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Projecting Year 2 of the Miami Dolphins Rebuild

Travis Wingfield

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Will Miami’s step-back approach in 2019 pay off in 2020? A look at the options that will bring the two-year reclamation to fruition

September is supposed to be the best time of year for anybody that’s reading this. The promise of a new season. A clean slate. Hope sends the imagination into overdrive.

Despite a decade-long run of .500 football, every Miami Dolphins offseason curates a feeling of optimism among a fan base starving for victories in January. At least, until now. Even the most optimistic fans are tempering expectations in anticipation of a difficult season.

Press conferences provide media with narratives to drive stories and gather assumptions about the team they are covering. What they don’t tell you, however, is that every single person associated with an NFL team that has ever taken to the podium will prescribe a steady dose of lies.

So when the Dolphins told us this offseason that the plan was to strengthen the offensive and defensive lines, clear the decks of years of poor roster budgeting, and place an emphasis on draft picks, how much of that was truth?

All of it, minus the former vow to fortify interiors, was accomplished. Christian Wilkins, Chris Reed, Tank Carradine, and a pair of rookies — one in the third (Michael Deiter), one in the sixth-round (Isaiah Prince) — makeup the additional fortification of the trenches — hardly an inspiring bunch.

Those imports, in association with the losses of Cam Wake, Robert Quinn and Ja’Wuan James, make for a net loss in the two areas that were deemed focal points of the offseason.

If fans are to take solace in this assuredly trying season, it’s that Miami did in fact accomplish goals two and three. The result, over $100 million in available cap space for 2020 and 12 draft picks (five of which will come in the top 100).

Since the promise of a better tomorrow is the only way to cope with what promises to be a challenging season, let’s take a look at Miami’s many options to round out a talented, competitive roster next season.

The presumed holes on the roster are widely known, and as only football can do, those presumptions will change over the next four months. But as it stands right now, the offensive line is in dire need, the depth in the secondary is razor thin, the edge position is wanting, and the quarterback room is anybody’s guess.

On the positive side, the linebacker group looks promising. The wide receiver position was solid, but the sudden emergence of Preston Williams could take that unit from decent to dominant, and the tailbacks and interior defensive line are both strong.

So the goals — pending change from the 16 games this season — are to:

 

1.) Find the franchise altering quarterback (Rosen or in the draft)
2.) Rebuild the offensive line
3.) Curate depth in the secondary
4.) Bolster the edge rush

 

And Miami has enough resources to knock out all four. Achieving all four will require great decision making and development of the talent, but Miami is in position to attack each of these needs with significant resources (dollars and high draft picks).

The last time Miami was in this position was 2013, and things could not have gone worse. Fittingly enough, the man that orchestrated that horrendous offseason would later go on to execute the type of offseason the Dolphins need next spring.

Jeff Ireland’s 2017 New Orleans haul was as impressive as his 2013 Miami coup was futile. Drafting three pro-bowlers, and signing a handful of veteran contributors, the beauty of today’s NFL is that a turnaround doesn’t have to be an arduous process.

And the Dolphins put themselves in a position to be an overnight glow up.

1.) The Franchise Quarterback

Though the Dolphins’ plan — reportedly — is to scrutinize the top four quarterbacks that college football has to offer, General Manager Chris Grier tossed some kindling into the fire for the 2019 season. Josh Rosen has 16 games to push Miami off the idea of Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, of the mystery man that shoots up draft boards each year.

Aug 31, 2018; East Lansing, MI, USA; Utah State Aggies quarterback Jordan Love (10) looks to throw the ball during the second half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you buy into Rosen’s skill set, and consequent ability to become a player that can carry a franchise, the odds are definitively stacked against the 22-year-old, former top-10 pick.

Miami has the lowest total commitment of salary allocated to its offensive line, and it shows. Slow progress in the first year of a new system, behind a shaky wall of protection, already ran Rosen out of one NFL town, and it’ll require some serious fireworks for him to quickly change that tune.

