Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

Predicting Miami’s 2019 Roster Allocation

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

When a character on the silver screen purposes an inconceivable idea, his (or her) scene partner’s automated response is generally along the lines of, “That might just be crazy enough to work.”

Approaching two decades of futility has put Dolphins fans in a defeatist mood. Pleas of desperation reek of a starved fan base seeking any path that leads to a championship destination.

It would be awfully naïve to pretend like their cries are unwarranted. This team has abused its fan base for the better part of this century. Sans a few pop-up seasons that ended in early playoff exits, this team has been on a perpetual cycle. A cycle that leaves the fans frustrated and wanting come Christmas, but eager for new beginnings come Easter.

Now, after another coaching staff has been flushed; after the presumed answer to the post-Marino Apocalypse at quarterback went belly-up in his seventh year, most are ready to initiate the self-destruct sequence. A full-measure, opposed to the half-measures overseen by Stephen Ross and company, is the preferred method of the majority.

Nov 4, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) celebrates with Dolphins president and chief executive officer Tom Garfinkel (right) after a game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

After all, if we learned anything from Mike Ehrmantraut, half-measures only lead to innocent people dying. Or in a real-life setting, like a professional football organization, jobs are lost and sales plummet – same concept, right?

Television and movie parallels aside, the Dolphins embark on another period of change. At press-time, the Head Coach search charges on, the roster is set for some drastic change, and the team enters a critical point in the franchise’s timeline – the search for the next quarterback.

That calls for a disclaimer. This column is going to marginalize the difficulty of finding and acquiring the quarterback. Hitting on the quarterback is the single most difficult thing an NFL organization must do – I know that.

But the holes on this roster aren’t in an apocalyptic state. This isn’t the 2017 New York Jets devoid of any talent on the entire offensive side of the ball. This isn’t the 2018 Buffalo Bills who entered this past campaign as favorites to pick first in April’s Draft.

There are parts to work with.

Over the course of the next 2-3 months, Locked On Dolphins will be producing plenty of roster prediction columns. Frankly, it was our (my) bread and butter last spring. Nailing the free agent targets (Josh Sitton) and positional targets (OL, RB, WR) along with the draft plan (Fitzpatrick, Gesicki and Ballage all predicted by LOD) went far better than the prediction for what those parts would mean for Miami on the field in 2018.

Serving merely as a rough draft, this column provides a blue print for what the Dolphins will likely attempt to accomplish in the crucial months of March and April.

First, the offense.

This side of the ball, as crazy as it sounds for a unit that finished second-from-bottom in the league, is in good shape. Young, speedy play-makers at the skill positions, a pair of bookend tackles and serviceable interior linemen, the apparent needs aren’t large in quantity.

With expected cuts coming to some of Miami’s more expensive veterans (Branch, Alonso, Parker, to name a few) the checkbook will be available for Ross and new EVP Chris Grier.

That’s not to say Miami will revert back old habits by buying on the open market (Mike Wallace, Branden Albert, Ndamukong Suh). Rather, it offers a prelude to a strategy the ‘Phins should’ve under taken a long time ago.

Paying and keeping the home grown talent.

It starts with Ja’Wuan James. Any free agent lineman (or any position, for that matter) purchased on the open market is generally a bad investment the moment the ink dries. Ask the New York Giants how they feel about paying top dollar for Nate Solder – it’s bad business. The scarcity of quality play at the position pushes the price for marginal players into the stratosphere of the elite.

Miami can, instead, use any money it was considering using to pair Laremy Tunsil with a positional colleague via a foreign export, on a player that has had success in the aqua and orange.

James offers far greater value to the Dolphins than anyone that will become available the first week in March.

Sure, Miami could target a starting right tackle in the draft, but those picks are precious and ultimately wind up wasted if spent on holes you as an organization have created (refer to the scene at the Hoover Dam in the comedy ‘Vegas Vacation’).

With James back, that gives Miami a hypothetical offensive line of Tunsil, Sitton, James and Jesse Davis – only the center position is vacant.

Retaining Josh Sitton as the “Plan A” at left guard is enough to make any Dolphins fan uneasy. He has a recent history of poor medical and his age continues to climb above the wrong side of 30.

That plan must be supplemented with a young, ready-to-play-in-a-pinch swing interior lineman.

