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Miami Dolphins

The Three-Pronged Approach to Miami’s Rebuild – The Development Phase

Travis Wingfield

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The draft and free agency catch all the headlines, but these players stand to provide the Dolphins with the biggest boost of all

Worst to first is a common occurrence in the NFL. In a league of ultimate parity, overnight successes are becoming more frequent. And it’s no longer the Cinderella that backs its way into a home playoff game by winning a substandard division; the 49ers will play for a World Championship just 13 months removed from a 4-12 campaign.

The AFC East may very well be open for business again for essentially the first time since 2002. Yes, the 2008 Dolphins fit the criteria of a punchless darling come January, but Tom Brady would return the ensuing fall for an encore to the dynasty that covered the first half of the new century.

The Bills qualified for the playoffs on the back of a stingy defense. Their stay at the party was short-lived as Buffalo were bounced due in large part to a mediocre offense led by a shaky quarterback. Sam Darnold gets more praise than Josh Allen, but he’s been unequivocally worse in his two years as a starter.

For Miami to assert itself into the mix as divisional contender, it simply has to excel in three areas this offseason. Three areas that provide all 32 clubs with an opportunity to improve its caliber from the year prior. Those areas are:

1.) Free Agency
2.) The Draft
3.) In-House Development

The first two are self-explanatory. The draft is the heartbeat of an NFL organization. Free agency can be used to supplement a team on the cusp of greatness, but also to import ready-made scheme fits.

The only way to ensure those first two avenues bear fruit is through coaching and development. And that’s where the third bullet point checks in.

See, the Texans sold their soul for the right to get embarrassed by Patrick Mahomes in the divisional round. The future of that team, despite the presence of an elite quarterback, appears bleak – they have minimal resources to make the necessary upgrades to a defense that simply can’t run with the Mahomes and Lamar Jackson’s of the world.

Commend Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross for his introspective nature last offseason. The ability to take a step back and recognize that his modus operandi was not producing results, and taking the road less traveled to avoid a Texans situation is beyond admirable.

Where Houston have stacked division titles in a weak AFC South, their prompt playoff exits reveal the pitfalls of a plan built on shortcuts. Ross, like all owners, wants a program that sustains success. He avoided the temptation of instant gratification and put his trust in a head coach who in his first year unanimously earned the respect of the league.

Just like the 49ers with Kyle Shanahan, Ross has preached patience to allow Brian Flores to establish his program, and hopefully produce the same unstoppable cog that the 49ers have become as a conference champion.

San Francisco tapped into all three phases of our roster-building tripod to improve the operation. All-Pro Cornerback Richard Sherman arrived via free agency. Nobody else in the league would pay a fullback the cost of doing business with Kyle Juszczyk. His annual salary is more than double the next highest-paid fullback, but is still a drop in the bucket for a player so essential to Shanahan’s scheme.

The 49ers used the draft to curate a star-studded core led by a dominant front four.

Nick Bosa arrived requiring no development – an instant success. But that wasn’t the case for Arik Armstead. It wasn’t the case for 2017 UDFA Kendrick Borne. It wasn’t the case for primary interior offensive line backup Ben Garland, who replaced Weston Richburg in week 15 with almost no fall-off.

These players all satisfy the third, and perhaps most integral pillar of a successful rebuild – in-house development. Safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward both produced career-years with high-marks in snaps played. Go up and down San Francisco’s roster and you’ll find a cast of relatively unknowns elevating their respective games to new levels.

That’s where Miami can expedite the rebuild. We know the Dolphins will add blue chips via the draft and free agency. We know they’re going to round out the roster with better depth and produce an unquestionably better roster – in resounding fashion – than the one we saw last year.

Finding Miami’s equivalent of Bourne, Armstead, Ward and the like, requires a certain level of squinting for the casual fan. But for the astute fan, the evidence is there for a presumed jump from several holdovers from Miami’s 5-4 finish to the 2019 season.

LB Andrew Van Ginkel

After starring in training camp, Van Ginkel would spend the first 10 games of his career on the injured reserve. It was well within reason to assume that his rookie season would serve as a medical redshirt, until the final two games.

Van Ginkel played 125 snaps combined in the penultimate Bengals game and season finale in Foxboro. He doubled his quarterback hit-figure (2 to 4) and picked up eight tackles (three for loss). Van Ginkel always excelled blitzing off the edge and falling into the hook zone and flat in coverage, but his run defending raised plenty of questions. In the video breakdown, you see some examples of Van Ginkel absorbing blocks, disengaging, and making plays in the ground game.

In the New England finale, Van Ginkel registered an 89.0 coverage grade and all four of his tackles came within two yards of the line-of-scrimmage. The week prior against the Bengals, he graded a season-high 68.0 against the run, adding two more run stops (tackles within 2-yards of the LOS).

RB Myles Gaskin

An average of 3.7 yards per carry won’t keep a back employed in the NFL for long, but proper context demonstrates Gaskin’s value down the stretch. Kenyan Drake was at 4.5 YPC, and Mark Walton 3.8, but neither of those two matched Gaskin’s ability to create his own yardage.

Gaskin averaged 3.2 yards after contact (yards gained after forcing a missed tackle). Drake averaged just 2.49 and Walton 3.08. Both of those players departed Miami mid-season, leaving just Kalen Ballage and Patrick Laird in the backfield stable with Gaskin. Ballage rushed for 1.8 YPC and 1.49 yards after contact on average. Laird went for 2.7 and 1.8 after first contact.

Gaskin has been a production machine since he arrived on campus in Seattle at the University of Washington. Four straight years of 1,200-plus rushing yards were a product of his crafty running, excellent vision, and ability to change the angle on tacklers in a pinch. His production in impossible circumstances to close the season bodes well for his projection next year and beyond.

WR Isaiah Ford

The sun was about to set on Isaiah Ford’s career as a Dolphin late into the 2019 campaign, but as so many of his teammates did, Ford took advantage of the unique opportunity afforded to this young Dolphins roster. Every day in training camp, Ford was out with Kenny Stills taking extra reps at the end of practice, working on his timing with Ryan Fitzpatrick. It took a while, but that chemistry finally synced up in December.

Originally, it appeared the effort was all for not; Ford had two catches through 13 weeks. Over the final four games Ford caught 21 passes, and his efficiency was considerable for a player who’s production was primarily from the slot. He caught 72.4% of his targets for an average of 8.1 yards per target. His 2.00 yards per route ran ranked 43rd in the NFL and his catch-rate ranked inside the top 40.

iOL Michael Deiter

Rookie offensive linemen struggle as much as any other first-year players – it’s a massive adjustment. Deiter was drafted with the expectation of solidifying the left guard position, a tall order for a third-round pick. Amidst the struggles, Deiter showcased some strengths – none more notable this his durability. Deiter started 54 consecutive games at Wisconsin and would’ve been in the lineup for all 16 in 2019, but was benched for the Jets game.

There’s some nastiness to Deiter’s game. He’s proficient at the second level, primarily on combination blocks. Some seasoning, and better play on both his inside and outside post, should accelerate the learning curve of one of the best linemen in Wisconsin history.

DL Zach Sieler

Claimed off waivers from the Ravens, Sieler played the final three games for Miami, starting one in week 16 against the Bengals. Sieler went off in that game. He registered a sack, seven tackles, two passes defensed, five run stops and three quarterback pressures.

Sieler exhibits all the traits that translate to success in this Dolphins defensive scheme. He’s enormous at 6-6, 290 pounds. He’s long with 34-inch arms and an athletic profile that ranks in the 90th-percentile in most metrics for interior defensive linemen.

DL Jonathan Ledbetter

Playing his last down in week-one, Ledbetter is a forgotten man by many Dolphins fans. After earning a starting job through camp and preseason, the undrafted rookie produced from the word go. Ledbetter made four run stops in his lone showing, two QB pressures, and a sack in his NFL debut.

Ledbetter won in the same way Sieler did late in the year – length and strength. He’s a quality candidate to play the heavy end position, vastly improving Miami’s run defense on the edge.

DT John Jenkins

Jenkins might not belong on this list as he steadily contributed all year, but because it was mostly dirty work that goes unrecognized, we’ll give the big fella his due. He’s not a premier pass rusher by any sense, but he’s a tree stump that can slant and twist better than his athletic profile would suggest.

Jenkins’ 70.8 overall PFF grade ranked second on the Miami defense (of players with at least five games played).  He made 21 run stops on 274 run-play downs – a run-stuff percentage of 7.7%, per PFF.

DB Jomal Wiltz

The metrics will not bode well for Wiltz, but there’s plenty of tape to point to upside with this young defensive back. He played safety and slot, showcasing the versatility required to excel in Brian Flores’ defense.

Wiltz was a sure-tackler that could present value as the sixth defensive back in dime packages. He can play off the ball, come down and cover man-up, and his ability to rally serves the defense well on third-down-and-long.

CB Tae Hayes

The sample size is small, but Hayes showed the confidence and skills to play cornerback in the modern era. Hayes allowed three receptions on 16 targets in his two games with the team.

In addition to the coverage skills, Hayes made three tackles within two-yards of the L.O.S., and he defended two passes. Playing primarily on the outside (90 snaps), Hayes does play inside as well (16 reps in the slot).

DB Montre Hartage

A late-season practice squad call-up, Hartage took something of a redshirt year to learn a new position. A two-time All Big 10 cornerback, Hartage moved to safety early in camp working behind Bobby McCain.

His tackling grade checked in at a whopping 86.5 – the product of not missing a tackle in his 98 reps. Hartage allowed 34 receiving yards on six targets, showing a penchant for recognizing route concepts and beating the receiver to the football. He made a pass breakup on the Patriots final drive in that season-ending upset victory.

LB Sam Eguavoen

It was a difficult start for the CFL product. Eguavoen, the surprise star of training camp, struggled with the physicality of the NFL game early on, but started to flash in the areas we assumed he would late in the season.

Eguavoen is a passing-down specialist. He has enough burst to be effective as a blitzer (evident by his 23 pressures and 5 sacks on 232 pass rush downs), and he’s no slouch against the pass. Eguavoen allowed just 110 yards on 17 pass targets and had three positive coverage grades in the month of December.

It’s unrealistic to expect each of these players to make a noteworthy stride in 2020. Even if just half of that list takes its game up a notch or two, Miami’s ability to compete when the injury bug hits, to be flexible in its game plan from week-to-week, and to win regularly on special teams will improve dramatically.

What’s more, none of this accounts for potential steps taken by more high-profile players. Christian Wilkins in year-two is an exciting prospect. Vince Biegel – once his contract is sorted out – flashes a lot of promise. Mike Gesicki produced at a pro-bowl level post-bye week. Eric Rowe has a full offseason to prepare as a safety, where he was aces in 2019. Nik Needham can go from darling UDFA to bonafide number-two corner. Albert Wilson will be two years removed from the hip injury and Xavien Howard returns from the injured reserve.

If there’s one thing Brian Flores proved in his rookie season, it’s the ability to get a sum that is greater than its parts. Winning better than half of the final nine games is an accomplishment for most teams, especially one with a roster that resembled something the XFL will produce in its inaugural season. Flores’ work in his rookie year is the ultimate feather in the cap for a coach that was recognized across the league and media landscape.

The in-house development is the great unknown. Simple math tells us that Miami will find fits in the draft and free agency by the law of averages. Having that security in the player-development aspect of the program is the surest way to achieve Mr. Ross’ vision.

A vision that will produce an annual contender in South Florida.

@WingfieldNFL

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Vance

    February 3, 2020 at 11:13 am

    There is a lot of dubious claims in this article when was the AFC east stronger than the AFC south in the last three seasons if not longer? New England has easily won the AFC East for many seasons and no other team has been a contender while every AFC south team has been a contender some time in the past three years.

  2. Avatar

    Papapickett

    February 3, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    This article assumes jumps to be made forward but if half instead take steps backwards we could be worse off. Like Gruden says, youre either getting better or getting worse but youre never staying the same. All in all a good article. Every guy flashes something though. Thats why they get the call. To be more fair half the video couldve shown what things these players need to improve on.

  3. Avatar

    DBCooper

    February 5, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    Great write up, thanks for the info & analysis.

    Been watching NFL since the 50s & believe my strength is analysis … not prediction.

    Ross grades a 1 on the 10 scale, & the organization & success reflects it. Ross has made poor choices & sticks with them too long. That’s why the whole org smells like az consistently.

    Our drafting over 2 decades has ave. 4 on the 10 scale, that’s why we’ve been so mediocre (2016 is the only good draft). Every fan & TV Pundit always says B+, but D is more like it & reflects our record/success. Look at the teams at the top & review their last few drafts & this becomes VERY obvious. Look at Buffalo, SF, KC, etc.

    I live in Silicon Valley & watch the 69ers closely. Here’s a few sausage ingredients that aren’t well publicized. Fans in the know wanted to pick a QB last year, & were livid they “had to take” Nick Bosa as there were NO QBs for #2. They were right, but it was a wonderful backfire. Shanahan has shown he’s not the brightest bulb, but outlasted the twit GM Balke (just rehired … aaaaiiiieeee). Along came Lynch who talks too much & had some early big busts. The guys wouldn’t talk with each other they had so much hate. They’d be on a TV Presser, lynch yapped like crazy & Shanahan kept quiet & gave him the stink-eye. Well, 2020 & they’re both geniuses & love each other … can’t make this stuff up!!

    Oh, Gawd do we need a great draft … please make it THIS year!!
    Still not sure about this coach & his brains/strategy … should know in a year or so. I do like that he has a clear vision & not afraid to kick anyone in the nutz who gets in this way … gawd, give him wisdom!!

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

The Better Player Plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playoff Bound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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