The most likely scenario for Miami’s 2020 quarterback room is a three-man occupancy chock full of quite literally every adjective available. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, and a presumed high pick in April’s Draft covers all the bases from experience to upside.

Under Fitzpatrick’s tutelage, and quite possibly his last year of his career, the Dolphins figure to possess the services of a pair of wildly talented, young passers who will compete for the opening day job.

If the 2019 season goes as poorly as some expect, then that man will be — in all likelihood — Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. The predominant favorite to go off the board number one, Miami’s only hope to secure his services is to finish dead last this season — he won’t be for sale.

The upshot for the draft pick-stocked Dolphins, a few contenders for a high draft pick recently selected quarterbacks in the first-round. If the New York Giants, for instance, bottom out again, it’s difficult to see them passing up Daniel Jones one year after the fact. If it’s Washington, perhaps Dewayne Haskins follows a similar path to Josh Rosen, but it all remains circumstantial.

Arizona has the second best (worst?) odds to finish last — behind your Miami Dolphins — and they aren’t going to repeat the Rosen move with Kyler Murray. The Bengals, Broncos and Raiders all figure into the mix as well, but each of those teams will be in the quarterback market next spring.

So the hope for Miami — outside of earning a high pick organically — is for one of the teams with a recent, considerable investment into the position to draft second. From there, Miami can identify its guy — not named Tagovailoa — and strike that deal, regardless of the cost.

Franchise QB Solution Prediction: Trade up (after finishing 4-12, maybe 5-11) to secure Utah State’s Jordan Love. Love then competes with Rosen for the 2020 opening day job.

Click HERE for a complete scouting report on all the QB’s making noise in college football this summer.

2.) Rebuild the Offensive Line

We are locked in perpetual motion here, it seems. On draft day the fan base vows vengeance if the team dares spend the first-rounder on the offensive line. Then, by the preseason, we’re left to wonder why they didn’t invest more into this important position.

Dec 9, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots offensive guard Joe Thuney (62) against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami has tried to figure this out every which way for the last decade-plus. Jake Long was deemed more worthy of the first pick than Matt Ryan. Mike Pouncey was selected 15th overall, Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil followed suit in the first round. Yet, here we are with one surefire solution among the group.

Adam Gase had a fundamental belief that the guard positions were not deserving of premium assets. In a quick-paced, tempo-based passing offense, that makes sense. But for Brian Flores, and his desire to pound the rock, the entirety of his front-line should take precedence.

Each day that passes without a new deal for Patriots Left Guard Joe Thuney should encourage Dolphins fans. If he hits the market, it’s difficult to imagine anybody out-bidding Miami for his services.

Michael Deiter is currently the left guard, but a Thuney signing could kill two birds. Deiter could kick inside to a position he has cross-trained for this camp, the center.

Other big-money free agents are currently set to hit the market at the guard position.

Brandon Scherff and Washington are reportedly “far apart” on an extension to keep the former top-10 pick in the nation’s capital.

Cheaper options exist, but those are far from needle-movers. Denver’s Connor McGovern started 16 games between right guard and center last season. San Francisco selected Joshua Garnett in the first-round in 2016, but injuries have derailed his career. He might not make it out of camp with the 49ers, so he falls more in-line with Miami’s buy-low mantra from this season.

Rodney Hudson is one of — if not THE premier center in football. He’ll be 32 and a free agent, but given the value of the center position is in this scheme, particularly in front of a young quarterback, this could be an option — especially if Deiter develops at left guard.

Cleveland’s J.C. Tretter will probably ink a new deal with the Browns at some point, but he’s another high-priced option at the valuable position in the middle of the offensive line.

Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin) and Creed Humphrey (Oklahoma) both make The Draft Network’s top 20 rankings on the interior 2020 draft class.

