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Miami Dolphins

Predicting Miami’s 2019 Roster Allocation

Travis Wingfield

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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

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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?

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Miami Dolphins

Patriots-Dolphins Scheme Brief and Player Analogs

Kevin Dern

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With the Draft complete and undrafted free agents added, with a few other moves in the mix, we’ve finally got our first glimpse of Miami’s 90 (really 91) man roster as we head into summer OTAs and mandatory mini-camp.  If I were a betting man, I’d guess that Miami may not be quite done with roster additions.  I imagine we’ll see something between June 1st and the start of Training Camp.  With all that in mind there’s been a lot of speculation about Miami’s defense and how it will look.

This offseason has provided us with a few interesting bits about what we’ll see.  John Congemi state on “The Audible”, the Dolphins own podcast, that Raekwon McMillan asked Brian Flores about watching film and was told to look at Dont’a Hightower.  Eric Rowe also said that the scheme is the same as what he ran last year with the Patriots.  We also had Brian Flores answering a question during his OTA media availability saying that the formatting of defense would be different.  I would expect that answer given the personnel differences, perhaps better spelled “deficiencies” that Miami has in comparison to the Patriots defense from a year ago.  This is why I wanted to put together this piece – to examine what we’re likely to see and who from Miami’s roster is an analog of a Patriot defender from 2018.

The Scheme
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  This isn’t a 4-3 defense.  This isn’t a 3-4 defense.  Forget about those ideologies.  This defense is multiple.  Very multiple.  As I detailed in my piece earlier this year, New England is in a sub-package more than anything.  The top three personnel groupings the Patriots used last year were all sub-packages sets:  4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps) and 3-2-6 (162 snaps).  The Patriots were in a 4-3 (97 snaps) and 3-4 (13 snaps) much, much less.

Looking at the Pats top two formations, I think we’re likely to see these used by the Dolphins as well.  A good barometer for how the Patriots used them would be that if they were facing 12 or 21 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with three safeties instead of a slot corner.  If they were facing 11 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with two safeties and a slot corner or used a 3-3-5 formation.  Often times that formation saw one of the linebackers, often Kyle Van Noy, walked-up on the line of scrimmage effectively playing as a stand-up defensive end.

This defense will be versatile in that we’ll see some different things than what we saw under Matt Burke and Vance Joseph.  We’ll likely see more even fronts.

https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/sSpkRMR5QZSgWDvC-RHR8Hw/image?w=624&h=352&rev=5&ac=1

We’re likely to see their Diamond (nickel – 3-3-5) and Ruby (dime – 3-2-6) fronts quite a bit.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DVOxHjUW0AE-_sj.jpg  (Courtesy of James Light – @JamesALight)

Coach Flores has often talked about wanting to see what players can and can’t do, and slot them into roles based on those results.  Rather than trying to find prototype players, the Patriots have searched for phenotypes – particular skillsets that players possess – and have plugged them into their scheme.  For example as it relates to Miami, there really wasn’t a player in this year’s Draft that was a direct analog of Kyle Van Noy.  There just wasn’t.  Jahlani Tavai was probably the closest and Detroit snatched him in the second round.

With that let’s take a look at the various positions Miami will use and who might be fits – and those who are close analogs with Pats players.  To help digest this I’ll break it down into:  Position – what they ask those players to do; Analogs – if any; and Players – guys Miami has on the roster that will likely get a crack at the role.

PositionDefensive Ends – Let’s start here.  Miami’s defense has undergone a seismic shift philosophically.  What was once the focal point of the wide-9, Miami’s no longer going to be in the market for defensive ends that could potentially hit double-digit sacks on a regular basis.  The Patriots have used different body type over the years, ranging from Rob Ninkovich to Chandler Jones to Trey Flowers to Deatrich Wise all in order to help set the edge against the run and be cogs in the machine in the pass-rush scheme, not the focal point.

Analogs:  Miami doesn’t have a guy who can replicate what Trey Flowers offered the Patriots.  It’s why Miami were in on him in free agency and were outbid by Detroit, where another Belichick disciple resides as head coach, in free agency.  They do have several guys who can be used the way Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise were used, but until we see it on the field, I’m not comfortable labeling any as direct analogs.

