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Miami Dolphins Bottom-5 Worst Draft Picks of the 21st Century

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jonathan Brownfield-USA TODAY Sports

What a strenuously easy task to take on.

In a century littered with terrible draft picks, the problem wasn’t finding players to fit the criteria, it was deciding which players were more-deserving than the others.

Though every team is expected to have annual draft “busts”, the Miami Dolphins have made it their mission to screw up the most-prominent picks they have accrued this century.

How often do teams get multiple 2nd-round draft picks 3 years in a row (answer: since 2000, 2, both the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots had multiple 2nd-round picks between 2009-2011), and yet, with those additional selections, the Dolphins couldn’t create a roster that had more than 1 winning season (2016).

If you were basing your bottom-5 off of statistics alone, your list would consist of 5 players that you’ve never heard of. Players like Jeff Harris (CB – 2000), Josh Heupel (QB – 2001), Tim Provost (T – 2003), Drew Mormino (C – 2007) or Chris McCoy (DE – 2010). So for the bottom-5 draft picks, we’re also taking into account value, overall performance and eventual implications to the Dolphins franchise.

See who made the cut and who just missed down below:

5) Jason Allen – 1st-round (#16 overall)

The punctuation mark to Nick Saban‘s tenure as the Miami Dolphins head coach.

Infamously choosing Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees, Saban was clearly over-matched at the NFL level. A stellar college head coach who was used to recruiting a dominant team full of high school’s best players, Saban was surprised to learn that you only get a few elite talents – the rest you have to actually “coach up”.

Well, Saban’s coaching philosophy of yelling at everyone was confirmed after he made Manuel Wright cry during training camp back in 2005. Problem is, it didn’t translate to a successful NFL team.

Insert one of those lottery tickets Saban had to work with. Instead of bolstering the team around him, he failed miserably when he over-drafted Jason Allen with the 16th-overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft.

It’s easy to look at this in retrospect, but the only players selected after Allen that you could deem as “worse” picks were Manny Lawson (22nd-overall), John McCargo (26th) and Kelly Jennings (31st). The next cornerback taken in the draft? Antonio Cromartie at 19.

Allen lasted 4.5 years with the Dolphins and was active for 71 total games while starting just 19 of them. He averaged less than 2 interceptions per season with Miami (8 total interceptions), forced one fumble back in 2007, and never even recorded a quarterback hit let alone a sack. Allen had 19 passes defended during his Dolphins tenure, which was a mere average of 4.22 per season. And it’s not because opposing QBs avoided Allen, he just never seemed to defend his assignment well.

A missed 1st-round pick at #16 overall isn’t terrible, but General Manager Randy Mueller (2005-2007) is responsible for Ronnie Brown (not Aaron Rodgers), Jason Allen (not….anyone else) and Ted Ginn Jr. (the second receiver taken after Calvin Johnson that draft). If there was a worse stretch of crushing 1st-round draft picks for the Miami Dolphins, it was well before the NFL draft was viewed as favorably as it is now. While all 3 have hurt Miami in their own ways, Allen is certainly the least productive of the bunch and he finds himself above the other two disappointments.

4) Phillip Merling – 2nd-round (#32 overall)

Essentially an extra 1st-round pick, Miami figured it would solidify two bookend positions by getting an elite left tackle and a dominant defensive end. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, only 1/2 of that premonition came true (Jake Long) – and even that reprieve was only temporary.

Phillip Merling was an absolute disaster for Miami. Kendall Langford, drafted in the 3rd-round and 34 picks later, had a much more extensive and productive career than Merling did; which is great for Langford and the “acorn” they were able to uncover, but it also means that Miami’s most valuable assets (high draft picks) were failures that required additional assets to cover these mistakes.

Merling survived his rookie contract with the team, but managed to start just 5 games throughout his tenure. He combined to record 67 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss and 10 QB hits (an average of 16.75 tackles / 1.25 TFLs / 2.5 QB hits per season).

His lone highlight remains the infamous interception return for a touchdown against Brett Favre and the New York Jets to help seal the division for Miami in 2008. Though even that memory doesn’t sway us from remembering how underwhelming he was for the Dolphins.

3) Pat White – 2nd-round (#44 overall)

It shows you just how much of an impact Players 1 and 2 on this list had for the Miami Dolphins organization when Pat White is #3.

From a player perspective, Pat White is most likely the worst draft pick this century. When researching his statistics, he appears as a rusher before a quarterback. That’s because during the 13 games he was active for his rookie season, White managed to rush 21 times for 81 yards (3.9 yards/carry) and, fitting enough, threw only 5 passes – completing 0 of them.

His career quarterback rating: 39.6. For comparisons sake, Nathan Peterman‘s career QB rating is 68.5.

Originally drafted to be the wildcard in Tony Sparano‘s Wildcat offense, Pat White lacked the size, weight, strength and skill necessary to be a productive NFL player.

Visions of opposing defenses standing utterly confused and left wondering if Pat White was going to throw, run or hand the ball off never came to fruition. And it all came to a halt after White took a nasty hit from Ike Taylor of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 17 his rookie year.

White suffered a concussion and never played another down in the NFL.

Though White’s rushing numbers in college were impressive for West Virginia (an average of 1120 rushing yards per season), his passing numbers were equivalently unimpressive (an average of 1512 passing yards per season).

Whatever Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano schemed up, it was about as harmonious and successful as their tenure together.

2) Dion Jordan – 1st-round (#3 overall)

One was self-destructive while the other affected different lives and entities; that’s probably the lone (yet significant) difference between #2 and #1 on our list.

After orchestrating a draft-day steal of a trade with the Oakland Raiders, Jeff Ireland then went and lit that good fortune ablaze when he selected the extremely athletic yet eternally turmoiled Dion Jordan.

