scheme.

Even the most nuanced football minds are having issues pinpointing the exact specifications of the Dolphins defensive scheme — as was the case with Brian Flores’ 2018 Patriots defense. Every day gives fans a peak into new concepts, new tryouts for potential depth players, and an overall effective unit that flies to the football.

Coach Flores kept the team in the soggy elements of a South Florida tropical depression. With buckets of water flowing off the canopy designed to protect the grandstand at the Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University, the entirety of the Dolphins skill positions went bare-handed for the day.

Perhaps that was the jumpstart for a better practice from the offense — that side had its best day of the week.

Flores’ message is taking hold. The message to work hard, and when the circumstances get difficult, to dig in and work even harder. The wet field and poor conditions didn’t impact the quality of the practice. Nobody left with a new injury, and the team put another good two hours into the bank.

Quarterbacks

Josh Rosen spun arguably his best day of camp. He was more aggressive in the team periods, picked up chunk yards in the passing game, threw with timing and precision, and had the deep ball working in one-on-one drills.

Rosen’s revelation that he never made protection calls (identifying the middle linebacker) tracks with his performance. He’s still hesitant to take shots when the read isn’t readily apparent (schemed open receivers) and that’s something he’ll have to overcome if he’s going to be the truck this coaching staff hitches its wagon to. Anybody can hit the schemed open throws, it’s the time for Rosen to begin taking the next step in his early Dolphins development.

One knock on Rosen’s skill set that isn’t likely to improve — when he has to move off the top of his drop immediately he doesn’t have the quick twitch to do it urgently. The bearded one does. And with this offensive line that might be the most important trait.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his beard, had a clean practice as well. The touch and timing on the variety of throws the Dolphins are asking him to make impresses more with each session.

Fitzpatrick had the comical moment of camp so far when he broke contain and took off. In a live game he would’ve paid a significant price from Linebacker Sam Eguavoen, but under the protection of the red shirt, Fitzpatrick galloped into pay dirt from 35 yards out. Laughs were shared by the players, the fans, and the media alike.

The quarterback competition has tightened this week, but the overall nod is still firmly in Fitzpatrick’s grasp. The next step is for Rosen to become effective getting deep into his progression and going off-script.

Defensive Backs

T.J. McDonald has had the best camp of any DB not named Xavien Howard (who snatched a couple more interceptions today). McDonald is active. He’s involved on defense and special teams working in the latter as a signal-caller of both return units.

Dolphins rookie Defensive Back Montre Hartage has been heavily involved this training camp

McDonald’s most impressive rep came in a one-on-one matchup where he matched Mike Gesicki high-pointing of a pass to the back of the end zone. McDonald outleaped the former volleyball star for a pass break-up.

The leader of pass break-ups was at it again. Eric Rowe’s demotion was more about getting the younger guys reps, he’s been fantastic and will start opening day barring something unforeseen.

Nik Needham was the beneficiary of those extra reps and the rookie ran with it. He stayed in phase on a long pass up the sideline during team drills, and wound up with the interception. Preston Williams deflected the ball into Needham’s lap, but his work to get in position rewarded the rook with his first pick of camp.

Bobby McCain works his butt off on angles every practice. He’s spent a lot of time working to open his hips and get to the help from his deep safety position. Today he was coming in with a purpose in the downfield passing game.

Maurice Smith looks comfortable down around the line-of-scrimmage and Torry McTyer’s difficult camp continues — he was mossed by Parker in the red zone team-period. Jalen Davis hasn’t had the camp he was hopping for either — he’s not seeing any work with the first two teams and has given up some plays.

Miami’s multiplicity is really showing off, as Patrick Graham stated. Running in contention for backup safety work, behind McCain, is a trio of cornerback-conversion types. Montre Hartage is the first up to fulfill this role and he’s taking to it well. Hartage started 36-consectuive games at Northwestern and plays technical football with toughness and instincts.

The other contestants for the position are Jomal Wiltz and Chris Lammons. Wiltz is seeing a lot of run at nickel — even with the first team — which coincides with the principles of this defense. Principles that bring the safeties down to cover in the slot. Wiltz has had a strong camp inside and a difficult one outside.

One such play saw McCain and Hartage as the two deep safeties. McCain sprinted up to the line-of-scrimmage with late rotation from Hartage, and McCain threw an interior blitz at the offense.

Cornell Armstrong did a lot of individual work with Walt Aikens on special teams — that’s a good sign for the second-year Southern Miss product.

Howard, McCain, McDonald and Minkah Fitzpatrick are all getting reps on special teams — expect a lot of starters to play in the third phase — this is a very Patriots thing to do.

When the Phins go two-deep, it’s Fitzpatrick that falls back into the safety position with Wiltz coming on for nickel work. Fitzpatrick also played linebacker, on the line-of-scrimmage, and worked in the underneath, middle-of-the-field role in sub-packages — he’s everywhere.

Defensive Line

Nate Orchard is having a nice bounce back, evident by his recent usage. The amoeba package that Flores unveiled down the stretch last season is making its way to Miami, and Orchard is playing a significant role. Often the lone down-lineman, he’s lined up all over the defensive line with any variety of rushers coming on any given snap.

Charles Harris continues to work off the edge in both odd and even fronts. He didn’t have as much of an impact today, but it’s difficult to gage individual success given the gap discipline nature of these rush packages.

Christian Wilkins is quietly causing problems inside against the run, but his pass rush has been relatively silent for a few days. He’s working as hard as anybody out there every day.

Adolphus Washington picked up a sack in the team red zone period. He’s already made the team as far as I’m concerned.

