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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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Miami Dolphins

25 Things We’ve Learned 25 Days into the 2019 Miami Dolphins Season

Travis Wingfield

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Camp kicked off 25 days ago, giving us a month’s worth of visual evidence; here’s what we know so far

Preseason reps are not the end-all-be-all, and training camp practices won’t put players in the Hall of Fame, but there’s a purpose every time the chinstrap is buckled. For a team that harps on the fundamentals and executing the job that has been asked on a down-by-down basis, every rep has meaning.

The NFL calendar never sleeps, but the true beginning of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season began on July 25, exactly 25 days ago. With 10 practices under my belt, an intra-squad scrimmage, and two preseason games digested to the max, these are the 25 things I’ve learned over this first month.

Some of these things are big, some are small, some are encouraging, some are concerning. We start with the biggest of them all.

Big Things:

1. Xavien Howard – Money Well Spent

Xavien Howard’s been targeted a lot over the last month. He’s allowed a few catches, mainly in unjust 1-on-1 periods, but he’s also pulled some down, too. A lot of them. And that trend has continued through a scrimmage, joint-practices with an opponent, and one live game. X, as he’s so aptly named, exemplifies Brian Flores’ message on and off the field.

2. Laremy Tunsil – Next in Line

There’s a term — set and forget — that refers to such a comfort level with said player, that you don’t even bother watching him. He’s got it. Laremy’s got it. The feet, hands, strength, athleticism, quickness; a trip to Tunsil island is a dreadful way to spend a Sunday afternoon for edge rushers.

3. Jerome Baker – Glow Up

His rookie year looked promising, but no one could’ve seen this coming, not this fast. Baker had a strong debut season, but he wasn’t a full-time player, and he had his vulnerabilities. Now, he’s doing everything under the sun with supreme professionalism and execution. He plays at a different speed and contributes in all three phases (blitz, cover, run-support).

4. Josh Rosen – Signs of Life

USA Today Sports Josh Rosen Miami Dolphins

Aug 16, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) throws a pass in the first half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations always should’ve been low for a kid who is brand new to the league — brand new to his now third new home in three years, but that’s football. It was whatever in May. It was concerning in July. Then, in August, Miami’s second-round investment started playing a little freer. Getting into his second, third, sometimes fourth read, while moving away from a compromised pocket, things could be clicking.

It’s not a consistent theme yet — and it needs to be very good, and very consistent to push Miami off the 2020 QB Class — but that coveted trait, the consistency, is progressing. That much at least deserves monitoring.

5. Pass Rush Scheme – As Advertised

Saying goodbye to Cam Wake and Robert Quinn took a lot of juice off the edge for Miami. Those departures, and the Dolphins unsubstantiated interest in Trey Flowers, all but confirmed the shift to a new scheme that relied on games, gap integrity, and blitz packages to get after the quarterback.

Jerome Baker has been running free on QBs all camp and preseason. Charles Harris, Christian Wilkins, Tank Carradine, Dewayne Hendrix, Jonathan Ledbetter — a host of Dolphins blood-thirsty rushers are turning up the heat on opposing passers with regularity.

Encouraging Things –

6. Preston Williams – Star potential 

Despite his two-drop showing on the first-team Thursday, Preston Williams has shown true number-one receiver potential all summer. He’s crafty in the way he jostles for position, his strong hands are evident at the release from the line-of-scrimmage, as well as in catching the football. He transitions well enough out of breaks for a man of his size and stature.

At that build, with that catch radius, Williams’ deep-ball prowess has been the most encouraging. If he takes off in this capacity, once the games begin to count, this Miami receiving corps looks much more imposing.

7. Sam Eguavoen – Canadian Pipeline Still Flowing

Minor warts in Eguavoen’s game show up periodically, but his strengths far outweigh the parts of his game Miami will look to mask. He’s plenty adept at defending the edge, rushing the quarterback, and dropping into coverage.

The ability to close down on an underneath pass, but also fall off 15-yards downfield, is the type of versatility needed for a modern-day linebacker.

