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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 5 Worst Free Agency Signings

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins have had their fair share of mistakes throughout the years, and with free agency set to begin this week, I’m here to remind you about all the bad times we had together before you get excited for the “hope” that lies ahead (see what I did there….)

Maybe it’s a coincidence that all of the players listed are relatively current. Only one of these players played for the team in the 2000s, with some of them being on the team as recently as 2017.

Recent memory serves us best, but with player contracts annually increasing, you’re going to find plenty more-recent Dolphins bust.

Not a single person is going to say Brian Hartline‘s 5-year, $31m ($12.5m guaranteed) contract was more detrimental to the team’s cap space than any of the players listed below. Not even Daunte Culpepper‘s $8m contract was that bad (even though he’s technically a trade acquisition, not a free agent) – even if his production was far worse than Ryan Tannehill‘s.

The Miami Dolphins have had plenty of underwhelming players throughout the 21st century, below are the five free agent contracts that were abysmally worse than all the rest:

Note: this list does not include extensions – this list strictly looks at players that came from another team. Which means players like Ryan Tannehill, Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey and Bobby McCain will not show up here)

5) Philip Wheeler: 5-yr, $25m ($13m guaranteed)

The perfect example of a player performing in a contract year and happily walking off into the sunset; Philip Wheeler was a head-scratching free agency signing and an even worse linebacker.

Paired with the #3 player on our list, Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe were an atrocious duo for the Dolphins. Brought on to replace Kevin Burrnett and Karlos Dansby respectively, both players were role players rewarded with starting contracts. They were anomalies that the Dolphins fell in love with (just like Andre Branch).

In his first season with Miami, Wheeler started all 16 games and recorded 118 tackles – mostly because opposing teams realized they could be productive running/passing at Wheeler. Wheeler did record 5 tackles for a loss and 5 QB hits, but that average comes out to less than 1 every 3 games, which is pathetic for a linebacker meant to stop the run and close gaps.

I wasn’t able to find the clip, but there was one play of Wheeler’s that will always stick out at me. He was turning around to call out a play to his fellow defenders and then turned back towards the opposing offense to get into his stance – ready to attack the play. Except the play already started and the opponent was tackled right by his feet. It took until the player was tackled for Wheeler to diagnose that the play had actually started.

This play perfectly sums up Wheeler’s career in Miami and perfectly sums up what every fan feels about him. Confused and unmotivated.

4) Jake Grove: 5-yr, $29m ($14.5m guaranteed)

This signing may have swayed us because of how poorly the Miami Dolphins misdiagnosed everything involved in this “prized” free agency signing.

After an Oakland Raiders career marred by injuries, the Dolphins thought they were lucky to find their future center and signed Jake Grove to a ridiculous $29m offer (half of which was guaranteed).

Sure enough, Grove got injured in his first season with the team and started only 10 games. He didn’t even make it to his second season with Miami, and was released during the 2010 preseason.

Grove hasn’t played another snap in the NFL since.

A few things play into this monstrosity:

  1. No one else was interested in Jake Grove – which made the length and price of the contract completely unnecessary.
  2. Jake Grove played 1 full season in the NFL (2006). He was active for 54/80 games with Oakland (67.5%) and started just 46 of those 80 games (57.5%)
  3. The Miami Dolphins already had Samson Satele on the roster and subsequently traded him to Oakland to fill the void left by Grove. Satele would go on to start 42/48 games with Oakland over the next 3 seasons before becoming the Indianapolis Colts starting center for 3 seasons after that.

Eventually, Miami moved on from Grove and started Joe Berger in his place. Berger was alright for Miami, though the team let him go and Berger eventually wound up with the Minnesota Vikings where he would go on to have an adequate career as both a backup and a starter.

Miami eventually settled the position by drafting a makeshift center from Florida, Mike Pouncey, in the 1st-round of the 2011 draft. Ironically enough, Miami has still yet to solve the center position after almost a decade of allocating valuable resources towards it.