With an emphasis on James and the swing interior lineman (call this a third or fourth round draft pick), that leaves Miami with a black hole at the center position, and also in need of a swing-tackle.

Ideally these swing players never see the field. James and Tunsil missed one game each (the same game in Green Bay) and were removed from a pair of other games, mid-game.

Mitch Morse (KC) and Matt Paradis (DEN) headline a free agent class of centers that is lacking. With Mike Pouncey’s checkered medical history, this crucial position that requires stability has been in flux for a number of years. The Dolphins would be wise to invest at this core spot. Going a step further, re-signing Travis Swanson as depth and as the primary backup center would be good business.

At tackle, the free agent list is loaded with names that would provide an upgrade over Sam Young.

Sep 16, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets during first half at MetLife Stadium. Image Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

There’s one positon group on this team that could go untouched. The running backs (Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Brandon Bolden) were all productive and the Drake-Ballage duo is oozing with potential.

Wide receiver gets a substantial shot in the arm when Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant return from injuries. Danny Amendola can be cut without penalty and Devante Parker is all but guaranteed to be playing elsewhere in 2019.

Brice Butler’s immediate inclusion into the offense, and a cheap contract worth just $805,000, means he’ll be in camp to compete for the “X” receiver position. His competition will depend on what Miami are able to accomplish on the open market or in the draft.

For the sake of this exercise, I didn’t give Miami a draft pick on the first two days to spend on a receiver – it’s not a primary need.

The best bet would likely be to pair Butler with a bargain-level free agent to compete for snaps. Tyrell Williams is set to hit free agency from the Chargers; he’s an affordable option. Or, if Miami has faith in Butler, it could be a reclamation project in the form of Kevin White, Devin Funchess, or even a Rishard Matthews reunion.

Tight End is a tricky spot to figure going forward. Plenty of room for growth exists for both Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, but banking on that improvement isn’t a risk-free practice. Nick O’Leary is back in 2019 and MarQueis Gray (though he enters free agency) returns from an Achilles injury. Miami would be wise to supplement the group with another mid-level free agent.

Then there’s the quarterback. Miami is going to have to double dip at the position just to fill out the roster. Teddy Bridgewater is the name more frequently attached to Miami (he wants to play here, bring Teddy home) than any other signal-caller. Any regular of the Locked On Dolphins brand knows the preference for Kyler Murray – that’s option/target number one come draft day.

If Murray is not obtainable, then the options shift towards a trade-back, pick accumulation, and taking a shot on day-two to give Bridgewater a rookie understudy.

With that, the first ultra-rough draft of a 2019 Dolphins Depth Chart:

Offense:

 

Quarterback – FA and Rookie (Bridgewater, R1/R2 (Murray/Lock))
Running Back – Drake, Ballage, Bolden
Wide Receiver – Stills, Wilson, Grant, Butler/FA
Tight End – Gesicki, Smythe, O’Leary, FA
Tackle – Tunsil, James, FA
Guard – Sitton, Davis, R3/R4
Center – FA, Swanson

 

The defense will require more resources in 2019 – there’s no way around that. Even though this side of the ball has a lot of young upside, there are more apparent holes at crucial positions on the Dolphins stop-unit.

Moving on from Andre Branch, Kiko Alonso, Akeem Spence and possibly Robert Quinn would free up plenty of cash, but it creates holes at three spots – sort of.

Aside from Quinn, none of those players contributed in any meaningful way. It means the pro-personnel and scouting departments will be busy, but it would take some woeful mismanagement to fail to upgrade on those imminent departures.

Then there’s Reshad Jones. He makes a lot of money, the cash owed is essentially guaranteed this year, and he’s one of the pillars of this organization’s recent era. Some suggest that he could be a trade target, and maybe he will, but moving his contract would be just as hard as asking Kiko Alonso to cover a back or tight end.

So, operating under the assumption that Jones is back, that brings up the first off-season priority – perhaps even ahead of re-signing Ja’Wuan James.

Make Xavien Howard the highest paid cornerback in football.

Just do it. He’s an elite cover corner, he takes the football away and the defense melted when he was injured the final four games. The knee injuries (two in three years) are an understandable concern, but neither were extensive, nor has either shown signs of lingering effects. Howard likely could’ve played the final two games of the season, but management made the correct call to hold him out of meaningless December football.

