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Miami Dolphins

Takeaways from Coaching Staff’s First Media Availability

Travis Wingfield

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Friday was the first day of school at Dolphins’ Headquarters in Davie – at least for the faculty.

Brian Flores and his staff meet with the South Florida media for the first time in an official capacity. Flores already did his introductory presser, so he sat out. Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea, Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham and Assistant Head Coach Jim Caldwell all spoke in front of the camera. The rest of the staff were only made available via transcript.

After perusing through all 30,000 words of those transcripts, here’s what I have gleaned from this first go-round with the journos.

All quotes are paraphrased and can be found in their entirety at the Miami Dolphins official website.

Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea:

On his vision for the offense – “You have a foundation and core beliefs, but the key is to do what your players do well. We talk about being multiple.

On Ryan Tannehill – “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ryan and his competitiveness.”

On traits he looks for in a quarterback – “We want great traits. Intangibles, leadership, work ethic, those are the characteristics we start with.”

O’Shea was a big nothing-burger as far as true insight. Utilize the strengths, mask the weaknesses, being multiple, value on hard work, and on-and-on.

Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham:

On the key to building a defense that can be multiple – “Identifying traits that hold value in terms of building a team defense.”

This is what made the Patriots whole better than the sum of its parts for so many years. Identifying 11 jobs and staying within the framework of the individual job.

On the use of sub-packages – “The NFL is all about matchups and personnel. It’s based on the trends in the league.”

This should be music to Dolphins fans’ ears. The days of the inexcusable action of keeping Kiko Alonso on the field for third-and-long should be over.

Special Teams Coordinator Danny Crossman:

There was truly nothing enticing about this presser. Nothing.

Assistant Head Coach Jim Caldwell:

On how he met Brian Flores – “You’re introduced to someone because of the work they’ve done in the NFL. I can tell you, with Coach Flores, he does a heck of a job in preparation.”

Dec 31, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell looks on from the sideline during the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Like the other top coaches on the staff Caldwell talked about the evaluation period, being multiple and emphasized work habits.

Quarterbacks Coach Jerry Schuplinski:

On how his New England experiences can help him develop a young quarterback – “We were fortunate enough to draft some guys, work them, develop them, and teach them our system. That’s an area I feel very confident in.

This statement was actually rather reassuring. Brady is Brady and he had all the help he needed from Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels. It’s nice to know that Schuplinski was hands on with the likes of Jimmy Garappolo and Jacoby Brissett.

On the top traits he looks for in a quarterback – “You don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into one thing. This goes for the team and the position, but we’re looking for tough, smart, and dependable guys that can handle a lot of things. You want a guy that can play under pressure and perform under pressure.

On if he needs mobility at QB in today’s NFL – “I don’t have a feeling one way or another. You need a guy that can function well in your scheme. Pocket passer or a guy that can break the pocket, either way is fine.”

Running Backs Coach and Run-Game Coordinator Eric Studesville:

Studesville was taking the coaches speak route until he was asked about Kalen Ballage.

On what impressed him about Ballage – “He’s a big, physical body. He can run. He’s athletic. I think he’s maturing and growing. He has a lot of work to do but his work ethic is tremendous.” He’s got a great personality and he comes in every day ready to work.”

Studesville and Ballage has a relationship that predates the pros or even college, so it’s not surprising to hear him rave about his second-year back.

On Frank Gore’s future – “The thing with Frank is, let’s get Frank healthy and then we’ll see what’s next for him.”

Gore’s football future in Miami seems dubious.

Wide Receivers Coach Karl Dorrell:

On what he’s seen from the film of the Dolphins receivers – “I see some dynamic players. I’ve got different ranges. I have guys that are 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3, down to guys that are under six feet tall. They all have unique qualities. I’ve studied all of their tape. It’s a dynamic group, so I’m excited to get a chance to help them.”

Offensive Line Coach Pat Flaherty:

On retaining Ja’Wuan James – “If we can retain him that keeps the continuity, we sure hope we can. He’s a good football player.”