If Ireland was hesitant to draft Dez Bryant, I’m not sure what convinced him to take Jordan with the #3 overall pick.

A history of demons that he assured was behind him, the Dolphins couldn’t pass up on a perfectly prototypical defensive end. Mired with internal struggles and negative influences from his friends & family, Jordan fell victim to the vices that plagued him; rendering him nearly nonexistent throughout his Dolphins tenure.

During his “4-year career” with the Dolphins, Jordan was active for just 26 games (41% of all possible games) and made only 1 start. He racked up 46 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss and 7 QB hits.

His “4-year career” is a mirage, as his last snap with the team was in 2014. After missing the 2015 season due to a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, and missing 2016 “recovering from an injury”, Jordan signed with the Seattle Seahawks and proceeded to have a more-productive 5-game stretch out west than he combined to have in 4 years back east.

In just those 5 games, Jordan accumulated 18 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss and 5 QB hits while also forcing a fumble – which was something he never accomplished in Miami (a turnover).

Since Jordan last played for the Dolphins, the team has gone through players like Mario Williams, Andre Branch, Robert Quinn and Charles Harris in hopes of finding a suitable starting defensive end. Olivier Vernon was the last productive player to line up opposite Cameron Wake, and he only cost a 3rd-round pick. To still be searching for a viable defensive end 6 offseasons later speaks to the detriment Jordan caused as a failed #3-overall pick.

Honorable Mentions

Here we have the list of players that bring us dread, discomfort and dismay. These players weren’t simply unsuccessful, but they were a detriment to the franchise. Some only for a short period of time, while others left an eternal mark. Check out which players did just enough to avoid the list:

Daniel Thomas – 2nd-round (#62 overall)

A phenomenal running back in college, the Dolphins figured they identified a steal when they traded their 3rd (79th- overall), 5th (146th-overall) and 7th (217th-overall) round picks to move back into the 2nd-round and select Daniel Thomas.

Averaging 1425 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns his final two years at Kansas State, Thomas combined for just 1480 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns throughout his 4-year NFL career. His 3.6 yards per carry career average didn’t translate to the “downhill running back” he was intended to be, as Thomas didn’t have the strength to break through the defensive line, and he didn’t have the speed to outrun opposing linebackers and defensive ends.

Eventually released and brought back on two separate occasions, Thomas may be the final lesson the Miami Dolphins front office learned about the running back position and its evolution.

Koa Misi – 2nd-round (#40 overall)

On this list more for the all the jokes we can sling at the front office than his overall production, Koa Misi wasn’t a bad linebacker for the Dolphins….when healthy. Problem is, his health deteriorated relatively quickly, and after signing a contract extension in 2017, he was almost immediately placed on Injured Reserve due to his neck injury. This extension cost the Dolphins a chance at signing Zach Brown, who went on to have one of the best seasons for any linebacker that year.

Truth be told, Misi wasn’t a bad player for the Dolphins during his rookie contract. He signed his first extension in 2013 and did have three productive seasons from there. However, his production was never dominant, and outside of his rookie season where he seemed to do a little bit of everything (2 passes defended, 2 fumble recovers, 1 touchdown, 4.5 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss and 7 QB hits), Misi was simply an average linebacker.

Normally not one to be deemed a “bottom 5” draft pick, but relying on him those final two seasons turned a solid career sour.

If anything, Koa Misi’s production further exasperates just how bad these other players were – because none of them have a stat line that even hints at being productive, let alone worthwhile.

John Beck – 2nd-round (#40 overall)

The first of the merry bunch of 2nd-round quarterbacks Miami selected between 2007-2009, John Beck’s inefficiency is the reason we have the legendary Cleo Lemon to Greg Camarillo play we have today.

After losing the first 4 starts of his career with a 56.1% completion percentage, 559 yards (less than 150 yards per game), 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions, Beck was replaced by Lemon in Week 15 against the Baltimore Ravens. It was the only game Miami won that season.

If anything, we can thank Beck for his aid in helping Miami tank. It should have set us up for the perfect rebuild, but instead, the Dolphins decided to select….

Jake Long – 1st-round (#1 overall)

It’s an understatement to say that this one set the franchise back a bit. In fact, you can argue that the Miami Dolphins have yet to recover from this draft. While selecting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers in 2006 is equally as bad (if not worse), Miami still had an opportunity to get themselves out of mediocre oblivion by selecting Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick in the draft. Instead, we got a potential hall of fame left tackle that broke down just as his medical report suggested.

Jake Long was an excellent left tackle for the first 4 years of his career, but injuries began to take a toll and the former #1-overall pick began to wear down.

Initially, you had a point if you said Miami made the right decision drafting Long. He was essentially a lock to go to the hall of fame, and you figured the team could find that quarterback at any other point during his career. Well that logic subsequently gave us John Beck, Chad Henne and Pat White in the 2nd-round of the draft – all in successive years (2007-2009). Also, unlike bonafide franchise left tackles like Joe Thomas or Jason Peters, Jake Long didn’t have a prominent and lengthy career, meaning Miami is yet again on the infinite loop of rebuilding.

Leonte Carroo – 3rd-round (#86 overall)

As if you needed to be reminded of the asinine value Miami gave up to trade up and acquire Leonte Carroo.

The Dolphins figured they were able to uncover a dominant receiver from Rutgers – a school not known to produce much NFL talent (Ray Rice is the most prominent player from that school) – and traded a 3rd, 4th and 6th round pick to move back into the 3rd-round and select Carroo.

I believe a player is worth the cost if you have conviction they’re the person you need, but you better make sure you’re selecting the right talent if you’re giving up more than double the value for the pick you’re acquiring. Carroo never paid off for Miami, and it was a mistake that cost them way too many additional resources. If the rest of the bottom-5 choices weren’t so bad, there’s a good chance Carroo would find himself here simply due to his cost.

