Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 2020 Roster Building Preview – Edge/Linebacker

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Looking back, looking ahead, and everywhere in between ahead of a critical Miami Dolphins offseason

Foreword:

This publication has always fancied itself as an unaffiliated extension of the Miami Dolphins operation. In an attempt to arm fans with the researched clues about the team might do — and commentary on what they should do — we like to follow the same timeline as the coaches and decision makers at the facility in Davie.

The time for reflection is now. The coaching staff will be reviewing the 2019 season with an eye on self-scouting, and evaluating the job of every member that donned the Dolphins logo this past fall. The college scouting staff is buried in draft prep, and the pro personnel side is under water searching for potential free agent targets.

Since Locked On Dolphins is the most comprehensive Miami Dolphins outlet in existence, we’ll tackle all three subjects.

1. Reviewing the incumbents
2. Identifying free agent targets
3. Stacking the draft board

And we’ll do it for every position. It’s 10 days of offseason preparation, here on Locked On Dolphins dot com, as well as the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Offensive Line
Defensive Line
Edge/Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties

Edge and Linebackers (5-techniques and Out (Rushers, Off-Ball Linebackers))

Once more, our positional conventions are tested as we marry two groups of players into one piece for the sake of continuity. While Miami aren’t in need of classic stack linebackers (playing off-the-ball, searching for their run fits, and coming off the field on passing downs), the team could certainly use more versatility from players of that prototype.

Dont’a Hightower gives the Patriots one of the more unique linebackers in football. His ability to play inside or out, and rush from any position, is a rare skillset. Kyle Van Noy continues that trend with his length, and inside/outside versatility. The Dolphins could use one of each of those, but might have to say goodbye to a non-scheme fit, albeit a stalwart, in Jerome Baker to make it happen.

We pair the linebackers with the edge defenders (defensive ends that will kick outside and stand up as linebackers opposed to the base 5-tech ends that will condense inside) in recognition that it’s a massive need for this football team. Trey Flowers was a plug-and-play fit last season, and apparently Miami were in on his services. We got confirmation that the Dolphins were hard after Jadeveon Clowney, which makes an abundant amount of sense given his glove-like fit for the scheme.

Then there are the players that are more rush-and-cover types. The second-best option from the draft will fall into this category (Chase Young excluded since we believe he’s going off the board too early for Miami to get a crack).

Miami have many options with this group, and one of those is spending big on a classic 4-3 end-type in Yannick Ngakoue. The reason Ngakoue would be in-play for Miami, is his versatility to play more than just a true speed-rush position. We’ll largely remove those players — the Cam Wakes of the world — in search of thicker, heavy-handed types that make up for a lack of athleticism with brute strength and devastating weapons for hands.

Above all, length is the key. Flores will want rushers that can face up, initiate contact, and shed blocks in a gap-oriented rush scheme that prioritizes contain principles over speed rushers.

Making accurate predictions requires an understanding for which direction the Dolphins might take at the second level of the defense. With the fluid situation with defensive coordinators, and the promise of even more ingenuity, we’ll do our best to forecast this group.

The Incumbents

Jerome Baker (Off-Ball LB)
Stats: 124 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FF, 16 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 46.1 (145 of 179)
Snaps: 1,080 (96.6%)

After a sensational camp and preseason, fans expected a big year-two jump from Baker, but it never materialized. Baker was the leader of the defense. He communicated the signals and rarely left the field, but film savants realized their fears as Baker was often caught in a position that doesn’t suit his skill set.

For Baker to be a long-term stalwart, he needs to feature a better rush skill set than what we saw in 2019. At his peak, Baker is a chase-and-tackle linebacker with exceptional speed, and the requisite instincts to disrupt the passing game.

Raekwon McMillan (B-Gap-to-B-Gap Off-Ball LB, Sam ‘Backer)
Stats: 72 tackles, 6 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 63.8 (61 of 179)
Snaps: 516 (46.1%)

Every day at camp, Flores spoke about the importance of defeating blocks. “You can’t make the tackle if you don’t first defeat the block,” coach said, and nobody on the team embodies that hard-nosed mentality like Raekwon McMillan.

Before injuries reduced his workload and effectiveness, McMillan was among the league’s best stopping the run. He attacks pulling guards with unmatched aggressiveness, and rarely misses once he arrives. McMillan serves a distinct purpose in this defense that nobody currently on the roster is capable of, outside of the continued growth of Calvin Munson.

Andrew Van Ginkel (On-Ball Edge, 6-tech and Out)
Stats: 11 tackles, 1 sack, 6 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 58.2 (129 of 182)
Snaps: 197 (17.6%)

Starting the season on injured reserve, Van Ginkel’s early-camp emergence was put on hold until the holiday season. Finally earning a shot, Van Ginkel posted some gaudy box scores down the stretch, and provided refreshed tape excelling in the same areas that made him a college standout.

Adept at reading route concepts, and finding his way into the coinciding passing lane, Van Ginkel has an opportunity to be Miami’s most valuable passing down linebacker in the near future. He’s a talented edge rusher that showed more bite absorbing back-side pulls than what his Wisconsin tape demonstrated.

