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Miami Dolphins

The Mike Pouncey Misconception

Travis Wingfield

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Mike Pouncey’s greatest talent is deception. Not on the football field, but in the way he is perceived by football fans and pundits alike. Somehow, the anonymous partner to Richie Incognito in creating a hate-filled atmosphere gets a pass. Somehow, his public support and admiration for a sadistic murderer is conveniently brushed aside.

Talent wins in the NFL. It will overshadow the inherent traits of an abominable personality – and that’s where Pouncey performs his greatest trick.

Pouncey came out of the shoots hot as the center and leader of the Dolphins’ offensive line. After Jake Long’s departure, Pouncey made the group his by earning pro-bowl nods in three consecutive years.

Then, after five years in the league, Pouncey was diagnosed with a degenerative hip condition. He would miss the first four games, return for the next five, then miss the final seven.

In 2017, in an effort to preserve his ticking-time-bomb-body, the Dolphins instituted an unusual practice schedule to limit physical activity for Pouncey.

As a result, the Dolphins struggled to pick up any exotic maneuvers from the defensive front (stunts and twists) and led the league in offensive penalties. Continuity matters. The Dolphins were literally taking Sunday’s test without studying ahead of each contest.

This past season was celebrated as if Pouncey had completed some unheard of athletic feat. A player is only lauded for games played when it has been an issue in the past. Sure, Pouncey played a 16-game slate for the first time since 2012; but how integral was he to the Dolphins’ success?

Pouncey finished every game but four in 2017. One game was a week 17 veteran’s day off; another was a blowout over the Denver Broncos. The third was a week seven game against the New York Jets – Pouncey missed one snap.

The fourth game was a week six showdown in Atlanta. Pouncey played the first half before exiting with a concussion. With Pouncey in the line-up, the Dolphins’ offense was shutout mustering just 99 total yards. Enter backup Jake Brendel and Miami throws up 20 points on 241 total yards.

This isn’t a new trend.

The Dolphins won games against the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills down the stretch in 2016 to secure a playoff berth – the first since Pouncey was drafted.

Miami’s highlight victory in 2015 came in week 17 against the New England Patriots – Pouncey watched from the sidelines.

Since Pouncey started missing games in 2013, the Dolphins are 27-33 (.450) with the center in the line-up. Without him, Miami is 11-9 (.555).

Take the name plate off the jersey, remove the first round draft status and Pouncey’s release would’ve been greeted with minimal pushback. After all, the Dolphins made the decision to cut the former pro-bowler – operative word, former.

Pouncey has become a shell of the player he once was. He could never anchor against bigger-bodied nose tackles and his one redeeming quality was the athleticism to pull and reach. With decaying hips, that trait is lost.

Yet, somehow, Pouncey has pulled off a Houdini Act to create the illusion that he’s both a decent human being and still an effective player.

Each are a farce.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Pre-Season Week Two Preview: Dolphins at Panthers

Travis Wingfield

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Training camp has officially broken, the players are sleeping in their own beds, and we are only 23 days away from kicking off the 2018 NFL regular season. For the Miami Dolphins, there is still plenty of work to be done.

That work resumes tomorrow night in Carolina for the first road test (if you can call an exhibition game a test) of the 2018 season. Following a traditional arc of pre-season playing time, the starters are expected to play the entire first quarter. Of course, there is always wiggle room for those expectations depending on the flow of the game. Nonetheless, Dolphins’ fans should get their palate wet enough to satisfy the itch for another week.

Last week’s contest with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yielded a mixed bag of positive and concerning results. The emergence of the rookie class, the defensive woes, and the return of Ryan Tannehill can all be found in our post-game column here.

As per usual, we’ll tackle this preview in segments. Up first, an utterly ambivalent aspect with virtually no possibility of cracking the code prior to kickoff:

Vanilla or Neapolitan? And Rookie Emergence:

With 14 practices in the books, each of which were available to the public and the media, Miami was wise to keep things basic with the world watching. Basic concepts designed to attack the coverage in front of it (flood, backside slants, slant-flat), Miami hardly showed the complexities of an Adam Gase Playbook.

Defensively, the story was a carbon copy. Off-coverage with a soft cover-2 defense that left the middle of the field vulnerable and, ultimately, exposed.

Will Gase and Defensive Coordinator Matt Burke sprinkle in a few wrinkles?

It’s purely my opinion that they should offer some semblance of variety. Coach Gase has spoken at length about getting these guys to play fast and, to do so, it’s imperative that they have a grasp of the scheme.

If the Dolphins are to expect major contributions from a handful of first-year players, it would behoove the club to start stacking more on the plates of these impressive young-guns.

That Jerk of a Quarterback:

Ryan Tannehill caused one of the more irrelevant stirs in camp this week by pulling rank on rookie Kalen Ballage. Concerned about the Arizona State product’s grip of pass protection assignments, Tannehill made an example of Ballage while simultaneously leaving no questions regarding who is the leader of this football team.

Ryan Tannehill with Frank Gore. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Tannehill should see three or four offensive series. In that limited playing time, he has an opportunity to shut the doubters up, even if only momentarily, in regards to the respect he attracts from his teammates.

Last week’s plan was a watered down, bare-bones plan utilizing play-action and one-read passing plays primarily out of 11-personnel. Expect Gase to open things up, at least minimally, to test the quarterback just one week removed from a 608-day layoff from his last football game.

The sheer gravity of his personnel may force coach’s hand with respect to the play-calling – and that leads us into our next topic.

The Law Firm of Grant and Wilson:

Kenny Stills and Devante Parker will both observe this game from the sideline. The Dolphins have a pair of secret weapons that are not catching a lot of buzz in the national scope. Albert Wilson has something of a Antwan Randel El spice to him while Jakeem Grant has the makings of Tyreek Hill-light.

Wilson had a pair of catches for chunk gains in his Dolphins debut while Grant continues to prove his impact as a deep threat (he drew a 24-yard pass interference call) last Thursday.

The Dolphins are more committed to heavier packages (12-personnel with two tight ends, two receivers and one running back) this season. This grouping forces the defense to keep its base package on the field and then attempt to cover the speed offered by:

Albert Wilson – 4.41 forty time
Jakeem Grant – 4.38 forty time
Kenyan Drake – 4.45 forty time
Mike Gesicki – quite literally the greatest athletic marvel the position has ever seen

Even without clever deception, these two wide outs have plenty of speed, change of direction, route-running prowess and natural football acumen to get them by. The world doesn’t know a damn thing about the pair yet but, let’s call it Thanksgiving, they will – and it begins Friday night.

Dramatically Improved Defense:

The pre-season is all about individual evaluations, but narrowing that focus for the defense is an impossible feat. Raekwon McMillan, Charles Harris and Akeem Spence each had dreadful showings in the 2018 pre-season opener.

McMillan gets the biggest pass because it was his first football game since the Fiesta Bowl in January 2017 (sans his one punt coverage snap in last year’s pre-season). He missed his keys on two plays and left the middle of the Dolphins defense exposed – that has to get better.

Harris looked slow off the ball and offered nothing as far as a counter-rush move. Chalk it up to tired camp legs if you must, but Harris needs to show that his refinement and second-year in the league can produce greater results.

Spence was consistently washed out against the run, dominated at the point of attack and the focal point of the Bucs big touchdown run on the opening series. He is supposed to be the leader of the group for his familiarity with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, but another showing like that will open the door for Vincent Taylor to take his starting spot.

Someone Sort Out This Cornerback Position:

Not speaking to the reader, but rather the players involved in this group. Cordrea Tankersley, Torry McTyer, Tony Lippert, Jalen Davis, someone please step forward and assert yourself as a legitimate corner deserving of significant reps come September Sundays.

Dec 31, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Cordrea Tankersley (30) is called for pass interference against Buffalo Bills wide receiver Deonte Thompson (10) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Davis was tossed in as an aside because of his work as the nickel with the second team defense this week. Ahead of him, Tankersley is the one truly under the gun here – he holds the highest expectations of the group.

If Tankersley doesn’t bite soon, the Dolphins could solicit candidates form the other 31 organizations in the league. Miami hosted free agent Bashaud Breeland this week, have been linked to Eagles corner Ronald Darby, and even recently released Orlando Scandrick. Whether there is truth to those latter two stories is anyone’s guess.

Additionally, where does Minkah Fitzpatrick wind up playing? He worked primarily as the second team safety when camp opened, but he’s been getting some run with the first team as the nickel back. Fitzpatrick needs to be on the field every play (regular season), but the Dolphins need to be judicious about where he plays.

Another Brick in the Wall:

For the underdog players on the roster it’s all about the totality of camp and the off-season. For a defensive tackle wearing number 43, he isn’t going to earn a spot based on one flashy performance, it’s about providing something that sticks in the minds of the coaching staff every single day (thanks for allowing me to borrow your quote, Mr. Tannehill).

Last August Davon Godchaux climbed his way from the third team to starting defensive tackle. The year prior, Julius Warmsley (of the same position) worked his way up the depth chart with three consecutive impressive showings when the lights came on.

For Buddy Howell, Francis Owusu, Isaiah Ford, Isaac Asiata, David Steinmetz, Anthony Moten and Johnathan Woodard, this is an opportunity to build upon some quality tape from week one.

The Game in a Nutshell:

The results don’t matter, the fan base will over-react one way or the other and we’ll repeat the cycle two more times before the season actually begins in September.

Fans ought to be looking for the following:

1.) Playing fast, with tempo and effectiveness
2.) Continued progression from the rookies
3.) Last week’s duds to elevate their play

Beyond that, there isn’t a whole lot to ask for. It should be a beautiful night in Charlotte on Thursday and we’ll have you covered from kickoff through post-game on Locked On Dolphins.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins 2018 Training Camp Battles

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The lines have been drawn.

The Miami Dolphins completed their last public practice of training camp yesterday morning, and while we don’t have definitive answers to every question we had entering camp, we certainly have a much better perspective on how things will shake up.

For the most part, the Dolphins executed their offseason plan.

They acquired receivers who are more versatile and dedicated than Jarvis Landry….and they just so happen to cost less.

They were able to get out of the Ndamukong Suh contract a year earlier than expected, which has provided us with a couple surprises at defensive tackle (both good and bad).

Ryan Tannehill with Frank Gore. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

They obtained a legitimate tight end for the first time since Charles Clay, and also selected one of the top blocking tight ends in college – effectively crossing off two needs with two picks.

They’re also trying to diminish the desire for a “culture change”, but their actions speak otherwise.

Players like Frank Gore and Danny Amendola were brought in for their skill sets, but also because of their leadership abilities.

The team continues to get younger (Gore and Amendola are poor examples of that) while simultaneously getting better.

Of all the players currently on the Dolphins roster, only 11 of them are 30 or older:

John Denney (40), Cameron Wake (36), Gore (35), William Hayes (33), Josh Sitton (32), Amendola (32), Sam Young (31), Ted Larsen (31), Daniel Kilgore (30), Ryan Tannehill (30) and Reshad Jones (30).

Two of them aren’t human (Wake and Gore), one of them is a legend (Denney), three of them are role players (Hayes, Young and Larsen), and the other 5 are starters.

That leaves 16 offensive/defensive starters that are under 30 years old.

Now all that’s left is determining who some of those starters will be.

Below is where we believe the Dolphins stand with each training camp battle as we go into the final 3 preseason games:

Starting Defensive Tackle: Jordan Phillips vs Davon Godchaux vs Vincent Taylor vs Akeem Spence

This battle was never supposed to take place.

There was supposed to be some competition between Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, but the defensive line was essentially set once the Dolphins acquired Robert Quinn.

And then Jordan Phillips did his best Jordan Phillips impression and turned hot-and-cold.

Maybe Omar Kelly should call Phillips out more often, as his best day in camp came one day after he was called out for his inability to seize the starting job (that was basically already set for him).

And Kelly is not wrong. Why does Phillips step up when a reporter calls him out, but fades once the dramatics cease?

His motor is nothing like Kenny Stills‘ or Danny Amendola’s. The self-dedication is not there. Phillips does not “want it” – and it’s why he was available in the 2nd-round of the 2015 NFL draft, even though he was a 1st-round talent.

His motor is more like DeVante Parker‘s or Laremy Tunsil‘s, two players that need external motivation in order to tap their potential.

These aren’t exceptional football players, they’re stellar athletes, and it’s clear which type of person wins football games.

Instead, Phillips’ inconsistency paved the way for sophomore defensive tackles Godchaux and Taylor to turn heads and win the coaches over.

And it seems they’re doing just that.

This is great news if you’re a Dolphins fan! You have two starting defensive tackles that are extremely young and will be around for (at least) another 3 seasons (including 2018).

Vincent Taylor. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The negative? This position is thinner than expected.

Akeem Spence has had an average camp. He hasn’t exploded for many plays, but he hasn’t made too many mistakes either. He came exactly as advertised.

That said, he was always meant to provide depth, not start.

Of the four, Spence is the definitive backup/role player, but he’s bordering on passing Phillips for playing time.

And that’s not because Spence is that much better than Phillips, it’s just because Phillips performance is that frustrating.

It’s training camp, veterans (yikes, that’s not a term I want to tie to Phillips right now) just want to survive and avoid injury, and I expect Phillips to turn it on once the regular season begins. But he hasn’t done that too much in the past…I’m not holding my breath this is the first time it occurs.

Given how dominant they’ve been in camp, the starting spots deserve to go to Godchaux and Taylor. Anything different is a slap in the face to the players who are expecting to be rewarded for their performance, not their stature.

6th Wide Receiver: Leonte Carroo vs Francis Owusu vs Isaiah Ford vs Drew Morgan

This competition may lead to a good football player landing on a different team.

Leonte Carroo isn’t eligible for the practice squad, and Francis Owusu and Isaiah Ford will be poached by another team before they make it there.

Leonte Carroo. Image Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With Carroo’s lackluster performance the past two seasons, the former 3rd-round draft pick the Dolphins traded up to select has been a disappointment. While he has shown that he can be a competent receiver, he’s noticeably behind Owusu and Ford on the depth chart. Not where you should be entering your third season.

Unless he absolutely shines in the final 3 preseason games, Carroo will most likely be left off the team.

That leaves Owusu, Ford and Drew Morgan competing for that last spot.

Morgan has looked good in camp, but he hasn’t done much to outshine Owusu or Ford. He has practice squad eligibility, and he most likely won’t be taken by another team – which gives him a disadvantage entering the final stretch.

Between Owusu and Ford, it’ll be whoever has a better preseason. It’s possible Miami keeps both, but they’re already 5-starters deep at WR (Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant). Keeping 7 will be tough.

LCB (2nd Starting Cornerback): Cordrea Tankersley vs Tony Lippett vs Torry McTyer (vs Bobby McCain)

In yesterday’s training camp article, we broke down all the different variables that are being thrown at the cornerback room. There’s is a lot we know and a lot we can speculate based on how training camp has unfolded.

Torry McTyer. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The job was Cordrea Tankersley‘s to lose.

The former 3rd-round pick was expected to win the starting cornerback job coming out of camp; and although the sophomore cornerback flashed last season, and has performed decently in camp, he hasn’t alleviated all the concerns coaches have for him.

Is he still thinking too much? Is he causing his own mental errors?

We’re unsure what’s keeping Tankersley from confidently taking the next step, but the coaches are so unconvinced that they moved Bobby McCain out of the nickel corner spot so he can man the boundary.

Tony Lippett‘s struggle to stay healthy has essentially taken him out of the running for the starting spot…and this may not actually be a bad thing. This will give Lippett time to recover and perform like he did back in 2016 rather than forcing the Dolphins to play a cornerback at 75% (and then grilling him when he’s getting beat by a team’s top receiver performing at 100%).

McTyer will eventually play a bigger role in Miami’s defense, but he still needs a little more seasoning. His emergence means Miami doesn’t have to panic to find a cornerback.

The winner, due to no one else winning, is Bobby McCain.

Lets hope Tankersley begins to turn it on as the regular season approaches; Miami is much better when McCain is in the nickel and Minkah Fitzpatrick can play safety.

Tight End: MarQueis Gray vs AJ Derby vs Mike Gesicki vs Durham Smythe

This competition was for both tight end spots; and at the moment, it’s hard to tell if Miami has an answer for both.

MarQueis Gray and Mike Gesicki were on their way to becoming the starting tandem before Gray went down with a concussion yesterday. Whether or not this injury affects his regular season remains to be seen, but it does put a damper on the offense’s overall development.

MarQueis Gray. Image Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

He will be a starting tight end when he returns, but after going through Jordan Cameron and his concussion issues recently, I’m not going to rely on his immediate return just yet.

Gesicki looks like he’ll be the receiving/red zone threat he was drafted to be, and any depth chart that doesn’t list him as the #1 tight end is lying. He is a self-explanatory starter…as we expected.

With Gray out, Durham Smythe will attempt to take over as the second starting tight end (when the package calls for it).

He has had a couple drops in camp, further exemplifying the knock that he should stick to blocking and isn’t “too good” of a receiving tight end.

Ultimately, I think his receiving skills will be fine. If he’s in the lineup, I’m not erasing him as a receiving option…but you can bet he’s the last option on my list.

That’s where AJ Derby comes in.

He had the advantage of being picked up by the Dolphins late last season, and had the chance to learn the playbook and the team’s dynamics much earlier than either rookie that was drafted.

And although he’s looked decent, he hasn’t given the coaching staff any reason to bump another player off the roster so he can remain.

The best chance Derby has of staying on the roster is if Gray’s concussion needs more time to heal. I’m not sure he makes it.

Outside Linebacker (WILL): Jerome Baker vs Stephone Anthony

A tale of two draft picks.

Although he was acquired midway through last season, Stephone Anthony can be viewed as Miami’s 5th-round pick this year (as that’s what they gave up to get him).

He’s had time to get accustomed to the defense and learn the language.

And as a 1st-round pick in 2015, he’s had time to get accustomed to the NFL.

So with those two advantages, Anthony should be the clear-cut choice to begin the season as the starting WILL linebacker?

Not so much.

Anthony has produced more of the same results that we’ve already seen; meaning, he’s the same bench player we acquired last season.

If your view on trading this pick is “we obtained a role player, which is pretty good for a 5th-round pick”, you’re not wrong.

But, when you realize the current front office has selected Jay Ajayi, Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett and Davon Godchaux in the 5th-round (between 2015-2017), you realize we could have used this lottery ticket for something more than a disappointing backup.

Stephone Anthony. Image Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Jerome Baker came into the draft as an undersized linebacker who can blitz and cover, but was too small to handle the run without getting swallowed up.

This training camp has proved otherwise.

Baker has the speed that made him the Dolphins 3rd-round pick this year, and has the instincts to identify and react well. That’s what you want out of your linebacker.

What remains to be seen is how successful he’ll be once the regular season starts.

Once teams start to identify trends and weaknesses on tape, will the offense be able to expose Baker?

How does he really lineup against NFL tight ends?

The hope is that pairing Baker with his former Ohio State teammate, Raekwon McMillian, brings out the best in both football players. If they’re comfortably feeding off each other, they can be more productive that two lost players that are more athletic.

While the hope may have been that Anthony evolved into the player that made him the 31st overall selection in the 2015 draft, the reality is Baker was drafted to be the starter.

I just don’t think anyone assumed it would happen this quickly.

Kicker: Greg Joseph vs Jason Sanders

This one is tough. Both kickers have had their good and bad days.

Jason Sanders. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What’s impressive is each kicker has hit field goals from 61 yards out. I’m impressed any time there’s a 5 in front of the field goal distance, so hearing about these 61 yard bombs is cool to see.

But does any of this translate on gameday?

It’s great that they have the leg strength – seems like they’ll be able to send each kickoff out of the endzone – but how will they perform under pressure?

Between the two, Jason Sanders has to have the advantage after being drafted in the 7th round, but I don’t think that would stop Darren Rizzi from selecting the better player.

The final 3 preseason games will determine who the starting kicker is this season.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Sign Kendall Langford

Jason Hrina

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ImageCredit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins are bringing back an old friend.

According to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Dolphins are signing defensive end Kendall Langford to a contract.

Current details are unknown, but it’s expected to be a 1-year deal – most likely at the veterans minimum (about $1m).

Langford predominantly played defensive end, but he can shift inside if needed.

Langford was originally drafted by the Dolphins in the 3rd-round (66th overall) of the 2008 NFL draft.

He started 54 games over the next 4 years, and definitively outperformed Miami’s 2nd-round pick from the same draft, and fellow defensive end, Phillip Merling.

While with Miami, Langford accumulated 4 forced fumbles, 7.5 sacks and 106 total tackles to go along with 35 assists.

He was never a flashy player, but Langford seemed to do everything right.

His performance throughout his rookie contract priced him out of Miami’s market when he hit free agency, and he signed a 4-yr, $24m contract ($12m guaranteed) with the St. Louis Rams following the 2011 season.

Cameron WakeRandy Starks and Langford were bookends on the defensive line throughout Langford’s tenure; though unfortunately, Miami was only able to retain two of them.

In the same offseason, Miami signed Wake to a 4-year, $33.2m contract extension. The following offseason, Starks was re-signed to a 1-year, $8.45m deal.

Since being released by the Rams following the 2014 season, Langford has bounced around with the Indianapolis Colts (2015-2016) and Houston Texans (2017).

Gabe Wright (98). Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

A roster spot opened up yesterday when defensive tackle Gabe Wright blindsided Kenyan Drake with a suckerpunch during practice.

Camp fights happen every year – practically every week – but there’s nothing manly about hitting someone when they aren’t looking.

I’m not sure what Wright thought he was going to prove, but he just cost himself a paycheck with the Dolphins.

There’s a chance Wright can latch on with another team, but at this point in camp, it’ll be tough for Wright to find a team to confidently keep him past their final cuts.

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