Familiar, unwelcomed territory is upon us once more. A recent influx of talented youngsters leaves a small faction of the NFL devoid of viable long-term answers at the game’s most important position. Living among that faction, the QB-needy faction, are the Miami Dolphins.
Not that this is uncharted territory for an organization starving for a savior for the better part of two decades. Starving for something beyond a stabilizing force. If everything is cyclical, after 17 years of the curly-haired kid from Pittsburgh, the Dolphins are due to end the suffering – in fact, they’re overdue.
The most popular test trivia of a modern-day ‘Phins fan is also the most painful bar banter topic – list all the quarterbacks to start a game in the post-Marino era.
|Quarterback||Years with Miami (Games Started)|
|Jay Fiedler||2000-2003 (59 + 3 playoff starts)|
|Damon Huard*||2000 (1)|
|Ray Lucas||2001-2002 (6)|
|Brian Griese||2003 (5)|
|A.J. Feeley||2004 (8)|
|Sage Rosenfels||2002-2005 (2)|
|Gus Frerotte||2005 (15)|
|Daunte Culpepper||2006 (4)|
|Joey Harrington||2006 (11|
|Cleo Lemon||2006-2007 (8)|
|Trent Green||2007 (5)|
|John Beck||2007-2008 (4)|
|Chad Pennington+||2008-2009 (19 + 1 playoff start)|
|Chad Henne||2008-2011 (31)|
|Tyler Thigpen||2010 (1)|
|Matt Moore||2011-2017 (30 + 1 playoff start)|
|Ryan Tannehill||2012-2018 (87)|
|Jay Cutler||2017 (14)|
|Brock Osweiler||2018 (5)|
*Huard was with the team for the end of the Marino era in 1998 and 1999
+Runner-up in 2008 NFL MVP voting
Tumultuous, to say the least. The improvement from 2012 to the present, just in stability alone, is a massive upgrade to the eight previous years. Going from annual change, to a pair of quarterbacks whose tenures both outlasted any of the prior aspirants. Tannehill and Moore, providing the stability, were solid, yet unspectacular.
Fiedler was a limited gamer capable of doing enough to support a dominant defense en route to some early playoff exits.
Chad Pennington spun magic for one-year in gimmick offense sans Tom Brady competing for among his AFC East foes (missed 15 games with a torn ACL).
And then Ryan Tannehill teased Dolphins fans for seven years.
Three decent QB eras that will only be remembered those that done the aqua and orange on a regular basis.
So, now, Miami embarks on the search once more. It’s been 19 years, 19 men have tried, and Miami’s QB cupboard is as barren as ever.
The Dolphins figure to hire a coach in the coming days (or weeks) – that will certainly have impact on the impending assemblage of side arms.
Days of old, in the NFL, called upon one of two options to secure this ever-important role with little additional resources allocated to the position. Whether it was a highly-priced free agent, or a bright and shiny rookie, clearly defining the face of the franchise was commonplace.
And it still is – to a degree.
But the en vogue rebuilding process of a quarterback room, the most important room at any of the NFL 32 facilities across America, has become as much about quantity as it is quality.
Merely 9 months ago the Browns made Baker Mayfield the first overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. This selection was made a month after acquiring then Bills Quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, for a 3rd round draft pick. Taylor brought his $16 million salary with him to pair with Mayfield’s $22.3 million earned in cash in 2018 – not exactly frugality at its finest.
The Cardinals inked Sam Bradford for $20 million in 2018. Arizona made a jump in the draft, from the 12th pick to the 10th spot, to select UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen.
In 2017 the Bears traded up one spot to select UNC Quarterback Mitch Trubisky with the second pick in the draft. Trubisky’s $15 million in cash earned that season was narrowly outdone by free agent Mike Glennon – the former Buccaneer signed for $16 million.
The Eagles executed a similar approach, this time going for the trifecta, in 2016 with Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel and Carson Wentz.
