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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

Miami Dolphins 2019 Training Camp Guide – Safeties

Travis Wingfield

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Over the next two weeks, Locked On Dolphins will bring you your one-stop shop for all things Miami Dolphins 2019 training camp

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Wide Receivers
Offensive Line
Defensive Interior
Defensive Edge
Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties
Specialists – 7/24

Game-By-Game Predictions Part 1 – 7/24 (Part 2 coming in September)

Prologue:

For the majority of the Ryan Tannehill era, the Dolphins entered training camp as dark horse candidates to seize a wildcard playoff berth. Things have changed for the worse in 2019, but the step backward comes with the hopes of constructing a perennial AFC East contender capable of winning games in January.

That’s the big-picture snapshot of the Miami Dolphins rebuild. In the interim, however, establishing the core principles of the Brian Flores program, as well as developing young talent, both capture the forefront of this year’s training camp objectives.

Over the next two weeks, we will get you familiar with each player on the roster. With biographies, quick-hitter scouting notes, and a prediction on the player’s ultimate role on the 2019 Dolphins, this serves as your guide for Miami’s summer practice session.

Safeties

Overview:

Cross-training promises to serve as the buzz phrase of this rendition of Dolphins camp. No position offers more dual functionality than safety, especially in a defense undergoing sweeping schematic changes.

In the past, the safety spots have been directionally based, opposed to the traditional strong and free distinctions. This round-peg-in-a-square-hole philosophy led to frustration; so much so that Miami’s longest-tenured defensive player pulled himself from a game last November.

Now, these safeties will have specific roles designated to suit their respective strengths. The universal trait of the group will be the ability to come down and cover the slot, tight ends, and running backs.

Tony Oden is one of two holdovers from the previous staff. Oden has been coaching defensive backs since 1996, including a GA stop at Brian Flores’ alma mater Boston College.

Reshad Jones – 9 years of service (10th in MIA)
Jersey: 20
College: Georgia
Opening Day Age: 31.5
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $35M total, $13M guaranteed

Jones’ Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

Jones’ absence was the story of voluntary organized team activities. Amidst rampant trade rumors, Jones was present for mandatory work and an understanding has, apparently, been achieved between he and Coach Flores.

Jones is still a punishing hitter that excels defending both the strong and weak-side C-gaps on the defense. This scheme will put him back in a familiar situation playing in close to the line-of-scrimmage and sending him on a variety of run and pass blitzes. Jones played single-high, 20 yards off the ball, far too often last season.

Declining coverage ability, the occasional poor angle, and considerable medical concerns all add up to an uncertain future for Jones in Miami. The age and contract aren’t doing Jones’ long-term prospects any favors either.

2019 Projected Role: Strong Safety, 100% snap-taker

Bobby McCain – 4 years of service (5th in MIA)
Jersey: 28
College: Memphis
Opening Day Age: 26.0
Contract Details: 4 years remaining, $22M total, $9M guaranteed

McCain’s Film Study by Locked On Dolphins

After a stellar 2017 season, injuries and position changes led to a down year for McCain. Among the game’s best slot corners two years ago, McCain was rewarded with a new contract, but he was outplayed in the slot by 2018 rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick. In 2019, the two could be interchangeable working in slot coverage and as a single-high safety (as well as two-deep looks).

This scheme utilizes three safeties the majority of the defense’s snaps. McCain could serve as the middle of the field man in those three-safety packages, and come down in two-slot looks for man-coverage responsibilities.

McCain is a terrific leader, astute tackler, and an occasionally effective blitzer.

2019 Projected Role: Free Safety, Slot Corner 85% snap-taker

T.J. McDonald – 6 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 22
College: USC
Opening Day Age: 28.4
Contract Details: 3 years remaining, $17M total, $3.6M guaranteed

With one more year of guaranteed salary, McDonald needs to successfully transition into a new role to have a future in Miami. Inexplicably taking the job previously manned by Reshad Jones, McDonald’s inclusion into the defense wasn’t a positive one.

No longer among the top four, or even five, defensive backs on the roster, McDonald will come onto the field in sub-packages. He’s effective working downhill and should provide Miami’s dime package with a quality tackler and sound cover-man in the underneath shell.

2019 Projected Role: Third Safety, Dime Linebacker (Dollar) 60% snap-taker

Maurice Smith – 2 years of service (3rd in MIA)
Jersey: 26
College: Georgia
Opening Day Age: 24.3
Contract Details: 1 year remaining, $645K total, $0 guaranteed

It’s difficult to assess Smith’s value the last couple of years. He rarely made it onto the field, but that could just be another indictment of incompetent coaching. At his best, Smith plays the robber role, dislodges footballs, and steps in front of intermediate passes.

