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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

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

Travis Wingfield

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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

 

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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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

 

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Miami Dolphins

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

Shawn Digity

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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.

 

 

 

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