Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins 5 Worst Free Agency Signings

Jason Hrina

Published

on

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.

Advertisement
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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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

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

Miami Dolphins

25 Things We’ve Learned 25 Days into the 2019 Miami Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Camp kicked off 25 days ago, giving us a month’s worth of visual evidence; here’s what we know so far

Preseason reps are not the end-all-be-all, and training camp practices won’t put players in the Hall of Fame, but there’s a purpose every time the chinstrap is buckled. For a team that harps on the fundamentals and executing the job that has been asked on a down-by-down basis, every rep has meaning.

The NFL calendar never sleeps, but the true beginning of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season began on July 25, exactly 25 days ago. With 10 practices under my belt, an intra-squad scrimmage, and two preseason games digested to the max, these are the 25 things I’ve learned over this first month.

Some of these things are big, some are small, some are encouraging, some are concerning. We start with the biggest of them all.

Big Things:

1. Xavien Howard – Money Well Spent

Xavien Howard’s been targeted a lot over the last month. He’s allowed a few catches, mainly in unjust 1-on-1 periods, but he’s also pulled some down, too. A lot of them. And that trend has continued through a scrimmage, joint-practices with an opponent, and one live game. X, as he’s so aptly named, exemplifies Brian Flores’ message on and off the field.

2. Laremy Tunsil – Next in Line

There’s a term — set and forget — that refers to such a comfort level with said player, that you don’t even bother watching him. He’s got it. Laremy’s got it. The feet, hands, strength, athleticism, quickness; a trip to Tunsil island is a dreadful way to spend a Sunday afternoon for edge rushers.

3. Jerome Baker – Glow Up

His rookie year looked promising, but no one could’ve seen this coming, not this fast. Baker had a strong debut season, but he wasn’t a full-time player, and he had his vulnerabilities. Now, he’s doing everything under the sun with supreme professionalism and execution. He plays at a different speed and contributes in all three phases (blitz, cover, run-support).

4. Josh Rosen – Signs of Life

USA Today Sports Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations always should’ve been low for a kid who is brand new to the league — brand new to his now third new home in three years, but that’s football. It was whatever in May. It was concerning in July. Then, in August, Miami’s second-round investment started playing a little freer. Getting into his second, third, sometimes fourth read, while moving away from a compromised pocket, things could be clicking.

It’s not a consistent theme yet — and it needs to be very good, and very consistent to push Miami off the 2020 QB Class — but that coveted trait, the consistency, is progressing. That much at least deserves monitoring.

5. Pass Rush Scheme – As Advertised

Saying goodbye to Cam Wake and Robert Quinn took a lot of juice off the edge for Miami. Those departures, and the Dolphins unsubstantiated interest in Trey Flowers, all but confirmed the shift to a new scheme that relied on games, gap integrity, and blitz packages to get after the quarterback.

Jerome Baker has been running free on QBs all camp and preseason. Charles Harris, Christian Wilkins, Tank Carradine, Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Ledbetter — a host of Dolphins blood-thirsty rushers are turning up the heat on opposing passers with regularity.

Encouraging Things –

6. Preston Williams – Star potential 

Despite his two-drop showing on the first-team Thursday, Preston Williams has shown true number-one receiver potential all summer. He’s crafty in the way he jostles for position, his strong hands are evident at the release from the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in catching the football. He transitions well enough out of breaks for a man of his size and stature.

At that build, with that catch radius, Williams’ deep-ball prowess has been the most encouraging. If he takes off in this capacity, once the games begin to count, this Miami receiving corps looks much more imposing.

7. Sam Eguavoen – Canadian Pipeline Still Flowing

Minor warts in Eguavoen’s game show up periodically, but his strengths far outweigh the parts of his game Miami will look to mask. He’s plenty adept at defending the edge, rushing the quarterback, and dropping into coverage.

The ability to close down on an underneath pass, but also fall off 15-yards downfield, is the type of versatility needed for a modern-day linebacker.

