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Reassessing Defensive Concerns

Kevin Dern

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We’re nearing the halfway point of the 2019 season and quite a lot has changed since my last piece in July.  Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Kiko Alonso, Vincent Taylor, T.J. McDonald are all gone.  Miami sits at 0-6 staring at the grim possibility of going 0-16.  Fear not Dolfans, if that happens, there are one or Tua things on the horizon that look big and bright.  So, to help us get there, I thought I’d reassess my own article.  I wrote and published this on July 5th, so that’s the context we’re looking at.

Before we dive into the specific concerns I laid out, I think it needs to be said that Brian Flores and his staff, for the most part, seem to have Miami’s defense playing nearly as well as they could, given what they have to work with.  Aside from getting bamboozled by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in Week 1, Miami’s defense is noticeably different from what we saw during the Adam Gase era:

1) Through seven week (6 games for Miami) they’ve got the third fewest penalties in the league

2) Aside from the Ravens game, we haven’t seen breakdowns in coverage and miscommunication on the scale we saw in 2017 and 2018.

3) You can see the framework of what Flores and Patrick Graham are trying to do; this is a smart, physical and disciplined defense.  It’s just devoid of talent at too many positions.

While we’re at it, a brief note on the scheme.  This isn’t my style, but I’m going to firmly plant the victory flag on detailing the type of defense Miami is running.  We saw a lot of lazy takes this offseason about Miami running a 3-4.  They’ve done this pretty minimally, mostly against run-heavy looks like Pittsburgh the other night.  If you’ve studied the Patriots and either Matt Patricia or Brian Flores’ iterations of the defense, you’d know the 3-4 was used very, very minimally (just 13 snaps in 2018).  Miami’s defense is very much what the Patriots were running in 2018 – a multiple, sometimes amorphic, sub-packaged-based defense system where we’re seeing a lot of 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 looks with varying personnel.  If you need a refresher, I wrote about it back in February.

https://www.lockedondolphins.com/dolphins/inside-the-film-room-dolphins-new-defensive-scheme/

Now, onto the specific concerns I addressed back in July.

https://www.lockedondolphins.com/dolphins/pinpointing-causes-for-concern-on-defense/

As a refresher, those concerns were:

– How many of Miami’s incumbent Defensive Linemen will take to the style of play in the Brian Flores defense?

 – Can the Dolphins aggregately create analogs for Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, or are we shopping aggressively in 2020?

– Who is Miami’s Patrick Chung?

1. Reassessing the D-line.
Starting at the beginning with the defensive line, my primary concern was how many of Miami’s incumbent D-linemen would stick within the scheme, and how would they compensate for not having as many powerful linemen.

The answer? Miami’s front office and coaching staff essentially took a sledgehammer to the Defensive Line Room.  Gone are: Akeem Spence – a starter in 2018, Vincent Taylor – key rotational player in 2018, and one of the stars of camp in Adolphus Washington.  We also saw them say goodbye to potential NT types in Joey Mbu and Jamiyus Pittman.

The remains from 2018 are just Davon Godchaux and Charles Harris.  And, it seems very likely that Harris’s ship will probably sail this offseason as well.

That being said, we’ve seen some good moments.  One of the questions marks that rookie Christian Wilkins carried into the NFL, and Miami’s defense in particular, was his ability to be physical at the point and play with power.  His track record at Clemson showed he made a lot of plays using his quickness and athleticism to get around blocks. So far this year we’ve seen him do a nice job simply going through players.  Here’s a clip of him at 3-technique against the Redskins, blasting through Brandon Scherff to allow Raekwon McMillan to make the stop.

https://twitter.com/WingfieldNFL/status/1183459571366367232?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1183459571366367232&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.lockedondolphins.com%2Fdolphins%2Fwhat-went-right-in-week-6%2F

We see it again here against the Cowboys’ Zack Martin.

https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1175820958734512129/pu/vid/1280×720/cAlU9-7W2Q5pX4Q-.mp4?tag=10

Early-season pick up Taco Charlton has also provided some nice moments.  Against the Steelers on Monday night he was able to set a “pick” on David DeCastro to allow Jerome Baker to loop outside as the pair teamed up for a strip-sack of Mason Rudolph.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1188984615416954880

We’ve also seen Vince Biegel play well as an edge defender in pass-rush situations, including notching his first career sack against none other than Tom Brady.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1uVfVoWdjc

Overall though, Miami’s defensive line has been more about the additions they’ve made during cut weekend and in-season.  We’ve seen the likes of Avery Moss, Taco Charlton and Vince Biegel start games, and some nice contributions from John Jenkins.  None were with Miami heading into 2019, and I imagine Miami will continue to build in the trenches this offseason.

2. Can Miami create analogs for Hightower and Van Noy?
The answer here thus far is no.  Miami hasn’t been able to.  What they’ve done is piece together some of those roles, but to a degree.  Vince Biegel was acquired via trade just before the season and appears to have been the most successful at replicating a role befit for a Patriots linebacker.  In short, they’ve essentially given him a pseudo Dont’a Hightower role.  He’s been able to play as an edge backer and has been a nifty 3rd down pass-rusher.  But he doesn’t play off-the-ball the way Hightower does.

We’ve seen Miami split that role between Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker and Sam Eguavoen.  McMillan has been the best of the bunch in this regard, especially in terms of stopping the run.  But, we haven’t seen him very much on the edge or lined up inserted in gaps in pass-rush situations as a pick player.

https://twitter.com/WingfieldNFL/status/1189000235982262273

Travis’s clip here demonstrates McMillan’s abilities to take on and disengage from blocks to make tackles.  In short, Raekwon McMillan’s role has been boiled down a bit and he’s been playing like David Harris did for the Pats a few seasons ago, or how they used Ja’Whaun Bentley last year before he was injured.  Essentially, McMillan’s got a role going forward, but it’s more a LB3 role than anything else:  run-stopper.

As for Jerome Baker, he’s not Kyle Van Noy.  Baker’s been destroyed as an edge linebacker this year.  Hopefully Biegel, the return of Van Ginkel and offseason additions make it so that you don’t have to worry about putting him there in 2020.  And that’s because he’s played fairly well as an off-ball LB, and his best game of the year came against the Steelers.  So what does that mean?

https://twitter.com/wingfieldnfl/status/1027743507056812032

As we can see here from the preseason clip against Tampa, Baker can click and close when he’s off the ball.  He tackles fairly well, but struggles against blockers.  My thinking is that he and Raekwon McMillan will almost end up being subbed for each other in off-ball situations next year; McMillan in running situations, Baker in passing situations.  And you can have Jerome Baker involved as a blitzer.

But as far as either of them being Hightower or Van Noy, it’s not happening.  And that’s okay.  I don’t think Miami’s going to end up building a defense around either guy, but they can fill key roles on the team moving forward so long as it’s cost effective.  Translation: you’re probably not extending both guys, it’ll be one or the other…if that, depending on who your top two LBs are when the time comes.

3) Who is Miami’s Patrick Chung?
Who the hell would’ve thought that seven games into the season the answer would be Eric Rowe? Not you.  Not me.  Not anyone.  Miami dealt Minkah Fitzpatrick, thus wiping out that option.  Minkah got some snaps as that Patrick Chung hybrid LB/S position before whining his way to the Steel City.  T.J. McDonald was cut (never should’ve been extended before playing a snap in the first place.  I swear, this team.) before the season started.  And Reshad Jones has been injured and perhaps “injured” more often than not this year.  He’s seen some snaps in the box in that role and has made some plays.

https://youtu.be/n9BiWvM6COg?t=44

You can see Coach Flo explaining to Reshad about situational football as it relates to the Redskins having Adrian Peterson in the game in what would normally be a passing situation and telling Reshad Jones to think run.  It’s hard to see in the clip, but Jones lines up on the edge and tracks down Peterson from the backside for a TFL.

But I think we all know that this year is likely Reshad’s last year as a Dolphin.  He’s had a tremendous career here, but the end is coming in the form of a total rebuild.  In Jones’s absence the past two weeks, we’ve seen Eric Rowe surprisingly fill in.  To my knowledge he didn’t play this role in New England when he was there (please, correct me if I’m wrong on this) though he did play some free safety for the Patriots.  So far, Rowe seems to have a grasp on what he’s supposed to be doing, but has missed some tackles.  You can see that here from the Monday Night game:

https://youtu.be/7A2glv_uxT8?t=70

Suffice to say, I don’t think Eric Rowe is the answer here either.  Filling this spot is going to happen this offseason, and it may require a free agent signing or signings, plus a pick to do it.  It’s a very niche, but integral role, to this defense and takes someone with unique traits to fill it.  A part of me still wonders if Jerome Baker could play here if he slimmed down a bit, but Miami seems to have him working opposite that line of thought.

Overall
Each of the concerns has reared themselves in different ways.  Miami’s incumbent linemen, save for Davon Godchaux and the rookies Christian Wilkins and Jonathan Ledbetter (for a game) have be removed.  Avery Moss, John Jenkins, Robert Nkemdiche, Taco Charlton, and to a degree, Vince Biegel have been inserted.  And there’s certainly more work to be done here.

To this point Baker and McMillan have carved out roles, but they’re not the all-encompassing roles of Hightower or Van Noy.  Vince Biegel’s emergence has helped mitigate those shortcomings, but more work needs to be done at linebacker this offseason.  Miami needs their Van Noy or Devon Kennard in a bad way.  Keep an eye on LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson here.  Just saying.

The landscape at strong safety is about as barren as the New Mexico desert that Walter White and Jesse Pinkman drove their RV to in order to “cook”.  At this rate, Miami’s going to have to make a heavy investment here, and likely should do whatever they can to have Bobby McCain move back to slot corner, or off the roster altogether.  He’s not the free safety this scheme requires, though I could see this staff giving him one more year to earn/prove he can do that with better help in front of him and outside at corner.

For the remainder of this year, I think we as fans have to focus on the continued development of Christian Wilkins, Taco Charlton, Raekwon McMillan, Jerome Baker and Vince Biegel to see how best to utilize them in 2020.  Aside from Wilkins, who figures to garner a large role, what about the rest? We need to see these players pile up more individual wins over the remaining nine weeks.

 

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Miami Dolphins

Buffalo Beats Miami Back to Reality – Dolphins Bills Week 11 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Shorthanded Dolphins swept by rival Bills

Truthfully, this game was over when the inactives were announced. Miami’s 30th-ranked run defense were allowing 146.1 yards-per-game, at an average of 4.6 YPC entering Sunday’s action. Raekwon McMillan, Pro Football Focus’ 11th-highest graded run-defending linebacker, was on that inactive list. So was Taco Charlton, Miami’s leading snap-taker from a defensive edge that is incredibly thin even with Charlton in the lineup.

Buffalo promptly ripped off 169 rushing yards at an average of 5.1 yards per pop (removing Josh Allen’s kneel down to end the game, a one-yard loss).

 

Stat Dolphins Bills
Total Yards 303 424
Rushing 23 168
Passing 280 256
Penalties 6 (44 yards) 5 (50 yards)
3rd / 4thDown 5/18 (27.7%) 6/15 (40%)
Sacks For 0 7
TOP 29:51 30:09

DolphinsBills

Brian Flores’ message throughout Miami’s much-needed, brief winning-streak was about stringing together consistency, in the face of complacency. The message was received last week in a spirited road victory, but the Phins came up well short of a third-straight win over rival Buffalo, who now have three consecutive wins over Miami.

Next week, back on the road, we’ll see if Flores is capable of getting his squad back to the level of play that the team enjoyed the previous two weeks. Miami’s six fouls accepted were the most since the season opening beat down against Baltimore. That game, Miami were operating with a 20% roster turnover inside two weeks’ time. Sunday, the zebras picked up a handful of flags that otherwise would’ve been the Phins sloppiest performance since that opener.

Miami busted coverages, they tackled poorly and committed a lot of penalties — essentially, they failed to do all the things that kept them in games the last month.

The special team’s unit lifted the tide, and all of the pass catchers got involved, but the rest of the team was not at its best in something of a letdown showing. This was true, particularly on the offensive line, where the protection also reverted back to old ways. There isn’t a quarterback on the planet that would survive a weekly onslaught like the one Ryan Fitzpatrick saw Sunday.

The seven sacks allowed were a season-high for Miami, with a lot of that heat coming off the much-maligned left side. We’ll cover that in the individual segments, which we jump to now.

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stat line is rather remarkable. Given the circumstances, a zero-turnover performance with better than 7.2 yards per attempt is difficult to believe. It would be disingenuous to blame all seven sacks on the offensive line, Fitz did run into one or two, but he didn’t have much of a choice.

The pocket was compromised all game, leaving Fitzpatrick to create space just to have a chance to get into his progressions. If Miami ever re-inserts Josh Rosen into the lineup, and this is the level in which the line plays at, the Phins won’t win another game this season — I’m not sure they would with Fitzpatrick at the controls either.

Running Backs

There’s a lot of Kalen Ballage vitriol circulating out there, and it’s well-warranted. Ballage’s comment that he had nothing to prove, while touting a paltry 2.0 yard-per-carry-mark rubbed fans the wrong way. His best run of the game was a seven-yard bowling ball off a wildcat formation in the red zone. That package eliminates Ballage’s requirement to anticipate, and get to the best available gap created by the line. Even with the seven-yard pop, Ballage finished with seven carries for seven yards, and his season YPC is now under 2.0.

Patrick Laird’s quick-twitch shows up in regular season games just as it did the preseason. Laird caught all six targets for 51 yards, and earned the right to a six-game audition down the stretch.

Chandler Cox’s best play of the season sprung Ballage’s TD run.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

Devante Parker posted a career-high 135 receiving yards, and become the first Dolphin to surpass the century-mark this season. He’s looking fluid as ever, crisply getting out of his breaks and running after the catch at a level not yet seen in his professional career. Parker’s reason for accepting a cheap, prove-it deal with Miami was to “change his legacy with the Dolphins,” and he’s well on his way to accomplishing that goal.

Allen Hurns’ contract extension Saturday was met with some backlash from Dolphins fans, and those same fans will feel vindicated after Hurns’ showing Sunday. He dropped a pass that would’ve set Miami up in the red zone with a chance to cut the deficit to two at halftime, but it was ruled a fumble and a turnover. Then, out of the break, Hurns dropped another pass. Those two plays overshadowed his otherwise productive day. He has a real knack for finding soft spots in zones, a highly-regarded skillset in this scheme.

Mike Gesicki’s production has pretty much gone in-line with the performance of the offensive front this season. He caught four passes, but only picked up 18 yards off his six targets. If the line can’t protect, the Fitzpatrick never gets to his vertical threat tight end. Gesicki certainly received an earful for his failed block on a long Parker reception.

Jakeem Grant only caught three passes for 32 yards, but his 101-yard kickoff return showcased his world-class speed. It was nice to see Jakeem involved heavily for the first time this season, as he also scored on a handoff from Kalen Ballage in the wildcat offense.

Offensive Line

Julie’n Davenport probably isn’t known by the casual fan, but his season has been an all-timer. He’s only played in two games, but in those games he’s surrendered multiple sacks, provided teaching tape for what NOT to do, and left both contests with an injury.

Michael Deiter’s development has completely flat-lined at this stage. Every week, there’s a rep that would make the opposition’s highlight reel, as he is easily discarded in pass pro. He also falls off too many blocks in the run-game.

Evan Boehm was nicked up in this game, as he and Daniel Kilgore did very little to get surge in the running game. Things did not improve with Keaton Sutherland in the game, in-place of Boehm.

Defensive Line

Deception caught Miami a few times. Avery Moss was lauded by Flores for the work the end had done before missing the last four games, and there are reps where he looks like a real fit. Josh Allen completely had Moss taking the cheese on a zone read, however, as Moss followed the back inside, while Allen pulled it out for a 36-yard run.

Davon Godchaux does as well as anyone to hold double teams, and he’s the slipperiest interior player against the run. Each week, Godchaux will show out with a few reps like this one below:

Christian Wilkins looked to get rolled out quite a bit in this game, but I’d like to look at the all-22 before I get on him too much. My initial thought is that the linebackers really struggled to fit the run Sunday.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker was on the wrong end of a chewing-out from Flores, and the aforementioned run fits are the likely reason. Baker did make several plays in the game, but he was also caught in the wrong gap a number of times, and the Bills hit big runs as a result.

Sam Eguavoen is a recurring problem on Miami’s run defense. He is so easily displaced, caught up in the wash, and his inability to take on blocks really hurts the Phins stack, shed and rally mentality.

Vince Biegel continues to show up in a big way. He’s become a focal point for opposing offenses, and he’s still finding his way through double teams.

Defensive Backs

Sunday was the banner day for the anti-Bobby-McCain-at-safety brigade. McCain is doing a job that, quite frankly, nobody else on the roster is suited to fulfill, and he’s doing it with a shoulder that’s barely hanging on. McCain deserves flak for his late rotation on a long touchdown to John Brown, and his tackling was inexcusable throughout the game.

Nik Needham, partially to blame for not carrying John Brown downfield on that long touchdown, made a number of plays for the third straight game. Needham drew Brown early and often, and made a number of plays on the football. He got beat a couple of times, but Brown’s been doing that every corner he’s faced this season.

Eric Rowe and Reshad Jones as a safety tandem — especially in three safety looks with McCain as the third — is worse than the old Jones/T.J. McDonald combination. Jones looks a step slow off the rib injury, and Rowe’s best traits are somewhat masked by Jones’ presence on the field.

Recap

We talked all week about Miami’s ability to win games against poorly coached teams. Buffalo is not a poorly coached team, and they play really tough defense. Miami’s roster was as thin as its been all season, and with an overall sloppy performance, the Dolphins are lucky the score was this close.

It’ll be a nice challenge to the team to see how it responds from a reality check next week in Cleveland. The Browns defense is heating up, but will be without two of its best players in Myles Garrett and Larry Ogunjobi.

For now, Miami’s draft picks had an outstanding day. Miami entered Sunday one of four teams with a pair of victories. Two of these teams, the Falcons and Jets, won Sunday, leaving Miami with a tiebreaker disadvantage behind the Giants, a win better than Washington, and still two wins clear of Cincinnati.

The news of Tua Tagovailoa’s career-threatening injury cuts two ways. Now, he’ll likely be available when the Dolphins are on the clock, whether that’s second, eighth, or anywhere in-between.

The quandary, how do you justify risking such a valuable resource on a guy that has so many medical concerns? The answer is easy. He’s special. He displayed his special abilities in that LSU game, where his mobility was drastically limited, and he still carved up one of the nation’s best defenses.

Joe Burrow almost certainly comes off the board as QB1 now, and if Tua really is Miami’s man, they just might get a crack at him after all.

@WingfieldNFL

Bonus – Jason Sanders one-man-band onside recovery

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 Quarterback Prospects – Week 12

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 12 of the College Football Season

During the college season, here on Locked On Dolphins, we’re going to keep an eye on quarterbacks all throughout the country. Our primary focus will be on the big four, the options that Miami will likely choose from with an early pick in the 2020 draft.

Those quarterbacks are:

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report

2019 Week 1 Recap
2019 Week 2 Recap
2019 Week 3 Recap
2019 Week 4 Recap
2019 Week 5 Recap
2019 Week 6 Recap
2019 Week 7 Recap
2019 Week 8 Recap
2019 Week 9 Recap
– No Week 10 Recap
2019 Week 11 Recap

*LSU’s Joe Burrow has been added to the prospect watch list.

We’ll go in chronological order from when the games were played.

Week 12 Recap

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Mississippi State, Win
Stats: 14/18 (77.8%) 256 yards (14.22 YPA) 2 TD

Today was a collective “L” for the football community. One of the best collegiate players, and widely praised good guys, Tua Tagovailoa suffered a hip injury that leaves his football future in question.

What started out as an ordinary onslaught of explosive plays — a product of perfectly placed passes — ended in potential tragedy. Reports say that Tua’s hip is both dislocated, with a fracture of the wall that retains the ball joint. This injury calls for immediate surgery and significant recovery time, if a football career is possible at all.

Tagovailoa will do everything in his power for a full recovery, and hopefully the advances in modern medicine can allow him to make a triumphant return to the gridiron.

Jordan Love at Wyoming, Win 26-21
Stats: 18/29 (62.1%) 282 yards (9.72 YPA) 2 TD, 2 INT

This game was my favorite quarterback tape to watch this season. Jordan Love exhibited the sometimes unfathomably unique arm-talent that has endeared him to scouts nationally. After two interceptions — one a bad read, another bad luck — Love showed the shortstop-like arm, supreme athleticism, and general freaky traits that have scouts drooling.

The arm-strength to squeeze the football into a tight window from 40 yards away, the rare elasticity to sling it on a line across his body while on the move, the quick release to get the ball out in the face of pressure…it looks like he’s throwing a baseball.

The added element of a designed run package and RPO game, paired with the threat of throwing the ball to any blade of grass on the field, coaches will line up to get their hands on this prospect.

Jake Fromm vs. Missouri, Win 27-0
Stats: 13/28 (46.4%) 110 yards (3.93 YPA) 3 TD

Fromm hit his best throw of the season in another big SEC road victory. Few quarterbacks have the number of scalps that Fromm keeps in his back pocket, and he displayed tremendous poise in another hostile environment.

At times, the crowd noise was deafening, yet Fromm communicated his line checks and audibles with urgency and a steady heartbeat. He made cutch, accurate throws on third down, and beat the defense with his pre-snap prowess.

Fromm has quiet feet when he gets to the top of his drop. That’s not a trait he shares with a lot of the new-age, successful quarterbacks in the NFL. Kyler Murray went first in the draft for his ability to glide weightlessly about the pocket, creating passing lanes.

While Fromm is capable of mitigating some deficiencies with his ability to get the offense into the right play, and accurate passing, he’s not going to erase free rushers with his athleticism, and he’s not going to overcome situations with a fastball throw.

Joe Burrow at Ole Miss, Win 58-37
Stats: 32/42 (76.2%) 489 yards (11.64 YPA) 5 TD, 2 INT

And in one afternoon, Joe Burrow is left with nothing to prove. The now heavy favorite to come off the board with the first pick, the second half of Miami’s season would have to take some considerable turns to get the LSU Quarterback.

Burrow remains as cool as ever in this one. He rushed his Tiger offense out to a big lead with a couple of impressive improvisational plays. The big day was saddled by the two turnovers, but Burrow ends the day as the new QB1 due to Tua’s medical situation.

Justin Herbert vs. Arizona, 10:30 ESPN
Stats: 20/28 (71.4%) 333 yards (11.89 YPA) 4 TD, 1 INT

If this was your first viewing experience of Justin Herbert, you probably came away convinced he’s a top-10 draft pick — and he will be. If you’re a regular to his tape, this game was more of the same — flashes of brilliance when the circumstances permit, but the same inconsistencies in the most important aspects of the game.

Arizona’s defense hasn’t stopped a nose bleed this year, and they sure as hell weren’t going to stop the draft’s most physically impressive specimen behind the country’s best offensive line. Herbert’s long touchdown throws displayed the hand-cannon that has scouts conjuring up the prototypical quarterback build — particularly the toss in the second half.

On the rare occasions where Arizona got heat, you saw Herbert’s lack of quick-twitch to get off the spot, without the inherent ability to keep his eyes downfield to keep the play alive. You saw Herbert make an egregious decision to throw the ball into coverage (the INT was dropped) on a first-and-goal play from the two-yard-line.

The problem with Herbert, is that this has been the story for over 30 games. He still has no signature wins or moments, and the Oregon offense is still predicated on the running and screen game.

Herbert’s best bet at the next level is a run-heavy offense that can utilize his premiere weapon — throwing on the move. Lining up in 12-personnel (2 tight ends) and allowing Herbert to get out in space to throw into layers or flood concepts on the move will be the smoothest transition for the Oregon QB to have some success.

I’m of the belief that you have to put Herbert in an absolutely ideal situation, because he’s not going to mitigate your issues offensively.

Week 12 Conclusion

Reports from the University of Alabama doctor responsible for tending to Tagovailoa say the quarterback will make a full recovery, but he is certainly in for a long rehab process. If anyone can come back from this, it’s Tagovailoa, though his draft stock will surely be impacted. If Tua enters the draft and clears all the medical hurdles, he’ll still be a first-round pick.

Miami might be fortunate if Tagovailoa is still the target. With Brian Flores willing his team to underdog victories, the chances of obtaining the first pick was becoming grim, but so too are Tua’s chances at going off the board number one.

The Dolphins will have a difficult decision to make, though an apparent contingency plan is developing behind Tua.

Jordan Love is making progress the last two weeks in his overall effectiveness, and the highlights he produced today were utterly absurd. Though he has shortcomings in his approach for the game and playing the quarterback position, his physical tools give him — far and away — the highest upside in the class.

Miami’s interesting draft season took a jump to a whole other level of intrigue with the events of Saturday.

Week 13 Schedule

Fromm vs. Texas A&M, 3:30 CBS
Burrow vs. Arkansas, 7:00 ESPN
Love vs. Boise State, 10:30 CBSSN
Herbert at Arizona State TBD

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Videos

A.J. Epenesa – Iowa Defensive End 

Bravvion Roy – Baylor Defensive Tackle

Julian Blackmon – Utah Safety (former corner, invited to Mobile for the Sr. Bowl)

Ben Bredeson – Michigan Left Guard

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Miami Dolphins

Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Colin Kaepernick
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Miami (Locked On Dolphins) – Should the Miami Dolphins be interested in signing Colin Kaepernick?

It was only a matter of time before someone posed the question, and maybe it’s already been asked. Does Colin Kaepernick make sense for the Miami Dolphins?

I think the answer could be yes but not in a vacuum. The circumstances would have to be aligned for it to work out.

As it stands, for 2019, I don’t think Kaepernick would be viewed as a starter to fuel any tank or non-tank talk, regardless of how good he looks in the jerry-built workout on Saturday.

Any potential for signing Kaepernick would come with a big asterisk. I think it would have more to do with the some of the draft-eligible quarterbacks that could be a Dolphin next year and the traits and abilities they possess than it does with Kaepernick and what he could do directly for the franchise.

It boils down to who the Miami Dolphins have on their quarterback short list in the 2020 Draft. A lot of this franchise’s future boils down to the quarterback. But I’ll save that lecture for another time.

I’m not sure who will be the quarterbacks on the roster next year. Josh Rosen is likely out, and I’m not sure about Ryan Fitzpatrick. Maybe he stays, maybe he goes.

Regardless, there will be a rookie quarterback on the team, maybe even two if the Dolphins double-dip like the Redskins did in 2012 with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. I’ll save that theory for another time, too.

But once the Dolphins have taken their guy next spring, I think they’ll look for an experienced veteran to fill in for a pedagogical role in the QB room.

One of them could still be Ryan Fitzpatrick, but it could be someone else, like Cam Newton…or Colin Kaepernick, but I’ll get to that in a second.

Newton would be a better fit for that role compared to Fitzpatrick, and he offers the ability to kill two birds with one stone. He can win games and bring up the rookie as he goes.

Travis Wingfield tossed around the idea of trading for Cam Newton on Tuesday’s LOD podcast. I liked the idea. Trade for Newton and draft someone like Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts, who are both much rawer than their Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa counterparts.

Of course, that’s Plan B. If Tagovailoa is still within reach, then draft him. If Burrow’s there, take him. If either of those two situations plays out, then all of the contingency plans go out the window.

But getting either Tagovailoa or Burrow is not a guarantee. So, having a scope on the other potential first-rounders is essential. I still like Jordan Love and his traits, but I also like Jalen Hurts, and I’m coming around on Justin Herbert. All three would benefit from redshirt seasons when entering the NFL.

And having the appropriate veteran guidance will be a huge blessing for the rookie’s development.

While I hope Plan A still comes to fruition, I also like the first backup plan. Here’s a caveat to Plan B, though. Trading for Newton is also not a guarantee.

There are several factors out of the Dolphins control, and that’s assuming that they are, in fact, interested in trading for Newton. If they are interested, then it becomes paramount that they can trade for him. At least they have their 2020 war chest of draft picks.

Now, back to my Kaepernick spiel. If Newton becomes a distant memory and Plan B crumbles, then Kaepernick jumps into the picture.

Kaepernick offers flexibility if the Dolphins do want Newton but can’t land him or if they’re going to save their picks outright.

If Newton is Plan B, then I’m viewing the signing of Kaepernick as a next-best Plan C. Newton and Kaepernick could both fit into the mold of teacher, but both also offer more upside than Ryan Fitzpatrick when it comes to winning games. It’s a way of having your cake and eating it too.

You wouldn’t have to trade for Kaepernick, and I doubt you’d have to fend off many other teams to sign him, either.

Allow an incubation period for the rookie quarterback while Newton or Kaepernick takes the reins for a season or two. Similar to how Patrick Mahomes held clipboards for most of his rookie season, grooming a rookie quarterback under the wings of a veteran could provide more sustainable growth for the rookie.

It’ll set up the rook to eventually blossom in a few years instead of being thrown to the wolves and also allow the Dolphins to find relevancy in short-term eras from one of the two mentioned veterans (Newton and Kaepernick).

So, would signing Kaepernick make sense? Yes, but only under certain conditions. I could see it become more likely that Kaepernick never joins the team, but there are scenarios, albeit limited ones, that could see him in orange and aqua.

But he could become a leader for the team and a teacher for the next-gen quarterback waiting in the wings.

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