Seattle pioneered the practice in 2012 with a marquee contract for free agent Matt Flynn. Flynn would never start a game when it was quickly realized that 3rd round rookie Russell Wilson was destined for stardom.
The Dolphins are next in line to go bulk shopping – the Quarterback’s section of Costo. And it might not be confined to the 2019 off-season. Even as four quarterbacks under the age of 25 started their first playoff game over the weekend (or will make that playoff debut next week), another crop is on the horizon.
From five-star recruits, to potential big-money free-agents, Miami has a three-year window to aggressively attack the position and put an end to the growing list of post-Marino failures.
Before we explore menu, let’s first take a look at how each present starting quarterback was acquired by his respective team.
|Tom Brady||6th round, 1999|
|Ryan Tannehill||8th overall, 2012|
|Sam Darnold||3rd overall, 2018 (NYJ traded up from 6)|
|Josh Allen||7th overall, 2018 (BUF traded up from12)|
|Ben Roethlisberger||11th overall, 2004|
|Baker Mayfield||1st overall, 2018|
|Lamar Jackson||32nd overall, 2018 (BAL traded up from 52)|
|Andy Dalton||2nd round, 2011|
|Andrew Luck||1st overall, 2012|
|Deshaun Watson||12th overall, 2017 (HOU traded up from 25)|
|Marcus Mariota||2nd overall, 2015|
|Blake Bortles||3rd overall, 2014|
|Patrick Mahomes||10th overall, 2017 (KC traded up from 27)|
|Phillip Rivers||4th overall, 2004 (traded from NYG to SD)|
|Derek Carr||2nd round, 2014|
|Case Keenum||FA signing – 2 years, $36 M, $25 M gtd.|
|Carson Wentz||2nd overall, 2016 (PHI traded up from 13; 8)|
|Dak Prescott||4th round, 2016|
|Eli Manning||1st overall, 2004 (traded from SD to NYG)|
|Alex Smith||Via Trade (Sent CB and 3rd rounder to KC)|
|Aaron Rodgers||24th overall, 2004|
|Matthew Stafford||1st overall, 2009|
|Kirk Cousins||FA signing – 3 years, $84 M, fully gtd.|
|Mitch Trubisky||2nd overall, 2017 (CHI traded up from 3)|
|Drew Brees||FA signing – 6 years, $60 M, $24 M gtd.|
|Matt Ryan||3rd overall, 2008|
|Cam Newton||1st overall, 2011|
|Jameis Winston||1st overall, 2015|
|Russell Wilson||3rd round, 2012|
|Jared Goff||1stoverall, 2016 (LAR traded up from 16)|
|Jimmy Garappolo||Via Trade (Sent 2nd round pick to NE)|
|Josh Rosen||10th overall, 2018 (ARI traded up from 12)|
That’s 27 of the 32 starting quarterbacks acquired via the draft and still with the original team -84%. Nine of those 32 were not drafted by the team that organically held that draft position. More than a quarter of the starter signal-callers were acquired via a draft day trade-up.
If the Dolphins want to find that quarterback prospect in April’s draft, they might have to follow suit.
Notable Free Agents: Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Day 1 or 2 QB prospects: Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones, Will Grier, Brett Rypien
This list of potentially available players has been universally criticized. The top two names on the draftable list are still undeclared and, frankly, are the only two that could be considered long-term answers.
The free agent crop offers up that trio of underwhelming players with recent, relevant starting experience. Bridgewater is the big mystery of the three. His last meaningful snaps (aside from a spot start in a mop-up game week 17) came in the 2015 playoffs.
Any free agent signing would provide a bridge to the imminent rookie selection.
Notable Free Agents: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Nick Foles,
Day 1 or 2 QB prospects: Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason
A little more attractive, isn’t it? Of course, several of those names are a sure-fire bet to retire or re-sign with their present teams. But that list of potential draft prospects is equally salivating for quarterback-starved franchises.