The make-up of this defense’s strength is in the back-seven. It’s a group that has room to ascend and the best players are on rookie deals.

We’ll start in that secondary, the strength of this football team. Howard locks down one side of the field, Reshad Jones patrols the box as the strong safety and Minkah Fitzpatrick plays Free Safety and Big Nickel. Bobby McCain is your other option in the slot, and nowhere else (seriously, don’t play him on the perimeter ever again).

This leaves depth and the second starting cornerback gig up for grabs. Miami has some in-house candidates that could compete for the job, but no one from that group showed enough to give management the confidence to bypass a new addition.

Cordrea Tankersley, Cornell Armstrong, and Jalen Davis all saw playing time in 2018 – the latter as a slot corner. That trio has promise, but a free agent addition would be best practice for the Dolphins to round out its solid secondary. Bolstering a strength is an under-rated, under-utilized practice – Miami should go against the grain and make this defensive backfield spectacular.

The problem becomes compensation. With Howard making bookoo bucks, McCain eating up a nice chunk in the slot, and Jones among the highest paid safeties, funds could be tight in this department. That likely takes Miami out of the Mo Claiborne market, but Bradley Roby, Pierre Desir, and Jason Verrett are schedule to hit free agency.

The Dolphins could use a high draft choice on a corner and, frankly, it would make sense from a financial standpoint. Off-setting the cost of Howard with a rookie contract on the other side would be wise but, in this exercise, we’re using those resources elsewhere.

If the ‘Phins do decide to spend on a CB2, some cash alleviation will have to come from other positions. Running back and tight end are the “givens” on offense (Drake, Ballage, Gesicki and Smythe all on rookie deals).

Those positions are underpaid in comparison to other, more premier positions in the league, just the same as linebackers – and that’s where Miami’s relief comes from on the defensive side.

Raekwon McMillan, now 17 months removed from ACL surgery, came on like gangbusters down the stretch in 2018. Not to be outdone, fellow former Buckeye Jerome Baker had a dazzling rookie season. Once Alonso’s $7.9 million in cash-owed comes off the books, Miami will have a mere $2.2 million committed to three linebackers (Chase Allen the third under contract).

Chase Allen could conceivably serve as the third linebacker in 2019, but the Dolphins will have flexibility here. Whether it’s via free agency or the draft, finding a player with a specific, defined role (which is certainly the case for a third LB) isn’t exactly the trickiest problem to solve.

Dec 3, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake (91) reacts during player introduction before the game against the Denver Broncos at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Sweeping changes in the trenches appear on the horizon. Robert Quinn is a good, not great, player, but he’s due $13 million. Cam Wake is an unrestricted free agent and has taken hometown discounts his entire career in Miami.

Like Jones and McDonald on the back-end, Wake and Quinn’s games are modeled too closely together. Wake, most likely a pass rush specialist at this point in his career, would come at half the cost Quinn is scheduled to make in 2019, so the future Hall of Fame inductee gives it one more ride in South Florida.

Beyond Wake’s retention it’s a barren wasteland at the DE position. Charles Harris has been a waste his first two years in the league and, after axing Branch and Quinn, we’re left only with Wake and Harris.

This is where the bulk of Miami’s resources will go. And it flies directly in the face of Ross’ commitment to the rebuild, but operating under the “R” word doesn’t mean Miami should limit the number of avenues it can use to upgrade the roster.

The free agent market is stacked at the top, but those players typically require quarterback money – Miami isn’t in a position to make that type of push. Then again, if the job does wind up going to Kris Richard, his connection to Frank Clark would be awfully enticing.

Again, the big ticket isn’t likely. Miami are likely shopping in the bargain bin for reclamation projects ala Dante Fowler, Markus Golden or even Zeke Ansah.

The good news; those high-end options (Clark, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney) could push the rest of the market back to a reasonable value. Ethan Westbrooks will likely shake free from Los Angeles, and Miami could look to roll the dice for a third year on William Hayes.

And if the quarterback is out of reach in round one, the smart money is on the Dolphins first pick being spent on an edge rusher – this class is full of them.

Kicking it inside to the interior defensive line, Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor are young, cheap, and arrow-up players with quality resumes in their rear views. Miami will need to round out the depth behind them, but that can come with minimal investment.