3) Dannell Ellerbe: 5-yr, $35m ($14m guaranteed)

Brought on to replace Karlos Dansby as the starting middle linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe took millions from the Dolphins and left them with the same problem they started with – a void at linebacker.

Ellerbe started 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013 and put up some gaudy numbers:  2 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 1 sack, 101 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss and 4 QB hits. Though, like Wheeler, statistics are a bit misleading.

Ellerbe was a liability in coverage and against the run. Between Wheeler and Ellerbe, it was open season for opposing offenses – with an invitation to attack the middle of the field. It didn’t matter what kind of pass rush Cameron Wake was putting up or if Randy Starks was holding the middle of the defensive line just fine, the offense was still going to be productive.

To this day the team is still searching for an adequate replacement for (future Hall of Famer) Zach Thomas.

2) Mike Wallace: 5-yr, $60m ($30m guaranteed)

When you would rather have Davone Bess and Brian Hartline receiving the ball, you know something went wrong. Originally signed to a 5-year contract to be the kind of deep threat Desean Jackson actually is for the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Mike Wallace was neither motivated nor all that good.

Wallace clashed with head coaches, quit on the team years before Reshad Jones made it “a thing”, and required fellow wide receiver Brandon Gibson to talk for him at his locker  because he was too much of a diva to face the heat.

What started out as an offseason that was set to change the course of this team’s future quickly turned into another regrettable signing for the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins did end up with the last laugh. After signing with the Dolphins, Wallace admitted that he turned down more money with the Minnesota Vikings to head down to Miami. With the Dolphins finally fed up with the receiver, the team traded Wallace to the Vikings after the 2014 season. They didn’t receive much compensation, but Wallace was forced to play in an environment he wanted nothing to be apart of. He was released from the Vikings following the 2015 season and has since been relegated to a #2 or #3 receiver on an NFL team.

The only thing that saves Wallace’s time in Miami are the pedestrian numbers he put up. Even with erratic quarterback play from a young Ryan Tannehill, in two years, Wallace was able to haul in 140 receptions for 1792 yards and 15 TDs. Think that’s alright? What do you think of Brandon Marshall? Because at least Marshall eclipsed 1000 yards each year, he just couldn’t catch touchdowns to save his job.

Honorable Mentions

Below we have (quite) a few more players that didn’t work out, they just worked out slightly more than the others. Or, their contract just wasn’t as bad:

Nate Allen: 1-yr, $3.4m

You really can’t have a bad one year contract – especially one that costs this little. But sub-par play mixed with a season-ending injury halfway through the season leads to an unproductive signing for Miami.

He came one year after Isa Abdul-Quddus was one of the best free agency signings in Dolphins history.

Gibril Wilson: 5-yr, $27.5m ($8m guaranteed)

The only thing saving Gibril Wilson from being on the list is the guaranteed money he signed for.

Brought in to be the free safety compliment to Yeremiah Bell, Miami realized their mistake one year into the five-year contract and released Wilson during the 2010 offseason. His stat line was adequate (7 passes defended, 93 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss and 3 QB hits), but he was susceptible to giving up the big play at the wrong time.

Don’t get me wrong, Wilson was terrible for the Dolphins, and deserves to be on this list – his contract just wasn’t quite bad enough to warrant a top-5 spot.

Mario Williams: 2-yr, $17m ($11.9m guaranteed)

After years of tormenting the Dolphins, Miami thought they won one over on their division rivals by signing Mario Williams to a 2-yr, $17m contract ($11.9m guaranteed). Williams was happy with the paycheck and played with minimal effort – making it obvious he was just trying to end his NFL career without injury.

The Dolphins couldn’t be happier to release him following the 2016 season. Williams started 15 games in 2016 and accumulated 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks during his time with Miami. Or in other words, slightly more than literally nothing.

Ernest Wilford: 4-yr, $13m ($6m guaranteed)

The failed wide receiver couldn’t make it as a tight end in Miami and was released from the team after just one season.

Ernest Wilford was active for 7 games in 2008 and accumulated 3 catches for 25 yards and 0 touchdowns. Prior to coming to Miami, Wilford averaged almost 500 receiving yards per season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although an injury ended his 2008 season prematurely, 25 yards from your tight end is worse than Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron; which makes this signing much worse than either of those two.