With 10 players acquired in the secondary since Smith arrived in Miami, he has an uphill battle to fend off the newcomers for a job.

2019 Projected Role: Camp cut

2019 Dolphins Safeties at a Glance:

The decision to forego any acquisitions at safety this offseason was surprising. The most important position in the defense, Miami comes up a couple of bodies short unless McCain’s conversion is a success. He’s a bit undersized for the position, but he offers the instincts, tackling, and ball skills to provide some promise.

Jones’ role, and subsequent impact on the defense, is one of the more intriguing storylines of the year for the Dolphins.

With a lot of questions and fewer solutions, this group could be in for more changes next offseason.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins sign cornerback Tyler Patmon

Shawn Digity

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Tyler Patmon Miami Dolphins USA Today Sports
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

The Miami Dolphins have filled out the final roster spot by signing a familiar face: Tyler Patmon

After a Sunday night visit on July 21st, the Dolphins have officially signed cornerback Tyler Patmon. The corner was with the team during the 2015 season but failed to leave his mark during his first stint with the team.

Tyler Patmon has, however, managed to keep his career chugging along with time spent in Dallas in 2014 and 2015 and Jacksonville in 2017 and 2018.

The news was broken on Twitter by the official DEC Management account, who represents Patmon.

The team makes reference to Patmon’s first attempt with the team, but this time should be a better fit for Patmon considering the team’s roster makeup. With a few more years of experience under his belt, Patmon stands a better chance of getting a foothold and making an impact.

Tyler Patmon is also a special signing because of his being the 91st player under contract. The Dolphins have found some value in signing a player internationally, which has allowed them the ability to sign Patmon as a bonus player.

I can’t say for certain if Patmon will ultimately end up on the final 53-man roster. My initial inclination is that it’ll be an uphill battle, but stranger things have happened. He might be able to step in and make some waves with the experience he has over some of the younger defensive backs.

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Miami Dolphins

Remember The Dolphins (Part 3: The 2010s)

Chris Kowalewski

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True. The final chapter of the Dolphins’ current decade has not yet been written.

At the dawn of the 2019 training camp, the stars of Miami’s 2019 Super Bowl Champion team have not yet emerged and had their names stamped into the NFL history books.

But going by on the widely-held assumption that the Miami Dolphins figure to be at the very bottom of the league in 2019, we’ll draw a line under the decade of the 2010’s as the Dolphins begin their ‘hard’ reboot to bring the franchise back to glory.

In this third part of our Remember The Dolphins series, we’ll trudge up some painful recent memories by taking a look back at the years 2010-2018 and try to pick out those individuals who perhaps deserve some more recognition for the part they played despite the team’s overall lack of success.

For the Miami Dolphins, the 2010’s was a decade filled with unfortunate drama. The Jonathan Martin bullying fiasco; Richie Incognito; the resulting ever-changing revolving doors which built the offensive line; Mike Pouncey’s “Free Hernandez” hat; Dion Jordan; overpaid Free Agents; terrible draft picks; Chris Foerster bringing his out-of-office habits into the team facility; Brent Grime’s wife; a queezy, litter-picking coach; Vontae Davis’ grandma; the “Go” and Go, Go” offense; Matt Burke’s incomprehensible defensive scheme; and last but by no means least, Adam Gase. 

It was not exactly a fun-packed decade for fans.

From one year to the next, the 2010’s barraged the Dolphins with national embarrassment off the field and an on-field product which no one could quite figure out.

The 2010’s undoubtedly will be most remembered, for better or worse (depending on which side you sit) for the Ryan Tannehill years. 

Landing in the NFL as a franchise’s heralded saviour is generally tough enough. But landing in a city already drowning in football mediocrity, with a fanbase tired of the lacklustre QB carousel and desperately thirsty for a leading passer under the scorching South Florida sunshine was inevitably going to be a recipe for division among fans. 

Add in the ever-present shadow of Dan Marino and the unforeseen successes of other young QBs around the league and anything less than spectacular would be deemed a failure.

And that is the past decade of Dolphins in a nutshell… 

Unspectacular. 

Inconsistent.

Divided.

Cameron Wake was nothing short of awesome as the team’s premier defensive player and remains a living legend, seemingly ready to finish his career in Tennessee. It’s scary to think that Wake spent 10 years with the Dolphins (2009-2018) in which he started 126/146 games, accumulated 98.0 sacks, 358 combined tackles, 97 tackles for loss and 213 QB hits. As Dolfans, we have just witnessed the end of the most successful Dolphins tale of the decade. But that alone was not enough to gain the team anything more than one playoff game.