Jamiyus Pittman had his best day. He made things difficult on the interior ground game with the second team defense.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel provide most of the pressure from a blitzing standpoint. They, collectively, are liable to line up in any gap, back out, or bring the heat on any given snap. It’s extremely difficult to peg exactly what they want to do. Baker had another sack — that total is climbing close to double digits through seven practices.

Miami Dolphins linebackers Quentin Poling (51) and Jerome Baker (55) work during a drill at NFL football training camp at the Dolphins training facility in Davie, Fla., Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald via AP)

Sam Eguavoen is best-suited to provide the Dolphins with a sub-package coverage linebacker, but he’s been making his case in the running game as well. He defeated a block and made a big stick on a Mark Walton run inside the 10. He also came free for a would-be punt block and celebrated by slamming Thor’s Hammer into the turf — he’s explosive.

Speaking of explosive, Terrill Hanks gets into the journal yet again with some of his own blitz work up the middle. His partner on these looks was Eguavoen — that’s a lot of speed on the field.

I’ve been meaning to mention Tre Watson the last couple of days. He too is getting plenty of second-team work. He is often celebrated by his positional coach when he comes off — smart player.

Wide Receivers

Preston Williams and Devante Parker were the stars on the offensive side. Both were rebounding balls in the end zone with relative ease, and Williams showcased his deep-ball skill set with a beautifully patient touchdown catch in tight coverage. A perfect throw from Fitzpatrick required Williams to hit the jets — which he did — and show quiet hands so as to not tip the underneath defender — which he also did.

Parker gets better every day. There was on play in particular that should encourage fans. Parker came across the formation on a mesh concept inside the 10-yard-line, the ball was severely underthrown, and Parker went over the top of McTyer for an impressive touchdown thievery.

I’ll say this again — as someone who has been very critical of Parker — he looks terrific. And you can refute that as much as you want on Twitter, I’m still going to report on what I’m seeing — what everyone at practice is seeing.

Isaiah Ford worked his way into the first-team line-up. He’s spent a lot of time after practice with Fitzpatrick, and a high level of chemistry is building there. Parker, Ford, and Kenny Stills have the best rapport with Fitzpatrick of all the receivers so far.

Brice Butler seems to be fading. He hasn’t seen much first-team work, he’s not producing, and he alligator-armed one pass today.

Running Backs

Mark Walton has been the beneficiary of the Kalen Ballage injury. He’s seeing extended work with the second-team, and even checked in as part of a 21-personnel package sharing the backfield with Kenyan Drake (we saw this previously with Drake and Ballage).

Drake is quietly having a productive camp. While the story has been Ballage, Drake’s vision is creating some chunk gains in the run-game. He’s showing a penchant for stretching runs to the outside and bending it back across the formation creating a big, back-side lane. His lateral fluidity and agility is as good as ever.

The entirety of the Dolphins backfield drilled the passing game hard, including some corner routes from the gun (just like Drake’s touchdown against the Bengals last year).

Rookies Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin were the last ones off the field. They worked on their patterns from the backfield and caught some passes off the jugs machine.

Laird might have the upper-hand on Gaskin right now — he gets into the offense first and sprung a long touchdown run today.

Offensive Line

The escorts of that long Laird touchdown run were Michael Dunn and Kyle Fuller. The created a nice gap off right tackle and Laird picked his way through. On that play the defense committed an illegal substitution, which sent the entire unit to the TNT wall.

Isaiah Prince is seeing more second-team action and he’s clearing some bodies in the run game. So is the physical phenom Jaryd Jones-Smith — had an excellent block from the left tackle position where he took a drop step and then latched on the defender, sealing the edge in the process.

Chris Reed has struggled since a strong start to camp. He and Daniel Kilgore are serving as the first and second-team centers, and neither is doing well to handle Miami’s deep interior line.

Michael Deiter is settling into his starting left guard position rather nicely. He even took to the role of mentor today spending time with newly converted guard, Durval Neto, as the two rookies sharpened their hand placement skill sets.

Shaq Calhoun’s positon on the first-team line might not be on steady ground, but it’s easy to see why he’s earned the work. New O-Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo called Calhoun over from across the field and the rookie sprinted — I’m talking zombie apocalypse run for your life sprint — over to coach.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary has become possessed by the return of Dwayne Allen (even though Allen didn’t practice today, he was on a stationary bike). O’Leary is snatching everything in sight, he’s making plays in the team period, and he’s done well on his patented dig-out block working back across the formation as an H-back.

Mike Gesicki’s hot start to camp has come to a halt. He’s struggling through contact, he’s not been a factor in the team periods, and he’s not being asked to block a whole lot. He even dropped an uncontested Hail Mary to close out practice

Durham Smythe continues to see time with the first-team offense, particularly as the 11-personnel tight end.

Recap

These last two practices have been a lot more about installing the scheme than individual production. The team periods remain short, and the fundamental theme of the day was ball security and tackling.

This staff knows that if this team wants to compete and win games, they can’t miss tackles, commit fouls, and put the ball on the ground — it was encouraging to see those boxes all checked on Thursday.

Perhaps most encouraging of all, the linebackers are rerouting on just about every play — a staple of the Patriots defense, a non-existent feature of a Matt Burke defense.

The best news is that no new injuries occurred on a soaked field. The practice ended again with more gassers and the team, as a whole, is already improving in that aspect as they continue to progress their lungs and conditioning.

We’ll have more detail on today’s podcast, and tomorrow is the final practice Locked On Dolphins will cover live from Davie. We finish up this incredible experience with the scrimmage Saturday at 1 PM at Hard Rock Stadium.

@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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