Connect with us

Miami Dolphins

State of the Miami Dolphins Franchise – September 1, 2019

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

A blockbuster trade, 10 newcomers, a war chest of future draft picks, the Dolphins are finally doing things differently

No one expected to be here. Not the fans. Not Laremy Tunsil. Not even the Miami Dolphins themselves thought about the possibility of trading one of its two, sure-fire blue chip players, and yet here we are.

As Albert Breer of the MMQB put it, Miami had no intentions to move Tunsil until Houston’s full court press turned into an offer Miami couldn’t refuse.

The lack on long-term job security turned Bill O’Brien into a mad scientist, operating free of any governing watch, spending all of his company’s future assets on immediate returns. A long day for the Texans saw a potential division favorite part with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, an all-pro defensive end, and a pair of mid-round picks on middling tailbacks (one of which occurred two weeks ago).

Miami cashed in. And while this might not have been Stephen Ross’ exact image of a teardown rebuild, the ultimate apple of his eye is now clearly within range (more on that QB in a moment).

When Ross stepped to the podium (or table, rather) on New Year’s Eve to announce the dismissal of Adam Gase and Mike Tannenbaum, and the coinciding promotion of Chris Grier, he vowed to do things differently.

Chasing the New England Patriots and their six Super Bowl titles, nine appearances in the big game, and 16 division titles in 18 years has long been a futile effort. Rather than chasing the dragon with pipedreams like Robert Quinn, Danny Amendola, and a host of failed bandage attempts over the last decade, Ross finally learned the definition of insanity.

And while his initial vision probably included a minimal regression to the mean, unique circumstances forced a pivot. Now, bottoming out to the fullest extent of the definition is the preferred mode of operation going forward.

That wasn’t the case just three weeks ago. Ross detailed his instructions to the coaching staff to “try to win,” a hilarious quote without context, no doubt. Ross continued by saying that if Miami winds up with, say, five wins, it’s OK because of Miami’s draft capital gives the team the flexibility to trade up to secure its franchise altering passer.

But now, with a war chest of future resources, Miami might be able to divide the 21 draft picks it has beyond its own, organic 2020 first-rounder about the rest of the roster. One of those picks will now have to replace fast-emerging Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil, widely argued as the best young player at his position in the league.

So Why Trade Tunsil?

The return, along with adhering to a philosophical principle, the Dolphins saw an opportunity to maximize an asset. While many fans were sent into a rage about losing the only quality part of the integral offensive line group, that very fact might be why Tunsil was deemed expendable.

On the fifth day of training camp this summer, Brian Flores answered a flurry of questions regarding the decision to move on from recently hired Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty.

One of those questions asked what exactly the Dolphins were looking for with the other four positions — four spots regarded as suspect, at best.

Flores’ message has never deviated from his original clichés. “Communication, working as one singular unit, not five individual parts, that’s what we’re trying to get out of those guys.”

Even if Tunsil is an elite pass protector, even if you can put him on an island with a two-way go against the game’s best pass rushers, what does that gain? What does it gain when Tunsil blocks out the sun against Khalil Mack, but the right guard-right tackle combination fails to pass-off a stunt, and pressure arrives in less than two seconds anyhow?

The roster needs a jolt of talent, there’s no doubt about that, but the offensive line was the primary culprit behind Miami’s projected hopelessness this season. That group, more so than the team itself, needed a ground-up rebuild.

Cashing in the offensive line’s greatest asset, for well above market value, puts the Dolphins in a more advantageous position to restock that group as a whole, and solidify a singular unit. Not to mention that Tunsil was only two years — at most — away from cashing in the largest lineman contract in the NFL.

Miami can now spend that money on multiple players — maybe even two linemen — and scoops up three premium picks (all top 60 picks) in the process.

Everything about this offseason has been about positioning the team for success in the future, even if the path to the future is rigged with treacherous booby traps and unmitigated suffering.

 

Draft Round Dolphins 2020 Picks Dolphins 2021 Picks
1st 2 2
2nd 2 2
3rd 2 1
4th 1 1
5th 1 1
6th 2 0
7th 1 1
Total Picks 11 0
Projected Top 50 Picks 3 3
Projected Top 100 Picks 6 6

*Miami previously held two 7th round picks in 2020, but the trade for Danny Isidora brings it back to one.

 

The happiest accident of the entire thing, Miami is a dreadful football team for the 2019 season; a season in which college football is set to send some premier quarterback prospects into the league.

Most notably, Tua Tagovailoa.

Stephen Ross professed his love for the Heisman Runner-Up and 2018 National Championship Game hero. Tagovailoa is widely regarded as the next great quarterback prospect, the best one since Andrew Luck in 2012.

All Luck did, for a previously 2-14 Colts team, was take a talent-barren club to the post-season three consecutive years. He led Indianapolis to three playoff victories and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 2014, his third year. Miami hasn’t done any of those three things since the 1990’s, for those keeping score at home.

The year prior, Miami and Indianapolis were competing for the right to Luck’s services. Miami started the campaign 0-6, but finished 6-4 and all the way out of the top five. The Colts wound up with Luck, the Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill, and I don’t need to tell you how different the last seven years would’ve been if Miami could’ve traded those two quarterbacks straight across.

Nothing changes the landscape of your franchise like a marquee quarterback. Nothing. There is no more direct route back to a Lombardi than an elite quarterback, and the opportunity to acquire one should not be taken lightly.

And if Miami hits that pick out of the park, and at the cost of just ONE draft pick, then the organization would have to royally screw up the next two offseason for Miami to stay in the shadows for long.

With 19 additional picks to aid Tua Tagovailoa (or Jordan Love), if the Dolphins bat just .400 on those picks, we’re talking about eight more contributing players to a core that already features some quality parts.

Parts like Jerome Baker, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Christian Wilkins.

Parts like Xavien Howard. Which brings us to the next question.

Why Did Miami Pay Xavien Howard, Acquire Josh Rosen?

As the offensive line was constructed around one elite player, and four players that probably wouldn’t start anywhere else, the defensive backfield is not in the same neighborhood.

