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Miami Dolphins

The Savior – Ryan Tannehill

Travis Wingfield

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August 3, 2017: The seventh practice of the new football season. Fresh off a playoff run that laid an eight-year drought to rest, the Miami Dolphins were branded as a team on the rise.

When starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, went to the turf on a routine scramble drill, Miami’s hopes for a playoff encore went down with him.

Miami was saddled with three options:

1.) Proceed with backup Matt Moore.

2.) Inquire about the ever-polarizing Colin Kaepernick.

3.) Convince Jay Cutler to give up a studio gig, and saddle up for one last ride.

Options 1 and 2 were never options in the mind of Adam Gase. Hindsight has taught us that Kaepernick has proven to be an untouchable commodity throughout the 2017 season, and Matt Moore had started just three games in his previous five seasons.

Gase’s prior work-history with Jay Cutler made the most sense. The much-maligned former Bears and Broncos quarterback agreed, and the Smokin’ Jay brand made its way to South Beach.

Two months later, the Dolphins offense has yet to find its footing.

Scoring just 15.2 points per game (last in the NFL) and averaging just 4.5 yards per play (31st in the NFL), Miami’s offense is a shell of what it was in 2016.

Under Ryan Tannehill, the 8-5 Dolphins averaged 22.7 points per game (17th in the NFL) and 5.8 yards per play (7th in the NFL).

Jarvis Landry’s yards per reception went from a career best (12.1) in 2016, to a career worst (7.7) in 2017.

Kenny Stills yards per reception number is down 4.9 yards. Even Jay Cutler’s favorite receiver, Devante Parker, has seen a slight regression in his average.

Tannehill’s absence isn’t felt exclusively via the aerial attack – the ground game has had its share of struggles. In 2016, running back Jay Ajayi averaged 4.9 yards per carry. In 2017, that number dropped a yard and a half to a paltry 3.4.

Numbers typically only tell part of the story when it comes to football. Context is paramount when dealing with this esoteric sport. The Dolphins made three changes to the offensive personnel from the end of 2016 to this season:

Anthony Steen in for Branden Albert (Jesse Davis now because of an injury to Steen).

Julius Thomas in for Jordan Cameron/Dion Sims.

– Jay Cutler in for the injured Ryan Tannehill.

While Steen and Thomas haven’t had particularly good years in 2017, their predecessors hardly turned in quality film.

The answer for the decline of the offense is glaringly obvious – it’s the quarterback change. Dolphins fans never truly appreciated Ryan Tannehill and what he meant for the organization. Before Tannehill, the Dolphins had just one quarterback start back-to-back opening days since Jay Fiedler in the 2003 and 2004 seasons (Chad Pennington 2008-2009).

Tannehill started five consecutive opening day games from 2012-2016.

Aug 10, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is seen prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The elusive quarterback (who just so happened to moonlight as a receiver in college) mitigated some of the black holes along the offensive line. Last year, Adam Gase cut Billy Turner, Dallas Thomas and Jamil Douglass, and he swung the hammer on all three, on the same day.

Combing back through previous years’ film conjures up haunting memories of just how bad some of the groups that played in front of him were.

Still, the offensive production never came close to the dip in production occurring in 2017.

Quarterbacks have long been described as the most important position in sports. If a case study were ever necessary to prove this theory, 2017 would be the year to examine. The drop-off in production isn’t just impacting the Miami Dolphins. The Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers went from contenders, to afterthoughts, after losing their respective starting quarterbacks.

Aside from the numbers, what are the big differences between Tannehill and Cutler? The laundry list is large, and ever-apparent on film. Mechanically and athletically, Tannehill is a far superior player. The decision making, the poise, all of these traits took considerable dips when #6 took the place of #17.

The lesser known aspect of the offensive struggles, are the quarterback’s ability to contribute in the running game. No one has ever mistaken Ryan Tannehill for a shifty runner. However, his straight-line-speed, and ability to chew up yards with his legs, presents an added element that defenses have to account for.

In 2014, offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, utilized Tannehill’s athleticism with the en vogue scheme of the time, the zone read. Coming from the Chip Kelly coaching tree, Lazor featured a high percentage of run-pass-options (RPOs).

Below are a few GIFs from a game played in Denver in December of 2014. Tannehill went back and forth with Peyton Manning in an old-west-style-shootout. The Dolphins loosened up a formidable Broncos defense with variations of zone-read and misdirection, and forced the Broncos to account for the extra body in the running game with designed quarterback keepers.

 

The threat of the quarterback keeping the football and sneaking out the backdoor on the weak side changes the way the defense attacks the running game. The outside zone scheme that Clyde Christensen brought to Miami, and heavily featured Jay Ajayi, thrived with Tannehill under center. It puts the linebacker’s feet in cinderblocks, and is the leading cause of false steps.

With Jay Cutler, the defense had no respect for the quarterback keeper, and allowed teams to fire off with A-gap blitz after A-gap blitz. Disrupting the timing and mesh-point of the outside zone scheme, Ajayi was constantly met behind the line of scrimmage.

GIF – Without the threat of the quarterback pulling it back, the defense can collapse the backside:

GIF -It isn’t exclusive to Jay Cutler — the same thing happened in Baltimore when Matt Moore was under-center:

Once the linebackers start respecting the quarterback run, that’s when play-action, bootlegs and rolling pockets can become even more effective. Rather than the defense flowing as one-way-traffic, the threat of misdirection and play action forces the defense to protect against each direction — both vertically and horizontally.

GIF- Tannehill’s athleticism allows the offense to leave a man unblocked since the quarterback is capable of creating his own throwing lane:

From his rookie year, a speed out to the boundary for a touchdown. This throw requires a short angle. Again, a mobile quarterbacks is required to get to the spot:

And, of course, escaping pressure on a standard five-step drop off play action:

Notice the linebackers. False steps are any steps taken that lead a player away from the action of the play. An athletic quarterback allows play callers to keep those linebackers in precarious situations throughout the course of a game.

When there is no threat of the quarterback winning with his legs, the defense can play fast and more aggressive.

GIF – If the defense doesn’t respect the ball fake, misdirection only slows the offense down.

Mechanically, Ryan Tannehill is as sharp as they come. His feet are always moving to stay in a threatening position, he squares his shoulders to his target, and he can let it rip from awkward arm angles when necessary.

GIF – Feet are always shuffling and following his eyes, shoulders squaring up to his target, searching for a passing lane. Perfect quarterbacking:

GIF – This incorporates everything. Zone read PA holds the LB, Tannehill slides away from pressure and into an open passing lane, and the throw is absolutely perfect moving to his left:

GIF – Pressure in his face, has to change the arm slot to deliver the football – no problem:

GIF – And here are some unbelievable gifted throws just as an added bonus:

Despite taking frequent abuse, (third most his quarterbacks since entering the league in 2012), Tannehill has never seen “ghosts” in the pocket. He always stands tall and climbs up the pocket as he surveys his options. In 2016, he improved his ability to recognize pressure early in the development of the play, and flee to either side. Unlike stationary pocket passers, Tannehill still presents a threat to throw regardless of which direction he is moving.

Jay Cutler, on the other hand, is not exactly a bastion of sound-mechanics. Below are a few GIFs showing poor footwork, as well as his propensity to drift in the pocket and take himself out of the play.

GIF – Any coach will tell you that you can point to feet when a throw isn’t accurate. Swings his hip wide open, no drive off the back leg.

In 2016, Tannehill flashed his play making ability on third down, and the Dolphins started piling up wins as a result.

During Miami’s 7-1 run last year, prior to Tannehill’s season ending knee injury, the Dolphins quarterback was man-possessed on the “money” down.

In those eight games, Tannehill completed 41/68 passes for 590 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions on third down.

From an efficiency stand-point, that’s good for 8.68 yards per pass, a 9% touchdown rate, and a 3% interception rate. His passer rating on those downs was 105.6. For comparison’s sake, from 2012-2016 (since Tannehill entered the league), the best in football on that all-important-down, was Aaron Rodgers – his rating, 105.9.

Any scout will advise looking at how a quarterback performs on 3rd and 6 or longer. This is when windows are tighter, the pass rush is fiercer, and the volume is turned up by the opposing crowd. In these particular scenarios, the league average conversion rate is right around 30%. Tannehill converted 43% of his 3rd and 6+ opportunities during that eight game stretch.

A lot of measurements can be used in the case against Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins record in games he starts is just 37-40. Before 2016, his volume statistics were never all that impressive. Both of these arguments require a certain deal of context, and 2017 should be all the context Dolphins fans need.

Ryan Tannehill’s tenure with the Miami Dolphins is one that, to this point, is remembered as average – nothing special. Dolphins fans have been longing for the next “guy” ever since Dan Marino’s last game in 1999.

One could reasonably ascertain that Tannehill’s numbers, compared to the numbers of the offense in 2017 would be proof enough that he’s been something of a miracle worker given his surrounding cast. His talent jumps off the film, the flash plays are simply brilliant, and he was finally starting to put together consistency prior to the knee injury.

Still, there remains a large contingency of Phins fans that are imploring the Dolphins brass to seek his replacement.

Perhaps 2018’s return, and Tannehill’s empathic vengeance on the entire league, will finally put the debate to rest.

But probably not.

@WingfieldNFL

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nb901

    November 16, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Interesting. But the fact is… Tannehill is not elite. He is an 8 -9 win QB. I want elite. Unless the dolphins build an elite defense (not easy to do) all we can ever hope for, with Tannehill as QB is 8-9 wins and every once in awhile get lucky and sneak in as a wild card

    • Avatar

      zeke

      November 16, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Yeah, that’s kind of how team sports work. Go through the past 2 decades of SB winners and tell me how many of them did not have a top or even an average defense to work with? Hell, go through all of the SB winners and see how many, I’m willing to bet it’s less than 5 if that.

      Wilson, Eli, Peyton, Brady, Brees, Ben and others would never have won those titles without the defense. But you expect Tannehill to be some miracle worker and do it by himself while playing behind quite possibly the worst o-line situation ever and a bottom ranked defense….gotcha.

      I’m willing to bet you didn’t know that in the 14′ season, Tannehill gave the team a late lead against GB and Det and in both games the defense allowed a game winning drive to lose them. They would have been 10-6 if not for those blown leads. Another one in 15′ against Carolina which would have them at 9 wins and others in his rookie season.

      The only QB’s in the game right now that get their teams to the playoffs just from their talent alone is Rodgers, Stafford and soon to be Wentz. Goes to show how important the whole team is when you get that far.

    • Travis Wingfield

      Travis Wingfield

      November 16, 2017 at 6:50 pm

      There are two elite quarterbacks in this league. They don’t exactly grow on trees.

  2. Avatar

    zeke

    November 16, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Everything I’ve been saying since his second year in the league. Well done, sir.

    He is by far the most underrated/underappreciated QB in the game. It drove me nuts that fans and the media kept writing this kid off like he was a nobody and I’m willing to bet none of them ever watched any games he’s played in or understood that the team was just so bad. All they did was just look at the record and draw their conclusions from that, or another way of putting it, the easy way out. This year should silence all of the critics about how vital he is to that team and what he could do for another team….but it won’t, like you said.

    Put Tannehill on teams like the Jags or the Vikings and he’s going to win a SB sooner than later. IF he gets cut or Miami throws trade feelers out there, I would be on the phone in a heartbeat if I’m one of those teams.

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Scouting Reports

Face of the Franchise Series: Best of the Rest

Travis Wingfield

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Two decades removed from his retirement, the Miami Dolphins are still in-search of Dan Marino’s replacement

Tua Tagovailoa Scouting Report
Jake Fromm Scouting Report
Justin Herbert Scouting Report
Jordan Love Scouting Report
Best of the Rest

Foreword:

7,094 days, 308 games. That arduous, ceaseless waiting period spans the time from Dan Marino’s last buckle of the chin strap, to present day. The Packers and Colts were fortunate enough to hand the ball from one legend to another without skipping a beat. For Dolphins fans, Marino’s retirement coincides not only with the turn of the century, but with the downturn of the once winningest franchise in professional sports.

Chad Pennington’s 2008 MVP runner-up season sits a mere blip on the radar of futility. Ryan Tannehill teased fans for five years before an injury brought all hope to a fiery end. Daunte Culpepper was the worst consolation prize ever contrived and John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White each qualify as second-round busts.

The misery feels perpetual yet, somehow, not defeating. At least the Dolphins got the bat off the shoulder this offseason by taking a crack at Josh Rosen, but his rookie tape leaves plenty to be desired. A first-round signal-caller is the odds-on-favorite for Miami in next April’s draft; a class brimming with quarterback talent.

If patience truly is a virtue, then Dolphins fans have waited long enough. The collective has earned the right to unanimously appoint the next hero of professional football in South Florida. No more arguments, no more debates; just an unequivocal beast of a quarterback capable of willing the aqua and orange to victory on any given Sunday.

The same way #13 did for so many years.

Over the summer we will look at the top quarterback prospects entering the 2019 college football season.

Now, for the group battling to infiltrate the top four QBs — the best of the rest.

The Best of the Rest

Any prospect with professional aspirations would prefer to enter his final college season with considerable fanfare and expectations. More attention equals more eyeballs, and more eyeballs equals more opportunity to make an impression.

That’s not to say that expectations are the only path to a Thursday night selection during the NFL’s three-day draft extravaganza. Far from it. With the ever-changing landscape of the college game, each of the last two draft classes saw unknown signal-callers rise from afterthought, to bells of the ball.

Baker Mayfield was — at best — a distant fourth behind Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen entering the 2017 college football season. Kyler Murray was signed, sealed, and delivered to the Oakland A’s and off the radar of NFL scouts entirely. Yet, a short eight months after college football’s opening Saturday, both were standing on the podium with the commissioner before any of their peers.

Tua Tagovailoa is the prohibitive favorite to earn the honorable distinction of first overall pick. Dominant performances at a prominent school will have that affect.

Justin Herbert’s rare physical skills have scouts fawning over Oregon football this fall, while Jordan Love will garner similar jaw-dropping attention.

Then there’s the polished and professional Jake Fromm.

These four quarterbacks will take the field next month and begin their (potentially) final chapters before their NFL dreams are realized.

So who is the pick the rocket up the draft board from seemingly nowhere? The options are vast, and we’ll cover them right now (in no particular order).

D’Eriq King – Houston – 5-11, 195 lbs. (Senior)

The aforementioned Kyler Murray, one year after Baker Mayfield paved the way, ushers in a new way of thinking in regards to projecting passers from college to the professional ranks. King is an electric dual-threat QB — evident by his 50 touchdowns in 2018 despite missing 2.5 games with an ankle injury.

K.J. Costello – Stanford – 6-5, 215 lbs. (Senior)

With ideal size and natural arm talent Costello is a threat to climb draft boards next spring. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he can alter his release points and vary the velocity and touch of his throws for the circumstance. Costello took a big jump in 2018, but needs another significant climb in the mechanical portion of the game to garner first round consideration.

Khalil Tate – Arizona – 6-2, 216 lbs. (Senior)

The transition from Rich Rodriguez’s to Kevin Sumlin impacted Tate in the worst way possible. With game-breaking, dual-threat talent that rivals Kyler Murray, Tate was asked to play more within the structure of a traditional drop back game last season. The result, a dramatic efficiency drop-off across the board. Tate is electrifying with his legs and more than adequate with the arm — he’s a sleeper pick to join Tagovailoa, Fromm, Herbert and Love.

Jacob Eason – Washington – 6-6, 230 lbs. (Senior)

Eason barely has more collegiate accolades than anyone reading this piece. He was a five-star recruit that missed two years due to injury and ineligibility after transferring; this after showing minimal promise as a true freshman at Georgia. Eason is long, and a tad gangly, but he’s an accurate thrower with ideal size for the position.

Sam Ehlinger – Texas – 6-3 235 lbs. (Junior)

Following the trend of athletic quarterbacks taking over professional football, Ehlinger is another prototype player. He’s a threat to score on the ground on any given play, but that’s something of a cover up for some mechanical and arm talent short comings. Ehlinger exploded at the end of the 2018 season, and he needs to continue on that trajectory to vault his draft stock beyond day-three.

Brian Lewerke – Michigan State 6-3, 215 lbs. – (Senior)

Adding Lewerke to this list feels a little disingenuous because I’m clenching to his sophomore season. His junior year at East Lansing was an unmitigated disaster, but the processing, anticipation, accuracy, and off-script prowess were enough for some pundits to tab Lewerke as QB1 heading into 2018.

Honorable Mention: Bryce Perkins (Virginia), Nathan Stanley (Iowa), Cole McDonald (Hawaii)

If expectations play out this season for the Dolphins, a first round quarterback is likely the result at the conclusion of year-one of the rebuild. The future employment of everybody associated with the Dolphins would then depend on getting that draft pick right (Brian Flores, Chris Grier, and the entire coaching and scouting staffs).

Due to the urgency and importance of this evaluation for the ‘Phins, we will be covering the college quarterback landscape throughout the 2019 season with weekly progress reports.

As always, Locked On Dolphins is your exclusive provider of analysis, commentary, and news on the Miami Dolphins.

Way Too Early 2019 QB Prospect Ranking

 

(Rank) Player School
(1) Jordan Love Utah State
(2) Tua Tagovailoa Alabama
(3) Jake Fromm Georgia
(4) Justin Herbert Oregon
(5) Khalil Tate Arizona
(6) D’Eriq King Houston
(7) K.J. Costello Stanford
(8) Jacob Eason Washington
(9) Brian Lewerke Michigan State
(10) Sam Ehlinger Texas

 

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

5 Developments That Would Signal a Successful 2019 Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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In a bottom-line business, the Dolphins can find success elsewhere in 2019

Any coach, player, or essential personnel attached to the 2019 operation of the Miami Dolphins would immediately dispel the notion of this article. While the mindset is imperative for each of the 32 organizations in the NFL to enter a new season with championship aspirations, the truth tells us that, that is simply not realistic.

The Dolphins — like it or not — fall into the category of teams building for future success.

Since Stephen Ross’ Black Monday presser — held with the purpose of conveying sweeping organizational changes — the mantra of the 10th administration in franchise history has been the same — ‘we are only worried about today.’ Ross’ opening statements contradicted that idea, just as Miami’s offseason maneuvers have suggested something of a transitional year.

A reset. A step back. A “change from the way we’ve done things previously,” as Mr. Ross stated at that presser, was a necessary evil on the track to, “building a consistent team with sustained success.”

Any NFL team, regardless of its standing on the superiority hierarchy, will dispel any talk of Super Bowl dreams during the summer. But for the 2019 Miami Dolphins winning games is not the end-all-be-all.

Operating under protection from the end results the typical importance of the only numbers that ultimately matter — victories and defeats — Brian Flores and staff can focus on the true exigency of the 2019 season; the development of his program and young players.

Last year I wrote about the 25 most integral players to the 2018 Miami Dolphins success. In year-three, with an experienced quarterback and significant investment in veteran contracts, the only option for Adam Gase and company was to win football games.

Now, the focus takes a hard left turn. We hone in on the particular units, identity development, and most crucial aspects that must occur in 2019 to set Coach Flores up for success in the win-loss column in 2020 and beyond.

1. Raekwon McMillan and Jerome Baker Assert Their Standing

Linebackers are falling out of favor in many-an-NFL-defense, but not in this one. Versatile ‘backers helped drive Brian Flores’ defense to back-to-back championship caliber performances in the season’s two biggest games in 2018 (Super Bowl and AFCCG).

McMillan was one of Pro Football Focus’ highest graded run-defenders from October on last year while Jerome Baker flashed the pass rush skill set, speed, and coverage dynamics that helped him earn significant playing time as a rookie.

The Dont’a Hightower role — working both inside and on the ball as a rusher off the edge — has been imparted on McMillan. Baker, McMillan’s former Buckeye teammate, figures into a prominent rush role with the occasional buzz to the flat.

The Dolphins have club control on McMillan for the next two years with Baker under contract for the next three. Both have been lauded for their leadership and quick acclimation to the new scheme and program.

Anchoring the middle of the defense with 23 (McMillan) and 22-year-old (Baker) linebackers would be a sterling beginning to the construction of a championship stop-unit.

2. Discovering a Viable Counterpart to Xavien Howard

One of the many faulty pillars of the Mike Tannenbaum regime was poor financial structuring of the roster, i.e. paying exponentially above market value both starting safeties, and continually pumping financial resources into a middling pass rush.

Aug 17, 2018; Charlotte, NC, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer (24) brings down Carolina Panthers running back C.J. Anderson (20) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

With Xavien Howard taken care of on one corner, the Dolphins can offset his cost by uncovering a viable second perimeter starter on a cheap contract. Eric Rowe gets first crack, but a clean bill of health and quality play likely earns him a big offseason paycheck — he’s signed on the cheap through 2019.

The other, more prudent options are homegrown talents. Cordrea Tankersley entered camp in 2018 with well-earned buzz, but has had the worst imaginable ensuing 11-month stretch since that time. He’s a candidate to start the year on P.U.P (which carries a distinction to return post-week-six).

Torry McTyer is on year-three of his rookie contract from 2017 and has the most playing time to his credit. Last season was a struggle for McTyer after a strong camp earned the UDFA a spot on the depth chart.

Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis flashed glimpses during their rookie seasons. Armstrong more so on special teams and Davis primarily in the slot.

Former Patriots practice squad member Jomal Wiltz and undrafted rookie Nik Needham have head their names called during offseason minicamps.

Pairing Howard with a rookie contract, while the team absorbs the immediate, steep costs #25’s new deal would be a massive boon heading into 2020.

3. An Unquestioned Star Skill Player Emerges

The last time the Dolphins featured an offensive threat that forced defensive coordinators to alter their game plan was Ricky Williams nearly two decades ago. The Dolphins need that spark to resurrect an offense that has been bottom-of-the-barrel for just as long.

Kenyan Drake is the favorite. His five-week slate of production to close 2017 is exactly what we’re looking for here. His versatile, game-breaking skill set could develop if he’s finally given the lion’s share of the workload.

Albert Wilson strung together a dominant stretch for two weeks last season before a serious hip injury stopped his breakout campaign short. Jakeem Grant flashes big-play ability regularly, but he’s yet to prove that he’s a permanent fixture as a wide receiver.

The dark horse option might be Tight End Mike Gesicki. His rookie tape is a difficult watch, but his Penn State cut-ups suggest that something is there — particularly in the red zone.

4. Two More Solutions on the Offensive Line Emerge

At press time the Dolphins have Laremy Tunsil and four question marks on the offensive line. Michael Deiter comes in with expectations, but a rookie third-round pick is hardly a slam dunk to provide a solution at a position that has been a problem for a decade-plus.

Daniel Kilgore is back after a season-ending injury. His three showing prior to the injury left plenty to be desired, however. Chris Reed is a career backup that figures into the starting right guard position while Jesse Davis returns to right tackle (he played sparingly at the position in 2017).

Truthfully, if one of these players emerges to form 40% of a competent offensive line, that should be considered a victory. If the Dolphins, however, find two solutions on the offensive front, that fits right in line with the rest of the league at a position starving for talent.

5. A Definitive Answer on Josh Rosen

It’s safe to say most who read this article expected this to come in at number one. Rosen’s evaluation checks in at number five for two reasons:

1.) The 2020 QB class is loaded.
2.) The evaluation doesn’t have to find a conclusion this season.

May 21, 2019; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) during organized team activities at Baptist Health Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterbacks are unique from every other position on the field. Entrusted faces of the franchise, long-term solutions, these are labels that each fan base without the elusive franchise savior craves to slap on a young signal-caller.

While the argument that, without a quarterback you’re merely treading water is valid, it doesn’t always happen overnight. Russell Wilson spearheads a group of franchise quarterbacks that were discovered in unconventional forms (Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins, Jimmy Garappolo).

Even if Josh Rosen strikes out in 2019, and he’s greeted by stiff competition next year, that doesn’t necessarily equal the end of the road for the embattled passer. He’s under club control for three seasons, and not only is he under market-value for starting QBs, he’s cheaper than the league’s most-valued backups.

While it might not be preferable for the self-proclaimed Josh Rosen ‘Stans’, a QB depth chart that features Rosen, Fitzpatrick, and one of the prized first-round options in next year’s draft would put the Dolphins in terrific position to identify the long-term solution.

Should the Dolphins find resolutions to three or more of these critical areas of development in 2019 the season should be considered a success. The omissions of pass rusher and Minkah Fitzpatrick taking the next step towards superstardom were considered.

The reason for the pass rush omission is twofold. First, next year’s class has some elite, top-shelf talent, including a player that is a picture-perfect scheme fit (Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa). Second, the individual pass rush prowess simply isn’t a priority in this scheme.

For Fitzpatrick, there should be little doubt about his development. He’s a special player that will not come up short in his purist of becoming a household name in the league.

Of course, the Dolphins could send a massive middle finger to the entire premise of this article, and the entirety of the national media that is forecasting a rough, transitional season for Flores’ football team.

In that instance, it would probably be safe to assume that more than half of this checklist were satisfied.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Locked On Dolphins staff’s favorite current Fins player

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Minkah Fitzpatrick
Minkah Fitzpatrick exiting the tunnel. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Let’s try something a little different on this midsummer Friday. It’s always dead around this time of the year, so in a fun way to get amped up for the coming season, the LOD staff presents their favorite current Miami Dolphin and why. So without further ado, check out the team’s favorite Fins.

Jason Hrina – Kenny Stills

I’m going to preface all of this by saying this has nothing to do with his political standing. There is nothing I despise more than politics and everything it entails.

That said, Kenny Stills is one of the most selfless individuals the Miami Dolphins have ever had the luxury of calling one of their own. The amount of time and effort he puts towards people in less-fortunate situations is really something we should all strive to be like. Maybe it’s his paycheck or his platform as a recognizable figure that allows him to do all of this, but he isn’t required to go out of his way for anyone.

It’s the same reason why I was always a fan of former Phins Michael Thomas and Frank Gore. Their dedication to the South Florida community and those around the world have always stuck with me. I can see Christian Wilkins being the next Dolphins player to exude such selfless behavior; I mean, he already does! It’s only going to grow from here.

While Stills may not put up the most-gaudy numbers, nor is he a national figurehead like Jarvis Landry used to be, his charity, selflessness and ability to disregard his celebrity status for the benefit of others has always made me a huge fan of Kenny Stills.

Andrew Mitchell- Albert Wilson

My favorite current player, amongst so many options, is Albert Wilson. There’s so many guys I like; Tunsil, Howard, Drake, Minkah, Bobby McCain, and Kenny Stills to name a few.

However, Albert Wilson hails from where I was raised, Port St. Lucie, Florida. He balled out at one of my high school’s rival teams, Port St. Lucie High. Wilson would dominate as a running back/quarterback hybrid and then go onto college and make his way onto the Kansas City Chiefs roster. 

Before his injury last season, he was arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL! His insane quickness and pure speed help him create separation from defenders. Pair that up with his ability and ability to make defenders miss and you have a dangerous weapon when in open space. 

My local area has produced talents like Kevin Smith (Detroit RB), Jamar Chaney (Eagles LB), Khalil Mack (Bears DE) and of course Wilson. While Mack is the biggest known name, if Wilson stays healthy all season he could 100% contend for that title! 

Gabe Hauari – Christian Wilkins

When you start your NFL career by chest bumping Rodger Goodell at the draft, you immediately become my new favorite player. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
In all seriousness, Wilkins appears to have an infectious personality mixed with some dominant tape in college.
If he can live up to his draft billing with Miami, I think the new regime got a perfect player from both a culture and football perspective.

Chris Kowalewski – Kenyan Drake

Whether as a result of conflicts with coaching staff (Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry), money issues (Ndamukong Suh) or not factoring into the franchise’s future plans (Ryan Tannehill, Cameron Wake) the past couple of seasons have seen the exodus of a number of Miami’s most popular and talented players. It’s almost at that point where I’m afraid to buy any more Dolphins jerseys because I don’t want to curse anyone else on the team – a throwback Reshad Jones jersey hangs precariously in my cupboard as the final current one.

Kenyan Drake is safe for now, as I’ll leave his jersey in stores and (together with countless other fans) be eternally grateful for his electric on-field play in the ‘Miami Miracle’. There’s plenty to like about Drake and he has a humble nature which encourages you to root for him. He didn’t complain (at least not publicly) when the Dolphins brought in Frank Gore and openly embraced the opportunity to learn from a future HOF’er.

Kenyan was on Good Morning Football about a month ago dissecting the Miami Miracle and the first thing he spoke about was the team effort which the play required, heaping praise on Ted Larsen for his key block which allowed room to make the highlight score.

I think it’s very indicative of the franchise’s view of Kenyan that Tom Garfinkel and Stephen Ross collaborated to pay for the return of the Miami Miracle ball and gave it to him as a present. However, although hugely appreciative to see its return, Drake maintained that the play was a team accomplishment and, as such, its rightful place remained at Hard Rock Stadium.

A threat to score any time he touches the ball, Drake is bottled lightning and fans everywhere should be clamouring to see more of him on the field. A quiet warrior, in the same image as Cameron Wake (another all-time favourite) he’s the lead-by-example type of player who you can’t help but want to see succeed.

Kevin Dern – Laremy Tunsil

As I’ve gotten older, which has coincidentally progressed along with more dynamic free agency rules, it’s been harder and harder for me to become attached to players like Dan Marino, JT, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison, and Pat Surtain.  That being said, I do have a favorite current Dolphin, Laremy Tunsil.
I may be a bit biased towards left tackles – I worked for two years for Anthony Munoz (the best LT and best offensive lineman in history) – and have an extra appreciation for what the position entails.  Tunsil’s footwork and movement skills are superb; his punch is excellent and he’s improving rapidly in the ground game.  If he produces consecutive years like he did last year, I’m not sure who you can honestly say is a better left tackle in the NFL at that point.  He’s a cornerstone for this franchise and should be paid as such.
My favorite Dolphin is likely a very unique choice: Ryan Fitzpatrick. He hasn’t even taken an official snap for the team, but I was all about his signing a few months ago. Quarterback is my favorite position, so it starts there.

FitzMagic is just a colorful one-of-a-kind character that I would love to meet one day. He’s been an NFL journeyman so his career is unorthodox, but he has made his hay on the zeniths of a crazy roller coaster ride, and I’ve enjoyed the chaos of it all.

I went and bought a FitzMagic x Miami Dolphins shirt almost as soon as the Dolphins signed him. I’m all-in on the Fitzpatrick experience for 2019. And I’ll especially enjoy any of the locker room antics like last year in Tampa Bay when he hijacked DeSean Jackson’s wardrobe and wore it out to the media presser and uttered the quoteworthy “We just gotta stay humble”. Classic Fitzpatrick.

I’m looking forward to his on-field wackiness and his off-field bravado.

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