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Miami Dolphins

Time’s Up for One Former First-Rounder; is Another Soon to Follow?

Travis Wingfield

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Adam Gase shocked Dolphins fans when he put another underachieving player out to pasture Tuesday by releasing 2015 second-round pick, Jordan Phillips.

Since Gase was hired in 2016, the Miami Head Coach has swung the dismissal axe promptly and frequently.

After a 1-4 start in 2016, someone had to take the fall for repeated punishment inflicted on quarterback Ryan Tannehill. That someone wasn’t a single entity, it was three players – all of the same position group.

Since receiving their walking papers, Jamil Douglas, Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas have floated around practice squads and the NFL’s unemployment line.

The 2017 exodus was more prominent. Jay Ajayi was an in-season causality while Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and Mike Pouncey all became afterthoughts in South Florida.

We detail this lengthy, checkered-past to illustrated how little value Gase and company put into the original investment to obtain a player’s services.

Now, a quarter of the way through his fourth professional season, the writing appears to be on the wall for the 14th pick in the 2015 Draft, Devante Parker.

Nov 19, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers strong safety Justin Evans (21) intercepts a pass intended for Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker (11) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Parker has missed games in each of his first four seasons as a professional. His career highs are a pedestrian 57 receptions, 744 yards and four touchdowns. He’s flashed the elite-level talent that made him a high draft choice, but a general lack of maturity has prevented him from recognizing that potential and performing on a consistent basis.

The outlook became grim when Parker was a healthy scratch for the week-two game at the Jets, but even more so when he was inactive after a soft-tissue injury mid-week prior to the game in Foxboro.

Parker’s approach to the game is the action in question, not his raw playmaking ability. Mentioned by multiple Dolphins’ staffers as a player that needs some supervision, and more refinement to his game after the entirety of his contract has nearly ran its course, time is up for Parker in Miami.

He never became the red zone difference maker he was drafted to be, and never commanded double teams because, frankly, he was too easy to erase in a one-on-one match-ups.

Fortunately for Miami, as it pertains to Parker’s position group, there are plenty of wide receivers in-house capable of making the former Louisville Cardinal a forgotten man.

In the case of Charles Harris, however, Miami is in just as auspicious of a position. Future Hall of Fame edge rusher Cam Wake is 36-years old, Robert Quinn is just 29, but his contract expires after the 2019 season.

The plan to rely on the decorated veterans, while Harris was brought along as a situational rusher was, in theory, sturdy forethought.

Now, 20 games into his career, Harris has two sacks and looks utterly lost as a pass rusher – the very thing he excelled at in college. Perhaps most frustrating from the 22ndoverall pick in the 2017 draft, Missouri is known for churning out all-star pass rushers.

Markus Golden, Aldon Smith, Shane Ray, Sheldon Richardson, C.J. Mosely, Kony Ealy and Charles Harris were all high draft choices. Most everyone in that group has, at the very least, carved a niche in the league, if not played like a pro-bowler.

Something of a pass rusher factory, Missouri edge-rushers pride themselves on a nuance in the craft of rushing the quarterback Yet, in the league, Harris has become incredibly indecisive and stagnant as a pass rusher.

Harris has produced almost nothing by way of sacks as a professional. In his rookie season, he was getting close by tallying hits and hurries. But, four weeks into 2018, even those instances have gone by the way-side.

According to Pro Football Focus, Harris has three pressures (all hurries), five tackles and two run-stops. The three pressures on 58 pass rush reps make for a PRP (pass rush productivity) of 5.1% – outside the top 100 in the NFL.

In 2017, as a rookie, Harris’ PRP was 11%. He’s is going backwards; a very discouraging sign for a player that flashed major upside in year-one.

Harris isn’t going anywhere for at least another year. He’s a cheap player with a rather large investment staked to his name. But if the production doesn’t start showing up soon, Miami will have to invest heavily into the position this off-season, which would make Harris expendable after year-four, just like Devante Parker.

As a bonus (and not as consequential, given his late-round status) time appears to be running thin for Isaac Asiata as well. Despite a myriad of issues on the interior offensive line in 2017, Asiata never got the call from the practice squad.

Assuming his rookie season served as a red shirt year, many thought the former Utah Ute would contribute in 2018. After two season-ending injuries to interior linemen, and a third on the boomerang injured reserve list, Asiata has now thrice been passed over for a shot to suit up for his first NFL game.

The Dolphins have made good on plenty of draft picks in recent years, but the end of the rope is rapidly approaching for these three Dolphins.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Place Jake Brendel on IR; Sign Hroniss Grasu

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Their players don’t just go on injured-reserve, they do it twice in the same season.

The Miami Dolphins official social media account announced that the team has placed center Jake Brendel on injured-reserve, ending his 2018 season. To fill the available roster spot, the Dolphins signed offensive guard Hroniss Grasu.

Brendel was first placed on injured-reserve with a calf injury prior to the start of the season. He was one of two players that received the IR tag with the ‘ability to return’; this meant that Brendel was eligible to return after Week 8. Since his return, Brendel started 3 games and was active for 4.

Earlier this week in practice, Brendel re-injured the same calf that originally put him on IR. Strategically speaking, we’re at the point in the season where players will be placed on IR simply due to the fact that they’re unable to recover in time to effectively play again this season. Miami has three games remaining and they essentially have to win out (or only lose to the Minnesota Vikings next week) if they want to make the playoffs. The team can’t afford to hold a roster spot hostage for a player who’s less-than 100%.

With Brendel hitting injured-reserve, the Dolphins now have 12 players out for the year.  It’s too bad we’re talking about the number of players on injured-reserve and not 12 Angry Men, because the only thing we can speculate at this point is how unlucky the Dolphins’ health has been this season.

The empty roster spot left by Brendel has been filled by former Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens offensive guard Hroniss Grasu.

Grasu was selected by the Bears with the 71st-overall pick (3rd-round) in the 2015 NFL draft. He started 8 games that season for Adam Gase‘s offense, but since then has only started 5. He played for the Bears from 2015-2017, though he missed the 2016 after being placed on injured-reserve. Grasu was signed by the Ravens this past September and was active for 3 games (making 1 start). He was released by the team on November 24th.

From one Hr to another: cheers, mate!

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Miami Dolphins

Squeezing Miami’s Tight Ends for Anything They’ve Got

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Gase, a hobbled Ryan Tannehill and the rest of the Miami Dolphins have been tasked with operating an offense that has received minimal production from its tight ends. As the team is currently constructed, the playbook, in essence, centers around their two starting running backs, the three starting wide receivers that are healthy and that’s it.

That’s all they can scheme around.

As an opposing defense, you’re well aware that the tight end position is effectively eliminated in Miami’s offense – it’s not a personnel group you have to scheme for.

  • You have a banged up Kenny Stills you have to watch, though you really only need to keep him in your peripheral vision as Miami isn’t going to maximize Stills’ speed and Tannehill’s deep ball with the quarterback’s injured shoulder.
  • You can monitor DeVante Parker, but his lack-of-enthusiasm helps keep his freakish athleticism at bay.
  • You can be on the lookout for Danny Amendola, but you’re probably content allowing the underneath reception (though at 9.8 yards per reception, why aren’t we getting Amendola the ball more on those crucial 3rd-down plays?)

All of the injuries aside, it’s hard to discount the voids created by Miami’s nonexistent production from the tight end position. When Laremy Tunsil goes down in the Cincinnati Bengals game, it’s the perfect time to utilize a tight end for quick passes. All those 3rd-and-short situations – where Miami runs a mind-boggling play – could be eliminated if Miami had a legitimate tight end that could box out an opposing defender on a quick hit. At the very least, a tight end that poses even a minuscule threat would make a defense hesitant to send an extra blitzer or blanket a receiver.

Running this offense without your tight ends is like trying to drive your car without power steering. Of course you can do it, but you’re going to have a difficult time driving it.

The fall of this position started back in training camp, when one of the most underrated Dolphins, MarQueis Gray, suffered a torn achilles and was placed on injured-reserve.

Fans initially thought this was an omen for Mike Gesicki, as they clamored for the possibility of having an Olympic-caliber tight end playing with Ryan Tannehill – a quarterback known to utilize the tight end position well.

At a glance, you would think Miami’s tight ends were going to be extremely productive. Up to this point in 2018, Miami rewarded one of their tight ends with a contract extension and spent 2nd and 4th-round assets to bulk up the position. How could this season have gone so poorly for a group that, at the very least, was supposed to be average?

Tight ends predominantly see a spike in production from their rookie years to their sophomore seasons, and this is the one saving grace each of us optimistically have for Gesicki to turn it around. On tape, he doesn’t look the part. But you don’t want to write a player off this quickly. Check out some active tight ends and their growth from Year 1 to Year 2:

When going through the list, the only tight end I came across that saw a dip in production from Year 1 to Year 2 was Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins. His stats were: 45/499/3 in 2017 and 50/465/0 in 2018…really not the biggest dropoff (I’m sure there are other tight ends who saw a drop in production, but after going through half the league, Reed was the only one that applied).

Problem is, are we confident Mike Gesicki is going to be a tight end that makes this jump? Look at where Gesicki (and Durham Smythe) stack up with other rookie tight ends:

We all thought Miami was going to have a 1-2 punch with Gesicki as a receiver and Smythe as a blocker; and so far, half of the duo has held their end of the bargain. Smythe has performed very well when asked to block on the line. He’s had some misses this year, but for a rookie tight end being tasked with blocking an elite defensive end at times, we can’t really complain much. What the team is missing is the other half of that duet.

Coming into 2018, we understood that Gesicki would need some seasoning before he could become a legitimate blocker. And to an extent, we were quite content if Gesicki didn’t block too well, just as long as he was making plays on 3rd-down and in the red zone. We all thought he was the missing component this offense needed to finally be effective in the red zone. Instead, we’d probably be better off stacking the line with 6 offensive linemen.

The wildcard of the bunch is Nick O’Leary. The Dolphins have played him at both tight end and fullback, giving them flexibility and the ability to maximize his roster spot. But going into 2019, does anyone think any of these tight ends are safe? Check out the disparity in snap counts from the first week of the season until Week 14:

It’s evident which player this team trusts. Or, at the very least, which player they believe they can get any kind of production out of. He’s also the only player that wasn’t on the roster at the beginning of the season – telling you just how far the other players have fallen.

This team might need to fire Matt Burke. It might need to overhaul the defensive line or even the linebacking unit. The Dolphins might even need a new starting quarterback in 2019. But one thing we can certainly say is that Miami definitely needs a productive tight end; otherwise, this offense is about as stagnant, stale and unsuccessful as you’ve seen it this season.

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Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill’s Late Season Surge is Nothing New

Travis Wingfield

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Adversity is the Dolphins QB’s Biggest Weapon

The divisive topic of tanking filters its way through the fan bases of all mediocre franchises. The discussion about whether it’s healthier to lose and climb the draft board, or to establish a winning culture, reverberates for the perpetual .500 purgatory of the NFL.

Every time Dolphins fans are ready to prepare for what’s next at quarterback, Ryan Tannehill rises from the ashes and plays at an elite level.

The statistics are there. After a 1-4 start and a sub-90 passer rating in 2016, fans turned to Notre Dame tape to scout DeShone Kizer. They peeped the ultra-exciting Patrick Mahomes making jaw-dropping off-script plays at Texas Tech.

All those discussions became moot when Tannehill ripped off a stretch of eight games in which Miami went 7-1. During that time, Tannehill posted a 101.5 passer rating and fell back into the good graces of Dolphins fans.

Bruce Arians’ famous quote preaches patience while installing a new scheme. “It takes about eight weeks before things start to become second nature.”

If that’s true, Tannehill has been ahead of that curve.

Two games ahead of the pace, Tannehill finds his groove in the sixth game. In a 2016 win over Pittsburgh, Tannehill posted his highest single game passer rating of the year, and would top that high-water mark four times in the next seven games.

The 2018 season is shaping up very similarly. After a strong start, then stumbling in games four and five, Tannehill is back with a vengeance.

The Dolphins are 2-1 since Tannehill’s return and the veteran, held together by duct tape and Band-Aids, is posting career highs. His passer rating post-return is a ridiculous 129.9. He’s averaging a smidge under 9 yards-per-pass. He’s completing a fraction under 70% of his passes and throwing touchdowns at clip of 11.7%.

The numbers. The wins. The quantifiable metrics are all fun and an easy shortcut to display Tannehill’s recent success, but the it’s the complete control of the offense that best showcases Tannehill’s growth.

Watch this video with the audio on to see an example of Tannehill’s command at the line-of-scrimmage.

Perhaps the time away from the game, and the return from a reconstructed knee, was a detriment to his development within this offense.

Tannehill is dealing with yet another injury, but if he wants to prove this theory, he has every opportunity. Miami can run the table and jump back into the post-season under Ryan Tannehill’s guidance.

After all, last time, he wasn’t healthy enough to finish what he started.

@WingfieldNFL

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