Compile it all together and what do you get?

Defense:

 

End – FA, Wake, R2, Harris
Tackle – Taylor, Godchaux, Hood/Pittman/FA/Day-Three Pick
Linebacker – Baker, McMillan, FA/Allen
Cornerback – Howard, FA, McCain, Armstrong/Davis/Tankersley
Safety – Jones, Fitzpatrick, McDonald

 

There aren’t 53 players on those given projected depth charts as the exercise doesn’t call for predicting the back-end of the roster.

This isn’t the best roster in the NFL. It’s likely not a playoff roster. But the Dolphins will be flush with more resources this off-season than any of the previous years under Mike Tannenbaum’s questionable spending habits.

Rebuilding is still a sound, secure approach; but the team can still win some games along the way.

@WingfieldNFL

Advertisement
3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Drew

    January 9, 2019 at 8:04 pm

    Was thinking they keep Alonso and they switch to a 3-4 with Harris playing the rush LB like Bud Dupree does in Pittsburgh.
    Murray is to short at 5′-8 plus if he chooses football he needs to pay 4 mil back to the A’s. My guess choice would be Will Grier who would allow them to trade back a little.

  2. Avatar

    David Holcomb

    January 9, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Patker & Stills will excel with a good QB like Bridgewater. I was hoping for Jake Fromm as a QB to groom for a year.

  3. Avatar

    pacificfinfan1

    January 10, 2019 at 5:16 am

    This model took some time to compile but its not upgrading the core players. Its accepting lower level talent that is over paid. Players like Kenny Stills who without Landry showed 9mil for an invisible #3WR is a waste of money. The window on the core of this team comes due in 2020 when the other half that doesn’t get cut now has to also be paid. By making X the highest paid CB and isn’t the best is wasting money like Mike did with the Suh contract.

    I agree round 1 should be to get Murray to do that is going to require moving up to avoid Giants and Jaguars who are closer position to move up. Round 2 needs to be on either an IOL or DE. To move up without selling the farm is the key can Grier do what other GBs here have not been able to do like get value for trades?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 Quarterback Prospects – Week 12

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Recapping Week 12 of the College Football Season

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap
2019 Week 7 Recap
2019 Week 8 Recap
2019 Week 9 Recap
– No Week 10 Recap
2019 Week 11 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow has been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Week 12 Recap

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mississippi State, Win
Stats: 14/18 (77.8%) 256 yards (14.22 YPA) 2 TD

Today was a collective “L” for the football community. One of the best collegiate players, and widely praised good guys, Tua Tagovailoa suffered a hip injury that leaves his football future in question.

What started out as an ordinary onslaught of explosive plays — a product of perfectly placed passes — ended in potential tragedy. Reports say that Tua’s hip is both dislocated, with a fracture of the wall that retains the ball joint. This injury calls for immediate surgery and significant recovery time, if a football career is possible at all.

Tagovailoa will do everything in his power for a full recovery, and hopefully the advances in modern medicine can allow him to make a triumphant return to the gridiron.

Jordan Love at Wyoming, Win 26-21
Stats: 18/29 (62.1%) 282 yards (9.72 YPA) 2 TD, 2 INT

This game was my favorite quarterback tape to watch this season. Jordan Love exhibited the sometimes unfathomably unique arm-talent that has endeared him to scouts nationally. After two interceptions — one a bad read, another bad luck — Love showed the shortstop-like arm, supreme athleticism, and general freaky traits that have scouts drooling.

The arm-strength to squeeze the football into a tight window from 40 yards away, the rare elasticity to sling it on a line across his body while on the move, the quick release to get the ball out in the face of pressure…it looks like he’s throwing a baseball.

The added element of a designed run package and RPO game, paired with the threat of throwing the ball to any blade of grass on the field, coaches will line up to get their hands on this prospect.

Jake Fromm vs. Missouri, Win 27-0
Stats: 13/28 (46.4%) 110 yards (3.93 YPA) 3 TD

Fromm hit his best throw of the season in another big SEC road victory. Few quarterbacks have the number of scalps that Fromm keeps in his back pocket, and he displayed tremendous poise in another hostile environment.

At times, the crowd noise was deafening, yet Fromm communicated his line checks and audibles with urgency and a steady heartbeat. He made cutch, accurate throws on third down, and beat the defense with his pre-snap prowess.