Howard is one of, if not the game’s premiere cover corner. Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the game’s best slot corners, and a versatile weapon. Miami are enamored with a pair of former Patriots corners in Eric Rowe and Jomal Wiltz. Reshad Jones is still here, though his future is in jeopardy, and Bobby McCain is a good player and one of the leaders of the team.

The Dolphins are only one or two parts away from putting a top-flight secondary on the field, the same was not true of the offensive line. Not by a long shot.

On the other side, the players that the secondary are trying to prevent from succeeding, sits the cursed 22-year-old, Josh Rosen.

Rosen’s chances of becoming the answer in Miami are slim. Regardless of how you feel about the kid’s talent, he’s in a position where far greater quarterbacks would struggle, and the success he would have to enjoy to push Miami off of next year’s QB class is simply unachievable.

Maybe that’s why Miami opted not to start the season with Rosen. With the knowledge that a high draft pick at quarterback is greater than a 90-percent proposition (a number pulled from thin air, but let’s be real, they’re drafting a QB), Rosen’s greatest value to the Dolphins might be on the trade market.

Jimmy Garappolo brought back the 43rd pick in the 2018 draft to the Patriots after 1.5 games of brilliance.

If Miami can hold off on playing Rosen until the circumstances are more favorable (perhaps the line gels a bit as the season wears on, and the schedule lightens up), then a few games of good tape could certainly attract a bidder.

And before you develop an ulcer at the thought of trading Rosen after he plays well, consider upside. Consider conviction. The same conviction the Chiefs showed in the 2017 draft when, despite harboring a good NFL quarterback in Alex Smith, Andy Reid went for broke and wound up with the league’s Most Valuable Player in Patrick Mahomes.

In essence, you could wind up with the best QB prospect since Luck (Tagovailoa) and yet another second-round pick (would be Miami’s fifth the next two year) if Rosen plays his price tag up to that level. Rosen’s contract along could make him attractive to another bidder, if Miami so chooses that a high draft pick is more valuable than a backup quarterback.

All of these players are assets with a price tag attached to their name. That’s a cruel truth in the National Football League, but that’s what happens in business.

Updated 53-Man Roster – Courtesy of Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald

New Additions:

OL Julién Davenport
OL Evan Boehm
OL Danny Isidora
DE Trent Harris
DE Avery Moss
LB Deon Lacey
LB Vince Biegel
CB Johnson Bademosi
CB Ken Webster
S Steven Parker
DT John Jenkins

Position Players
QB (2) Fitzpatrick, Rosen
RB (6) Drake, Ballage, Walton, Laird, Gaskin, Cox (FB)
WR (5) Wilson, Grant, Williams, Parker, Hurns
TE (3) Gesicki, O’Leary, Smythe
OL (9) Davenport, Deiter, Kilgore, Calhoun, Davis, Reed, Boehm, Isidora, Prince
Edge (5) C. Harris, Orchard, T. Harris, Ledbetter, Moss
iDL (3) Wilkins, Godchaux, Jenkins
LB (6) Baker, Eguavoen, McMillan, Van Ginkel, Biegel, Lacey
CB (6) Howard, Fitzpatrick, Rowe, Wiltz, Webster, Bademosi
S (5) McCain, Jones, Lammons, Parker, Aikens
Spec (2) Sanders, Haack

*Current as of 12:37 PM EST, 9/2 (Roster at 52 players, long-snapper)

 

Miami landed in the headlines with the draft capital returns, but the organization has quietly been churning over the bottom of the roster in search of developmental pieces. Isidora and Boehm were added prior to the blockbuster trade, and there might be a find in there as we detailed in the film study work-up.

Miami had spent time with Saints Linebacker Vince Biegel prior to the 2017 draft, both at the Senior Bowl and with a private workout.

Deon Lacy was a CFL signing to Miami last year, but he didn’t make Gase’s 53-man roster — he’s back.

Cutting Zach Sterup likely means that new addition Julién Davenport is the starting left tackle. He’s, shall we say, had his fair share of struggles.

Miami is rounding out it’s practice squad as well. Here’s the up-to-date 11-man developmental player for the Dolphins (currently only at 9).

Practice Squad

Position Player
1. QB Jake Ruddock
2. DE Dewayne Hendrix
3. LB Christian Sam
4. CB Nik Needham
5. DT Gerald Willis
6. TE Chris Myarick
7. LB Terrill Hanks
8. S Montre Hartage
9. OT Zach Sterup
10.
11. OL Durval Queiroz Neto (Exempt Status

 

The Forgotten Man in All of This

Miami departed with more than just Laremy Tunsil in the trade. The Dolphins Walter Payton Man of the Year Candidate, and leading receiver over the last three seasons was also sent to Houston.

Kenny Stills was a fixture on the South Florida community. Every time the Dolphins social media pages shared video, or photography of the team aiding in charity events, number 10 was always there. Every. Single. Time. The Dolphins are losing a good football player, but also one of the best men in the game.

Best of luck in Houston, Kenny.

Darkest Before the Dawn

This season is going to be challenging, there’s no way around that. Miami doesn’t have the makeup of a team that can compete with many others at this level, but there’s still a reason to watch.

Watch to see how Jerome Baker develops as the leader of the defense. Watch to see Xavien Howard continue his tear of intercepting footballs. Watch to see Minkah Fitzpatrick, Christian Wilkins, Kalen Ballage, Jakeem Grant, Preston Williams, Mike Geisicki, Charles Harris, and Davon Godchaux attempt to take the next step.

Watch the low-risk investments like Mark Walton, Eric Rowe, Devante Parker and how they progress.

Watch the five undrafted free agents on the current roster — Williams, Patrick LairdShaq Calhoun, Jonathan Ledbetter, and Chris Lammons.

It’s evaluation season, Dol-fans. And we’ve got 16 games to self-scout the incumbent talent, and 13 more weeks to watch a decorated college class of prospects, primarily on the offensive side of the ball.

The Browns did this two years ago. The team finished without a win in 2017 and landed the first pick in the draft. Enter Baker Mayfield. Now, after winning seven more games than the previous season, the Browns are loaded.

