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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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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

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

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

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

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

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

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

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

Monday Morning Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

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

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

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

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

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

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

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

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

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

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

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

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

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

Jason Sanders is a stud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

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

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

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

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future We Created

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

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

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

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

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

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

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

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

Full trade:

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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