Save for a handful of highlight performances in 2016 to drag Miami to the playoffs, including Jay Ajayi’s back-to-back 200 yard games and Andrew Franks’ overtime field goal over the Bills on Christmas Eve, the Dolphins continued their desperate struggle for success for another decade.

2010 started badly for Head Coach Tony Sparano, then entering his 3rd year. Chad Henne (301 of 490) threw for 3301 yards, 15 TDs and 19 INTs. The Dolphins had broken the bank to bring in WR, Brandon Marshall to help in Henne’s development and aid a struggling offense. Although Marshall hauled in 1014 yards, a lowly 3 TDs was the ultimate result. The Dolphins found themselves sitting at 30th in the league in points scored and achieved a 7-9 record.

Things didn’t exactly improve quickly, if at all.

2011 saw the firing of Coach Sparano who was temporarily replaced by defensive co-ordinator, Todd Bowles after a 4-9 start to finish 6-10.

2012 saw the arrival of Joe Philbin and rookie quarterback, Ryan Tannehill which produced a now-familiar 7-9 record. The QB/HC relationship lasted 3.5 years and left everyone a “little queezy”.

The Dolphins scraped .500 records in 2013 and 2014 before falling to 6-10 in 2015 under the final year of Philbin’s reign. 

Nothing of note had begun to shine out from the shadows of mediocrity and the patience of Miami fans was beyond tested. 

Enter, Adam Gase.

The Peyton-Manning-endorsed offensive ‘genius’ arrived in 2016 taking the Dolphins to the playoffs despite a season-ending knee injury to the starting QB. And whilst the victories of 2016 weren’t repeated, the rare taste of playoffs had bought Gase enough stature that even the team’s brightest stars weren’t safe from his methods and relationships continued to sour to the point of breaking and eventual trade.

Jarvis Landry had stolen headlines with some highlight-reel catches and was unanimously adored by the Dolphins fanbase. Jay Ajayi had bulldozed his way into the history books before his relationship with the head coach turned to ash. Both players were quickly gone, uncerimoniously – their departures embodying the Dolphins’ constant inability of retaining success.

A number of players publicly spoke out against Adam Gase, as prime examples of what the Dolphins had become at their core – divided, unstable and without direction.

But looking back over the dysfunction of the 2010’s, let’s try to pick a handful of names out of the rubble who (outside of the Miami Miracle) deserve to be looked at in a brighter, warmer light and be remembered despite the team’s on-field and off-field failures.

Reggie Bush

Position: Running Back

The Saints’ 2nd overall pick of the 2006 draft found his way to Miami in his 6th year, following a trade with the Saints in July 2011. That season, he provided a spark of electricity to Miami’s offense and rushed for 1000+ yards for the first time in his career and scored 6 rushing TDs with an average of 5.0 yards per carry. Bush remained with the Dolphins for 2 years (2011-2012) and despite having been labelled as injury prone during his time in New Orleans, managed to be a dependable on-field presence, rushing for 2072 yards and 12 TDs as a Dolphin, whilst hauling in a further 588 receiving yards and 3 TDs. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of The Week in 2011 following a 203 yard performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 15.

Lamar Miller

Position: Running Back

The homegrown running back was drafted in the fourth round by the Dolphins in 2012 out of the University of Miami, sharing his rookie year with Reggie Bush. By his second season, Miller had adopted the starting role, but it wasn’t until 2014 when he really began to find his feet out of the Dolphins’ backfield. Miller’s totals of 1099 rushing yards and 8 TDs in 2014 remain his career highs, with a highlight 97 yard TD run against the Jets on 28 December 2014. Over the course of his 4 years in Miami, Miller started 48/61 games and rushed for 2930 yards and 19 TDs whilst catching 117 passes for 887 yards and a further 3 scores, before signing a 4-year $26m deal with the Houston Texans in March 2016. 

Karlos Dansby

Position: Linebacker

Karlos Dansby came to Miami in 2010 after 6 years in the league with the Arizona Cardinals. His final 2 years in Arizona saw him tally 228 combined tackles including 17 for a loss, 5 sacks, 3 INTs and 3 forced fumbles. He was therefore a big-name target for the Dolphins in 2010 to help solidify the linebacker group under Tony Sparano. Dansby joined the Dolphins on a 5-year, $43m contract which (at the time) was the highest paid contract for an ILB in NFL history. In his 3 years at Miami, Dansby started 45/46 games and racked up 332 combined tackles, 1 INT, 5 forced fumbles and 6 sacks. 

