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Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Journal – The Scrimmage (August 3)

Travis Wingfield

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Quick Notes:

– Players absent from the scrimmage were as follows: Reshad Jones, Raekwon McMillan, Jakeem Grant, Chase Allen, Jonathan Woodard, Cordrea Tankersley, and Mike Hull.

– Albert Wilson and Dwayne Allen were dressed, but neither participated in the scrimmage.

– Kenyan Drake opened up as the first-team back.

– Jomal Wiltz continues to run as the first team nickel when Miami opens in two-deep coverage. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Bobby McCain the deep backs.

– Nik Needham and Tyler Patmon began practice working across from Walt Aikens on special teams — that’s good company for back-end of the roster guys to be around.

– Jason Sanders is automatic. I don’t know the count, but he didn’t miss, including a few 50+ yard kicks.

*photo credit to Tony Capobianco

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

Sloppy, penalty-filled showing overshadows strong defensive effort, resurgence from Rosen

Ominous weather approaching Hard Rock Stadium, at the originally scheduled time, forced the scrimmage back to the facility in Davie. While this was certainly bad news for the fans, the media got a private look at a full game simulation.

If this game counted towards the win-loss column, Miami would presently sit at 0-1.

Penalties, blown pass protection assignments, turnovers, it was a difficult day as the coaching staff operated with headsets to further imitate a game day situation.

The first-team offense took the ball right down the field for an easy touchdown; they wouldn’t revisit pay dirt until the final possession. On that final touchdown, Josh Rosen threw a pass directly into the hands of Xavien Howard, but the ball wound up in the waiting arms of Isaiah Ford off a drop by Miami’s star corner.

Brian Flores said before practice that he’s not much for star power. “It’s a team game, stars are kind of a ‘me’ thing,” Flores said. “You got a star that wants to do his own thing, that doesn’t work.”

Coach Flores is fortunate that his best player doesn’t act like a star. Howard spoke to a handful of media members after practice. Despite an utterly dominant camp, Howard remains humble despite catching (intercepting) more passes in the team period than many of the wide receivers.

The Dolphins offensive struggles went beyond testing Howard (who came down with another pick, should’ve had a second). After one nice touchdown drive, and a fluke touchdown series, the Dolphins went 1-for-3 on goal-line plays to close up the practice (scrimmage).

The defense was dominant, there’s plenty to work on, and we got some absolute humdinger quotes from the players post-practice. Let’s get into it.

Quarterbacks

Josh has Rosen.

Awful puns aside, this was the 22-year-old’s best day in a Dolphins jersey. I asked Josh after practice if it’s safe to call him a gamer — given his penchant for playing better when the stakes are at the highest. Rosen danced around the question ultimately telling me, “I don’t want to use labels,” but I’ll do it for him — he’s a gamer.

He was sliding away from a relentless pass rush (more on that in a minute), he was accurate with a variety of throws (drives, deep shots, check downs), and made good decisions throughout. His worst throw was the touchdown to cap off a two-minute drill that saw him complete a 50-yard bomb to Kenny Stills on third-and-forever.

It’s unfair to arbitrarily pinpoint this on Rosen, but he was in there for two delay-of-game penalties.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been on a steady downward slope after an excellent first two days of practice. He directed a seamless touchdown drive to open things up — including an anticipation curl route for 20-yards to Devante Parker — as well as the touchdown to Drake, but it was ugly after that.

Fitz missed a lot of throws and continued to test Xavien Howard, and paid the price. He floated a couple of passes out of bounds and turned the ball over — as the 15-year veteran said, “not good enough.”

Running Backs

The opening touchdown drive was due in large part to the insertion of Kenyan Drake into the first-team. Drake sprung a long run up the far sideline on an outside zone play. Drake stretched it out, created a gap wide of the tight end, then exploded through the lane for a big gainer — we’ve seen that time and time again on Sundays.

Drake caught the ensuing touchdown on a naked boot flat without much contention from the defense. Drake would later take a toss play on goal-line work in for six, but it was whistled back due to a penalty.

Kalen Ballage was limited, but he showed his strength as a goal-line back with a sledgehammer run to end the practice from the 1-yard-line.

Mark Walton was the next back in line. Walton, like the remainder of the Dolphins backfield, was uninspiring. Patrick Laird had a huge hole on a third-and-20 situation (lot of those today) and got tackled by the turf.

Chandler Cox is very much in the plans for this team, but his lead blocking leads quite a lot to be desired. He’s easily thwarted en route to the ball carrier on Miami’s lead-heavy ground game.