The one big name from the free agent list that has been rumored to potentially be on the move is Russell Wilson. That rumor is entirely unsubstantiated, however, and the Seahawks operate at too high of a level to do anything near the level of stupidity required to move on from an elite quarterback.
Tagovailoa is going be the most hyped prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012 – maybe even before. Herbert has plenty of growing to do as he returns to Eugene for his senior season and Jake Fromm has the make-up that will impress NFL decision makers.
Jacob Eason sat out 2018 after transferring from Georgia to Washington – he can spin it.
Notable Free Agents: Kirk Cousins, Cam Newton, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz
Day 1 or 2 QB prospects: Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields
The pair of five stars in the draft column are worth a three year wait – especially Lawrence. The Clemson Freshman, set to play for a national title tonight, looks like he came straight from a quarterback production machine that spits out the perfect product.
Fields hasn’t started a game at the college level and his upside might be clouded by his decision to transfer and sit out the 2019 season.
Of course, all of this could change as quickly as a year – or even sooner. Player’s market value is constantly evolving and most years fail to prove impervious to that fluctuation. Entering the 2018 college season, for example, Michigan State Junior Brian Lewerke was believed to have QB1 potential. After a miserable season, Lewerke isn’t even considered a professional prospect.
The 2018 class staved off major change from early projections. Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Jackson each played under the spotlight throughout their final seasons as amateurs in 2017. Baker Mayfield, as he is wont to do, stormed the castle and stole the show rocketing up the draft board to be the first QB selected.
A couple of prospects have that same feel (Tagovailoa in 2019 and Lawrence in 2020). The accompanying names will surely jockey to round out those future first round draft slots.
As long as Miami can stay true to two principles, the long-awaited arrival of the “Next Dan Marino” should be obtainable in the coming years:
1.) Attack the position aggressively, in multiple facets. The draft, free-agency, trade, this is not a position to practice frugality with. Miami needs to sink resources into the quarterback until they find one good enough to permit the team from doing otherwise.
2.) Continue the aggressive nature once the draft target has been identified. If “THE” guy is out there, and the Dolphins are sure of it, sitting idly by would not be in the best interest of the franchise. The Chiefs, the Texans, the Eagles, the Rams – each pushed their chips to the center of the table and now each hold pocket aces at the game’s most crucial position.
The rebuilding process begins here. Get this right, and the entire fan base collectively, deservedly, steps off the wheel of mediocrity.
Pillaging the Pats
Taking From the Rich and Giving to the Phins
De facto Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores is set to take over the big chair in Miami at the conclusion of New England’s 2018 season. Rumored to be coming with Flores are a pair of Pats staffers.
A master of delegation, Bill Belichick constantly maintains the smallest staff in the league. Flores’ intentions are to bring with him Pats’ Consultant Bret Bielema and Wide Receivers Coach Chad O’Shea.
*We’ll have a comprehensive breakdown of the offensive scheme that comes with O’Shea should this move push closer to official. And we’ll do so in the same capacity as the Defensive Crash Course piece.
If Flores is able to extract both Bielema and O’Shea, he’s plundering 16% of the 2018 Patriots’ staff (that includes Flores). Belichick’s coaching tree has yielded less than desirable results in their new destinations, but Flores is described as “different” from the rest.
I’m in Foxboro reporting on Patriots’ game, so I’ve gotten to chat with people about Dolphins target Brian Flores. One thing nobody exactly says but stands out: This is not your usual Belichick disciple. Disciplined, yes. Stoic even. But not as… how should I put this… rigid?
