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The Book on Josh Rosen’s 2018 Rookie Campaign

Travis Wingfield

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The internet’s most detailed, comprehensive scouting report on new Miami Dolphins Quarterback Josh Rosen’s Rookie Season

Jump To:

The Final Report (2018 Cumulative Data)
Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

The 20th time’s a charm — at least that’s the hope for Josh Rosen among a Dolphins fan base starved for a solution at quarterback. Miami acquired the baby-faced, misunderstood UCLA product as a result of some clever draft-day dealings, and he now assumes that unenviable task that 20 others before him have failed to do — to replace Dan Marino.

Day-two of the 2019 NFL Draft began with a rumor that the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals were finalizing a deal that would send the embattled 13-game starter of 2018’s worst team, to 2019’s projected last place finisher.

The value of that initial, reported trade was dubious, but General Manager Chris Grier orchestrated the deal of the weekend by extracting Rosen from the desert while acquiring future assets in the process. Part of a two-trade operation, Miami wound up spending the 62nd-pick, and a 2020 fifth-round pick, to acquire Rosen along with a 2020 second-rounder from the New Orleans Saints.

Conflating the value of multiple trades into one culminating dividend isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the end result is difficult to ignore. Grier, and his newly restructured front office, continues to maximize the remaining value of the previous regimes wrongdoings.

After years of offseason championships, met with criticism from the majority of national publications, the 2019 Dolphins ushered in a new era with unanimous approval.

Josh Rosen’s 16-game audition will ultimately decide the winner-loser-dynamic of the trade. The beauty of the NFL comes via its unpredictable nature. Extenuating circumstances bring validity to either side of the Great Tannehill Rosen Debate. Volume statistics paint an ominous forecast for Rosen in the aqua and orange; while the precarious situation in Arizona did little to mitigate Rosen’s own shortcomings.

Regardless of Rosen’s 2019 performance, the Dolphins have three years of club control, on a top-10 pick, for a fraction of the current market value for said asset. A worst-case scenario would result in a backup quarterback playing on a contract far more team-friendly than the current going-rate for clipboard-holder services.

Professionals far more intelligent than you or I insist that past performance is not indicative of future results. In this line of work, however, all we have to work on is the previous evidence.

Without further ado, this is the evidence Josh Rosen gave us in 2018:

The Analytical Data

The term charting refers to much more than plotting the passes on a football-field-style-graph. In addition to that aspect of the project, I chart personnel groupings, field/boundary throws, pressure metrics, play-action numbers — the entire gamut.

Those numbers are not kind to Josh Rosen’s rookie season.

Depth splits (does not include throwaways, clock plays, or no-plays via penalty):

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 13/37 (35.1%)
11-19 yards 42/80 (52.5%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 170/231 (73.6%)
Total 225/348 (64.7%)

 

Personnel Grouping Splits:

Personnel Snaps Statistics
11 338 186/278 (66.9%) 1,707 yards, 6 TDs, 12 INTs, 72.6 rating
12 54 27/49 (55.1%) 421 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs, 100.8 rating
21 11 6/11 (54.5%) 50 yards
13 6 4/6 (66.7%) 88 yards
20 2 1/2, 11 yards
22 1 1/1, 1 yard
23 1 0/1

 

Conversion Numbers:

Situational Drop Backs Conversion Rate
3rd and 4th Down 39/138 (28.3%)
All Downs 116/413 (28.1%)
Red Zone 11/22 accuracy (4 TDs, 0 INTs)

 

Advanced contested, play-action and pressure numbers:

Situational Drop Backs Statistics
Contested Throws 39/123 (31.7%) 545 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs, 36.1 rating
Play Action 44/86 (51.2%) 655 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs, 86.1 rating
Under Pressure 48/114 (42.1%) 513 yards, 1 TD, 5 INTs, 40.6 rating

 

Additional Pressure Numbers:

Situational Drop Backs Statistics
Drop Back Pressure % 40.1% of drop backs
Sacks 44
Hits 75
Hurries 40
Average Snap-to-Pressure Time 2.29 seconds

 

Josh Rosen 2018 Air Yards Average 8.20 Air Yards Per Throw

 

The All-22 Strengths

Mechanics, spin, and drive – Rosen arrived on the campus at UCLA with the moniker “The Chosen One” because of his mechanical refinement. A five-star recruit, raised in an environment of passing camps and year-round training, Rosen’s astute mechanics begin with his foundation – the feet.

Rosen displays active feet in the pocket with hips hardwired to his eyes (allows him to maintain a threatening position as he scans through his progressions). He squares up to his target and typically transfers his weight seamlessly and successfully (except in one, unique instance that we’ll cover in the weaknesses portion).

Through these qualities, Rosen has developed a penchant for driving the ball to the field-side of the formation on deeper routes (comebacks, out-breaking routes, back-shoulder throws). He also displays the requisite spin to strategically get the ball over the top of underneath defenders, but with enough torque and spin to drop it in underneath the deep defender.

Variety of throws in the tool bag, and the knowledge for when to use each one – Different routes require different throws. Different defensive leverage can alter the appropriate times for said throws, and Rosen has an innate knowledge for when to use those different throws.

The wheel is a great example of one route that can require varying types of throws. If the deep safety rolls coverage away from the wheel, the QB can use touch and trajectory to drop the ball in deep down the field. If that window is tighter, however, the QB needs to stick the ball on the target with pinpoint accuracy and velocity (see Rosen’s TD pass at KC in Week 10).

Rosen showcases this skill on seam throws as well. These throws often come against bracket coverage that features a linebacker in trail technique with a safety over the top in cover-1, 2, 3, and 4. Rosen can effectively throw his target open despite the tight coverage in these instances.

Subtle movement to create clean platforms – The Arizona pass protection became so dire that Rosen began to anticipate breakdowns. Rosen could often find, and get to, clean areas of the pocket after failed protection, and deliver the ball on time.

Keeps eyes downfield under the rush – A byproduct of the above skill, Rosen doesn’t succumb to the same pitfalls that can consume young quarterbacks. He had plenty of opportunities to evade the rush immediately upon getting to the top of his drop. Rosen inherently looks to climb, opposed to escaping out the front-side or back-side, and has the required choppy footwork, and crossover step, to effectively get to cleaner platforms.

Even when presented with green grass ahead, after stepping up through the pressure, Rosen works laterally to survey his progressions. This combination of traits allows Rosen to effectively deliver the football under the face of pressure.

Post-snap defensive manipulation and ball-handling – One of Rosen’s biggest strengths comes from passing off of play-action. One way to force linebackers to overcommit to the dummy-run, is the validity of the ball fake from the quarterback. Rosen is trained in extending the football to imitate the same mechanics of a handoff.

But it’s Rosen’s work to displace zone coverage that stands out above all. He often uses pump fakes, subtle upper-body movement (shoulder shakes), and his eyes to keep the defense where he wants it.

Windows close as fast as they open at this level. Finding space in the hook zones often requires the QB to hold a safety with his eyes, or move a linebacker with that subtle body movement. Rosen showcased this ability in his very first start.

Gamer (third and long, fourth quarter) – On multiple occasions Rosen was having a difficult start to games during his rookie season. Then, when the Cards were behind on the scoreboard and the down-and-distance, Rosen’s play improved. Typically, he was at his best on third-and-long or in the fourth quarter with the game in the balance.

This trait tracks back to his final year at UCLA when he engineered one of college football’s greatest all-time comebacks against Texas A&M. These are unteachable traits that are either embedded in the player or not. It was not with Tannehill — it is with Rosen.

The All-22 Weaknesses

Accuracy in the short-intermediate areas – A trend developed over the course of 2018. Rosen would often sail passes in the short areas, in either direction, but more frequently to the left. On top of throwing the ball high, Rosen was culpable for miss-placing the football on the wrong hip/shoulder on basic flat routes, stick routes, and speed-outs preventing his target from creating after the catch — or worse – -resulting in drops.

The primary culprit for this flaw is a mechanical one. Rosen’s weight-transfer and gait is often very astute, but the quick set-ups (shotgun catch-rock-throw, or three-step drops from under-center) will see Rosen pull his front shoulder open because of the lead foot misdirecting his lead hip, and thus taking his upper-body of course. Again, it all starts with the foundation.

This mechanical flaw results in the arm-angle dropping, which causes the football to go high. Rosen works tirelessly on off-platform throws so this could improve with repetition.

Timing and anticipation – These are perhaps the two most crucial traits for NFL quarterbacks. Trusting the eyes, trusting the read, and throwing based on leverage and anticipation are qualities found in all the best QBs. Often times, Rosen is late to see the development of the route and pulls the trigger after the receiver has moved from the top (the stem) of the route.

This allows the defensive back to drive on throws and contest what would otherwise be an open window. Sprint rollouts, hitch and curl routes, and even throwing down the field with built-in shot plays showcased a shortcoming in this area for Rosen.

Athleticism – Rosen isn’t going to threaten the defense with his scrambling ability. What’s more, he can get heavy-footed when these two events occur simultaneously: 1.) The pass rush closes in and, 2.) Coverage is tight. Rosen had a propensity to double and triple hitch during his climb up the pocket, and his feet go dead when indecision sets it. Most quarterbacks are going to get beat in this area. Few show the ability to escape these treacherous waters — Rosen is not one of those few.

There are instances where Rosen had an escape route, and attempted to flee accordingly, but was caught from behind by the pursuit. Designed runs are not an option with Rosen at the controls.

Making plays off script – A byproduct of the above trait, if Rosen has to evade a rush and make a play on a broken route, it’s not likely to happen. There are moments when Rosen does find the big play off-script, it’s just not a common occurrence — especially compared to some of his counterparts at the position — including the guy replacing him in Arizona.

Decision making – Rosen is normally adept at identifying pre-snap disguise, but he shows a penchant for panicking when things go off-schedule. A lot of young quarterbacks will press the issue in these situations and Rosen is no exception. A fair number of his interceptions came from failing to identify a robber or combination coverages.

Ball security – Rosen fumbled the ball 10 times on 438 drop backs. He doesn’t demonstrate a strong grip on the football amidst a pass rush that’s closing-in, and tends to get loose with the ball when attempting to evade pressure. Rosen was solely to blame for several sacks turning into turnovers last season.

Failing to take what the defense gives – As evidence by the lofty air-yards-per-throw figure, Rosen often plays for keeps on the deep pass. Multiple times, in 2018, Rosen had check downs available, yet still forced the football down the field into coverage. This is another easily correctable trait and one that the Dolphins Staff will certainly drill into the 22-year-old’s knowledge database.

How to Set Rosen up for Success

Line of scrimmage autonomy – Former NFL Quarterback, and current renowned QB analyst, Trent Dilfer has been raving about the fit for Rosen in Offensive Coordinator Chad O’Shea’s system. As Dilfer describes it, it’s an academic scheme that challenges the quarterback by empowering him as the most important player on the field.

From the Inside the Film Room piece from February, we learned the nuances of the new scheme coming from Foxboro to South Florida. Concise phrases that gives the quarterback full control over his pre-snap conditions will give the astute Rosen the keys to the offense.

12 personnel, play action heavy game – Miami made some considerable hay last year working with 12-personnel packages featuring the High-Five Bros, Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. That pairing provides Rosen with speed on the edges, but the personnel grouping will accentuate his prowess attacking down the seams and throwing against matchup based looks, despite his less-than-stellar statistics in these areas.

The 12-personnel package’s (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR) primary objective is to keep the base defense on the field. Picture it this way, if you will. The Patriots run 12-personnel against the Dolphins because they knew it would often put Rob Gronkowski on Reshad Jones, and James White on Kiko Alonso.

Rosen excels at attacking linebackers in coverage with his refined ball placement on throws to larger targets in contested windows.

Attempt to develop a rhythm early – Rosen was extremely streaky in 2018. When he heated up, there wasn’t a throw he couldn’t make. Frequent three-and-out’s and limited success in the run led to far-too-many possessions where Rosen had one opportunity to make a play.

Using the backs in the swing/flat game. Using the electric, game-breaking wide outs on tunnel, bubble and slip screens can help Rosen mitigate those cold streaks and develop his rhythm early in games.

Identify match-ups and go after them – That’s the crux of the entire offense and it plays into the strengths of the new Miami quarterback. Running backs in the passing game, linebackers chasing tight ends up the seam after re-route attempts, and dictating deep safety help with the speed on the perimeter, Rosen has a cupboard stocked full of matchup nightmares — the Dolphins would be wise to use them…unlike the previous staff.

What Rosen Must Do to Prevent the Dolphins from Drafting his Replacement

Develop a trusting relationship with Chad O’Shea – Although it’s probably trauma inducing, think back to the game in Indianapolis this past season. Adam Gase showed Dolphins fans his exact feelings about the quarterback position when he took the ball out of Ryan Tannehill’s hands in crunch time.

Chad O’Shea and Josh Rosen need to be a perfect pairing from the word go. The way they communicate, the mutual respect between the two, getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, these two men must challenge each other in ways that bring the best out of one another.

This isn’t something we can’t quantify as fans, or even journalists. It’s an organic development that will either occur — or not — behind closed doors. When Miami is up against it in a crucial spot on any given Sunday this fall, that’s when we’ll know how the relationship has developed and progressed.

Elevate the play of his teammates – Strengths have a way of mitigating weaknesses in sports. Yes, a team is often only as strong as its weakest links, but therein lies opportunities to minimize the peril of weak spots on a football team. By the same token, there are opportunities to put the onus on the play makers in the offense. Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake; all proven big-play threats at this level. Rosen would be wise to take on the role of distributor and let these play makers do what they do best.

Demonstrate growth from opening day to week 17 – Mistakes are inevitable just as impressionable throws are certain to excite the fan base. What Rosen needs to do, to prove to the coaching staff that he’s an ascending player, is to limit the mistakes as the year goes along and show growth in the positive areas from the beginning to the end of the season.

It sounds obvious, but there needs to be a discernible difference between the Rosen we see in September, and the Rosen we see in December. Unless, of course, he comes out like an MVP from day-one — in that case, who cares?

The Upshot

Football fandom has undergone an evolution in the social media age. Victory is rivaled by the fan’s own individual nefarious purpose, i.e. hitting for a high average on the proverbial hot take machine.

Fans would be wise to put aside their preconceived notions with this 22-year-old quarterback. If Rosen is in fact the chosen one, the Dolphins will enter the 2020 offseason flush with resources, and a solution at the most important position in sports.

If Rosen is in fact the answer to the two-decade long search, Miami goes from bottom-barrel, tanking-accused, to offseason darling with unlimited upside in the span of one year — a turnaround that bests even the 2008 Miami Dolphins.

After nearly 20 years of torture, and living in the glow of division rival New England, which Dolphins fan wouldn’t want that?

