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Miami Dolphins

Tony Oden’s Potential Impact on the Defense

Kevin Dern

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Travis had me on the LockedOn Dolphins podcast the other night and we talked about some of the things that Tony Oden might bring to Miami in 2018.  We talked about stubbie coverage, something that Teryl Austin, Detroit’s former Defensive Coordinator, now with Cincinnati, had employed when he arrived in Detroit in 2014.  I wanted to see if they used that coverage still as part of the defense since Detroit lost quite a few pieces from that outstanding 2014 season.  I took a look at several games from Detroit’s 2017 opponents that were common to Miami – Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay.  I also looked at how they played against Pittsburgh, just because the Steelers have a myriad of weapons.

Just to get some particulars out about the Lions defense from a year ago.  Like Miami, they run a 4-3 wide-9 scheme.  Teryl Austin, whose roots are as a secondary coach, has tweaked the scheme over the years since the Lions have lost front seven stalwarts like Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Jason Jones, and Stephen Tulloch.  They’re not as cut-and-dry a wide-9, if that makes sense, as Miami is.  They give a little more freedom to guys like Ezekiel Ansah to line up where he wants.  One commonality they did have is that they’re not afraid to play an Under or Over look with SLB Tahir Whitehead, more on him later, on the LOS similar to how the Dolphins used Lawrence Timmons last year.

The large differences between Detroit and Miami’s defense lie in the diverse number of personnel groupings and coverages.  Long story short, Detroit used a greater number of personnel groupings and coverages than Miami.  Chris Kouffman, who Travis also had on the podcast, posted some numbers on the Lions.  In 2017 they were in Dime or Quarter/Prevent packages on 16% of their plays, with 19 of those snaps coming in what I’d term a Quarter or Prevent packages (7 DBs on the field), which was in the top 5 in the NFL.  With those numbers in mind, I expected to see some pretty diverse looks.

I started off with the New Orleans game.  Miami played them in Week 4, Miami’s third game, where as Detroit played them in Week 6, after the Saints had moved on from Adrian Peterson and were fully invested in the duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

In this game, Detroit plays several packages, but more nickel than anything else.   Detroit used a standard nickel personnel grouping (4 DL, 2 LB, 5 DB) against 11 personnel (1 RB, 1TE, 3 WR).


Detroit used what I’d call “big nickel” – using 3 safeties instead of adding a slot CB, against the Saints 12 personnel packages (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR)


Against 12 personnel, Detroit brings a third S, Miles Killebrew (lined up behind RDE Ezekiel Ansah in this frame) into the game instead of a third LB.

New Orleans used a heavy set in this game by bringing in a 6th lineman and two TEs at times.  The unbalanced line and/or heavy sets gave Miami trouble this past season, particularly in the Baltimore and Carolina games.  Detroit, who did play a heavy set on defense (only 3 DBs) on 5% of their snaps (top 3 in the league) only goes to what you’d consider a traditional base 4-3 lineup here.  LB Jaylen Reeves-Maybin checks into the game to go with Jarrad Davis and Tahir Whitehead.


The Saints used a lot of different sets in the game, and here you’ll see them in an empty set with four receivers and Alvin Kamara split out wide.  As such, Detroit uses something that we seldom saw Miami use last year, a true dime package with 6 DBs.  Miles Killebrew is in a dime specialist here.


Throughout the game, Detroit uses several coverages.  Primarily, they’re in 2-man, much like Miami.  Same with Cover 1, that’s something Miami used last year, especially after T.J. McDonald returned.  The main difference is they’re not in press looks on the perimeter the way you see Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley.  Darius Slay is Detroit’s best CB, and one of the best in the entire league, so I think Teryl Austin and Tony Oden kind of let him play how he wants, with Nevin Lawson and Quandre Diggs, their slot CB, in press looks.  Detroit also mixes in a healthy amount of zone looks, operating Cover 4, Quarter Half, and even some Cover 3.

Here against Atlanta, which took place earlier in the season than the Saints game, see Detroit in an odd look.  Atlanta’s in 12 personnel, but they split Tevin Coleman out wide.  I believe Jarrad Davis missed this game due to injury, as Nick Bellore and Paul Worrilow joined Tahir Whitehead in the LBs corp.  On this play, the Lions split out Paul Worrilow to cover Taylor Gabriel.  This was something that Miami got stuck doing last year with Kiko Alonso, and I think this demonstrates one advantage you have if you’re able to play with three safeties as your most common package, even if it’s not a traditional base package.


Here, in the final still frame, we see Detroit go to a true dime package again, but unlike the shot against the Saints where they still have two safeties high, they’re showing a blitz look with a single high safety, Glover Quin.  Both Tavon Wilson, lined up over TE Jesse James, and Miles Killebrew lined up as a blitzer outside of the RDE, walked up in the box.


In looking through these games, I didn’t see stubbie coverage used.  That’s not to say Detroit didn’t use it in 2017, I just didn’t find it.  I think part of that may be due to functionality of personnel and having a lot of young guys in the secondary.  So, what does it mean for Miami?

I think you’ll still see Miami using a lot of Cover 1 and a lot 2-man with press looks.  Where I think we’ll see changes with Miami is the types of personnel packages they use.  One change I think that may be significant is the use of T.J. McDonald.  Joe Schad already had an article come out a week after Miami’s season ended is that T.J. McDonald will be used as a hybrid LB/S type of player.  To me, that spells out that he’s going to be used like the Lions use Miles Killebrew.  I think we’ll see T.J. McDonald play in the box more as a $LB in nickel and dime packages (which would be new for Miami) if they’re able to get a coverage safety.  For my money, that’s not going to be McDonald or Reshad Jones.

One thing that surprised me, but was also encouraging, was that Detroit used Tavon Wilson in the same fashion Miami uses Reshad Jones.  Glover Quin is unequivocally Detroit’s coverage safety and is the deep guy in almost all circumstances.  That might take Tavon Wilson off the menu for Miami as a free agent target.  Personally, I don’t think Miami currently has that coverage safety on the roster.  Travis and I talked about options on the podcast the other night.  Some of those names would be guys like Tre Boston, Tyvon Branch, or guys in the Draft like Minkah Fitzpatrick, Damon Webb, Trayvon Henderson, etc.

If Miami gets that coverage safety, I think we might be seeing big nickel formations incorporated more into the defense more where Miami would have traditionally used 3 LBs last year.  I think one question becomes is who are those linebackers? I think Raekwon McMillan comes back and is your MLB day one.  I think that Chase Allen backs him up and could potentially start at SLB.  Kiko Alonso probably gets the other spot.  Perhaps Miami goes cheap and continues to rotate Stephone Anthony in.  Maybe they also use T.J. McDonald there as a $LB in nickel situations even with Bobby McCain coming onto the field.

But, as I wrote about before, I think Miami really ought to do their due diligence on Tahir Whitehead, a free agent from Detroit.  Whitehead is 6’2” 241lbs and has speed to burn.  He’s faster than any LB Miami has currently on the roster in terms of play speed; I don’t care what his 40 yard dash time is.  He’s a 3-down LB for Detroit and really only came off the field in some dime situations.  In my opinion, he’s a direct replacement for the role Lawrence Timmons had last year as Detroit uses him on the line of scrimmage as a SLB when they use an Under front against run-heavy offensive sets, just like Miami did with Timmons last year.  I think he walks in the door in Davie and becomes Miami’s best LB.  And, if you’re wondering about snap allotments, I think you don’t have to worry a whole lot.  You could see the following combinations if Miami went out and signed Tahir Whitehead or Nigel Bradham, who I also really like.

4-3 Package
RLB          Kiko Alonso
MLB        Raekwon McMillan
LLB          Tahir Whitehead

Big Nickel Package
$LB          T.J. McDonald
RLB          Kiko Alonso/Stephone Anthony
LLB          Tahir Whitehead

Nickel Package
RLB          Kiko Alonso/Stephone Antony
– or –
$LB          T.J. McDonald
LLB          Tahir Whitehead

Again, this assumes Miami adds a coverage safety that frees up T.J. McDonald to play the $LB role.  Also, this isn’t a knock against Raekwon McMillan.  I think he’s as close to a perfect fit for a wide-9 MLB as Miami could hope for.  While he wasn’t as bad in coverage as some would make him out to be at Ohio State, I think you’d be putting a lot on his plate if you’re banking on him taking over for Kiko Alonso right off the bat, especially coming off injury.  I do think that he could eventually be a LB that can develop into a 3-down player, but I don’t think it’ll be in 2018.

Back to Tahir Whitehead, here are three GIFs of him that I think showcase his skills. In the first GIF, we see the same exact play that Atlanta burned Miami with.  If I remember correctly, Atlanta used Tevin Coleman to burn Miami with the toss play and ripped off a 20+ yard run.  Here it’s Devonta Freeman.  Whitehead fights off the crack block by Mohamed Sanu and is able to make a diving tackle on Freeman to bring him down for a short gain.  Kiko Alonso didn’t make this play on several occasions last year.

http://gifs.com/gif/tahir-whitehead-E9WzDv

In the second one, you see Whitehead do the same thing as in the first one, but this time he avoids David DeCastro to bring down James Conner for a short gain.  Kiko Alonso doesn’t seem to be able to make plays like this unless he’s able to shoot a gap cleanly.

http://gifs.com/gif/tahir-whitehead-vs-steelers-rRVjZ6

To put a bow on this, I think that Adam Gase and Matt Burke are AWARE that Miami was deficient in passing defense, especially on 3rd and long situations.  Given that we know they’ve already put out there that they’re potentially planning to have T.J. McDonald play a hybrid role; have already put out there they signed Tracy Howard to a future contract and are converting him to safety; have guys like Maurice Smith and Trae Elston on the roster; and have already sniffed around a slew of safeties in Marcus Allen, Justin Reid, Kyzir White, Damon Webb, Trayvon Henderson, and Natrell Jamerson, I think we can get the sense their going to be focusing on how to incorporate more DBs onto the field next year – which probably means big nickel and dime packages, and looking to find a pure coverage safety.  I’m encouraged by this, but Miami still has to get this right.  If they can, and if they can also improve the redzone defense, I think we’ll see a defense that matches up the points allowed category with the jump they made in run defense from a year ago.

Switching gears quickly, for those that heard the podcast where Travis and I discussed “stubbie” coverage, here’s a still frame of the Cardinals using a trap coverage in 2015 with an explanation of what the DBs are doing in the frame:


This version, run by Arizona is probably the most common version of it, at least as far as I’ve seen. I’ve read up on it a little bit, but essentially what you’ve got here is as follows:

– CB “MEG” Coverage – This CB is playing “MEG” (Man Everywhere he Goes), and is in straight up man coverage on that guy no matter what. You can play press, off, whatever, that guy has that receiver.

– Slot CB/S to Trips Side – They’re playing a version of match coverage. Teams can vary their variations of it. One things that teams do, (and I think there’s an example of Saban coaching this when he was with the Dolphins on YouTube) is that the Slot CB is responsible for covering the #2 receiver here unless #3 crosses his face before a certain landmark – could be 5, 7, 10 yards. So he’s got #2 unless #3 crosses his face prior to the predetermined landmark. The safety to that side does the same thing, but he’s reading inside out, so he’s got #3 unless #2 crosses his face, again, based on the predetermined landmark.

RLB – He’s going to try and wall off the #3 receiver. Essentially he’s going to try and disrupt his route and make it tough for him to run any kind of crossing pattern. This comes into play with the LCB in this scenario.

LLB – He’s going to play the hook zone, and probably reads to the curl or the flat thereafter. He’s going to be responsible for #3 if he breaks off his route or sits down over the middle, and probably reads the back thereafter if the back releases to the curl or to the flat.

LCB – The Cardinals used Patrick Peterson to fill this role the most. He’s got the toughest job, and in Miami, I’m not sure we have that type of CB yet. If it were me, I’d be more inclined to try Cordrea Tankersley here just because he’s so long and Xavien Howard can turn and play man pretty well. Anyways, he’s going to play trap coverage here. I’m not sure what specific landmarks the Cardinals used, but if the #3 receiver crosses the hash nearest the LCB before the #1 receiver to the near side hits a certain distance (10-12 yards is my guess), he’s going to jump that crossing route and pass the #1 receiver to the safety marked with deep 1/2. I believe that was Tyrann Mathieu more often than not. You need a safety that can turn and burn, and almost play man coverage like a CB. As good as Reshad Jones is, that’s not him and that’s not what’s best in his game. It’s not T.J. McDonald either. Miami’s missing that piece.

If the #3 doesn’t cross the near has before the landmark, then the LCB stays in man with the safety over the top, so the CB can play more of a trail technique and try and induce the QB into the throw.

And, if you really want to dive down the rabbit hole of stubbie coverage, here are Nick Saban’s variations of it.

As a reminder, stubbie is a specialty coverage and most teams I’ve seen that run it – Arizona, Detroit, University of Michigan, TCU – use it as a specialty coverage in a dime package.  It may be something that Miami might look to run if they’re able to grab themselves a fast, rangy coverage safety this offseason.  I do think that because we’ve seen the potential of Xavien Howard and Cordrea Tankersley in a lot of press looks out of Cover 1 or Cover 2-man, Miami might be more inclined to let those two press on the perimeter and run some pattern-matching stuff with their slot CB(s), safeties and $LBs to help mitigate the effectiveness of TEs, a problem that’s plagued Miami for a while now under multiple coaching staffs.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Week 9 Monday Morning Thoughts

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tua Tagovailoa has IT.

Brian Flores is THE guy.

And I have to admit, Chris Grier has done a phenomenal job.

After an exciting 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals (5-3), the Miami Dolphins (5-3) solidified themselves as a legitimate playoff team in the AFC. Sure, you can say we’re getting a bit cocky – we’ve watched our team falter plenty of times before. But do you get the sense that these are the same Dolphins we’ve been watching this century?

Right now, are you skeptical or optimistic?

Do you have butterflies because you’re nervous or because you’re excited?

Do you think the Dolphins are trying to survive each game or do you have confidence that they’ll win?

Coming off of 4-straight victories, it’s easy to feel like we’re on top of the world, but this team looks different. It feels different. They act different.

Below are a few thoughts following Miami’s promising 34-31 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Monday Morning Thoughts

Tua Tagovailoa is the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for

Admit it, when they originally ruled that throwaway an interception, you saw shades of every failed quarterback to come since Dan Marino.

That play was so comically bad that it easily could have defined Tua’s career if it didn’t pan out. Thankfully, it was ruled that the receiver’s foot was out-of-bounds and it was an incomplete pass – but imagine the memes that would have been unleashed if Miami lost this game and that play counted.

But, it didn’t count….and the Dolphins didn’t lose….and Tua Tagovailoa out-dueled Kyler Murray when it mattered most.

When the Dolphins needed a game-winning drive, Tua delivered. When Kyler Murray had an opportunity to tie it, he didn’t (along with an obscure Zane Gonzalez kick).

Tua’s elite pocket presence, accuracy, decision-making, and ball placement were all on display. And none of that accounts for the plays he made with his legs.

If you’re a Dolphins fan, you’re thrilled with what you saw. And though it’s only a small sample size, I think we can all exhale – he looks like he’s the guy.

Byron Jones is still a damn good Cornerback

After three-straight dominant performances, Byron Jones was a bit humbled this game. We’re so used to watching him shut down opposing receivers that a game like this really sticks out.

He was absolutely burned by Christian Kirk on a beautiful deep ball from Kyler Murray late in the first quarter, but that wasn’t his worse play.

Dolphins fans and Byron Jones both thought he hauled in his first interception since October, 2017. Instead, Darrell Daniels’ first career touchdown reception is one of the highlights of the year as he snatches the ball right out of Jones’ hands.

I mean, Byron Jones had that ball in his hands for an interception, and before they hit the ground Darrell Daniels steals it into his possession. AND somehow had his knee down so it would count as a catch. Crazy.

Miami’s (really, it’s Brian Flores’) now infamous “zero” boom-or-bust scheme is susceptible to the long-ball, as our corners are expected to cover their receivers 1-on-1; with no safety help behind them. So far this season, it has worked tremendously to their advantage (as seen below)

But, if your coverage isn’t on par, this will happen:

With all of that said, Byron Jones is still a great cornerback in this league. Was this a bad game? Definitely. But I don’t expect this to become a trend. Lets not take for granted the elite secondary we currently have.

Christian Wilkins should NOT stop celebrating

Just please celebrate responsibly.

One of the reasons Dolphins fans adore Christian Wilkins is because of his infectious personality. He’s notoriously running in and celebrating every offensive touchdown with his team. His trash talking is innocently intimidating. The way he pumps his team up is perfect for any locker room culture. On top of the fact that he’s a pretty good defensive tackle.

Which is why I want him to keep celebrating – and I want him to continue celebrating excessively.

Preston Williams‘ unfortunate injury during a touchdown celebration is a huge reason why professional coaches like to contain their million-dollar players. Not just on the field, but off the field as well. It makes sense, they’re valuable commodities, but Wilkins’ spirit is too valuable to douse.

If something like this happens again, then we can talk about stifling his excitement, until then….celebrate smarter.

Xavien Howard’s “penalties” tell half the story

Xavien Howard was tasked with shadowing DeAndre Hopkins, and he ended up accounting for more penalty yards (43) than receiving yards against him (30).

The real testament to Howard’s coverage throughout the game? DeAndre Hopkins, one of the best wide receivers in the league, didn’t see a single target in the first half of the game.

A couple (terrible) penalties shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones may be the best cornerback tandem in the league.

The Miami Dolphins need a Running Back in the worst way

Jordan Howard‘s 8-yard run on the last drive of the game – which helped seal the victory – was his biggest play as a Miami Dolphin. Up to that point, I was kind of rooting for Howard to continue his 1 YPC average. If you take away that 8-yard run (EASILY his longest of the year), Howard has gained 25 rushing yards on 27 rushing attempts (0.93 YPC).

Rookie Salvon Ahmed had a solid game, with 7 carries for 38 yards (5.4 YPC). I’m not sure how reliable he is, but he can’t be worse than Howard. If Matt Breida is available for next week’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’m sure Howard will once again be inactive, giving Ahmed another shot to prove himself.

We probably should have given Austin Jackson the week off

Austin Jackson returned to the lineup for the first time in 4 weeks (due to a foot injury) and was “ok”. He was beat on a few plays, but it’s evident he wasn’t 100%. I wouldn’t make any presumptions based off of this game; if anything, the reps help from an experience/mental perspective.

Jason Sanders is a stud

Jason Sanders connecting on 56 and 50-yard field goals are that much more impressive when you take into account that weird Zane Gonzalez miss (where he was short from 49 yards).

The conspiracy floating around is that the ball died (on Gonzalez’s kick) because the roof was open. Yet, Sanders made his 50+ yard field goals with room to spare.

Today’s the day we will never take Jason Sanders for granted as he surpassed Olindo Mare‘s franchise record of 19-straight field goals made.

The Miami Dolphins are going to “have to” extend Emmanuel Ogbah

I think we all would love to see a contract extension, but it’s bordering on a “necessity” at this point. Not just because we want to lock up a top-notch defensive end, but because he’s going to (rightfully) demand more financial security.

Though it always felt like he was on a one-year deal, this is technically the first year of a 2-year, $15m contract for Emmanuel Ogbah, but there’s no guaranteed money tied to 2021 – and there’s no way he’s playing like a $7.5m defensive end.

Jordan Phillips averages $10m a year with his recent contract, and I think it’s fair to say that Ogbah is worth more than that. Expect a holdout if the Dolphins don’t give him a raise and an extension this offseason. That’s not to say we should be concerned – I think Miami will look to make this extension a priority – but if they don’t see eye-to-eye expect a holdout to occur.

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Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins – A Tale of Two Franchises

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a team sport.

Wins don’t individually define a quarterback’s success.

Yet everyone agrees that the only way to win in the NFL is to have a quarterback that is better than (just about) every other franchise in the sport.

Once you have an upper-echelon quarterback, then you can talk about the nuances of creating a team. Whether it’s surrounding that quarterback with the proper talent, ensuring you’ve built the right scheme around them, or complimenting them with a staunch defense to complete a championship run, developing an entire roster means nothing if you don’t have a quarterback that can lead you to the playoffs.

38 years ago, the Miami Dolphins selected a quarterback that would revolutionize the NFL.

A man decades before his time, the immediate success Dan Marino brought us – after 13 championship-caliber years with Bob Griese – shielded us from the horrors of football purgatory. Maybe it’s this curse of #13 that has us clamoring for football relevance after almost 50 years without a Super Bowl Championship.

We watched our franchise devolve from the model of perfection to a team without an identity; floundering desperately to find a viable quarterback for two decades.

And with one swift decision, the Dolphins simultaneously expunged their football idiocy of years past and exhibited the type of football prowess that should lead them to salvation.

Image Credit: South Florida Sun Sentinel

As we’re destroying the team for wasting 2nd & 5th-round picks on Josh Rosen, we’re praising them for building the foundation for future success. Gone are these false prophets of yesteryear, as the real prodigy we’ve all been yearning for is one step closer to leading the helm.

Once Tua Tagovailoa was selected 5th-overall in the 2020 NFL draft, Rosen’s exile was cemented. He was never going to have an opportunity to make it here, it was always going to be Tua Tagovailoa backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The grizzly, 13-year veteran handles the nuances of a young football team while the young, energetic and extremely talented rookie spends valuable time learning and developing.

That move…that single transaction…will forever symbolize the moment the Miami Dolphins transitioned from football purgatory to football relevance.

The Purgatory We Built

No one remembers the cost of a successful trade.

Off the top of your head, what did the New York Giants trade to swap Philip Rivers for Eli Manning? How much did Carson Wentz cost the Philadelphia Eagles when they traded up for him? I bet you all remember the litany of picks the Washington Football Team paid for Robert Griffin III, or how badly the Chicago Bears missed on Mitch Trubisky when they gave up a bunch of picks to move up from #3 to #2.

It’s because mistakes are always magnified for franchises that fail. As a fan base, we’ve been groomed to remember all the negative aspects of our favorite football team, because that’s all we’ve known for the better half of our adult lives.

After trudging through this wasteland for so long, we are finally ready to move past all of the detrimental mistakes that have cost us 20+ years of our lives – including the Josh Rosen trade.

Sure, you have your classics like failing to draft (and then sign) Drew Brees, drafting Ronnie Brown over Aaron Rodgers with the 2nd-overall pick, drafting Jake Long over Matt Ryan with the 1st-overall pick, and trading a 2nd-round pick for A.J. Feeley.

It’s not that the Dolphins haven’t tried, it’s just that they have failed almost mightily when doing so.

I respect that Miami was aggressive in their pursuit of Josh Rosen – or for any of the other quarterbacks they’ve attempted to put under center – but their aggression was either misguided, ill-informed, or even desperate at best.

A year prior to Rosen’s draft-day trade, another draft-day trade was occurring – one that would transcend the Baltimore Ravens organization for the prolonged future. With the 32nd pick in the draft, the Ravens selected Lamar Jackson – a quarterback some Dolphins fans wanted with the team’s 11th-overall pick.

To move back into the first round and secure a quarterback with the 5th-year option, all Baltimore had to give up was an additional 2nd-round pick (see the full trade at the end of the article).

With their draft-day trade, the Baltimore Ravens landed an MVP.
With their draft-day trade, the Miami Dolphins landed a quarterback that was released for nothing.

Again, I don’t fault the Dolphins for being aggressive, but their pursuit was often awry.

The frustrating part of all of this may be that this team actually “spent” both in assets and money, they just didn’t seem to take that extra step at the right time.

Spending 2nd-round picks was fine 3 years in a row (with Chad Henne, John Beck and Pat White), but spending 2nd-round picks then became “too much” when they could have moved up in the 2017 draft to select Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson – instead, they stayed put at #22 and drafted Charles Harris.

Think about it, Miami’s best quarterbacks since Dan Marino were:

  • Castaway by the New York Jets (and subsequently got his shoulder destroyed like everyone predicted)
  • (Allegedly) Forced upon us by Stephen Ross because he knew what a new quarterback would inject into a flat-lining brand (ie: making $$)

Between Chad Pennington and Ryan Tannehill there is 1 playoff appearance and 0 playoff wins.

There are definitive reasons why the Dolphins are executing a rebuild in 2019-2020 – after attempting to rebuild numerous times already this century – and you can say that lots of it has to do with the Head Coaches that have been in place.

Watching Ryan Tannehill lead the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship came was the most-conflicted I’ve felt in a long time as a Dolphins fan. I was thrilled he was able to prove himself, but frustrated that my team was once again watching from the couch.

Heck, for all the praise we give Brian Flores, he couldn’t get Minkah Fitzpatrick to buy into his system – ultimately losing a near-Defensive MVP player to an organization that has been breathing success since the Dolphins’ perfect 1972 season.

Miami hasn’t lacked talent – it’s why they’re constantly hovering around 8-8. The problem is, they lack the most important piece on the football field combined with the right leader to mold them. Which explains why they constantly sit around 8-8.

The Future We Created

But thoughts of perpetual 8-8 seasons are a thing of the past. The Dolphins may have drafted their future franchise quarterback back in April, but they officially rolled out their #1 prize just a few days ago. Coincidentally, just 3 days after Rosen was released.

The timing is likely coincidental, but who says omens have to be a bad thing?

This Dolphins team is young (thanks to Chris Grier), determined (courtesy of Brian Flores’ mindset), talented (after accumulating so many draft picks) and they’re wise beyond their years.

With a bounty of draft picks at their disposal once again in 2021, and with a franchise quarterback seemingly set to take over by season’s end, the future for the Miami Dolphins looks EXTREMELY bright.

After most “experts” predicted the Dolphins would go nearly winless – some even calling for criminal investigations to be conducted – Flores showed off his leadership and led Miami to a 5-11 record.

If the worst roster in the NFL can win 5 games, what can an improved roster accomplish?

Last year, there were too many holes on the roster to count. Now, you’re desperate to find a missing piece. In 12 months, we’ve gone from cringe-worthy to dynasty-bound in some expert’s eyes.

So have the Dolphins finally returned to football relevance?

If this team really identified the right Head Coach, and if Tua’s hip can stay healthy, then there’s no reason why the Miami Dolphins aren’t about to embark on a successful crusade that takes the rest of the NFL by storm.

Earlier this year, we lost one of the greatest leaders to ever bless our organization. In honor of the all-time wins leader, the Miami Dolphins will wear a patch signifying Don Shula’s record-setting 347 career wins.

And who knows, maybe this renaissance is Shula’s last gift to an organization – and a community – that he spent his life already giving so much to. The symbolism would be all-too coincidental otherwise.

The Baltimore Ravens/Lamar Jackson Trade:

Yes, I understand every other team passed on Jackson. I also understand the Ravens passed on him once when they selected Hayden Hurst with the 25th-overall pick that year, but Baltimore has built a championship-caliber organization over the past two decades, while the Dolphins have accomplished one playoff win – I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt here.

The Lamar Jackson trade can be broken down like this:

  • Baltimore traded pick 52 (2nd-round) to move up to 32nd-overall (1st)
  • Baltimore also sent Philadelphia pick 125 in the deal, but they received pick 132 in return – a downgrade of 7 spots in the 4th-round.
  • Otherwise, all Baltimore spent was a 2nd-round pick in 2019 (which ended up being pick #53).

Full trade:

Eagles Receive Picks: 52 (2nd), 125 (4th) and pick 53 (2nd) in the 2019 draft
Ravens Receive Picks: 32 (1st) and 132 (4th)

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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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