When looking back at the Leonte Carroo trade, this quote from Chris Grier in 2016 stood out: “This is a guy who is a targeted player. A highly competitive kid who loves football.”

In fairness to Carroo, he did have 1 more receiving TD in 2018 after Aaron posted this GIF.

Eddie Moore – 2nd-round (#49 overall)

An unfortunate addition due to his health rather than his skill, Eddie Moore wasn’t able to take off with Miami after sustaining a season-ending injury in training camp his rookie season. Moore returned in 2004 and was underwhelming, starting just 3 games (active for 13) and recording 34 tackles with 1 tackle for a loss. An additional season-ending injury in 2005 spelled the end of Moore’s career, as the Tennessee linebacker never played another down in the NFL.

In the midst of having one of the best defenses of the early 21st-century (featuring Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor, Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, among other greats), a 2nd-round pick in the middle of the field could have elevated that defense to another level.

Dallas Thomas (2013) / Michael Egnew (2012) / Patrick Turner (2009) / Derek Hagan (2006) / Ben Kelly (2000)

A group of failed 3rd-round picks for Miami.

None of them cost the Dolphins more than the team’s 3rd-round pick in each respective season, so it’s hard to say that any of them deserve to be named in the Top-5. That said, each of these players were a detriment to the Dolphins during their tenure, requiring the team to use additional draft capital or spend on free agents to replace the mistake of drafting them.

  • Dallas Thomas was the poster boy to one of the worst offensive lines in Miami Dolphins history.
  • Michael Egnew was so out of place in the NFL, he was easily surpassed by the emergence of Charles Clay and the instant depth/production Dion Sims provided after being drafted in 2013.
  • Patrick Turner was outplayed by the receiver drafted one round after him (Brian Hartline) and just about everyone else on the team that training camp, leading to him being active for only 2 games and released the following offseason.
  • Derek Hagan was the sole surviving wide receiver after 2007 when Marty Booker was released, Chris Chambers was traded and Wes Welker was dealt the prior offseason
    • In 2008, your starting WRs were Ted Ginn Jr, Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo.
  • Ben Kelly was drafted as a defensive back and was active for 4 games over the span of two seasons…as a kick returner.

1) Jonathan Martin – 2nd-round (#42 overall)

There is just so much that encompasses this draft pick.

I don’t want this to seem like we’re make light of or poking fun at mental health issues, because that’s the last thing we want to infer, but everything about this draft pick was wrong – and it started before Miami even selected Andrew Luck‘s left tackle out of Stanford.

Jonathan Martin came into the NFL draft as some kind of black sheep on the offensive line. Extremely productive in college, the Dolphins thought they were able to draft their future right tackle to lineup alongside Jake Long.

The perfect example of a college player who isn’t built to be the best professional athlete, Martin was able to complete just 20 reps on the bench press during his Stanford Pro Day; an extremely low number for an offensive lineman. For comparisons sake, Jarvis Landry completed 12 bench press reps during his combine measurements.

However, his inconsistent/nonexistent production isn’t the reason Jonathan Martin is #1 on our list.

Martin is more famously known for the embarrassing “bullying scandal” that saw multiple people lose their jobs, multiple players leave the team, and the only remaining survivor being one of the main conspirators behind the bullying and one of Aaron Hernandez‘s best friends in college, Mike Pouncey.

In fitting Dolphins fashion, the team thought so highly of Pouncey that they subsequently named him team captain.

At this point, Jake Long has broken down, Miami has lost a really good left guard in Richie Incognito, their 2nd-round pick from 2012 is not only a bust, but a deterrent to the entire locker room, and the team is receiving the most attention it has since Marino retired.

Though the blame can be placed on Jeff Ireland‘s shoulders for drafting Martin, it’s hard to foresee Martin breaking down and causing such a ripple effect throughout the organization. Though we hope Martin is receiving the help he needs after threatening Richie Incognito, his former high school and others on Instagram last year, as Miami Dolphins fans, we’re still waiting to recover from an episode that has exasperated our offensive line ineptitude, and cemented the public’s perception of this organization as an embarrassment rather than a success.

Now that you’re done bringing all of this misery on to yourself, lighten up the mood as we head into the NFL draft and check out our top-5 best draft picks of the 21st-century here.

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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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins’ Jones and Howard land in top 10 CB rankings

Shawn Digity

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Xavien Howard
Image courtesy of Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – On Tuesday night, CBS Sports HQ revealed its power rankings for the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

And in their top 10 rankings, the Miami Dolphins landed two players: Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.

The rankings were created by Patrik Walker through the CBS Sports HQ Twitter account and are indicative of where Walker sees the league’s top corners as they enter the 2020 season.

Jones came in at six, and Howard landed at eight.

Howard was shut down for the most part in 2019 but saw his first Pro Bowl after the 2018 season, where he caught seven interceptions, tying for the most. Howard is going into his fifth year, all with the Dolphins.

Howard was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Byron Jones joined the Miami Dolphins earlier in 2020 after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract and is slated to start across from Howard.

Jones is going into his sixth year in the NFL after originally being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 Draft, 27 overall.

Regardless of their positional rankings, there will be high expectations for the cornerback tandem as they are projected to be the starters and already have a proven track record in the NFL.

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Are the Dolphins Done Reshaping the Roster for 2020?

Kevin Dern

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Unless you’ve been in the deepest of quarantines by now you’ve familiarized yourself with Miami’s offseason moves. The Dolphins brought in 12 free agents, 11 draft picks, traded for a running back, and signed 10 undrafted free agents. That’s 34 new names on the 90 man roster as we [hopefully] gear up for training camp in a month and a half.  Despite all the moves, Miami currently has four roster spots open. That’s 86 spots, not counting Durval Queiroz Neto, who is roster exempt, so the question has to be asked: Are they done for now?