Players:  For this defense, I think we’re likely to see guys classified as “Closed Ends” and “Open Ends” rather than left and right.  Closed meaning the strongside end, often with a LB outside or playing off of that player, and open side meaning the guy on the weakside of the formation, sometimes with no one outside of him.

Closed Ends:  Tank Carradine, Jonathan Woodard, Jonathan Ledbetter
Open Ends:  Charles Harris, Dewayne Hendrix, Jayrone Elliott*

*Jayrone Elliott may be more of a pass-rushing specialist in the mold of John Simon, whom the Patriots listed as a LB but played as a defensive end, sometimes standing up.  This is where I think Elliott slots in and he very well may have a shot to earn a roster spot.  He’s #91 for the Packers in the GIF below.

https://i2.wp.com/titletownsoundoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/12_elliott.gif

Position:  Defensive Tackles – The Patriots last year under Brian Flores used a rotation of four primary guys.  They also used DEs Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise as 3-techniques quite a bit, but the primary four were Malcom Brown as a 1-technique and shade NT, Lawrence Guy as a 3-technique, Danny Shelton as a true 0 and shade NT, and Adam Butler as a 0, 1, 2i or 3 technique – he was involved in a lot of the Pats’ pass-rush packages.  The Patriots would also use some packages with 3 DTs on the field at the same time, often having Lawrence Guy play as a “Big DE” as Brian Flores labeled it last week.

Analogs:  Davon Godchaux compares pretty favorably to Malcom Brown, in my opinion.  He’s country strong and has been Miami’s primary 2i-technique the past two seasons.  That’s not much of a variation from playing the 1-technique NT spot, which many fans seem to forget Godchaux played at LSU for two seasons before switching to 3-4 DE his final year in Baton Rouge.

Players:  For Miami, I think Davon Godchaux slots in as the primary 1-technique player.  Christian Wilkins and Vincent Taylor figure to handle the 3-technique snaps of Lawrence Guy, as well as potentially doing some of the 4i and 5-tech stuff, especially Wilkins.  Miami at the moment has setup a nice competition for that true NT spots.  They don’t really have a guy as yet but figure on a competition between Jamiyus Pittman, Joey Mbu, Kendrick Norton and Cory Thomas.  I think Wilkins will likely eat up the snaps that Adam Butler took, but Miami may keep Akeem Spence for that role.  Remember, Akeem Spence was traded to Miami last year by Matt Patricia because he didn’t fit the defense.  That’s Miami’s defense.

I do think there’s an opportunity for both Wilkins and Taylor to grab some snaps at 3-technique in the 3-3-5 “Bear” front with New England runs quite a bit *IF* Miami can find the OLBs to make this work.

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*VBysJsaw3lxF0Mduc7-Ueg.png

Position:  Linebackers – The Pats primarily used two linebackers on the field in most of their packages, except on third downs.  Those two guys were their Mac (Mc) and Money ($) LBs – Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.  Their responsibilities vary by formation and personnel grouping.  They’ll also use a Buck (B) when they have three linebackers on the field.  I’ll be working on a preview article as we get into Training Camp and preseason where I’ll do a deep dive on how they use these positions in each personnel package.  For now, I’ll summarize these parts.

Mac – This is Dont’a Hightower’s spot.  In the 4-2-5 and any 4-3 formations, Hightower is an off-ball LB or MLB in the 4-3 most of the time.  There are various formations, like the 3-3-5 picture above (see OLB Lee as Hightower was injured for this game), will line up on the ball in a position akin to where a 3-4 OLB would be, even though there’s only 3 LBs on the field.

$ – This is Kyle Van Noy.  Van Noy will line up off the ball in 4-3 formations or will be the SAM if they use an Under look – which is rare.  In the 4-2-5 groupings he and Hightower are the two main off-ball linebackers.  In the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts, Van Noy is often at the MLB spot, with Hightower and John Simon as the OLBs.  However, he will also line up on the line of scrimmage as a stand-up DE in their Diamond and Ruby sets that were shown before.  In these spots, he’ll 1) pass-rush 2) cover a RB or TE 3) cover the hook, curl or flat, or 4) act as a blitzer – either in a green dog capacity, or as looper coming through the backside A or B gap.  See the formation below:

Notice that Hightower is off-the-ball as it looks like a 4-2-5 formation.  This is one of the subtleties that the Patriots will use.

