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Miami Dolphins

Remember The Dolphins (Part 2: The 2000s)

Chris Kowalewski

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The offseason is a great time to reminisce about the past, the “couldhavebeens” and the “whatifs”. 

It’s also a great time to spew hype and hope for the season ahead before the euphoria of a Week 1 win or the crushing ‘all-hope-is-lost’ despair of a defeat. 

Last time, we took a look back into the past to highlight a handful of Dolphins players from the 1990’s who donned the aqua and orange and likely deserve more recognition for their efforts than they currently receive some 20-30 years later.

This week, we’ll dig into more recent memories and filter through the rosters of the 2000’s to shine a light on the players who left their footprints on the turf of Pro Player/Dolphins/Dolphin/Land Shark Stadium and deserve to still have their names brought up in positive Miami football conversations.

For many Dolphins fans in their early-mid 30s the 2000’s is where their fandom was solidified, despite the fact that the decade began with team having already failed to deliver on the best years of Marino’s career in the 80’s and early-mid 90’s and had seen him end his career in Miami without a Super Bowl ring. The reins of the franchise had been passed from the stable hands of Don Shula through a tumultuous couple of seasons under Jimmy Johnson and the millenium bug was on the verge of destroying all life as we know it.

In 2000 – his first year as the Dolphins’ Head Coach – the task of returning the franchise to a course of stability and championship contention was awarded to Dave Wannstedt. The season gave fans significant hope with an 11-5 record, 1st place in the AFC East and a thrilling 23-17 overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts, but also set the standard for long-term expectations with an early playoff exit in an epic 27-0 loss to the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional round. 

2002 saw the arrival of perhaps Miami’s most formidable offensive player (not named Dan Marino) in Ricky Williams. The former Texas Longhorns star had landed in Miami via New Orleans after a cascade of trades and the Dolphins had found their centrepiece for the offense – a superstar running backwhich had been jarringly absent in the Marino years.

The quiet, reserved yet devestating human bulldozer saw his name and number adorn the backs of thousands of fans in South Florida, across the nation as well as internationally and his aggressive, powerful running style kept the franchise relevant when discussing potential Super Bowl contenders. 

Supported by a star-studded cast on defense led by Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison, Miami’s plan for the early 2000’s was clear: 

Run. Score. Get the ball back. Run it again.

In 2002 the offensive plan resulted in Ricky Williams leading the league in rushing yards (1853) and he powered his way through defenders en route to 16 TDs and an average of 115.8 yards per game. The Ricky Williams train continued to roll in 2003 adding 1372 yards and 9 TDs before his abrupt ‘retirement’ shortly before the 2004 season began.

A 4-12 season in 2004 saw the firing of Dave Wannstedt and interim HC Jim Bates held the position until the Dolphins had seemingly managed to reel in their biggest fish with the hiring of LSU coach, Nick Saban. Of course, his dictatorship would only last 2 seasons before the allure of returning to college football proved too much in 2007 and the Dolphins would thereafter be reliant upon the offensive ‘genius’ of Cam Cameron and the elite speed and humble nature of Ted Ginn’s entire family. 

Chris Chambers (2001-2006) had been the team’s standout wide receiver before his departure to San Diego in 2007.

The result of the 2007 season was a 1-15 record, with total embarrassment and the NFL’s first winless season saved only by an overtime Greg Camarillo TD catch-and-run in Week on 16 December against the Ravens.

Ronnie Brown (2005-2011) had been drafted with the 2nd pick of the 2005 draft and – together with the return of Ricky Williams and the addition of Jake Long solidifying the LT spot as the top overall pick in 2008 – helped to reinvigorate Miami’s run game and pass protection.

Dolfans of the 2000’s will clearly remember the euphoria of the next season – a 2008 AFC East crown in Tony Sparano’s first season as Head Coach with an 11-5 record and the complete demolition of the hated New England Patiots at the hands of the Wildcat in Week 3.

But whilst the running back spot remained relatively strong throughout the decade, the stability at the team’s most important position found itself wavering. 

From 2000-2009, Miami started games with Jay Fiedler (2000-2004), Damon Huard (2000), Ray Lucas (2001-2002), Brian Griese (2003), AJ Feeley (2004) Sage Rosenfels (2004-2005), Gus Frerotte (2005), Daunte Culpepper (2006), Joey Harrington (2006), Cleo Lemon (2006), Trent Green (2007), John Beck (2007), Chad Pennington (2008-2009) and Chad Henne (2009-2011).

The only name amongst those who rightly finds himself fondly remembered by Dolfans is of course Chad Pennington, whose team leadership, accuracy and command of the huddle helped propel the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2008. However, the Ravens had their payback (with interest) for Greg Camarillo’s season-defining play with a 27-9 beatdown and a speedy exit from the playoffs in the Wild Card round.

But despite the Dolphins struggling to stay afloat in the waters of mediocrity throughout the decade, glimmers of hope had managed to shine through in the form of a pinch of spectacular players, as well as a handful of solid core contributors who arguably deserve another look under the spotlight of the 2000’s:

Yeremiah Bell

Position: Safety 

After playing college football at Eastern Kentucky, Yeremiah Bell was selected by the Dolphins in the 6th round of the 2003 NFL draft, spending his rookie year on the practice squad. He spent the following 7 seasons tuning his skills as as a hard-hitting safety, accumulating 560 combined tackles, including 433 solo. He also stole 6 INTs, caused 9 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries and registered 11 sacks. Bell suffered an Achilles injury at the start of the 2007 season but returned in 2008 to be a reliable force in the secondary for the Dolphins resulting in a Pro Bowl selection in 2009. 

Randy McMichael

Position: Tight End

Selected in the 2002 draft, McMichael was the 114th overall pick and was the eighth TE off the board. He finished his first season second in receiving totals amongst the rookie TE group in and throughout his career in Miami was a trusted, dependable and durable receiving target. McMichael started each of the 80 games in which he played as a Dolphin and hauled in 283  career receptions for 3096 yards (with an average of 10.9 yards per catch) and 18 TDs before signing with the St Louis Rams in 2007.

Vernon Carey

Position: Offensive Line

Home-grown out of the University of Miami, the former Hurricane was the Dolphins’ first round pick in the 2004 NFL draft. During the early part of his 8 year career with the Dolphins, Carey was developed at the RT spot and contributed to a skilled offensive line which the Dolphins can now only dream about. A solid, versatile and durable starter, Carey also filled in along the line at LT and RG in the later stages of his career and played in 121 games.

Vonnie Holliday

Position: Defensive End/Defensive Tackle

Entering the league in 1998 in Green Bay, Vonnie Holliday’s career shot off to an impressive start before injury saw him replaced and released by the Packers in 2003. After a 2 year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Dolphins signed the experienced pass rusher in 2005 and placed him inside at the DT position alongside Jason Taylor, where he proved durable without any missed games in his first 2 years in Miami. Holliday became a consistent force on the interior defensive line over his 4 seasons during which time he racked up 205 tackles, including 25 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks and 4 fumble recoveries.

Tim Ruddy

Position: Center

As the Dolphins’ Center from 1994-2003, Tim Ruddy missed only 4 games in his career. Selected out the University of Notre Dame, he began his NFL tenure as one of Dan Marino’s trusted protectors, becoming a full-time starter in his second year. Ruddy played with Miami’s two most prolific offensive talents in Marino and Williams and as an anchor between teammates Mark Dixon, Jamie Nails, Todd Perry and Todd Wade, played a large role in Ricky’s rushing title during the 2002 season. With the type of longevity which is rare in the NFL, Ruddy’s talents and durability did not go unnoticed and he was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2001.

Brock Marion

Position: Safety

Brock Marion arrived in Miami in 1998 after having spent his first 5 NFL seasons in Dallas. His impact was felt immediately as he racked up 112 tackles in his first year as a Dolphins and throughout his career contributed heavily to a talented secondary group alongside Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison and started all 95 games in which he played. Brock finished his Dolphins career after having built up impressive statistics, with 20 interceptions, 2 TDs, 431 return yards, 5 forced fumbles and 528 combined tackle before a final season with the Detroit Lions.

Olindo Mare

Position: Kicker

Things didn’t start off so well for Olindo Mare in the NFL, being signed by the Giants as an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse in 1996 and then finding himself cut from the roster before the season even started. However, he was picked up by Miami and developed into one of the stalwarts of the Dolphins and provided consistency in the kicking game for which the current Chicago Bears would sell the farm. Mare spent 10 years in Miami, playing in 155 straight games netting a career 80.9% success rate in field goals, including a league-high 90.5% in 2001 with only 2 misses (19/21). Looking back over his stats, it’s actually quite amazing to consider how the kicking game has progressed over the past 20 years with Mare’s career longest kick a ‘modest’ 53 yards which he achieved on 3 occasions. Olindo Mare was considered one of the most reliable kickers in the league during his time in the league and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1999.

Lamar Smith

Position: Running Back

The 2000’s will inevitably be best remembered for the successes of Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown and their combined force in the Wildcat formation in 2008. But the decade was opened with Lamar Smith in the starting RB spot, spending 2 years with the Dolphins having been acquired from New Orleans. During the 2000 season, Smith rushed for 1139 yards and 14 TDs including a 17 yard overtime run against the Indianapolis Colts to seal the the Dolphins’ most recent playoff win on 30 December 2000. He moved onto Carolina and back to New Orleans with limited success (never again exceeding 680 yards in a season) and an array of troubling drink driving offences.

Rob Konrad

Position: Fullback

It’s hardly news that the 2019 Dolphins want to return the fullback position to relevance and fans should rejoice if Miami can develop anything close to the talents of Rob Konrad. A fearsome blocker, Konrad played in 82 games for the Dolphins from 1999-2004 but with only one fully healthy season (2002). In those 6 seasons, Konrad started 57/82 games. Although he was primarily used as a blocker, he found a handful of opportunities to score, hauling in 111 receptions for 854 yards and 6 TDs whilst also rushing 38 times in short yardage situations for 114 yards and a single TD.

Adewale Ogunleye

Position: Defensive End

During his senior season at Indiana, Adewale Ogunleye suffered a major knee injury and complications with infection which sent the talented player’s draft stock plummeting. As a result, the Dolphins were able acquire Ogunleye as an undrafted rookie in 2000 and he spent his rookie year on the Injured Reserve list. Determination and perseverance saw him take his first steps on NFL turf in 2001, earning a spot on the 53 man roster and 3 productive years followed with the Dolphins (2001-2003) including 2 years as a full-time starter. His Dolphins career culminated with 25 sacks in 39 games, 109 combined tackles and a 2003 Pro Bowl selection before being traded to the Chicago Bears prior to the 2004 season.

Channing Crowder

Position: Linebacker

Love him or loathe him, Crowder’s energy levels are undeniable. Those who haven’t dug into his college and off-field background are strongly encouraged to do so as Crowder recalls his wild youth with gusto. A playmaking All-American linebacker out of the University of Florida, Crowder was selected by the Dolphins in the 3rd round of the 2005 NFL Draft using one of the picks acquired from the trade which had sent Adewale Ogunleye to the Bears. Fans may remember him well for being ejected from a Week 12 game against the Patriots in 2008 after getting into an on-field scuffle with OT Matt Light, but his stats certainly shouldn’t go ignored. A true ‘thumper’ at the LB spot, Crowder played in 82 games over 6 seasons for the Dolphins racking up 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks and 469 combined tackles (including 20 tackles for loss).

Next Up: We’ll be reminiscing on the 2010’s as we search desperately for the diamonds in the rough who not only have already seen their Dolphin days pass them by, but may also find themselves helping the team swim into a much brighter future ahead.

Physically located across the pond, but mentally always in Miami. A qualified lawyer, NFL sponge, aspiring writer and self-proclaimed IKEA furniture construction expert, he’s looking ahead to a brighter future for the Dolphins after decades of wading in the depths of mediocrity. Always on the search for any excuse to talk all-things Dolphins.

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NFL Draft

Scouting College Football’s Top 2020 QB Prospects – Week 7

Travis Wingfield

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Recapping Week 7 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

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

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

Justin Herbert vs. Colorado,Win 45-3
Stats: 18/33 (%) 261 yards (YPA) 2 TDs

Regardless of what happens throughout Justin Herbert’s professional career, he will flash moments of brilliance. The consistency of those spurts, however, remains uncertain. When the defense reacts according to the play call, it’s over. Herbert’s ability to quickly drive the ball down the field excites scouts everywhere.

The issue of inconsistency remains, well, consistent. Lapses in accuracy, proper mechanical alignment and anticipatory throws raise concerns over Herbert’s ability to translate at the next level. When there’s no urgency, everything is rosy. Herbert can adequately process and adjust his throw type when he’s free of adverse circumstances.

When Herbert is forced to speed things up — get away from an unexpected free rusher, anticipate a route opening up against the leverage of the defense — errors occur. Balls on the wrong hip/shoulder, late throws into tight windows, there’s a lack of trust in what he sees post-snap.

The upside is difficult to ignore, but those issues have to become hardwired corrections for Herbert to ever realize that potential.

Jake Fromm vs. South Carolina, Loss 20-17 (OT)
Stats: 28/51 (54.9%) 295 yards (5.78 YPA) 1TD, 3 INTs

The first 54 minutes of this game were a struggle from Fromm and the Georgia offense. After early success that has Fromm accomplishing whatever he wanted against the Gamecock defense — man or zone — Fromm’s decision making and location went south during a 42-minute scoring drought.

The good version of Fromm showed anticipation, timing and location on point, as they all typically are. Fromm’s interception on a throwaway attempt to close out the first half started a cascade of poor football. His accuracy waned, his normally perfect communication with the receivers went awry, and Georgia trailed with just six minutes to play at home against an inferior football team. Fromm also lost a fumble on a failed quarterback-center exchange on the doorstep of the red zone.

Executing a 96-yard, game-tying drive when he had to have it speaks highly to Fromm’s character. The NFL will present adversity, and Fromm has showcased the ability to overcome hurdles. Still, at the end of the day, he made too mistakes for Georgia to win this game.

One week after elevating his draft stock ahead of Justin Herbert and Jordan Love, Fromm comes back to earth and makes one thing abundantly clear — there’s a big gap between Tua and the rest of this class.

Tua Tagovailoa at Texas A&M, Win 47-28
Stats: 21/34 (61.8%) 293 yards (8.62 YPA) 4 TDs, 1 INT

On a day where Tua wasn’t as finely tuned as we’ve come to expect, he surpasses A.J. McCarron for the career touchdown passes record at Alabama with another four touchdown day. Tua’s second touchdown was a classic example of his pre-snap acumen, post-snap mechanical alignment, and precise ball location against an A&M blitz. Quickly getting to his spot and setup, Tua throws it right in behind the blitz and right on the bullseye for a big play.

The fourth touchdown was a fantastic anticipation strike to Henry Ruggs. Tagovailoa’s trust in his own eyes and processor allows him to anticipate better than any passer in the country.

He also showcased his fluid pocket mobility. Whether it’s escaping, or climbing up and wading through the trash, the only thing more dangerous than Tua on-script, is the improvising version of Tua.

The trust can lead to some mistakes and easy turnovers, however. Tua’s interception was a carbon copy of one of his INTs in the SEC Championship Game in 2018 against Georgia. Tua checked his backside read and attacked play side with the information he gathered. He was wrong in thinking the safety was bailing out. Instead, the safety robbed a dig route from Jeudy, and Tua was late with the football for an easy pick.

There were additional accuracy issues (available in the video thread) in the game, but not by a significant margin. Typically, when he makes a mistake, he erases the wrongdoing on the next play. Tua can play better, certainly, but I sometimes wonder if we hold him to an unrealistic standard.

A career 9:1 TD:INT ratio will do that (81 TDs, 9 INTs).

Joe Burrow vs. Florida, Win 42-28 (In-Progress)
Stats: 21/24 (87.5%) 293 yards (12.2 YPA) 3 TDs

Kirk Herbstreit said it best early fourth quarter after Joe Burrow beat another Gators blitz. Herbie referred to Burrow having all the answers for the looks Florida threw at him, and it led to a strong, efficient performance.

Burrow not only threw on-time and on-target within the structure of the offense, he navigated murky pockets and extended plays with big results.

Burrow’s growth in year-two in this offensive system makes for a master attacking the middle, intermediate portion of the field. Dropping the ball in behind linebackers and underneath the safeties, Burrow’s accuracy on crossing routes leads to big plays after the catch for the talented Tigers receivers.

Burrow forced his way into this discussion. The big four have become the big five and Burrow could wind up top-three if he continues this success.

Recap

We’re entering the portion of the season where we can begin to compare common opponents. Fromm earned his way into QB2 status with steady, consistent play through six weeks, but Fromm had his ugliest showing of the year Saturday.

That three-interception performance comes against a defense that Tua carved up for 444 yards and five touchdowns. The already significant gap between QB1 and QB1 increased after the performances of Tagovailoa and Fromm this weekend.

Herbert has nothing to prove against inferior foes. His physical talents are too much for poor defense, especially units that are poorly coached like Colorado. For Herbert to enter QB2 status, he’ll have to show out in adverse circumstances — something he really hasn’t done in his career.

Love was off this week; perhaps the bye week we’ll supplement his familiarity in yet another system. Burrow has passed all of his tests this season, but he still has a way to go before he’s even considered a one-year wonder.

Half way through the college football season, my quarterback big board goes:

  1. Tua Tagoavailoa
  2. Jake Fromm
  3. Jordan Love
  4. Joe Burrow
  5. Justin Herbert

@WingfieldNFL

Additional Prospect Video Threads

Alabama Linebacker, Anfernee Jennings

Oklahoma Center, Creed Humphrey

Oklahoma Wide Receiver, Ceedee Lamb

Oklahoma Linebacker, Kenneth Murray

LSU Edge, K’Lavon Chaisson

Penn State Edge, Yetur Gross-Matos

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins Aren’t Tanking, They Just Suck

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Plenty of people want to tell you that the Miami Dolphins are tanking, and depending on how they’re looking at it, they’re either entirely right or woefully wrong.

You see, each player on this football team is attempting to put forth their best effort. They are trotting onto the field branding aqua and orange with the intent of being as successful as they can be.

There may be particular instances where a player prioritizes their health over a few extra yards, but overall, they aren’t going out there just to collect a paycheck.

These people have played football their entire lives. It’s insulting to assume they aren’t trying to maximize the one thing they’ve passionately performed since they were a toddler.

It’s also insulting to assume that this fanbase is so oblivious and naive that rooting to lose means they are not a “real fan”.

When linebacker Jerome Baker called out Dolphins fans (that are actively rooting for a “tank”), he was making a fair point, but he did so without acknowledging what these fans are actually rooting for deep down.

There isn’t a single fan that genuinely enjoys losing. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that fans are rooting for one miserable season with the hope that it breeds 10 successful ones.

But Baker is right, the players are performing as hard as they can. They’re pridefully going out there and trying to build their resumes for the other 31 teams to see. These snaps will be meaningless in a few weeks (when the Dolphins are unofficially eliminated from the playoffs), but you can’t sell that to a person looking to boost (or, heck, just ensure) a paycheck going forward.

The thing is, the performance that these players are putting out there is the reason why Miami is not just 0-4, but historically one of the worst teams in NFL history.

The front office may have helped create this mess, but they aren’t the reason why people assume the players aren’t trying.

A Surprising Development

2019 was supposed to be a season filled with growth and progress. Establish who your building blocks are, and mold them into a youthful core that can lead the new franchise quarterback to victory.

But all of that growth and progress we expected to see has been virtually nonexistent. In fact, there have been more “surprises” than there have been developments that we can rely on. And while that’s great for the players we had lower expectations for, it speaks minimally for either the players we expected to develop, or the coaching staff we expected to develop them.

Raekwon McMillan has been Miami’s best linebacker so far this season. Though we have to provide the caveat that it comes with a limited snap count, McMillan has been a force in the running game. Did McMillan have too much on his plate last year? Did he finally (fully) recover from his torn ACL in 2017? Is he flourishing without the expectations? Is this really just a flash in the pan?

It’s hard to pinpoint why McMillan has improved so much this season, but this is a welcomed site to see. I’m not expecting 2020 starting middle linebacker or even an elite talent from the former second-round pick, but McMillan has gone from an afterthought to a necessity on this 2019 team.

With just 121 snaps (compared to Sam Eguavoen‘s 251 and Jerome Baker’s 279), I hope defensive coordinator Patrick Graham finds a way to incorporate McMillan a bit more.

After watching the Washington Redskins and the Cincinnati Bengals for 5 weeks, fans are legitimately concerend that Josh Rosen will win too many games this year. While judging Rosen has always been one of the primary objectives of 2019, it was only 3 weeks ago that we expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to start a majority of the season because Rosen wasn’t picking up (or processing) the playbook well enough.

If it weren’t for so many dropped passes, Rosen would have a handful of highlights that make you think he’s the guy. Instead, those drops may be an omen that the Dolphins franchise quarterback isn’t currently on the roster.

But this is where the surprising storylines end. There have been plenty of other surprising developments in 2019, but none of them have been good. It’s these (lack of) developments that further explain why everyone believes the Dolphins are tanking.

Lack of Player Development

It all started somewhat shockingly before the season began when Vincent Taylor was cut. The former 6th-round pick was expected to be a starting defensive tackle for the next couple of years; instead, he was removed from the roster entirely with little explanation why.

Different coaching staffs have different philosophies and playing styles, but Taylor was a productive player with plenty of potential. Whether it was his attitude or the shape he was in when he reported to camp, Miami found a reason to remove a budding talent. Can’t blame the players for taking talent off the roster.

Linebacker Sam Eguavoen was expected to become a future starting linebacker for this team. And while he’s still raw, he hasn’t shown the same level of potential that fellow former CFL transfer Cameron Wake displayed when he joined Miami.

Next to John Denney, Jason Sanders was the only player you had unwavering confidence in.

Sanders has missed as many kicks through 4 games than he did in all of 2018. After making 18 of 20 kicks (and 35 of 36 PATs) in 2018, Sanders has made just 4 of 7 FGs so far this season. Are we adding kicker to the list of holes this team has to plug in 2020?

Jerome Baker hasn’t lived up to the preseason hype. Is it the extra work stacked on his plate? Is it just a sophomore slump?

We expected Baker to be a jack-of-all-trades linebacker who could cover the pass, stunt the run and rush the quarterback. So far, he seems a bit over his head. Granted, he receives minimal help around him, but this defensive front isn’t that much weaker than last season’s.

It’s safe to say that we all expected Baker to be a bit better at this point. If you’re going to “call out” the fanbase for cheering on long term success at the expense of short term misery, you better make sure your performance gives those fans a reason to think otherwise.

If Baker was meant to do everything up front, Bobby McCain was expected to be a Swiss army knife in the secondary. Not only has that experiment been subpar, but it appears more and more like McCain is a player without a position rather than a player that can do it all. It just makes me wonder what McCain “could have been” if the coaching staff left him in his natural slot cornerback position all these years.

After receiving a 4-year, $24m contract extension this offseason, Jakeem Grant has gone from a threatening #3 receiver – and a menacing kick returner – to a player that becomes cringeworthy when the ball is in the air. There isn’t a single person reading this that is confident when the ball is headed in Grant’s direction. Yet, just last month we felt we had a competent wide receiver for the next 3+ years.

There was LOTS of hype around Kalen Ballage when camp broke this offseason. He looked faster, quicker, more-toned and ready to take the #1 running back role from Kenyan Drake. Instead, Ballage has contributed more touchdowns to the opposing team than he has recorded himself. His 1.5 yards-per-carry (YPC) isn’t entirely his fault, as the offensive line in front of him is pedestrian at best, but that logic doesn’t seem to fit Drake’s 3.6 YPC or Mark Walton‘s 3.9 YPC.

I don’t need to tell you that Ballage has been a disappointment, I think we’ve all come to that conclusion the moment he ducked away from an RB screen pass coming his way.

What the Fans Want

Fans are tired of witnessing performances like this.

Every team has draft picks that flame out, but the Dolphins seem to load up on under-performing players. Is it this team’s “culture”? Is it terrible ownership? Is it terrible scouting?

Easily enough, 20 years of mediocrity can be summed up by the quarterback position. And right now, there are two entities that have identified that obtaining an elite quarterback solves ineptitude: fans and the Front Office.

If you were to say that the players are tanking, you’d be terribly wrong. If you were to say that the intellectual minds that make decisions for the Miami Dolphins are tanking, you are absolutely right.

You don’t trade away a cornerstone left tackle, your best wide receiver, your most-experience linebacker, and a handful of other assets if you’re trying to win as many games as possible.

Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard may not miss as many games if every game was crucial.

These are active decisions made (or heavily suggested) by the Front Office. They’re not asking the players to under-perform, they’re doing a good job of that themselves.

When all is said and done, it’s possible this coaching staff is the reason for the lack of development. They could all be in over their heads, and Brian Flores is just a temporary band-aid that allows the next coach to reap the benefits of stocked draft picks and abundant cap space.

I understand that it’s deflating to watch your team’s fanatics root against you, but their apathy isn’t the most disappointing part of the 2019 season. Give the fans a reason to cheer, and you might actually be reciprocated with applause.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami-Washington Week Six Preview

Travis Wingfield

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The Most Captivating Game on Miami’s Schedule So Far Between a Pair of Winless Teams

Who: Dolphins (0-4) vs. Washington (0-5)
When: Sunday October 13, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 84 degrees, 64% humidity, 14 MPH winds
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3.5

As underdogs by a touchdown on opening day, Miami’s 49-point defeat quickly shifted the perception of this team in the eyes of the odds makers. After three weeks as three-score dogs, Miami aren’t favored Sunday at home, but it’s the most winnable game of the season in the eyes of Vegas.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Miami a 37% shot at victory. Since the turn of the century, no winless team with four or more games played has been favored to win on the road, until now.

Players are trained to block out the noise, but avoiding the chatter is impossible in 2019. That chatter crept into the Dolphins locker room, and reporters are getting genuine answers from all ends of the spectrum. Second-year pro, 22-year-old Linebacker Jerome Baker went as far as to say that fans rooting for a tank aren’t actually real fans.

Veteran Center Daniel Kilgore made his feelings known about the fan base’s desire to obtain the first pick.

For Washington, this might be the Dan Campbell moment. Promoting longtime Offensive Line specialist Bill Callahan comes with an attitude adjustment. Washington spent the week running gassers, utilizing more padded practices, and taking a throwback approach to this game.

We’ve seen first-hand the type of immediate impacts coaching changes can have, even if the message fades a few weeks down the line. Adam Gase infamously used the excuse that Minnesota changed coordinators prior to Dolphins-Vikings meeting last season, which harkens back to when Campbell brought a 1-3 Dolphins team back to life in 2015 with two emphatic wins.

This game is a conflicting one for the fan base. The Dolphins remain the odds-on-favorite for the number-one pick in next April’s draft, but a victory here gives Washington the inside track.

A quality performance speaks well for Brian Flores and his staff, but if the ultimate prize is the best available quarterback of the 2020 offseason, that isn’t the desired outcome.

The Scheme:

Offense:

This will be brief. With a new brain trust taking over for the dismissed Jay Gruden, it’s impossible to know what the Washington offense will look like. Or is it?

Despite the league’s fourth-highest first down run rate in the opening half, Callahan wants Washington to run it more. Despite the third-worst rushing average on these runs (3.3 YPC), Callahan insists that Gruden’s operation was too pass-friendly.

That information is made available by the venerable Warren Sharp.

The passing concepts are anybody’s guess. In the running game, there were variations of man and zone with Gruden in-house, and those calls were typically determined by which back was in the game. With Adrian Peterson, we’re likely to see more man-gap scheme. When it’s Chris Thompson, Washington is more likely to run zone.

Defense:

Washington’s defense is well-coached. Greg Manusky has been a coordinator in the league since 2007 (aside from his first year with Washington in 2016 when he was the OLB Coach). From the tape the last two weeks (one against Daniel Jones, the other against Tom Brady), Manusky’s plans are fluid.

Against the Patriots, Washington dropped eight into coverage with regularity and tried to win with a three-man rush — and they were successful. Three of the four sacks on Brady came from three-man rushes, while the fourth was a four-man rush.

They mix in zone and man-coverage, altering a lot between quarters and cover-4/cover-6 when in zone. Their man coverage usually comes in longer down-and-distances and plays with a single-high safety.

The Dolphins can attack the two-deep looks with the bigger-bodied X receivers (Preston Williams and Devante Parker).

The Players:

Offense:

Washington are currently fielding an offense that can compete with Miami for most feeble attack unit in the league. The good news (or bad, depending on which side you’re on) is that Case Keenum was a full participant in practice. He is set to return to the lineup this week.

The statuses of three limited practice participants loom large. Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses and Vernon Davis should be ready to play Sunday, and that will go a long way towards Washington’s desire to grind the Dolphins defense into a pulp.

Terry McLaurin has been the best rookie receiver in the NFL this year. He’s currently PFF’s 15th-overall graded wide out. He’s averaging 3.6 yards after the catch with three touchdowns and 308 receiving yards. Washington quarterbacks are enjoying a 126.8 passer rating when shooting it towards the rook.

Xavien Howard will likely travel with McLaurin, provided X is healthy and ready to go (limited in Wednesday’s practice).

Defense:

Tim Settle was a 320-pound space eater at Virginia Tech. Now, he’s a 308-pound versatile pass rusher that can win from a variety of techniques along the defensive line. He dumped Brady for a pair of sacks Sunday (both in the video thread). One of those sacks came from his natural nose position, another came as an end lined up over the tackle as a five-tech.

Da’ron Payne and Jonathan Allen were selected in back-to-back years out of Alabama, and both have been hits for Washington. They’re big enough to eat up blocks in the running game and offer enough explosiveness to win one-on-one matchups as pass rushers.

That front line funnels everything for this defense. Ryan Kerrigan is still a crafty edge rusher that will give [Miami’s Right Tackle] all he can handle. Kerrigan uses an explosive first step up field, and then shows his nuance to chop the hands and bend the edge.

Landon Collins is the best defensive back on the team and Washington will need him to make a play. Expect the high-priced safety to hang out in the middle of the field and try to rob Josh Rosen on the many crossing routes Miami runs.

The Medical:

The Opportunities:

Washington’s offensive operation has been an eyesore all year. The offensive line is just as bad as Miami’s — though it will improve with the return of their pro-bowl guard in Brandon Scherff — and the skill positions aren’t a whole lot better.

Colt McCoy was a disaster last week, and Dewayne Haskins was even worse the week prior. If Keenum can make it through the whole game, that gives Washington the best chance, but there are still opportunities for takeaways. The Dolphins will need a few to give the offense favorable starting field position.

Washington is going to run the football regardless of the looks they get. If Miami can consistently shut down the early down runs, Keenum will have no chance.

The Concerns:

The concern all year will start on Miami’s front line. Josh Rosen doesn’t get rid of the ball fast enough to mitigate Miami’s protection issues, and the Washington front-seven might be able to tee off in this game — they did against Brady for a half.

If Miami can’t establish any run game, or effectively get out in front of the chains on first down, it’ll be a nightmare performance for Rosen. This is the first time all season that he’s going to play in a competitive game, and the way he responds should be telling.

The Projected Outcome:

Fans of the tank ought to be thrilled with the presumed health of Case Keenum. Haskins simply isn’t ready to play and McCoy consistently bailed on quality pockets last week, giving the offense no chance.

Washington is going to line up and run the ball off the right side of the offensive line. That means a downhill approach right at Taco Charlton and Sam Eguavoen. When Charlton needs a breather, Charles Harris will check in at that position — hardly inspiring.

This is going to set football back a few decades. Special teams and the turnover battle will likely settle the winner. I’m taking Washington because I think this will be a disaster game for Rosen, and Keenum will manage the game effectively enough to support a dominant showing from the Washington defense.

Miami 9
Washington 16

@WingfieldNFL

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