Fromm has quiet feet when he gets to the top of his drop. That’s not a trait he shares with a lot of the new-age, successful quarterbacks in the NFL. Kyler Murray went first in the draft for his ability to glide weightlessly about the pocket, creating passing lanes.

While Fromm is capable of mitigating some deficiencies with his ability to get the offense into the right play, and accurate passing, he’s not going to erase free rushers with his athleticism, and he’s not going to overcome situations with a fastball throw.

Joe Burrow at Ole Miss, Win 58-37
Stats: 32/42 (76.2%) 489 yards (11.64 YPA) 5 TD, 2 INT

And in one afternoon, Joe Burrow is left with nothing to prove. The now heavy favorite to come off the board with the first pick, the second half of Miami’s season would have to take some considerable turns to get the LSU Quarterback.

Burrow remains as cool as ever in this one. He rushed his Tiger offense out to a big lead with a couple of impressive improvisational plays. The big day was saddled by the two turnovers, but Burrow ends the day as the new QB1 due to Tua’s medical situation.

Justin Herbert vs. Arizona, 10:30 ESPN
Stats: 20/28 (71.4%) 333 yards (11.89 YPA) 4 TD, 1 INT

If this was your first viewing experience of Justin Herbert, you probably came away convinced he’s a top-10 draft pick — and he will be. If you’re a regular to his tape, this game was more of the same — flashes of brilliance when the circumstances permit, but the same inconsistencies in the most important aspects of the game.

Arizona’s defense hasn’t stopped a nose bleed this year, and they sure as hell weren’t going to stop the draft’s most physically impressive specimen behind the country’s best offensive line. Herbert’s long touchdown throws displayed the hand-cannon that has scouts conjuring up the prototypical quarterback build — particularly the toss in the second half.

On the rare occasions where Arizona got heat, you saw Herbert’s lack of quick-twitch to get off the spot, without the inherent ability to keep his eyes downfield to keep the play alive. You saw Herbert make an egregious decision to throw the ball into coverage (the INT was dropped) on a first-and-goal play from the two-yard-line.

The problem with Herbert, is that this has been the story for over 30 games. He still has no signature wins or moments, and the Oregon offense is still predicated on the running and screen game.

Herbert’s best bet at the next level is a run-heavy offense that can utilize his premiere weapon — throwing on the move. Lining up in 12-personnel (2 tight ends) and allowing Herbert to get out in space to throw into layers or flood concepts on the move will be the smoothest transition for the Oregon QB to have some success.

I’m of the belief that you have to put Herbert in an absolutely ideal situation, because he’s not going to mitigate your issues offensively.

Week 12 Conclusion

Reports from the University of Alabama doctor responsible for tending to Tagovailoa say the quarterback will make a full recovery, but he is certainly in for a long rehab process. If anyone can come back from this, it’s Tagovailoa, though his draft stock will surely be impacted. If Tua enters the draft and clears all the medical hurdles, he’ll still be a first-round pick.

Miami might be fortunate if Tagovailoa is still the target. With Brian Flores willing his team to underdog victories, the chances of obtaining the first pick was becoming grim, but so too are Tua’s chances at going off the board number one.

The Dolphins will have a difficult decision to make, though an apparent contingency plan is developing behind Tua.

Jordan Love is making progress the last two weeks in his overall effectiveness, and the highlights he produced today were utterly absurd. Though he has shortcomings in his approach for the game and playing the quarterback position, his physical tools give him — far and away — the highest upside in the class.

Miami’s interesting draft season took a jump to a whole other level of intrigue with the events of Saturday.

Week 13 Schedule

Fromm vs. Texas A&M, 3:30 CBS
Burrow vs. Arkansas, 7:00 ESPN
Love vs. Boise State, 10:30 CBSSN
Herbert at Arizona State TBD

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Videos

A.J. Epenesa – Iowa Defensive End 

Bravvion Roy – Baylor Defensive Tackle

Julian Blackmon – Utah Safety (former corner, invited to Mobile for the Sr. Bowl)

Ben Bredeson – Michigan Left Guard

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

Shawn Digity

Published

on

Miami Dolphins Colin Kaepernick
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Miami (Locked On Dolphins) – Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

It was only a matter of time before someone posed the question, and maybe it’s already been asked. Does Colin Kaepernick make sense for the Miami Dolphins?

I think the answer could be yes but not in a vacuum. The circumstances would have to be aligned for it to work out.

As it stands, for 2019, I don’t think Kaepernick would be viewed as a starter to fuel any tank or non-tank talk, regardless of how good he looks in the jerry-built workout on Saturday.

Any potential for signing Kaepernick would come with a big asterisk. I think it would have more to do with the some of the draft-eligible quarterbacks that could be a Dolphin next year and the traits and abilities they possess than it does with Kaepernick and what he could do directly for the franchise.

It boils down to who the Miami Dolphins have on their quarterback short list in the 2020 Draft. A lot of this franchise’s future boils down to the quarterback. But I’ll save that lecture for another time.

I’m not sure who will be the quarterbacks on the roster next year. Josh Rosen is likely out, and I’m not sure about Ryan Fitzpatrick. Maybe he stays, maybe he goes.

Regardless, there will be a rookie quarterback on the team, maybe even two if the Dolphins double-dip like the Redskins did in 2012 with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. I’ll save that theory for another time, too.

But once the Dolphins have taken their guy next spring, I think they’ll look for an experienced veteran to fill in for a pedagogical role in the QB room.

One of them could still be Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it could be someone else, like Cam Newton…or Colin Kaepernick, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Newton would be a better fit for that role compared to Fitzpatrick, and he offers the ability to kill two birds with one stone. He can win games and bring up the rookie as he goes.

Travis Wingfield tossed around the idea of trading for Cam Newton on Tuesday’s LOD podcast. I liked the idea. Trade for Newton and draft someone like Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts, who are both much rawer than their Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa counterparts.

Of course, that’s Plan B. If Tagovailoa is still within reach, then draft him. If Burrow’s there, take him. If either of those two situations plays out, then all of the contingency plans go out the window.

But getting either Tagovailoa or Burrow is not a guarantee. So, having a scope on the other potential first-rounders is essential. I still like Jordan Love and his traits, but I also like Jalen Hurts, and I’m coming around on Justin Herbert. All three would benefit from redshirt seasons when entering the NFL.

And having the appropriate veteran guidance will be a huge blessing for the rookie’s development.

While I hope Plan A still comes to fruition, I also like the first backup plan. Here’s a caveat to Plan B, though. Trading for Newton is also not a guarantee.

There are several factors out of the Dolphins control, and that’s assuming that they are, in fact, interested in trading for Newton. If they are interested, then it becomes paramount that they can trade for him. At least they have their 2020 war chest of draft picks.

Now, back to my Kaepernick spiel. If Newton becomes a distant memory and Plan B crumbles, then Kaepernick jumps into the picture.

Kaepernick offers flexibility if the Dolphins do want Newton but can’t land him or if they’re going to save their picks outright.

If Newton is Plan B, then I’m viewing the signing of Kaepernick as a next-best Plan C. Newton and Kaepernick could both fit into the mold of teacher, but both also offer more upside than Ryan Fitzpatrick when it comes to winning games. It’s a way of having your cake and eating it too.

You wouldn’t have to trade for Kaepernick, and I doubt you’d have to fend off many other teams to sign him, either.

Allow an incubation period for the rookie quarterback while Newton or Kaepernick takes the reins for a season or two. Similar to how Patrick Mahomes held clipboards for most of his rookie season, grooming a rookie quarterback under the wings of a veteran could provide more sustainable growth for the rookie.

It’ll set up the rook to eventually blossom in a few years instead of being thrown to the wolves and also allow the Dolphins to find relevancy in short-term eras from one of the two mentioned veterans (Newton and Kaepernick).

So, would signing Kaepernick make sense? Yes, but only under certain conditions. I could see it become more likely that Kaepernick never joins the team, but there are scenarios, albeit limited ones, that could see him in orange and aqua.

But he could become a leader for the team and a teacher for the next-gen quarterback waiting in the wings.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores – The Solution to Miami’s Two-Decade-Long Problem

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

The talent has been here all along, but the coaching hasn’t been, until now

Hot, muggy August mornings signal the best time of year for football fans in South Florida. As the Dolphins head to camp, the start of a new season looms on the horizon. This past August — Brian Flores’ first with the Dolphins — we saw a training camp in Davie unlike any before.