Buck – This role is sort of two-fold.  It is essentially the WILL LB in 4-3 spots, but can be an off-ball ILB in 4-2-5 fronts, and on the line of scrimmage edge rusher in the 3-3-5 and other sub fronts.

Analogs:  None.  The closest one, in my opinion, is Raekwon McMillan to Dont’a Hightower.  As indicated by John Congemi, McMillan was told by Brian Flores to watch film on Hightower.  I think McMillan will likely fill the Mac role in the 4-2-5 and he had some experience playing SAM at Ohio State, so we may see him as a stand-up on the LOS edge LB in some of the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  Though the fit in the “Bear” package may be dubious at best.  I do, however, think that Raekwon can line up as an on the line of scrimmage or “mugged up” ILB in the Patriots sub-fronts.  He’s got some familiarity with this playing “Nose-backer” in the wide-9 at times last year under Matt Burke.  I think Raekwon is big and strong enough to be used as a blitzer and “pin” player on stunts, much like this GIF of Hightower below, courtesy of Pro Football Focus:

https://media.profootballfocus.com/2019/02/HIGHT-GIFY-3.0.gif

Notice the stunt by Adrian Clayborn following Hightower, essentially a T-E stunt.  Miami’s defensive line coach Marion Hobby gives a great breakdown of those stunts here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2X2HjiynI0&t=5s

I included this here as Miami will likely have some of their linebackers playing on the edges or mugged up inside executing these pass-rush games and blitzes.

Players:   Separating these by position for simplicity:

Mac – Raekwon McMillan is your starter here.  As far as depth goes, I think we could see Chase Allen, Tre’ Watson and Quentin Poling compete here for the reps that are between-the-tackles.  I think guys like Charles Harris and Andrew Van Ginkel could very well get opportunities for some of the stand-up edge reps.  That said, the Patriots have always liked to find guys who can fulfill the entire role rather than piecemealing it.  Miami may not have that player in this case, but I think McMillan can handle the bulk of these duties and should thrive in this defense.

$ – Jerome Baker is likely who Miami starts with at this spot.  Baker recently reported on The Audible he’s trying to bulk up to 230lbs after playing last year at 220lbs.  This fit is dubious, in my opinion.  I know many Dolfans won’t like to read that, but it is what it is.  I think Baker can likely handle this role in the 4-2-5 looks and would likely be the lone off-ball MLB in the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  But Baker is more of a blitzer than true pass-rusher.  He’s also 6’1” and 227lbs currently.  Kyle Van Noy is a full 6’3” 250lbs.  Perhaps Baker’s speed is the equalizer here, but that length will be important.  I think this is where Andrew Van Ginkel could absolutely thrive.  He did the on the line of scrimmage stuff all the time at Wisconsin.  Charles Harris should, in my opinion, get a shot here with the edge stuff; Miami might be able to squeeze some football out of him this way.

Buck – Travis and I discussed this on the podcast on Sunday.  If Miami had limited Kiko Alonso’s role in last year’s defense he’d have been a pretty effective, albeit overpaid, third linebacker.  I see him here, though perhaps not right away.  The new staff may be more inclined to give him a shot at the $ linebacker spot given his veteran experience.  That’d be regrettable in my opinion.  If they can pare down his snaps, he could likely handle a lot of the duties the Buck LB spot handles on first and second downs…that is for what snaps there are.  The Patriots would often use John Simon in this role for their 3rd down packages or as an extra DE.  This is where I mentioned Jayrone Elliott fitting in, purely in the pass-rushing role.

In short, Miami just doesn’t have the horses that the Patriots have at linebacker, and though they may not want to, I think the coaching staff will be forced to piecemeal these LB roles with multiple parts.  Gun to my head, I’d expect we’ll see McMillan, Baker, Alonso, Van Ginkel all playing at least solid snaps, with perhaps Charles Harris and Jayrone Elliott having niche roles.

Position:  Safety – I’m skipping the corner position for right now as I want to do a little more research on that.  Let’s just get this out of the way, Xavien Howard looks like an analog for Stephon Gilmore.  X got the bag, deservedly so, and will hopefully be around to see this rebuild take flight.