The tackle position is attractive too. Dallas’ La’El Collins is a good bet to shake free due to the Cowboys cash commitments to the rest of the line. Jack Conklin was denied his fifth-year option with the Titans Will Miami spend big on a right tackle, one year after James walked in free agency, with Tunsil due to cash in? Doubtful.

More likely options come via bargain free agency and the draft. Germain Ifedi has been a slow-developing tackle in Seattle, he’s 26-years-old. Demar Dotson and Bryan Bulaga could come cheap because of their age, but both of their respective best ball is behind them.

Blue chip talent returns to the offensive line in this year’s draft. Andrew Thomas (Georgia) and Tristan Wirfs (Iowa) both fall in the top-10 on TDN’s new big board.

Whether it’s Rosen, Love, another rookie or miraculously Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami has to address this line early and often next offseason — it’s simply not NFL caliber right now.

Offensive Line Solution Prediction: Sign a big-money free agent (Joe Thuney), a bargain or mid-round tackle (Ifedi, TCU’s Lucas Niang), and additional picks to shore up depth.

3.) Curate Depth in the Secondary

This was one of my top priorities this offseason, yet Miami passed on the defensive backfield almost entirely. Eric Rowe was the only veteran/draft pick acquired to bolster a secondary that is good up top, but lacks depth.

The release of T.J. McDonald wasn’t surprising because of the move, but rather the timing. His fit in the scheme was questionable from the jump, and the same could be said about Reshad Jones. In a defense that will often bring a third safety onto the field in nickel (five DBs), in a scheme that requires those safeties to come down and cover the slot, this position truly drives the scheme.

Xavien Howard is elite. Minkah Fitzpatrick is on his way there. Rowe looks — albeit very early — healthy and a terrific scheme fit. Then, after that, it’s a lot of unproven talent. Jomal Wiltz carved out a role for himself this camp, but the recent draft picks and UDFAs have struggled to piece together consistency.

Look at New England’s (the model by which Miami is striving to duplicate) defensive back depth chart.

 

Player Resource Spent on Acquisition
Stephone Gilmore Largest CB FA contract at the time
Devin McCourty 1st-Round Pick
Patrick Chung 2nd-Round Pick (Re-signed after leaving to PHI)
Joejuan Williams 2nd-Round Pick
Duke Dawson 2nd-Round Pick
Duron Harmon 3rd-Round Pick

 

And the Pats don’t stop there. Obi Melifonwu was bought on the cheap, but he’s a former second-round pick. Terrance Brooks was once a third-round pick of the Jets, Jason McCourty was a bargain free agent buy that worked out, and J.C Jackson and Jonathan Jones were undrafted free agent hits.

Bottom line, Miami needs to put a lot more into this position.

Rowe might earn an extension, but it’s a lie to say that’s a great move without any hesitation — he’s missed a lot of games. Big-money options exist by-way of Chris Harris (age 31), Jimmy Smith (age 32), Logan Ryan (age 29) and Eli Apple (age 25). Joe Haden and the Steelers are working on an extension, and given the Dolphins cash commitment to Howard, this might have to come via a bargain buy as well.

Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers safety Isaiah Simmons (11) against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2019 College Football Playoff Championship game at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps Miami eyeballs a once highly-regarded player that has fallen by the wayside. New England does it often, and with Apple, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander set to hit the market, the Dolphins have options.

The top-line talent in the draft is better this year, and the depth challenges the impressive list of talent offered in the 2019 class.

The Draft Network lists Paulson Adebo (Stanford), Kristian Fulton (LSU), Bryce Hall (Virginia), C.J. Henderson (Florida), and Jeffrey Okudah (Ohio State) as top-30 players. Four more corners fall in the top 50 of the daft according to TDN. With those five picks in the top 100, it would be inexplicable for Miami to pass up on the position group again.

Even more unacceptable, passing on the safety class again. With McDonald out the door, and Jones likely to follow suit in a year — two tops — Miami needs to remake the position almost altogether. We’ll see about the Bobby McCain experiment, but if he doesn’t work out he’s a pretty easy cut option after the 2019 season.