Cleveland used all the resources it gathered to pick up superstars like Myles Garrett, and O’Dell Beckham, and paired them with other names like Denzel Ward, David Njoku, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and a laundry list of above average NFL starters.

If you were content with perpetually finishing right in the middle of the pack — in that range of seven to eight wins, and picking in the early teens every April — then perhaps this rebuild isn’t for you.

But this team is doing things differently now. They had to.

We’ll find out if it works in three years.

@WingfieldNFL

Advertisement
11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Pat

    September 1, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Travis,

    Terrell Hanks has been waived. We only have 6 LB’s

  2. Avatar

    Kirk Marks

    September 1, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    Travis I am all on board with this transformtion. You hit the nail on the head, the real fans will see a bright future. A season ticket holder discount would have been nice traveling from Hersey for every home game haha. Fins up

  3. Avatar

    Bill Martin

    September 1, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    I live in Toronto and I’ve just witnessed a similar dismantling of my beloved Blue Jays. They are painful to watch at times (no-hit by Verlander today), but it is exciting to watch youngsters like Guerrero Jr, Bichette, Biggio and Guierriel Jr. begin to emerge. The future looks bright for the Jays. If I see this sort of progression with the youngsters on my beloved Dolphins then I’m good with what Grier and Co. are trying to accomplish. But boy, do I feel for Rosen… another horrible, horrible OL to play behind. How is he supposed to get a fair evaluation when he’ll be running for his life most of the time.

  4. Avatar

    PapaPickett

    September 1, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    I am surprised you are defending this. There is an philosophy very foriegn to us Dolphins fans and its called overvaluing draft picks. When you hit on a pick you keep it. Thats the idea of building a team, because no matter how good you are at picking, you will miss sometimes as well. The Dolphins hit on Tunsil and traded him back in for 3 more rolls of the dice and at least one of those rolls has to be spent trying to replace Tunsil. Blow smoke anywhere you like, but keep it out of my ace. Grier just set this team back very badly and should be sued for negligence and wrecklessness when our Quarterbacks inevitably get injured.

    • Avatar

      Mike

      September 2, 2019 at 8:48 am

      Wrong…. Tunsil will be the highest paid o linemen by this time next year. Why in the hell would Miami pay that price when they aren’t close to being a playoff contender?? Also, Tua is left handed so we need an all pro RT now. We got more for Tunsil than the Raiders got for Mack …let that sink in.

  5. Avatar

    Tony

    September 1, 2019 at 8:49 pm

    I’m on board with the organizations current philosophy and I agree that Miami will probably draft a QB in 2020 just not the one you are talking about. For starters the notion that Tagovailoa is the best QB prospect since Luck is pure fiction. Those ratings won’t come out for another 6 months and I doubt after the combine Tua will be in that company. Couple that with the fact that
    none of the top QBs in the NFL (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaaron Rodgers, Pat Mahomes , Ben Rothlisberger and Russell Wilson) were top 5 picks. If Rosen shows well this season I’m not sure that they take a QB with their first pick. Let some other GM who overvalues Tua such as I believe you do give Miami an RGIII type return to even further expedite the rebuild and take a QB later in round 1. Then use the added draft capital and free agency over the next 2 years to stock this roster with talent and make a run.

  6. Avatar

    Edan

    September 2, 2019 at 12:26 am

    Tua can’t play behind a bad line, that’s what happened to Luck. He retired. I totally disagree with letting go of another Richmond Webb. It will take more picks than Miami has to replace Tunsil. Not just a bad move, a terrible move. Giving Stills away another huge mistake. Houston will be really happy with both of them. 0-16 for Miami and better sign 2 Qb’s to the practice squad. They’ll be needed.

  7. Avatar

    James

    September 2, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    Another great article. Thanks for helping us all keep it in perspective.

  8. Avatar

    Damon Williams

    September 2, 2019 at 9:52 pm

    I get confused. You say that the teams fate would be different with Luck. No, Luck would have been far more injured. They built a line too late. They did what obviously Miami did with Tannehill. You cant blame him now although you can now the line that was in front of him. Until, you get protection doesnt matter who is back there. Houston certainly came to see it. Their QB couldnt even take team flights. Every QB Miami fielded in past seven years: Moore, Cutler, Tannehill were injured. You say, far greater QB would struggle behind this line, then building line first should be priority. The ball starts at the snap, oline and dline. This is were the game is won or lost imo. It’s unfair to every QB thats started for past few years. If it doesnt gel this season, the same question will be asked even with a shiny new QB.

  9. Avatar

    Jason

    September 3, 2019 at 1:15 am

    I just feel bad for Rosen, why they even traded for him is beyond me, Miami owes me money for my Rosen Jersey. Josh will be in another system for another team next year. Sorry Josh

    • Avatar

      Rockphin

      September 5, 2019 at 1:53 pm

      [email protected] Jason. You have no one to blame but yourself for purchasing a Rosen Jersey. I was going to call out Travis on his Luck / Tannehill comment but I saw Damon already did.

      I don’t think Tua will be the best of that class either.

      I disagree with Papa. I think the value of the trade far outweighed the value of Tunsil.

      Joe Thomas was the best LT in foot ball. Went to TEN straight pro-bowls. Won 44 games in 10 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins’ Jones and Howard land in top 10 CB rankings

Shawn Digity

Published

on

Xavien Howard
Image courtesy of Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – On Tuesday night, CBS Sports HQ revealed its power rankings for the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

And in their top 10 rankings, the Miami Dolphins landed two players: Xavien Howard and Byron Jones.

The rankings were created by Patrik Walker through the CBS Sports HQ Twitter account and are indicative of where Walker sees the league’s top corners as they enter the 2020 season.

Jones came in at six, and Howard landed at eight.

Howard was shut down for the most part in 2019 but saw his first Pro Bowl after the 2018 season, where he caught seven interceptions, tying for the most. Howard is going into his fifth year, all with the Dolphins.

Howard was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Byron Jones joined the Miami Dolphins earlier in 2020 after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract and is slated to start across from Howard.