At Safety, Miami have some fits, but I’m very, very curious to see how the players are slotted into roles.  New England often employs three safeties in their 4-2-5 looks, most often against 12 and 21 personnel rather than playing a third linebacker.  Those roles seem to stack up in the following spots:

SS – Strong safety – This is Patrick Chung, and he’ll often be lined up on the edge or in the box, where a linebacker would often be.  They’ll also use him as a robber in split safety looks, or in disguised looks with a deep safety dropping bac.

* – Star – This is Devin McCourty.  He’ll line up EVERYWHERE.  He’s often a FS in split safety looks, but he’ll find his way to the slot as an overhang defender. He’ll cover Flexed tight ends man-to-man.  He’ll cover them split out wide.  He handles a lot of the single-high safety responsibilities when they have two safeties on the field, but on 3rd downs, he’s often lined up in the slot or in the box with a coverage responsibility close to the line of scrimmage.

FS – Free Safety – this is played by McCourty in two safety looks, but is also played by Duron Harmon when they bring a third safety onto the field.

This video, courtesy of Samuel Gold, is required defensive study viewing.  Samuel does an outstanding job of breaking down how the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl.  You can see a lot of the versatility among the safeties in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLmyRYJHt4o&t=202s

Analogs:  Minkah Fitzpatrick is our second true analog.  While we haven’t seen him do everything that the Patriots ask Devin McCourty, in large part due to Matt Burke using Minkah at three different spots as a rookie, if you view his Alabama tape and Dolphins tape, it’s not hard to see the match here at all.  While most football fans acknowledge that Derwin James was just a freaking monster as a rookie, he was used EXACTLY has he should have been.  Kudos to the Chargers for doing so.  Minkah Fitzpatrick was, well, not used that way.  He was still outstanding but received much less notoriety.  That should change in 2019.

Players:  Reshad Jones caught a lot of flak for “quitting” on the team during the Jets game last year.  I don’t care.  He’s been one of the top two or three Dolphins players since 2012.  He should be in the Ring of Honor, and if you’re in favor of putting Ricky Williams there, you damn sure better vote for Reshad.

SS – That aside, I’d like to think that if Reshad’s fully recovered from offseason shoulders surgery – he was boxing in a video on Instagram last week – that he’d be the strong safety.  He did a lot of what Patrick Chung does in 2017 and had a Pro Bowl season.  He’s best attacking downhill or playing close to the line of scrimmage, so I think he fits that role well.  However, if his shoulders are still balky, we may see T.J. McDonald here.  I have another theory on him.

* – We already talked about Minkah Fitzpatrick filling in this role.  It’s his.  Leave him in this role.  Watch him flourish.

FS – This should really be spelled out as third safety.  My guess for now is that T.J. McDonald is penciled, lightly, into this role.  Barry Jackson reported a while back that T.J. wanted to drop weight from the 230lbs he played at a year ago and get down to 215lbs.  He had a little bit of success as a deep safety in 2017 when he came back from suspension.  That being said, I don’t think he or Reshad Jones, again if Jones’ shoulders are balky, are great fits for this role.  Their contract situations are, how to put it…not team friendly.  So, unless there’s a trade that develops, I expect they’ll be given opportunities

Also in consideration for this role should be Maurice Smith and Walt Aikens.  One has been a fringe roster player and the other is our best special teamer (and one of the top 5 special teamers in the entire NFL – Walt’s really good), but I’d imagine they’ll get a trial run here.  Aikens looks the part and is athletic, but wasn’t able to put it together when given a shot as a starting safety back in 2015 when Louis Delmas tore his ACL in preseason.  I do wonder if safeties coach Tony Oden may try to convert one of the myriad cornerbacks Miami have on their 90 man roster to safety.  He did so with Charles Washington while with Detroit in 2016.  The Patriots did it with Teez Tabor last year.  Perhaps someone will emerge for Miami here if McDonald or Jones falter.

We’ve covered quite a lot of ground in this piece already, so I’m going to wrap this up without taking up any more time until my next piece.  Overall, Dolfans are going to be wide-eyed trying to catch up with the philosophical seismic shift we’re going to see with the defense this year.  It’ll be multiple.  It’ll use a lot of players.  It’ll be different in some capacities on a weekly basis given opponents’ strengths.