Let’s start with the free agent market.

Tavon Wilson tops the class. He’s currently in Matt Patricia’s defense in Detroit, and if a coaching change occurs there, Wilson would be a priority for Miami. Jimmie Ward is scheduled to hit the market in San Francisco, that’s another organization that could undergo a coaching change. The rest of the free safety market isn’t all that attractive, unless you can lure a 33-year-old Devin McCourty down to Miami.

Vonn Bell is set to hit the market in New Orleans, he fits the mold of a reclamation project.

The help at this position probably comes by-way of the draft.

Grant Delpit (LSU) headlines the class — he’s number-three on TDN’s big board. Isaiah Simmons (Clemson), Xavier McKinney (Alabama), and Brandon Jones (Texas) round out first-round grades at the position.

Clemson’s Simmons is the best fit for what the Dolphins want to do. He’s fast, instinctive, loves to initiate contact, and the man-to-man cover skills are off the charts. He’s the versatile piece you want along with Minkah Fitzpatrick in this secondary.

Defensive Back Solution Prediction: Re-sign Eric Rowe, draft a safety high (Isaiah Simmons), and add pieces with cheap resources (one FA bargain buy and one mid-round pick).

4.) Bolster the Edge Rush

The Dolphins philosophical approach to this position is why it checks in below three other position groups — there simply isn’t an emphasis on the one-on-one, pure pass rushers. This philosophy is shared by two other teams — all branches of the Belichick tree. New England, as they are won’t to do, let Trey Flowers walk in free agency to the third team with this philosophy (which goes against the grain, no doubt) in Detroit.

As the Pats have watched elite rushers walk out the door time-and-time again, Miami is doing the same with its low-level talent. Instead of the pure speed, edge rusher, Miami wants the heavy-handed, two-gap minded stalwarts that can absorb and disengage from contact.

Oct 27, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) during the fourth quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

So don’t expect the Cam Wakes or the Brian Burns of the world to be a priority — think more along the lines of Jonathan Ledbetter. Tank Carradine is an interesting piece because of his ability to do a little bit of everything, Miami will gladly take a player of that build.

A player like Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa. The top-5 talent has the versatility Miami will covet, as he can rush off the edge as a 7-tech, condense down inside as that two-gapping 5-tech, and even rush from a 3-tech position — he’s a freak.

The same is true of Ohio State’s Chase Young. Both players are options in the event that Miami deems Josh Rosen as the answer.

Other top-50 prospects are Julian Okwara (Notre Dame), though he’s probably too slight, and Syracuse’s Alton Robinson (260 pounds, built for this defense). Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos fits that bill as well — he’s a rocked-up 245 pounds with room to add.

The position-depth keeps going with Florida’s Jabari Zuniga (who you watched wreck the Hurricanes Saturday), Boise State’s Curtis Weaver and LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson rounding out the top-50 edge prospects.

Free agency has some options in its own right. The Jets’ Leonard Williams is set to hit free agency — he’s an ideal 3-tech/5-tech combo player for this defense. Arik Armstead (SF) is an option, Derek Wolfe (DEN) is set to hit the market, as is Adrian Clayborn (ATL) and Brandon Copeland (NYJ).

Edge Rusher Solution Prediction: Sign a scheme fit like Leonard Williams, spend a high-to-mid-round pick at the position (Gross-Matos).

 

This season will be challenging if you’re only concerned about the win-loss column. It’s all about developing the young talent, establishing a culture and program, identifying the needs as we approach the most important offseason in recent franchise history.

Miami sat on its hands in 2019, but the pendulum will swing back in the other direction in 2020. Miami has money, picks, roster holes, and an owner that is testing his patience to the fullest this season.

The Dolphins, as we know them, will look unrecognizable from the Adam Gase regime.

And I’m sure that’s just fine with the fan base.

@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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