Sep 17, 2017; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive line coach Pat Flaherty talks to his players during the second half of a football game at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Flaherty wants his second best offensive lineman on the roster back.

On how he goes about helping the other coaches excel in these new roles – “We all interject because we’re putting the playbook together right now.”

It’s a collaborative effort. There will be no more dictatorships with the play calling and talking down to those seen as inferior. Every voice in the room matters.

Tight Ends Coach George Godsey:

Godsey was another one of the coaches to give us a big bowl of nothing. He danced around questions about using one or two tight ends, what he prefers in a tight end, and everything else he was asked.

Defensive Line Coach Marion Hobby:

On what type of players he’s be looking for – “Guys who are multiple. We want guys that give you great effort on the field and in the classroom.”

On rotating players – “You want your best guys out there in certain situations but it’s the offense’s goal to wear down the best guys, so sometimes the backup is just as important as the starter. We need to build depth.”

Linebackers Coach Rob Leonard:

On what excites him about this opportunity and job – “I’m excited to work with Coach Flores and Coach Graham, who I know well. I know it’s going to be a team-first atmosphere and those aren’t empty words, that’s how it’s going to be. That’s what gets me most excited, the culture is going to be right.”

Adam Gase spoke a lot about culture, so it’s understandable to remain wary about those promises.

On Flores’ insistence that versatility is key – “You better have the ability to adjust. Teaching is part of the job and you teach concepts, not just your job.”

This was a theme throughout the staff – the emphasis on the ability to adapt to all situations.

On thoughts on Linebacker Raekwon McMillan – “He’s a physical, tough guy, and he can run and hit.”

Notice he didn’t mention his coverage ability. Noting the strengths and masking the weaknesses – another theme.

Cornerbacks Coach Josh Boyer:

Boyer is well-trained in Patriots speak. He had about 1,000 words on his transcript and managed to say nothing – impressive.

Safeties Coach Tony Oden:

On things he’s gained from his first meetings with Coach Flores: “I think his demeanor is phenomenal. What he is to you guys, he’s the same to us. He’s very honest, open, and direct. He walks the walk and he talks the talk.”

He’s their boss, so of course they’ll all say this, but everyone raves about Flores’ character.

On Minkah Fitzpatrick’s rookie season – “He still has so much to learn, but he’s willing to do it. He’s more than willing to do it.”

Whatever Minkah’s absolute pinnacle is, he’s going to reach it. He’s a tireless worker.

On Fitzpatrick’s position going forward – “This is a new scheme. All that stuff is still being determined.”

They’re going to use Fitzpatrick in a variety of way to provide the galvanizing force on this entire defensive unit.

 

Plenty of surface level interactions, some quality, telling nuggets. Nonetheless, the vision and philosophies are all aligned. That train could stay on the tracks or it could derail ending in a firestorm. At least everyone onboard is steering in the same direction.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Taco Charlton: New Acquisition Analysis

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins go back to the 2017 first round defensive end well, claim Charlton from waivers

The 2017 Dolphins were, sadly, one of the more anticipated teams this organization has assembled in recent memory. Fresh off a surprise 10-win season, heading into year-two of the new system, and bevy of players returning from injury had fans feeling optimistic.

Patching up the perceived holes on the roster — like the defensive end position — started with an atrocious Andre Branch extension, and ended on the draft’s opening night with a handful of edge rusher prospects ripe for picking.

Derek Barnett came off the board before Miami could pluck the future Super Bowl hero, but everyone else was available. Jonathan Allen was selected five picks ahead of the Dolphins, but he was billed more as a three and five-technique inside player, not a true edge rusher.

That left Charles Harris, Taco Charlton, Tak McKinley and T.J. Watt. Two of those players are off to sterling starts in their young careers — the other two are nearing their respective last legs, and both are now Miami Dolphins.

Charlton received his release from the Cowboys earlier this week after an under-whelming 34-game stay in Big D. Taco’s snap count is revealing of the feeling about the player among the Dallas staff.

