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Know The Enemy – Tennessee Titans

Travis Wingfield

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2017 Recap: (9-7, 2ndAFC South – Playoffs: 1-1 Beat KC, Lost to NE)

Under Mike Mularky the Titans eradicated an eight-year playoff drought. Nine regular season wins and the club’s first post-season victory since 2002 weren’t enough for Mularky to retain his seat atop the throne.

Marcus Mariota, bothered by a hamstring strain for most of the season, tossed more interceptions than touchdowns. Led by one of the league’s most physically imposing offensive lines, the Titans implemented one of the game’s most bruising ground games.

Led by all-pro safety Kevin Byard in the secondary, and longtime stalwart Jurrell Casey up front, the Titans’ defense flashed signs of emergence in 2017.

2017 league-ranks:

 

Scoring Offense 19th
Rushing Offense 15th
Passing Offense 23rd
Scoring Defense 17th
Rushing Defense 4th
Passing Defense 25th
Turnover Differential 23rd

 

2018 Coaching Changes: 

Despite ending a streak of playoff futility that spanned 15 years, Tennessee made wholesale changes to the coaching staff. Out is Mike Mularky’s archaic, convoluted program – in is rookie head coach Mike Vrabel (over from Houston).

Along with Vrabel, Rams’ offensive coordinator Matt LaFluer and Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, made the pilgrimage to the Music City. The only coach retained from the previous staff is tight ends coach Arthur Smith.

2018 Notable Roster Changes:

 

Newcomer Role / Projected Snap Count
CB Malcolm Butler (New England) Starter / 100%
RB Dion Lewis (New England) RB 1b / 50%
NT Bennie Logan (Kansas City) Starter / 50%
OG Xavier Su’a-Filo (Houston) Competing for starting OG job
ILB Will Compton (Washington) Rotational LB / 20%
OT Kevin Pamphile (Tampa Bay) Swing Tackle
QB Blaine Gabbert (Arizona) Backup QB

 

Departed Role / Snaps Played
LB Avery Williamson (NY Jets) Starter / 60.1%
S Da’Norris Searcy (Carolina) Rotational / 33.5%
NT Sylvester Williams (Detroit) Rotational / 32.1%
QB Matt Cassel (Detroit) Backup QB / 7.5%
DT Karl Klug (Un-signed) Rotational / 29.9%
RB DeMarco Murray (Un-signed) RB 1a / 63.3%

 

Projected Cornerstones (75%+ snap takers) – 2017 PFF Positional Rank:

QB Marcus Mariota – 12th/ 40
WR Corey Davis – 88th/ 118
WR Rishard Matthews – 30th/ 118
TE Delanie Walker – 4th/ 72
DE Jurrell Casey – 3rd/ 43
LB Wesley Woodyard – 18th/ 90
LB Brian Orakpo – 11th/ 46
CB Malcolm Butler – 48th/ 121
CB Adoree’ Jackson – 28th/ 121
FS Kevin Byard – 3rd/ 89
SS Johnathan Cyprien – 83rd/ 89

The Other Key Contributors:

Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis are a quintessential backfield duo. Although neither player will register more than 75% of the Titans’ offensive snaps, each will have an impact on game day. Henry is a punishing, downhill runner that was forced into less-than-ideal situations due to poor play calling. If Lewis can stay healthy, few backs present a greater threat as a pass catcher among NFL backs.

Oct 8, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones (20) runs the ball in for a touchdown on a fumble recovery of Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Cassel (16, not pictured) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Tale of the Tape:
Defense:

It’s difficult to place the exact schemes that Tennessee will run in 2018. Under the previous regime, the Titans were primarily a press-man team with a single-high safety on defense. Kevin Byard’s ability to transition in and out of breaks, and his nose for the football, allowed the Titan D to use he, and fellow safety Johnathan Cyprien, as interchangeable assets.

Dean Pees subscribes to the physical brand of football Mike Vrabel will certainly want to adopt. The addition of Malcolm Butler, and the presence of former Patriot Logan Ryan, would hint towards the same principles Vrabel learned under Bill Belichick during his time in New England.

The perimeter corners will look to undercut routes and play a trail-technique. This funnels the ball to the middle of the field where lurking zone coverage hopes to entice a bad read from the quarterback.

