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Miami Dolphins 2020 Roster Building Preview – Offensive Line

Travis Wingfield

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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

Offensive Line (Tackle and Interior)

The offensive line was always going to be an issue in 2019, even before the departure of Pro-Bowl Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil. Brian Flores spoke about the importance of the line playing as a singular unit, and a single star player having a marginal impact if the rest of the group isn’t up to the challenge.

Losing Tunsil blew open a massive hole at the blindside protector spot, and it took the Dolphins multiple weeks to recover; if we’re willing to call it a recovery, that is. The line cumulatively finished dead last in both pass protection and run blocking grades on Pro Football Focus, but the Miami offense produced in spite of the shaky front wall.

Jesse Davis played wire-to-wire for the second straight season, this year at right tackle (right guard in 2018). He’s the leader of the room and a conduit for the message from the coaching staff to the players. As a result, Davis was rewarded with a team-friendly contract. It’s a big year for Davis, and for the right tackle position in general; he’s owed an annual $3.5 million over the next three years, but there’s an out for just $2 million in dead money after the 2020 season.

The other four spots will challenge the acumen of the Miami brass. Michael Deiter played a lot, but the results were sub-par. There were glimpses of hope from Evan Boehm, which corroborated his 2018 film in Indianapolis; those two players could factor in across the interior three positions.

The starting left tackle and swing tackle are not on the roster, and a whole lot of development has to happen for anyone else to garner legitimate consideration for playing time in the fall.

The Incumbents

Jesse Davis (Right Tackle, Guard Experience)
Stats: 42 Total Pressures (5 sacks, 4 hits, 33 hurries)
PFF Grade: 58.9 (89 of 126)
Snaps: 975 (90.4%)

What started off as a learning experience became the lone encouraging development across Miami’s 2019 offensive line. While Davis averaged 10 pressures allowed per month, his five-game run to close out the year kept Ryan Fitzpatrick mostly out of harm’s way (three hits, no sacks allowed).

Davis played 110 snaps at right tackle in 2017 before moving to right guard in 2018. Speed rushers still give him fits. He made the initial kick slide a focal point of his development this season, and it came to fruition in two matchups with burners off the edge. Davis allowed only one hit combined in the games against Philadelphia and Cincinnati, and parlayed that success into a promising finish to the year. Davis has the size/athleticism profile the Dolphins like at the position.

Michael Deiter (Left Guard, Center Experience)
Stats: 44 total pressures (6 sacks, 15 hits, 23 hurries)
PFF Grade: 42.5 (113 of 119)
Snaps: 995 (92.3%)

The moment Miami announced the selection of Deiter in last draft’s third-round, every fan wrote his name in sharpie as the starting left guard. That’s exactly what happened come September, but a slow burn of a developmental-year eventually landed Deiter on the bench for one game. He returned for the final three games, but with more mixed results.

Reliability and quality college tape will keep Deiter in the fold, but he has to make an improvement in year-two. He never missed a snap, aside from his benching, proving his college durability to be no fluke (53 consecutive starts at Wisconsin). He’s technically proficient but can be coaxed into shooting his hands too early, and often gets out over his skis. He struggled with games (stunts, twists, slants, delayed blitzes), and fell off far too many blocks.

The hope is better, more consistent play next to him (at both positions) and a year of strength-training can return an improved product for training camp in July.

Daniel Kilgore (Center)
Stats: 19 total pressures (3 sacks, 4 hits, 12 hurries)
PFF Grade: 66.3 (19 of 50)
Snaps: 877 (81.3%)

The second-most reliable lineman after Davis, Kilgore provided Miami with a proficient communicator and trusted veteran in the middle of the line. Once the ball was snapped, however, that stability was as shaky as the other spots.

Power players give Kilgore a lot of fits, and reach blocks are problematic for a less-than-stellar athlete. The Dolphins can cut ties from the $3.5 million cash commitment to Kilgore this year with no penalty, and they can exercise that flexibility any time before the season — there are no roster bonus incentives in Kilgore’s 2020 deal.

Deion “Shaq” Calhoun (Right Guard)
Stats: 18 total pressures (2 sacks, 3 hits, 13 hurries)
PFF Grade: 44.2 (109 of 119)
Snaps: 471 (43.6%)

Sometimes undrafted rookies hit straight away (see Preston Williams). Most times, however, it’s a sign of a thin position, and that was the case for Miami and the right guard spot all season. Calhoun earned a promotion into the starting lineup early in camp, but never popped while watching tape.

Calhoun struggled to create any push in the running game. Any sort of nuance in terms of disguised blitzes, or gifted pass rushers for that matter, put the right side B gap in constant peril.

Julie’n Davenport (Left Tackle)
Stats: 31 total pressures (6 sacks, 9 hits, 16 hurries)
PFF Grade: 56.5 (98 of 126)
Snaps: 534 (49.5%)

Part of the lottery-sized draft haul return for Laremy Tunsil, Davenport checked off nearly all negative boxes in his debut season with the Fins. Davenport was injured multiple times — forcing him to miss eight games — and the performance left a lot to be desired.