Paul Soliai

Position: Defensive Tackle

An absolute man-mountain, Paul Soliai was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. He became a staple on Miami’s defensive line and spent 7 years in Miami (2007-2013), working his way to a full-time starting spot in 2010. Soliai started 62 of 99 games in his Dolphins career and had a knack for swatting down passes with 12 deflections. A huge body in the middle of the Dolphins defense, Soliai was predominantly a space-eater but also racked up 117 solo tackles (160 combined) including 25 TFLs and 4.5 sacks. He signed with the Falcons in March 2014 and the Panthers in March 2016 before signed a one-day contract to retire as a Miami Dolphin on 19 April 2018.

Brian Hartline

Position: Wide Receiver

A productive fourth round pick of the Dolphins in 2009, Hartline spent 6 years in Miami (2009-2014). Hartline’s best years came in 2012/2013 following the arrival of Ryan Tannehill and he developed into something of a trusted safety blanket for the young QB and set a Dolphins franchise record for receiving yards (253) in Week 4 of 2012 against the Cardinals. With over 130 targets in each of those years, Hartline caught 150 passes for 2099 yards, but only 5 TDs which is an indication of the team’s lack of productivity in the red zone. Injured early in his career, Hartline started 69 of 92 games in Miami hauling in 4243 yards and 12 TDs with a catch rate of 57.1% and 8.1 yards per target. In the final game of 2014, Hartline suffered a PCL injury which ended his tenure at the Dolphins and a quick year in Cleveland saw the end of Hartline’s NFL career and he is now WR coach at Ohio State.

Davone Bess

Position: Wide Receiver

Similar to Hartline (and more recently Jarvis Landry) Davone Bess spent his first NFL years with the Dolphins before being signed by the Cleveland Browns. Arriving with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Hawaii, Bess quickly exceeded expectations. He was primarily positioned at slot receiver until injury forced Greg Camarillo off the field. Bess finished his rookie year positioned 3rd amongst rookie WRs in receptions. During his time as a Dolphin, Bess hauled in 12 TDs and had dependable hands (63.8% catch ratio) with a 6.9 yards-per-target average and he amassed a total of 3447 yards receiving. Bess was traded to the Cleveland Browns in April 2013 before troubling issues saw him placed on the non-football illness list in December 2013 prior to a series of arrests.

Kevin Burnett

Position: Linebacker

After 4 years in Dallas and 2 years in San Diego, Kevin Burnett signed as a Miami Dolphin in July 2011. He started all 32 games at linebacker during his 2 years with Miami (2011-2012) and stole 1 Pick-6, had 5 sacks with 216 combined tackles and 15 TFLs. Although always the truest of professionals, the productive and dependable player was released following the mistake-riddled free agent signings of Darnell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler in March 2013.

Jared Odrick

Position: Defensive End

I liked Jared Odrick. Generally considered a surprising first round pick (28th overall) of the Miami Dolphins in 2010, he unfortunately suffered a foot injury in October 2010 cutting short his rookie season. Returning with a strong 2011 season, he registered 6 sacks and and an INT as a backup DE and didn’t take himself too seriously, evidence by his very odd Pee Wee Herman sack dance. Odrick spent 5 years in Miami (2010-2014) but suffered with injuries and started only 41 of 65 games. Alongside his INT, Odrick swatted down 11 passes and caused 3 forced fumbles, had 16.5 sacks and 129 combined tackles including 30 for a loss and 47 QB hits. Following his Dolphins career, Odrick spent 2 years in Jacksonville before his retirement after being placed on IR in December 2016.

Nolan Carroll

Position: Cornerback

A fifth round pick (145th overall) by the Dolphins in the 2010, Carroll was seen as a promising rookie and played a considerable amount on special teams. Fans will recall that during a kickoff return on 13 December 2010, Carroll was tripped over on the sidelines by the Jets’ strength and conditioning coach, Sal Alosi. Carroll was promoted to a starting role in 2012 and over the course of his 4 years in Miami he started 26 of 58 games, grabbed 5 INTs with 23 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 3 sacks. He racked up 123 combined tackles before signing a 2-year $5m contract with the Eagles in March 2014. 

And there we have it.

At the dawn of the 2019 season, with the imminent start of training camp, the Dolphins now have an opportunity to write the decade’s final chapter.

Under the leadership of Head Coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins seek to change the story of their long-term mediocrity. With a young group of talented players ripe for development, we can only hope that many of them will seek to etch their names into the future of Dolphins’ history from 2020 and beyond.

Fins Up.

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