In the front-seven, Rashaan Evans gives Pees his queen of the proverbial chessboard. Evans can blitz, run-fill and cover the flats. The Ravens defense has been notorious for overloading pressures with exotic looks – Evans should fall right in line with that mantra.

On the edges, Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo give the Titans a formidable pass rush, and the addition of Harold Landry could give Pees quite the eccentric “Nascar” package. Where the Titans could struggle is in the interior.

The defensive front one-gaps and asks the linebackers to play in space. Austin Johnson and Bennie Logan need to play their best ball for this operation to work. Jurrell Casey continues to play at an extremely high level.

Offense:

One potential issue facing the Titans offense is the conversion from a ground-and-pound attack to a more open ball distribution offense. Under Mularky, the Titans didn’t care what the numbers game suggested – they were going to run the ball regardless.

Matt LaFluer worked under Sean McVay in Los Angeles where nobody was better at exploiting match-ups. The Titans remade skill group (from previous years) should give fans confidence in the ability to execute this scheme.

It’s going to come down to the comfort level and adjustment period for Mariota. Gone are the days of 21-personnel – in is a lot more variety with the wide receiver group. If Mariota can couple his dynamic threat on the ground with a quick, rhythm-based tempo passing game, this offense will be unstoppable.

Oct 8, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (77) is injured on a play against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It starts with running back Derrick Henry. He’s a bull in a china shop and had the best game of his career in the AFC Wildcard playoffs in 2017. He will grind out yards, make third downs more manageable for Mariota, and he has an extra gear in the open field.

If Corey Davis can become the player the Titans expect him to be, this receiving group can really take off. Rishard Matthews is a uniquely crafted big-play threat and possession receiver that will serve as a valuable X in the offense. Taywan Taylor steps into the slot and needs to acclimate to the new scheme quickly.

Match-Up with Miami:

This game could look like a pre-season slop-fest early on. Expect both teams to feel out their new schemes and/or weapons. The Dolphins absolutely must:

– Prevent Derrick Henry from gashing them inside

– Prevent Delanie Walker and Jonu Smith from dominating the intermediate portion of the field

– Contain Mariota’s running threat

– Block the outside rush

– Run the ball effectively

The advantage for the Dolphins comes where the Titans offensive line might not look the same as it has in year’s past. Jack Conklin figures to miss the opener which presents a favorable match-up for Cameron Wake off the left edge of the defense. Taylor Lewan, one of the game’s best left tackles, is currently in the middle of a contract dispute the bears watching into camp and the pre-season.

Mariota is prone to making crucial mistakes throwing the ball between the hash marks. If the Dolphins can show him enough variety, Reshad Jones or Minkah Fitzpatrick might be able to step in front of a pass as a robber.

The new interior offensive line is better suited to deal with the beefy three-man front, and controlling the nose tackle will be imperative.

Trap Game potential:

Week one obviously means no previous opponent for the Titans, but their week-two match-up is a divisional showdown with the Houston Texans. The two teams split in 2017, but when Houston had QB Deshaun Watson available, the Texans dismantled the Titans to the tune of a 57-14 blowout. Tennessee narrowly defeated the Tom Savage led Texans in November.

Generally thought of as the “lowly Dolphins,” the Titans could be peaking ahead to its home opener with a divisional foe – especially considering the revenge factor against Vrabel’s former team.

Week One in a Nutshell:

The Dolphins need a fast start, something that hasn’t exactly been the standard in recent years. Running the ball to create opportunities in the play-action game will be key. The Tennessee linebackers want to play fast so displacing them will create easy passing lanes.

Running the football in the South Florida humidity is always a good idea, especially facing a team in navy blue jersey tops.

Jumping out to an early lead and unleashing the pass rush on Mariota could turn this game lopsided. If the Dolphins can’t establish a running game, you can forget the prospects of a victory.

@WingfieldNFL

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Scouting Reports

Face of the Franchise Series: Tua Tagovailoa

Travis Wingfield

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Two decades removed from his retirement, the Miami Dolphins are still in-search of Dan Marino’s replacement

Foreword:

7,091 days, 308 games. That arduous, ceaseless waiting period spans the time from Dan Marino’s last buckle of the chin strap, to present day. The Packers and Colts were fortunate enough to hand the ball from one legend to another without skipping a beat. For Dolphins fans, Marino’s retirement coincides not only with the turn of the century, but with the downturn of the once winningest franchise in professional sports.

Chad Pennington’s 2008 MVP runner-up season sits a mere blip on the radar of futility. Ryan Tannehill teased fans for five years before an injury brought all hope to a fiery end. Daunte Culpepper was the worst consolation prize ever contrived and John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White each qualify as second-round busts.

The misery feels perpetual yet, somehow, not defeating. At least the Dolphins got the bat off the shoulder this offseason by taking a crack at Josh Rosen, but his rookie tape leaves plenty to be desired. A first-round signal-caller is the odds-on-favorite for Miami in next April’s draft; a class brimming with quarterback talent.

If patience truly is a virtue, then Dolphins fans have waited long enough. The collective has earned the right to unanimously appoint the next hero of professional football in South Florida. No more arguments, no more debates; just an unequivocal beast of a quarterback capable of willing the aqua and orange to victory on any given Sunday.

The same way #13 did for so many years.

Over the summer we will look at the top quarterback prospects entering the 2019 college football season.

We start with the consensus number-one player, as we sit 10 months out from draft night, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Tua Tagovailoa 2018 Film Study

Searching for a third consecutive appearance in college football’s championship game, Tua Tagovailoa enters his junior campaign as the most decorated quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012.

“He does a lot of things you can’t coach — [he] sees the field, throws accurately, [he’s] athletic. He’s got a really unique package.” An anonymous NFL scout told AL.com. “He anticipates throws. He can really visualize a throw. Guys don’t have to be open, he sees openings before they happen.”

Jim Nagy, the Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, made his proclamation that Tagovailoa would’ve been the first pick this April were he draft eligible. He was not. And so he returns to Tuscaloosa to pilot yet another loaded Crimson Tide team under the watchful eye of both Nick Saban and the entire NFL community.

What Sets Tagovailoa Apart:

Accuracy and Natural Throwing Motion –

After just a couple of throws, it’s easy to decipher whether a passer is natural or conditioned. Whether on traditional drops and, or setting up on the move, Tagovailoa’s arm shows natural elasticity. This trait makes him a threat on structured set-ups, moving left or right, and when attacking the line-of-scrimmage.

The ability to drop the arm angle without sacrificing accuracy is what sets great quarterbacks apart from the good ones — especially in the modern NFL. Regardless of the circumstance, Tagovailoa finds his way back to proper mechanics, using his base to drive the football.

Everything is hard-wired across Tagovailoa’s mechanics. From his feet to his eyes, and his hips to his shoulders, his proper alignment creates impressive torque and spin on a variety of different throw-types (touch, drive, deep). Tagovailoa is the best deep ball thrower on the planet not named Russell Wilson.

Light Feet, Escapability, Poise Under Duress –

A lot of quarterbacks excel at the professional level without seamless weight-transfer. Legends like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger make up for heavy feet with anticipation of the rush, landmark identification of the rusher, but also the poise to pick up the route progression under pressure.

Tagovailoa has that inherent poise trait, but he couples it with effortless capabilities to freely glide in crowded areas. His sound, initial lower-half mechanics put him in a position to drive off his plant foot. This puts him in a position to climb, or throw drive-leg out and flea the pocket laterally.

This marriage of exceptional traits makes Tagovailoa a difficult passer to sack, a legitimate big-play scramble threat, and most importantly, a dangerous off-script play maker.

Processing and Cerebral Aptitude within the Structure of the Offense –

Alabama’s offense is loaded across the board. Opposing defenses often have to send pressure packages to rattle Tagovailoa, but his skill set usually renders those attempts futile. The Bama offense is chocked full of NFL concepts with three-man combinations and full-field reads.

Tagovailoa not only identifies and understands most pre-snap coverages and post-snap rotations, he knows which route combinations are designed to attack those particular coverages. His photographic-like memory allows him to blindly read the backside of a play and rip through his progressions in a flash.

Designed-Run Package –

There aren’t many superlatives needed for this bullet point; Tagovailoa can scoot.

Focused Areas of Improvement:

Short Memory –

Tagovailoa’s shortcomings feel like nitpicking — he’s exceptional. One universal knock on his game is the back-to-back underwhelming showings in the two championship games this past season. Tagovailoa showed a minor penchant to let bad play cavalcade and attempted to press his way through some struggles.

This wasn’t frequent enough of an occurrence to call it a habit, and that’s to be expected from a 21-year-old, but it’s something to watch this upcoming postseason when Bama is inevitably in the hunt once again.

Drive Throws –

Tagovailoa’s arm isn’t on the level of Matthew Stafford, but it’s more than adequate for the professional level. His anticipation prowess helps mask the lack of velocity on field-side drive throws, but the difficulty of those throws increases at the next level (elite athletes all over the field will do that).

Again, this is nitpicking. A good coordinator can work around something like this, but it’s a common throw in the NFL that could potentially prove problematic for Tagovailoa.

Getting Healthy –

The biggest gripe I found with Tagovailoa’s poor performances (poor relative to his early-season magic act) was the limitations of nagging knee and ankle injuries. Tagovailoa hurt the knee mid-season, and the ankle injury in the SEC Championship Game required surgery. The lingering effects were apparent in the National Title Game against a ferocious Clemson defense.

Two injuries in one season is the beginning of a red flag. Another season of nicks and bruises could give scouts pause regarding Tagovailoa’s long-term durability.

Potential Fit with the Miami Dolphins:

Tagovailoa’s anticipation, processing, and recognition of leverage and soft spots in coverage makes him a fit in any scheme. Miami’s offense, under former Patriots Assistant Chad O’Shea, figures to feature a lot of variety devised to attack that particular week’s opponent.

The Patriots controlled, short passing game is indefensible at its peak, and that’s Tagovailoa’s true ceiling. His pre-snap prowess would help Miami attack vulnerable matchups and keep the offense on-schedule. Tagovailoa’s deep ball could finally unlock the true potential of Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant.

In New England, the Pats built shot plays into the structure of the regular offense. Tagovailoa’s attention to detail and general feel for the flow of the game can give the play caller (O’Shea) a set of eyes on the field to relay tendencies and weaknesses.

Conclusion:

Tagovailoa is the apple of every scout’s eye this college football season. His first colligate action — as a true freshman — was a heroic, championship rescuing performance on the game’s biggest stage. Since that game, Tagovailoa’s ascension has continued on the track of a generational prospect.

Tagovailoa is going to be the first player to hear his name called next April, should he declare (he’s eligible to return to Alabama for 2020). The Dolphins will likely have to obtain the first pick to get a crack at the Heisman hopeful.

If they do, the fortunes of this Miami Dolphins organization will change for the foreseeable future.

@WingfieldNFL

Up Next: Georgia Junior, Jake Fromm

Additional Videos

Anticipation and recognition of three-man route combination

Perfect back-shoulder ball

Footwork to help mitigate immediate pressure

Off-script dynamics

Poor ball placement costs Bama a TD

Rare occurrence where Tua doesn’t account for backside robber coverage

Finds a passing lane, resets and throws a strike

Rare mental mistake

High-level anticipation

Aerial assault on display

One of Tagovailoa’s six interceptions

Push up, avoid pressure, throw an accurate ball

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Scouting Reports

State of the AFC East

Oliver Candido

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With the aging empire of the New England Patriots hopefully coming to an end in the coming years the arms race and power struggle will enter overdrive. The Patriots have run this division for over a decade but all things must come to an end, with Tom Brady nearing his goal of playing till 45 and Bill Belichick turning 66 there is blood in the water, and the rest of the East will look to grab the crown and run with it.

Dec 23, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and head coach Bill Belichick head out onto the field to shake hands with the Buffalo Bills after their 24-12 win at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots

Roster:

Tom Brady’s play has declined but that hasn’t stopped New England from being a powerhouse, the offensive line will welcome Isiah Wynn back the former 1st rounder, he tore his Achilles in camp 2018. The skill positions are mixed, Sony Michelle provided a solid rookie campaign but there are holes in the wide receiver and tight end positions. Rob Gronkowski is pondering retirement meanwhile Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson are all set to hit Free Agency. Defensively New England has excelled on maximizing talent with what they have but with that being said they have some notable players departing such as Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, and possibly the McCourty twins.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Markus Golden (EDGE)

Pick 32, 1st round:

Kelvin Harmon (WR)

 

New York Jets

Roster:

The New York Jets are not a star-studded team and will be ongoing a scheme change led by Coach Adam Gase. Offensively it would be easier to name what they do have then to name what they don’t, Sam Darnold is the only true “bright” spot on the offensive side of the ball. Multiple reports state that Isiah Crowell will be released in the coming month so half back will need to be addressed, in addition to wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line. On the opposite side of the ball things seem to be a bit more promising with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye. New York will need to add a true pass rusher along with some other linebackers and defensive backs as well.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Le’Veon Bell (HB)

Pick 3, 1st round:

Josh Allen (EDGE)

 

Buffalo Bills

Roster:

Buffalo has a good defense that is paired with the 31st ranked offense, they are in need of talent to surround Josh Allen with. Josh Allen needs an entire cast around him, most importantly an offensive line who can buy him some time, but it doesn’t stop there. After releasing former fullback wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay the only player who can truly garner some targets is aging halfback Lesean McCoy. Although the defense has played well they are also in need of some attention, with Kyle Williams retiring they will need another defensive tackle in addition to a true edge rusher. This roster is still being rebuilt and could use talent on almost every level offensively but they need to give injury prone Josh Allen some decent offensive line play.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Trenton Brown (OT)

Pick 9, 1st round:

Jawaan Taylor (OT)

 

Miami Dolphins

Roster:

Our beloved Miami Dolphins will be going through many changes and a complete rebuild directed by Chris Grier and Brian Flores. Miami has talent at the skill positions with young and inexpensive talent at halfback, tight end, and wide receiver. With the upcoming release/trade of Ryan Tannehill the biggest need will be finding his replacement via free agency or draft. Resources will have to be allocated to the trenches as Miami lacks talent on the interior offensive line and on the edge defensively. Miami’s defense is looking to be a multiple look defense in order to achieve this they will have to add versatility on every level off the defense and add depth to the secondary. This regime will be taking the long painful road of a true rebuild as Miami has been mediocre for far too long.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Mitch Morse (OL)

Pick 13, 1st round:

Rashan Gary (EDGE)

 

Madden 19 Giveaway:

I am giving away Madden 19 on Xbox One for free, all you have to do is find my favorite player. I will add a clue to every article until someone answers correctly. Tweet the answer to me and DM me on twitter @BrazilCandido and don’t forget to give the @LockedOnDolphins and it’s writers some love as well!

HERE IS THE HINT:

My favorite player once caught 29 passes in a season while 11 of them went for TDs! That means over a 3rd of his receptions were Touchdowns!

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Senior Bowl Watchlist

Travis Wingfield

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With 266 of the slated 267 games on the 2018 NFL schedule in the books, the focus of the league shifts to Mobile, Alabama. The site of the college football’s most prestigious all-star game since 1951, Mobile transforms from to an otherwise quiet city to a veritable who’s who of NFL decision-makers.

The term “all-star” is rather fraudulent in its intention. This week isn’t about festivities or acknowledgement; it’s the first step on a long path towards elevating young men’s football lives from amateur to professional.

Two-hour practice sessions, endless meetings and whiteboard testing, these young men are about to be ran through the grind of an NFL work week. With scouts, coaches, and executives from every team (even Brian Flores and his unofficial status with Miami), this week in Mobile is the precursor to the meat market that is the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Mandatory Credit: Mark Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The big question the casual observer has is, “what can I take away from this week?” The NFL Network airs practices from Tuesday through Thursday, and the game on Saturday. Additionally, plenty of credentialed media members will be covering the week (including plenty of our own at Locked On Podcasts), providing us with more resources than ever before.

Here on Locked On Dolphins, we will have a daily practice report that includes those that shined in the individual and team periods – but also a cumulative tracker for all of Miami’s meets and player interests.    

In prior off-season preview columns, we have highlighted Miami’s core areas of need for the 2019 season. Here, we will list the positions in order of need, and discuss the players Miami should keep a close eye on at said positions of need. Also, a brief tidbit on what you should look for this week when you turn on the NFLN and see guys running around in shells and shorts.

Quarterback

Unfortunately, the top two prospects at this crucial position are underclassmen (Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins). Last year’s Senior Bowl provided a close-up look to Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen (both top 10 picks). This rendition features a trio of potential first round picks and plenty intriguing of day-two or day-three options.

1.) Daniel Jones, Duke – 6’5” 220

Propped up as a potential top-10 pick, Jones is the classic case of being elevated due to the urgent need of his position. Jones’ arm is teetering on the line of NFL-worthy and popgun. He doesn’t drive the ball to the field and he struggles with touch, accuracy, and anticipation. When he does find power on his throws, it comes from a long wind-up and a clean base. Any trash at his feet or flashing colors in his face presents problems for the elongated set-up.

Jones isn’t capable of extending plays or beating pressure with his arms or legs. He will chew up some yards with long speed, but his lateral agility and quickness aren’t there (think of Ryan Tannehill). He doesn’t process particularly well and will set himself up for huge shots in the pocket.

Frankly, I’m not seeing what other scouts do. I think he’s more of a day-three project than a first round pick.

2.) Drew Lock, Missouri – 6’4” 225

Physical traits aplenty, Lock has the biggest arm in Mobile this week. Because of that, and the lack of real in-game simulations, I expect him to help himself the most. He can drive the football vertically and to the perimeter, but his accuracy comes and goes. He doesn’t always establish a firm platform and will try the adjusted arm-angle throws, but he doesn’t exactly have the same control in that area as the originator, Patrick Mahomes.

Lock struggled against superior defenses that brought pressure. The bigger the SEC opponent, the more Lock’s game shrunk. He was overmatched by the likes of Georgia and Alabama.

Though he plays with the desired confidence and swagger, his game isn’t there to match. He’s rumored to be a fringe first-round prospect, though rumblings about Denver targeting him with the 10th pick have picked up steam. In my world, he’s in play for Miami’s second-round pick.

3.) Will Grier, West Virginia – 6’2” 223

Playing in a wide-open scheme in Morgantown, Grier’s deficiencies were overshadowed by his gaudy production and clutch moments. While the latter shouldn’t be neglected (he has some stones in critical moments), the former dampers the scouting report.

Grier simply doesn’t have the requisite arm to complete all the throws required in an NFL offense. With tighter windows and quicker defenders, he’s bound to be exposed at the next level. It’ll be extremely important for Grier to impress in the meeting rooms, but also show some velocity with all the scouts there to see him in person.

He does have a penchant for anticipatory throwing and the skill set to go off-platform and off-script, but he rarely had to do it in West Virginia. He’s a touch and timing thrower that looks terrific with sound protection. Grier might get pushed up the draft board, but I wouldn’t consider him an option prior to the third round.

4.) Tyree Jackson, Buffalo – 6’7” 245

Eligible for as a graduate transfer to a power-five program, Jackson instead opted to test the NFL waters before his stock could climb. Jackson is a physical marvel with a big-time arm, impressive stature, and enough escapability to make him a threat at the next level.

His mechanics will waver on occasion and his release point’s inconsistency causes a lot of inaccurate throws. He has plenty to clean up before he’s ready to compete for playing time at the next level. Jackson is a day-three option for the Dolphins.

5.) Gardner Minshew, Washington State – 6’2” 220

Taking Mike Leach’s Cougs from a projected sixth-place Pac 12 finish, all the way to a win-and-in season-finale for the conference championship game, Minshew was THE reason.

His leadership, high-level processing, and gamer-mentality hid the shortcomings in his physical prowess. Like a lot of his comrades in Mobile, Minshew’s arm strength is right on the boarder of acceptable at this level.

He’s prone to the fist-clenching decision once he goes off-script, while the wide-open nature of Leach’s air raid doesn’t do the former East Carolina Pirate any favors.

Minshew figures to be a day-three project with his upside falling somewhere between low-level starter and high-quality backup.

Edge (Linebackers) –

This position is going to be defined differently for the 2019 Miami Dolphins than it had been in the previous three seasons. Scrapping the disastrous wide-9 scheme, the Dolphins figure to adopt the linebacker-rush heavy scheme of Brian Flores and the New England Patriots.

So, because of that distinction, we are going to lump outside backers in with pure pass-rushing defensive ends for this group. The heftier defensive ends will be included with the interior down-linemen position as Miami’s scheme calls for new prototypes.

1.) Jalen Jelks, Oregon – 6’5” 245

A tad wiry, Jelks played with his hand in the dirt at Oregon. His quickness showed up both in the run and pass game through a variety of avenues. He’s capable of winning immediately off the snap and converting that speed to power with a steady base. He has the length, fluidity and instincts to win individually but also play within the framework of the defense.

The fit with Miami comes from a possible conversion an on-ball line-of-scrimmage defender. His thin frame causes issues when doubled, but Miami can counter that weakness by protecting Jelks via the scheme.

2.) Germaine Pratt, North Carolina State – 6’3”, 245

Pratt’s speed and coverage skills are evident of his conversion from safety to interior linebacker. He will surely convert to the outside in his pro career with terrific range and instincts in the passing game.

Though he added weight to his frame jumping into the front-seven, Pratt can still get over-powered. If he wants to be a true edge linebacker in this scheme, he’ll have to get stronger at the point of attack. His work in both zone and man coverage could help Miami’s pass defense immensely.

3.) Bobby Okereke, Stanford – 6’3’’ 234

Miami has been getting exposed by backs and tight ends in the passing game for far too long. Okereke covers a ton of ground in zone, but can match-up in man coverage as well. He will clean up plays as a rusher and struggles defeating blocks en route to the quarterback.

Okereke could be a sub-package coverage dynamo at the next level.

4.) Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion – 6’3” 247

Presenting the first truly physically dominant player in this group, Ximines offers the strength to anchor and defend the run better than his position-mates listed in this column. He’s not going to line-up one-on-one with a back or a tight end and win, but he does have a variety of pass rush moves and enough run-stuffing ability to make him an intriguing prospect.

5.) Otara Alaka, Texas A&M – 6’2’’ 240

Best suited as a SAM linebacker, Alaka draws intrigue from Miami’s multiple linebacker packages. In Sunday’s AFCCG win, the Patriots often deployed four linebackers in the line-up using stronger, sturdier outside ‘backers to shut down the Chiefs rush lanes early in the series. He’s a sure tackler with a high motor, but he offers very little by way of rush of coverage prowess.

The omission you’re looking for is Montez Sweat. With his prowess coming with a hand in the dirt, and his slight frame, I don’t foresee him being on Miami’s radar. This position requires speed, bend, a variety of moves and change of direction. When rushing the passer, watch how they square their opponent and if they have the hands and counter moves to initiate and beat contact. Burst and get-off top the list, obviously.

When it comes to coverage, mirroring is vital. Squaring up the target to initiate the jam will dictate the entirety of the route. Watch how these guys stay in control and on balance when they initiate the contact as it allows them to explode and cut down separation created once the pass catcher sheds the contact.

Interior Offensive Line

This side of the ball will provide more of a challenge with the uncertainty of the offensive play-caller in Miami. Jim Caldwell is set to coach the quarterbacks, but I think it’s disingenuous to glean any idea from his time in Detroit or Indianapolis regarding what Miami will do up front.

For the Dolphins, a complete rebuild could be in the works at this spot. Miami desperately needs stabilization at center and Josh Sitton and Jesse Davis hardly inspire hope as starting guards.

1.) Michael Deiter, Wisconsin – 6’6” 310

Wisconsin breeds offensive linemen and Deiter is the next in line to cash in with a lofty draft spot come Late-April. Deiter has played all three positions at a high level. He has the mental aptitude to regularly recognize and pick up stunts and he moves exceptionally well for a man of his size.

Deiter could be a first round trade-back option if the Dolphins are serious about refortifying the offensive line.

2.) Chris Lindstrom, Boston College – 6’4” 310

A mauler better suited for gap/man power-schemes, Lindstrom is as consistent as they come. Always available and scheme diverse, Lindstrom will be a quick transition into the league as an early starter.

He’s technically sound with strong hands and the movement skills to get out in space.

3.) Garrett Bradbury, North Carolina State – 6’3” 300

The theme at this position is the technical aptitude of these young men. Something of a lost art in the college game as teams focus more on pace than finishing, Bradbury is a breath of fresh air. The former tight end displays his fluid lower half, but didn’t sacrifice that movement when he added the requisite weight to kick inside.

4.) Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State – 6’4” 313

With athleticism to climb to the second level and operational functionality against games up front (stunts and twists (both have killed Miami recently)), Jenkins could be the answer to the black hole that is the center position in Miami.

If the Dolphins continue forward with a zone blocking scheme, Jenkins is right up there for interior options.

5.) Dru Samia, Oklahoma – 6’5” 303

Position-diverse, Samia played tackle his first year before kicking inside to guard for his final three in Norman, OK. The technical proficiency and athleticism required to play in the up-tempo scheme of the Sooners pops on tape each week.

His ability to pick up games and anchor against the rush throughout the week could really solidify Samia’s spot as a top interior line prospect.

This is a stellar crop of interior linemen. The colts rebranded their operation by doubling down on Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith in 2018 – that option is on the table for Miami in 2019.

When you watch these big boys this week, keep an eye on their pad level, waste bend, and ability to absorb contact and maintain balance. They have a tough time in the one-on-one drills designed to make rushers look good, but the initial stance and ability to strike the rusher between the shoulders is always a good sign.

Interior Defensive Line

This group includes more than just the beef on the inside for Miami. We’ve covered Trey Flowers’ importance in New England’s defense ad nauseam for the last two weeks. Size, two-gap quickness and technique versatility are Miami’s aims here at this position.

1.) Daylon Mack, Texas A&M – 6’1” 320

Nov 17, 2018; College Station, TX, USA; UAB Blazers quarterback Tyler Johnston III (17) is sacked by Texas A&M Aggies defensive lineman Daylon Mack (34) during the second quarter at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

With a great squatty-body, Mack has the bubble and burst to dictate the point-of-attack inside. He’s deceptively quick off the ball which gives him even more value in this new scheme where the interior D-line will be asked to two-gap.

Mack, a five-star recruit out of high school, earned his way from the Shrine Game into Senior Bowl week. He’s not to be mistaken from an elite rush prospect on the interior, but Miami is severely lacking depth alongside Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor. Mack could play the nose, 2-tech, 2i and 3-tech in this defense.

2.) Isiah Buggs, Alabama – 6’4”, 290

More of a 5-tech in the new varied front scheme, Buggs relies on strong hands and a powerful base to help set and dent the edge in the run game. Playing under Nick Saban, Buggs is instinctive enough to recognize and defeat leverage. He’s a violent, rocked-up house of bricks that’s ready to play immediately.

The keys to watch for are similar to what we want to see from the offensive line. Can they consistently knock the man across from them backwards in both team and individual portions? Also, don’t be afraid to up-and-down their backsides. We need to see big ankles, calves and booties to properly gage their sheer power. When they get into their set-up and stance, do they bend at the knees, or does their waste go parallel? You do not want to see the latter.

Secondary

1.) Amani Oruwariye, Penn State – 6’1” 204 (Corner)

A lengthy, rangy corner with terrific ball skills makes Oruwariye an intriguing prospect to watch this week in Mobile. His ideal fit is in press coverage and in a zone scheme (two things Miami will do a lot of). His ball tracking and natural instincts allow him to make plays both in man, but also peering in from a cover-3 defense.

The rest of this group is lacking in a lot of the departmental traits Miami desires. The glut of this draft class’ prowess at the position comes from underclassmen.

2.) Nassir Adderley, Delaware – 5’11” 200 (Safety)

Miami should be active in their search for a third, rangy safety that can help patrol the back end in sub packages. With Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald filling similar roles, and Minkah Fitzpatrick as a quasi-slot corner/safety, there’s a need here.

Adderley has exceptional range playing the single-high position on the backend of Delaware’s defense. He’s physical with a desire to hit someone in the mouth and he excels in zone coverage.

The number one thing you want to see with these players is the hips. How well to the transition in-and-out of their pedal and how fast can they close on the football. The drills ran this week have a way of weeding out the stiff and unnatural players.

Of course, there are plenty of other players and positions to keep an eye on. We will have those daily reports on the podcast on the site.

Here are some other guys to keep an eye on this week.

RB – Karan Higdon
WR – Debo Samuel, David Sills V
TE – Drew Sample
OT – Andre Dillard

@WingfieldNFL

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