We all know that changes will happen in camp. There could be a surprised UDFA or two that makes the roster. Someone could, and likely will, get injured to free up a spot. But, for right *NOW* are the Dolphins done?

I tend not to think so. So who might they be after? I don’t have any inside information, but from what media information we know, and some of my own speculation, I’ve got four names I suspect Miami might be onto. Two big fish and two guys that might be a little more under the radar.

Logan Ryan
The biggest name thus far Miami has been linked to is former Titans and Patriots Cornerback Logan Ryan. Sports Illustrated’s Alain Poupart had this story on May 14th.

https://www.si.com/nfl/dolphins/news/the-latest-on-the-status-of-logan-ryan-and-the-miami-dolphins-interest

Aside from the obvious connection to Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, Logan Ryan checks a lot of boxes Miami’s looked for this offseason.  Ryan’s a smart, team-first guy. He’s got position flexibility – able to play on the perimeter or in the slot and he already knows Miami’s defensive system.

But, corners in this league are expensive. It appears that Logan Ryan wants a one-year “prove it” deal. He’s betting on himself and cited Titans QB Ryan Tannehill as one of the reasons why. And per the Miami Herald, Logan Ryan’s agents have told the Dolphins he wants $10M or more for a year. That’s pricey, but Logan Ryan might be worth it; let’s take a look.

In this first clip, you can’t see him at the snap, but he’ll come in from the slot on the offense’s left side and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against the run and stops Nick Chubb for a short gain.

Later in the same game, he gets a sack on Baker Mayfield (Yes, this play was ruled a sack). Ryan will come in from the right side of the screen, again the offense’s left, on a slot blitz. He gets blocked but is able to redirect and chases Baker Mayfield down for the sack.

Finally, in this clip, he plays press man against T.Y. Hilton from the slot. That’s a valuable skill Miami will like. Hilton’s going to try and break outside, but Logan Ryan reads the play, and showcases a nice burst to secure the pick.

Ultimately, signing Logan Ryan gives Miami a proven slot player who can also play man coverage on the perimeter, allowing Miami to matchup their defense however they please. He’d also gives them a buffer from having to having to give Noah Igbinoghene a ton of snaps right off the bat, if they so desire. At worst, you could spoon feed Igbinoghene at first until he’s grasped his role, then you can increase his snaps. And with Ryan looking for a one year deal, that might be amenable to all parties.

Larry Warford
It’s not too often at this stage of the offseason there’s a 29 year old (turns 29 on June 18th), three-time Pro Bowl guard is available. But that’s just what Larry Warford is. Saints Coach Sean Payton once said that he likes his guards to “have mass and ass” in order to keep a clean, firm middle of the pocket for Drew Brees to operate. Well, if there’s one rookie quarterback this year that is built like and operates like Drew Brees, it’s Tua Tagovailoa. And, between you and me, I think Tua’s going to end up playing a lot sooner than people think.

What adding Larry Warford would likely do for Miami is solidify four of the five starting offensive line spots. If Miami signed him, I think it’s safe to assume Miami would have (from left to right) Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras, Larry Warford, and a battle between Jesse Davis and Robert Hunt. That’s a battle that Miami likely would want Hunt to win, as you can keep Jesse Davis as a swing tackle and guard. It would also allow them to bring Solomon Kindley along slowly. I didn’t watch it, but have heard that either Flores and/or Grier compared Kindley to Shaq Mason, who was a project that the Patriots brought along because he didn’t have much pass-blocking experience coming from Georgia Tech’s option offense. Well, with Kindley it gives you a chance to hone his game in total for a year or two while getting a veteran who walks in the door the best lineman the Dolphins would have.

Three quick clips of Larry Warford for you coming up.

First, we’ll see Warford and RT Ryan Ramczyk block up a T-E game. The DT is going to go outside and J.J. Watt comes inside to Warford. They switch it with relative ease and Warford is so big that J.J. Watt can’t generate a pop to knock Warford back and collapse the pocket.

Next, and this one is quick. It’s a jet sweep to Kamara going the other way, but look at Larry throwing bodies out the club! That kind of punch is something Miami haven’t had in a guard since Richie Incognito was in town.

Finally, we see a rep against DT D.J. Reader, who got paid this offseason. Reader’s listed at 347lbs, and someone that large shouldn’t be moved that easily.

Warford gives you size, smarts and strength inside. And, if Miami are going to possibly have a rookie RT in Robert Hunt, that kind of veteran presence can help bring him up to speed quickly. For my money, I’d sign Larry Warford over Logan Ryan since Miami’s Defensive Staff seemed to be able to bring in DBs off the street and get them up to speed enough to start in the same week. Kudos to Josh Boyer for that, but I think there’s more value in bringing in Warford now, and possibly for the next two or three years, than there is for Logan Ryan on a one year deal.

That said, both players would make the Dolphins better and I’m not opposed to Logan Ryan by any means.

Damon Harrison
Okay, so you’ve probably heard of “Snacks” Harrison before. But did you realize he was still out there as a free agent? Kudos if you did. Miami signing “Snacks” doesn’t seem like it’d be in the cards. Harrison is 31 years old, had a tough year last year with injuries in Detroit to the point he contemplated retirement, but hear me out.

Wind the clock back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense. Same defense Miami’s running now. The Patriots had over 1,000 total snaps on defense that year. Danny Shelton played just 31% of them, with 324 total snaps. NT in this defense is a part-time position.

That year the Patriots gave out the following snaps to interior defensive linemen:

Malcom Brown – 456 (43.7%)
Lawrence Guy – 519 (49.8%)
Adam Butler – 379 (36.3%)
Danny Shelton – 324 (31.1%)

With Miami’s drafting of Raekwon Davis, you sort of assume he and Godchaux are going to take on the roles of Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton. Christian Wilkins takes on the role of Lawrence Guy, and perhaps Raekwon Davis takes some of those snaps as well to keep him fresh. As of now, I’d expect Zach Sieler to take on Adam Butler’s workload, which was a rotational DT and someone who can be used on passing downs; Sieler has more skill there than Godchaux or Davis in my opinion.