 

Year Taco Charlton Defensive Snaps Played (% of Cowboys’ Defensive Snaps)
2017 399 (38.2%)
2018 401 (39.2%)
2019 0

 

A 40-percent snap-taker is typically indicative of one of two things for an edge player. He’s either a situational savant — whether that’s to support the run game or pin his ears back and get after the quarterback — or that he’s the second option in the rotation, A.K.A. a backup.

Charlton’s production suggests that he was the latter, and only because of his draft status. His descent into a game day inactive signaled the end of his time with the club that drafted him.

Rumors of a trade were speculated as the reason Charlton was a healthy scratch for the season’s first two games, but Head Coach Jason Garrett referred to the numbers game. “We have 10 guys on the active roster on the defensive line and we dressed eight for the game. It felt like the guys we had up there gave us the best chance,” Garrett said via a report from Bloggin’ The Boys.

Still, we have 800 reps to look at to figure out where it went wrong for Charlton, and if he possesses a legitimate shot to fit this scheme and carve out spot in the future plans of the NFL’s most steadfast rebuild operation.

First, let’s start with the type of player Charlton was supposed to be coming out of Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The Dolphins are a team that adheres strongly to prototypes all over the field, but particularly in the trenches. Explosive metrics aren’t nearly as important as length, strength, read-and-react skillsets, intelligence to process and execute a variety of roles (stunts, twists, slants, picks), and most importantly, playing with heavy hands.

His fit begins with his build. At 6’6’’, 270-pounds with 34.5-inch arms, Charlton looks like plenty of defensive ends in a Brian Flores (Bill Belichick defense) before him. Charlton doesn’t check off all those boxes from the previous paragraph, but he hits enough of the buzz words to justify a flier.

This from Lance Zierlein of NFL Media.

That immediate get-off and quickness would’ve suited him better in Miami’s wide-9 alignment under Matt Burke. The length will benefit him, especially as he forces tackles to quickly get into their pass sets. The challenge will be developing a secondary move to work back inside and underneath the tackle.

The glowing praise for his twist, bend, and lower-body control will serve him well in a defense that will stunt, stunt, and stunt some more.

Most of all, the length will help him excel in this scheme as a run defender. To lock out and hold the point of attack are keys, and those are areas that put Charlton on the map as a first-round prospect.

The weaknesses from that blurb are alarming. Getting washed out of his gap by power and allowing blockers into his frame will earn him a quick ticket right out of town — those are the departments where the surprise cuts in Nate Orchard and Dewayne Hendrix struggled.

Lack of consistency, takes plays off, needs a coach that will push him — those are the final takeaways from Zierlein’s conversation with an anonymous AFC Executive.

If there’s any one thing you can point to with Flores as far as his football acumen — this excludes leadership and communication — it’s his ability to coach football (novel idea, huh?) This feels like a Flores pet project.

Let’s get into some of Charlton’s Dallas tenure, starting with his metrics from Pro Football Focus.

Charlton has 38 total pressures in his two years as a pro (4 sacks, 8 hits, 26 hurries). He compiled those numbers on 464 pass rush reps, a pressure on 8.2% of his pass rush snaps — not good. His 4.1 weighted pass rush productivity mark in 2018 ranked 132ndamong all edge rushers.

Charlton missed four tackles on 34 opportunities — an 11.8 missed tackle percentage, also not good. He made 23 run-stops on 346 snaps against the ground game. That mark — 6.6% — landed Charlton at 73rd among edge defenders in 2018, and 143rd in 2017.

The majority of Charlton’s work came from the right side of the defensive line (position vacated by Robert Quinn, currently held by a cast of many in Miami). Charlton lined up for pass rushing situations on the right side for 67.3% of his total reps.

Now, for the tape.

If Charlton can piece together the finer points of his game and develop a better arsenal or rush moves, he’ll stick as a building block. The decreased workload this year, his lack of production dating back to college, and inconsistencies makes one wonder about the drive and work habits.

We’ll quickly find out about the character of Charlton. If he embraces this opportunity, it’s a great landing spot for him. If not, he’ll be back on the unemployment line in short order.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen Named Starting QB vs Cowboys; Claim DE Taco Charlton

Chris Kowalewski

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Only minutes after the Miami Dolphins’ Week 2 loss against the Patriots, Head Coach Brian Flores maintained that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting quarterback… “Right now”.

By Thursday afternoon, it became clear that “right now” had passed as Josh Rosen was announced to take over the starting QB position ahead of Miami’s first road trip this Sunday against the Cowboys.

Fans had caught intermittent glimpses of Rosen’s abilities through the preseason and he has seen the field during replacement duty in Weeks 1 and 2, so far completing 8/21 passes for 102 yards, 2 INTs and a 38.1% completion percentage.

While Rosen has not yet led the Dolphins to regular season points, the second year passer will find his opportunity to do so in Dallas and the Dolphins will be able to make further evaluation of 2018’s tenth overall pick.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s veteran standing and experience had given him the early advantage, but the time has arrived in for the Dolphins to see what the future may bring – if anything – for Josh Rosen in Miami.

Whilst the national attention seems to be focused on Chris Grier’s rebuild of the roster, the Dolphins have claimed former first round pick, DE Taco Charlton, released by the Cowboys on Wednesday.

Charlton was the Dallas Cowboys’ first round selection in 2017, having played in 27 games (7 starts) and registered 4.0 sacks and 47 combined tackles.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Cowboys Week Three Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Search to Stop the Bleeding in Big D

Who: Dolphins (0-2) at Cowboys (2-0)
When: Sunday September 22, 1:00 PM East
Where: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, TX
Weather: Dome
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +21

The hits keep coming for Miami. Another prominent fixture of the roster has been jettisoned, and another loaded team is on the docket for the downtrodden Dolphins.

This current iteration of the Dallas Cowboys is akin to what Miami hopes to build in a couple years’ time — stout trench play, emerging young quarterback, and star-studded skill positions.

Three touchdown underdogs for the second consecutive week, the Dolphins are introducing college point-spreads into the National Football League. Miami’s 19-point home handicap last week was the biggest such spread for a host team since the 2007 season, and the Dolphins are now channeling the 2013 Broncos-Jaguars game that climbed up over 25 points before betting closed.

The Dolphins were far more competitive last week, even if the scoreboard didn’t show it. Contributions from star Cornerback Xavien Howard, upstart Linebacker Jerome Baker, and surprising recent addition Vince Biegel were the silver linings in the 43-point thrashing; we’re looking for more of those in Dallas.

The Scheme:

Offense:

The switch from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore might’ve been the biggest upgrade in the NFL this offseason. Moore, a coach’s son that made it to the NFL for his cerebral prowess at the quarterback position, is dressing up Dallas’ offense with disguise, misdirection, and tendency breakers.

Dallas varies it’s running scheme, but the talent to execute simple gap-schemes and power concepts allows Moore to get creative with the play action game. Cowboys players praise Moore for his nuance and emphasis on getting players in position to exhibit their best traits.

Scheming chunk-plays in the passing game, running the football to keep the offense on schedule, and devising red zone concepts to free up pass catchers in the condensed area already has Moore’s name circulating as the next hot head coaching candidate.

Defense:

On top of impeccable front-seven talent, the Cowboys borrow concepts from some of the most accomplished, revolutionary defensive schemes in the history of the league. Rod Marinelli still carries the title of Defensive Coordinator, but it’s a co-op with he and the up-and-coming Kris Richard.

With elements of the Tampa-2 from Marinelli’s days with the Bucs — and more recently in Chicago — fused with Richard’s rendition of the wildly popular scheme originated by Pete Carroll, Dallas is successful in a multitude of packages and pre-snap disguises.

