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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

Miami Dolphins Sign Tight End Michael Roberts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are beginning to bulk up the depth of their roster as they head into free agency.

According to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the Dolphins have signed tight end Michael Roberts. The exact terms of the contract are currently unknown.

Originally a 4th-round pick by the Detroit Lions, Roberts has served mostly as a backup tight end; accumulating 146 yards on 13 receptions in 23 active games between 2017-2018.

Roberts was placed on injured-reserve towards the end of the 2018 season with a shoulder injury, and was traded to the New England Patriots for a conditional 2020 7th-round pick prior to the 2019 season. Due to medical reasons, the trade was voided a couple of days later.

The Green Bay Packers claimed Roberts off of waivers, but he was subsequently released by the Packers two days later for failing a physical. Roberts was not active for any games in 2019.

Signing Roberts doesn’t necessarily mean the Dolphins aren’t going to pursue tight ends in free agency or in the draft. Mike Gesicki is the only “lock” to make the 2020 roster, as Durham Smythe‘s blocking ability might not survive if the Dolphins find themselves in an advantageous situation at the position.

Look at this as a way for Miami to get ahead of evaluations.

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Miami Dolphins

A second Dolphins mock draft from someone who doesn’t watch football

Shawn Digity

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J.K. Dobbins 2020 NFL Draft
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

(Locked On Dolphins) – Last week, Person A dazzled us with their blind mock draft, and now we’re back with the next entry in the series.

Person B is ready to go with their mock.

Keep in mind that all the blind mock draft contributors have little to no knowledge of the NFL.

I had all the contributors standardize their boards and the process so that everyone was on an even playing field.

They all used The Draft Network’s mock draft simulator with seven rounds, the predictive board, and had to choose the players manually.

Without further ado, here’s Person B’s mock draft.

(1) 5. Tua Tagovailoa – QB, Alabama
(1) 18. J.K. Dobbins – RB, Ohio State
(1) 26. Terrell Lewis – Edge, Alabama
(2) 39. Lloyd Cushenberry III – iOL, LSU
(2) 56. Xavier McKinney – S, Alabama
(3) 70. Rashard Lawrence – iDL, LSU
(5) 135. Chase Claypool – WR, Notre Dame
(5) 144. Justin Herron – OT, Wake Forest
(5) 147. Terrell Burgess – S, Utah
(6) 165. Lamar Jackson – CB, Nebraska
(6) 177. Jacob Breeland – TE, Oregon
(7) 223. David Reese II – LB, Florida

As I did with Person A, I reached out to Person B to get their reasoning behind the selections.

Me: “I noticed that you took Tua [Tagovailoa]. What led you to that decision with the fifth pick?”

Person B: “I knew the Dolphins wanted to get a QB, and Tua has been talked about so much that I just went with him.”

Me: “Which of your other selections did you feel particularly good about?”

Person B: “I need you to send me the link to my draft. I forgot who I picked since it took five attempts.”

[resends mock draft to Person B]

“I like my J.K. Dobbins pick. O-H-. And Rashard Lawrence. Because I figure he’s pretty good since LSU was really good this year.”

Me: “Your picks are really good. I’d put yours ahead of Person A. But it’s almost suspiciously good. Did you put your thumb on the scale somewhere along the line?”

Person B: “Well, by my 5th attempt (1 and 2: I didn’t select manual mode, 3: I didn’t pick 7 rounds from the drop-down menu, 4: I completed, but the site froze, and I lost everything), I figured out that I should probably pick from the top of the list first because if you don’t then those players just go like hotcakes.

So, I just matched up the positions the Dolphins needed to fill with the players highest on the list, and if I recognized a name or team, I would select them over someone I had never heard of.”

Me: “OK, well, we’re all out of time. Do you have any parting messages for Dolphins fans?”

Person B: “Well, I think the Dolphins are on the right track, and I hope that all of the true blue fans who have hung in with them for all these years will get to see another Super Bowl in the near future. GO FINS!”

And that wraps things up with Person B.

What are your thoughts on Person B’s mock draft? Leave a comment or tweet your thoughts at me directly on Twitter (@DIGITYnodoubt).

Tune in next time for Person C’s mock…

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Miami Dolphins

Top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins weren’t supposed to be a productive team in 2019.

A team meant to lose every game somehow ended up with a 5-11 record; simultaneously sabotaging their draft status and leaving us with a promising future at the same time.

Brian Flores, the former scout, scoured the transaction wire every day in an attempt to uncover potential “acorns” – as one former general manager infamously put it. And with a keen eye for development, his constant shuffling and retooling paid off for him.

You might think a 5-11 team wouldn’t have too many options for a Top 5 list, but the Dolphins were littered with productive “surprises”. Most have promising futures, while some have already solidified themselves as perennial starters.

Take a look at our top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2019 down below. If you’d like to see who made our list of top 5 most disappointing players of 2019, click here.

5) Davon Godchaux

After two elite seasons, we’ve come to expect nothing less out of Davon Godchaux.

Starting 16 games for the second year in a row, Godchaux has continued to ascend as one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL. If the Dolphins weren’t so busy staying out of the lime light, Godchaux would be a household name across the nation.

His 52 solo tackles were tied for the most in the NFL among interior defensive linemen. His 2 sacks, 75 total tackles and 7 QB hits are all improvements over his 2018 campaign, which already had fans clamoring to extend the young, former 5th-round pick.

Though some might point to Miami’s overall defensive rushing numbers as a sign that Godchaux (and Christian Wilkins) weren’t good at their jobs, that’s wildly misleading. Godchaux was stout in the middle of the defensive line; inadvertently tasked with absorbing double teams and giving players like Vince Biegel or Jerome Baker room to blitz.

It’s quite possible that Godchaux is lower than he should be on this list, simply because we take his performance for granted.

4) Mike Gesicki

I’m going to hold my hand up high and admit that I thought Mike Gesicki was going to be an absolute bust for the Miami Dolphins.

More-notorious for not staying on his feet than Brian Hartline, Gesicki overcame a (very) rough rookie season and turned into a reliable seam threat for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Gesicki finished the year with 51 receptions, 570 receiving yards (an 11.2 yards-per-reception average) and five touchdowns – the first of his career. He proved to be a mismatch against linebackers; and whether he lines up in the slot or on the outside, the Dolphins are going to take advantage each time they see him 1-on-1 against an LB.

Athletic and deceptively quicker than we might realize, Gesicki honed his route running and displayed a much better catch radius than what we saw his rookie year. The image of Brent Grimes wide-eyed after Gesicki went up for a touchdown says more than a thousand words – but if nothing else, it tells us that the Miami Dolphins have a legitimate tight end.

3) Vince Biegel

Vince Biegel came to Miami as a complete afterthought.

The Dolphins traded incumbent linebacker Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints in an effort to alleviate cap space in 2020. In return, they received a little-known, former 4th-round pick who was about to play for his third team in 3 years.

For all the grief we’ve given Chris Grier over his scouting, we have to give him a ton of credit for this one. Saying the Saints got fleeced is an understatement.

In 13 games (4 starts) with the Saints, Alonso recorded 31 tackles, 0 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss (TFL) and 2 QB Hits.

In 15 games (10 starts), Biegel accumulated 57 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 13 QB Hits and an interception to boot.

Biegel was such a force at linebacker, that Dolphins fans forgot he was going to be a free agent this offseason and just assumed they had him for years to come. Most of us hope the Dolphins find a way to keep Biegel around at a reasonable (yet worthy) price.

The growth he, Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker can make with another year together could all together eliminate the need to use assets on a linebacker in the near-future. Especially when the team will get Andrew Van Ginkel back for a full, healthy season.

2) Jerome Baker

Arguably Chris Grier’s best draft pick, Jerome Baker has evolved into one of the best all-around linebackers in the league. You can consider that an overstatement, but his versatility, durability and play-making ability make him a prime candidate to burst into the national spotlight in 2020.

Baker and Eric Rowe were the only players who logged over 1,000 snaps last season (1,079 for Baker, 1,071 for Rowe).

After a rookie season that showed a ton of promise, Baker’s sophomore season ended with 124 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5 QB hits, 2 forced fumbles, 4 passes defended and 1 interception. Versatile in coverage, as a spy, diagnosing the run, and when he blitzes, Baker may be the real Swiss-Army knife of this Dolphins’ defense.

The biggest question we now have to ask is: what do the Miami Dolphins do with Jerome Baker? He’s still two years away from free agency, but if his 2020 season is any improvement over what we’ve seen, Baker is going to command A LOT of money when he enters the final year of his rookie deal.

Don’t let Baker turn into another Olivier Vernon, Jarvis Landry or Lamar Miller. Pay the talent you successfully scouted and maintain a sense of culture and camaraderie.

Honorable Mentions:

Christian Wilkins:

Christian Wilkins came to the Miami Dolphins with a ton of charisma and a jovial personality unmatched by any top draft pick that came before him.

From the moment the 315lbs linebacker did a split after Clemson won their national championship in 2018, to the time he had Roger Goodell go up for a chest bump after he was drafted, Wilkins was a beloved figure.

But personality can only take you so far, and when the season started Wilkins needed to back up his charity work and infectious smile with the brutality necessary to win at the line of scrimmage. And boy did he live up to it.

Wilkins may not have finished with the most-gaudy numbers, but they’re still impressive nonetheless. For his rookie season, Wilkins totaled 56 tackles, 2 sacks and 2 passes defended. He’s caught every pass ever thrown to him (1), and it even resulted in a touchdown.

His 888 total snaps (between defense, special teams and the 2 he accumulated on offense) are noteworthy for a rookie defensive tackle.

The other 1st-round defensive linemen drafted in 2019 finished with:

  • Quinnen Williams (3rd-overall): 577 total snaps
  • Clelin Ferrell (4th): 716 snaps
  • Ed Oliver (9th): 572 snaps
  • Wilkins (13th): 888 snaps
  • Brian Burns (16th): 609 snaps
  • Dexter Lawrence (17th): 866 snaps
  • Jeffery Simmons (19th): 368 snaps
  • Montez Sweat (26th): 817 snaps
  • Jerry Tillery (28th): 436 snaps

The 2019 draft class was stacked on the defensive line, and yet, the Dolphins may have managed to draft the best one of the bunch midway through the round.

Nik Needham:

The Miami Dolphins signed Nik Needham as an undrafted free agent with the hope that he would provide depth for a position group that already featured plenty of expensive and starting-caliber players within it.

Instead, the Dolphins add another commodity to that list.

Competing for playing time with players like Xavien Howard, Eric Rowe, Bobby McCain, Minkah Fitzpatrick and a plethora of other roster invitees, Needham had an excellent camp, but found himself just missing the final 53-man roster.

That didn’t stop him from honing his craft and earning a promotion from the practice squad one day before the Dolphins were set to take on the Washington Redskins in Week 6.

Needham went on to start the final 11 games of the season, and ended the year with 2 interceptions, 11 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack and 54 total tackles.

As a rookie cornerback, you’re expected to be picked on, but Needham was bullied by the refs more than he was by opposing quarterbacks. Questionable calls against Needham towards the end of the year put a slight damper on his otherwise stellar season.

Though in the eyes of some Dolphins fans, that erroneous (non-existent) pass interference penalty that was overturned on the final drive during the New York Jets loss was a blessing in disguise.

1) DeVante Parker

It may have taken slightly longer than we originally hoped, but Ryan Fitzpatrick’s aggressive style highlighted just how elite DeVante Parker can be when you just throw him the damn ball.

Previously marred by the occasional health concern and offensive schemes that didn’t cater to his skillset, Parker was deemed a “bust” by most Dolphins fans. Drafted 14th-overall in the 2014 NFL draft, Parker was expected to transcend the offense. Instead, bubble screens became the focal point for an offense that was littered with deep threat specialists (Parker, Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant).

Parker’s recent 4-year, $40m extension is a reward not only for the production Parker put up in 2019, but for the potential Parker still has left in him.

In 16 games this past season (the first time he’s been active for 16 games his entire career), Parker caught 72 passes for 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. In his four years prior to 2019, Parker caught a combined 163 passes for 2,217 yards and 9 TDs.

As long as he can stay healthy, and the Dolphins don’t revert back to a scared, anemic offense, you can expect annual 1,000 yard seasons from the team’s #1 receiver.

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