But what if Miami were able to bring in “Snacks” Harrison to take on that NT role? It’d allow you to give Davis more focused snaps and let him use some of his upfield ability to help spell Godchaux and take on that Adam Butler role. It might mean the end for Zach Sieler in Miami, who is on an Exclusive Rights Free Agent Tender for this year. No harm if you move on.

So what would snacks bring to the table? First, like Logan Ryan, he knows the system to some degree having played under Matt Patricia in Detroit. There may be some differences here an there, but he can pick that up, and it’s a specialized role. Two, he’s a proven run-stopper. Even last year with the Lions with all his injuries he was still effective. Let’s take a look.

Here’s a back-to-back play sequence against the Eagles in Week 3.

First, Harrison’s actually lined up at 3-technique against Brandon Brooks, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. “Snacks” will never confuse for Aaron Donald and he doesn’t muster much of a rush, but he stays with the play and gets his hand up to deflect Carson Wentz’s pass.

The very next play is what he does best. Lined up as a true NT, he ushers Jason Kelce away with one arm, plays down the line horizontally and stops Miles Sanders for no gain. That’s what you like to see out of someone who is 6’3” and 350lbs.

Against the Packers you’ll see him as a 3-technique again and he defeats a double-team by Billy Turner and Bryan Bulaga and makes a run stop on Aaron Jones.

The final clip for “Snacks” comes when he gets a sack of Aaron Rodgers later in that same game. He’s going to work off a double-team by Billy Turner and Corey Linsley, gets around it, and though he’s out of his pass rush lane he keeps working and dumps Rodgers for a sack.

The knocks against “Snacks” are that he’s older than every player on the Dolphins roster save for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He battled through injuries, contemplated retirement and told ESPN that he was “hell-bent” on getting out of Detroit. Did he not like the system? The coaches? How does that parlay into Miami if he signs here considering Flores and Patricia’s backgrounds intertwine in Foxboro? While I think this signing might be more unlikely than both Logan Ryan and Larry Warford, it wouldn’t shock me given Miami’s defensive scheme and the players that Brian Flores has traditionally seen in that role.

Mike Weber
Going a little off the beaten path here. The Chiefs waived Mike Weber, who was a seventh round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. Weber rushed for 1,000+ yards as a redshirt freshman at Ohio State, replacing Ezekiel Elliott. An injury in summer workouts the next year opened the door and J.K. Dobbins passed him on the depth chart, but Weber still rushed for 626 yards and 10 TDs that year. He tallied nearly 1,100 yards and nine more TDs as Dobbins backup in 2018, and declared for the Draft.

Going to Dallas, Weber wasn’t going to get much of a shot behind Ezekiel Elliott, especially after Elliott’s contract extension. He also was beaten out by Tony Pollard in 2019 for the backup job. Weber spent time with the Chiefs on their practice squad during their Super Bowl Run.

Weber has yet to collect a carry in the NFL during the Regular Season, so I don’t have clips for you here. My rationale for Miami possibly being interested in Weber is that Miami had a strong interest in J.K. Dobbins during the Draft this year. Weber played in that same offense at Ohio State and put up big numbers as well. In my opinion, he was more physical as a runner, but lacked the explosiveness. He goes 5’10” 210lbs, so he’s bridging the gap in size between Jordan Howard and Matt Breida.

Kalen Ballage hasn’t proven very effective doing much of anything. Patrick Laird is a nice story, but is probably best served by playing on special teams. We didn’t see much of Myles Gaskin in 2019, save for the Bengals game in Week 16, so he’s still a bit of an unknown. With four open roster spots, what’s the harm in bringing in Weber for a look?

We’ll see what Miami does, and they could very well opt to do nothing. But Logan Ryan, Larry Warford, Damon Harrison, are three guys I think they ought to consider. Each of the three, in my opinion, makes the position group on the Dolphins better they moment they walk in the door. Mike Weber would be more of a reclamation project, but I like his odds of competing against Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, and Myles Gaskin for a potential roster spot.

Stay safe and FinsUp!

 

 

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Setting the Edge: Miami’s New Additions Up Front

Kevin Dern

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It’s no secret that Miami’s defense was bad last year. The Dolphins ranked 32nd in the league in points allowed, mostly due to giving up 102 points in the first two games alone. Their run defense, which was an eyesore under Vance Joseph and Matt Burke during the Adam Gase tenure remained problematic in Brian Flores’s first year. Miami gave up 135.4 yards per game, 27th in the league, and 4.2 yards per carry, 22nd in the league. Not good.

Miami’s pass defense wasn’t sterling by any means. Injuries to Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain hurt. Trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t help. But I think we all can appreciate that Miami’s passing defense progressed throughout the year despite having to field a secondary that consisted of: Eric Rowe playing two positions, Nik Needham, Ryan Lewis, Ken Webster, Tae Hayes, Nate Brooks, Adrian Colbert, Walt Aikens, and Montre Hartage at various points.

The Dolphins will have a hopefully healthy Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain back. They signed the premier free agent corner in Byron Jones, drafted Noah Igbinoghene in the first round and drafted Brandon Jones in the third. They also signed safeties Clayton Fejedelem and Kavon Frazier, who have some starting experience in the past with Cincinnati and Dallas respectively. Things are pointing up more solidly in the back end of the defense.

But what about the additions to the front?

The interior players from last season remain largely intact with Davon Godchaux, Christian Wilkins, Jerome Baker, and Raekwon McMillan all returning. Zach Sieler only played in three games but looks promising and his Week 16 performance against the Bengals was arguably the best game for a Miami defensive lineman since Cameron Wake was still on the roster. Kyle Van Noy will likely play a good chunk of his snaps off the ball, as he did under Brian Flores in 2018. Elandon Roberts will at the very least be good depth up the middle.