Sam Eguavoen (Off-Ball LB, Coverage Specialist)
Stats: 40 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 23 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 50.6 (126 of 179)
Snaps: 621 (55.6%)

The surprise star of training camp, the adjustment curve was steep for the former CFL star. Early, Eguavoen looked over-matched, eating up pancake block after pancake block.

Eguavoen was always going to struggle to hold the point against the run, but he proved his value against the pass late in the year. He might’ve been the best blitzer of all the off-ball ‘backers, and his ability to drop and locate in coverage shined through in December.

Charles Harris (On-Ball Edge, 6-tech and Out)
Stats: 23 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 14 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 62.5 (102 of 182)
Snaps: 429 (38.4%)

The B-word is in full effect for Miami’s 2017 first-round selection. Harris was a healthy scratch more often than not late in the year, and his production continues to flat line through three years. He might get a shot in camp to provide Miami with a rotational piece, but since this staff didn’t bring him on, he might be out of opportunities in South Florida.

Taco Charlton (On-Ball Edge, 5-tech and Out)
Stats:
21 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 FF, 19 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 51.7 (161 of 182)
Snaps: 397 (35.5%)

Much like Harris, Charlton was inactive in December despite being absent from the injury report. He was cut from the Cowboys after two disappointing seasons, and aside from some clean-up sacks, did very little to change the narrative on his career.

Avery Moss (On-Ball Edge, 5-tech and Out)
Stats: 25 tackles, 1 FF, 3 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 49.8 (170 of 182)
Snaps: 348 (31.1%)

Early in the year, Flores praised Moss for his versatility, but that trait waned down the stretch. Moss was responsible for leaving the gate open on some long runs, and he rarely applied pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

James Crawford (Off-Ball LB)
Stats: 1 tackle
PFF Grade: (DNQ)
Snaps: 17 (1.4%)

After multiple additions are made to the position group, it’ll be an uphill climb for Crawford to carve out a role.

Futures Contracts: Terrill Hanks, Jake Carlock
Unrestricted Free Agents: Mike Hull
Restricted Free Agents: Deon Lacey, Chase Allen

Vince Biegel (On-Ball Edge, 5-tech and Out — RFA)
Stats: 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 34 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 69.8 (52 of 182)
Snaps: 626 (56%)

The biggest priority in terms of Miami’s own free agents lies in September acquisition, Vince Biegel. Brought over in the Kiko Alonso trade, Biegel might’ve been Miami’s best pass rusher. He was the most consistent player off the edge with the occasional big play in the passing game, and reliable performance taking on blocks in the run game.

Biegel played up to six — maybe more — different positions this season. Whether he’s in three-point as the wide-9 defender, in a four-point as a 6-technique, or in a true two-point outside rush ‘backer position, Biegel’s versatility makes him a coveted player for the Dolphins.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Jamal Davis

Trent Harris (On-Ball Edge, 6-tech and Out — ERFA)
Stats: 22 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 8 QB pressures
PFF Grade: 50.1 (169 of 182)
Snaps: 253 (22.6%)

Harris surged late in the year showing the staff that he can play in the rush-contain scheme that Flores would prefer to implement.

Calvin Munson (B-Gap-to-B-Gap Off-Ball LB — ERFA)
Stats: 7 tackles
PFF Grade: 61.1 (75 of 179)
Snaps: 76 (6.8%)

Munson filled in for McMillan the final two games, and did so rather admirably. He’s a former Patriot, and it was clear that he knows what Flores looks for in a ‘stack backer — a mean, aggressive, downhill player.

Free Agent Market:

The Guy — Yannick Ngakoue, Matthew Judon

Ngakoue: There isn’t a lot Yannick Ngakoue can’t do. As he flirts with the idea of leaving Jacksonville on a near-weekly basis via cryptic tweets, the prospect of importing this freak to the Miami defense is massively intriguing. He’ll be 25 in March, he’s 250 pounds with 32.5-inch arms, and he’s picked up at least eight sacks in each of his four years. He’s the belle of the edge rusher ball this free agency.

Judon: We couldn’t do just one with this position because Matthew Judon is every bit as elite as Ngakoue — albeit in a different role. He can rush from anywhere and he’s a three-down thumper that impacts the running game and passing game equally. He picked up 63 QB pressures this year (10 sacks) and 38 run stops.

The Reasonable Route — Kyle Van Noy

If Van Noy hits the open market, Miami ought to have a contract offer in his agent’s hand before the opening bell rings. The key to the entire front-seven approach of the Patriots, Van Noy has the length, rush ability, and instant scheme recognition to garner a big contract. Van Noy had 60 pressures (8 sacks) and 33 run stops this season.

He’ll turn 30 this summer, but there are no signs of Van Noy slowing down; quite the contrary. The 2019 season was his best, which topped his 2018 breakout season by a considerable margin.