Creating one-on-one rush opportunities from their elite pass rushers, while playing a variety of cover-3, 2, and 1 on the back-end, the Cowboys can apply pressure while dropping seven — the ultimate goal of every NFL defense.

Look for Chad O’Shea to attack this defense with more in-breaking routes. That means high-low and drive concepts (designed to displace zone coverage and attack the middle of cover-1 and Tampa-2 defenses) and seam shots with the Cowboys drop two deep.

The Players:

Offense:

Dak Prescott is off to an MVP-caliber beginning to his 2019 season. Prescott handles pressure in two ways — the type of pressure applied by ferocious fronts, and the pressure of big moments. He’s accurate, creates opportunities off-script, and allows Kellen Moore to utilize designed runs.

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Then there’s Zeke Elliot, who’s just getting rolling. Zeke, behind arguably the NFL’s best offensive line with the healthy Travis Frederic, Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La’El Collins, Dallas can line up and push teams off the football.

The Dolphins must get big showings from Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins to hold the point-of-attack and free up Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan to meet Zeke in the hole.

Amari Cooper is one of the game’s best route runners, and he pairs that with size and speed. He’ll be a tough matchup for Miami, unless Xavien Howard wants to travel with the Cowboys play maker. That opens up another bag of worms, especially as Miami will be working in a new safety alongside corner-convert, Bobby McCain.

Jason Witten is back, but he serves mostly as an additional lineman and the forgotten man in the red zone (as far as the defense is concerned, Witten has two touchdowns already on plays that schemed him wide open). Michael Gallup will miss this game while the resurgent Randal Cobb will help keep the Miami defense honest horizontally in the misdirection game.

Defense:

Jaylon Smith leads the defense with his instinctive, urgent playing style that pairs well with uncommon physical traits. He and Leighton Vander Esch set the tone in the middle of the Dallas defense, and a lot of the scheme is designed to free these two up to wreak havoc. Smith’s athleticism allows Marinelli to keep the Tampa-2 concept alive.

Demarcus Lawrence is set to have a field day. Miami haven’t been able to block anybody this year, and now will have to handle one of the game’s best pass rushers against deafening crowd noise.

Byron Jones has fallen out of favor in Dallas. The dependable Jeff Heath, and the underrated Xavier Woods make it so, while Chidobe Awuzie locks down the opposition’s number one receiver. Dallas’ vulnerability in this position group from the perimeter corner position opposite Awuzie. Jones has been playing corner to pair with slot specialist Jourdan Lewis and Awuzie.

If Miami can create one-on-one passing opportunities into the boundary, look for O’Shea to attack vertically and hope to steal some points — the best bet here is likely Preston Williams.

The Medical:

The Concerns:

Quite literally all over the football field. Dallas can line up with power and milk the Dolphins defense dry. They can attack vertically, or in the controlled passing game with well-timed shot plays built into the offense, all on top of exceptional red zone production in the early going of 2019.

Demarcus Lawrence leads the team in pressures, but he’s only pulled the quarterback down once — that ties the team lead. This Cowboys pass rush is going to be champing at the bit to pad those stats, and there’s no reason to think Miami can handle the relentless pressure, even without blitzing.

The Opportunities:

Special teams might be the one area Miami can spark some magic. The Dolphins are off to a slow start in this department as well, but Jakeem Grant’s big-play ability will be needed if Miami are to pull the miracle upset.

Finding vertical shots — whether it’s Mike Gesicki splitting the Tampa-2, Preston Williams winning an outside release into the boundary without safety help, or getting a fly-by from Grant, Miami needs some fireworks.

The Projected Outcome:

The game plan came together defensively in the first half against the Patriots, but it’s a challenge for even the league’s best stop-units to carry a lifeless offense. Unless the Dolphins can finally sustain some drives and convert in the red zone, this game will get out of hand. It’s doubtful Miami can do that, so look for an aggressive offense that tries to hit the big play.

Dallas just has too much star power and excellent coordinators for Miami to pick them off — or even cover.

Dolphins 6
Cowboys 31

@WingfieldNFL

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