And the edges of the defense?

First, I think it’s important to distinguish that Miami uses both defensive ends and outside linebackers as edge defenders in different formations. So, to label them all as EDGE players, as seems to be common practice these days, is a bit misleading as it relates to the Dolphins defense. My purpose for this article is to breakdown how the Dolphins got better on the edges this offseason and what we can expect from them in 2020.  Here’s whose on the roster right now:

Defensive Ends
Shaq Lawson
Avery Moss
Emmanuel Ogbah
Jason Strowbridge
Curtis Weaver

*Emmanuel Ogbah, Jason Strowbridge and Shaq Lawson all can play tighter techniques to the ball when called upon (ex: 3, 4i, 4 and in some cases 0).

Outside Linebackers
Vince Biegel
Trent Harris
Andrew Van Ginkel
Kyle Van Noy

*Kyle Van Noy will very likely see snaps off-the-ball as a traditional ILB in addition to edge reps as an OLB. Biegel and Van Ginkel will also get snaps as stand-up DEs (ex: standup 5 or 6 tech in a 3-3-5 Bear front)

If you’ve read my articles on LockedOn before, you’ll know that I believe we’ll see Brian Flores defense really take shape this year. When Flores ran the Patriots defense in 2018, his most used formations were the 4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps), 3-2-6 (132 snaps), and 4-3 (97 snaps). Last year’s use of the 3-4 I think was more built out of necessity. Miami’s edge players were bad at setting the edge, and with their ever-changing personnel I think Patrick Graham used more 3-4 looks because it was easier to coordinate. I think this year, with the improved personnel, we’ll see more of what Brian Flores was running in New England in 2018.

One note to consider is that prior to the bye week, we saw more examples of the 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 formations, often with the same personnel. Below are several screenshots from Miami’s games in Weeks 1-3.

Standard 4-2-5
DL:  Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins Harris
LB:  Baker, Eguavoen

3-3-5 formation with 4-2-5 personnel
D-line: Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins, Charlton (OLB)
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

3-2-6 formation with three DEs (Ruby)
D-line: Biegel, C. Harris, Moss
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

4-3 Over
D-line: Moss, Wilkins, Godchaux, C. Harris
LBs: Eguavoen, McMillan, Baker

* Note Miami will play under and even looks out of 4-3 personnel.

Let’s get one thing straight. Miami’s defense is very multiple. They will play these formations with non-traditional personnel. For example, if we go back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense, watch their Sunday Night Game against the Packers. New England opens that game with 4-2-5 personnel but using three DEs in the grouping. They used Trey Flowers as a 3-technique on 1st and 2nd downs that drive. Miami will do similar things, for instance, they had Taco Charlton line up as an OLB in their 3-3-5 look seen above.

My gut feeling is that this year, Miami’s defense will more closely resemble the 2018 Patriots in terms of what they deploy, both in formations and in personnel packages, than it will resemble anything Miami ran last year post-bye week.

For a more in-depth look at that, I’ll reference you to this piece I wrote in February of 2019 shortly after Brian Flores was hired. Inside the Film Room.

The remainder of this piece will cover the following additions Miami made this offseason and how they will fit: Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, Jason Strowbridge, and Curtis Weaver.

As a whole, this group should give Miami much improve ability up front on the edges of the defense. Primarily, Ogbah, Lawson, Van Noy and Strowbridge should provide an immediate shot in the arm for the run defense. The first three and Curtis Weaver should all prove to be better pass-rushers than anyone Miami deployed on the edge last year, be it a DE or OLB.

Emmanuel Ogbah
First things first about Ogbah. He’s big. And he’s long. At 6’4” 275lbs he’s got 35.5” arms and 10” hands. He’s got power and some explosiveness – 35.5” vert and 121” broad jumps. These are things to note about him. Ogbah was having a really nice year with the Chiefs notching 5.5 sacks before an injury cut short his 2019 campaign. He uses that length and power really well to set the edge against the run, and those long arms have come in handy as he’s got 20 career deflected passes.

In this first clip, you’ll see Ogbah (#90) at LDE for the Chiefs. His play recognition here is excellent as he feels the tackle release to setup for a screen. Ogbah slows his rush immediately and looks to get into the pass lane. The Jaguars had a double screen called and Foles goes the opposite way.

Clip number two shows Ogbah’s ability to affect the passing lanes. His rush against Ronnie Stanley seems a bit off, and I think this may have been a game-planned spy attempt as the Chiefs blitz a corner from that side. If it’s not, then Ogbah has good recognition to stop his rush and drop into the passing lane and get his hands up to deflect Lamar Jackson’s pass for an incompletion.

Against the Packers, Ogbah showcases his length and speed in this pass-rush. He uses his long arms well to engage Bryan Bulaga in a bull-rush move. He’s able to start to turn the corner and executes a rip move to free himself and sack Aaron Rodgers.

In our final clip of Emmanuel Ogbah, we’ll see him against the Vikings. Here he’s able to set a hard edge against LT Riley Rieff and he’s able to get upfield enough to force Dalvin Cook to cut inside into traffic where he’s stopped for a short gain.

Overall, Ogbah’s a guy that is going to set a hard edge and has some pass-rush ability. While I get that Dolfans may be upset that 91 isn’t “retired” the way 54 and 99 are, I think it’s fitting as he’ll be deployed like how the Patriots deployed their #91 Deatrich Wise. Ogbah can play on the edge all three downs. He’s long enough and strong enough to play tighter techniques inside. There are a number of reps of him at a 4i-technique being able to stop the run. It wouldn’t surprise me if Miami tries to utilize him as an inside rusher on 3rd downs, much like the Patriots did with Wise. The plus for Ogbah is that he’s a better athlete. He’ll be able to collect some wins as a pass-rusher from 6, 7 and 9 technique looks on 1st and 2nd downs in addition to setting the edge against the run.

Shaq Lawson
Another player coached by Marion Hobby here. Shaq is a player that’s had an odd start to his career. Drafted by the Rex Ryan coached Bills, he wasn’t a super scheme fit there and dealt with some injuries. Starting only 17 career games, none in 2019, Lawson carved out a nice niche for himself in the rotation-happy Bills D-line last year. My thought is that he is going to get opportunities to replicate some of the looks that Trey Flowers did for the Patriots and continues to be put in with the Lions, coached by Matt Patricia, who runs another Patriot-styled scheme.

Our first clip of Shaq is against the Dolphins in Week 11. He’s going to be lined up outside RT Jesse Davis in what you’d call a wide-5 technique. Lawson’s a bit slow off the snap, but he’s able to make himself small and is able to cross Jesse Davis’s face with a quick swipe move and makes a tackle for no gain.

The second clip isn’t necessarily a great pass-rush rep, but the reason I want to showcase it is because of where Lawson’s aligned. He’s in a 3-technique look against RG Evan Boehm. Lawson does a nice job hand-fighting with Boehm, eventually getting free inside despite giving up more than 50lbs to Boehm. This is important because Miami incorporates a lot of the 3-3-5 looks and 3-2-6 looks in passing situations that necessitate DEs being able to play inside. A lot of the pass-rush games, which we’ll see when I talk about Kyle Van Noy, come from a wider edge player coming around into the backside A or B gap. Lawson’s ability to get push in the pocket here is key in executing those games, and in this rep he’s able to get in Fitzpatrick’s face to help force an incompletion.

We’ll move to Buffalo’s week 12 matchup against the Broncos for our next rep. Part of the pass-rush games that is so important in this defense it the ability for players to be able to rush inside and get into A and B gaps. Here Lawson is lined up in a 4-technique over Broncos LT Garrett Boles. He gets a good jump on the snap and is able to cross into the backside A gap, beating the LG across his face to get middle pressure and a sack against Brandon Allen.

Our final clip of Shaq Lawson comes from the Bills vs. Patriots Game in Week 16. You probably already know what it is. Lawson’s lined up in a 5-technique and reads the fake jet sweep play and is able to stop Sony Michel for a big loss. He’s able to fight inside of the double-team block by the LT and WR from a nasty split. This shows Lawson’s get-off and is play recognition skill. He makes a great play tracking this down from inside. At worst, even if he misses the tackle, he’s mucked the play long enough for the CB to be able to force this back inside where it’s going to get a very minimal gain if anything.

Overall, I think Emmanuel Ogbah might end up being the better of the two DEs signed for Miami. Especially at the start. But I think there’s more to unlock with Shaq Lawson. If Marion Hobby can get him to work on his explosiveness of the snap and getting that more consistent, that will go a long way toward helping him. He’s a strong end capable of lining up in tight techniques like 3, 4i and 4. He’s shown ability to rush interior gaps, and that ability may lend itself to doing some, let’s say unique, things that Trey Flowers got to do with the Patriots, like playing a 0-technique in some of their LB heavy nickel looks and in their “playground”/radar defense. While I’m not sure Lawson will get looks like that off the bat, I think that’s something feasible down the road a bit if he can make his get-off more consistent and continue to develop his hand fighting abilities.

Kyle Van Noy
The Dolphins had to, HAD TO get better on the edges of the defense. Case in point they signed two DEs and drafted two more. Brian Flores spoke after the Draft about how players not filling the stat sheet doesn’t mean they had a bad game.  I believe that was in reference to Miami drafting Raekwon Davis. But it could be applied to Kyle Van Noy.

Van Noy may be the most important free agent signing and his impact will likely be rivaled only by Byron Jones for the hidden benefits they bring to the defense.  Why do I say this? It’s because of the many different things Brian Flores and Josh Boyer will be able to do on defense because of Van Noy.

First, he’s able to play ILB, and play it quite well. He can do this in 4-2-5 looks where he’s paired with someone. He can do it in 3-3-5 looks where he’s the guy.

Here you can see him lined up behind Adam Butler in a 3-3-5 look. The interesting thing to note here is that the Patriots had 4-2-5 personnel on the field with Deatrich Wise, Butler and Adrian Clayborn up front. They used Trey Flowers as an OLB in this look opposite Dont’a Hightower.

You want him to rush off the edge? No problem. Here in this GIF you can see the Patriots “playground” defense. Van Noy will be on the left side and rushes outside the left tackle.

In this clip against Dallas from 2019, we’ll see the Patriots in a 2-4-5 look (which is a 4-man front, but with OLBs instead of DEs. Miami rain this a lot against Philly and in Week 17 against the Patriots last year). Jason Witten shifts over to Van Noy’s side and Kyle is able use his arms, get extension and maintain good leverage to set the edge and help with the tackle as other defenders arrive to make the stop. Textbook!

Going back in time to 2018 against the Vikings, I want to give you two plays that were back-to-back in the game. First, we see Van Noy lined up over the RT. At the snap he’s going to drop into the short middle and read Kirk Cousins. He follows Cousins’ eyes to TE Kyle Rudolph and Van Noy just sits down in the zone right in front of him and Adam Butler gets a sack. That’s a hidden play there because Rudolph was open until Van Noy flowed that way.

But the real treat to Van Noy’s game is his prowess with pass-rush games. This is the very next play. The Patriots are in their 3-2-6 look, Diamond, but have RE Adrian Clayborn lined up head-up on TE Kyle Rudolph, whose got a short split. Clayborn helps reroute him at the snap then rushes (something we could see Ogbah and Lawson do?). But watch Van Noy here. He’s going to be lined up off-ball over the Vikings RT. He feints a rush upfield, stops and then loops around to the backside A gap. Adam Butler and Dont’a Hightower crash towards the strongside to effectively set “picks” (Ogbah, Lawson, Raekwon Davis, Wilkins) to allow Van Noy the free run at Cousins. Van Noy unloads on him and forces an incompletion.

He doesn’t notch a tackle, sack or pass deflection. Merely a pressure here. But his ability do run these pass-rush games is OUTSTANDING. Watch the 2018 AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl victories.

Want one more? Okay, fine you’ve got me! This is in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams on a 3rd down in the first half. The Patriots are lined up in a 4-2-5 look, their marble concept (DB inserted over the nasty split or TE) and Van Noy is the MLB. He simply sits in the underneath zone and takes away two different receivers – almost like a spy. Then Jared Goff scrambles and Van Noy explodes to chase him down for a 14 yard loss on a sack!

I expect Kyle Van Noy to be featured in multiple roles in this defense. Remember the picture of Miami’s 4-2-5 look way at the beginning? He can play either LB spot in that look – outside where Eguavoen is or as the MLB where Jerome Baker is. He can play ILB in 3-3-5 looks. He can set the edge as an OLB in 2-4-5 looks. You can use him in all manner of ways in pass-rush games. And regardless of where he plays, he’s very smart! You’re going to get good reps out of him. Knowing this system already will likely propel him into a leadership role on the defense, which in my view, will help younger guys like Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan and Andrew Van Ginkel. He can make sure they’re on top of their alignments and assignments and give them a living, breathing example of what it means to be a smart, tough and physical player. Do I sound like Coach Flores yet?

Jason Strowbridge
If you’ve followed me on Twitter leading up to the Draft, you know I’ve mentioned Strowbridge frequently as someone I’ve liked for Miami. And getting him in the 5th round is a bit of a steal in my opinion. He took on a role as a DT and 3-4 DE at North Carolina, getting minimal reps as a DE in a four man D-line. With the Dolphins, I think he’ll slot into the same position as Emmanuel Ogbah and be a part of the rotation behind him.

His experience playing tighter techniques as a Tar Heel will be one thing Miami will likely try to build on in pass-rush packages. Here’s a clip from Voch Lombardi’s film review of the Senior Bowl with Strowbridge rushing as a 3-technique.

Our next clip of Strowbridge comes from the Tar Heels Bowl Game against Temple. We’ll see Strowbridge lined up at LDE in a 4-man line. He’s able to use an arm over move to defeat the TE and uses his explosion to get into the gap ahead of the pulling guard and help make a TFL.

In this clip against Virginia Tech he’s able to use quickly recognize that both the RG and RT down block and he’s able to get inside of the TE who’s trying to reach him and gets inside of the backside guard pulling. That play recognition is key and he’s able to make a tackle for no gain. Strowbridge doesn’t always exhibit the greatest get off/explosiveness off the snap, but when he does, his eyes take him to the ball well.

In our final clip, we’re looking at something subtle that I think the Dolphins will appreciate. Remember Kyle Van Noy’s pass-rush against the Vikings from above? Well, it’s plays like this from the front line that allow those pass-rush games to happen. Here we see Strowbridge lined up at 3-technique to the near side. He rushes from the B gap to the A gap and is able to occupy the RG and the C, allowing the LB to have a free run at the QB. While the LB fails to make the sack, you can see how this translates to what Miami will be wanting to do.

Jason Strowbridge will need some coaching up, there’s no denying that. But his length, power and experience playing tighter techniques will come in handy. I think his workload will steadily increase as the season moves on. But at first, I think he can help spell Ogbah at Big DE in 4-man lines and might give Miami something as an interior player on 3rd down pass-rush packages.

Curtis Weaver
I think most people are aware of the “good player, bad body” stigma that Curtis Weaver’s carried throughout the Draft process. Daniel Jeremiah said as much when Miami selected him. Weaver could be a tremendous value pick for the Dolphins. I haven’t seen Boise State a lot, but Weaver seems to be strictly a stand-up DE, and I’d think that he’d be that for Miami starting off. Think Chris Long at the end of his run with the Patriots. Weaver can be a 3rd down pass-rusher right off the bat. But I think he’ll need to learn to play the run better in order to earn more snaps.

In our first clip we’ll see that Air Force brings a wing-back into pitch phase to fake an option play. Weaver is the stand-up DE nearest to us. He’s able to read that the motion player isn’t getting the ball before he fully steps into his rush. He uses a rip move to get around the RT and does a nice job turning his rush path into the QB.

This clip showcases Weaver’s strength. Here he’s able to split a double team for a sack.

In the final clip with Curtis Weaver, we’ll see him use his length to set the edge against the run. Marion Hobby will be charged with coaxing this ability out of him more consistently. But when he does, this will help him see more reps.

How all these pieces come together should be very fun to watch. Miami now has a pair of Big DEs – Ogbah and Strowbridge and a pair of Rush ends in Lawson and Weaver. Kyle Van Noy will be playing himself. We’ll also likely see guys like Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel and Raekwon McMillan get some snaps on the edge as Brian Flowers wasn’t shy about having those three play on the edge last year.

Another added benefit to this, could be that we see Christian Wilkin’s pass-rush potential unlocked more in his second season. With some of these new edge additions able to rush from multiple spots, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wilkins benefit on twists across the line.

While I won’t make any predictions on which of these guys leads the Dolphins in sacks, I will make two others:

1) These edge defenders will help Miami’s run defense improve. A lot.

2) In terms of pass-rush and the totality of the defense, this group of guys will allow Brian Flores and Josh Boyer to run the defense the way they want to and not be constrained into boiling it down like they did in 2019.

That final point is something we as Dolfans should all be very excited about! #FinsUp

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