Jones is going into his sixth year in the NFL after originally being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 2015 Draft, 27 overall.

Regardless of their positional rankings, there will be high expectations for the cornerback tandem as they are projected to be the starters and already have a proven track record in the NFL.

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Are the Dolphins Done Reshaping the Roster for 2020?

Kevin Dern

Published

on

Unless you’ve been in the deepest of quarantines by now you’ve familiarized yourself with Miami’s offseason moves. The Dolphins brought in 12 free agents, 11 draft picks, traded for a running back, and signed 10 undrafted free agents. That’s 34 new names on the 90 man roster as we [hopefully] gear up for training camp in a month and a half.  Despite all the moves, Miami currently has four roster spots open. That’s 86 spots, not counting Durval Queiroz Neto, who is roster exempt, so the question has to be asked: Are they done for now?

We all know that changes will happen in camp. There could be a surprised UDFA or two that makes the roster. Someone could, and likely will, get injured to free up a spot. But, for right *NOW* are the Dolphins done?

I tend not to think so. So who might they be after? I don’t have any inside information, but from what media information we know, and some of my own speculation, I’ve got four names I suspect Miami might be onto. Two big fish and two guys that might be a little more under the radar.

Logan Ryan
The biggest name thus far Miami has been linked to is former Titans and Patriots Cornerback Logan Ryan. Sports Illustrated’s Alain Poupart had this story on May 14th.

https://www.si.com/nfl/dolphins/news/the-latest-on-the-status-of-logan-ryan-and-the-miami-dolphins-interest

Aside from the obvious connection to Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores, Logan Ryan checks a lot of boxes Miami’s looked for this offseason.  Ryan’s a smart, team-first guy. He’s got position flexibility – able to play on the perimeter or in the slot and he already knows Miami’s defensive system.

But, corners in this league are expensive. It appears that Logan Ryan wants a one-year “prove it” deal. He’s betting on himself and cited Titans QB Ryan Tannehill as one of the reasons why. And per the Miami Herald, Logan Ryan’s agents have told the Dolphins he wants $10M or more for a year. That’s pricey, but Logan Ryan might be worth it; let’s take a look.

In this first clip, you can’t see him at the snap, but he’ll come in from the slot on the offense’s left side and isn’t afraid to stick his nose in against the run and stops Nick Chubb for a short gain.

Later in the same game, he gets a sack on Baker Mayfield (Yes, this play was ruled a sack). Ryan will come in from the right side of the screen, again the offense’s left, on a slot blitz. He gets blocked but is able to redirect and chases Baker Mayfield down for the sack.

Finally, in this clip, he plays press man against T.Y. Hilton from the slot. That’s a valuable skill Miami will like. Hilton’s going to try and break outside, but Logan Ryan reads the play, and showcases a nice burst to secure the pick.

Ultimately, signing Logan Ryan gives Miami a proven slot player who can also play man coverage on the perimeter, allowing Miami to matchup their defense however they please. He’d also gives them a buffer from having to having to give Noah Igbinoghene a ton of snaps right off the bat, if they so desire. At worst, you could spoon feed Igbinoghene at first until he’s grasped his role, then you can increase his snaps. And with Ryan looking for a one year deal, that might be amenable to all parties.

Larry Warford
It’s not too often at this stage of the offseason there’s a 29 year old (turns 29 on June 18th), three-time Pro Bowl guard is available. But that’s just what Larry Warford is. Saints Coach Sean Payton once said that he likes his guards to “have mass and ass” in order to keep a clean, firm middle of the pocket for Drew Brees to operate. Well, if there’s one rookie quarterback this year that is built like and operates like Drew Brees, it’s Tua Tagovailoa. And, between you and me, I think Tua’s going to end up playing a lot sooner than people think.

What adding Larry Warford would likely do for Miami is solidify four of the five starting offensive line spots. If Miami signed him, I think it’s safe to assume Miami would have (from left to right) Austin Jackson, Ereck Flowers, Ted Karras, Larry Warford, and a battle between Jesse Davis and Robert Hunt. That’s a battle that Miami likely would want Hunt to win, as you can keep Jesse Davis as a swing tackle and guard. It would also allow them to bring Solomon Kindley along slowly. I didn’t watch it, but have heard that either Flores and/or Grier compared Kindley to Shaq Mason, who was a project that the Patriots brought along because he didn’t have much pass-blocking experience coming from Georgia Tech’s option offense. Well, with Kindley it gives you a chance to hone his game in total for a year or two while getting a veteran who walks in the door the best lineman the Dolphins would have.

Three quick clips of Larry Warford for you coming up.

First, we’ll see Warford and RT Ryan Ramczyk block up a T-E game. The DT is going to go outside and J.J. Watt comes inside to Warford. They switch it with relative ease and Warford is so big that J.J. Watt can’t generate a pop to knock Warford back and collapse the pocket.

Next, and this one is quick. It’s a jet sweep to Kamara going the other way, but look at Larry throwing bodies out the club! That kind of punch is something Miami haven’t had in a guard since Richie Incognito was in town.

Finally, we see a rep against DT D.J. Reader, who got paid this offseason. Reader’s listed at 347lbs, and someone that large shouldn’t be moved that easily.

Warford gives you size, smarts and strength inside. And, if Miami are going to possibly have a rookie RT in Robert Hunt, that kind of veteran presence can help bring him up to speed quickly. For my money, I’d sign Larry Warford over Logan Ryan since Miami’s Defensive Staff seemed to be able to bring in DBs off the street and get them up to speed enough to start in the same week. Kudos to Josh Boyer for that, but I think there’s more value in bringing in Warford now, and possibly for the next two or three years, than there is for Logan Ryan on a one year deal.

That said, both players would make the Dolphins better and I’m not opposed to Logan Ryan by any means.

Damon Harrison
Okay, so you’ve probably heard of “Snacks” Harrison before. But did you realize he was still out there as a free agent? Kudos if you did. Miami signing “Snacks” doesn’t seem like it’d be in the cards. Harrison is 31 years old, had a tough year last year with injuries in Detroit to the point he contemplated retirement, but hear me out.

Wind the clock back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense. Same defense Miami’s running now. The Patriots had over 1,000 total snaps on defense that year. Danny Shelton played just 31% of them, with 324 total snaps. NT in this defense is a part-time position.

That year the Patriots gave out the following snaps to interior defensive linemen:

Malcom Brown – 456 (43.7%)
Lawrence Guy – 519 (49.8%)
Adam Butler – 379 (36.3%)
Danny Shelton – 324 (31.1%)

With Miami’s drafting of Raekwon Davis, you sort of assume he and Godchaux are going to take on the roles of Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton. Christian Wilkins takes on the role of Lawrence Guy, and perhaps Raekwon Davis takes some of those snaps as well to keep him fresh. As of now, I’d expect Zach Sieler to take on Adam Butler’s workload, which was a rotational DT and someone who can be used on passing downs; Sieler has more skill there than Godchaux or Davis in my opinion.

But what if Miami were able to bring in “Snacks” Harrison to take on that NT role? It’d allow you to give Davis more focused snaps and let him use some of his upfield ability to help spell Godchaux and take on that Adam Butler role. It might mean the end for Zach Sieler in Miami, who is on an Exclusive Rights Free Agent Tender for this year. No harm if you move on.

So what would snacks bring to the table? First, like Logan Ryan, he knows the system to some degree having played under Matt Patricia in Detroit. There may be some differences here an there, but he can pick that up, and it’s a specialized role. Two, he’s a proven run-stopper. Even last year with the Lions with all his injuries he was still effective. Let’s take a look.

Here’s a back-to-back play sequence against the Eagles in Week 3.

First, Harrison’s actually lined up at 3-technique against Brandon Brooks, one of the most underrated players in the NFL. “Snacks” will never confuse for Aaron Donald and he doesn’t muster much of a rush, but he stays with the play and gets his hand up to deflect Carson Wentz’s pass.

The very next play is what he does best. Lined up as a true NT, he ushers Jason Kelce away with one arm, plays down the line horizontally and stops Miles Sanders for no gain. That’s what you like to see out of someone who is 6’3” and 350lbs.

Against the Packers you’ll see him as a 3-technique again and he defeats a double-team by Billy Turner and Bryan Bulaga and makes a run stop on Aaron Jones.

The final clip for “Snacks” comes when he gets a sack of Aaron Rodgers later in that same game. He’s going to work off a double-team by Billy Turner and Corey Linsley, gets around it, and though he’s out of his pass rush lane he keeps working and dumps Rodgers for a sack.

The knocks against “Snacks” are that he’s older than every player on the Dolphins roster save for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He battled through injuries, contemplated retirement and told ESPN that he was “hell-bent” on getting out of Detroit. Did he not like the system? The coaches? How does that parlay into Miami if he signs here considering Flores and Patricia’s backgrounds intertwine in Foxboro? While I think this signing might be more unlikely than both Logan Ryan and Larry Warford, it wouldn’t shock me given Miami’s defensive scheme and the players that Brian Flores has traditionally seen in that role.

Mike Weber
Going a little off the beaten path here. The Chiefs waived Mike Weber, who was a seventh round draft pick for the Dallas Cowboys in 2018. Weber rushed for 1,000+ yards as a redshirt freshman at Ohio State, replacing Ezekiel Elliott. An injury in summer workouts the next year opened the door and J.K. Dobbins passed him on the depth chart, but Weber still rushed for 626 yards and 10 TDs that year. He tallied nearly 1,100 yards and nine more TDs as Dobbins backup in 2018, and declared for the Draft.

Going to Dallas, Weber wasn’t going to get much of a shot behind Ezekiel Elliott, especially after Elliott’s contract extension. He also was beaten out by Tony Pollard in 2019 for the backup job. Weber spent time with the Chiefs on their practice squad during their Super Bowl Run.

Weber has yet to collect a carry in the NFL during the Regular Season, so I don’t have clips for you here. My rationale for Miami possibly being interested in Weber is that Miami had a strong interest in J.K. Dobbins during the Draft this year. Weber played in that same offense at Ohio State and put up big numbers as well. In my opinion, he was more physical as a runner, but lacked the explosiveness. He goes 5’10” 210lbs, so he’s bridging the gap in size between Jordan Howard and Matt Breida.

Kalen Ballage hasn’t proven very effective doing much of anything. Patrick Laird is a nice story, but is probably best served by playing on special teams. We didn’t see much of Myles Gaskin in 2019, save for the Bengals game in Week 16, so he’s still a bit of an unknown. With four open roster spots, what’s the harm in bringing in Weber for a look?

We’ll see what Miami does, and they could very well opt to do nothing. But Logan Ryan, Larry Warford, Damon Harrison, are three guys I think they ought to consider. Each of the three, in my opinion, makes the position group on the Dolphins better they moment they walk in the door. Mike Weber would be more of a reclamation project, but I like his odds of competing against Kalen Ballage, Patrick Laird, and Myles Gaskin for a potential roster spot.

Stay safe and FinsUp!

 

 

Continue Reading

Miami Dolphins

Setting the Edge: Miami’s New Additions Up Front

Kevin Dern

Published

on

It’s no secret that Miami’s defense was bad last year. The Dolphins ranked 32nd in the league in points allowed, mostly due to giving up 102 points in the first two games alone. Their run defense, which was an eyesore under Vance Joseph and Matt Burke during the Adam Gase tenure remained problematic in Brian Flores’s first year. Miami gave up 135.4 yards per game, 27th in the league, and 4.2 yards per carry, 22nd in the league. Not good.

Miami’s pass defense wasn’t sterling by any means. Injuries to Xavien Howard, Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain hurt. Trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t help. But I think we all can appreciate that Miami’s passing defense progressed throughout the year despite having to field a secondary that consisted of: Eric Rowe playing two positions, Nik Needham, Ryan Lewis, Ken Webster, Tae Hayes, Nate Brooks, Adrian Colbert, Walt Aikens, and Montre Hartage at various points.

The Dolphins will have a hopefully healthy Xavien Howard and Bobby McCain back. They signed the premier free agent corner in Byron Jones, drafted Noah Igbinoghene in the first round and drafted Brandon Jones in the third. They also signed safeties Clayton Fejedelem and Kavon Frazier, who have some starting experience in the past with Cincinnati and Dallas respectively. Things are pointing up more solidly in the back end of the defense.

But what about the additions to the front?

The interior players from last season remain largely intact with Davon Godchaux, Christian Wilkins, Jerome Baker, and Raekwon McMillan all returning. Zach Sieler only played in three games but looks promising and his Week 16 performance against the Bengals was arguably the best game for a Miami defensive lineman since Cameron Wake was still on the roster. Kyle Van Noy will likely play a good chunk of his snaps off the ball, as he did under Brian Flores in 2018. Elandon Roberts will at the very least be good depth up the middle.

And the edges of the defense?

First, I think it’s important to distinguish that Miami uses both defensive ends and outside linebackers as edge defenders in different formations. So, to label them all as EDGE players, as seems to be common practice these days, is a bit misleading as it relates to the Dolphins defense. My purpose for this article is to breakdown how the Dolphins got better on the edges this offseason and what we can expect from them in 2020.  Here’s whose on the roster right now:

Defensive Ends
Shaq Lawson
Avery Moss
Emmanuel Ogbah
Jason Strowbridge
Curtis Weaver

*Emmanuel Ogbah, Jason Strowbridge and Shaq Lawson all can play tighter techniques to the ball when called upon (ex: 3, 4i, 4 and in some cases 0).

Outside Linebackers
Vince Biegel
Trent Harris
Andrew Van Ginkel
Kyle Van Noy

*Kyle Van Noy will very likely see snaps off-the-ball as a traditional ILB in addition to edge reps as an OLB. Biegel and Van Ginkel will also get snaps as stand-up DEs (ex: standup 5 or 6 tech in a 3-3-5 Bear front)

If you’ve read my articles on LockedOn before, you’ll know that I believe we’ll see Brian Flores defense really take shape this year. When Flores ran the Patriots defense in 2018, his most used formations were the 4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps), 3-2-6 (132 snaps), and 4-3 (97 snaps). Last year’s use of the 3-4 I think was more built out of necessity. Miami’s edge players were bad at setting the edge, and with their ever-changing personnel I think Patrick Graham used more 3-4 looks because it was easier to coordinate. I think this year, with the improved personnel, we’ll see more of what Brian Flores was running in New England in 2018.

One note to consider is that prior to the bye week, we saw more examples of the 4-2-5 and 3-3-5 formations, often with the same personnel. Below are several screenshots from Miami’s games in Weeks 1-3.

Standard 4-2-5
DL:  Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins Harris
LB:  Baker, Eguavoen

3-3-5 formation with 4-2-5 personnel
D-line: Moss, Godchaux, Wilkins, Charlton (OLB)
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

3-2-6 formation with three DEs (Ruby)
D-line: Biegel, C. Harris, Moss
LBs: Baker, Eguavoen

4-3 Over
D-line: Moss, Wilkins, Godchaux, C. Harris
LBs: Eguavoen, McMillan, Baker

* Note Miami will play under and even looks out of 4-3 personnel.

Let’s get one thing straight. Miami’s defense is very multiple. They will play these formations with non-traditional personnel. For example, if we go back to 2018 when Brian Flores was calling the Patriots Defense, watch their Sunday Night Game against the Packers. New England opens that game with 4-2-5 personnel but using three DEs in the grouping. They used Trey Flowers as a 3-technique on 1st and 2nd downs that drive. Miami will do similar things, for instance, they had Taco Charlton line up as an OLB in their 3-3-5 look seen above.

My gut feeling is that this year, Miami’s defense will more closely resemble the 2018 Patriots in terms of what they deploy, both in formations and in personnel packages, than it will resemble anything Miami ran last year post-bye week.

For a more in-depth look at that, I’ll reference you to this piece I wrote in February of 2019 shortly after Brian Flores was hired. Inside the Film Room.

The remainder of this piece will cover the following additions Miami made this offseason and how they will fit: Emmanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Kyle Van Noy, Jason Strowbridge, and Curtis Weaver.

As a whole, this group should give Miami much improve ability up front on the edges of the defense. Primarily, Ogbah, Lawson, Van Noy and Strowbridge should provide an immediate shot in the arm for the run defense. The first three and Curtis Weaver should all prove to be better pass-rushers than anyone Miami deployed on the edge last year, be it a DE or OLB.

Emmanuel Ogbah
First things first about Ogbah. He’s big. And he’s long. At 6’4” 275lbs he’s got 35.5” arms and 10” hands. He’s got power and some explosiveness – 35.5” vert and 121” broad jumps. These are things to note about him. Ogbah was having a really nice year with the Chiefs notching 5.5 sacks before an injury cut short his 2019 campaign. He uses that length and power really well to set the edge against the run, and those long arms have come in handy as he’s got 20 career deflected passes.

In this first clip, you’ll see Ogbah (#90) at LDE for the Chiefs. His play recognition here is excellent as he feels the tackle release to setup for a screen. Ogbah slows his rush immediately and looks to get into the pass lane. The Jaguars had a double screen called and Foles goes the opposite way.

Clip number two shows Ogbah’s ability to affect the passing lanes. His rush against Ronnie Stanley seems a bit off, and I think this may have been a game-planned spy attempt as the Chiefs blitz a corner from that side. If it’s not, then Ogbah has good recognition to stop his rush and drop into the passing lane and get his hands up to deflect Lamar Jackson’s pass for an incompletion.

Against the Packers, Ogbah showcases his length and speed in this pass-rush. He uses his long arms well to engage Bryan Bulaga in a bull-rush move. He’s able to start to turn the corner and executes a rip move to free himself and sack Aaron Rodgers.

In our final clip of Emmanuel Ogbah, we’ll see him against the Vikings. Here he’s able to set a hard edge against LT Riley Rieff and he’s able to get upfield enough to force Dalvin Cook to cut inside into traffic where he’s stopped for a short gain.