Lawrence Timmons: 2-yr, $20m ($11m guaranteed)

Saved by insanity, the Miami Dolphins dodged a really bad contract when Lawrence Timmons abandoned the team and attempted to return home to his family. While I should be careful with the jokes (who knows if that was a result of early CTE or a side effect of drugs he might be taking), in the business world we live and operate in, the airport trip that never happened was the best thing to happen to Miami.

1) Ndamukong Suh: 6-yr, $114m ($60m guaranteed)

This is one of those outliers where the player was not only extremely successful, they were borderline dominant at the position.

So how could a player who was annually top-3 at his position be considered a terrible contract for a team?

When Mike Tannenbaum is your general manager and has that glisten in his eye when a generational player is available, that’s how.

Lets not sugarcoat or undermine Ndamukong Suh‘s career because he made out like a bandit in Miami; he is most definitely one of the best players of this generation. Even if his career is slightly stained by the “dirty” play he exhibited back with the Detroit Lions, everyone will remember the name Ndamukong Suh when you say it 10 years from now. Just say “Suh” and people will know exactly who you’re talking about.

That’s dominance.

What didn’t dominate was Miami’s rushing defense, their overall defense, or the team’s record. In Suh’s 3 seasons with Miami, the teams’ stats looked like:

  • Rushing Defense:
    • 2015: 28th (126.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 30th (140.4)
    • 2017: 14th (110.4)
  • Overall Defense:
    • 2015: 25th (376.2 yards per game)
    • 2016: 29th (382.6)
    • 2017: 16th (335.7)
  • Dolphins’ Record:
    • 2015: 6-10
    • 2016: 10-6 (0-1 playoffs)
    • 2017: 6-10

Ndamukong Suh is on this list not only because he proved paying money to a generational talent at one of the “non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team, but he still counts towards Miami’s cap hit in 2019!

Suh’s dead cap hits in 2018 ($9.1m) and 2019 ($13.1m) were/are more than most Dolphins will cost in 2018 and 2019.

All the tackles, sacks, highlight-reel plays and accolades can’t diminish the impact Suh’s contract had on this team. The inability to build elsewhere hamstrung the organization from retaining valuable players like Jarvis Landry or even valuable role players like Michael Thomas.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Rich McQuillen

    March 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    ““non-premier” positions (cornerback, quarterback, left tackle) translates into nothing for the team”
    — What are you talking about? In Suh’s last season, the Dolphins defense improved from 30th to 16th. Then he was cut, and we went back to 30th. NT is the most important position on the defense. The Rams made it to the superbowl by adding him.

    This is absolutely a premier position, with great Hall Of Famers like Bruce Smith and Reggie White who could single-handedly win a game.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 11, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      Agreed that a dominant DT/NT can change the course of a defense, but teams are able to get away with average DT play and still win. You definitely need a QB and most winning teams have at least one #1 CB. Miami’s defense was very poor in 2015 and 2016, and although it did improve in 2017, the team also returned Reshad Jones in ‘17 and saw Xavien Howard break out. It was fascinating to watch Suh play, but he didn’t transform the defense the way he was paid/expected to.

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Miami Dolphins

Patriots-Dolphins Scheme Brief and Player Analogs

Kevin Dern

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With the Draft complete and undrafted free agents added, with a few other moves in the mix, we’ve finally got our first glimpse of Miami’s 90 (really 91) man roster as we head into summer OTAs and mandatory mini-camp.  If I were a betting man, I’d guess that Miami may not be quite done with roster additions.  I imagine we’ll see something between June 1st and the start of Training Camp.  With all that in mind there’s been a lot of speculation about Miami’s defense and how it will look.

