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Miami Dolphins

Miami-Washington Week Six Preview

Travis Wingfield

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The Most Captivating Game on Miami’s Schedule So Far Between a Pair of Winless Teams

Who: Dolphins (0-4) vs. Washington (0-5)
When: Sunday October 13, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 84 degrees, 64% humidity, 14 MPH winds
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3.5

As underdogs by a touchdown on opening day, Miami’s 49-point defeat quickly shifted the perception of this team in the eyes of the odds makers. After three weeks as three-score dogs, Miami aren’t favored Sunday at home, but it’s the most winnable game of the season in the eyes of Vegas.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Miami a 37% shot at victory. Since the turn of the century, no winless team with four or more games played has been favored to win on the road, until now.

Players are trained to block out the noise, but avoiding the chatter is impossible in 2019. That chatter crept into the Dolphins locker room, and reporters are getting genuine answers from all ends of the spectrum. Second-year pro, 22-year-old Linebacker Jerome Baker went as far as to say that fans rooting for a tank aren’t actually real fans.

Veteran Center Daniel Kilgore made his feelings known about the fan base’s desire to obtain the first pick.

For Washington, this might be the Dan Campbell moment. Promoting longtime Offensive Line specialist Bill Callahan comes with an attitude adjustment. Washington spent the week running gassers, utilizing more padded practices, and taking a throwback approach to this game.

We’ve seen first-hand the type of immediate impacts coaching changes can have, even if the message fades a few weeks down the line. Adam Gase infamously used the excuse that Minnesota changed coordinators prior to Dolphins-Vikings meeting last season, which harkens back to when Campbell brought a 1-3 Dolphins team back to life in 2015 with two emphatic wins.

This game is a conflicting one for the fan base. The Dolphins remain the odds-on-favorite for the number-one pick in next April’s draft, but a victory here gives Washington the inside track.

A quality performance speaks well for Brian Flores and his staff, but if the ultimate prize is the best available quarterback of the 2020 offseason, that isn’t the desired outcome.

The Scheme:

Offense:

This will be brief. With a new brain trust taking over for the dismissed Jay Gruden, it’s impossible to know what the Washington offense will look like. Or is it?

Despite the league’s fourth-highest first down run rate in the opening half, Callahan wants Washington to run it more. Despite the third-worst rushing average on these runs (3.3 YPC), Callahan insists that Gruden’s operation was too pass-friendly.

That information is made available by the venerable Warren Sharp.

The passing concepts are anybody’s guess. In the running game, there were variations of man and zone with Gruden in-house, and those calls were typically determined by which back was in the game. With Adrian Peterson, we’re likely to see more man-gap scheme. When it’s Chris Thompson, Washington is more likely to run zone.

Defense:

Washington’s defense is well-coached. Greg Manusky has been a coordinator in the league since 2007 (aside from his first year with Washington in 2016 when he was the OLB Coach). From the tape the last two weeks (one against Daniel Jones, the other against Tom Brady), Manusky’s plans are fluid.

Against the Patriots, Washington dropped eight into coverage with regularity and tried to win with a three-man rush — and they were successful. Three of the four sacks on Brady came from three-man rushes, while the fourth was a four-man rush.

They mix in zone and man-coverage, altering a lot between quarters and cover-4/cover-6 when in zone. Their man coverage usually comes in longer down-and-distances and plays with a single-high safety.

The Dolphins can attack the two-deep looks with the bigger-bodied X receivers (Preston Williams and Devante Parker).

The Players:

Offense:

Washington are currently fielding an offense that can compete with Miami for most feeble attack unit in the league. The good news (or bad, depending on which side you’re on) is that Case Keenum was a full participant in practice. He is set to return to the lineup this week.

The statuses of three limited practice participants loom large. Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses and Vernon Davis should be ready to play Sunday, and that will go a long way towards Washington’s desire to grind the Dolphins defense into a pulp.

Terry McLaurin has been the best rookie receiver in the NFL this year. He’s currently PFF’s 15th-overall graded wide out. He’s averaging 3.6 yards after the catch with three touchdowns and 308 receiving yards. Washington quarterbacks are enjoying a 126.8 passer rating when shooting it towards the rook.

Xavien Howard will likely travel with McLaurin, provided X is healthy and ready to go (limited in Wednesday’s practice).

Defense:

Tim Settle was a 320-pound space eater at Virginia Tech. Now, he’s a 308-pound versatile pass rusher that can win from a variety of techniques along the defensive line. He dumped Brady for a pair of sacks Sunday (both in the video thread). One of those sacks came from his natural nose position, another came as an end lined up over the tackle as a five-tech.

Da’ron Payne and Jonathan Allen were selected in back-to-back years out of Alabama, and both have been hits for Washington. They’re big enough to eat up blocks in the running game and offer enough explosiveness to win one-on-one matchups as pass rushers.

That front line funnels everything for this defense. Ryan Kerrigan is still a crafty edge rusher that will give [Miami’s Right Tackle] all he can handle. Kerrigan uses an explosive first step up field, and then shows his nuance to chop the hands and bend the edge.

Landon Collins is the best defensive back on the team and Washington will need him to make a play. Expect the high-priced safety to hang out in the middle of the field and try to rob Josh Rosen on the many crossing routes Miami runs.

The Medical:

The Opportunities:

Washington’s offensive operation has been an eyesore all year. The offensive line is just as bad as Miami’s — though it will improve with the return of their pro-bowl guard in Brandon Scherff — and the skill positions aren’t a whole lot better.

Colt McCoy was a disaster last week, and Dewayne Haskins was even worse the week prior. If Keenum can make it through the whole game, that gives Washington the best chance, but there are still opportunities for takeaways. The Dolphins will need a few to give the offense favorable starting field position.

Washington is going to run the football regardless of the looks they get. If Miami can consistently shut down the early down runs, Keenum will have no chance.

The Concerns:

The concern all year will start on Miami’s front line. Josh Rosen doesn’t get rid of the ball fast enough to mitigate Miami’s protection issues, and the Washington front-seven might be able to tee off in this game — they did against Brady for a half.

If Miami can’t establish any run game, or effectively get out in front of the chains on first down, it’ll be a nightmare performance for Rosen. This is the first time all season that he’s going to play in a competitive game, and the way he responds should be telling.

The Projected Outcome:

Fans of the tank ought to be thrilled with the presumed health of Case Keenum. Haskins simply isn’t ready to play and McCoy consistently bailed on quality pockets last week, giving the offense no chance.

Washington is going to line up and run the ball off the right side of the offensive line. That means a downhill approach right at Taco Charlton and Sam Eguavoen. When Charlton needs a breather, Charles Harris will check in at that position — hardly inspiring.

This is going to set football back a few decades. Special teams and the turnover battle will likely settle the winner. I’m taking Washington because I think this will be a disaster game for Rosen, and Keenum will manage the game effectively enough to support a dominant showing from the Washington defense.

Miami 9
Washington 16

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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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

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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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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

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