@WingfieldNFL

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Daniel

    May 21, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Good article Travis. You have done a stellar job in breaking down Rosen’s games and skills. Keep up the good work! Fins up!

  2. Avatar

    Richard

    May 21, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Great work and very educational. Thanks!!

  3. Avatar

    David aka Bumrush

    May 21, 2019 at 1:08 pm

    Great stuff. You should forward this to someone on the Dolphins staff.

  4. Avatar

    Joe M.

    May 21, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Maybe I’m in the minority, and although this is a solid article/well detailed, who really and honestly cares about what he did last year? And while being a member on the absolute worst team in the NFL?

    We’ve already dissected every step he took and every word spoken. The fact is, he’s given a great opportunity to latch onto a team that desperately has needed a franchise QB for years and years! And the overriding hope is, that they’ve been FORTUNATE enough to land one at an easy-to-afford/absorb salary. Now let him go get it and lets let go of the maybes and right/wrong or good play/decision or bad play/decision.

    Because why? I think we all get it! So, stop trying to convince us we got a good deal and YET we still need to worry because he did not have a favorable rookie season under fire, and on a team in flux moreso than MIA, and yes that includes and not limited to the AZ GM comment/non-call garb. Some stuff is simply fodder to make the media s***pot spin for a week or 2 or 3 or 20!

    And so I end with diatribe with this – if you read this or hear about it –> Good luck, Josh! Have a great season! Prove the doubters and perpetual haters/doubters wrong.

  5. Avatar

    Whatsupdolfans

    May 22, 2019 at 12:28 am

    Great article Travis. You put in a lot work. It would help if you include the touchdown at KC week 10 in your articles. It looks like the dolphins could have found the future QB with some good coaching up and play calling/scheming. I hope so. Go fins.

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Scouting Reports

Face of the Franchise Series: Tua Tagovailoa

Travis Wingfield

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

Foreword:

7,091 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.

We start with the consensus number-one player, as we sit 10 months out from draft night, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Tua Tagovailoa 2018 Film Study

Searching for a third consecutive appearance in college football’s championship game, Tua Tagovailoa enters his junior campaign as the most decorated quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck in 2012.

“He does a lot of things you can’t coach — [he] sees the field, throws accurately, [he’s] athletic. He’s got a really unique package.” An anonymous NFL scout told AL.com. “He anticipates throws. He can really visualize a throw. Guys don’t have to be open, he sees openings before they happen.”

Jim Nagy, the Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, made his proclamation that Tagovailoa would’ve been the first pick this April were he draft eligible. He was not. And so he returns to Tuscaloosa to pilot yet another loaded Crimson Tide team under the watchful eye of both Nick Saban and the entire NFL community.

What Sets Tagovailoa Apart:

Accuracy and Natural Throwing Motion –

After just a couple of throws, it’s easy to decipher whether a passer is natural or conditioned. Whether on traditional drops and, or setting up on the move, Tagovailoa’s arm shows natural elasticity. This trait makes him a threat on structured set-ups, moving left or right, and when attacking the line-of-scrimmage.

The ability to drop the arm angle without sacrificing accuracy is what sets great quarterbacks apart from the good ones — especially in the modern NFL. Regardless of the circumstance, Tagovailoa finds his way back to proper mechanics, using his base to drive the football.

Everything is hard-wired across Tagovailoa’s mechanics. From his feet to his eyes, and his hips to his shoulders, his proper alignment creates impressive torque and spin on a variety of different throw-types (touch, drive, deep). Tagovailoa is the best deep ball thrower on the planet not named Russell Wilson.

Light Feet, Escapability, Poise Under Duress –

A lot of quarterbacks excel at the professional level without seamless weight-transfer. Legends like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger make up for heavy feet with anticipation of the rush, landmark identification of the rusher, but also the poise to pick up the route progression under pressure.

Tagovailoa has that inherent poise trait, but he couples it with effortless capabilities to freely glide in crowded areas. His sound, initial lower-half mechanics put him in a position to drive off his plant foot. This puts him in a position to climb, or throw drive-leg out and flea the pocket laterally.

This marriage of exceptional traits makes Tagovailoa a difficult passer to sack, a legitimate big-play scramble threat, and most importantly, a dangerous off-script play maker.

Processing and Cerebral Aptitude within the Structure of the Offense –

Alabama’s offense is loaded across the board. Opposing defenses often have to send pressure packages to rattle Tagovailoa, but his skill set usually renders those attempts futile. The Bama offense is chocked full of NFL concepts with three-man combinations and full-field reads.

Tagovailoa not only identifies and understands most pre-snap coverages and post-snap rotations, he knows which route combinations are designed to attack those particular coverages. His photographic-like memory allows him to blindly read the backside of a play and rip through his progressions in a flash.

Designed-Run Package –

There aren’t many superlatives needed for this bullet point; Tagovailoa can scoot.

Focused Areas of Improvement:

Short Memory –

Tagovailoa’s shortcomings feel like nitpicking — he’s exceptional. One universal knock on his game is the back-to-back underwhelming showings in the two championship games this past season. Tagovailoa showed a minor penchant to let bad play cavalcade and attempted to press his way through some struggles.

This wasn’t frequent enough of an occurrence to call it a habit, and that’s to be expected from a 21-year-old, but it’s something to watch this upcoming postseason when Bama is inevitably in the hunt once again.

Drive Throws –

Tagovailoa’s arm isn’t on the level of Matthew Stafford, but it’s more than adequate for the professional level. His anticipation prowess helps mask the lack of velocity on field-side drive throws, but the difficulty of those throws increases at the next level (elite athletes all over the field will do that).

Again, this is nitpicking. A good coordinator can work around something like this, but it’s a common throw in the NFL that could potentially prove problematic for Tagovailoa.

Getting Healthy –

The biggest gripe I found with Tagovailoa’s poor performances (poor relative to his early-season magic act) was the limitations of nagging knee and ankle injuries. Tagovailoa hurt the knee mid-season, and the ankle injury in the SEC Championship Game required surgery. The lingering effects were apparent in the National Title Game against a ferocious Clemson defense.

Two injuries in one season is the beginning of a red flag. Another season of nicks and bruises could give scouts pause regarding Tagovailoa’s long-term durability.

Potential Fit with the Miami Dolphins:

Tagovailoa’s anticipation, processing, and recognition of leverage and soft spots in coverage makes him a fit in any scheme. Miami’s offense, under former Patriots Assistant Chad O’Shea, figures to feature a lot of variety devised to attack that particular week’s opponent.

The Patriots controlled, short passing game is indefensible at its peak, and that’s Tagovailoa’s true ceiling. His pre-snap prowess would help Miami attack vulnerable matchups and keep the offense on-schedule. Tagovailoa’s deep ball could finally unlock the true potential of Kenny Stills and Jakeem Grant.

In New England, the Pats built shot plays into the structure of the regular offense. Tagovailoa’s attention to detail and general feel for the flow of the game can give the play caller (O’Shea) a set of eyes on the field to relay tendencies and weaknesses.

Conclusion:

Tagovailoa is the apple of every scout’s eye this college football season. His first colligate action — as a true freshman — was a heroic, championship rescuing performance on the game’s biggest stage. Since that game, Tagovailoa’s ascension has continued on the track of a generational prospect.

Tagovailoa is going to be the first player to hear his name called next April, should he declare (he’s eligible to return to Alabama for 2020). The Dolphins will likely have to obtain the first pick to get a crack at the Heisman hopeful.

If they do, the fortunes of this Miami Dolphins organization will change for the foreseeable future.

@WingfieldNFL

Up Next: Georgia Junior, Jake Fromm

Additional Videos

Anticipation and recognition of three-man route combination

Perfect back-shoulder ball

Footwork to help mitigate immediate pressure

Off-script dynamics

Poor ball placement costs Bama a TD

Rare occurrence where Tua doesn’t account for backside robber coverage

Finds a passing lane, resets and throws a strike

Rare mental mistake

High-level anticipation

Aerial assault on display

One of Tagovailoa’s six interceptions

Push up, avoid pressure, throw an accurate ball

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Miami Dolphins

How did the Miami Dolphins shape up in Lindy’s NFL Preview?

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Xavien Howard USA Today Sports
Star cornerback Xavien Howard. Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Lindy’s has released its annual NFL Preview. It not only covers each individual team but ranks all the best players at each position. There were some surprises, good and bad, but overall, the Miami Dolphins did not get a lot of recognition.

Lindy’s NFL Preview made its rounds on the Twittersphere on Wednesday, and with it came plenty of disagreement. The preview breaks down all the NFL rosters and ranks all the position groups of each team. So, did the Miami Dolphins fare very well with any of the position rankings? Let’s dive in and find out.

Let’s start with the quarterback. The list has three categories: Pocket Passers, All-Purpose, and Best of the Depth. I’ll give you second to think about which category might have a Dolphins QB.

Did you guess Josh Rosen in the Pocket Passer category? I hope not, because that’d be dead wrong. The winning answer is Ryan Fitzpatrick in the penultimate slot in Best of the Depth. In this case, he’s ranked fourth out of five in that category. He falls in between Jacoby Brissett and Blake Bortles.

Now, let’s move on to the pass catchers. The first ranked wide receiver on the list is Kenny Stills and he comes in at 15th on the rankings for the Deep Threat category. He’s tied with Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kansas City’s Sammy Watkins, but at least Stills made the first tier (The Ones). The next tier (The Twos) starts at 16 with Oakland’s Tyrell Williams.

DeVante Parker is the next name to make it on the list. He’s listed at sixth in The Twos. Parker and Stills were the only two Fins WRs to make the cut, which shouldn’t come across as a major plot twist since the Miami Dolphins receiving corps isn’t full of world beaters.

The next position on the list was tight ends. You might already know which direction this is headed since the Dolphins currently have a dearth of tight ends that is made up of B-list veterans and untapped-potential second-year players on the depth chart. Neither Mike Gesicki or Durham Smythe were mentioned, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

Nick O’Leary didn’t make the list, either, but Dwayne Allen did. Allen landed on the list at third on the Best of the Depth portion of the list. Allen falls between Virgil Green at two and Cameron Brate at four. The upper echelon rankings featured 16 other tight ends, which leaves an overall ranking of 19 for Dwayne Allen.

Don’t get bent out of shape from the first three categories, the best is yet to come. But not for the running backs. There was no mention of a single Miami running back in any of the three groups: The Ones, All-Purpose, Ground-Based, and Best of the Depth. That doesn’t speak well of the Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage duo.

On to the offensive line, the rankings were separated into five categories: center, left and right guard, and left and right tackles. The Dolphins had two total representatives in those five categories. And one of them wasn’t even on the team a month ago.

Laremy Tunsil is the obvious one and he made it to number 13 on the left tackle list. That seems criminally low to me. Tunsil was behind the likes of Carolina’s Taylor Moton, Atlanta’s Jake Matthews, and New Orleans’ Terron Armstead.

The only other entrant on these rankings was Jordan Mills, who was signed earlier this year after the Buffalo Bills let him hit free agency.

Lindy’s Preview also ranks the top five passing games, running games, and offensive lines for both the AFC and the NFC. I’ll just rip this bandaid off right now; the Dolphins weren’t in any of them.

Let’s move on to the defense; that ought to lighten the mood, somewhat. There’s not anything to mention in the 3-4 Ends/Tackles, Nose Tackles, 4-3 Ends, 4-3 Tackles, 3-4 Inside Linebackers, 3-4 Outside Linebackers, 4-3 Middle Linebackers, or 4-3 MIKE Linebackers

Let’s just skip ahead to the WILL Linebacker rankings to get our next Miami Dolphins plug. And in this case, we’ve got two names: Kiko Alonso at five and Jerome Baker at nine. That’s an encouraging thing to see after going nine categories without seeing any Dolphins. I’m also surprised that I didn’t see any mention of Raekwon McMillan, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

Another surprise was that there was no Miami safety named, either. Neither Reshad Jones nor Minkah Fitzpatrick made the cut, but I expect the latter to make his presence felt in the near future.

The biggest, and essentially only, bright spot in the Lindy rankings was Xavien Howard coming in at number one for all the corners. You read that right. While it’s certainly up for a lot of debate whether Howard is truly the best corner in the game right now, I’m not going to argue with it. I’m just going to rest on my laurels on X being recognized as the best by someone and be on my merry way.

Another smaller and less-expected surprise was the Dolphins being ranked in the AFC Best Linebackers. They came in at fourth in the conference and nine overall. That speaks volumes of the potential of the position group, namely Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillan.

 

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Miami Dolphins

Ranking Miami Dolphins Starting Quarterbacks (since Dan Marino) #10-1

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen both likely to start for the Miami Dolphins this year, we’re about to scream “blackjack!” when it comes to how many starting quarterbacks the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino retired.

No, this doesn’t win you any kind of jackpot, nor does it pay out 3-2 odds if you’re ever-so-lucky. This just means that the Dolphins have yet to solve the elusive quarterback riddle since they used to be the best quarterback-centric team of the 20th-century.

As we depicted in our #19-11 starting quarterbacks list, below is a basic chart of every starting quarterback Miami has had since that fateful 1999 season.

Note: Games Started, Starting Record and Winning % only depict regular season #s (not like there are too many playoff numbers to add). Passing TDs, INTs, Passing yards and Completion % take into account every regular season throw by that quarterback, whether they were a starter or if they came in as a backup.

A couple things to keep in mind with this list:

  • Rankings are based on a multitude of aspects:
    • What did the player cost?
    • What was their lasting impact with the team?
    • Their overall statistical performance and starting record with the team

Check out who cracked the list of top-10 “best” starting quarterback since Marino retired. Take note of the fact that it’s pretty freakin’ easy to accomplish, all you needed was a winning record (in just 40% of the cases, that is) and a positive TD/INT ratio to do so. Yeah, it’s been that bad, Dolphins fans:

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Whether it’s losing records, terrible completion %, pathetic TD/INT ratios or overall incompetence, these quarterbacks are the reasons we have so many nightmares when we think of the starting quarterback position as a whole. It’s thanks to them that we believe less-than-stellar quarterbacks are the best “solutions” we’ve had this 21st-century.

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10) Chad Henne

Chad Henne doesn’t crack the top-10 because he was good. In fact, the only positive highlight I can remember is him throwing a perfect touch pass to Ted Ginn Jr. over three New York Jets defenders.

Outside of that one touchdown pass, as well as the “duel” he had with Tom Brady to open the 2011 season – when Brady (517 yards) and Henne (416) broke the NFL record for most combined passing yards between two starting QBs in a game with 933 (ironically enough, they broke the record previously held by Dan Mario and Ken O’Brien – 927 passing yards) – Henne was a lost cause in Miami.

Essentially destined to be a backup, Henne never amounted to much. Rumor has it, the Dolphins wanted to grab Joe Flacco in the 2008 draft, but ended up getting outsmarted by Ozzie Newsome and the Baltimore Ravens. Leaving Miami with the next-best option (and apparently, an option they didn’t really want).

As a “waste” of a 2nd-round pick, Henne finds himself below most of these journeymen, even if he accumulated more starts and starting numbers than the rest.

9) Jay Cutler

Smoking Jay Cutler.

He was entertaining for the rest of America, but in the eyes of every Dolphins fan, he was a waste of $10m. It’s one thing if the team “had” to spend the money, but Miami could have carried over that $10m and set themselves up for a better 2018 season. Instead, Adam Gase thought he could salvage the season by luring Cutler out of retirement.

What a mistake.

Cutler was just as good as he was with the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos. That is, he was completely underwhelming. Outside of outdueling Tom Brady in Week 14 of the 2017 season, Cutler is best known for not giving a single ***k during his Dolphins tenure. And why would he? Why risk injury when you can ride off into the sunset with an easy 8-figure paycheck?

You could have given me $10m and I would have been just as successful as Jay Cutler was. In fact, I would have won 0 games for the Dolphins, and that would have actually been more productive than Cutler’s 6-8 starting record.

The world thanks you for existing, Jay Cutler. Miami Dolphins fans do not.

8) Joey Harrington

At the expense of a 5th-round draft pick, the Miami Dolphins acquired one of the biggest draft busts of all time.

As if his 18-37 starting record with the Detroit Lions wasn’t enough to deter the Dolphins, it seemed like Miami really wanted to overpay for mediocre starting quarterbacks in the mid-2000s. What started with A.J. Feeley eventually took them down the path of Joey Harrington and Trent Green.

There’s a reason why these quarterbacks were available, and it’s not because their trade partners had someone like Philip Rivers waiting in the wings.

Harrington could land anywhere on this list and you wouldn’t be wrong with your placement. Accumulating a 5-6 record during his time as a starting quarterback with the Dolphins, Harrington threw 12 touchdowns to go along with 15 interceptions and a 57.5% completion percentage. He wasn’t as bad as he was in Detroit, but he was just as worthless to this organization as he was to the Lions.

That is, he was a complete waste of time.

Harrington was actually one of the most controversial placements for me. I could have placed him somewhere in the bottom-10 and it would have been justified. My main reason for including him this high has to do with the overall number of games he started. If any of the quarterbacks below him had started 11 games, I feel like their statistics would be even worse than they already were (a big assumption to make, I know).

Jay Cutler and Chad Henne get lower ranks due to their cost, not their overall numbers.

7) Brock Osweiler

Here’s a man who nearly saved a Dolphins season after Ryan Tannehill injured himself (yet again).

Though his play was erratic, and each throw was an adventure in-and-of-itself, Brock Osweiler was (almost) what you wanted in a backup quarterback. A guy who wouldn’t sink your season if he had to spot-start a few games, and costing just $880k against the cap, his value is what propels him above most of these other starting quarterbacks on the list.

His stats don’t tell the entire story of how his starts went, but the only negative here is his 2-3 record. Everything else? Like I said, just what you want out of your backup.

Due to the Houston Texans vastly overpaying him, Osweiler has turned into a league-wide joke, but that shouldn’t nullify his admirably average performance with the Dolphins in 2018.

Any excuse I get to include this video in a post, I will take advantage of it every. single. time:

6) Damon Huard

Like Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard is a product of having a phenomenal team around him.

That 5-1 record is a sick joke when you look at the potential those Dolphins’ teams had. And when it comes down to it, it was pretty evident that the Miami Dolphins didn’t have much potential to work with at the starting quarterback position.

Huard infamously replaced Dan Marino in that fateful 62-7 playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars – Marino’s last game in a Dolphins uniform. Ironically, Jay Fiedler replaced Mark Brunell during that game and had a better statline than Marino and Huard combined (click here at your own risk).

Huard was essentially a holdover until the Dolphins found a new franchise quarterback (which they still haven’t found). It’s not that Huard did anything wrong (which is why he’s #6 on our list), it’s more the fact that he didn’t do much right.

Place Huard on the same teams Ryan Tannehill had, and you’re looking at a much lower ranking.

5) Matt Moore

The golden boy for much of the Dolphins fanbase, Matt Moore was never anything more than an overhyped backup quarterback.

Clamoring for Moore to start is all the evidence you need to notice how far this franchise has fallen since Dan Marino retired. It was more-than-evident that Moore wasn’t the answer at quarterback, but the backup quarterback is always the most popular player on your football team.

Moore didn’t offer us much hope, but he did solidify the Miami Dolphins playoff berth during the 2016 season. Taking over for an injured Ryan Tannehill after the former 1st-round pick led the team to a 8-6 record, Moore was tasked with keeping the Dolphins afloat for the final 3 games of the season.

And by George, he did just that. Winning 2 of the final 3 games of the season, Moore helped the Dolphins earn their first playoff berth since the 2008 season.

The thing is, Miami most likely would have made the playoffs if Ryan Tannehill remained under center, bringing forth the question whether or not Moore was worthy this entire time or if he was just in the right place at the right time.

Retrospect tells us, he was definitely in the right place at the right time.

4) Gus Frerotte

Gus Frerotte is probably the most-boring quarterback on this list.

Not speaking personality wise (RoboHenne was a thing for awhile), but Frerotte was just a generic starter for this team. Accumulating a 9-6 record as a starter the one year he was with the Dolphins, Frerotte was just another journeyman quarterback making a pit-stop in Miami.

Throwing for 2,996 yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, a 52% completion percentage and a 71.9 quarterback rating, there’s really isn’t much to say about Frerotte. He wasn’t horrible, and his starting record reflects the last remnant of those stellar Dolphins teams from the early-2000s.

3) Jay Fiedler

The main reason Dave Wannstedt and his Ron Jeremy mustache failed as the Dolphins head coach.

How do you establish one of the greatest defenses since the Chicago Bears’ 1985 Monster’s of the Midway team and not advance to the AFC Championship game at least once? Answer: Jay Fiedler is your quarterback.

Forever underwhelming Dolphins fans and eternally wasting the early-2000s Dolphins teams, Fiedler was a “competent” quarterback that prevented Miami from reaching their well-deserved apex as an organization.

A 66/63 TD/INT ratio says virtually all you need to know about Fiedler’s potential. Every time you thought the team would take a step forward, you’d come to realize that they were just stuck in neutral.

Fiedler has the honor of being the last Dolphins quarterback to win a playoff game, but was it really Fiedler that earned that honor, or was it the phenomenal teams he was playing with? (rhetorical question, we all know it was the teams he played for).

And the most disappoint part is, when all is said and done, he’s the 3rd-best starting quarterback this team has had in the 21st-century. Ouch.

2) Ryan Tannehill

We all want to bury Ryan Tannehill as a starting quarterback for this team, but is it because he was such a terrible player? Or is it because we are dealing with 20 years of futility and he was just another failed “answer” at the position?

Tannehill cost this team a 1st-round pick, but drafting him really wasn’t the wrong decision. Yes, Miami should have went with their gut and drafted Russell Wilson, but we can’t fault the team for trying to solve the most important position on the gridiron. Since Marino, Tannehill was the first (and only) quarterback the Dolphins have drafted in the 1st-round. If you’re going to be cheap with the most-vital position on the team, you deserve all the failures that come with it.

Tannehill is easily the second-best quarterback the Dolphins have run out there since Marino retired, and it’s not even that close. If Tannehill played with the same teams Jay Fielder had, he would be staring at a better starting record and a much better statline than he currently has. Truth is, Tannehill is the unfortunate byproduct of a franchise that has been inept for so long.

We have rightfully concluded that you can’t bring back a quarterback who has “failed” for 7 years, but is it entirely his fault? Yes and no.

Yes, Tannehill wasn’t “good enough” to lead the Dolphins to the promise land that is productive postseason football, but he wasn’t all that detrimental to the franchise either. The most detrimental thing you can say regarding RT17 is that the team took too long to move on from him. Not his fault.

A b******t tackle during the 2016 season meant Tannehill was unable to “lead” the team to the 2016 playoff berth. Allowing him to reaggravate the knee injury in 2017 was both the fault of the team’s medical staff and his own doing for insisting he avoid surgery and heal his knee naturally (this is the same medical staff that convinced Nick Saban that Daunte Culpepper was a better option than Drew Brees; exactly how much trust do you have in them?).

If it weren’t for the fact that Tannehill’s Dolphins’ career was simply average, he would be the number one quarterback on this list. And that says all you need to know about the team’s anemic answer(s) at the position.

Tannehill threw for 20,434 yards, 123 touchdowns and just 75 interceptions – all while accumulating a 62.8% completion percentage – better than every quarterback on this list except for Chad Pennington‘s 67.6% completion percentage (known for his ability to be a game-manager, and his ineptitude to throw a deep ball) and Brock Osweiler’s minimal playing time (63.5% completion percentage). Thank you bubble screens.

1) Chad Pennington

Here you have it, Dolphins fans. The only glimmer of hope we’ve experienced over a two-decade stretch. Unless you count Jay Fiedler failing to bring Hall of Fame talent far into the playoffs during the early-2000s, we all clamor to that one season Chad Pennington had.

We easily forget that Pennington was on the Dolphins’ roster for 3 years of his career, mainly because his deteriorating shoulder prevented him from playing meaningful football throughout that time.

Instead, the best quarterback the Dolphins have had since Dan Marino retired gave us one magical season. ONE!

Don’t get me wrong, going from 1-15 to 11-5 is one of the most impressive story lines any team experienced in the 21st-century, but it wasn’t enough to solidify the quarterback position for this team. It wasn’t even enough to earn the Dolphins a playoff win – losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wildcard game that 2008 season.

The runner-up MVP – and one of the most-accurate passers in NFL history – threw 4 interceptions that Wildcard game, giving the Dolphins virtually no chance at succeeding. That playoff game epitomizes the Dolphins 21st-century. Just when you think we’ve taken the next step, we get smacked in the face and put back in our place.

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