Some of the pressures attributed to Davenport came from scheme and communication breakdowns, but he’s been beaten regularly throughout his career.

Keaton Sutherland (Guard)
Stats: 5 total pressures (0 sacks, 1 hits, 4 hurries)
PFF Grade: 46.4 (106 of 119)
Snaps: 93 (8.7%)

The replacement for Deiter in the Jets game, and frequent sixth-lineman to enter in heavy packages, Sutherland fared similarly to any poor soul that try to solve the right guard issue in Miami. Sutherland should be back for camp, but he’s got an uphill climb to make the roster.

Danny Isidora (Guard)
Stats: 5 total pressures (0 sacks, 1 hit, 4 hurries)
PFF Grade: 53.7 (85 of 119)
Snaps: 127 (11.8%)

One of the more intriguing members of the group, Isidora returned to his college stomping grounds, but was lost for the year after three games. The former Miami Hurricane was selected in the fifth-round by the Minnesota Vikings, but his development went so poorly that a team with a shaky line in its own right cut bait after two years.

Isidora is thick with sweet feet, but he struggles against any semblance of a bull rush. He has the makeup to develop into a quality player, it just hasn’t happened.

Adam Pankey (Tackle, Guard Experience)
Stats: 0 pressures
PFF Grade: 63.1 (DNQ)
Snaps: 12

He matches the size and versatility prototype for Miami — hence the decision to pluck him from Green Bay’s practice squad — but he’s tight in everything he does. He could move inside to guard (played three positions in college) but served exclusively as the sixth-lineman in heavy packages on his 12 reps. Pankey is listed as a tackle.

J’Marcus Webb (Left Tackle)
Stats: 39 total pressures (7 sacks, 6 hits, 26 hurries)
PFF Grade: 34.4 (126 of 126)
Snaps: 543 (50.3%)

Webb was an emergency addition after the Tunsil trade, and was quickly called into action in week two. He was PFF’s lowest-graded tackle in 2019.

Futures Contracts: OT Chidi Okeke, iOL Durval Neto

Exclusive Rights Free Agents:

Evan Boehm (Right Guard, Center)
Stats: 24 total pressures (1 sacks, 9 hits, 14 hurries)
PFF Grade: 47.4 (104 of 119)
Snaps: 595 (55.1%)

Boehm filled in admirably for Ryan Kelly in Indianapolis on one of 2018’s best offensive lines, but PFF didn’t like his performance this season. He was up-and-down, but his versatility and past success should make for an easy decision to bring Boehm back. He’ll compete for work at center and right guard in camp.

Evan Brown (Guard)
Stats: 1 pressure (hit)
PFF Grade: 60.6 (53 of 119)
Snaps: 38 (3.4%)

Another late-season waiver claim, Brown joins the glut of interior lineman heading into the offseason. Brown is a high-motor player that goes whistle-to-whistle, but his limited athleticism shows up regularly.

Free Agent Market (Tackles):

The Guy — Anthony Castonzo

The only premier left tackle set to his free agency, Castonzo has endured an up-and-down career, but with far more peaks than valleys. He has the size-length-athletic combination desired for a premier left tackle, and has done well to quiet the concerns over his lack of power at the point-of-attack coming out of Boston College.

Castonzo is going to fetch top-of-the-market money, whether it’s with the Colts, or on the open market. Given the quality of the left tackle draft class, it makes more sense for Miami to pursue its solution that way, and focus free agent dollars on the interior.

The Reasonable Route — George Fant

George Fant is a mountain of a man. A college hooper, his first snap with the Seahawks was his first organized football game since the eighth grade. At 27, it’s entirely feasible that he’s just now unlocking his true potential, though he’s been the Seattle swing tackle for the majority of his career.

Fant is Seattle’s swing tackle, though he’s filling in for the injured Duane Brown, and plays a lot in heavy-package personnel. He’s the mid-range free agent buy that should pique Miami’s interest as he can play both sides. Fant provides a nice surge off the edge in the ground game and has steadily progressed as a pass blocker.

The Sleeper — LaAdrian Waddle

Missing the entirety of 2019 with an injury, LaAdrian Waddle will come at a bargain this March. He last played in New England when Miami’s former Pats coaches were still with the organization. Waddle — a career backup — amassed over 2,200 snaps since his 2013 debut, committing just 15 penalties. During the 2017-2018 seasons, Waddle was flagged a combined three times.

Only 120 of Waddle’s career snaps came at left tackle, but he’s a capable swing tackle and starting right tackle in a pinch.

Other Notable Free Agent Tackles:

Player 2019 Team
Jack Conklin Titans
Andrew Whitworth Rams
Kelvin Beachum Jets
Bryan Bulaga Packers
Greg Robinson Browns
Marcus Gilbert Cardinals
Demar Dotson Buccaneers
Daryl Williams Panthers
Germain Ifedi Seahawks

 

The Draft (Tackles)

The Guy — Tristan Wirfs

Landing 2020’s best draft eligible tackle will require Miami to use the fifth pick. Wirfs is unicorn. He combines an unbelievably thick trunk with elite movement skills. He can washout or condense down the edge in the run game, and mirror and redirect on an island in pass protection.

He’s played both tackle positions in college (almost exclusively on the right side this year), and that experience shows up in the quickness of his kick-slide, and also how much ground he covers with his first step.

The Reasonable Route — Mekhi Becton

Watching tackle tape might not be the most entertaining for the casual fan, but Becton does his best to make it fun. He’s huge. This six-foot-seven, 370-pound monster somehow glides laterally like an elite pass rusher. He’s got plenty of reach, a powerful punch, and has some of the most comical tape you’ll see in college football when he’s out in space on poor, unassuming defensive backs.

Tua Tagovailoa is probably the favorite of the entire draft to wind up in Miami; Becton is second, for my money. He fits everything the Dolphins tried to find with all the tackle acquisitions last season.

The Sleeper — Lucas Niang

A potential first-rounder in October, Niang suffered a torn ACL, and will surely be available late on day-two, if not day-three. Injuries are a bit of a concern as he opened the season with a hip injury. Keeping up with the theme, he matches the size-length-athleticism profile that Miami will covet.

Niang has immense power at the point-of-attack and plenty of athleticism to pull play-side or come across on counter trey. His medical prognosis projects Niang will be available for camp, and that could result in an opening day starting gig.

Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Tackle Draft Rankings:

(Rank) Player School
1. Tristan Wirfs Iowa
2. Jedrick Wills Alabama
3. Andrew Thomas Georgia
4. Mekhi Becton Louisville
5. Lucas Niang TCU
6. Austin Jackson USC
7. Prince Tega Wanogho Auburn
8. Josh Jones Houston
9. Calvin Throckmorton Oregon
10. Jack Driscoll Auburn

 

Free Agent Market (Guards):

The Guy — Joe Thuney

If the Dolphins are going to make any day-one splash signings, it has to be the Patriots Left Guard. Thuney’s missed 15 snaps in the last three seasons. He’s one of the game’s best pass protecting guards, and his leadership and intelligence profile grade as well as any in football.

Thuney was advised to skip a portion on the 50-question Wonderlic exam given to every prospect at the combine. Thuney left 11 questions blank, but hit 1.000 on the 39 questions he answered. Given his familiarity with Brian Flores and several Dolphins coaches, this move makes as much sense as any potential offseason acquisition across the league.

The Reasonable Route — Graham Glasgow

It’s been reported that Glasgow will test the free agent market in March, and Stephen Ross might have some interest in bringing his fellow Michigan alum down to South Florida. Glasgow has 3,748 snaps under his belt in a four-year career, nearly identically split across left guard, center and right guard.

The 2019 season was his best. Glasgow committed four fouls, didn’t allow a sack, and only put his QB in harm’s way five times (5 QB hits allowed). Glasgow finished as PFF’s seventh-ranked run-blocking guard.

The Sleeper — Ted Karras

With the depletion of the center market (Creed Humphrey returning to school), Miami’s best course of action might be to stay the status quo and develop Michael Deiter and Evan Boehm for the position.

Or they can import another player familiar with the program from New England via Ted Karras.

Karras filled in admirably for the unavailable David Andrews this season, giving the Pats 1,040 snaps. He’s likely to find a starting job elsewhere, as Andrews will assume his original spot next year. Karras allowed 14 pressures and committed just three fouls on the season.

Other Notable Free Agent Guards/Centers:

Player 2019 Team
G Brandon Scherff Washington
G Andrus Peat Saints
G Mike Iupati Seahawks
G Ereck Flowers Washington
G Quinton Spain Bills
C Brett Jones Vikings
Stefan Wisniewski Chiefs
Jon Halapio Giants

 

The Draft (Guards/Centers)

The Guy — Nick Harris (Center)

Last year, Garrett Bradbury blew scouts away at the Senior Bowl for his football acumen, and incredible work in space. Harris might be even better operating in the open field, and in the football IQ department. He’s a three-year starter with guard and center experience, including three straight Apple Cup displays of dominance.

He’s squatty at a smidge over 300 pounds, but can unlock his hips and uses functional strength and flexibility to hit and hold reach blocks, and anchor against powerful pass rushers. Exporting Harris to a man/gap scheme would be limiting the traits that make him the best center in the class — zone player all the way.

The Reasonable Route — Shane Lemieux (Left Guard)

Shane Lemieux had the most impressive series for any guard I watch this season in the Arizona State game. He’s never missed a game, and that experience shows for his ability to perfectly execute combination blocks and climb to the second level.

Lemieux has seen all the exotic blitz and game packages a defensive front can throw at him, a product of his consecutive starts streak that spans four years and 51 games. He’s not the most-fluid athlete and probably won’t do a lot of pulling at the next level.

The Sleeper — Cesar Ruiz (Center)

Quickly rising up pundit’s boards in the post-season tape evaluation period, Ruiz arrived in Ann Arbor as the nations’ top-rated center recruit. His best trait is the ability to reset and anchor after the initial move of the rusher, and he pairs functional strength with plus-athleticism. Ruiz is an arrow-up player who improved significantly during his junior season.

Travis Wingfield’s 2020 Interior O-Line Draft Rankings:

(Rank) Player School
1. Nick Harris Washington
2. John Simpson Clemson
3. Cesar Ruiz Michigan
4. Darryl Williams Mississippi State
5. Lloydy Cushenberry LSU

 

This is the most critical area for Miami in a critical offseason — outside of the quarterback decision, obviously. If it’s Tua, or another QB the team uses the fifth selection to anoint as the savior, protecting said QB would be a wise decision.

There are scheme fits littered throughout the draft at tackle, a couple at guard, and minimal options at center. The free agency class is loaded at guard, but weak at tackle and center. The Dolphins have the resources to import a new line, and could conceivably do so utilizing both free agency and the draft.

Things are buttoned up pretty tightly in Davie these days, but it’s safe to assume some moves will happen up front. The offensive line, and backfield after injuries and trades, were the only portions of the offense that didn’t function at a level above league-average.

The Dolphins can, and should, fix that this winter/spring.

2020 Offensive Line Prediction:

Left Tackle — Mekhi Becton
Left Guard — Joe Thuney
Center — Michael Deiter
Right Guard — Shane Lemieux
Right Tackle — Jesse Davis
Swing Tackle — George Fant
Swing Interior — Evan Boehm
Off the Bench — Shaq Calhoun

@WingfieldNFL

Tuesday: Defensive Line

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    TPL

    January 12, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    sounds like Miami is gonna need a LT, C, RG, and maybe a LG. Maybe Miami can find a free agent or two to sign.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins meeting with Jordan Love at the Senior Bowl

Shawn Digity

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Jordan Love Miami Dolphins interest
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Mobile, Alabama (Locked On Dolphins) – Senior Bowl week is underway, and Tuesday set into motion the first practice.

The Senior Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, January 25, at 1:30 p.m. Central Time.

Tuesday featured weigh-ins and measurements, and as per usual, the quarterback hand sizes became a viral trend on twitter.

As it relates to the headline, Jordan Love’s hands were measured at 10 5/8 inches, which was the biggest of all the quarterbacks.

It might not necessarily matter since coaches and analysts can go either way on a prospect’s hand size. But it could matter for someone who was already on the fence about Jordan Love.

It could’ve been the dealbreaker, too, for those who were already on the fence.

I mention the conflicting perspectives on hand sizes because it’s a perfect segue into the controversy and questions surrounding Jordan Love’s draft stock and pro prospects.

Now here’s the kicker.

The polarizing quarterback from Utah State will be meeting with the Dolphins at the Senior Bowl, per Joe Schad.

Hand sizes aside, it’s certainly worth noting that the Dolphins want to meet with Love.

It’s almost a certainty that the Dolphins want to and will address the quarterback position in the 2020 Draft, and Love offers a lot of desired characteristics for the job.

And there’s already been interest before from the Miami Dolphins, according to Tony Pauline.

Pauline has stated that the team was intrigued by the Aggie quarterback after his breakout 2018 season.

While Jordan Love’s 2019 season was tumultuous, to say the least, the moldable potential as a pro is evident.

Jordan Love is a likely draft riser now that the 2019 season is behind him. A good showing during the practices and the Senior Bowl will further help his cause, but Love is already looking at being selected in the teens or 20s.

The meeting, it’s fuel on the fire. In preparation for a scenario where the Dolphins cannot or do not get Tua Tagovailoa, the team could be exercising their due diligence to formulate a Plan B in that event.

It never hurts to be overprepared.

The content and reasoning of the meeting itself will remain surreptitious but will invite hypotheses regarding a Miami Dolphins-Jordan Love marriage.

Could he be the face of the franchise?

Is he the next Patrick Mahomes?

Can he make it as a pro?

Sure, there’s uncertainty with drafting Love, but the thing is, the connection makes sense. There’s a lot to like about Jordan Love, but he needs breathing room going into the NFL. The Miami Dolphins can offer him that, which would be favorable for his development.

It’s a good fit. And the logic is there.

It’s worth keeping tabs on Jordan Love’s draft journey, and we’ll see what unfolds from the meeting, if anything.

There’s a real shot that Jordan Love is the Miami Dolphins guy moving into 2020 and beyond. The meeting could be the first step in that process…

Or maybe they just want to talk about his hand size.

 

 

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NFL Draft

Senior Bowl 2020 Preview Through Miami Dolphins Lens – Defense

Travis Wingfield

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Best Dolphins scheme fits, and the price to acquire said players, taking the field this week at the Senior Bowl

By the time the popcorn is popped, the ball is teed up, and the fans have filed into the Ladd-Pebble’s stadium, most of the scouts, evaluators and decision makers have vacated Mobile, Alabama, the home of the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

It’s not that the game is devoid of value; it just pales in comparison to the value of the entire week of practices. Simulated situations pit college football’s best players against one-another in true tests of their abilities.

Change-of-direction, clean mechanics, competitiveness, all of these important traits are readily apparent in the padded practices that occur from Tuesday through Thursday in front of everyone who is anyone in the National Football League.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to prospect evaluation. Even after a nine-month process that begins at summer camp for area scouts, the best-drafting teams in the NFL still only hit on roughly half of their picks. But if there were a way to expedite the process of rifling through the hundreds of draft-eligible players, these practices are it.

We get a first-hand look at how players fare against elite college competition, repeatedly. Game-speed is on display. Lateral agility and movement skills are tested. The bounce back from a bad rep and jumping right back into the fire gives us insight on how players respond to adversity in short order. The clues we find in Mobile sends us back to the tape to re-evaluate our boards, and ultimately spit our final rankings and evaluations.

In case you’re new to Locked On Dolphins, this is how we covered the Senior Bowl last January.

Since everything we do is Dolphins specific, we’re looking at scheme fits. We’ll track which players the Dolphins meet with, and who impresses the most at the biggest positions of need.

In addition to projecting best possible scheme fits, we’ll factor in draft value when selecting the best possible player from each group for your Miami Dolphins. For instance, neither Justin Herbert or Jordan Love will be the top QB selected simply because of their high-end first-round draft status. If Miami selects Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth pick, Herbet and Love are off the board entirely.

It’s one of my personal favorite weeks of the year, so let’s get into part-two, the defense.

Offensive Preview

Senior Bowl Defense

The defensive side of the ball is loaded this week in Mobile. Gap-control rushers, interior pocket collapsers, on-and-off-ball linebackers and a secondary chock full of ball hawks, there are multiple future Dolphins in this group.

By now, we know that Miami are one of three teams in the league — four now with Joe Judge at the top of a program — that shops from an exclusive store. Bigger, stronger edge players that make up for a lack of athleticism with brute power and gap integrity. Versatile defensive backs that must excel in man coverage. Linebackers that can rush the quarterback from a variety of positions. These are the core tenants of the Patriots, Lions, and Dolphins defense, and perhaps the Giants under new management with Patrick Graham.

It’ll be impossible to highlight just a couple of players, so unlike the offensive side, we’ll discuss multiple players at each spot. As always, we’ll have even more detail on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

Defensive Line

Bradlee Anae (UTAH), Darrion Daniels (NEB), Marlon Davidson (AUB), Raekwon Davis (ALA), Leki Fotu (UTAH), Neville Gallimore (OK), Trevis Gipson (TULS), Jonathan Greenard (FLA), Davon Hamilton (OSU), Trevon Hill (MIA), Benito Jones (MISS), Javon Kinlaw (SC), Larrell Murchison (NCST), Alton Robinson (SYR), Jason Strowbridge (UNC), Kenny Willekes (MSU), Robert Windsor (PSU), Jabari Zuniga (FLA)

Best Fins Fit — Bradlee Anae, Utah

Anae is a 6-foot-3, 260-plus-pound edge that Miami will covet in this year’s draft. He’s a refined rusher with multiple moves in the arsenal, and the ability to angle inside as a rusher to expand the stunt game on the defensive line.

He’s not the most athletic rusher, but that’s not part of the prerequisites of playing edge in this scheme. New England never valued athleticism at end, and I don’t suspect Brian Flores will either. Dig-out or kick-out blocks are often a futile effort against Anae because of his long arms and ability to disengage quickly.

Projected Required Investment — Mid-Round Pick, Rounds 3-4

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Base 5-Tech, Kick Inside in Nickle Rush Packages

Hardly a far cry from former Patriot, current Lion, and once a Near-Dolphin Trey Flowers, Anae is a power run defender that can redirect as a pass rusher on his way to stopping the ground game.

The moment the card is turned in, Anae becomes the best base defensive end on the team. While that’s an indictment of Miami’s roster, it’s also a testament to Anae’s skill set. He provides the versatility to kick inside on long yardage situations.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

This will be an area to either showcase Anae’s impressive heavy hands, or an opportunity to expose his limited athleticism. Again, the Dolphins don’t care much about the latter, and typically it’s the players with better moves in their arsenal that win in this drill.

Keep an Eye On — Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina

Something of a tweener for the rest of the league, Strowbridge fits right in at home in Miami. He entered college as a 245-pound end, and now he’s nearing three bills on the scale. Accordingly, Strowbridge has some explosion and wiggle that is unique to a player of his size.

He won’t be a base defensive tackle, but he is more than capable of fulfilling the 4-tech spot in bear fronts, or play the play-side 3-tech in even fronts. Leki Fotu is a Danny Shelton clone and Neville Gallimore and Javon Kinlaw are explosive, powerful interior rush presences, but will likely require a first-round selection. Strowbridge is a day-three player.

Linebackers

Zack Baun (WIS), Francis Bernard (UTAH), Jordyn Brooks (TT), Cameron Brown (PSU), Carter Coughlin (MIN), Akeem Davis-Gaither (APP), Troy Dye (ORE), Malik Harrison (OSU), Khaleke Hudson (MICH), Anfernee Jennings (ALA), Terrell Lewis (ALA), Kamal Martin (MIN), Davion Taylor (COL), Darrell Taylor (TEN), Josh Uche (MICH), Evan Weaver (CAL), Logan Wilson (WYO), D.J. Wonnum (SC)

Best Fins Fit — Zack Baun, Wisconsin

Baun, just like Vince Biegel and Andrew 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. His rush move arsenal is already refined like that of a seasoned pro.

Projected Required Investment — Late-First, Early-Second, Pick 26 or 39

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting On-Ball Linebacker

Biegel almost never left the field last season upon showing his worth across a variety of formations. Baun could do the same and give Miami a pair of consistent Badger backers off either edge, in what could be a linebacker-driven front-seven this year. Drafting Baun would certainly suggest that to be the case, with Van Ginkel serving as the sixth-man — so to speak — first off the bench.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Pit Drill

My apologies for a lack of variety between these trench players, but nothing beats the pit drill; nothing. This is an area Baun will probably excel because he’s such a refined technician, and he’ll draw some smaller school players and athletes that aren’t great football players just yet.

Keep an Eye On — Anfernee Jennings, Alabama

Jennings has the requisite measurements to intrigue the Dolphins before even flipping on the film. Then, once you see him play, you see him actively engage those long arms and thick frame to bully the man across from him. He’s extremely stout against the run with the heavy hands to shed blockers en route to the tackler.

Cal’s Evan Weaver lacks speed and rush ability, but he’s the most reliable downhill run defender in the entire draft. Joshua Uche has some versatility to his game. He played for current Dolphins Linebackers Coach Anthony Campanile in college.

Defensive Backs

Damon Arnette (OSU), Essang Bassey (WAKE), Julian Blackmon (UTAH), Antoine Brooks Jr. (MAR), Terrell Burgess (UTAH), Jeremy Chinn (SoILL), Brian Cole (MISS ST), Ashtyn Davis (CAL), Kyle Duggar (Lenoir-Rhyne), Jalen Elliot (ND), Kristian Fulton (LSU), Alohi Gilman (ND), A.J. Green (OKST), Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Lamar Jackson (NEB), Dane Jackson (PITT), Brandon Jones (TEX), Jared Mayden (ALA), Josh Metellus (MICH), Michael Ojemudia (IOWA), Troy Pride Jr. (ND), Reggie Robinson (TULS), Kindle Vildor (GEO SO), K’Von Wallace (CLEM)

Best Fins Fit — Ashtyn Davis

There are a few defensive backs in this class that match the prototype for what Brian Flores looks for, and Davis is certainly that, but he has one thing most of the other guys don’t. The sheer passion and love for playing the game the correct way. Not to say the others don’t, but Davis is a temperature changer that immediately improves the work environment around him.

Davis is a former track star, so when he tests in Indianapolis, it’s possible he elevates his stock into the first round. Hopefully that’s not the case, and Miami can pick up a round-two steal with this do-it-all safety. He can play the single-high role, cover in the slot, and is more than willing to hit somebody much larger than himself.

Projected Required Investment — Day 2, Pick 39

Where He Fits on the Roster — Starting Free Safety, Slot Corner

Davis‘ best trait is the paired combination of instincts and range. Because of that, he fits Miami’s press-man, single-high defense as well as anybody. He can also come down and cover the slot with the best of them — just the ideal defensive back for Brian Flores.

Area of Intrigue This Week — Live Team Period

Tackling hasn’t been the best trait for Davis in his collegiate career. It’s not that he’s not willing, he just lacks the size and frame to do it consistently. I want to see how he wraps and finishes in the live team periods when he has to come down and make a stick.

Keep an Eye On — Damon Arnette, Ohio State

Overlooked because of the presence of Jeff Okudah and Shaun Wade in that Buckeye defensive backfield, Arnette took considerable strides this season in Columbus. He’s a long, aggressive press-corner that plays the ball exceptionally well.

Arnette will challenge every route at the three critical points — off the line, at the top of the stem, and at the catch point. He’s a sound tackler, but isn’t real interested in fighting off blocks. He’s more athletic than most players with his play-style which should bump his draft stock.

Utah’s Terrell Burgess is a good option in the middle rounds to play primary backup to Eric Rowe, and also serve as a core special teamer.