Wide Receivers

Dolphins rookie Wide Receiver Preston Williams continues to dominate training camp

“That guy is [going to] be special. He’s still learning, just a rookie with room for improvement. He’s [going to] be a number one receiver one day.” Xavien Howard didn’t mince his words when talking about undrafted rookie receiver Preston Williams.

When asked what makes him think that of Williams, X continued the praise, “I’ve been playing against receivers all my life so I know what it takes. When you see something special you know it.”

Williams was the offensive player of the practice. His reception on the perfect Rosen pass displayed excellent concentration up the sideline, and Williams is making his living between the numbers, on a variety on in-breaking routes, as well. He’s a chunk-play waiting to happen so far in training camp.

Howard waxed poetic about the next most impressive receiver so far in camp. “Devante’s coming out there ballin.’ It’s a big year for him so he’s just working to get better and try to stay healthy,” said Howard.

Parker and Williams led the way in receptions, but the most impressive catch of the day came from Kenny Stills. On that final two-minute drive, Rosen threw a prayer to a double-covered Stills on a third-and-20.

Stills elevated over Howard and Bobby McCain to pull it down, and set up the eventual touchdown.

Isaiah Ford continues to catch work with the first-team. He showed focus to clean up that dropped interception from Howard and had another nice stab during the scrimmage.

Tight Ends

Aside from goal-line work, there wasn’t much to look for from the tight ends in this one — especially in the passing game. Mike Gesicki caught a contested pass against T.J. McDonald on an over route.

Gesicki opened the practice with the first-team, for those keeping score at home.

Nick O’Leary is probably still atop the depth chart — so long as Allen is out. He caught a touchdown from Fitzpatrick in goal line work, though he is still giving way to Durham Smythe as the 11-personnel tight end.

Offensive Line

This is the most wanting unit on the team. The interior continues to struggle, especially the two rookies. Shaq Calhoun continues to look like an undrafted rookie while Michael Deiter has been the cause of lot of penetration.

The unit committed upwards of double-digit fouls — both pre-and-post-snap.

Even Laremy Tunsil got beat for a sack. The story was the same for the next left tackle in the game, Jaryd Jones-Smith.

Kyle Fuller opened a pair of big running lanes — one for Laird, one for Walton — and Jesse Davis had a nice escort on the big Drake run.

Will Holden had to leave practice after getting obliterated on a bull rush from rookie Jonathan Ledbetter.

Daniel Kilgore probably had the best day on the interior. The Dolphins sent pressure time-and-time again and he was able to drop the anchor a few times.

Defensive Line

This group won the scrimmage. Charles Harris picked up three sacks on the day (one against Tunsil) and contributed with a tackle-for-loss. His camp has been a steady progression and he continues to work in with the first-team.

Christian Wilkins also had his best day. His power became too much for the opposition (plenty against Calhoun, some lining up over the center as the nose). Big number 97 flashed in the backfield with regularity.

Apr 25, 2019; Nashville, TN, USA; Christian Wilkins (Clemson) is selected as the number thirteen overall pick to the Miami Dolphins in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft in Downtown Nashville. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Davon Godchaux is an immovable object. He was the focal point of Miami’s early-season elite goal-line defense last year, and he closed down the backside, winning against Deiter to shut down a run play from the 1-yard-line.

Wilkins and Godchaux will alternate between 1-tech and the 2i-tech on fronts that require those alignments.

Vincent Taylor and Joey Mbu worked in those same positions. Mbu has been quiet since the beginning of camp, but Taylor blew one play up by anticipating the snap count. His explosive get-off forced a failed quarterback-center exchange.

Jonathan Ledbetter made a number of plays in the scrimmage. He forced an end-around to bubble, he flashed a bull-rush, and he was the party that obliterated Holden on the play that caused an injury.

Dewayne Hendrix was in the backfield again — he’s racking up sacks just about every day. His solid camp earned him some first-team work, but he was properly blanked by Tunsil — which is to be expected.

Adolphus Washington picked up another sack. He’s also made plenty of noise against the run.

Jamiyus Pittman belongs among today’s positives — he was involved in a couple of run-stuffs.

Linebackers

This is Jerome Baker’s defense. He was calling the signals again and his burst, lean, and ability to change directions without decelerating is causing Miami’s line a lot of issues with the blitz. He came free on one blitz that saw him flash in the face of the quarterback within one second of the snap — he’s playing at a different pace than everyone around him.