The Sleeper — Kyler Fackrell

After picking up 10.5 sacks in 2018, Fackrell was relegated to backup duty when the Packers signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. Patrick Graham’s departure might make this move less likely, but Fackrell still fits the outside ‘backer/edge defender role Miami desperately needs to find.

With just one sack this season, and his worst tackling percentage of his career, perhaps Miami could buy Fackrell at a bargain. He’s never exceeded 626 snaps (2018’s total), and saw a 33% reduction in workload this year, serving mostly as a rush ‘backer. He’ll be available, we’ll see if Miami covets his skill set.

Other Notable Free Agent Edges/Linebackers:

Player 2019 Team
Everson Griffen Vikings
Ezekiel Ansah Seahawks
Jason Pierre-Paul Buccaneers
Noah Spence Saints
Dante Fowler Jr. Rams
Shaquil Barrett Buccaneers
Patrick Onwuasor Ravens
Bud Dupree Steelers
Kamalei Correa Titans
Danny Trevathan Bears

 

The Draft:

The Guy — Isaiah Simmons

As the acting president of the Isaiah Simmons fan club, I have multiple video threads I’d like to share. For the sake of time, we’ll just go with one of his jaw-dropping performances for the built-in-a-lab defender.

The positionless defense was built for Simmons. Whether he’s covering deep single-high, manning-up in the slot, rushing the edge, or playing stack ‘backer, Simmons is elite in everything he does. He’ll never leave the field and he’ll probably be your best athlete, best cover guy, and best pass rusher.

The Reasonable Route — K’Lavon Chaisson

If Chaisson survives to pick 18, the Dolphins will have serious consideration about sprinting the card up to the commissioner’s table — he’s an athletic marvel with length, strength, and versatility. His thick, filled-out frame allows him to absorb contact, but his quick-twitch allows him to blow past blockers. There might not be another player in this class that can beat blocks more effectively in the variety of forms that Chaisson easily executes.

He stands up and drops into coverage a lot, so he can play as an on-ball linebacker in Miami’s odd fronts. When the Dolphins want to go even (four down), he can line up as the 7-technique and rush the quarterback.

The Sleeper — Zack Baun, Malik Harrison

Baun: If Miami strikes out on Judon, Van Noy, and Fackrell, then we can go ahead and pencil in one of these two Big 10 ‘backers. Baun, just like Biegel and Van Ginkel before him, has the same traits that attracted Miami to the pair of Badger ‘Backers. Baun is the best of the three. He’s especially adept at executing games (stunts, twists, slants) because of his lateral agility.

He’s not the most fluid edge rusher, and isn’t going to line up in the wide alignment and win the corner, but he’s effective defending the pass as a flat and hook zone dropper. Baun’s rush move arsenal is already refined like that of a seasoned pro.

Harrison: Beating blocks is the best way to get on Flores’ radar as a linebacker, and few players in this class (if any ay all) are better than Harrison in that regard. He’s an explosive hitter and sure tackler. He’s instinctive and quick enough to cut off the edge and funnel plays back inside.

Harrison isn’t on-par with these other guys we talked about in coverage, hence the drop in draft stock outside of the first round, but he would instantly improve Miami’s linebacker’s room.

Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Edge/Linebacker Draft Rankings:

(Rank) Player School
1. Isaiah Simmons Clemson
2. Chase Young Ohio State
3. K’Lavon Chaisson LSU
4. Terrell Lewis Alabama
5. Kenneth Murray Oklahoma
6. Malik Harrison Ohio State
7. Zack Baun Wisconsin
8. Anfernee Jennings Alabama
9. Khalid Kareem Notre Dame
10. Julian Okwara Notre Dame
11. Jonathan Greenard Florida
12. Alex Highsmith Charlotte
13. Joshua Uche Michigan
14. Alton Robinson Syracuse
15. Jabari Zuniga Florida

 

At the risk of sounding redundant, this could go in so many directions. Do the Dolphins consider acquiring value for a player that might be miscast in Jerome Baker? Certainly the Fins could fetch a second-round pick from a team like Seattle or Jacksonville, both of which needs the LEO position in their 4-3-over that Baker would fit so well.

We’ll keep Baker here, and give him some help. His diagnose and chase skill set still serves value, especially when he’s kept clean and afforded the opportunity to assess without taking on a block. He does need to give Miami more of a rush presence this year, however.

By adding Shaq Lawson and Bradlee Anae in yesterday’s down-lineman piece, we free up this group to be its versatile self. Expect a jump from Biegel and Van Ginkel in year-two, Eguavoen played better down the stretch, and Trent Harris had some intriguing reps in the final two games. McMillan stays on as the team’s true stack ‘backer.

2020 Edge/Linebacker Prediction:

1. Kyle Van Noy
2. Jerome Baker
3. Vince Biegel
4. Raekwon McMillan
5. Andrew Van Ginkel
6. Joshua Uche
7. Sam Eguavoen
8. Trent Harris

@WingfieldNFL

Tomorrow: Cornerbacks

Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

Published

on

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)

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending