Looking back, looking ahead, and everywhere in between ahead of a critical Miami Dolphins offseason
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.
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.
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).
Now, at tackle, the looper is a little easier to spot and Davis wipes him out. pic.twitter.com/cCE5W107Mo
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) March 21, 2019
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.
Michael Dieter meets Myles Jack in the hole pulling to the play side. pic.twitter.com/QkGLh8i22O
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) August 23, 2019
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.
Working up the Rosen chart, but wanted to give some love to Daniel Kilgore and Evan Boehm for this awesome screen execution. Boom! Tough Actin’ Tenactin. pic.twitter.com/mDIdYhLsve
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 1, 2019
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)
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.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) December 11, 2018
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:
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.
Tristan Wirfs is the best right tackle prospect in the 2020 class. He pairs ridiculous size (6-5, 320) with a pair of light feet. Watch him reset with a quick vertical shuffle after the initial punch. pic.twitter.com/TCLuNgcxVW
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 26, 2019
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.
Mekhi Becton is a mountain of a left tackle. The Louisville Junior goes 6-7, 370, and plays with the power you’d expect from someone that large. pic.twitter.com/vSYJL6vqJ5
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) October 19, 2019
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.
TCU RT Lucas Niang is a large, large man. 6-7, long wingspan, sneaky athletic. Started all 13 games last year, has played in 40 total career games now into his senior year.
Two-play sequence where he latches on and goes for a ride, then they pull him playside to wipe out a LB. pic.twitter.com/JmVZfT5pVJ
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) September 28, 2019
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:
|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.
Joe Thuney fan account here. An OG you can win with who won't wow you anywhere but plays with excellent leverage and base. Smart & tough. pic.twitter.com/bWRmMqVufn
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 22, 2017
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.
Not sure if Lions RG Graham Glasgow went too far inside on this particular protection but he made one hell of a play to pick up the looper pic.twitter.com/OgWkAtOR3l
— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) August 9, 2019
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:
|G Brandon Scherff||Washington|
|G Andrus Peat||Saints|
|G Mike Iupati||Seahawks|
|G Ereck Flowers||Washington|
|G Quinton Spain||Bills|
|C Brett Jones||Vikings|
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.
Watching Washington C Nick Harris film – especially his work in space – has been a delightful start to today's film work. Look at him seal pursuit on this rep to allow for the big gain. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/Z1sRIjqllp
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) December 3, 2019
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.
Shane Lemieux is technical, composed in space, and plays with an imposing mean streak. Keep an eye on him this spring, Dolphins fans. pic.twitter.com/Ds5MSTY9Pt
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) November 24, 2019
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:
|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
Tuesday: Defensive Line
Turning the Machine in the Right Direction
Nearly a year ago, 11 months to be precise, I wrote this piece for Locked On Dolphins: “Small, Important Steps in the Right Direction”. It was me opining on what I felt like were a series of small steps Miami, specifically Chris Grier and the front office had taken in the right direction just after the Draft. At the time, Miami had accumulated a Draft Pick haul of a: 1st rounder, two 2nd rounders, a 3rd, two 4ths, a 5th, two 6ths, and two 7ths. We know war chest has expanded, and Miami’s sure to put that to effective use in just over a month at the 2020 NFL Draft.
So, where are Miami now?
Well, that’s an interesting question, but I’ll attempt to answer it. With a haul of 11 free agents, counting TE Michael Roberts who was signed before the new League Year, Miami’s managed to fill some of the holes the exited 2019 with. Perhaps most important, despite shelling out big money deals, all of them are structured in smart, team-friendly ways. Kudos to Chris Grier and Brandon Shore for that. It’ll pay dividends down the road.
With the Draft still a month away, at least as things stand with the COVID-19 outbreak right now, Miami’s needs have become clearer. Quarterback was always and still is the top priority for the Draft. Running Back is a need still, and there’s a plethora of top notch backs in this year’s class. Offensive Line, obviously. Miami can use help across the board there. With the defensive free agent signings, I’m not sure edge defenders are a need anymore, but I think Miami will still bargain shop there. Safety, specifically free safety, and a true nose tackle round out the needs list. At lest in my mind.
With 14 picks, and Miami probably won’t use all of them to make actual picks – I think some get used in trade ups and some get pushed to 2021 – Miami will likely be able to fill that remaining chunk of needs, which is a great place to be in. Perhaps Miami still shops around a bit in free agency, maybe for O-line depth or a cheap running back, but I think the focus now narrows to the Draft. Since that’s next month, let’s review the free agent crop.
Free Agent Fits
Our pal Travis Wingfield has done plenty of in-depth reporting on all of Miami’s free agent signings, so I’m going to give you my broad stroke takes on what Miami’s added this past week.
Miami added defensive ends Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah to help set the edge against the run. Kyle Van Noy is an outside linebacker with a sneaky amount of strength and ability to play with heavy hands and good leverage who can help set the edge too. What this means for Miami’s defense is that we’ll likely see more 4-man defensive fronts. Remember, when Brian Flores called the Patriots defense in 2018 his most used for formations were:
4-2-5 (307 snaps)
3-3-5 (226 snaps)*
3-2-6 (132 snaps)
4-3 (97 snaps)
* With the 3-3-5 package, there’s really two versions: The Bear front and the slide front. The Bear front typically included bigger defensive lineman to cover the opponents G-C-G with Hightower and Trey Flowers or Kyle Van Noy on edges, with Van Noy or Elandon Roberts off-ball. Think of the slide front as really a 4-2 front, but you have an OLB playing as a stand-up DE.
A potential hidden bonus here is that both Lawson and Ogbah have some experience playing in stand-up OLB/DE roles. Shaq Lawson did it some at Clemson and Ogbah had some limited experience in doing so last year with the Chiefs. I think Ogbah was used primarily as a rusher as I haven’t seen snaps of him dropping into coverage from that spot. But he’s been aligned there.
With the additions of Lawson, Ogbah and Van Noy, Miami’s going to try and be able to find analogs similar to Van Noy himself, more on that in a minute; Ogbah compares pretty well in play style to how the Pats used Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise that year; and Lawson’s versatility might lend him to be used in some, and I stress some, of the capacities in which they used Trey Flowers. With Van Noy, in 2019 he was almost an exclusive on-the-LOS edge LB. In 2018, his duties between being an edge player and off-ball linebacker were about 50-50. I don’t know that we’ll see that, but I think Van Noy’s snaps won’t be as an exclusive edge – he’s so versatile in how he can be used.
As much as I love Khalid Kareem and really like guys like K’Lavon Chaisson, Curtis Weaver, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Marlon Davidson I have a difficult time picturing Miami spending a top-level resource on an edge defender. I think they’ll take a stab on a guy that falls or try and find value later on like Trevis Gipson, Jason Strowbridge, Chauncey Rivers, James Smith-Williams, etc.
No Fly Zone Southeast
I’ll admit, I in no way shape or form saw Miami going after someone like Byron Jones. In fact, I wonder if the Patriots franchise tagging Joe Thuney meant that money Miami might’ve offered to him was “freed up” to pursue other options. And man, did Miami get a nice player in Jones. Yes, he doesn’t have a ton of interceptions, but he does have 20 PBUs the past two years, and 44 for his career – nearly nine a year.
I’m a little dumbfounded that so many Dolfans think this signing means that Xavien Howard is on the trade block. Why would he be? Why would you dismantle a CB tandem this good? I get that X had the legal issue, but that was dismissed. I feel like if Miami wanted him gone, he’d have been gone by now.
What it means having a tandem like Byron and X is that you have a pair of corners that excel at press, can play off man, can both play on either side of the formation, and both can travel to the slot. That gives them some really nice flexibility and the opportunity to get creative with coverages. I’ll be really intrigued if they add a FS that allows Bobby McCain to play in the slot more, like he did in 2015-17. Miami could disguise a lot if that becomes an option.
When you combine Jones with the additions of Lawson and Ogbah up front, and Van Noy as someone who can play on the LOS or off-ball, you have to tip your cap to Miami for adding help at all three levels of the defense.
Depth and Special Teams
Miami apparently isn’t bringing back Walt Aikens, who was their best special teamer the past few seasons. Instead, Miami opted to bring in a trio of damn good special teamers, two of whom were captains. The one that wasn’t, Elandon Roberts, figures to get a chance to play in some packages on defense, just as he did with New England, and is a core special teams guy. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ate some of Chandler Cox’s reps as a fullback either. He’ll be fun to watch on whichever unit he’s getting snaps at.
Kamu Grugier-Hill, a fellow 6th round pick mate of the 2016 Patriots Class with Ted Karras and Elandon Roberts, is an intriguing player. While he might have been a better fit for Miami’s previous staff under Gase and Burke, he’s a fantastic special teamer and has shown well as a blitzer and coverage linebacker. His presence probably means guys like Sam Eguavoen and Calvin Munson are in the danger zone.
Clayton Fejedelem is more a like-for-like replacement for Aikens. A hard-hitting safety who’s a demon on special teams. Fejedelem probably won’t get a lot of looks on defense, especially if Miami ends up drafting another safety, but the bonus with Fejedelem, as compared to Aikens, is if you have to call on him to play on defense, he’s going to be better equipped to handle it.