8. Bobby McCain – Experiment No More, He’s a Safety

Watch the broadcast version of a Miami preseason game and you might miss McCain altogether. He’s typically 12-20-yards off the football, but the opposition’s lack of interest in trying anything vertical is a testament to McCain’s quick acclimation.

All camp long, McCain was working on reading route concepts, flipping the hips, and taking proper angles in help-coverage. He has the makeup to do it, and so far it’s working out.

9. Mike Gesicki – Playing to his Strengths

Some writers suggest that Gesicki is falling out of favor, but I see a player doing exactly what he was drafted to do. He’s flexing out into the slot, in plus-splits (outside the numbers) and he’s uncovering with regularity in the passing game.

He’s only played a handful of snaps, and he’s created separation on all five of his preseason targets. Gesicki caught three of them, while the other two were misfires from the quarterback.

10. Jonathan Ledbetter – Aptitude for the Scheme

Eye-discipline, heavy hands, stout at the point-of-attack — you’ll often hear these phrases when the coaches discuss the prototype for defensive linemen. Ledbetter plays with his hands in front of his eyes, keeps his pad-level low, strikes first, and adheres to his responsibilities in the two-gap scheme.

11. Jason Sanders – Money in the Bank

If he missed kicks in training camp, I didn’t see them. Every time Sanders lines it up, he’s right down the fairway. This was true on hid 45- and 49-yard kicks on a soaked playing surface on Friday, as well as his 48- and 23-yard kicks in the preseason opener.Sanders added angled kickoffs to his game, and has been placing those chip shots precisely into the coffin corner.

Things that are Just Things:

12. Michael Deiter and Shaq Calhoun First-Team – Tipping the Offensive Plan

It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that this pair of rookies have similar strengths and weaknesses. Both players frequently create push in the running game, but are a bit of a coin-flip in regards to pass protection.

Brian Flores spoke all offseason about his affinity for running the ball, and starting the rookies — — over a player like Chris Reed — serves as a pretty sound indicator for that preference. Our next bullet point speaks a similar language.

13. Chandler Cox – 21-Personnel Back in Miami

“Defending a fullback in the running game is a difficult thing for a linebacker to do.” That was Coach Flores’ comment back in minicamp when asked about the Chandler Cox selection. Miami has to play small-ball this year to find wins, and that means staying on schedule offensively.

Cox has had his ups-and-downs, and Miami gives reps to Durham Smythe and Nick O’Leary as potential backups, but it doesn’t end with a fullback-tailback combination — Miami has regularly shown 21-personnel with dual tailbacks.

14. Jesse Davis – Tackle Tryout

A tackle in college, and position-less mutt through his first two years as a pro, Davis settled into a seemingly permanent right guard position last season. That didn’t go particularly well, and now Miami will kick him back outside with mixed results.

Davis, occasionally vulnerable in pass-pro, is better in the running game. He’s athletic enough to execute a number of pulls (counter trey, play-side), and should benefit from help by the running backs since Tunsil blocks out the sun on the other side.

Discouraging Things:

15. Devante Parker – Minor Ailments

Another ripping and roaring start to camp has since plateaued, both because of his play and another minor injury that sidelined the former first-rounder. Even if Parker posts career numbers this season, can Miami really trust him? The two-year contract was wise in that it gives the Dolphins the extended evaluation before pulling the trigger on a big extension.

At this stage, the emergence of Preston Williams might make that point entirely moot.

16. Chris Reed – Any Day Now

Training as the primary backup center to Daniel Kilgore, the chances are very likely that Reed has to come off the bench at some point this season, but I expected more. He has the intelligence and instincts to play above replacement level between a competent center-tackle bookend, but he’s not recaptured his first-team status since his day-three demotion.

17. Jalen Davis – Not Picking Up Where He Left Off

One of the pleasant surprises of yester-year, Davis’ strong finish to the 2018 season has yet to carry over. He’s been buried on the third-team and is struggling to find success at that level. It might be another year on the practice squad before Davis — primarily a slot — can contribute.

18. Matt Haack – Bottom Barrel Punting Average

Punting is not something I’m claiming expertise in, but I know that Haack ranked 25th in average last season, and he’s currently 27th this preseason. He has the ability to boom balls into the atmosphere, but the shanks are far too common.

Bad Things:

19. Offensive Line – Offensive

Aug 9, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo reacts during a preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. The Colts defeated the Seahawks 19-17. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not been good. It’s the one position with a considerable amount of stink — cumulatively spread about — on the roster. From firing the coach of the room, to the on-field execution, only one thing aspect is consistently coming up on the list of pros: 78. This is mostly an individual’s checklist, but this group needs its condemning.

20. Dave DeGuglielmo – Where’s the Expertise?

Firing Pat Flaherty was an upgrade, according to many. So far, DeGuglielmo’s group is failing to properly communicate and pass off games from the defense, there are blown protections each week, and the backup units are utterly futile. He wasn’t given a lot to work with, but DeGuglielmo’s returns have not been pretty — Miami QBs have been sacked seven times in two games.

21. Swing Tackle – Swing and a Miss

Jordan Mills was thrown into the fire for an absent Laremy Tunsil in week-one, and the returns were disastrous. Mills missed Thursday’s game; taking his place, former AAF player, Jaryd Jones-Smith. The results were the same. If Miami loses either of Tunsil or Davis, things could get ugly quickly.

22. Secondary – Paper Thin

Xavien Howard is an all-pro, Eric Rowe looks the part, Minkah Fitzpatrick is excellent in coverage, and the safety trio is capable. Beyond those six, there might not be enough competent players to get through the season. The Patriots defense (similar schemes) rolls double digit defensive backs into the game plan throughout the year — the Dolphins are several bodies short of being able to say the same thing.

23. Reshad Jones – Cashing Checks

Jones missed 10 games in 2016 for a shoulder injury. He played through another shoulder ailment in 2017 and did not have a good season. Last year, he missed two more games, and voluntarily removed himself from a third. This year, he skipped OTAs (the voluntary portion), and has missed more practices than he’s been a part of.

Jones was running with the second-team throughout those healthy days, and he’s perfectly content to do that at his current pay rate.

24. Kenyan Drake – Time is Running Thin

Drake’s explosive skill set, versatility, and big-play ability was on display throughout camp, but an injury puts everything on hold. Miami are being discrete about the severity of the injury, but in a contract-year, Drake needs a consistent, strong showing for 17 weeks.

25. Raekwon McMillan – More Health Concerns

McMillan entered camp as a second-team ‘backer, earned first-team work early in camp, but has been missing ever since with an injury. As youngsters around him emerge, McMillan’s lack of involvement casts a cloud of uncertainty over his position on this roster.

It’s pretty clear what this Dolphins team is going to be this season. A smart team that — hopefully — doesn’t beat itself, but comes up short on talent in key areas. The defense should improve considerably from last season, and the offense remains a major question mark.

The showing of the defense in Tampa Bay is a great step in that direction, and further help is on the way (no Howard, Jones, McDonald, McMillan, or Andrew Van Ginkel for that game). Regardless of what happens on offense, with Miami’s deep free agent pockets, war chest of draft picks, and desire for that coveted top-five drafted quarterback, a surge on defense would spell a successful 2019 season.

Things are trending in that direction.

@WingfieldNFL

 

 

 

 

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Lose in Tampa — Preseason Week 2 Recap

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins Defense Dominates, Offensive Futility Leads to Defeat

Stat Dolphins Buccaneers
Total Yards 280 312
Rushing 118 75
Passing 162 237
Penalties 13/122 8/81
3rd/4thDown 2/15 4/15
Sacks For 4 5
TOP 27:43 32:17

 

Did Not Play:

CB: Xavien Howard
WR: Devante Parker, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant
S: Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald, Walt Aikens
OL: Zach Sterup, Jordan Mills
LB: Kiko Alonso, Andrew Van Ginkel, Raekwon McMillan, Chase Allen, Quentin Poling
RB: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage

The Skinny

Which would you like first, the good news, or the bad news?

The strong winds and heavy rain Friday night impacted both offenses at Raymond James Stadium. The Dolphins and Bucs exchanged field goals and punts in an exhibition game that went 54 minutes before its first touchdown (each team scored in the final 3:35).

Defensively, the Dolphins showed their collective teeth with some creative blitzes, constant pressure, and sound coverage on the back0end without the team’s best player (Xavien Howard).

After a demotion to the second-team before Tuesday’s practice, Charles Harris responded with a monster game. The 2017 first-rounder picked up two sacks and four additional QB hits on the night.

CFL signing Sam Eguavoen flashed on a similar level. The linebacker forced a fumble, made a pair of run stops and got his hands on a deep in-cut after falling back into coverage.

Jerome Baker — as you see by the above video clip — answered our question in the preview piece about his blitzing prowess. Baker was a menace in all three phases once again.

On offense, it was a struggle for the ‘Phins. The quarterback battle suddenly leans in a new direction — albeit it coming by-way of default scenario — and the offensive line has gone beyond catastrophically awful.

Let’s go position-by-position.

Quarterback

Josh Rosen played the entire first half and effectively moved the ball on a couple of series. Still, some accuracy issues, a late read on fourth-and-goal from the two, and another woeful interceptable pass (which was dropped) undid a lot of the goods Rosen showcased.

Those “goods” featured adequate pocket mobility, improved body language, and a continued strong effort when the plays mattered most (third down, two-minute drill). Rosen often had to get off the spot, find a new passing avenue, reset, and deliver the ball.

Miami dropped multiple balls in their own right, further putting Rosen at a disadvantage. The body language and demeanor that Brian Flores criticized his young QB for was demonstrably better in this game. He battled through difficult conditions, a fierce pass rush, and once again delivered a scoring drive in the final two minutes.

Rosen — as it stands right now — deserves the opening day nod. Though it doesn’t appear he’s going to get it; Flores quickly announced Fitzpatrick as the starter for next week’s game vs. the Jaguars.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s play hasn’t inspired a lot of hope if he is indeed declared the starter. Fitzpatrick matched Rosen’s poor decision making, and struggled with his own accuracy all night. The veteran was thrown to the wolves and was constantly under duress, but if you compare his second-team showing to Rosen’s effort last week, the youngin’ clearly won that battle.

It would be entirely disingenuous to leave this video out of the post-game column.

Jake Rudock threw an inexcusable interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, but responded with the go-ahead touchdown-and-two-point drive in the final moments.

Running Backs

Kenyan Drake is out with an injury and Kalen Ballage did not play. Mark Walton was the beneficiary with plenty of work in the first half, excelling particularly in the passing game. Walton stuck a big time blitz pickup on a five-man rush and caught a slant, from a plus-split- for a first down.

Walton is pretty clearly the third best back on the roster, though he bounced a goal-line run that was built for a B-gap lead.

Patrick Laird ran for 45 yards on six carries. He’s a patient runner with quality vision and enough burst to make his runs work. Myles Gaskin teamed up in a few two-back sets, but he didn’t have a lot of room to work with.

Kenneth Farrow busted a big run, but it was the result of a massive lane opened up by the Miami blocking on a split zone, backside dig-out.

Chandler Cox is mixed bag — and this feels redundant. He hit some nice lead blocks, but wound up on the ground too much again. He was hit with a holding penalty tonight as well.

Wide Receivers

Burn the wide out film from this one. Drops, minimal separation, failure to get clean releases against press — Miami’s deepest offensive position group did not hold up its end of the bargain in the loss.

Preston Williams had a dreadful night. He had at least two drops, both of which would’ve moved the chains. He nearly came down with another ridiculous highlight reel catch where he tipped the ball to himself, and brought it in at the pylon, but his foot was on the chalk.

Kenny Stills might’ve been credited with a drop on the first play of the game, though it’s unclear if the ball was tipped. He did, however, convert a third-and-short on a drag route. Stills came in short-motion to create a stack, and then won with a clean release.

Isaiah Ford and Brice Butler had the best nights among the group — they had two catches and moved the chains once each. Ford uncovered in the end zone on the fourth-and-two play, but Rosen was a beat late and a hair low.

Saeed Blacknail uncovered for a big gainer and Trenton Irwin caught the two-point conversion on a wide open flat route.

Tight Ends

Nick O’Leary’s block sealed the edge on the long Farrow gallop. He caught one pass for five yards, and did his usual work blocking the edge in both the run and the pass game.

Mike Gesicki is showing continual signs of progress. He uncovered three times, caught two of the targets, and the third was considerably behind him on an open slant route.

Dewayne Allen committed a hold on a run from inside the five, and Durham Smythe had a 22-yard reception.

Offensive Line

Laremy Tunsil returned and showed Dolphins fans exactly why he needs an extension. The pay-day is coming, but the price goes up every time Tunsil gets isolated in protection and handles the task with ease. He’s so quick to gain depth and prevent speed rushes, or underneath moves — he’s elite.

The rest of the line…is not. Though Michael Deiter looked the part the majority of the night. He still has some reps where he bends at the waist, and is left to the vices of the man across from him, but he’s picking up combination blocks and playing sound, assignment football in this game. He was the next best behind Tunsil and reason for optimism on that left side.

Jesse Davis surrendered a sack when he overset, despite help available from the back, and lost on a counter move working inside.

It’s difficult to assign blame on some pressure looks, but Shaq Calhoun is often part of blown protections with a variety of right tackles. He does, however, continue to get adequate push in the running game.

The rest of the interior line was not good, Daniel Kilgore got taken for a couple of rides and communication issues continue to persist.

Miami’s search for a swing tackle is not going well. Jordan Mills was down tonight and his replacement — Jaryd Jones-Smith — was an absolute train wreck. He was consistently beat with a speed rush off the edge and just doesn’t have the quickness to play the left side.

Defensive Line

Coach Flores is going to test the mettle of his guys. He wants to put stress on a player, and when things appear to be coming together, take that strain up another notch.

For Charles Harris, perhaps this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Harris was a menace. He whipped starting Left Tackle Donovan Smith (video below) helping to end the Bucs first drive, and then went to work on poor backup tackle, Cole Boozer. Harris won with speed, with a counter moves, and he defended the run.

Welcome to the NFL, Christian Wilkins. The first-round pick was disruptive. Number 97 recorded his first sack, another bone-crushing hit on the quarterback, and consistent penetration all night long.

Davon Godchaux is bordering on the territory where we don’t need to mention him any more — he’s as steady as they come and a true power-player. He throws those hands and gets under his man with regularity.

Tank Carradine looks good pushing up field, chopping the tackles hands, and bending the edge. He disrupted a throw on his newly patented move, and laid a hit on the quarterback hit.

Jonathan Ledbetter checked in for some first-team work, and he continues to show why the coaches love him. He’s like Godchaux in the way he plays low, with heavy hands, and can really control the point-of-attack in the two-gap scheme.

Linebackers

Jerome Baker played 15 snaps last week, made five tackles, three for run-stuffs, but never blitzed. That changed tonight.

Baker has an innate sense for angles to the quarterback, coupled with a rare burst that allows him to effectively move the quarterback off the spot from any gap he rushes. He also continues to defend the edge as a run-stopper — he’s ultra-impressive.

So was Sam Eguavoen. With four splash plays in the first half — including a forced fumble — Eguavoen displayed everything that has earned him first-team work. He’s athletic enough to get 10-yards deep into a pass drop (one PBU from that position), he’s strong enough to stack the edge in the run-game (one TFL there), and he’s instinctive enough to knife between blocks between the tackles (another TFL there).

The 26-year-old rookie’s most impressive play came in coverage (second clip in the video below). Carrying coverage up the seam, locating the hook zone, and then quickly pulling the trigger as the ball goes out to the flat, Eguavoen punished the receiver and forced a turnover.

Nick Deluca played with the first-team. It’s pretty clear what he does well and how he fits in this defense. He can scrape the edge and assist in the run game — something Miami needs with the injuries at the position mounting.

 

Cornerbacks

Xavien Howard was held out of this one, probably because of the weather, but we got our first look at Eric Rowe. Rowe’s appearance was brief and not memorable one way or the other.

Jomal Wiltz, Nik Needham, and Minkah Fitzpatrick struggled. Tackling was an issue for the two slots while Needham was bested in coverage again.

Minkah Fitzpatrick did contribute with a gorgeous pass breakup early on against former Bama teammate O.J. Howard, but these missed tackles are new for him — there’s no reason to think he won’t clean it up.

Torry McTyer competed for the second straight game, and this time against the two’s. He’s taking well to the press-man scheme this defense prefers to run.

Safeties

Chris Lammons flashed time-and-time again. A prominent fixture on special teams, his #30 jersey showed up against the run, the pass, and one very impressive tackle on a screen pass.

Bobby McCain is so often out of frame that it’s difficult to identify him on the broadcast. He did, however, come up once in run support like a missile, and has done well to click-and-close in deep coverage.

Montre Hartage is running as the second-team deep safety. He missed a tackle on a big play in the screen game, but it was whistled back on a holding call.

Maurice Smith was active in the middle of the field. If Reshad Jones and/or T.J. McDonald aren’t back for the season opener, Smith might be called on to play significant reps.

Recap

This is the team I expected to see last week. Strong defensive effort, creative and complex scheme that overwhelms the offense with its disguise, and an offense that can’t get out of its own way.

After the dominant first-half effort by the defense, Flores kept prominent defenders (Harris, Fitzpatrick, Eguavoen) on the field, which felt odd.

The primary specialist unit continues to look the same. Cornell Armstrong, Nick Deluca, Terrill Hanks, Cox, Smith, Hartage, Wiltz, Fitzpatrick, Smythe, and Lammons remain focal points of the unit.

Miami took the lead with only 34 seconds to play, and Flores will certainly express his displeasure for the inability to close. Not to mention the absurd number of penalties. This was simply a sloppy game on Flores’ road debut.

Jason Sanders is a hell of a kicker. He drilled kicks right down the middle from 45 and 49-yards out on a sloppy playing surface.

Regardless of who starts under center, this team needs several things to function on that side of the ball. Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant need to get back, and Laremy Tunsil has to stay healthy.

All things told, Rosen has been making more out of a bad situation than Fitzpatrick, but the plan was probably to start the veteran on opening day all along — and we’re almost assured of that with the decision to start Fitz in the third preseason game.

Game Balls:

Charles Harris
Sam Eguavoen
Jerome Baker
Christian Wilkins
Patrick Laird

Don’t forget to check out the post-game recap on the Locked On Dolphins Podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

 

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins First-Half Jiffy Report v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shawn Digity

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USA Today Sports Miami Dolphins Preston Williams
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports

Who are the Miami Dolphins’ risers and fallers in the first half of the second preseason game v. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

Risers

Sam Eguavoen

The former CFL linebacker has continued to impress, and that was on full display during the first half. Eguavoen was shooting gaps and hitting the ball-carrier in the backfield.

He also was responsible for a forced fumble that was recovered by the Miami Dolphins. All arrows are pointing up for Eguavoen to make the roster and an impact for the team during the regular season.

Jerome Baker

Baker quickly made an impact as a blitzer as he rapidly got to Jameis Winston and at least got hits out of that exchange. While Baker needs to get stronger to bring down the quarterbacks and get sacks, it was a great sign to see Baker show this type of pressure.

Charles Harris

Have you noticed all the Risers are defensive players? Well, many of the defensive guys have flashed and surprised me so far in the game.

Harris showed some progression going into his third year, especially in this game. He showed improved hand-placement techniques and used it to get two sacks.

Fallers

Preston Williams

Williams had two major drops that could’ve been first downs. Williams has been a hot name for the past couple of weeks but has cooled down a little bit if this first half is any indication.

I don’t think it’s anything major; I’m sure he’ll get it cleaned up, but he’s fallen back down to Earth somewhat with the easy drops.

Williams did almost redeem himself with a nearly acrobatic touchdown catch but had just barely gone out of bounds.

Michael Deiter

It was only a matter of time before Deiter started struggling. He’s a still a rookie after all. He was responsible for a false start and got lucky that another was missed. It was just all-around rough for Deiter.

 

 

 

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