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Miami Dolphins

Minor League Miami Dolphins

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins truly are a pathetic organization. This isn’t about Ja’Wuan James “worth” and if he was paid more than his value dictates. That aspect can be debated thoroughly; but when you finally do come to a conclusion, you realize he wasn’t one of those players that was absurdly “overpaid”.

Regardless, what’s the point of drafting talented players if you aren’t going to retain them?

Do any of you have any hope that your Miami Dolphins are going to re-sign Laremy Tunsil or Xavien Howard? And if you do believe Miami isn’t that stupid and they will actually re-sign them, do you think they’re going to get it right?

There’s a common theme with the Dolphins. They have the ability to identify talent in the draft, but they refrain from trusting their judgement enough to pay them “early”. As if paying someone for their current accomplishments and future performance is too risky for them.

There’s also one common theme with the organization throughout that time. You can say it’s Stephen Ross (though he wasn’t around when Bill Parcells took Jake Long #1 overall), but no, that person is Chris Grier.

I’m not sure what his actual role was this entire time, but it seems to be uncovering “acorns” in the draft and then allowing them to walk away. Did he not have a say in the players he scouted? Did he believe players like Andre Branch and Kiko Alonso were worth more money than Jarvis Landry?

What exactly did we get ourselves into by promoting Chris Grier? Which successful decisions can we attribute towards him and which mistakes can we blame on Mike Tannenbaum or Joe Philbin?

Here are the draft picks Miami has offered extensions to since Stephen Ross became 95% owner of the Miami Dolphins in 2009:

Note: this doesn’t include players who have received a 5th-year option; these are players that have received a brand new, multi-year extension from the Dolphins

  • Brian Hartline
  • Koa Misi
  • Reshad Jones
  • Mike Pouncey
  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Walt Aikens
  • Bobby McCain

Here is a (long yet incomplete) list of draft picks that have gotten away since Stephen Ross took over:

  • Jake Long
  • Kendall Langford
  • Vontae Davis
  • Sean Smith
  • Jared Odrick
  • Nolan Carroll
  • Charles Clay
  • Olivier Vernon
  • Lamar Miller
  • Rishard Matthews
  • Dion Jordan
  • Jamar Taylor
  • Dion Sims
  • Mike Gillislee
  • Caleb Sturgis
  • Jelani Jenkins
  • Ja’Wuan James
  • Jarvis Landry
  • Jay Ajayi

This list doesn’t include (every) draft “bust” like Jordan Phillips or DeVante Parker. Nor does it include undrafted free agents (like Cameron Wake), but even if we did, it’s fairly obvious which list is more alarming that the other.

We can blame Bill Parcells, we can blame Jeff Ireland, and we can blame Mike Tannenbaum, but there’s one underlying constant and that’s the current GM of this football team.

Now that he has his opportunity, we watch a franchise right tackle walk away, even though he could have been retained a year or two ago for a price you actually would have wanted.

We might watch a cornerback get traded or walk away next season because Miami is too scared to pay him one year “too early”.

It’s possible we watch the best emerging left tackle in the game walk away in two years because his price skyrockets far above anything the team expected.

Look at all of the “stupid money” floating around in free agency this offseason.

  • Trey Flowers for over $80m
  • C.J. Mosley for $85m
  • Landon Collins for $84m
  • Nick Foles for $88m!
  • Tyrann Mathieu for $42m
  • Justin Coleman for $36m
  • Jamison Crowder for $28.5m

Now look at what Trent Brown – a converted offensive guard that had one successful season at left tackle – made with the Oakland Raiders: 4-yr, $66m ($36.75m guaranteed).

If you say “who” to anyone on this list, it only further exasperates the point. Other than Flowers, Mosley and Collins, who are all very good players, the rest of the free agents are nowhere near the caliber of player Laremy Tunsil or Xavien Howard are.

If you think Laremy Tunsil is going to sign for anything close to what Brown just made you are most certainly mistaken. Again, this isn’t about if the money is “stupid” or not, it’s taking into account the current market, mixed with the influx of available cash/cap, paired with an increasing cap each year – which means Laremy Tunsil is going to cost far more than any left tackle is making currently. Especially if you decide to wait two more years.

The Dolphins might be sacrificing current cap space if they sign these players early, but they’re saving themselves future cap space. Foresight….it’s a crazy concept.

The main reason the Dolphins can’t afford to spend early on their draft picks is because they’re always putting themselves in cap hell with the horrendous free agents they sign. Extending Reshad Jones, Mike Pouncey, Ryan Tannehill and signing players like Ndamukong Suh and Mike Wallace forces you to a tight cap space which means you can’t allocate extra money to players that actually deserve it.

So now that you can take all of the players the Dolphins have released and pit them against the current Dolphins roster and win, I’d say Chris Grier has a lot on his plate.

Is he going to let Tunsil, Howard and eventually players like Kenyan Drake and Minkah Fitzpatrick just walk away (or traded for pennies on the dollar)? Then you have a building case for why Grier shouldn’t be running this team, and why it’s probably more-likely that he’s a spy for the New England Patriots than a productive general manager for the Miami Dolphins. Maybe he can manage that 33rd NFL team he’s sending all of these draft “finds” to each offseason.

While we should all be cheering the fact that the Miami Dolphins haven’t unnecessarily splurged on players “just cause”, we have to wonder why it gets to the point where Miami either overpays or has to be honored for not overpaying.

Because seriously, this year’s free agency victory was “Miami didn’t do something stupid!”

How do we change that narrative? Is it with Chris Grier as the general manager? Right now, I’m not so sure about that one….

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.



  1. Avatar

    Kevin Chapman

    March 12, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Keep it positive bro-seph.
    Hang in there, the climate change is in full swing!

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 12, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      That change is definitely coming, Kevin! Glad to see this team hold off on splurging for the FA. Now if only they begin to sign their own top players before they become too expensive. Fingers crossed that comes with the climate change as well

  2. Avatar


    March 12, 2019 at 10:04 am

    “Franchise Right Tackle”? Is there such a thing? If there is it certainly isn’t James. James is an average right tackle getting paid elite money. I’m overjoyed they let him walk at that price. He will be easily replaced. And we will get a compensatory pick in 2020.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 12, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Right tackle certainly isn’t on the same level as LT, CB, QB or even DEs, but James could have been your right tackle for an extended period of time.

      The compensatory pick will be very nice for Miami, that’s true. Just wish they took the risk and signed him earlier in his career rather than waiting until his value ballooned higher than his worth.

      Then again, hard to predict that when he was coming off of a year in which he played in only 8 games.

  3. Avatar


    March 12, 2019 at 12:26 pm

    It’s fair to critique the Dolphins for how they handled their draft picks in recent years, but you can’t fault this individual decision based on where they were entering free agency. This was the smart move given where this team. (cough: they don’t have a QB if you think tannehill is getting cut.) I feel like somehow James has improved exponentially over the last few months, as there was not this kind of fire about his play at Week 17.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 12, 2019 at 1:07 pm

      This FA period certainly hyped up James more than his play was warranting at season’s end. That said, I still believe he was a good RT for us. My biggest complaint with this move is that Miami had the ability to re-sign James going into 2018 and held back due to the uncertainty he provided (which, can’t deny, was there coming into 2018 with his injury history). If they would have taken the risk it’s possible they have James at a 4-yr/$36m deal ($9 per year) rather than paying the 5th-year option at around that price and now losing him to Denver. It will require additional assets (spending $ on lesser talent or using a draft pick) just to replace him.

      Wonder if Jesse Davis is their answer.

      Can’t fault them for letting James go on that contract, just wish they would have nabbed him a littler earlier.

  4. Avatar

    Ken Booker

    March 12, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    I know how you feel. Been a fin fan for over 46 years. They were the only sports team in Fl. I love my fins, but the team has been run badly since Shula was run out of town. But i could never turn my back on them. I pray to holy God that this team can turn it around before i friggin die.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 1:55 pm

      It’s been some dark times – if only I was able to experience those prime Shula and/or Marino years. They will eventually turn it around, and it’ll feel very sweet when they do. Hopefully that comes sooner rather than later.

  5. Avatar


    March 12, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    The Dolphins are indeed pathetic since S. Ross became the owner. All the miscues you mentioned on extending contracts are the fault of the stupid FO. They overpay millions to players like M. Wallace, but let go players like Landry, Vernon, Miller, etc etc.
    No hope that this team can regain the excellency that once enjoyed as far as this moronic and dilettante owner remains in the (dis)organization…sadly for us the faithful and all-time Dolphins fans.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      Have to like that Ross is always willing to spend, but it took him awhile to acclimate to being an NFL owner (if he’s even there at all) and in that time the Front Office has built this team terribly. Have to just hope that they turn it around this time.

  6. Avatar


    March 12, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    While I totally understand your frustration with past FO’s letting some in house talent walk, I see this as Grier/Flores and Co. trying to bring a bit of the Patriot way down south via the compensatory draft pick model.

    If Miami hones in on some low tier free agents, and especially dudes who’ve been cut (since they won’t count against the comp. pick formula), we can net a 3rd and a 5th potentially. We’ll survive the loss of James, although it would have been nice if we signed him a year ago at a slight discount.

    I just messed around with Spotracs salary calculator for 2020, and with a bit of tinkering its not out of the realm of possibility that we can have over 100 mill in cap space by then as well. Plenty of funds to bring back X, Tunsil and even Drake if he excels this year.

    Now if Grier decides to let X walk, then I’ll be a pissed as well. If we hit on a second CB this draft we can have Surtain/Madison 2.0 (or 3.0 depending on if you count Smith and Vontae lol).

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      I agree and do believe that this team is setting their cap up nicely for 2020 (have a piece coming out on that in the future). Between Grier getting his own grip on the show and with the input of Flores and the rest of the Patriots staff (along with Jim Caldwell and other experienced coaches coming over), Miami may finally be building it right.

      Hopefully this regime learned from past mistakes and don’t let Tunsil or Howard out the door. Would absolutely love that shutdown tandem at corner (especially with Fitzpatrick back there as a safety or in the slot)

  7. Avatar


    March 12, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    So let me get this straight…PFF ranks James tied for 34th in the NFL…there’s only 32 teams in the league, which puts James in the bottom half of the league…and the Ponies just made him the highest paid RT in the league??? So in a contract year, James busts his butt to be the very best he could be, and average was the very best he could achieve…and that’s worth $13 mil a year??? Denver paid him TWICE what he was actually worth…and now that James got the big bucks, do you REALLY think he’s going to bust his butt to get any better??? If I was a gambling man, I’d wager good money Denver cuts him in 2 years when they realize just how much they over-paid his average at best butt.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm

      There are a few things that irk me with James walking. Is he “overpaid”? Yes. That’s not the kind of money I want to pay James. But, if we are looking to build around a young quarterback this year or next year you’re going to want to protect him. By letting James go, you now have to spend $ on lesser talent or use a valuable draft pick on a replacement (or find a replacement lower in the draft, but Miami hasn’t been able to uncover that in the past – with Grier as director of college scouting or “general manager”).

      If Miami looked into extending him last year, coming off of a season in which he only played in 8 games, they could have had him for $8-$9m/year. It’s risky, of course, but it’s the kind of risks Miami takes and seems to get wrong (Hartline, Tannehill, Jones, etc).

      James may have been ranked 34th, but it’s something to take with a grain of salt. Todd Gurley is the 18th-ranked RB and I’d rather have him over anyone except Barkley, Zeke or maybe Chubb (contract plays a huge part). I do think James is a very good RT – good enough that he isn’t necessarily elite, but you don’t have to worry about him.

  8. Avatar


    March 12, 2019 at 10:26 pm

    This is a severe overeaction. I dont know why your acting like his performance was something that was worth what he was paid. Juwuan James is not an impact player. He is simply replaceable yet is now the highest paid RT in the NFL. His work in the run game was also atrocious every single year he was in the league.

    Alot of the players you mentioned that we let go made sense to let go of, but lets just focus on James. If we sign James to anything near what he was offered, he continues to be mediocre while costing top dollar, which restricts our ability to resign key difference makers like Howard and Tunsil.

    Your arguement goes against your own logic. James is not a great player. He was above average to average and will not see the end of his contract. See Olivier Vernon/Jarvis Landry. In the mean time we can pay real play makers.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      March 13, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Depends which playmakers we’re deciding to pay? We didn’t extend guys like Vernon or Landry early because we were too busy extended Branch or Kiko or reworking Tannehill or Suh’s contracts because we needed the cap space.

      It’s the poor overall cap management and the inability to retain/extend the right players is what gets me. Although James is not worth the money he received, he could have been retained for $8-9m/year if the team jumped on signing him early (coming off of a season in which he only played 8 games). Now, Miami needs to spend $ on lesser talent or spend draft picks on his replacement.

      As for others, it’s safe to say there are a bunch that didn’t/won’t “earn” the contracts they received; it’s just that Miami never finds a way to retain them. If you sign Olivier Vernon a year early you don’t extend Andre Branch, spend a 1st-round pick on Charles Harris, and then send a draft pick to eventually use the same amount of cap space on Robert Quinn….that’s the repercussions of letting good players walk.

      Miami replaced Jarvis Landry with Albert Wilson and they were only able to get 7 games from him and who knows if he’ll be the same player last year.

      Miami spent 2nd and 3rd round picks on Jamar Taylor and Will Davis to try and replace Vontae Davis and Sean Smith and they weren’t all that great. Then Miami sends Taylor to Cleveland and he becomes a viable starter (at worst, a really good depth player).

      Why does Miami constantly extend the wrong players?

  9. Avatar


    March 13, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    The future is here! Can anyone say 3-13 or 3-12 for the next dozen or so years? A good season is going to be 7 or 8 wins. The Dolphins front office has made some big mistakes over the years, by not signing players early enough, spending too much on free agents and making just plain stupid mistakes. Top all of these moves off with the amazing incredible and completely moronic idea of signing a coach that has NEVER been a coordinator and guaranteeing his contract for 5 years! That is the ultimate in stupid decisions. And hiring a guy from the Cheatriots makes it even worse.

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Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis

Travis Wingfield



Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers

The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.

Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.

Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.

That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.

Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.


Year Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)
2017 399 (38.2%)
2018 401 (39.2%)
2019 0


A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.

Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.

Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.

Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.

First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.

His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.

This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.

That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.

The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.

Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.

The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.

Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.

If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.

Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.

Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.

Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.

The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.

Now, for the tape.

If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.

We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.


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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton

Chris Kowalewski



Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.

By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.

Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.

While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.

Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield



Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D

Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Weather: Dome
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21

The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.

This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.

Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.

The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.

The Scheme:


The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.

Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.

Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.


On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.

With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.

Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.

Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.

The Players:


Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.

The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.

Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.

Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.


Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.

Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.

Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.

If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.

Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.

The Opportunities:

Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.

Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.

The Projected Outcome:

The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.

Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.

Dolphins 6
Cowboys 31


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