This offseason has provided us with a few interesting bits about what we’ll see.  John Congemi state on “The Audible”, the Dolphins own podcast, that Raekwon McMillan asked Brian Flores about watching film and was told to look at Dont’a Hightower.  Eric Rowe also said that the scheme is the same as what he ran last year with the Patriots.  We also had Brian Flores answering a question during his OTA media availability saying that the formatting of defense would be different.  I would expect that answer given the personnel differences, perhaps better spelled “deficiencies” that Miami has in comparison to the Patriots defense from a year ago.  This is why I wanted to put together this piece – to examine what we’re likely to see and who from Miami’s roster is an analog of a Patriot defender from 2018.

The Scheme
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  This isn’t a 4-3 defense.  This isn’t a 3-4 defense.  Forget about those ideologies.  This defense is multiple.  Very multiple.  As I detailed in my piece earlier this year, New England is in a sub-package more than anything.  The top three personnel groupings the Patriots used last year were all sub-packages sets:  4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps) and 3-2-6 (162 snaps).  The Patriots were in a 4-3 (97 snaps) and 3-4 (13 snaps) much, much less.

Looking at the Pats top two formations, I think we’re likely to see these used by the Dolphins as well.  A good barometer for how the Patriots used them would be that if they were facing 12 or 21 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with three safeties instead of a slot corner.  If they were facing 11 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with two safeties and a slot corner or used a 3-3-5 formation.  Often times that formation saw one of the linebackers, often Kyle Van Noy, walked-up on the line of scrimmage effectively playing as a stand-up defensive end.

This defense will be versatile in that we’ll see some different things than what we saw under Matt Burke and Vance Joseph.  We’ll likely see more even fronts.

https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/sSpkRMR5QZSgWDvC-RHR8Hw/image?w=624&h=352&rev=5&ac=1

We’re likely to see their Diamond (nickel – 3-3-5) and Ruby (dime – 3-2-6) fronts quite a bit.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DVOxHjUW0AE-_sj.jpg  (Courtesy of James Light – @JamesALight)

Coach Flores has often talked about wanting to see what players can and can’t do, and slot them into roles based on those results.  Rather than trying to find prototype players, the Patriots have searched for phenotypes – particular skillsets that players possess – and have plugged them into their scheme.  For example as it relates to Miami, there really wasn’t a player in this year’s Draft that was a direct analog of Kyle Van Noy.  There just wasn’t.  Jahlani Tavai was probably the closest and Detroit snatched him in the second round.

With that let’s take a look at the various positions Miami will use and who might be fits – and those who are close analogs with Pats players.  To help digest this I’ll break it down into:  Position – what they ask those players to do; Analogs – if any; and Players – guys Miami has on the roster that will likely get a crack at the role.

PositionDefensive Ends – Let’s start here.  Miami’s defense has undergone a seismic shift philosophically.  What was once the focal point of the wide-9, Miami’s no longer going to be in the market for defensive ends that could potentially hit double-digit sacks on a regular basis.  The Patriots have used different body type over the years, ranging from Rob Ninkovich to Chandler Jones to Trey Flowers to Deatrich Wise all in order to help set the edge against the run and be cogs in the machine in the pass-rush scheme, not the focal point.

Analogs:  Miami doesn’t have a guy who can replicate what Trey Flowers offered the Patriots.  It’s why Miami were in on him in free agency and were outbid by Detroit, where another Belichick disciple resides as head coach, in free agency.  They do have several guys who can be used the way Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise were used, but until we see it on the field, I’m not comfortable labeling any as direct analogs.

Players:  For this defense, I think we’re likely to see guys classified as “Closed Ends” and “Open Ends” rather than left and right.  Closed meaning the strongside end, often with a LB outside or playing off of that player, and open side meaning the guy on the weakside of the formation, sometimes with no one outside of him.

Closed Ends:  Tank Carradine, Jonathan Woodard, Jonathan Ledbetter
Open Ends:  Charles Harris, Dewayne Hendrix, Jayrone Elliott*

*Jayrone Elliott may be more of a pass-rushing specialist in the mold of John Simon, whom the Patriots listed as a LB but played as a defensive end, sometimes standing up.  This is where I think Elliott slots in and he very well may have a shot to earn a roster spot.  He’s #91 for the Packers in the GIF below.

https://i2.wp.com/titletownsoundoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/12_elliott.gif

Position:  Defensive Tackles – The Patriots last year under Brian Flores used a rotation of four primary guys.  They also used DEs Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise as 3-techniques quite a bit, but the primary four were Malcom Brown as a 1-technique and shade NT, Lawrence Guy as a 3-technique, Danny Shelton as a true 0 and shade NT, and Adam Butler as a 0, 1, 2i or 3 technique – he was involved in a lot of the Pats’ pass-rush packages.  The Patriots would also use some packages with 3 DTs on the field at the same time, often having Lawrence Guy play as a “Big DE” as Brian Flores labeled it last week.

Analogs:  Davon Godchaux compares pretty favorably to Malcom Brown, in my opinion.  He’s country strong and has been Miami’s primary 2i-technique the past two seasons.  That’s not much of a variation from playing the 1-technique NT spot, which many fans seem to forget Godchaux played at LSU for two seasons before switching to 3-4 DE his final year in Baton Rouge.

Players:  For Miami, I think Davon Godchaux slots in as the primary 1-technique player.  Christian Wilkins and Vincent Taylor figure to handle the 3-technique snaps of Lawrence Guy, as well as potentially doing some of the 4i and 5-tech stuff, especially Wilkins.  Miami at the moment has setup a nice competition for that true NT spots.  They don’t really have a guy as yet but figure on a competition between Jamiyus Pittman, Joey Mbu, Kendrick Norton and Cory Thomas.  I think Wilkins will likely eat up the snaps that Adam Butler took, but Miami may keep Akeem Spence for that role.  Remember, Akeem Spence was traded to Miami last year by Matt Patricia because he didn’t fit the defense.  That’s Miami’s defense.

I do think there’s an opportunity for both Wilkins and Taylor to grab some snaps at 3-technique in the 3-3-5 “Bear” front with New England runs quite a bit *IF* Miami can find the OLBs to make this work.

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*VBysJsaw3lxF0Mduc7-Ueg.png

Position:  Linebackers – The Pats primarily used two linebackers on the field in most of their packages, except on third downs.  Those two guys were their Mac (Mc) and Money ($) LBs – Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.  Their responsibilities vary by formation and personnel grouping.  They’ll also use a Buck (B) when they have three linebackers on the field.  I’ll be working on a preview article as we get into Training Camp and preseason where I’ll do a deep dive on how they use these positions in each personnel package.  For now, I’ll summarize these parts.

Mac – This is Dont’a Hightower’s spot.  In the 4-2-5 and any 4-3 formations, Hightower is an off-ball LB or MLB in the 4-3 most of the time.  There are various formations, like the 3-3-5 picture above (see OLB Lee as Hightower was injured for this game), will line up on the ball in a position akin to where a 3-4 OLB would be, even though there’s only 3 LBs on the field.

$ – This is Kyle Van Noy.  Van Noy will line up off the ball in 4-3 formations or will be the SAM if they use an Under look – which is rare.  In the 4-2-5 groupings he and Hightower are the two main off-ball linebackers.  In the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts, Van Noy is often at the MLB spot, with Hightower and John Simon as the OLBs.  However, he will also line up on the line of scrimmage as a stand-up DE in their Diamond and Ruby sets that were shown before.  In these spots, he’ll 1) pass-rush 2) cover a RB or TE 3) cover the hook, curl or flat, or 4) act as a blitzer – either in a green dog capacity, or as looper coming through the backside A or B gap.  See the formation below:

Notice that Hightower is off-the-ball as it looks like a 4-2-5 formation.  This is one of the subtleties that the Patriots will use.

Buck – This role is sort of two-fold.  It is essentially the WILL LB in 4-3 spots, but can be an off-ball ILB in 4-2-5 fronts, and on the line of scrimmage edge rusher in the 3-3-5 and other sub fronts.

Analogs:  None.  The closest one, in my opinion, is Raekwon McMillan to Dont’a Hightower.  As indicated by John Congemi, McMillan was told by Brian Flores to watch film on Hightower.  I think McMillan will likely fill the Mac role in the 4-2-5 and he had some experience playing SAM at Ohio State, so we may see him as a stand-up on the LOS edge LB in some of the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  Though the fit in the “Bear” package may be dubious at best.  I do, however, think that Raekwon can line up as an on the line of scrimmage or “mugged up” ILB in the Patriots sub-fronts.  He’s got some familiarity with this playing “Nose-backer” in the wide-9 at times last year under Matt Burke.  I think Raekwon is big and strong enough to be used as a blitzer and “pin” player on stunts, much like this GIF of Hightower below, courtesy of Pro Football Focus:

https://media.profootballfocus.com/2019/02/HIGHT-GIFY-3.0.gif

Notice the stunt by Adrian Clayborn following Hightower, essentially a T-E stunt.  Miami’s defensive line coach Marion Hobby gives a great breakdown of those stunts here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2X2HjiynI0&t=5s

I included this here as Miami will likely have some of their linebackers playing on the edges or mugged up inside executing these pass-rush games and blitzes.

Players:   Separating these by position for simplicity:

Mac – Raekwon McMillan is your starter here.  As far as depth goes, I think we could see Chase Allen, Tre’ Watson and Quentin Poling compete here for the reps that are between-the-tackles.  I think guys like Charles Harris and Andrew Van Ginkel could very well get opportunities for some of the stand-up edge reps.  That said, the Patriots have always liked to find guys who can fulfill the entire role rather than piecemealing it.  Miami may not have that player in this case, but I think McMillan can handle the bulk of these duties and should thrive in this defense.

$ – Jerome Baker is likely who Miami starts with at this spot.  Baker recently reported on The Audible he’s trying to bulk up to 230lbs after playing last year at 220lbs.  This fit is dubious, in my opinion.  I know many Dolfans won’t like to read that, but it is what it is.  I think Baker can likely handle this role in the 4-2-5 looks and would likely be the lone off-ball MLB in the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  But Baker is more of a blitzer than true pass-rusher.  He’s also 6’1” and 227lbs currently.  Kyle Van Noy is a full 6’3” 250lbs.  Perhaps Baker’s speed is the equalizer here, but that length will be important.  I think this is where Andrew Van Ginkel could absolutely thrive.  He did the on the line of scrimmage stuff all the time at Wisconsin.  Charles Harris should, in my opinion, get a shot here with the edge stuff; Miami might be able to squeeze some football out of him this way.

Buck – Travis and I discussed this on the podcast on Sunday.  If Miami had limited Kiko Alonso’s role in last year’s defense he’d have been a pretty effective, albeit overpaid, third linebacker.  I see him here, though perhaps not right away.  The new staff may be more inclined to give him a shot at the $ linebacker spot given his veteran experience.  That’d be regrettable in my opinion.  If they can pare down his snaps, he could likely handle a lot of the duties the Buck LB spot handles on first and second downs…that is for what snaps there are.  The Patriots would often use John Simon in this role for their 3rd down packages or as an extra DE.  This is where I mentioned Jayrone Elliott fitting in, purely in the pass-rushing role.

In short, Miami just doesn’t have the horses that the Patriots have at linebacker, and though they may not want to, I think the coaching staff will be forced to piecemeal these LB roles with multiple parts.  Gun to my head, I’d expect we’ll see McMillan, Baker, Alonso, Van Ginkel all playing at least solid snaps, with perhaps Charles Harris and Jayrone Elliott having niche roles.

Position:  Safety – I’m skipping the corner position for right now as I want to do a little more research on that.  Let’s just get this out of the way, Xavien Howard looks like an analog for Stephon Gilmore.  X got the bag, deservedly so, and will hopefully be around to see this rebuild take flight.

At Safety, Miami have some fits, but I’m very, very curious to see how the players are slotted into roles.  New England often employs three safeties in their 4-2-5 looks, most often against 12 and 21 personnel rather than playing a third linebacker.  Those roles seem to stack up in the following spots:

SS – Strong safety – This is Patrick Chung, and he’ll often be lined up on the edge or in the box, where a linebacker would often be.  They’ll also use him as a robber in split safety looks, or in disguised looks with a deep safety dropping bac.

* – Star – This is Devin McCourty.  He’ll line up EVERYWHERE.  He’s often a FS in split safety looks, but he’ll find his way to the slot as an overhang defender. He’ll cover Flexed tight ends man-to-man.  He’ll cover them split out wide.  He handles a lot of the single-high safety responsibilities when they have two safeties on the field, but on 3rd downs, he’s often lined up in the slot or in the box with a coverage responsibility close to the line of scrimmage.

FS – Free Safety – this is played by McCourty in two safety looks, but is also played by Duron Harmon when they bring a third safety onto the field.

This video, courtesy of Samuel Gold, is required defensive study viewing.  Samuel does an outstanding job of breaking down how the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl.  You can see a lot of the versatility among the safeties in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLmyRYJHt4o&t=202s

Analogs:  Minkah Fitzpatrick is our second true analog.  While we haven’t seen him do everything that the Patriots ask Devin McCourty, in large part due to Matt Burke using Minkah at three different spots as a rookie, if you view his Alabama tape and Dolphins tape, it’s not hard to see the match here at all.  While most football fans acknowledge that Derwin James was just a freaking monster as a rookie, he was used EXACTLY has he should have been.  Kudos to the Chargers for doing so.  Minkah Fitzpatrick was, well, not used that way.  He was still outstanding but received much less notoriety.  That should change in 2019.

Players:  Reshad Jones caught a lot of flak for “quitting” on the team during the Jets game last year.  I don’t care.  He’s been one of the top two or three Dolphins players since 2012.  He should be in the Ring of Honor, and if you’re in favor of putting Ricky Williams there, you damn sure better vote for Reshad.

SS – That aside, I’d like to think that if Reshad’s fully recovered from offseason shoulders surgery – he was boxing in a video on Instagram last week – that he’d be the strong safety.  He did a lot of what Patrick Chung does in 2017 and had a Pro Bowl season.  He’s best attacking downhill or playing close to the line of scrimmage, so I think he fits that role well.  However, if his shoulders are still balky, we may see T.J. McDonald here.  I have another theory on him.

* – We already talked about Minkah Fitzpatrick filling in this role.  It’s his.  Leave him in this role.  Watch him flourish.

FS – This should really be spelled out as third safety.  My guess for now is that T.J. McDonald is penciled, lightly, into this role.  Barry Jackson reported a while back that T.J. wanted to drop weight from the 230lbs he played at a year ago and get down to 215lbs.  He had a little bit of success as a deep safety in 2017 when he came back from suspension.  That being said, I don’t think he or Reshad Jones, again if Jones’ shoulders are balky, are great fits for this role.  Their contract situations are, how to put it…not team friendly.  So, unless there’s a trade that develops, I expect they’ll be given opportunities

Also in consideration for this role should be Maurice Smith and Walt Aikens.  One has been a fringe roster player and the other is our best special teamer (and one of the top 5 special teamers in the entire NFL – Walt’s really good), but I’d imagine they’ll get a trial run here.  Aikens looks the part and is athletic, but wasn’t able to put it together when given a shot as a starting safety back in 2015 when Louis Delmas tore his ACL in preseason.  I do wonder if safeties coach Tony Oden may try to convert one of the myriad cornerbacks Miami have on their 90 man roster to safety.  He did so with Charles Washington while with Detroit in 2016.  The Patriots did it with Teez Tabor last year.  Perhaps someone will emerge for Miami here if McDonald or Jones falter.

We’ve covered quite a lot of ground in this piece already, so I’m going to wrap this up without taking up any more time until my next piece.  Overall, Dolfans are going to be wide-eyed trying to catch up with the philosophical seismic shift we’re going to see with the defense this year.  It’ll be multiple.  It’ll use a lot of players.  It’ll be different in some capacities on a weekly basis given opponents’ strengths.

All of this should be welcomed with open arms.