8. Bobby McCain – Experiment No More, He’s a Safety

Watch the broadcast version of a Miami preseason game and you might miss McCain altogether. He’s typically 12-20-yards off the football, but the opposition’s lack of interest in trying anything vertical is a testament to McCain’s quick acclimation.

All camp long, McCain was working on reading route concepts, flipping the hips, and taking proper angles in help-coverage. He has the makeup to do it, and so far it’s working out.

9. Mike Gesicki – Playing to his Strengths

Some writers suggest that Gesicki is falling out of favor, but I see a player doing exactly what he was drafted to do. He’s flexing out into the slot, in plus-splits (outside the numbers) and he’s uncovering with regularity in the passing game.

He’s only played a handful of snaps, and he’s created separation on all five of his preseason targets. Gesicki caught three of them, while the other two were misfires from the quarterback.

10. Jonathan Ledbetter – Aptitude for the Scheme

Eye-discipline, heavy hands, stout at the point-of-attack — you’ll often hear these phrases when the coaches discuss the prototype for defensive linemen. Ledbetter plays with his hands in front of his eyes, keeps his pad-level low, strikes first, and adheres to his responsibilities in the two-gap scheme.

11. Jason Sanders – Money in the Bank

If he missed kicks in training camp, I didn’t see them. Every time Sanders lines it up, he’s right down the fairway. This was true on hid 45- and 49-yard kicks on a soaked playing surface on Friday, as well as his 48- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.Sanders added angled kickoffs to his game, and has been placing those chip shots precisely into the coffin corner.

Things that are Just Things:

12. Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun First-Team – Tipping the Offensive Plan

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that this pair of rookies have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both players frequently create push in the running game, but are a bit of a coin-flip in regards to pass protection.

Brian Flores spoke all offseason about his affinity for running the ball, and starting the rookies — — over a player like Chris Reed — serves as a pretty sound indicator for that preference. Our next bullet point speaks a similar language.

13. Chandler Cox – 21-Personnel Back in Miami

“Defending a fullback in the running game is a difficult thing for a linebacker to do.” That was Coach Flores’ comment back in minicamp when asked about the Chandler Cox selection. Miami has to play small-ball this year to find wins, and that means staying on schedule offensively.

Cox has had his ups-and-downs, and Miami gives reps to Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary as potential backups, but it doesn’t end with a fullback-tailback combination — Miami has regularly shown 21-personnel with dual tailbacks.

14. Jesse Davis – Tackle Tryout

A tackle in college, and position-less mutt through his first two years as a pro, Davis settled into a seemingly permanent right guard position last season. That didn’t go particularly well, and now Miami will kick him back outside with mixed results.

Davis, occasionally vulnerable in pass-pro, is better in the running game. He’s athletic enough to execute a number of pulls (counter trey, play-side), and should benefit from help by the running backs since Tunsil blocks out the sun on the other side.

Discouraging Things:

15. Devante Parker – Minor Ailments

Another ripping and roaring start to camp has since plateaued, both because of his play and another minor injury that sidelined the former first-rounder. Even if Parker posts career numbers this season, can Miami really trust him? The two-year contract was wise in that it gives the Dolphins the extended evaluation before pulling the trigger on a big extension.

At this stage, the emergence of Preston Williams might make that point entirely moot.

16. Chris Reed – Any Day Now

Training as the primary backup center to Daniel Kilgore, the chances are very likely that Reed has to come off the bench at some point this season, but I expected more. He has the intelligence and instincts to play above replacement level between a competent center-tackle bookend, but he’s not recaptured his first-team status since his day-three demotion.

17. Jalen Davis – Not Picking Up Where He Left Off

One of the pleasant surprises of yester-year, Davis’ strong finish to the 2018 season has yet to carry over. He’s been buried on the third-team and is struggling to find success at that level. It might be another year on the practice squad before Davis — primarily a slot — can contribute.

18. Matt Haack – Bottom Barrel Punting Average

Punting is not something I’m claiming expertise in, but I know that Haack ranked 25thin average last season, and he’s currently 27ththis preseason. He has the ability to boom balls into the atmosphere, but the shanks are far too common.

Bad Things:

19. Offensive Line – Offensive

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo reacts during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Colts defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not been good. It’s the one position with a considerable amount of stink — cumulatively spread about — on the roster. From firing the coach of the room, to the on-field execution, only one thing aspect is consistently coming up on the list of pros: 78. This is mostly an individual’s checklist, but this group needs its condemning.

20. Dave DeGuglielmo – Where’s the Expertise?

Firing Pat Flaherty was an upgrade, according to many. So far, DeGuglielmo’s group is failing to properly communicate and pass off games from the defense, there are blown protections each week, and the backup units are utterly futile. He wasn’t given a lot to work with, but DeGuglielmo’s returns have not been pretty — Miami QBs have been sacked seven times in two games.

21. Swing Tackle – Swing and a Miss

Jordan Mills was thrown into the fire for an absent Laremy Tunsil in week-one, and the returns were disastrous. Mills missed Thursday’s game; taking his place, former AAF player, Jaryd Jones-Smith. The results were the same. If Miami loses either of Tunsil or Davis, things could get ugly quickly.

22. Secondary – Paper Thin

Xavien Howard is an all-pro, Eric Rowe looks the part, Minkah Fitzpatrick is excellent in coverage, and the safety trio is capable. Beyond those six, there might not be enough competent players to get through the season. The Patriots defense (similar schemes) rolls double digit defensive backs into the game plan throughout the year — the Dolphins are several bodies short of being able to say the same thing.

23. Reshad Jones – Cashing Checks

Jones missed 10 games in 2016 for a shoulder injury. He played through another shoulder ailment in 2017 and did not have a good season. Last year, he missed two more games, and voluntarily removed himself from a third. This year, he skipped OTAs (the voluntary portion), and has missed more practices than he’s been a part of.

Jones was running with the second-team throughout those healthy days, and he’s perfectly content to do that at his current pay rate.

24. Kenyan Drake – Time is Running Thin

Drake’s explosive skill set, versatility, and big-play ability was on display throughout camp, but an injury puts everything on hold. Miami are being discrete about the severity of the injury, but in a contract-year, Drake needs a consistent, strong showing for 17 weeks.

25. Raekwon McMillan – More Health Concerns

McMillan entered camp as a second-team ‘backer, earned first-team work early in camp, but has been missing ever since with an injury. As youngsters around him emerge, McMillan’s lack of involvement casts a cloud of uncertainty over his position on this roster.

It’s pretty clear what this Dolphins team is going to be this season. A smart team that — hopefully — doesn’t beat itself, but comes up short on talent in key areas. The defense should improve considerably from last season, and the offense remains a major question mark.

The showing of the defense in Tampa Bay is a great step in that direction, and further help is on the way (no Howard, Jones, McDonald, McMillan, or Andrew Van Ginkel for that game). Regardless of what happens on offense, with Miami’s deep free agent pockets, war chest of draft picks, and desire for that coveted top-five drafted quarterback, a surge on defense would spell a successful 2019 season.

Things are trending in that direction.

@WingfieldNFL

 

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Dolphins Defense Dominates, Offensive Futility Leads to Defeat

Stat Dolphins Buccaneers
Total Yards 280 312
Rushing 118 75
Passing 162 237
Penalties 13/122 8/81
3rd/4thDown 2/15 4/15
Sacks For 4 5
TOP 27:43 32:17

 

Did Not Play:

CB: Xavien Howard
WR: Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant
S: Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, Walt Aikens
OL: Zach Sterup, Jordan Mills
LB: Kiko Alonso, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Quentin Poling
RB: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage

The Skinny

Which would you like first, the good news, or the bad news?

The strong winds and heavy rain Friday night impacted both offenses at Raymond James Stadium. The Dolphins and Bucs exchanged field goals and punts in an exhibition game that went 54 minutes before its first touchdown (each team scored in the final 3:35).

Defensively, the Dolphins showed their collective teeth with some creative blitzes, constant pressure, and sound coverage on the back0end without the team’s best player (Xavien Howard).

After a demotion to the second-team before Tuesday’s practice, Charles Harris responded with a monster game. The 2017 first-rounder picked up two sacks and four additional QB hits on the night.

CFL signing Sam Eguavoen flashed on a similar level. The linebacker forced a fumble, made a pair of run stops and got his hands on a deep in-cut after falling back into coverage.

Jerome Baker — as you see by the above video clip — answered our question in the preview piece about his blitzing prowess. Baker was a menace in all three phases once again.

On offense, it was a struggle for the ‘Phins. The quarterback battle suddenly leans in a new direction — albeit it coming by-way of default scenario — and the offensive line has gone beyond catastrophically awful.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen played the entire first half and effectively moved the ball on a couple of series. Still, some accuracy issues, a late read on fourth-and-goal from the two, and another woeful interceptable pass (which was dropped) undid a lot of the goods Rosen showcased.

Those “goods” featured adequate pocket mobility, improved body language, and a continued strong effort when the plays mattered most (third down, two-minute drill). Rosen often had to get off the spot, find a new passing avenue, reset, and deliver the ball.

Miami dropped multiple balls in their own right, further putting Rosen at a disadvantage. The body language and demeanor that Brian Flores criticized his young QB for was demonstrably better in this game. He battled through difficult conditions, a fierce pass rush, and once again delivered a scoring drive in the final two minutes.

Rosen — as it stands right now — deserves the opening day nod. Though it doesn’t appear he’s going to get it; Flores quickly announced Fitzpatrick as the starter for next week’s game vs. the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play hasn’t inspired a lot of hope if he is indeed declared the starter. Fitzpatrick matched Rosen’s poor decision making, and struggled with his own accuracy all night. The veteran was thrown to the wolves and was constantly under duress, but if you compare his second-team showing to Rosen’s effort last week, the youngin’ clearly won that battle.

It would be entirely disingenuous to leave this video out of the post-game column.

Jake Rudock threw an inexcusable interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but responded with the go-ahead touchdown-and-two-point drive in the final moments.

Running Backs

Kenyan Drake is out with an injury and Kalen Ballage did not play. Mark Walton was the beneficiary with plenty of work in the first half, excelling particularly in the passing game. Walton stuck a big time blitz pickup on a five-man rush and caught a slant, from a plus-split- for a first down.

Walton is pretty clearly the third best back on the roster, though he bounced a goal-line run that was built for a B-gap lead.

Patrick Laird ran for 45 yards on six carries. He’s a patient runner with quality vision and enough burst to make his runs work. Myles Gaskin teamed up in a few two-back sets, but he didn’t have a lot of room to work with.

Kenneth Farrow busted a big run, but it was the result of a massive lane opened up by the Miami blocking on a split zone, backside dig-out.

Chandler Cox is mixed bag — and this feels redundant. He hit some nice lead blocks, but wound up on the ground too much again. He was hit with a holding penalty tonight as well.

Wide Receivers

Burn the wide out film from this one. Drops, minimal separation, failure to get clean releases against press — Miami’s deepest offensive position group did not hold up its end of the bargain in the loss.

Preston Williams had a dreadful night. He had at least two drops, both of which would’ve moved the chains. He nearly came down with another ridiculous highlight reel catch where he tipped the ball to himself, and brought it in at the pylon, but his foot was on the chalk.

Kenny Stills might’ve been credited with a drop on the first play of the game, though it’s unclear if the ball was tipped. He did, however, convert a third-and-short on a drag route. Stills came in short-motion to create a stack, and then won with a clean release.

Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler had the best nights among the group — they had two catches and moved the chains once each. Ford uncovered in the end zone on the fourth-and-two play, but Rosen was a beat late and a hair low.