Overall, Ogbah’s a guy that is going to set a hard edge and has some pass-rush ability. While I get that Dolfans may be upset that 91 isn’t “retired” the way 54 and 99 are, I think it’s fitting as he’ll be deployed like how the Patriots deployed their #91 Deatrich Wise. Ogbah can play on the edge all three downs. He’s long enough and strong enough to play tighter techniques inside. There are a number of reps of him at a 4i-technique being able to stop the run. It wouldn’t surprise me if Miami tries to utilize him as an inside rusher on 3rd downs, much like the Patriots did with Wise. The plus for Ogbah is that he’s a better athlete. He’ll be able to collect some wins as a pass-rusher from 6, 7 and 9 technique looks on 1st and 2nd downs in addition to setting the edge against the run.

Shaq Lawson
Another player coached by Marion Hobby here. Shaq is a player that’s had an odd start to his career. Drafted by the Rex Ryan coached Bills, he wasn’t a super scheme fit there and dealt with some injuries. Starting only 17 career games, none in 2019, Lawson carved out a nice niche for himself in the rotation-happy Bills D-line last year. My thought is that he is going to get opportunities to replicate some of the looks that Trey Flowers did for the Patriots and continues to be put in with the Lions, coached by Matt Patricia, who runs another Patriot-styled scheme.

Our first clip of Shaq is against the Dolphins in Week 11. He’s going to be lined up outside RT Jesse Davis in what you’d call a wide-5 technique. Lawson’s a bit slow off the snap, but he’s able to make himself small and is able to cross Jesse Davis’s face with a quick swipe move and makes a tackle for no gain.

The second clip isn’t necessarily a great pass-rush rep, but the reason I want to showcase it is because of where Lawson’s aligned. He’s in a 3-technique look against RG Evan Boehm. Lawson does a nice job hand-fighting with Boehm, eventually getting free inside despite giving up more than 50lbs to Boehm. This is important because Miami incorporates a lot of the 3-3-5 looks and 3-2-6 looks in passing situations that necessitate DEs being able to play inside. A lot of the pass-rush games, which we’ll see when I talk about Kyle Van Noy, come from a wider edge player coming around into the backside A or B gap. Lawson’s ability to get push in the pocket here is key in executing those games, and in this rep he’s able to get in Fitzpatrick’s face to help force an incompletion.

We’ll move to Buffalo’s week 12 matchup against the Broncos for our next rep. Part of the pass-rush games that is so important in this defense it the ability for players to be able to rush inside and get into A and B gaps. Here Lawson is lined up in a 4-technique over Broncos LT Garrett Boles. He gets a good jump on the snap and is able to cross into the backside A gap, beating the LG across his face to get middle pressure and a sack against Brandon Allen.

Our final clip of Shaq Lawson comes from the Bills vs. Patriots Game in Week 16. You probably already know what it is. Lawson’s lined up in a 5-technique and reads the fake jet sweep play and is able to stop Sony Michel for a big loss. He’s able to fight inside of the double-team block by the LT and WR from a nasty split. This shows Lawson’s get-off and is play recognition skill. He makes a great play tracking this down from inside. At worst, even if he misses the tackle, he’s mucked the play long enough for the CB to be able to force this back inside where it’s going to get a very minimal gain if anything.

Overall, I think Emmanuel Ogbah might end up being the better of the two DEs signed for Miami. Especially at the start. But I think there’s more to unlock with Shaq Lawson. If Marion Hobby can get him to work on his explosiveness of the snap and getting that more consistent, that will go a long way toward helping him. He’s a strong end capable of lining up in tight techniques like 3, 4i and 4. He’s shown ability to rush interior gaps, and that ability may lend itself to doing some, let’s say unique, things that Trey Flowers got to do with the Patriots, like playing a 0-technique in some of their LB heavy nickel looks and in their “playground”/radar defense. While I’m not sure Lawson will get looks like that off the bat, I think that’s something feasible down the road a bit if he can make his get-off more consistent and continue to develop his hand fighting abilities.

Kyle Van Noy
The Dolphins had to, HAD TO get better on the edges of the defense. Case in point they signed two DEs and drafted two more. Brian Flores spoke after the Draft about how players not filling the stat sheet doesn’t mean they had a bad game.  I believe that was in reference to Miami drafting Raekwon Davis. But it could be applied to Kyle Van Noy.

Van Noy may be the most important free agent signing and his impact will likely be rivaled only by Byron Jones for the hidden benefits they bring to the defense.  Why do I say this? It’s because of the many different things Brian Flores and Josh Boyer will be able to do on defense because of Van Noy.

First, he’s able to play ILB, and play it quite well. He can do this in 4-2-5 looks where he’s paired with someone. He can do it in 3-3-5 looks where he’s the guy.

Here you can see him lined up behind Adam Butler in a 3-3-5 look. The interesting thing to note here is that the Patriots had 4-2-5 personnel on the field with Deatrich Wise, Butler and Adrian Clayborn up front. They used Trey Flowers as an OLB in this look opposite Dont’a Hightower.

You want him to rush off the edge? No problem. Here in this GIF you can see the Patriots “playground” defense. Van Noy will be on the left side and rushes outside the left tackle.

In this clip against Dallas from 2019, we’ll see the Patriots in a 2-4-5 look (which is a 4-man front, but with OLBs instead of DEs. Miami rain this a lot against Philly and in Week 17 against the Patriots last year). Jason Witten shifts over to Van Noy’s side and Kyle is able use his arms, get extension and maintain good leverage to set the edge and help with the tackle as other defenders arrive to make the stop. Textbook!

Going back in time to 2018 against the Vikings, I want to give you two plays that were back-to-back in the game. First, we see Van Noy lined up over the RT. At the snap he’s going to drop into the short middle and read Kirk Cousins. He follows Cousins’ eyes to TE Kyle Rudolph and Van Noy just sits down in the zone right in front of him and Adam Butler gets a sack. That’s a hidden play there because Rudolph was open until Van Noy flowed that way.

