We hear the phase repeated often enough.
“Football is the ultimate team game”.
It takes all 11 players on each side of the ball to make a play work, intricately planned by the team’s offensive and defensive minds and with each player doing their integral part to keep the machine working smoothly and efficiently.
But when all is said and done, the game is over and the score is final. The fans leave the stadium, or turn off their TVs at home or stumble from the bar either deliriously happy or inconsolably sad – with memories which will linger about only a handful of players who made (or missed) their mark.
Be it a Dan Marino fake spike, a Ricky Williams goal line dive or a Cameron Wake walk-off safety in overtime, it is those players who build upon their legacies and maintain the attention of national media and fanbases in the years ahead.
Once the dust has settled and as each season passes and the next begins, it is their names which have been firmly etched into NFL lore and into the consciousness of football fans – no matter their age.
The Dolphins’ lack of success over the past 2+ decades has forcefully knocked the franchise from its spot at the highest level of NFL focus and seen them slump into the mire of mediocrity from which Brian Flores has now been tasked to drag them out.
This 3 part series will look at those other players from the decades of the past who also formed an integral part of the Dolphins’ machine, but go somewhat unheralded due to them being eclipsed by the ‘bigger’ names of their era. Perhaps a better term would be “under-heralded” players as many long established fans will certainly be familiar with these names (but we’ll try to avoid inventing new words).
Whilst Dolfans have long-since been looking forward to the hope of the future, it is also important to look back to the past, keep note of history and remind ourselves of the players who wore the aqua and orange in their own part of franchise history.
First up, we’ll dive into the waters of the 1990s Dolphins, a team which maintained high expectations for the entire decade under the leadership of Miami’s QB legend, Dan Marino.
The 1990s saw the rise of multiple names, launching themselves to the heights of stardom and securing their eternal legendary status in South Florida. Among them are Hall of Famers Richmond Webb (OT 1990-2000) and Jason Taylor (DE 1997-2007, 2009, 2011), Zach Thomas (LB 1996-2007), Sam Madison (1997-2005) and OJ McDuffie (WR 1993-2001). The decade also saw the tail end of Marino’s notorious receiving duo of Mark Clayton (1983 – 1992) and Mark Duper’s (1982-1992) careers, both of whom were inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2003. But who else out there should be on the minds of Dolphins fans when it comes to looking at the franchise’s biggest contributors during those years?
Position: Left Guard
Keith Sims spent 8 years as a Miami Dolphin (1990-1997) planted at LG alongside Richmond Webb where they solidified the left side of Dan Marino’s offensive line. Although Marino will forever be famous for his lightning-fast release, Sims and Webb formed part of a dominant pass protection unit throughout their tenure which bought ample time for Marino to hit those highlight throws. Originally a 2nd round pick from Iowa State, Sims would go on to start 133 of 142 games in his career and be selected to 3 consecutive Pro Bowls in (1993-1995) as well as Second-Team All Pro in 1994.
Position: Tight End
TE just seems to be one of those key positions for the Dolphins which has been relatively unproductive for far too long, involving a lengthy list of constantly churning names. When trying to identify one of Miami’s best players at the position, Dolfans would have to cast their minds back to the early 90’s when, for 3 seasons, the team was able to rely on a consistent playmaker in the form of Keith Jackson. As a 1st round pick for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1988, Jackson joined the Dolphins in 1992 and was subsequently selected to 2 Pro Bowls. During his stay in South Florida, Jackson accumulated 146 receptions for 1880 yards and 18 TDs. Although his name is occasionally mentioned in historic lists of premier TEs in the NFL, Jackson’s accomplishments for the era still do not earn him the recognition which he deserves.
Position: Defensive Tackle
Tim Bowens was one of my favourite players in my early days as a Miami Dolphins fan. Entering the NFL as a 1st round pick in 1994 from the University of Mississippi, Bowens was extremely durable, playing 157 games in his entire 11 year career with Dolphins (1994-2004) and collaborating with Jason Taylor to create a formidable pass-rush tandem, leading to Pro Bowl selections in 1998 and 2002. Over the course of his career, Bowens compiled 407 tackles, 22 sacks, 9 forced fumbles and 1 interception and was named Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1994.
Selected in the 5th round of the 1991 NFL draft out of Western Illinois University, Bryan Cox spent 5 years with the Miami Dolphins (1991-1995). Following his arrival in South Florida, it didn’t take long for Cox to earn himself a reputation as a tough, hard-nosed linebacker and he was selected as an All-Pro in 1992 following a 14-sack campaign and then again in 1994 and 1995. Cox started all 77 games as a Dolphin, led the team in tackles in 4 out of his 5 years and was the team’s sack leader twice, accumulating 31.5 sacks over his career in Miami. Although he earned his stripes as a highlight-reel LB in the NFL for 12 seasons, Cox also fully embraced the Dolphins/Bills rivalry, throwing a cup of his own urine at a heckling Bills fan during a road game up in frosty Buffalo.
The Dolphins selected Oliver as their 1st round pick of the 1989 draft to reinforce their defensive backfield. Oliver spent his high school and college years in Florida and quickly found his footing in Miami. The talented safety spent 5 years with the Dolphins (1989-1993) before a brief, single season stint with the Cincinnati Bengals during the 1994 season. Oliver returned to the Dolphins in 1995 and retired after the 1996 season having racked up 24 interceptions over 105 games as a Dolphin. His standout game came on 4 October 1992 against the Bills in which he picked off Jim Kelly 3 times, including a 103 yard TD return.
Position: Inside Linebacker
John Offerdahl played his entire 8 year career in Miami after being selected in the 2nd round of the 1986 NFL draft. With the Miami Dolphins from 1986-1993, Offerdahl was selected to 5 consecutive Pro Bowls (1986-1990), gaining 2 All-Pro nominations (1986, 1990) and was named as the Pro Football Weekly Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1986. Before an onslaught of injuries shortened his playing career following the 1993 season, Offerdahl had set the standard for Dolphins’ linebacker play, which would later be challenged by the arrival of Zach Thomas in 1996. Over the course of his career, Offerdahl played in 89 games and collected 9.5 sacks, 4 interceptions and led the team in tackles in 1990, with his name being added to the Dolphins Ring of Honour in October 2013.
Position: Fullback/Tight End
Similar to Keith Jackson, Byars found himself in South Florida following an initial start with the Philadelphia Eagles and landed in Miami in 1993. Over a span of 3.5 years with the Miami Dolphins (he was released by HC Jimmy Johnson and later picked up by the Patriots during the 1996 season), Byars was an all-purpose blocker, runner and pass-catcher and started all of his 45 games accumulating 377 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs and hauling in 166 receptions for 143 yards and a further 10 TDs.
Position: Defensive End
A 9th round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 1988 draft, Jeff Cross played in 125 games over his 8 years with the Miami Dolphins. Although originally used mainly on special teams, Cross’ role increased quickly and he gained the role of starting right defensive end at the start of his second season. During his career, he proved himself to be a reliable, consistent and durable on-field presence, racking up 377 tackles and 59.5 sacks, including a high of 11.5 sacks in 1990 which led to a Pro Bowl selection that same year. Cross also notched 10 forced fumbles, 7 recovered fumbles and grabbed 1 interception. The 1995 season saw Cross’ final season in the NFL as he was released in November 1996 whilst undergoing rehab following back surgery. A rift understandably developed between Cross and the team at the nature of his release by Jimmy Johnson, but time seemingly heals all wounds as he signed a one-day contract on 19 April 2018 to officially retire as a member of the Miami Dolphins.
Unfortunately every Dolphins fan knows how the decade of the 90s ended for Miami – with turmoil at the coaching position, the retirement of a legend, zero Lombardi trophies and the beginning of a 20+ year search for the team’s next superstar Quarterback. Between 1990 and 1999, the Dolphins earned a 95-65 regular season record, winning the AFC East only twice and a 5-7 record in the playoffs.
Surely, the start of a the new millennium would bring a better level of fortune to South Florida’s beloved Dolphins…?
In Part 2 of the series, we’ll take a look at the players of the 2000’s who, despite the team’s continued lack of success, still put forward impressive efforts to do their part and should certainly be in the mix together with the decade’s most recognizable names.
Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker
One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.
According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.
The #Dolphins and WR DeVante Parker are finalizing a four-year extension worth over $40 million, source said. Lot of guaranteed money. Another step in his remarkable turnaround. 💰
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 13, 2019
All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).
According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.
… Parker will make 4.5 M guaranteed in 2020 and 7.7 M guaranteed in 2021. Also, he's five catches and 120 yards from making another 1.5 M in incentives this season
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) December 13, 2019
Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.
Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.
His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).
Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 13, 2019
Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes
MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster
The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.
While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.
Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.
Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.
Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.
Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.
Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.
We have signed DB Nate Brooks off New England’s practice squad, signed LB Jamal Davis off Tennessee’s practice squad and been awarded T Adam Pankey off waivers from Green Bay.
We have also placed CB Ryan Lewis and CB Ken Webster on injured reserve and waived RB Zach Zenner.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 10, 2019
On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.
Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.
Dolphins add their sixth new player of the week, signing cornerback Linden Stephens off Seattle’s practice squad. To make room, they waived cornerback Chris Lammons.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) December 7, 2019
In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.
The #Dolphins have added former UCF and Davie University School DB Rashard Causey to their practice squad today.
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) December 12, 2019
Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview
Dolphins set to run it back in New York
Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3
The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.
The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.
Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.
Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.
Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.
The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.
A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.
Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.
The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.
The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.
James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.
The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.
New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.
The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.
Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.
Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.
New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.
Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.
This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.
Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.
On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.
Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.
The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.
This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.
If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.
If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.
The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.
Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.
The Projected Outcome:
It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.
Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.
A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.
- Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker December 13, 2019
- Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes December 13, 2019
- Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview December 12, 2019
- The Aftermath: Dolphins 21 Jets 22 December 10, 2019
- Fins Fall to Rivals, Officials – Dolphins Jets Week 14 Recap December 8, 2019
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