Individual drills, focusing on fundamentals and the core basics of the sport (blocking, defeating blocks, tackling, and drilling mental toughness and a mistake-free mindset), the practices featured very few team portions.

Boring as all get out for the fans in attendance, sure, but those foundational bricks have already laid the groundwork for the least-penalized team in the NFL. In the midst of a challenging season, those repetitive, grueling days have resulted in a team that ranks in the top 10 in tackling (9th-fewest missed tackles).

The 2019 Miami Dolphins training camp period was the most important month of Flores’ tenure as the man-in-charge, and it’s already paying massive dividends. The top-of-the-league rankings in the minute, yet crucial details of the game are tremendous, and even more valuable when considering the gems Miami discovered along the way.

Those gems aren’t exclusive to undrafted free agents and reclamation projects. The Dolphins are getting career years out of former top 50 picks in Devante Parker, Mike Gesicki and Raekwon McMillan.

Good coaching with premium talent is the best way to curate household names across the league, but a team without depth is a team that can’t succeed in this league. Uncovering both bonafide starters, and rotational parts from that scrap heap is the most encouraging aspect of Brian Flores’ first year in Miami.

Vince Biegel’s pass rush productivity marks are top 10 at his position from an efficiency standpoint.

Nik Needham was an undrafted free agent who’s gone from Conference USA to holding his own against NFL receivers. Needham’s coming off a two-game stretch where he made 14 tackles, and his first career sack and interception.

Jomal Wiltz was on the Patriots practice squad last season, and now he’s a valuable, versatile part of the defensive backfield. Ryan Lewis, Ken Crawley, Ken Webster have all contributed as in-season defensive back free agent signings as well.

Sep 15, 2019; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by Miami Dolphins linebacker Vince Biegel (47) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

John Jenkins was a cut-down day acquisition, and all he’s done is led Miami in overall Pro Football Focus grade.

Eric Rowe was signed for close to nothing — a one-year, $3.5 million deal back in March. He struggled at cornerback early on, but since moving to a strong safety role — where he covers tight ends and plays a lot in the box — he’s playing some of the best ball of his career.

That list is impressive in its own right, and certainly inspires confidence in the Dolphins ability to succeed in this rebuild going forward. Even for the fan apprehensive to trust Chris Grier and company, it’s impossible to deny the widespread individual growth.

That’s where this next list comes into play. The Dolphins have had talent, and that’s evident by the players that have departed South Florida, and gone onto successful careers elsewhere.

For the sake of continuity and time elapsed relevance, we’ll go as far back as the beginning of the Joe Philbin era. Grier has been in Miami since 2007, but his role in each individual acquisition is impossible to gage. And that remains true even today as Miami — and all NFL teams — act as a gigantic collaboration.

With more than 30 scouts, college and professional personnel directors, a General Manager, Assistant General Manager, and nearly 20 coaches all serving underneath Owner Stephen Ross, nobody outside the walls in Miami knows who is responsible for which move.

To borrow the famed Bill Parcells mantra, the front office buys the groceries. From there, it’s up to the coaching staff to best prepare those ingredients and cook up a winning recipe. From Joe Philbin to Adam Gase, Miami have done very little to take on talent and produce an even better product on the other side.

We start in 2012 with the decision to trade the biggest name receiver this franchise has employed since Chris Chambers left at the 2007 trade deadline.

2012

Brandon Marshall – Marshall was an pro-bowl-level player at every stop except for Miami. His career fizzled towards retirement at the end, and he had a decent stretch in the 2011 season, but his two years in Miami produced the two worst statistical seasons out of the prime of his career. Marshall’s first year with the Bears resulted in a first-team All-Pro selection, a product of 1,508-yard season with 11 touchdowns — topping the two-year total (nine TD) with Miami.

Vontae Davis – The infamous grandma phone call request will never be forgotten, but Vontae got the last laugh on Miami. After three promising seasons with the Phins, Davis’ next four in Indianapolis produced two pro-bowls and 12 interceptions.

2013

Karlos Dansby – This move was a double whammy, as it was made to create space for all-time free agent bust in Dannell Ellerbe. Dansby didn’t make any pro-bowls after leaving Miami, but his first season in the dessert was a smashing success. He picked off four passes (two for touchdowns), broke up 19 passes, made 12 TFLs and registered his second-highest sack total of his career with 6.5.