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 12, 2019
By now Dolphins fans are tired of lip service. If Flores is the exception to the many before him, great – we’ll find out on Sundays. Flores is, however, off to a unique beginning compared to the lackluster rest.
|Coach (Year Left New England)||Additional Migrating Staffers|
|Charlies Weis (2005 – Notre Dame)||0|
|Romeo Crennel (2005 – Cleveland)||0|
|Eric Mangini (2007 – NY Jets)||0|
|Josh McDaniels (2009 – Denver)||0|
|Bill O’Brien (2012 – Penn State)||0|
|Matt Patricia (2018 – Detroit)||0|
Goose eggs. I didn’t expect that when I began this study, hence the table. Interestingly, the greatest dearth in the Patriots run came between the 2008-2010 seasons. That sentence is a house of cards for two reasons:
1.) It’s sort of hilarious to call two playoff appearances and a combined record of 35-13 a dearth. Those three seasons were the last time New England weren’t participating in the Conference Championship – they’ve qualified for eight consecutive title games since.
2.) It’s something of a strawman to suggest New England’s 14-2 season was cut short at the divisional round because of a loss of coordinators. Not to mention the 2008 season that brought back 11 wins despite starting Matt Cassel for 15 games.
That three-year stretch did come after New England lost its offensive and defensive coordinators, and then Crennel’s replacement at DC (Mangini) two years later. No one is mistaking Flores, Bielema, and O’Shea for Weis, Crennel, and Mangini, but this would be a similar exodus – the difference being all at once opposed to three years.
It’s no secret that Belichick is a ruthless competitor that has no qualms about making enemies. The Patriots have blocked coaches from interviewing for outside positions in the past. Clearly, New England doesn’t block assistants from taking head coaching jobs, but the fact that zero staffers jumped ship might insinuate staffers are held hostage.
Maybe that’s where the idea that Flores is different from the rest comes from. His ability to separate himself from the Pats’ program. His intentions to implement his own initiative that doesn’t try to form as a carbon copy of Belichick’s well-oiled machine in Foxboro.
There are a million ways to splice this, but it all comes back to one conclusion: Brian Flores is beloved by everyone that knows him – even the heartless Hoodie.
Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme
For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.
Enter Patrick Graham.
It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.
Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.
Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.
And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.
For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.
We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.
The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.
This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.
— James Light (@JamesALight) February 5, 2018
In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).
The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.
New England Patriots 4-3 Even Front I just talked about vs Titans. 2 Gap & 1 Gap Hybrid. Very tough to run the ball against. First example is with Tampa 2 Coverage. Second is with 3 Buzz Coverage (SS Buzz). pic.twitter.com/dnskxkrgFp
— James Light (@JamesALight) January 16, 2018
Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.
The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.
Vincent Taylor gon’ eat in this new defense. Miami didn’t two-gap at all, but he’s capable. pic.twitter.com/m7nfBdbVoU
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Davon Godchaux has the power to play a true nose or the 2i/3 in the 3-3 Bear Front. Here he is showing us as close to nose alignment dominance as we’ll find from 2018 in this D. pic.twitter.com/Ylc4wt86Di
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.
The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.
The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.
No false steps, clean diagnosis, knifes in and makes the TFL. This new defense wants to free up its LBs, which could make a word of difference for the emerging Raekwon McMillan. pic.twitter.com/MHDja6ebtM
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.
The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.
Jerome Baker working as an outside rush backer off the weak side – a role he will see plenty of in 2019 in Patrick Graham’s defense. pic.twitter.com/SVzKXuyc8T
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) January 16, 2019
Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.
These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.
The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.
Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting
It is that time of year again. Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.
It’s mock draft season! Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…
Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:
Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU
Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy. Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.
Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”. Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.
CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU
Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams. It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.
For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection. In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.
The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma
Now it’s getting exciting! There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray. As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.
Kyler Murray will now get feedback from NFL scouts regarding his draft position and many scouts estimate he’ll be a 2nd or 3rd round pick. He also has millions from baseball waiting for him. Big decision still looms.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 14, 2019
Some question if he will be available at #13. As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched. Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size. Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier. Murray will be no exception.
2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring. If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.
Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson
Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship. Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.
Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs. He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback. Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.
Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson
This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.
What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available. Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.
Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald). Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.
SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke
It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback. Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach. Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill? There are other options out there at a cheaper price.
When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.
All that said, it’s the NFL draft. Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out. Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential? I just don’t see it with Jones.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13. Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.