Saeed Blacknail uncovered for a big gainer and Trenton Irwin caught the two-point conversion on a wide open flat route.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary’s block sealed the edge on the long Farrow gallop. He caught one pass for five yards, and did his usual work blocking the edge in both the run and the pass game.

Mike Gesicki is showing continual signs of progress. He uncovered three times, caught two of the targets, and the third was considerably behind him on an open slant route.

Dewayne Allen committed a hold on a run from inside the five, and Durham Smythe had a 22-yard reception.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil returned and showed Dolphins fans exactly why he needs an extension. The pay-day is coming, but the price goes up every time Tunsil gets isolated in protection and handles the task with ease. He’s so quick to gain depth and prevent speed rushes, or underneath moves — he’s elite.

The rest of the line…is not. Though Michael Deiter looked the part the majority of the night. He still has some reps where he bends at the waist, and is left to the vices of the man across from him, but he’s picking up combination blocks and playing sound, assignment football in this game. He was the next best behind Tunsil and reason for optimism on that left side.

Jesse Davis surrendered a sack when he overset, despite help available from the back, and lost on a counter move working inside.

It’s difficult to assign blame on some pressure looks, but Shaq Calhoun is often part of blown protections with a variety of right tackles. He does, however, continue to get adequate push in the running game.

The rest of the interior line was not good, Daniel Kilgore got taken for a couple of rides and communication issues continue to persist.

Miami’s search for a swing tackle is not going well. Jordan Mills was down tonight and his replacement — Jaryd Jones-Smith — was an absolute train wreck. He was consistently beat with a speed rush off the edge and just doesn’t have the quickness to play the left side.

Defensive Line

Coach Flores is going to test the mettle of his guys. He wants to put stress on a player, and when things appear to be coming together, take that strain up another notch.

For Charles Harris, perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Harris was a menace. He whipped starting Left Tackle Donovan Smith (video below) helping to end the Bucs first drive, and then went to work on poor backup tackle, Cole Boozer. Harris won with speed, with a counter moves, and he defended the run.

Welcome to the NFL, Christian Wilkins. The first-round pick was disruptive. Number 97 recorded his first sack, another bone-crushing hit on the quarterback, and consistent penetration all night long.

Davon Godchaux is bordering on the territory where we don’t need to mention him any more — he’s as steady as they come and a true power-player. He throws those hands and gets under his man with regularity.

Tank Carradine looks good pushing up field, chopping the tackles hands, and bending the edge. He disrupted a throw on his newly patented move, and laid a hit on the quarterback hit.

Jonathan Ledbetter checked in for some first-team work, and he continues to show why the coaches love him. He’s like Godchaux in the way he plays low, with heavy hands, and can really control the point-of-attack in the two-gap scheme.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker played 15 snaps last week, made five tackles, three for run-stuffs, but never blitzed. That changed tonight.

Baker has an innate sense for angles to the quarterback, coupled with a rare burst that allows him to effectively move the quarterback off the spot from any gap he rushes. He also continues to defend the edge as a run-stopper — he’s ultra-impressive.

So was Sam Eguavoen. With four splash plays in the first half — including a forced fumble — Eguavoen displayed everything that has earned him first-team work. He’s athletic enough to get 10-yards deep into a pass drop (one PBU from that position), he’s strong enough to stack the edge in the run-game (one TFL there), and he’s instinctive enough to knife between blocks between the tackles (another TFL there).

The 26-year-old rookie’s most impressive play came in coverage (second clip in the video below). Carrying coverage up the seam, locating the hook zone, and then quickly pulling the trigger as the ball goes out to the flat, Eguavoen punished the receiver and forced a turnover.

Nick Deluca played with the first-team. It’s pretty clear what he does well and how he fits in this defense. He can scrape the edge and assist in the run game — something Miami needs with the injuries at the position mounting.

 

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard was held out of this one, probably because of the weather, but we got our first look at Eric Rowe. Rowe’s appearance was brief and not memorable one way or the other.

Jomal Wiltz, Nik Needham, and Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled. Tackling was an issue for the two slots while Needham was bested in coverage again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick did contribute with a gorgeous pass breakup early on against former Bama teammate O.J. Howard, but these missed tackles are new for him — there’s no reason to think he won’t clean it up.

Torry McTyer competed for the second straight game, and this time against the two’s. He’s taking well to the press-man scheme this defense prefers to run.

Safeties

Chris Lammons flashed time-and-time again. A prominent fixture on special teams, his #30 jersey showed up against the run, the pass, and one very impressive tackle on a screen pass.

Bobby McCain is so often out of frame that it’s difficult to identify him on the broadcast. He did, however, come up once in run support like a missile, and has done well to click-and-close in deep coverage.

Montre Hartage is running as the second-team deep safety. He missed a tackle on a big play in the screen game, but it was whistled back on a holding call.

Maurice Smith was active in the middle of the field. If Reshad Jones and/or T.J. McDonald aren’t back for the season opener, Smith might be called on to play significant reps.

Recap

This is the team I expected to see last week. Strong defensive effort, creative and complex scheme that overwhelms the offense with its disguise, and an offense that can’t get out of its own way.

After the dominant first-half effort by the defense, Flores kept prominent defenders (Harris, Fitzpatrick, Eguavoen) on the field, which felt odd.

The primary specialist unit continues to look the same. Cornell Armstrong, Nick Deluca, Terrill Hanks, Cox, Smith, Hartage, Wiltz, Fitzpatrick, Smythe, and Lammons remain focal points of the unit.

Miami took the lead with only 34 seconds to play, and Flores will certainly express his displeasure for the inability to close. Not to mention the absurd number of penalties. This was simply a sloppy game on Flores’ road debut.

Jason Sanders is a hell of a kicker. He drilled kicks right down the middle from 45 and 49-yards out on a sloppy playing surface.

Regardless of who starts under center, this team needs several things to function on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant need to get back, and Laremy Tunsil has to stay healthy.

All things told, Rosen has been making more out of a bad situation than Fitzpatrick, but the plan was probably to start the veteran on opening day all along — and we’re almost assured of that with the decision to start Fitz in the third preseason game.

Game Balls:

Charles Harris
Sam Eguavoen
Jerome Baker
Christian Wilkins
Patrick Laird

Don’t forget to check out the post-game recap on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

 

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins First-Half Jiffy Report v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shawn Digity

Published

on

USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Preston Williams
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Who are the Miami Dolphins’ risers and fallers in the first half of the second preseason game v. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Risers

Sam Eguavoen

The former CFL linebacker has continued to impress, and that was on full display during the first half. Eguavoen was shooting gaps and hitting the ball-carrier in the backfield.

He also was responsible for a forced fumble that was recovered by the Miami Dolphins. All arrows are pointing up for Eguavoen to make the roster and an impact for the team during the regular season.

Jerome Baker

Baker quickly made an impact as a blitzer as he rapidly got to Jameis Winston and at least got hits out of that exchange. While Baker needs to get stronger to bring down the quarterbacks and get sacks, it was a great sign to see Baker show this type of pressure.

Charles Harris

Have you noticed all the Risers are defensive players? Well, many of the defensive guys have flashed and surprised me so far in the game.

Harris showed some progression going into his third year, especially in this game. He showed improved hand-placement techniques and used it to get two sacks.

Fallers

Preston Williams

Williams had two major drops that could’ve been first downs. Williams has been a hot name for the past couple of weeks but has cooled down a little bit if this first half is any indication.

I don’t think it’s anything major; I’m sure he’ll get it cleaned up, but he’s fallen back down to Earth somewhat with the easy drops.

Williams did almost redeem himself with a nearly acrobatic touchdown catch but had just barely gone out of bounds.

Michael Deiter

It was only a matter of time before Deiter started struggling. He’s a still a rookie after all. He was responsible for a false start and got lucky that another was missed. It was just all-around rough for Deiter.

 

 

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending