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Miami Dolphins Training Camp Observations – 8/14

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins concluded training camp earlier this morning with a light practice – which is much different than the scene we saw yesterday.

After yesterday’s heated, full-padded practice (that led to a few fights and, ultimately, the release of defensive tackle Gabe Wright), it was only natural to wind down training camp in shorts.

There’s still plenty left to uncover before Week 1 hits, but we’re starting to see this team shape up.

Below are a couple things we noticed today at camp:

1) This is the Best Offensive Line Miami has had in 8 Years…is it Even Good?

It is true that this is the best offensive line Ryan Tannehill has had in his career, but how much of it is by default?

With the addition of Josh Sitton at left guard, and with Daniel Kilgore replacing a declining Mike Pouncey, the offensive line should finally be able to provide Tannehill with the protection he’s been missing for the first five years of his career.

But what happens if one of Miami’s talented offensive lineman goes down?

Jesse Davis (77) and Sam Young (79) Image Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Laremy Tunsil has started 29 (out of a possible 32) games to begin his career, but even in those starts, his play has been hindered by nagging injuries.

Ja’Wuan James has started 47 (out of a possible 64) games (only 73%) to begin his career, and has been inconsistent throughout. One month, he’s the top right tackle in the NFL, the next month he’s one of the worst.

Daniel Kilgore only began starting double-digit games in 2016 (when he started all 13 games he was active for). In 2017 he started all 16 games and performed pretty well – so did he just take more time to develop and he finally blossomed at 29-30 years old? Or were the San Francisco 49ers right in expending Kilgore only a few months after signing him to an extension?

Josh Sitton missed three games last season with an ankle injury, and missed another 3 games in 2016 with a separate ankle injury. As he gets older, his body isn’t going to become more durable. Is this something worth watching for the 32-year old? Or is it just an effect of grizzly men playing football in the trenches? Prior to 2016, Sitton had a stretch of 110 starts in 112 games (between 2009-2015).

Jesse Davis may be the only offensive lineman the team doesn’t have to worry about getting injured, but we only have one-year of tape to go by. Is possible his rookie season was a fluke and he hits a sophomore slump? Or are we that confident that he’s going to continue trending up?

Given how little you’ve heard Davis and Sitton’s names mentioned this offseason (a good thing), I doubt they’re going to be much of a concern.

Kilgore has had a good camp (outside of stepping on Tannehill’s leg), and has been able to get to the second level relatively well; something Pouncey excelled at early in his career, but failed to capitalize on once his hips started deteriorating.

Where most of the concern lies is at the tackle position.

Both James and Tunsil are young and talented, but for some reason they have a hard time stringing together solid starts.

James had an inconsistent start to the 2017 season, but he was starting to string together an excellent stretch of starts ….and then he went down with the injury.

Sprinkle in a few plays like this:



And this:

And you have yourself an offensive tackle that still hasn’t earned the fans trust.

Move along to 2018 and everything should finally be perfect for 5th-year tackle, right?

Guess again:

This roller coaster is not fun, and I’m sure Tannehill would agree with that sentiment.

Laremy Tunsil has shown he can handle left tackle duties in the NFL, but how successful will he really be?

There are plays he stonewalls his defender, then passes him off so he can absorb a block on the second level. It’s fascinating to see.

Then, this happens:

All offensive linemen get beat, but after seeing Tannehill get rocked for the first 5 years of his career, it’s not desirable to see a consensus #1 overall pick coming out of the draft (who fell thanks to the gas mask scandal) struggle. This isn’t to say he’s a problem, but he has not lived up to the potential every team saw before the 2016 NFL draft.

But the worry doesn’t stop with the starters.

It’s likely that the camp battles we’re watching in the trenches are totally unfair.

When Vincent Taylor and William Hayes are lining up against Isaac Asiata, Ted Larsen and Connor Hilland, the advantage is going to favor the defense. When Andre Branch and Charles Harris are lining up against Eric Smith and Sam Young, the defense is going to win the battle.

So is the offense just set up to fail or is this a valid concern?

Miami genuinely has a talented offensive line. Both tackles are former 1st round picks, and the middle of the line is stout with productive veterans and an emerging talent in Davis.

However, we’ve seen plenty of instances this training camp where Tunsil and James have been beaten; and it’s not like it has been a rarity. Seems more like a daily occurrence.

The team will be able to survive if one of their lineman goes down, but they better hope it’s nothing serious and they better hope a second lineman doesn’t fall along with them.

Tannehill must be loving the big men he has in front of him, he just better hope they stay there.

2) Lets Clear Up Some Cornerback Controversies

A lot has swirled around the Miami Dolphins and the cornerback position. When we started camp, we believed Miami had too many starting cornerbacks. Now, it seems like they’re desperate for one. So what’s really going on with the Dolphins and their CB position?

Here’s what we know:

  • Miami thinks Xavien Howard is a legitimate, #1 corner…and they are not wrong. Let’s hold back on dubbing him a “lockdown corner” just yet, but he’s trending in that direction. He’s not a concern. About the only cornerback that’s not concerning the coaching staff right now.
  • Miami was relying somewhat heavily on Cordrea Tankersley progressing and Tony Lippett returning from an achilles injury. Even if Lippett needed more time to recover, and wasn’t necessarily ready to be the 2nd cornerback opposite Howard to start the season, the thought was Tankersley would be able to hold the position down until Lippett was ready.
  • Bobby McCain was signed to be the starting slot corner. The backup plan was for him to play outside, but, again, Miami thought they had two answers over there already. Yes, he can handle the job, but that leaves an opening in the slot. Now you’re forcing your slot corner to continue to develop on the outside (which I’m sure he’s already been doing) rather than focusing on his technique in the slot. This is not ideal.
  • Torry McTyer is a pleasent surprise, but he isn’t a starting cornerback (yet). He will need some more grooming. He’s fine for a few series (or even a game or two), depending on injuries, but relying on him means Miami is in trouble. If he can slide into the nickel CB spot while McCain slides outside that wouldn’t be too bad, though it seems Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to man that spot come Week 1. Again, not what was planned.
  • Miami brought in free agent Bashaud Breeland for a visit after his contract with the Carolina Panthers was voided due to an injury he sustained while on vacation.
  • Redskins release Orlando Scandrick, prompting immediate interest from Dolphins fans and writers.

    Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s what we can speculate based on what we know:

  • Miami has depth at cornerback, but it does not feel it has two trustworthy starters at this time. Tankersley and Lippett will be fine….in time. Unfortunately, that time is not now and may not be until halfway through the 2018 season. That’s too long for Matt Burke to rely on average help in his secondary. It also would mean more snaps for the three safeties rather than allowing them to rotate and stay fresh.
  • Bashaun Breeland is not ready to compete – which puts him in the same boat as Tankerlsey and Lippett. I don’t see Miami signing him at this point, unless it’s for a contract that’s way too team-friendly. Given how Breeland won’t be ready until the middle of the season, why bother spending money on someone who’s going to perform the same as two people you already have in-house? Not to mention he has to learn the playbook, schemes, and develop some kind of chemistry with his teammates. Miami would have been doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t host Breeland, but it’s most likely not going much further than that.
  • Like Breeland, if the Dolphins bring Orlando Scadrick in for a visit it’s because they’re doing their due diligence. Orlando Scandrick is a name we may recognize, but he has been trending downward for some time. This would be similar to bringing in Alterraun Verner last season. He’s a veteran. He’s a name. But he’s not a solution. I’m not sure I waste the money on this one either. Scandrick was the 108th best CB last year with a 55.3 rating…..that’s not a solution.

I’m not saying anyone should rest easy. It’s the middle of August – the regular season starts in less than 4 weeks – and if Miami is still looking for a starter (at any position) at the end of training camp, it’s cause for concern. But lets not blow this situation out of proportion.

Miami will be fine at cornerback. But they will need someone to step up to start the season…before the secondary costs Miami any games.

3) Passion = Good; Sucker Punching Teammates = Bad

From everything involving Jarvis Landry to Ryan Tannehill calling Ballage out, I love seeing my football players fired up. It means they want something, and they aren’t just going to settle (something I feel like DeVante Parker and Laremy Tunsil do somewhat often).

However, there’s definitely a fine-line between passion and stupidity.

Yes, passion may make us do stupid stuff, but that’s no excuse when you’re trying to secure a paycheck.

Insert Gabe Wright’s actions yesterday.

After being challenged to a fight by Kenyan Drake, Wright, for whatever reason, figured he’d win the fight by blindsiding Drake with a punch to the head. And no, Drake did not have his helmet on when it happened.

When Miami mentioned two of their players were in the concussion protocol, I instantly assumed Drake was one of them. A 300lbs man just clocked another man in the head at full strength. You or I would probably be dead….Kenyan Drake just went back to practice the next day.

Wright’s release leaves room for rookie Anthony Moten to step up and secure the last DT spot. He has performed well in camp and looks like he’s a project worth investing in.

Though if another team releases a viable DT during roster cuts, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miami swoop in and take one. They don’t necessarily need a starter, but they can certainly use the depth.

Wright was on his way to being one of the last men on the roster; instead, he made someone else’s NFL dream come true.


Kalen Ballage and MarQueis Gray entered the concussion protocol and did not practice today.
Kenny Stills (ankle), Jordan Phillips (shoulder), DeVante Parker (broken finger), Jake Brendel (calf), Mike Hull (knee) and William Hayes (hamstring) did not practice today
-McCain started as the boundary corner opposite Howard while Fitzpatrick started as the slot corner.

Note: check back tomorrow for a breakdown of how the Training Camp Battles have gone.

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 Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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