It would be quite a surprise if multiple players from this group don’t wind up with the Dolphins. There are so many potential scheme fits, and players that come from programs that stress the same core tenants that Miami’s system calls for. With all these Utah Utes, all these versatile defensive backs and multi-talented front-seven players, this is quite a week for Brian Flores and company.

@WingfieldNFL

Wednesday-Friday — Senior Bowl Practice Recaps

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Miami Dolphins

Kevin’s Senior Bowl Defensive Brain Dump

Kevin Dern

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As we head into Senior Bowl week, I just wanted to do a quick brain dump on some of the prospects I’m most interested to see on defense this week at the Senior Bowl.  One of my favorite prospects, Notre Dame DE Khalid Kareem, appears to have dropped out of the Senior Bowl for some reason (I’m looking into that, but if anyone knows, please comment below).  To keep this simple, I’m just going to go DLs, LBs and DBs with quick notes on the guys I like.

Quick Glossary of Dolphins positions:

Big DE – bigger guy, usually 6’3”+ and 270lbs+ with 34”+ arms.  Usually plays some 4, 4i, 5 and 6 techniques, with the ability to reduce inside on passing downs.

Rush DE – think Trey Flowers.  Plays wider, usually 5, 6, 7, 9, and 8 (head up on a dual TE, pretty rare). 

Off-Ball LB – a LB that’s usually playing off the line of scrimmage.  Think Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen.

On-Ball LB – a LB who is playing the edges, akin to a 3-4 OLB, but may be playing in a 4-man line.  Think Vince Biegel and, especially late in the season, Andrew Van Ginkel. 

Safety Position – Miami breaks their safeties into three categories:  MOF (Middle of the Field – a deep FS), split safety (someone who can play ½ field in tandem with the FS), and box safety (think Patrick Chung for New England or Tavon Wilson for Detroit.  For Miami it was mostly Reshad Jones and Eric Rowe in this role in 2019). 

DL Prospects

DE – Jason Strowbridge – N. Carolina – Really excited to see him play in Mobile.  Was a 3-tech DT for the Tar Heels at 6’5” 285lbs.  Has length Miami will covet, experience playing inside.  Flashes some explosion in pursuit.  Plays well down the line (horizontally) against the run.  Violent hands.  Miami will like that.   Fits with the Dolphins as a

DT Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina – Long and explosive.  Can play anywhere on interior and may be able to play some Big DE in Miami’s scheme.  Wins with length and speed more than physicality; will have to be more consistent with leverage and pad level at NFL level.

DT DaVon Hamilton – Ohio State – Solid all around.  Physical, hustles, uses his hands.  Was part of a heavy rotation at Ohio State with Rob Landers, Jashon Cornell, Haskell Garrett, and Tommy Togiai.  Probably more set for a true 4-3 defense, but a solid player you can get in the mid-rounds.  For Miami, he’d likely fit as a backup to Christian Wilkins – someone who can play 2i, 2, 3, 4, 4i techniques.

Really Intrigued:  Marlon Davidson – Auburn – Was more hybrid 3-4 DE/stand-up edge player at Auburn.  Has good size.  Will be interesting to see how he plays as a DE in the game.  Would be a Big DE for Miami.

Want to see more of:  Leki Fotu – Utah – Got manhandled by Oregon in the Pac-12 Title Game.  Thought he was an intriguing prospect for a NT spot in Miami’s defense, but after that game…Yikes.  Can he rebound? Has some potential to play other techniques aside from a pure NT.  Is he strong enough at the NFL Level?

Others  I like:

Bradlee Anae – Utah – Rush DE from Utah who seems to fit the parameters, but just isn’t quite there for me. I want to see how he holds up against this level of competition.  Did well until he ran into Penei Sewell of Oregon.  Did notch some wins against USC’s Austin Jackson.

Jonathan Greenard – Florida – Another Rush DE candidate who had a fantastic season.  Had a tremendous season for the Gators and has solid size for what Miami will likely look for.  Does he have an arsenal of pass-rush moves or is he too reliant on speed-rush?

Darrell Taylor of Tennessee, Josh Uche of Michigan, and Alton Robinson of Syracuse also bear watching.  The first two might be more OLB candidates for Miami.  Robinson had a lot of hype heading into 2019 but didn’t have the best season with 2.5 of his 4.5 sacks coming against Liberty and Western Michigan.

LB Prospects

Malik Harrison – Ohio State – Just a good, smart, physical football player.  Can he play on the ball? Probably a little bit light for what Miami wants in someone who can play the off-ball and on-ball LB spot, but he’s so good.  Secure tackler.  Delivers pop when he squares up.  For Miami, if he can bulk up a bit and still retain his speed, he’s got a chance to play that off-ball ILB and on-ball OLB hybrid role, like Kyle Van Noy.  Guys like Biegel and Van Ginkel are pretty strictly on-ball guys, who fit the hybrid OLB/rush DE role for Miami.