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 17 at Seattle

Travis Wingfield

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Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

Week 17 at Seattle –

By the time this season finale came to an end the entire Cardinals operation had to breathe a sigh of relief. A disaster season, that came to a crashing conclusion, was finally in the rearview. For Josh Rosen, the last month of the season was a recurring nightmare. Rosen threw 146 passes in December and the only one that crossed pay dirt was a busted coverage in this Seattle game.

Some of Rosen’s strong suits didn’t travel to the Pacific Northwest. Throwing into contested windows, play-action passing, and third down conversions each brought back less than satisfactory returns.

The Cardinal passing offense converted 3-of-14 3rd downs. Rosen was 2-of-14 for 23 yards on contested throws and 5-of-10 for 56 yards on play pass.

Rosen was chucking-and-praying once again. The average air yards per throw tallied 10.8 yards, while the Arizona receivers only amassed 51 yards after the catch (34.2% of Rosen’s passing total).

The short passing game was far more fruitful than the vertical attacks.

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

The game was littered with mistakes from the Cardinals QB. Rosen registered 14 mistakes (11 from accuracy, 2 ball security issues, and 1 poor read). Rosen lost two fumbles and had two would-be interceptions dropped by the Seattle defense.

The personnel deployment featured more versatility than recent weeks. Rosen’s passes were supplemented by the following personnel packages.

 

11-personnel 31 snaps
12-personnel 3 snaps
21-personnel 4 snaps

 

As has been the case all season, Rosen was under frequent pressure. Seattle arrived for 11 pressures (6 sacks, 3 hits, 2 hurries) at an average time from snap-to-pressure of 2.19 seconds.

The busted coverage touchdown was Rosen’s one red-zone completion (1-of-3). He was in the gun for 25 snaps and under-center for 13.

Another week, another low conversion rate. The Cardinal passing game converted 8-of-38 plays into first downs (21.1%)

It’s difficult to imagine a more trying rookie season than the one Rosen experienced. The offensive line play was poor, the only consistent pass catcher was Larry Fitzgerald, and Rosen had his own share of rookie mistakes to compound things.

This game goes into the losing performance category marking eight consecutive games that Rosen failed to reach the winning performance category.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 7 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR, @SEA)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 16 vs. LA Rams

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

 

Week 16 vs. LA Rams –

For the second consecutive game Josh Rosen didn’t finish under-center for the Cardinals. In a blowout loss, where it seemed like the entire game plan revolved around making life easy on Josh Rosen, Arizona still managed to get ran out of the building. Mike Glennon completed the final series for the Red Birds offense.

Rosen threw the ball only 23 times, but scrambled more than he has all season. The game plan also featured the least amount of variety, from a personnel grouping standpoint, all season.

 

11-personnel 30 snaps
12-personnel 1 snap

 

Rosen’s typical third down heroics didn’t show up. The Cardinals converted only 2-of-10 third downs in the passing game (one a QB scramble). Converting, as it has been all season, was a challenge in general — Arizona converted just 6-of-31 drop backs (19.4%).

Rosen was in the shotgun almost exclusively (3 under-center, 28 in the gun). This led to a limited play-action passing game (only one throw from play pass).

The four mistakes attributed to Rosen were largely deep shots. He missed on short pass, but two of the three inaccuracies came on balls down the field. One of those deep shots was an ill-advised throw into coverage despite a wide open Larry Fitzgerald coming across the formation (seen in the video thread).

Rosen’s depth splits were as follows:

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

More than half of Rosen’s 87 passing yards came from YAC (54%). The average depth of Rosen’s passes was 9.22 air yards per throw.

Throwing into tight window was a futile effort. Rosen completed 1-of-7 contested throws for 7 yards. Pressure was a regular fixture, yet again, as Rosen was under duress on 11 drop backs (4 sacks, 5 hits, 2 hurries). The average time from snap-to-pressure was 2.30 seconds.

The war of attrition seems to have finally broken the Cardinals spirit. The team’s execution was lacking all year, but this game was something of a “white flag” effort from the coaching staff. Rosen gets tabbed with a losing performance for a lack of big-time plays, a few mistakes, and an awful holistic result.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 6 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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