Improving the Ground Game
I’ll admit, with Ereck Flowers being the first reported signing of free agency, I was a little worried the ghosts of Jeff Ireland and Mike Tannenbaum were summoned by the Tequesta. Flowers reputation carries stains, but he played well the second half of 2019 as LG for the Redskins. I hope Miami leaves him there. Ted Karras comes over after playing as center for the Patriots in 2019. He’s a bigger guy than Daniel Kilgore. He’s smart. He’s tough. He struggles a little in space and with power. I do wonder if Michael Deiter gets a shot to compete with him at the C spot with Flowers at LG, where Deiter played last year.
Both Flowers and Karras will get the opportunity to block for newly signed running back Jordan Howard (a favorite of my wife’s as he’s a fellow Indiana Hoosier). Howard’s a bigger back at 225lbs, but he’s more well rounded than he is a power back. He can catch and be a weapon in the pass game. He’s also pretty savvy with inside and outside zone runs. With Chan Gailey and Eric Studesville working on the ground game, Howard’s sure to get plenty of use.
Tight end Michael Roberts has played just 12 games over the past three seasons due to injuries and poor play. He was traded to the Patriots last year but failed a physical cancelling the trade. Detroit waived him and he was claimed by Green Bay but failed a physical there. He battled weight gain, depression and had his left shoulder surgically repaired. More of a blocking TE, he roasted the Dolphins in 2018, naturally, when Detroit came to Miami. If Roberts plays up to his potential, I think he’s got the ability to challenge Durham Smythe for that #2 TE role – being an inline TE.
Prepping for April
While the Draft won’t have the party that Vegas would’ve offered, that’s the next major step for Chris Grier. Miami needs to get the Draft right. We’re talking 2017 Saints right. We’re talking 2019 Raiders right. Miami has the opportunity to inject a lot of talent, in addition to the quarterback, into this team.
Go figure that the year Miami as FINALLY loaded up on picks, the COVID-19 breakout has forced Pro Days and 30 Visits to mostly be cancelled. And unless something drastically changes in the next few weeks, Miami and the rest of the league aren’t going to have as much operating information as they normally do. Miami will have to rely more on scouting than in the past.
The outbreak also likely puts a dent into each team’s offseason program. Teams will have to head into their offseason programs storming to get ready for the season. Let’s hope Miami doesn’t have a truncated offseason like they did in 2011 under Tony Sparano, which lead to an 0-7 start.
For now, with quarantines in place, there’s likely not going to be a lot happening for the Dolphins between now and the Draft. Hunker down. Watch tape (Game Pass is free). Familiarize yourself with Flores’s scheme. Watch “Humble and Hungry” – I highly recommend it! But above all, stay safe. We can get through this together.
You may recall Travis and I made a trip to Miami last year for the Bengals-Dolphins game. We were credentialed for it, meaning we were members of the media for that day. I think one of the most lasting impressions I have from that trip is just how many pieces work to create the “machine” that is each NFL team. Miami have a lot of great people in place.
I’d only ever been to one other Dolphins game in Miami. That was back in 2010. I don’t remember what Hard Rock Stadium was called at the time; it’s had many different iterations since it was Joe Robbie Stadium. But I remember walking around that stadium thinking it was dumpy. And I’d been to some dumpy stadiums – Old RFK Stadium for a Washington Nationals Game, whatever they call the Coliseum where the Raiders played, and the A’s still call home. Riverfront Stadium – the stadium of my youth. These were the stadiums that Hard Rock rivaled in 2010.
What Mr. Ross and Tom Garfinkel have done to the place is INCREDIBLE! I’ve been to Lucas Oil Stadium and the renovated version of Lambeau Field (2010 and 2016). Those two places are crown jewels. Hard Rock Stadium as it stands right now is nicer than both!
Miami’s building a fantastic new team headquarters and training complex. Travis and I stopped by Team HQ in Davie on our trip to pick up a parking pass for the game. The current HQ is nice (I live in Cincinnati and drive by Paul Brown Stadium daily on my way to work – that’s my comparison, but Miami’s is nicer), but it’s small. This new place is going to be world-class.
Brian Flores the Head Coach. While it’s only been a year with him at the helm, just by being in his presence, hearing him speak and listening to what the players said about him – there’s not a man in that building that wouldn’t run to the TNT Wall for him. Miami’s finally got the Head Coach they’ve longed for since Don Shula strode the sidelines.
The Dolphins have added 11 pieces so far, and the have the opportunity to select a new franchise quarterback in a month. If Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie, Brian Flores, the staff, and the scouts get this right Miami’s going to have built one hell of a machine. Just in time for the post-Tom Brady Era in the AFC East.
It’s a wonderful time to be a Dolfan! All is certainly not right in the world. Not by a longshot. But in these trying times where we all need to cling to some form of solace, the Dolphins are providing one. It’s a small part of my everyday life, but it’s one of my favorite parts. Always has been. Always will be. FinsUp!
Free agency opens; Reshad Jones, Mike Hull lead Miami Dolphins cuts
MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – While the two-day legal tampering period has already been underway, free agency officially opened on Wednesday at 4 p.m.
Since many of the heavy-hitting signs and trades have already been announced, the start of the new league year will be more about ratifying all those moves.
The Miami Dolphins, at the time of writing, have announced 10 free agency moves.
And with that, there has been the consequential announcement of cutdowns to counterbalance the roster spots of incoming players.
Reshad Jones leads the list and is also the only technical release, but the Dolphins had already announced that.
Jones was going into his 11th season and spent the first 10 with the Dolphins.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Jones sign with a new team in the coming days of free agency.
Nearly half a dozen players were also waived: wide receiver T.J. Rahming, cornerback Rashard Causey, tackle Chidi Okeke, interior offensive lineman Evan Brown, defensive lineman Kendrick Norton, and linebacker Mike Hull.
Rahming, Causey, and Okeke spent the 2019 season as practice squad members.
Brown saw playing time late in the 2019 season but had been plucked off the Giants practice squad.
Hull might be the most interesting name on the list. He had been a scrappy ‘backer presence for the Dolphins after signing with the team as a UDFA in 2015.
Hull re-signed with the Dolphins last spring.
But he spent the 2019 season on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a knee injury and didn’t play.
Norton was also kept on the team during the 2019 season by way of the Non-Football Injury list after a car accident last summer.
Miami Dolphins Bring On Another Ex-Patriot, Sign LB Elandon Roberts
The Miami Dolphins are loading up on leadership. If there’s one thing the Dolphins have made a priority this offseason, it’s adding smart, determined football players to their team. Under Brian Flores‘ stewardship, I doubt we ever see a broken locker room again.
According to Cameron Wolfe of ESPN, the Miami Dolphins are signing linebacker Elandon Roberts to a contract. Financial details are currently unknown.
Dolphins agreed to a deal with former Patriots LB Elandon Roberts, per source.
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) March 18, 2020
Roberts is yet another ex-New England Patriot to leave Boston this offseason for warmer pastures down south, following fellow-linebacker Kyle Van Noy, and the recent addition of (center) Ted Karras earlier today.
Originally drafted as a 6th-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2016, Roberts has primarily served as a special teams ace, while also serving as depth at linebacker.
If you were impressed by Biegel’s production last season, you will be pleased with the type of versatility Roberts brings. Over the past four seasons, Roberts has been active for 60 games (starting 33 of them), and has accumulated 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, 206 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 14 QB Hits.
Roberts is stout against the run, something the Dolphins have lacked over the past couple of seasons.
Run-stuffing LB/FB Elandon Roberts, a team captain in 2019, reunites with Brian Flores. The Patriots have Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley as top ILBs. https://t.co/yvYxvVgMV4
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 18, 2020
If you were curious what all the additions at linebacker meant for Vince Biegel, this doesn’t make things any clearer. Biegel is tendered at a “cheap” rate next season, so there’s no need to trade him or let him walk, but with the additions of Roberts and Kamu Grugier-Hill so far this offseason, it seems snap counts are becoming sparser.
Right now, the Dolphins currently have the following linebackers on their roster for 2020:
- Chase Allen
- Jerome Baker
- Vince Biegel
- Jake Carlock
- James Crawford
- Jamal Davis II
- Sam Eguavoen
- Terrill Hanks
- Trent Harris
- Mike Hull
- Deon Lacy
- Raekwon McMillan
- Calvin Munson
- Andrew Van Ginkel
They recently added:
- Kyle Van Noy
- Elandon Roberts
- Kamu Grugier-Hill
Sam Eguavoen was a budding linebacker and special teams player for the Dolphins last season, but it looks like he’ll need to have an excellent training camp to remain on the team. It’ll also be interesting to see what this means for last year’s 5th-round pick, Andrew Van Ginkel.
- Turning the Machine in the Right Direction March 22, 2020
- Free agency opens; Reshad Jones, Mike Hull lead Miami Dolphins cuts March 18, 2020
- Miami Dolphins Bring On Another Ex-Patriot, Sign LB Elandon Roberts March 18, 2020
- Miami Dolphins sign center Ted Karras March 18, 2020
- Miami Dolphins Bolster Their Running Backs, Sign Jordan Howard March 17, 2020