Andrew Van Ginkel’s work continues to put him in a variety of positions. In addition to coming off the edge, he played off-the-ball inside in some even front formations. He had a nice recognition play on an end-around where he forced the ball carrier to bubble (go backwards).

Tre Watson’s solid camp continued with a bang. He sniffed out a lead power play by knocking heads with Chandler Cox, disengaging, and making the stop on the ball carrier. Watson has been the second-team stack linebacker when Raekwon McMillan isn’t out there.

If Kiko Alonso has made a play all camp, I haven’t seen it.

Players like Van Ginkel and Watson are making the high-priced veteran expendable, just as Sam Eguavoen is with his strong play. The former CFL star is making an impact against both the run and the pass. His speed is a serious asset in coverage and his instincts regularly make him the first man to the ball against the run — he looks the part.

Eguavoen’s role is expanding to one of multiplicity as well. He did some creative pre-snap rotation work lining up inside and then creeping down off the edge just before the snap.

Terrill Hanks’ speed shows up every practice. He’s one of the top pursuit ‘backers on this team — he quickly closes down the edge in the run-game.

Defensive Backs

It was difficult to gauge the defensive backfield because of the effectiveness of the front-seven (and coinciding ineffectiveness of the offensive line).

Of note, Montre Hartage continues to see extended backup safety duty — he’s the favorite for that third, middle-of-the-field, safety role. He also saw some time in two-deep looks with Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Xavien Howard’s work is as impressive as ever. His interception was the result of running the route for the receiver and under-cutting the play. He was tested time-and-time again and only allowed one catch all day.

Howard’s prowess is aligning well with McCain’s ability to properly angle into a help position. They can roll help away from Howard, and it’s making life easier on McCain — who has quietly had a strong camp.

Fitzpatrick made two nice plays in coverage. One came from zone where he peeped a backside crosser, stepped in front and nearly came up with an interception. The next was man coverage against Gesicki; Minkah was draped all over the Adonis tight end. Gesicki pushed off and drew a flag, which was later egregiously over-turned — much to the chagrin of the entire Dolphins defense.

Fitzpatrick is doing everything. From two-deep, to slot, to coming in to rob the middle, he’s going to be the lynchpin back there.

T.J. McDonald’s strong camp continued with excellent work in the running game.

Jomal Wiltz might’ve found a home in the slot. When Fitzpatrick goes back to patrol the deep third, Wiltz comes into the slot and has acquitted himself well in that role.

Walt Aikens is the next safety to come on for McDonald in that box position, though I think we’ve learned by now that Walt is a specialist exclusively.

Recap

An annual Dolphins scrimmage tradition, the defense was dominant yet again. The pressure packages, the multiple alignments, the increased speed of the unit…this side of the ball is your opportunity to enjoy some ‘Phins football this year.

The offense is a serious work-in-progress — particularly along the line. After Tunsil, Jesse Davis might be the only immediate solution to the group, though Deiter has shown a lot of promise. I think the Calhoun experiment needs to be shelved for now, though the options behind him aren’t promising. Kyle Fuller has probably been the most deserving for a crack at the spot.

The coaches were charged up trying to get things corrected, but yelling can only go so far. This is a rebuilding team that needs to make some major strides in the next month if it wants to survive September without going winless.

My 53-Man Roster (and depth chart) as of August 3

Offense (24)

QB (2) Fitzpatrick, Rosen
RB (4) Drake, Ballage, Walton, Cox
WR (5) Stills, Parker, Wilson, Grant, Williams
TE (4) Allen, O’Leary, Smythe, Gesicki
OL (9) Tunsil, Deiter, Kilgore, Reed, Davis, Mills, Calhoun, Fuller, Prince

 

Defense (26)

DL (9) Wilkins, Godchaux, Harris, Carradine, Taylor, Spence, Washington, Ledbetter, Hendrix
LB (7) Baker, McMillan, Eguavoen, Van Ginkel, Orchard, Watson, Hanks
CB (5) Howard, Fitzpatrick, Rowe, Wiltz, Patmon
S (5) McCain, McDonald, Jones, Hartage, Aikens

 

Practice Squad (11)

QB Jake Rudock
RB Myles Gaskin
WR Isaiah Ford
WR Trenton Irwin
TE Chris Myarick
OL Jaryd Jones-Smith
OL Durval Neto
DL Jamiyus Pittman
CB Cornell Armstrong
CB Jalen Davis
CB Nik Needham

 

@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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