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Senior Bowl Day 1 Report

Travis Wingfield

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Ahh the senior bowl. The time of year where I record 5 hours with of practices for three days straight and ingest every single second of football – well except when Charlie Casserly is on the screen. A practice that serves my own scouting agenda, but also gathers knowledge via the analysis of the pros like Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis.

The game is played on Saturday but the scouts all leave on Thursday at the conclusion of the final practice. It’s not that the game is unimportant, but the practices and meetings are the primary purpose of the week. Plus, the scouts will get the game tape when they get back to the facility; staying Saturday would be redundant.

As you watch this week – if you watch this week – you might only be tuning in here, which you totally should, remember this: Day-one is usually mistake-filled. Bad days are common for many. On Wednesday (Day 2) some of those bad days will iron out. By day three, the best players will have shown progress each day of the week.

Jan 22, 2019; Mobile, AL, USA; North quarterback Drew Lock of Missouri (3) passing during the North squad 2019 Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

So, for the next three days, we are going to be almost exclusively a Senior Bowl podcast and blog – but with a Miami Dolphins twist.

The fun started at the measurements with a pair of edge players. Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Charles Omenihu from Texas. For Sweat – 6-6, 252 pounds with 35 7/8”inch arms. A monster whose hands scrape his knees. The story is the same for Omenihu – 6’5’’ 274 pounds with 36.5” inch arms.

Then there’s the media session where players can steal the show for both good reasons and bad. Will Grier caught an accusation for the latter when he didn’t show up for a media availability, but it was later confirmed that Grier was speaking somewhere else.

Gardner Minshew, Daniel Jones, and Drew Lock all spoke. Minshew talked about his precipitous route to the Senior Bowl – from Mississippi to Carolina out to Wazzu. Jones spoke on his concept-based offense and the combination reads he made under David Cutcliffe. Lock spoke of leadership, locker room command, and extending plays when things breakdown.

Jon Gruden, coach of the North Squad, spoke about a hot topic on the day. “I’m throwing away all my old prototypes,” I used to believe in those things,” Gruden said. “Then I saw Brees. I met Wilson. And now I’m watching this [Kyler] Murray and things have changed”

That conversation isn’t exclusive to Gruden and the Raiders. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo said word is spreading about the changing prototype at the position. He reported the mixed, even polarizing, viewpoints on Russell Wilson in 2012.

But it was Wilson that paved the way for the new-age quarterback. “If they can create their own passing lanes, but also allow teams to implement the RPO game, they don’t need the traditional style quarterback anymore,” Garafolo said on-air during practice.

Just sayin’, I been sayin’….

Not only did Montez Sweat, who said he’s best when in the three-point stance, dominate the measurement room, he kept the momentum going onto the practice field.

Daniel Jeremiah had the quote of the day regarding Buffalo Quarterback Tyree Jackson. “You put on the tape of the best 10-to-15 throws in college football, Tyree Jackson had all of ‘em.” Unfortunately for the six-foot-seven QB, day-one in Mobile highlighted his biggest pitfall – the lay-ups. His mechanics aren’t consistent, he doesn’t stride through his target creating a fluctuating release-point and sending the ball all over the map.

The linebackers, running backs, safeties, and quarterbacks didn’t get a lot of televised action today. Thankfully, Miami’s primary needs are in the trenches and that’s where the focus was fixed.

With about 20 minutes on the final DVR recording to play, I tweeted about the many interior offensive linemen that figure to come off the board in the draft’s 20-50 range. Not five minutes later Jeremiah echoes that thought, but adjusts the range to 15-40.

Nonetheless, there are a handful of starter-quality guards and centers that will be available come draft-day.

And they were working in Mobile.

The offensive line vs. defensive line one-on-one drills are my favorite portions of this entire week. It showcases all of the skills these guys are going to need to grow and/or develop. Granted, the drill is slightly flawed without rushing lanes from live action, but it gives us a good idea what kind of power and pass-rush arsenal these guys play with.

Offensive Line vs. Defensive Line

Montez Sweat won the entire day. His length, athleticism and bend led to plenty of problems from his counterpart in the drills. He made an impact closing the edge both on the play side and backside in the team portion as well.

Jan 22, 2019; Mobile, AL, USA; South defensive end Montez Sweat of Mississippi State (9) battles with South offensive tackle Tytus Howard of Alabama State (58) knocking off his helmet during the South squad 2019 Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Dalton Risner was the most impressive offensive lineman. The Kansas State product played four positions in college and showed his anchor and ability to redirect. Some of his best work came against an impressive bull-of-a-defensive end, Zach Allen. At 285, Allen is pure power and will knock heads backwards with great frequency. He showed some nuance with a crafty pin-and-pull move late in the period.

Allen might be what the new defensive end prototype looks like in Miami – get used to his name.

Greg Gaines is a bull in a china shop of a defensive tackle from Washington. His power was simply too much to deal with in the one-on-ones. He even threw an arm-over into the mix for a would-be sack.

Boston College Guard Chris Lindstrom stacked several good reps on top of one another. He stoned the Texas specimen Omenihu with a smooth shuffle and set on the interior.

Michael Dieter was on the Senior Bowl watch list yesterday and he showed why. His feet glide and his 54 games of staring experience in Madison showcase a fine technician.

Rennell Wren is a 300-pound defensive tackle from Arizona State that spent the entire day in the backfield.

Remington Award Winner Garrett Bradbury (North Carolina State) had a rough day trying to absorb bull rushes and settle. He’s a zone, reach-block type of center – something I think Miami might try to get away from.

Oregon Edge Jalen Jelks had a nice bull rush – a change-of-pace from his usual burst and speed get-off.

Mississippi State Center Elgton Jenkins has it all with the bend and anchor. Sheer power, yeesh. His hands do tend to get a bit wide and it forces him to grab. He’s so big and strong with a wide base, I think his best position will be center.

Dru Samia, guard from Oklahoma, had a difficult day.

Jordan Ledbetter showed a nice long arm, a speed rush and impacted the team portion of practice – he had one of the better days altogether.

Daylon Mack blew up the Shrine Week, and he continued that momentum on Tuesday. He’s a pure power player with tree trunks for legs – a massive, MASSIVE human. His size shouldn’t be a surprise; he’s been known to put down three double cheeseburgers from Whataburger on the Texas A&M team flights.

Cornerback vs. Wide Receiver

Winner of best name might be winner of my favorite player at this Senior Bowl. Rock Ya-Sin won his first two reps of the day with physical inside hand jams and perfect timing at the catch-point. He uses a little spin to recover from inside releases on the slant that is unusually fluid.

Ya-Sin has a great story to boot. He played for four years at Presbyterian, a school that removed all scholarships for 2018. As a graduate transfer Ya-Sin showed up at Temple and earned a single-digit number in his first week of spring practices. Single digits are given out to the nine toughest players on Temple – voted by the teammates.

Debo Samuel was the best player on the field. His smooth releases, ability to set up the defensive back and powerful hands make him a tough cover. Samuel got the best of Ya-Sin a couple of times.

The West Virginia receivers both had nice days. David Sills V is magic. He’s smooth, quiet hands, subtle moves and tugs up the stem to create separation, and he catches everything. His running-mate, Gary Jennings, showed his long speed stacking a man for a deep touchdown.

Jan 22, 2019; Mobile, AL, USA; North wide receiver Penny Hart of Georgia State (18) pulls in a pass during the North squad 2019 Senior Bowl practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Penny Hart is a diminutive (5’8”) receiver. The broadcast mentioned that his Georgia State Coach said Penny was the most competitive kid he’s ever coached (same school as Albert Wilson). He was quick in-and-out of breaks and won a nice double-move up top on a corner.

Keelan Doss could be Miami’s target as Devante Parker’s replacement. He eats up a lot of ground quickly, has a plan with his releases, and has a big fan in Daniel Jeremiah. At 6’3” Doss drew a comparison to Keenan Allen with the technically sound game and quick feet.

Jordan Brown plays a physical brand of corner. He certainly learned how to jam at the line-of-scrimmage at South Dakota State.

Penn State corner Amani Oruwariye plays with a lot of confidence and it’s easy to see why. He takes it personal when a receiver crosses face and can wall off and pin to the perimeter nicely. He was lockdown during the one-on-one drills.

Team Portion and Additional Notes

Will Grier’s day was a forgettable one from the limited action aired on NFLN. They opened up a naked boot play-action with a wide open Samuel streaking across the deep middle and the throw was way short. That wasn’t the only time he missed a throw – his mechanics were all over the place, often failing to square up his target.

Stanford Linebacker Bobby Okereke nice job working through trash to make a play. He was able to avoid linemen climbing to the second level for a run-stop.

Andre Dillard is really smooth and really good in pass pro. He can over-set, as he did against Montez, but he’s quick into his set-up and he can redirect effectively.

Alabama DT Isaiah Buggs caused some issues generating interior penetration.

Terrell Hanks from New Mexico State had a big pop filling and blowing up a rocked up Wes Hills.

 

Dolphins Meets:

 

QB Daniel Jones – Duke
QB Drew Luck – Missouri

*this list will be updated throughout the week

Miami’s meeting probably came later in the evening and have gone unreported. The team did, however, send Dan Marino in to meet Lock and Jones.

 

The QBs as a whole were off in all portions. The timing is obviously going to be a little difficult to come by this quickly.

The guy I need to go back on the tape with is Drew Lock. He had division-one basketball offers and apparently his teammates rave about his confidence and swagger. The big arm intrigues you, and he can certainly rip some tight windows.

Daniel Jones questionable arm showed up on the post-backside crosser concept that the North squad was struggling to install.

The broadcast team talked a lot about that post with the backside crosser – and that was something the Dolphins ran all the time under Gase. Remember the Jarvis Landry touchdown against Cleveland a couple of years ago (in fact he ran that all the time). Kenny Stills ran it the deep over (crosser) a whole lot in 2017.

On today’s Locked On Dolphins Podcast, I have my entire Daniel Jones scouting report. We’ll have the Senior Bowl covered tomorrow and Friday on the blog and the pod.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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