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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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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    August 3, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    Where is Kiko? He is not on you list of LB’s

    • Avatar

      pigskin101

      August 3, 2019 at 5:57 pm

      Kiko’s days are numbered my friend.

  2. Avatar

    pigskin101

    August 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    So you figuring on 7 UDFA’s and 1 CFL player to make the squad very interesting. This year is gonna be an interesting season to say the least.
    #FinsUp

  3. Avatar

    pacificfinfan1

    August 3, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    I disagree with your 53 I believe and we both could wrong btw but I believe as follows
    OL Tunsil Deiter Kilgore Reed Davis Calhoun Prince Jaryd Jones-Smith FA pickup
    DL Taylor Godchaux Wilkins Mbu Pittman Ledbetter Hendrix Harris Carradine Washington
    LB Allen Baker Eguaveon Hanks Van Ginkel Watson
    CB Howard Fitzpatrick Davis Needham Tankersley
    S McCain Jones Hartage TJ Aikens

    I am not confident in Carradine or Washington on the DL but you are not the only guy on the ground handing out praise for both of them.

  4. Avatar

    mike sarantos

    August 3, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    So you think McMillan our second rd pick won’t make the roster…..pretty sure you’d be wrong on that

    • Avatar

      Curtis Knisley

      August 4, 2019 at 7:21 am

      Isn’t McMillan the second LB listed?

  5. Avatar

    Curtis Knisley

    August 4, 2019 at 7:19 am

    Great info and evaluation Travis. Thanks Much!
    I like the thought of Kiko not making the team. Send a message that just because you are big name vet that doesn’t equate to a guaranteed spot.
    As almost every preseason, I am excited about the future.

  6. Avatar

    Jeff

    August 5, 2019 at 9:15 am

    I found your twitter feed and subsequently this site on ck’s twitter feed. I like getting different perspectives aside from the local rag beat writers.

    I’ll be sticking to your feed as ck has done what so many self important sports people have done. Littered his twitter feed with his political views. Sports is a way to get away from that noise and your reporting of the phins is outstanding. Keep up the good work and keep up with the non political twitter feed.

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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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