Evan Weaver – California – Strictly a MLB in Miami’s system, but he may be more dynamic there than Raekwon McMillan; creates a logjam there if you take him though.  Can play in coverage, good tackler, deceptive quickness.

Really Intrigued:  Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis are both listed as ILBs for the Senior Bowl; not OLBs or edge players, which is what I think they’d be better suited for in the NFL and with Miami.  Is this a real thing?

Want to see more of:  Logan Wilson – Wyoming – Evan Weaver heavy.  Wilson isn’t as polished as even Weaver, but he’s got good size and moves will for it.  I’ve only seen one Wyoming game, so I myself want to watch Wilson this week.

Others I Like: 

Carter Coughlin – Minnesota – He’s listed as a DE for the Senior Bowl, but for Miami’s purposes, they’d likely view him as another OLB/DE hybrid.  Not that they need another at this point with Biegel and Van Ginkel, but it’s worth doing the due diligence on Coughlin.

DB Prospects

Damon Arnette – Ohio State – One of the few CBs I’ve seen multiple times and paid attention to.  He was the starter opposite Jeff Okudah and had a nice season.  He’s physical and is an excellent tackler for a corner.  Had to play with his hand/wrist in a cast for a chunk of the season and became a bit grabby, much like current Dolphin Xavien Howard when he was at Baylor.  With Arnette, as it relates to Miami, I think the tape is fine, but it may come down to the physical measurements.  Namely, does he have the long speed to play a lot of man coverage?

Dane Jackson – Pittsburgh – It seems like every year there’s a dirty, grimy football player from Pitt that just tends to stick in the league.  I thought Dwayne Hendrix had a chance for Miami last year, but he ended up with the Ravens after being on the practice squad.  Dane Jackson is another kid I can see Miami taking a liking to.  Though, like Arnette, I’m concerned if the speed is there or not.

Antoine Brooks Jr. – Maryland – I noticed him when the Terps got thumped by Ohio State.  He’s big, 5’11” 215lbs, and plays slot, SS and split safety.  I think his best position is probably playing in the Patrick Chung/Tavon Wilson role, if Miami is convinced, they can play Eric Rowe as a split safety when required.  Clicks & Closes quickly, like Reshad Jones.  Good tackler in space.  Physical.  67 solo tackles in 2019.  Displays good closing speed (watch the play against Penn State).  For the Dolphins, he’s on my short list of guys who can pay the Chung/Wilson role.  While he’s not in Mobile, keep an eye on SMU’s Patrick Nelson.  Hat tip to Chris Kouffman for turning me onto Nelson.

Alohi Gilman – Notre Dame – Antoine Brooks lite.  Better coverage player, but not as dynamic close to the LOS.  Good tackler who makes plays on the ball.  3 FFs in 2019, 6 total in his career at Notre Dame (3 years of playing time).  58 solo tackles in 2018 (better team defense).  Interested to see if he’s more of a slot player or can play SS in the NFL.  Versatility is something Miami will like.

Intrigued:  Kyle Dugger – Lenoir-Rhyne – Division II player at the Senior Bowl.  I know Jim Nagy really likes him.  Intrigued to see his size on display.  6’2” 220lbs.

Want to see more of:  All the CBs.  Other than Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and A.J. Terrell, I haven’t watched many corners throughout the year.  Curious to see if any stand out.

Others I Like:

Ashtyn Davis – California – I know Travis has, or is very likely to, talk about him a lot this week.  He’s one of the few ideal candidates in this year’s draft of the MOF FS spot in Miami’s defense.  They may be comfortable with Bobby McCain for that role, but in my eyes, moving McCain back to the slot and tabbing a guy like Davis would improve the secondary as a whole.

I also think it’s funny that we’ll see corners named Lamar Jackson and A.J. Green in Mobile this week.

Final Word

If I’m pressed into picking five names I think Miami will really like from this year’s Senior Bowl, I’d probably stack them as:

1) Ashtyn Davis – FS – California

2) Malik Harrison – LB – Ohio State

3) Jason Strowbridge – DE – North Carolina

4) Damon Arnette – CB – Ohio State

5) Evan Weaver – LB – California

I left off several guys like Darrell Taylor, Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings.  They’re all guys Miami will like, but with Biegel and Van Ginkel in the fold, are they really going to be that interested? Especially with a guy like Yannick Ngakoue lurking in free agency, who he himself has already teased some things about Miami and Jason Taylor on his Twitter timeline? Yeah, give me Ngakoue there.

As for my guy, Antoine Brooks Jr., I think he’d be a really nice fit for Miami.  But with Eric Rowe’s capability, I have to wonder whether or not they’d look at someone in that role or tend to focus on guys who can play FS and be able to play in split safety looks.  There’s also some intriguing names out there in free agency like Justin Simmons and Von Bell to watch out for.

It’ll be a fun week to watch, and feel free to @ me at @KevinMD4 if you have any questions about these guys.

 

 

 

 

 

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