All of this should be welcomed with open arms.

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 17 at Seattle

Travis Wingfield

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Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

Week 17 at Seattle –

By the time this season finale came to an end the entire Cardinals operation had to breathe a sigh of relief. A disaster season, that came to a crashing conclusion, was finally in the rearview. For Josh Rosen, the last month of the season was a recurring nightmare. Rosen threw 146 passes in December and the only one that crossed pay dirt was a busted coverage in this Seattle game.

Some of Rosen’s strong suits didn’t travel to the Pacific Northwest. Throwing into contested windows, play-action passing, and third down conversions each brought back less than satisfactory returns.

The Cardinal passing offense converted 3-of-14 3rd downs. Rosen was 2-of-14 for 23 yards on contested throws and 5-of-10 for 56 yards on play pass.

Rosen was chucking-and-praying once again. The average air yards per throw tallied 10.8 yards, while the Arizona receivers only amassed 51 yards after the catch (34.2% of Rosen’s passing total).

The short passing game was far more fruitful than the vertical attacks.

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

The game was littered with mistakes from the Cardinals QB. Rosen registered 14 mistakes (11 from accuracy, 2 ball security issues, and 1 poor read). Rosen lost two fumbles and had two would-be interceptions dropped by the Seattle defense.

The personnel deployment featured more versatility than recent weeks. Rosen’s passes were supplemented by the following personnel packages.

 

11-personnel 31 snaps
12-personnel 3 snaps
21-personnel 4 snaps

 

As has been the case all season, Rosen was under frequent pressure. Seattle arrived for 11 pressures (6 sacks, 3 hits, 2 hurries) at an average time from snap-to-pressure of 2.19 seconds.

The busted coverage touchdown was Rosen’s one red-zone completion (1-of-3). He was in the gun for 25 snaps and under-center for 13.

Another week, another low conversion rate. The Cardinal passing game converted 8-of-38 plays into first downs (21.1%)

It’s difficult to imagine a more trying rookie season than the one Rosen experienced. The offensive line play was poor, the only consistent pass catcher was Larry Fitzgerald, and Rosen had his own share of rookie mistakes to compound things.

This game goes into the losing performance category marking eight consecutive games that Rosen failed to reach the winning performance category.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 7 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR, @SEA)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 16 vs. LA Rams

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

 

Week 16 vs. LA Rams –

For the second consecutive game Josh Rosen didn’t finish under-center for the Cardinals. In a blowout loss, where it seemed like the entire game plan revolved around making life easy on Josh Rosen, Arizona still managed to get ran out of the building. Mike Glennon completed the final series for the Red Birds offense.

Rosen threw the ball only 23 times, but scrambled more than he has all season. The game plan also featured the least amount of variety, from a personnel grouping standpoint, all season.

 

11-personnel 30 snaps
12-personnel 1 snap

 

Rosen’s typical third down heroics didn’t show up. The Cardinals converted only 2-of-10 third downs in the passing game (one a QB scramble). Converting, as it has been all season, was a challenge in general — Arizona converted just 6-of-31 drop backs (19.4%).

Rosen was in the shotgun almost exclusively (3 under-center, 28 in the gun). This led to a limited play-action passing game (only one throw from play pass).

The four mistakes attributed to Rosen were largely deep shots. He missed on short pass, but two of the three inaccuracies came on balls down the field. One of those deep shots was an ill-advised throw into coverage despite a wide open Larry Fitzgerald coming across the formation (seen in the video thread).

Rosen’s depth splits were as follows:

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

More than half of Rosen’s 87 passing yards came from YAC (54%). The average depth of Rosen’s passes was 9.22 air yards per throw.

Throwing into tight window was a futile effort. Rosen completed 1-of-7 contested throws for 7 yards. Pressure was a regular fixture, yet again, as Rosen was under duress on 11 drop backs (4 sacks, 5 hits, 2 hurries). The average time from snap-to-pressure was 2.30 seconds.

The war of attrition seems to have finally broken the Cardinals spirit. The team’s execution was lacking all year, but this game was something of a “white flag” effort from the coaching staff. Rosen gets tabbed with a losing performance for a lack of big-time plays, a few mistakes, and an awful holistic result.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 6 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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