Sean Smith – Smith infamously made a public comment during the Seahawks rise to prominence in 2012 about Richard Sherman and the freedom of Seattle’s cornerbacks within that scheme. Smith was promptly allowed to depart via free agency, but didn’t break the bank with the Kansas City Chiefs. Fresh off his new three-year, $18 million deal, Smith’s first year in KC resulted in an 84.7 passer rating against. Then, in 2014, Smith was PFF’s 6th-highest graded corner (Davis was 2nd.)

Tony McDaniel – Arriving via a conditional pick in 2009, McDaniel earned his way from the bottom of the depth chart into a rotational role. Then, in 2013, he left for Seattle and his career took off. His Pro Football Reference Approximate Value metric was never higher than 3 with Miami. His first two years in Seattle, McDaniel had an AV of 9 and 7. He made 94 tackles those two years, 12 more than his four-year total with the Dolphins.

2014

Nolan Carroll – A fifth-round pick in 2010, Carroll took some time to develop his game. Just as he did, the Dolphins allowed the Maryland product to walk in free agency. Carroll never became a lockdown cornerback, but he was a key role player for three years with the Eagles, starting 27 games his final two years there. His contract with Philadelphia paid him $5 million over two years — plenty affordable for cornerback depth.

2015

No notable losses. Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Randy Starks never had jumps in production in their post-Miami careers.

2016

Olivier Vernon – Vernon received a monster contract from the Giants, but an extension could’ve reduced Miami’s cost on the hometown product. Drafted out of The U, Vernon’s breakout season happened in his contract year, and pushed Miami out of the market to bring him back entirely. Vernon’s highest AV mark in Miami was 8; his first season with the Giants nearly doubled that with an eye-popping 15 approximate value figure.

Lamar Miller – Another Miami native, Miller never took the league by storm the way some assumed he would, but he signed a cheap deal to move to Houston after the 2015 season. This is more of a nod to the Dolphins scouting staff to find a good player in the fourth round.

Rishard Matthews – Miami used a first-round pick on Devante Parker the year before, but that premium pick could’ve been used elsewhere if Miami were capable of self-scouting their own receiver corps. Matthews first season in Tennessee was the best of his career. His 945 yards and nine touchdowns were both career highs.

Billy Turner – A left tackle at North Dakota State, Turner was shuffled about the offensive line before flaming out in embarrassing fashion through a difficult 1-4 start to the 2016 season. Turner went on to start for the Broncos, where he impressed the Packers to the tune of a four-year, $28 million deal this past offseason.

2017

No notable departures

2018

Ndamukong Suh – The original signing was probably never a good idea, but Suh was an integral part of the Rams run to the Super Bowl last season. Again, this piece is to prove that Miami has done plenty to acquire talent over the years.

Mike Pouncey – Pouncey was a shell of his former self at this stage. Injuries were always the primary issue with Pouncey, but he was a first-round pick in 2011 that played in four pro bowls. There isn’t a football fan on earth that wouldn’t sign up for that return on the 15th pick in the draft.

2019

We can’t write the final story on Laremy Tunsil or Minkah Fitzpatrick yet, but those two, along with Kenyan Drake, provide Grier with quite the endorsement of the 2016 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick wasn’t a part of that class, but Xavien Howard was, and he remains in Miami.

We might look back on these trades of Tunsil and Fitzpatrick as catastrophic failures, but both will always hold superiority to Miami’s decision to part with so many of the names we just mentioned. The Dolphins received premium compensation for both players, including quarterback prices for Tunsil.

The Skinny

Now, with almost no considerable resources on his roster, Brian Flores is getting similar production from his stripped-down squad than what Adam Gase got the last two years. And Gase did it with far more money and accolades scattered throughout the locker room.

These types of blunders stretch all the way back to Rob Ninkovich, and Evan Mathis before him. The hope, with Brian Flores and his unique ability to develop players acquired off the scrap heap, is that those days are gone.

If they are, with all the premium resources Chris Grier, Marvin Allen, Reggie McKenzie and the entire front office has to work with, the Dolphins can quickly become a team to be reckoned with for years to come.

@WingfieldNFL

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending