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Miami Dolphins

Starting Positions Up for Grabs as Training Camp Nears

Andrew Mitchell

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The Miami Dolphins will begin Training Camp on July 25th when all veterans report to camp. The rookies will report a week earlier on the 18th. Last season’s Training Camp essentially ruined Miami’s 2017 season as we saw Ryan Tannehill, Tony Lippett, Raekwon McMillan, and Ted Larsen suffer significant injuries. A lot of focus will be on Adam Gase and his offense as Tannehill returns from injury and the offense adapts to the losses of Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey.

Below I have listed 3 positions that do not have a sure-fire starter. Over the course of training camp these players will battle it out to become the starter for the beginning of the 2018 season.

KICKER –

That’s right, once again the Miami Dolphins will have new starting Kicker for 2018 season. Two seasons ago it was Andrew Franks, then last season he was cut for the “Jupiter Juggernaut” Cody Parkey. Parkey had a stellar season which resulted in him signing a contract with the Chicago Bears for $15 million, $9 million guaranteed over 3 years.

The Dolphins drafted Jason Sanders in the 7th round of the 2018 draft. He made 71% of his Field Goals on 35 attempts while at the University of New Mexico.

The Dolphins also signed Greg Joseph, an undrafted free agent kicker out of Florida Atlantic University. Joseph, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, hit 70% of his Field Goals on 82 attempts.

No doubt Darren Rizzi, the Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator, will be tasked with choosing the best candidate once preseason and training camp conclude.

TIGHT END –

As we all know, Tight End has been a weak link of the Dolphins offense for too long. The last couple seasons Adam Gase and Co. have brought in recognizable names at the position whom have failed to produce as they had in the past (see Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas).

This season however there is a plethora of candidates and the entire position group could be all new faces once preseason and Training Camp come to an end.

Returning is TE/H-Back MarQueis Gray and A.J. Derby, who the Dolphins claimed off waivers last season after he was released by Denver in the middle of the season. They also signed former Cowboys 2nd Round pick Gavin Escobar.

Following Free Agency, The Miami Dolphins made not one, but two selections of Tight Ends. First, they took Mike Gesicki in the 2nd Round out of Penn State and then later Durham Smythe from Notre Dame in the 4th Round. Gesicki is known for his ability to be an excellent receiving option and a red zone threat, while Smythe was more utilized as a blocking TE at Notre Dame but the Dolphins staff believe Smythe offers more as a receiver than the tape shows.

It will be interesting to see how this camp battle plays out, you have the 2 rookies who each complement each other well, regarding receiving/blocking as well as Derby who has experience with Gase from his time in Denver. Ultimately, I believe these 3 will be on the 53-man roster and if the Dolphins decide to keep 4 at the position than it’ll be Gray, Thomas Duarte, and Escobar fighting for that 4th spot. As for who will become the #1 Tight End for Miami in 2018? Time will tell.

LINEBACKER –

Another position of weakness from the past, linebacker not only has become an Achilles heel of Miami but it also has been a position that has evolved quite a bit over the last couple years. Gone are the days where linebackers were big strong run stoppers. Now the position requires them to be lean and fast to keep up with the multiple quick passing threats that offenses are using today. They are required now more than ever to cover athletic, receiving tight ends and running backs as offenses try to zero in on them for matchup advantages.

The Dolphins predominantly run a 4-3 scheme which requires 3 starting linebackers but with most offenses passing so much variations of Nickel formations have been prevalent. In Nickel and Dime packages there is usually only 1 or 2 linebackers, Training Camp and preseason will determine who are the best 3 linebackers for the Dolphins and which 2 will be used for most coverage situations.

Nov 5, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (47) watches from the sideline in the game against the Oakland Raiders during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Kiko Alonso will be slotted as 1 of the 3 starting linebackers. He had a great first season and a sub-par 2nd season, Dolphins fans will be watching him with a close eye this season to justify his heavy pay raise last off-season.

Raekwon McMillan was expected to assume the middle linebacker position as a rookie last season until he was sidelined for the season. Now he returns and the same expectation remains, that he will be the Miami Dolphins middle linebacker in 2018.

The 3rd linebacker spot will be the one we see the Training Camp Battle for. The 2 main candidates I see are Stephone Anthony, former 1st round pick of the New Orleans Saints, whom we traded a 5th round pick for last season. The other being rookie linebacker Jerome Baker from Ohio St. A wild card in this scenario would be if Dolphins 1st round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick steps in as starting Free Safety alongside Reshad Jones, we could see T.J. McDonald be moved to OLB.

The biggest question mark in all of this is who are your coverage linebackers? Kiko was abysmal last season and McMillan isn’t known for being superior in coverage. Anthony has nice length at 6’3” and that is ideal when lined up with receiving Tight Ends. Baker seems like the ideal player to step up and become a starter much like his Ohio St teammate had done in his rookie campaign before suffering a torn ACL. In sub coverage packages is where we may see Matt Burke and the defensive staff for Miami get creative and use T.J. McDonald as a hybrid linebacker/safety.

The answers to these questions are not far from being revealed. The Dolphins open camp just 30 days from press-time. The long wait is almost over.

Andrew is a lifelong Dolphins’ fan that has a deep passion for sports. He has a Multimedia Journalism Degree from Florida Atlantic University and also has interned for ESPN Radio. For all his opinions and articles you can follow him on Twitter: @mitchpr0

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins vs. Raiders Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Who: Dolphins (2-0) vs. Raiders (0-2)
When: September 23, 1:00 East
Where: Hard Rock Stadium – Miami Gardens, FL
Weather: 88 degrees, 73% humidity, 60% precipitation
Vegas Slant: Dolphins -3

Raiders Off-Season Changes

Dolphins vs. Raiders

Favored for the first time in three outings, the Miami Dolphins return home to the building where, under Adam Gase, the organization is bordering on elite. Since Gase’s hire in 2016, the Dolphins are 11-5, riding a six-game winning-streak with Ryan Tannehill under-center, and average nearly four touchdowns per game at Hard Rock Stadium.

Beating the Titans was a commencement that this team wasn’t the pushover many projected it to be. Throttling the Jets to the tune of a 20-point halftime lead, Miami asserted itself into the discussion of potential playoff outfits.

Now the expectation is that the Dolphins will hit the showers on Sunday with an unblemished record through three games. Winning as an underdog can be attributed to the emotional influence of the game but, winning as favorites, that’s a different ballgame.

The Patriots are on-deck. Miami are in a perfect situation to set-up a Late-September statement game – a potential changing of the guard game, perhaps.

But first, the Raiders.

The Raiders’ Scheme

Offense:

Oakland have been a team of two halves under second-time Head Coach, Jon Gruden. Obliterated in the second half against a loaded Rams team, on national T.V. no less, the Raiders had an opportunity to right the ship with a 12-point halftime lead at divisional rival Denver.

Gruden’s play-script has yielded positive results. A healthy mix of 11 and 12-personnel focuses the offense around Amari Cooper and Jared Cook. Everything Oakland does offensively revolves around the running game. Establishing Marshawn Lynch and the zone running game early is the precursor for the play-action, bootleg layers’ concepts that we’ve seen regularly with Miami.

For a team that wanted to throw things back to 1998 (and they did, no roster is older than this veteran-laden group assembled in Oakland), Gruden’s offense sure struggles to convert third-and-short. On 10 attempts from five yards and in, the Raiders are moving the sticks just 40% of the time.

That issue, compounded by a lack of ingenuity once the game becomes about adjustments, are why the Raiders are starring an 0-3 start square in the face. Mixing plenty of variety early in the game (bunch 12-personnel followed up by an empty formation down in the red zone) kept the Broncos and Rams defenses guessing.

While the yardage ranks show success, the Raiders have the fifth-lowest scoring offense in the National Football League.

Defense:

Coordinator Paul Guenther believes in three things: Blitzing, blitzing and, you guessed it, blitzing. Though it didn’t start that way this season, Gruden has specifically stated he would prefer that Oakland brought heat more often.

The Raider defense increased the blitz-package last week and, as the pass rush continues to struggle in the post-Khalil Mack era, that trend likely continues this week.

A-Gap pressure has been a favorite for Guenther. He’s a disciple of Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who’s defense is predicated on showing pressure down up the gun-barrel.

On the back-end, Oakland will mix-up zone and man-coverage. Because of a lack of pressure from the Raiders’ lackluster four-man front, the Dolphins could take Guenther’s defense to task in two ways:

– Throwing the football to the backs
– Setting up the quick screen game early and often

The Players:

Offense:

Derek Carr has regressed back to the norm after an anomaly in 2016. His propensity to succumb to heavy pressure and poor decision making has resulted in a rough start for the fifth-year pro.

Carr’s passer rating under pressure is 33.1 – 32nd in the NFL. Miami had Sam Darnold under constant duress Sunday at the Meadowlands.

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Penn and Kolton Miller have surrendered eight pressures among the pair – keeping them each outside of the top 50 tackles in the league when it comes to pass blocking efficiency.

The interior of that offensive line is where the Raiders’ strength is supposed to lie – only it isn’t any better than the perimeter. Gabe Jackson and Kelechi Osemele have allowed a combined nine pressures.

Neither Raiders’ tackle is a top-50 graded run blocker and the guards check in at 42nd and 24th respectively. Marshawn Lynch’s elusive rating is 35th among NFL backs.

Miami has three wide outs with an average yards-per-route-ran over 2.0 – Oakland has one (Martavis Bryant on just four targets). Jordy Nelson’s diminishing speed has made him a shell of his former-self and Amari Cooper still hasn’t recaptured the magic of his rookie season.

Jared Cook, however, is fifth among all tight ends with 3.82 YPPR.

Defense:

Miami have gashed teams on the ground through two games and that trend could continue in week-three. The Raiders interior defensive line is inexperienced and without much production. Jonathan Hankins arrives to reinforce a front that is allowing 5.7 yards-per-carry – worst in football.

The edge rushers might offer even less. The most efficient pass rusher through two games is Frostee Rucker. His pass-rush-productivity ranks 77th in the league.

Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin are off to solid starts on the perimeter of the Raider defense. Leon Hall, Oakland’s nickel corner has allowed 75 yards on just nine pass targets – Miami will make the grizzled-vet a target on Sunday.

Linebacker play isn’t any better. The collective group has just six run-stops and each of the three are allowing passer ratings over 100 in coverage.

Oakland cut Obi Melifonwu in order to keep Reggie Nelson on the field and the returns have not been great. His passer rating allowed is 150.7 (just 7.6 points shy of a perfect rating).

The Medical:

Raiders

(Pos) Player Injury Wednesday
CB Leon Hall Illness Limited
DT P.J. Hall Ankle DNP
WR Dwayne Harris Foot Full
C Rodney Hudson Ankle Limited
G Gabe Jackson Pectoral Limited
RB Marshawn Lynch Shoulder Limited
T Brandon Parker Ankle DNP

 

Dolphins

(Pos) Player Injury Wednesday
WR Danny Amendola Non-Injury DNP
LS John Denney Shoulder Limited
RB Kenyan Drake Abdomen Full
DE Williams Hayes Finger Full
S Reshad Jones Shoulder DNP
WR Devante Parker Knee Full
DT Jordan Phillips Knee Limited
QB Ryan Tannehill Knee/Ankle Full

The Concerns:

There’s an easy answer to this one and it would be ultra-contrarian to go away from said obvious conclusion. Jared Cook caused a multitude of problems for the Miami in last year’s meeting, and he’s off to a similar start this season.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Oakland’s ability to stretch him both vertically and horizontally doesn’t bode well for the Miami linebackers. Raekwon McMillan is struggling immensely in this area and Kiko Alonso has been problematic in this department in his own right.

Tackling and poor angles have been a bit of an issue on the back-end. It’s a team effort to get Marshawn Lynch to the ground – if he has success, the Raiders’ offense will have success.

Miami needs these three things to go in their favor:

1.) Contain Oakland’s first down offense – Oakland’s tackle play has been suspect. With a wave of edge rusher’s ready to capitalize, if Oakland can’t find success on early downs, it won’t fare any better on the money down.

2.) Unleash the passing game – A balanced attack has been the prescription so far with early double-digit leads. The same could happen against these Raiders, but Miami has advantages all over the field in regards to the passing offense v. Oakland’s pass defense. Expect Oakland to commit to stopping the run, meaning the aerial show begins at 1 ‘o’ clock eastern standard time.

3.) Shut down Amari Cooper OR Jared Cook – Miami will pick its poison here, but if they can blank one of these two and make the Raiders passing game one-dimensional, the Dolphins can start robbing Derek Carr and force the mistake-prone quarterback into turnovers.

The Opportunities:

Frankly, they’re everywhere. Miami’s edge rush against Oakland’s substandard tackle play, the young interior defensive line of Oakland against Miami’s ever-evolving ground-game, the perimeter match-ups, Miami ought to be able to draw their weapon-of-choice from a hat and attack accordingly.

The Projected Result:

An angry Adam Gase is a dangerous Adam Gase. The absurd rumblings around his quarterback are sure to ignite a fire and create a run-up-the-score mentality in the snarky third-year coach. This game could very well be all gas and no breaks with plenty of scoring opportunities schemed into the passing game down in the red zone.

Coming east in the early-game window has proven difficult for this Raiders team. Sure, change has been rampant since The Visor regained control of the operation, but that doesn’t make the challenge of an out-of-whack body clock any easier.

In 2017 Oakland was 1-3 playing in the eastern time zone. Three of those games were in primetime and the Raiders were collectively outscored in the four games 104-61. The lone early-window game was a 34-14 loss at the Buffalo Bills.

The Raiders are about to find out how much resiliency they have under Gruden. The loss in Denver was devastating and will either foster a hungry, desperate team, or send the lads in the opposite direction with no hope in sight.

With the Dolphins tempo-based-attack, playing back at home in the brutal South Florida conditions, not many aspects of this game favor the road team.

Dolphins 41
Raiders 20

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Miami Dolphins

Week 3: Miami Dolphins Power Rankings Round Up

Gabe Hauari

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How did Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets in Week 2 affect their position in the eyes of the major national media outlets? Let’s take a look:

ESPN

Last Week: 24

This week: 16

NFL.com

Last week: 23

This week: 17

Bleacher Report

Last week: 28

This week: 21

CBS Sports

Last week: 17

This week: 12

Sports Illustrated

Last week: 19

This week: 15

As you can see, there’s a pretty wide range of opinions on this Dolphins team. Bleacher Report continues to remain mum on Miami, saying “Undefeated or no, we’re still not ready to call the Dolphins contenders. Or even call them good.”

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports ranked the Dolphins No. 12, and said: “They are off to a 2-0 start and have a winnable game at home against Oakland. Adam Gase has this team playing good football.”

If the Dolphins get to 3-0 by beating the Oakland Raiders at home this Sunday, they may start to get some more national recognition as a team who could contend for a playoff spot.

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Miami Dolphins

5 potential landing spots should Miami trade Devante Parker

Kadeem Simmonds

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Following Miami’s 20-12 win over the Jets on Sunday, Devante Parker was upset he didn’t see the field, claiming he was fit and ready to go.

The reaction to the quote was mixed, some fans were pleased Parker wanted in on the action while others felt he was overshadowing the victory and making it all about himself.

We saw this with Jay Ajayi, complaining he didn’t see enough off the ball after the Dolphins won games and the last thing Adam Gase wants is another player putting his personal needs above the team’s.

Parker has failed to live up the hype when he was drafted 14th overall in 2015.

Yet to get a contract extension, it may be time for #11 to move on.

The team are not short at receiver with Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant all proving to be Gase’s guys.

Parker doesn’t fit in to what Gase is trying to build in Miami and instead of letting him hit free agency when the time comes, it may be worth trading him to a WR needy franchise.

Below are five teams who could be interested in Parker should he be available:

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Ajayi texts Parker.

“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“He didn’t give me enough touches when I was in Miami and I left to win a Super Bowl. JOIN ME!”

On a serious note, this is a move which we could actually see happen.

The SB champs are short at receiver due to a few injuries.

While they have Alshon Jeffrey to return, Mike Wallace may not see the field again this season and Mack Hollins is on IR.

Carson Wentz returns this Sunday and giving him a new shiny toy to play with in Parker could be the perfect welcome back gift.

Eagles Twitter want it to happen and know the franchise have a good relationship with the Dolphins after acquiring Ajayi for what seems to be a steal.

Can Howie Roseman do it again?

 

Cleveland Browns

Landry texts Parker.

“Hey, I agree Coach Gase doesn’t know what he’s doing.

“He gave me loads of touches when I was in Miami and I left to lose with the Browns. JOIN ME!”

The Browns’ receiver core is shrinking.

Corey Coleman? Gone.

Josh Gordon? Gone.

For Thursday Night Football against the Jets, their current depth chart at WR reads:

1. Jarvis Landry

2. Rashard Higgins

3. Derrick Willies

1. Antonio Callaway

2. Damion Ratley

3. Rod Streater.

If Cleveland are serious about actually winning a game of football, giving Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield some actual weapons could be a start.

Should Miami work out a deal, better than the one they got for Landry, they could be looking at a pretty decent draft pick in 2019.

Cleveland has the cap room to offer him a long-term deal and Parker gets moved to a team looking to rebuild for the future.

 

Dallas Cowboys

The win against the Giants on Sunday Night Football didn’t mask the fact that Dak Prescott has a lack of good options to throw to.

The team has seven WRs after adding Brice Butler to give the receiver room some much-needed height but still lack an X-factor player on the perimeter.

Jason Garrett must be worried about the amount of snaps Tavon Austin and Cole Beasley are seeing and Parker can potentially bring to this team what they lost in Dez Bryant over the summer.

It would mean getting rid of two or three WRs but given the list of names on the Cowboys depth chart, that shouldn’t be too hard to make room for a former first round pick.

 

Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson needs help.

First and foremost, he needs an offensive line.

But he also has no-one to throw to.

Pete Carroll’s days seem to be numbered and he may not last the entire season given their start and the changes in Seattle the past 18 months.

But should he need a quick fix to try and save his job, Parker could help alleviate the pressure on Wilson while also taking some of the attention Doug Baldwin is shown by opponents.

Should trade talks take place, instead of going for a draft pick, Miami’s front office should see if Seattle would send Earl Thomas the other way.

Yes Miami has T.J. McDonald but would you turn down the opportunity to partner Reshad Jones with ETIII?

One can dream.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Like Seattle, this team needs all the help it can get.

Badly.

Larry Fitzgerald cannot keep single-handedly saving this franchise.

Christian Kirk looks a nice pick up but if they want to give Josh Rosen the best chance to succeed when he does step in for Sam Bradford, he needs more weapons.

Parker can immediately step in and be productive in a team which failed to get past the half-way line until the final drive of the game against the LA Rams and were shut out.

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