But the real treat to Van Noy’s game is his prowess with pass-rush games. This is the very next play. The Patriots are in their 3-2-6 look, Diamond, but have RE Adrian Clayborn lined up head-up on TE Kyle Rudolph, whose got a short split. Clayborn helps reroute him at the snap then rushes (something we could see Ogbah and Lawson do?). But watch Van Noy here. He’s going to be lined up off-ball over the Vikings RT. He feints a rush upfield, stops and then loops around to the backside A gap. Adam Butler and Dont’a Hightower crash towards the strongside to effectively set “picks” (Ogbah, Lawson, Raekwon Davis, Wilkins) to allow Van Noy the free run at Cousins. Van Noy unloads on him and forces an incompletion.

He doesn’t notch a tackle, sack or pass deflection. Merely a pressure here. But his ability do run these pass-rush games is OUTSTANDING. Watch the 2018 AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl victories.

Want one more? Okay, fine you’ve got me! This is in the Super Bowl victory over the Rams on a 3rd down in the first half. The Patriots are lined up in a 4-2-5 look, their marble concept (DB inserted over the nasty split or TE) and Van Noy is the MLB. He simply sits in the underneath zone and takes away two different receivers – almost like a spy. Then Jared Goff scrambles and Van Noy explodes to chase him down for a 14 yard loss on a sack!

I expect Kyle Van Noy to be featured in multiple roles in this defense. Remember the picture of Miami’s 4-2-5 look way at the beginning? He can play either LB spot in that look – outside where Eguavoen is or as the MLB where Jerome Baker is. He can play ILB in 3-3-5 looks. He can set the edge as an OLB in 2-4-5 looks. You can use him in all manner of ways in pass-rush games. And regardless of where he plays, he’s very smart! You’re going to get good reps out of him. Knowing this system already will likely propel him into a leadership role on the defense, which in my view, will help younger guys like Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan and Andrew Van Ginkel. He can make sure they’re on top of their alignments and assignments and give them a living, breathing example of what it means to be a smart, tough and physical player. Do I sound like Coach Flores yet?

Jason Strowbridge
If you’ve followed me on Twitter leading up to the Draft, you know I’ve mentioned Strowbridge frequently as someone I’ve liked for Miami. And getting him in the 5th round is a bit of a steal in my opinion. He took on a role as a DT and 3-4 DE at North Carolina, getting minimal reps as a DE in a four man D-line. With the Dolphins, I think he’ll slot into the same position as Emmanuel Ogbah and be a part of the rotation behind him.

His experience playing tighter techniques as a Tar Heel will be one thing Miami will likely try to build on in pass-rush packages. Here’s a clip from Voch Lombardi’s film review of the Senior Bowl with Strowbridge rushing as a 3-technique.

Our next clip of Strowbridge comes from the Tar Heels Bowl Game against Temple. We’ll see Strowbridge lined up at LDE in a 4-man line. He’s able to use an arm over move to defeat the TE and uses his explosion to get into the gap ahead of the pulling guard and help make a TFL.

In this clip against Virginia Tech he’s able to use quickly recognize that both the RG and RT down block and he’s able to get inside of the TE who’s trying to reach him and gets inside of the backside guard pulling. That play recognition is key and he’s able to make a tackle for no gain. Strowbridge doesn’t always exhibit the greatest get off/explosiveness off the snap, but when he does, his eyes take him to the ball well.

In our final clip, we’re looking at something subtle that I think the Dolphins will appreciate. Remember Kyle Van Noy’s pass-rush against the Vikings from above? Well, it’s plays like this from the front line that allow those pass-rush games to happen. Here we see Strowbridge lined up at 3-technique to the near side. He rushes from the B gap to the A gap and is able to occupy the RG and the C, allowing the LB to have a free run at the QB. While the LB fails to make the sack, you can see how this translates to what Miami will be wanting to do.

Jason Strowbridge will need some coaching up, there’s no denying that. But his length, power and experience playing tighter techniques will come in handy. I think his workload will steadily increase as the season moves on. But at first, I think he can help spell Ogbah at Big DE in 4-man lines and might give Miami something as an interior player on 3rd down pass-rush packages.

Curtis Weaver
I think most people are aware of the “good player, bad body” stigma that Curtis Weaver’s carried throughout the Draft process. Daniel Jeremiah said as much when Miami selected him. Weaver could be a tremendous value pick for the Dolphins. I haven’t seen Boise State a lot, but Weaver seems to be strictly a stand-up DE, and I’d think that he’d be that for Miami starting off. Think Chris Long at the end of his run with the Patriots. Weaver can be a 3rd down pass-rusher right off the bat. But I think he’ll need to learn to play the run better in order to earn more snaps.

In our first clip we’ll see that Air Force brings a wing-back into pitch phase to fake an option play. Weaver is the stand-up DE nearest to us. He’s able to read that the motion player isn’t getting the ball before he fully steps into his rush. He uses a rip move to get around the RT and does a nice job turning his rush path into the QB.

This clip showcases Weaver’s strength. Here he’s able to split a double team for a sack.

In the final clip with Curtis Weaver, we’ll see him use his length to set the edge against the run. Marion Hobby will be charged with coaxing this ability out of him more consistently. But when he does, this will help him see more reps.

How all these pieces come together should be very fun to watch. Miami now has a pair of Big DEs – Ogbah and Strowbridge and a pair of Rush ends in Lawson and Weaver. Kyle Van Noy will be playing himself. We’ll also likely see guys like Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel and Raekwon McMillan get some snaps on the edge as Brian Flowers wasn’t shy about having those three play on the edge last year.

Another added benefit to this, could be that we see Christian Wilkin’s pass-rush potential unlocked more in his second season. With some of these new edge additions able to rush from multiple spots, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Wilkins benefit on twists across the line.

While I won’t make any predictions on which of these guys leads the Dolphins in sacks, I will make two others:

1) These edge defenders will help Miami’s run defense improve. A lot.

2) In terms of pass-rush and the totality of the defense, this group of guys will allow Brian Flores and Josh Boyer to run the defense the way they want to and not be constrained into boiling it down like they did in 2019.

That final point is something we as Dolfans should all be very excited about! #FinsUp

Continue Reading
Advertisement

LATEST

Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending