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Miami Dolphins

The Aftermath: Dolphins 6, Cowboys 31

Travis Wingfield

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Snap Counts, grades, draft order update, all things fallout from another lopsided loss

Foreword:

As we develop a weekly content schedule for the season, I wanted something to bridge the gap between the Sunday night game breakdown column and the Tuesday film review. So, here we are with a smorgasbord of information, statistics, snap counts, and whatever is prudent to the Dolphins game from the Sunday prior.

We’ll dive into the game data from Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, grab some quotes from the player’s and coach’s pressers, and continue to provide the most comprehensive coverage on the Miami Dolphins you can find.

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Team Stats

Six teams across the NFL landscape are without victory this NFL season (seven if you include 0-2-1 Arizona). Of those six teams, Miami possesses two of the first-round draft picks represented by the NFL’s doormats. Where Pittsburgh, Denver and Cincinnati were in it until the final moments, the Dolphins have made losing quite the spectacle.

At the moment, Miami is in no danger of losing the first pick — even at their best, this is a winless outfit.

When losing by 25 points is an improvement, the talent gap becomes obtrusively apparent. Even though the Dolphins were more competitive than the two games prior, the record-pacing data is still jaw-dropping.

The Dolphins point differential is projected to be, by far, the worst in league history. Miami are being outscored 133-16 this year — an average defeat of nearly 40 points.

Miami’s 44.3 points allowed per game, and 5.33 points scored per game would both be all-time NFL lows if the season concluded today. The negative 117-point differential is 80 points worse than the 31st-ranked team in the league (New York Jets).

Brian Flores’ team ranks last in team passer rating, red zone conversion rate, third down conversion rate, time of possession, yards allowed, rushing defense, and scoring on both sides of the ball.

The offense is free from total obscurity after Sunday’s strong first half. The unit climbed out of the last place ranks in total offense (31st, better than Adam Gase’s Jets), rushing (30th), and passing (29th). Yay, I guess.

Dolphins Offense:

Snap Counts

Player Snaps (% of Offensive Snaps)
QB Josh Rosen 65 (93%)
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 5 (7%)
RB Kenyan Drake 46 (66%)
RB Kalen Ballage 23 (34%)
WR Preston Williams 67 (96%)
WR Devante Parker 67 (96%)
WR Jakeem Grant 44 (63%)
WR Allen Hurns 5 (7%)
TE Durham Smythe 39 (56%)
TE Mike Gesicki 30 (43%)
TE Nick O’Leary 27 (39%)
OL Daniel Kilgore 70 (100%)
OL J’Marcus Webb 70 (100%)
OL Michael Deiter 70 (100%)
OL Evan Boehm 50 (71%)
OL Shaq Calhoun 40 (57%)
OL Danny Isidora 30 (43%)
OL Jesse Davis 20 (29%)

 

Two injuries bucked Miami’s trend of surviving games with all five offensive linemen intact. Durham Smythe supplants Mike Gesicki as the top snap-taker among the tight ends for the first time this season, and the Dolphins used only two running backs — another first this year.

The Dolphins personnel alignments were limited because of injuries to Allen Hurns (leaving Miami with only three active WRs), and along the line.

Still, battered and bruised, it was the best effort from a Dolphins offensive line this season.

Sep 22, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Although Josh Rosen was under pressure on 27 of his 47 drop backs, 20 of those were hurries. Two of the three sacks went to J’Marcus Webb in that dreadful second half, and the other to Michael Deiter (once moved to left tackle).

Webb, by the numbers, had an awful game. He allowed 10 total pressures on top of the two sacks. Deiter was second with six total pressures, and a host of Dolphins finished the game with two compromising snaps each.

Daniel Kilgore, Danny Isidora, Evan Boehm and Jesse Davis each pitched a shutout with regards to allowing a hit on the quarterback.

No Dolphins lineman graded better than 56.8 per PFF in the run game — a below-average grade. That distinction belonged to Isidora, with Deiter finishing bottom on the squad.

Josh Rosen hasn’t completed better than 50% of his passes in any of his three games this year. His 5.1 YPA yesterday brings his season average up to an even 5 yards per pass. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass, had two interceptions and a passer rating of 45.3 — 34th of 35 qualifying quarterbacks (the only one worse is Ryan Fitzpatrick).

A lot of those negative numbers come from a lack of help from his friends, like wide receivers dropping balls. Devante Parker, Preston Williams and Kenyan Drake all dropped one pass, the former two instances probably would’ve been touchdowns.

The highest passer rating on balls targeted in his direction among the WRs was Devante Parker at 82.6. Williams caught four of 10 targets, while Parker and Grant caught half of their opportunities.

Durham Smythe only had one target, but he did his best work in the running game. He’s adept at dig out and wham blocks — a focal point of Miami’s game plan Sunday. Mike Gesicki caught all three of his targets again, but only went for nine yards.

Smythe allowed two hurries in pass protection, but O’Leary pitched a shutout. They combined for 21 pass blocking reps — Gesicki wasn’t kept in to block once.

The Miami running backs are not getting the job done. Kenyan Drake’s pass protection was much better, but that’s where the praise ends. His yards after contact number was his usual at 2.58, but the fumble derails any positive.

Kalen Ballage continues to be the least imaginative runner in the league. Ballage averaged just 1.38 yards after contact, and his 1.2 YAC average ranks 82nd among 85 qualifying tailbacks.

Dolphins Defense:

Snap Counts:

 

Player Snaps (% of Defensive Snaps)
DL Charles Harris 67 (93%)
DL Christian Wilkins 45 (63%)
DL Davon Godchaux 42 (58%)
DL Avery Moss 39 (54%)
DL Taco Charlton 30 (42%)
DL John Jenkins 17 (24%)
LB Jerome Baker 72 (100%)
LB Sam Eguavoen 72 (100%)
LB Raekwon McMillan 21 (29%)
LB Trent Harris 17 (24%)
LB Vince Biegel 11 (15%)
CB Eric Rowe 71 (99%)
CB Xavien Howard 70 (97%)
CB Jomal Wiltz 29 (40%)
CB Chris Lammons 23 (32%)
S Bobby McCain 67 (93%)
S Steven Parker 39 (54%)
S Walt Aikens 39 (54%)
S Johnson Bademosi 17 (24%)

 

Believe it or not, it’s possible for individuals to have good days despite the team stat sheet — Christian Wilkins was one of them. Miami’s first-round pick led the team in pressures with three, and he made four tackles, two of those qualifying as run stops. The big fella added two more assists and didn’t miss any tackles.

Davon Godchaux was almost as good. In addition to his lone pressure in the passing game, Godchaux made four tackles and one of those good for a run stop.

Charles Harris tied for the team-lead in pressures, but both of his hits on Dak Prescott were schemed unblocked rushes. He didn’t make any stops in the run game.

Sep 22, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Devin Smith (15) can not make the catch in the second quarter against Miami Dolphins safety Bobby McCain (28) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Taco Charlton graded out poorly, likely due to his seemingly snap-in, snap-out confusion with his responsibility (he’s only been here for three days).

Jerome Baker only made three tackles on 72 snaps. He missed a tackle and was often washed against the run — PFF gave him the worst run-defense grade on the team. His coverage was stellar, however, allowing just 29 yards on seven targets (only three completed).

Sam Eguavoen had his best day as a pro. He missed one of his nine tackle opportunities, but he’s still not getting it done in coverage — Dallas completed all three targets on him.

Raekwon McMillan continues to quietly get the job done in a limited role. He made all three of his tackle opportunities (one for a run stop) and put a pressure on the QB.

Xavien Howard had his worst game since his rookie season. He was beaten for two touchdowns, 100% completion (5 for 5), and 70 yards.

Bobby McCain earned the team’s highest coverage grade. His picked off his lone target and joined Johnson Bademosi and Eric Rowe as players with above average grades via PFF. Rowe allowed only one of his four targets to be completed and Bademosi allowed three yards on one-of-two passing.

Ideal Draft Order

We all watched the Niners pull together a sloppy performance and take down our biggest foe this season, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite generating five takeaways, the Pittsburgh operation is in such dire straits, it still lost the game.

Mason Rudolph struggled immensely in his first start. The Steelers tackles were beaten regularly. James Connor suddenly looks unimaginative as the bell cow and the defense has long been a disaster.

Pittsburgh has the makings of a team that wins no more than four games, which means the Dolphins could wind up picking twice in the top-five next April.

Most teams have to part with considerable draft capital to move up and select the guy they covet. We saw the Texans, Eagles, Rams, Chiefs, Jets and Bills all move up to select their presumed franchise quarterbacks.

With Miami’s current pace, they’ll secure the number one pick and use that singular pick on Tua Tagovailoa. But after that, with another pick coming down the line, Miami could be the beneficiary of another team making a move for the guy they covet at quarterback.

The best scenario would involve Adam Gase and the New York Jets. Assume Miami finishes with the first pick; from there, if the Jets picked second, and Miami’s pick from Pittsburgh wound up third, the Dolphins would hold the keys to the draft.

With Sam Darnold in New York, and Miami selecting the quarterback first, teams would be lining up to jump the presumed next team in the draft to select their quarterback. The Jets would lose all leverage to do so with Miami behind them because of their marriage to Darnold.

This is just the best of many draft day scenarios that could play out. As things stand right now, Miami is in position to land its franchise quarterback, and collect a ransom for another team to land their presumed franchise savior.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

There’s A Fine Line Between Being A Genius & Being Dumb in the NFL

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

After successfully navigating through all of the pre-draft smokescreens better than teenagers can survive the high school rumor mill, the Miami Dolphins are in a position to flourish for the next decade.

Yes, it’s something we’ve said before almost annually, but this time, there’s a clear foundation that will allow the roots of this franchise to prosper.

We’ve Heard This Before

Tony Sparano blossomed under the Bill Parcells‘ coaching tree in Dallas, bringing with him an aura of prominence and a pedigree for smash mouth football.

After a miraculous 10-game turnaround that took Miami from #1 overall in the draft to division winners, fans felt they had the proper leadership in place.

That was soon debunked when the Dolphins followed an 11-5 (2008) season with 7-9 (2009), 7-9 (2010) and 6-10 (2011). It’s not that any of us feel that Sparano was a bad coach, but it was more-than-evident that he was handicapped at the quarterback position.

The Dolphins go 11-5 in 2008 because their quarterback was the runner-up in the MVP race, and they falter to 7-9 after that because they decided to build around Chad Henne.

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

From there, the Dolphins hired one of the best human beings on the planet – Joe Philbin. The notorious problem with Philbin was: he couldn’t lead a football team.

Failing to rein in Vontae Davis‘ hangovers, everything regarding Richie Incognito, the Chad Ochocinco saga (check out this damning ESPN article from 2012, which gives you a glimpse into how the player’s felt about Philbin early on), and all of the Mike Wallace drama. Those football teams had some decent talent, yet were never better than a mediocre 8-8 in Philbin’s 4 years.

Great person, but terrible with people.

Adam Gase then took a 1-4 season and made the playoffs at 10-6. All the optimism surrounding Ryan Tannehill seemed justified, and we were ecstatic for the future. But we came to learn that Gase’s coaching talents resembled more of a glorified offensive coordinator, which left players feelings ostracized and without a sense of direction – especially those on defense.

Like Philbin, Gase wanted a group of players that followed him, rather than developing a strategy that tailored to his players’ strengths. He traded away (or failed to re-sign) productive players drafted by Grier in years past, just because he couldn’t handle them.

After a 10-6 start to his coaching career (2016), we watched our hopes dwindle to 6-10 (2017) – accompanied with $10m worth of embarrassing Jay Cutler highlights – and then 7-9 (2018) after the “quarterback guru” couldn’t get any production out of a 2019 Pro Bowl & AFC Championship quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.

Offensive visionary, but he couldn’t see past his own shortcomings.

So Why is This Different?

This would be the definition of insanity….if it meant that we were following the same trend.

Yes, we understand the eternal caveat that we won’t know for sure until we see the results, but after a successful 2019 – and a stellar 2020 draft that features plenty of starting potential – we’re not going too far out on a limb to say that they have our trust.

Going into a vital 2020 NFL draft where the team held 3 first-round picks, the Miami Dolphins’ future rested solely on the leis of Tua Tagovailoa. For months we were on edge, because, as Dolphins fans, we just figured they would screw it up. But once they secured their quarterback of the future, the plan was simple: protect him.

Not only was the plan to build a wall in front of him, but Grier and Flores identified that some of these positions take more time to develop than others. Rarely do offensive and defensive linemen jump right in and become dominant players. The difference between pancaking teenagers in college to moving a mountain-of-a-man in the NFL is colossal.

Rookies go through such a strenuous process to improve their draft stock – immediately after completing a full college season – that they are burned out by the time their rookie year is over. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Deiter towards the end of last season; it’s no surprise we see their performance start to slide after putting in so much work throughout the year.

Drafting Austin Jackson (18th-overall pick), Robert Hunt (39th), and Solomon Kindley (111th) means Miami is giving their rookies time to grow before being asked to protect their most-important asset since Dan Marino.

Instead of a trying to learn the nuances of the NFL with a rookie quarterback, they can learn how an offensive play is properly setup, executed and audibled under a veteran, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

When it comes time to protect Tua Tagovailoa in 2021, they won’t have to worry if they understood the protection, if they’ll make a rookie mistake, or if they’ll naively and unintentionally do something embarrassing or costly. They’ll be able to focus on executing the play properly, giving Tua an ample amount of time to handle his own “rookie” adjustments.

With Raekwon Davis, the Dolphins acquire another player at a position that tends to need some time to grow. This move makes me wonder what the future holds for Davon Godchaux, who is expected to receive a very nice payday in free agency after this season, but for now, Miami can rely heavily on Godchaux and their 2019 1st-round pick, Christian Wilkins. Davis has the opportunity to learn under these two as he prepares to take on a much bigger role in 2021.

With their final 1st-round pick, Miami selected another young player at a cornerstone position. The adjustments rookie cornerbacks need to make when guarding an NFL receiver are somewhat substantial, and Noah Igbinoghene will be able to learn and make these adjustments while covering the opponent’s third or forth receiver – with the added security that he has an array of established and Pro Bowl veterans behind him.

This might hint at an ugly and somewhat inconsistent 2020 season, as roughly half of this roster is new to the team, but all of these young players will start to excel as Tua begins to transition into our full-time starting quarterback.

Which means the Miami Dolphins are ready to make a legitimate playoff run in 2021.

Is it possible all of these risks falter? Of course! Austin Jackson just turned 21 years old, and he wasn’t viewed as the best left tackle in college last season – he is a projection. Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round caliber cornerback, as most “experts” think he’s restricted to covering the slot rather than becoming a boundary corner. And then you have the general, inevitable fact that some of these picks just won’t pan out.

But we watched players like Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel and Nik Needham take the “next step” under Brian Flores stewardship. It only makes us wonder who he’ll coach up next.

Now that Flores is more-comfortable as a sophomore coach, and the team understands his “win no matter what” philosophy, Miami should naturally thrive in year two….right?

Like all of these other coaches before him, Flores is an absolute genius after year one. And like all those coaches before him, he’s one season away from looking like a dunce.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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As the doors of the Dolphins’ training facility open to the newly signed rookie class, they close for another former Miami-hopeful after an active weekend of roster moves.

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

Roberts began his NFL career in 2017 out of Toledo as a 4th round pick of the Detroit Lions, possessing ideal measurements (6’5”, 265lb) for a playmaking TE.

A shoulder injury in December 2018 cut short Roberts’ time in Detroit and he was waived by the Lions following a failed physical as part of an attempted trade with the New England Patriots and subsequently waived quickly again after being picked up by the Green Bay Packers.

Roberts underwent reconstruction of the injured left shoulder in August 2019, having struggled both physically and mentally as his career path veered away from his dreams. Signed by the Dolphins in February 2020, it was hoped that Roberts could revive his NFL career in Miami’s TE room, competing with Durham Smythe for the TE2 spot behind Mike Gesicki.

At only 26 years old, it remains to be seen whether the young TE will be able to regain full health and return to the game, but the craziness of 2020 only puts further hurdles in his path as training camp rosters are reduced across the league to 80 players in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Don’t expect Brian Flores and his staff to sit on their hands when it comes to competition – 2019 highlighted on a regularly churning roster of names being given a chance to succeed – and this approach is expected to continue at certain positions. As such, Saturday’s news that former Chicago Bears’ TE Adam Shaheen had been acquired by the Dolphins ensures that healthy competition can continue to spread through the roster, and proves the willingness of the front office to give chances to promising players who may not have achieved during their first NFL stop.

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Miami Dolphins

In A Perfect World, Tua Tagovailoa Doesn’t Start a Single Game

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

If everything goes right, Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to start a single game for the Miami Dolphins in 2020.

Nope, you didn’t misread that last sentence. Tua Tagovailoa riding the bench is the best thing that could happen to the Miami Dolphins this season, and if you think otherwise, then you haven’t been paying attention to what Brian Flores has been preaching since his arrival.

The obvious factor everyone is taking into consideration is the health of Tua’s hip. And while that definitely plays a part, it has minimal affect on his playing time. You see, barring a trade, Tua is the third-best quarterback on the roster right now.

Combine his inexperience, a COVID-restricted offseason, and that pesky hip injury, and it’s safe to say our questions have already been answered.

The Better Player Plays

With this team, it’s no secret that playing time is awarded based on a player’s performance both in games and during practice. It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how much money you’re making, if you aren’t better than the athlete next to you, you aren’t playing.

In fact, didn’t we just go through a very similar situation last year when the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen from the Arizona Cardinals for a 2nd-round draft pick?

We all assumed that Ryan Fitzpatrick was keeping the seat warm until Rosen – a top-10 draft pick one season prior – was ready, but when Flores had the opportunity to simultaneously give a young quarterback experience and tank for Tua, he did neither. Instead, opting to (nearly) sabotage the opportunity to draft Tagovailoa and win as many games as possible with Fitzpatrick.

Rosen has much more upside than Fitzpatrick, but he couldn’t muster more than 197 snaps under center last season.

Just like that, the culture was set. Flores wasn’t fucking around – it was win at all costs, and the players bought in. One season later, that mantra certainly hasn’t changed.

Tua has more talent and better quarterback traits than Fitzpatrick and Rosen (probably combined), so there’s no arguing which quarterback we want to build a franchise around, but who is going to win the team more games this season?

I don’t doubt that Tua is a football genius that will pick up a playbook quickly, but knowing your plays and executing against an NFL defense are two completely different things.

Fitzpatrick has been in the league for 15 years while Tua has been in the league for 14 weeks; there is A LOT Tua has to learn before he can make the kind of reads Fitzpatrick can instinctively make after 139 starts in the NFL.

Josh Rosen may not evolve into an elite, franchise-saving quarterback, but he’s not terrible either. Two years of experience and a season-worth of starts (16) under his belt gives him an instant edge over Tua. The only thing that levels Rosen with Tagovailoa is they’re both learning Chan Gailey‘s offense for the first time – and for Rosen, this would be his 4th different offense in the past 4 years.

Otherwise, Rosen already has a rapport with the coaching staff, the medical staff, all of the workers in the building, and the receivers on this roster. In other words, he’s comfortable in his surroundings while Tua is trying to get acclimated to a brand new life.

There are going to be growing pains and a learning curve – two things we admittedly need Tua to experience in order to evolve. But the question becomes, when can Miami afford to experience those “opportunities”? Certainly not if they believe they are…

Playoff Bound

The Miami Dolphins – and most importantly, Brian Flores – believe they are in a position to make a legitimate playoff run.

Scoff however much you’d like at the notion that this team, one year removed from being “the worst team in the NFL”, is on a cusp of making a playoff appearance, but don’t tell anyone in the Dolphins’ organization that you think that.

A remastered secondary, a veteran presence among the front-7, an entirely new offensive line, and real, productive running backs means the Dolphins are all-but-guaranteed to improve on their 5-11 record.

In fact, the only thing holding them back from a legitimate playoff run is the quarterback position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick has won more than 6 games as a starter just once in his career, and Rosen only has 3 wins to his name (none as a Dolphin). If the team falters, it’s because these two quarterbacks couldn’t carry a well-built football team to the playoffs.

And that’s where the disappointment of another lost season is met with hope for the future. It won’t be until the Dolphins are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs that the team will trot Tua Tagovailoa out onto the field.

Waiting until so late in the season checks off every single box you need. It gives him time to:

  • Learn his way around the NFL
  • Understand the playbook better
  • Observe the game from the sideline
  • Gain chemistry with his receivers

Oh, and it also helps ensure that his hip is healthy, because…

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

Being stuck inside during an international pandemic may have made it seem like a lifetime ago, but it’s only been three short months since we all clamored to a 14 minute video of Tua Tagovailoa throwing scripted passes; our eyes inexplicably glued to a man’s hips, unscientifically judging whether or not he was healthy. Try explaining that one to your significant other.

While we are all thrilled with recent medical reports and first-hand accounts from the quarterback himself, it would be downright idiotic to mess around with a hip injury.

The only reason Tua Tagovailoa was available at the 5th-overall pick was because of the uncertainty surrounding his hip, those concerns don’t suddenly disappear just because he’s on your roster and we’re excited to see our prized possession play.

Let his hip heal and let him practice against a secondary that includes Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, Brandon Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, and Eric Rowe. He’s going to learn just how quickly throwing lanes close and how tight they are to begin with.

Don’t convince yourself that Tua has to start games this rookie season to be the elite quarterback he’s projected to be. Patrick Mahomes started one game his rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t start until his forth season in the NFL. If all of the hype is real, then his career will be just fine.

The plan isn’t to count moral victories, but to win football games – and Tua Tagovailoa gives the Miami Dolphins the best chance to do that for the foreseeable future. But for now, Ryan Fitzpatrick is your starting quarterback, and until Josh Rosen relinquishes the job as backup, it won’t be Tua’s until 2021. Mission Accomplished.

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