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Top 25 Miami Dolphins For The 2018 Season

Travis Wingfield

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With its Top 100 Players list, the NFL Network strives to accelerate the crawl of the summer months. With the first of four organized team activities portions complete, we are an insufferable 77 days away from the Dolphins’ first pre-season game.

Once the calendar turns to August 9th(when Miami opens its pre-season slate at Hard Rock Stadium against the Buccaneers) it’s a four-week sprint to the off-season finish line. The roster whittled from 90 to 53. The time of year husbands long for and wives loathe.

We won’t know which players will make up the back end of the roster for another three months, but we know who the Dolphins are counting on most.

This list isn’t about looking back, but rather forward. Each season reshapes our perception about the vast majority of professional football players. Taking everything into account: opportunity, scheme, schedule, surrounding cast, this list projects which 25 players will be regarded as the best Miami has to offer come January 2019.

First, the breakdown of the top 25:

 

How They Arrived in Miami How Many Players Via That Route
Drafted 15
Free Agents 6
Trade 4

 

Years in Miami Years of NFL Service
First Year – 7 First Year – 2
Second Year – 7 Second Year – 4
Third Year – 4 Third Year – 4
Fourth Year – 3 Fourth Year – 3
Fifth Year – 1 Fifth Year – 2
Sixth Year – 0 Sixth Year – 1
Seventh Year – 1 Seventh Year – 3
Eighth Year – 0 Eighth Year – 1
Ninth Year – 1 Ninth Year – 1
Tenth Year – 1 Tenth Year – 2
Eleventh Year – 0 Eleventh Year – 2

 

*click on the player’s hyperlinks for their film-study pieces.

25. Dan Kilgore – First year with Miami, traded from San Francisco

Less than a month after signing a three-year extension with the 49ers, Kilgore was sent to Miami for a coffee mug (swap of seventh round draft picks in 2018). Kilgore, the new starting center, is a stable pass protector, reliable veteran and lauded for his work habits. He recently revealed that he has his wife spent a lot of time with Ryan Tanenhill and his wife, Lauren, this off-season.

24. T.J. McDonald – Second year with Miami, free-agent from L.A. Rams

It’s been a peculiar calendar year for McDonald. Signing with Miami following an eight-game suspension, McDonald parlayed a training camp showing into a three-year extension. After playing out the string in 2017, however, McDonald saw the Dolphins draft his eventual replacement in Minkah Fitzpatrick. McDonald figures to see playing time in dime packages and potentially as a pseudo-linebacker.

23. Jordan Phillips – Fourth year with Miami, drafted in the 2nd round

Entering a contract year, Phillips has an opportunity to drastically alter his value on the open-market. Known for flashes of brilliance, followed by lapses in production, Phillips’ inconsistently is something of a microcosm for this Dolphins’ team the last several years. He will start at defensive tackle and Miami needs him to elevate his game in the wake of the Ndamukong Suh departure.

22. Davon Godchaux – Second year with Miami, drafted in the 5th round

Davon Godchaux’s rookie season was one of ascension. Starting camp buried on the depth chart, his impressive pre-season earned him a regular season gig as a starter. Logging over 500 snaps as a rookie, Godchaux’s get-off and low pad-level allow him to anchor against double teams. Godchaux likely slides into a similar role in 2018.

21. Danny Amendola – First year with Miami, free-agent from New England

Earning his stripes early on in OTA’s as a team leader, Amendola’s durability is the only question in his game. When healthy, he’s a dependable option in the short passing game and among the league’s best on third down. Quickly developing rapport with Ryan Tannehill, Amendola could take a substantial bite out of the 161 targets vacated by the Jarvis Landry departure.

20. Mike Gesicki – First year with Miami, drafted in the 2nd round

The famed Y-Iso position in Adam Gase’s offense was built for Mike Gesicki. Lofty expectations for a second round rookie tight end are typically met with disappointment, but the reasons for optimism are apparent. A leaping rebounder with a knack for nuanced route running, Gesicki has earned Rookie of the Year predictions in some circles. He became Miami’s top tight end the moment his name was called on draft night.

19. Jesse Davis – Second year with Miami, originally signed to the practice squad

Dec 17, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jesse Davis (77) at the line of scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Playing position roulette in 2017, Davis has a home in 2018. Struggling at left guard then improving at right tackle, Davis settled in at right guard. He’s built like a house with an impressive short-area burst. Excelling in pass protection and as a play-side pulling guard, Davis offers considerable upside.

18. Robert Quinn – First year with Miami, traded from L.A. Rams

Every conversation about Quinn reverts back to his 2013 season. Five years removed from a historic season in the same wide-9 defense Miami now employs, the hope is that Quinn recaptures that magic as an edge rusher. Quinn will be featured in a rotation of pass rush specialists.

17. Cordrea Tankersley – Second year with Miami, drafted in the 3rd round

Earning high praise from Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton (author of the comprehensive cornerback handbook) Tankersley showed more than anticipated as a rookie. A penchant from excelling both in man and zone, Tankersley has the left corner position on lockdown for 2018 and should get his hands on some footballs.

16. Jakeem Grant – Third year with Miami, drafted in the 6th round

Perhaps the biggest projection on this list, Grant showcased an innate ability for the big play after earning increased playing time. Explosive before and after the catch, Grant is a homerun waiting to happen. He’s a crafty route runner capable of more than catching the deep ball. His standing in this offense remains to be seen, but he should be featured in a number of packages.

15. William Hayes – Second year with Miami, free agent from L.A. Rams

The running game’s collapse was synonymous with William Hayes’ injury. Prior to the ailment that put him on the shelf for nine games, Hayes was a menace as an edge-setter. The 10-year pro is a sound technician. Hayes will factor into obvious running downs on the edge and inside as a nickel pass rusher.

14. Josh Sitton – First year with Miami, free agent from Chicago

Killing two birds with one stone, Sitton offers the Dolphins arguably the best left guard the team has had in a decade plus. His stabilization of Laremy Tunsil on the edge might be his key contribution. Chicago deemed his salary untenable, but he showed few signs of slowing down in 2017.

13. Ja’Wuan James – Fifth year with Miami, drafted in the 1st round

The best year of the right tackle’s career was cut nine games short with an injury in 2017. Exercising James’ fifth-year option, the Dolphins get one more year of service on the former first rounder before decision day arrives. If he can stay healthy and repeat his showing from last year, he’ll earn boo koo bucks in 2019.

12. Albert Wilson – First year with Miami, free agent from Kansas City

Wilson broke one tackle fewer than Jarvis Landry in 2017 – doing so with 99 fewer pass targets. Wilson is a Swiss Army Knife with a propensity for preparation and speed. A smart, speedy slot guy, Wilson offers position flexibility. He is directly in the middle of the crowded wide receiver room and will get his fair share of looks.

11. Xavien Howard – Third year with Miami, drafted in the 2nd round

An impressive late season showing has elevated the value of the former Baylor Bear. Thursday, Howard admitted that he did very little to prepare himself for games in college. But, by doing so at the professional level, he feels he has turned a corner. Playing a physical brand of football, Howard is locked in as the right cornerback.

10. Raekwon McMillan – Second year with Miami, drafted in the 2nd round

May 25, 2017; Davie, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan (52) catches a pass during OTAs practice drills at Baptist Health Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

His rookie year was over before it began, but Raekwon McMillan has been turning heads in Davie since his arrival. Promptly proclaimed as the “Mike” linebacker, McMillan has taken on a leadership role in the middle of the Dolphins’ defense. Buying in on the hype, McMillan almost landed much higher on this list.

9. Kenyan Drake – Third year with Miami, drafted in the 3rd round

Drake showed the ability to be the top player on this list in 2017, he might have to do even more in 2018. The Dolphins aren’t built to run the ball short of situations where the scheme dictates. Drake, however, is no stranger to creating his own yards. Long runs, yards-after-contact, Drake is the unquestioned number one back. His added value to the passing game could be his most dangerous asset.

8. Laremy Tunsil – Third year with Miami, drafted in the 1st round

Penalties destroyed Tunsil’s grade in his first full year at left tackle. With some of the lightest, smoothest feet ever seen on an offensive lineman, Tunsil can afford to get away with occasional lapses in mechanics. Once he puts it all together he’s going to be an elite left tackle, that could happen in 2018.

7. Charles Harris – Second year with Miami, drafted in the 1st round

In limited opportunities, Harris was effective as a pass rusher in 2017. He can rush from any position on the field and shows a legitimate counter move in the occasions when his initial burst is thwarted. He held up against the run better than expected as a rookie. Seizing a significant role and producing at a high level in year-two is the expectation now.

6. Kenny Stills – Fourth year with Miami, traded from New Orleans

The captain of the wide receiver room, a selfless teammate who is an even better human than football player, Stills exemplifies everything the Dolphins want in a player. All of his routes look the same, he clears up lanes for his teammates and he absolutely punishes defenses in the vertical passing game. He’s the unquestioned number-one receiver in this offense and should see a bump in production with his starting quarterback back in the fold.

5. Bobby McCain – Fourth year with Miami, drafted in the 5th round

McCain broke out in 2017. With a pair of picks and impressive coverage metrics in the slot, the former Memphis Tiger set himself up for a crucial contract year. The hope is that McCain doesn’t make it to week one without a new contract. He’s a fiery nickel that is willing to play the run and challenge at the catch point.

4. Minkah Fitzpatrick – First year with Miami, drafted in the 1st round

Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) defends against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Spare the rookies-shouldn’t-be-this-high argument – I’ll hear none of it. Fitzpatrick has made the same impression on the Dolphins that he did the Crimson Tide staff at Alabama. Not that it’s a surprise, he spent the entirety of OTA’s hovering around the coaches. He’s going to play every snap, take the football away and fix this team’s third-down-and-long woes.

3. Reshad Jones – Ninth year with Miami, drafted in the 5th round

The only word to describe Jones’ game is baller. Still the undisputed champion of defending the run from strong-side C-gap, Jones is among the league’s best as a ground-game stuffer. He flies to the football, blitzes the edge and excels at baiting quarterbacks. With Fitzpatrick now in the mix, Jones can get back to hanging out in a robber position waiting to convert interceptions into touchdowns.

2. Cameron Wake – Tenth year with Miami, free agent from the CFL

Doubting Cameron Wake is a foolish proposition. The 35-year old pass rusher extraordinaire has shown no signs of slowing. Among the top of the pass rush productivity list annually, Wake may not be long for defending the run, but he excels in one of the game’s key elements. Playing 50% of the defensive reps will keep Wake fresh and disruptive – business as usual.

1. Ryan Tannehill – Seventh year with Miami, drafted in the 1st round

How’s that for a controversial pick? Tannehill has never lacked in the physical traits department – he’s a “made-in-the-lab” version of what a quarterback should look like. With 600+ days of frustration unleashed on the rest of the NFL, Tannehill is about to set the league on fire. The best surrounding cast of his career, the third consecutive year in the same offense for the first time in his career, and a refocused mindset, this is the season that allows all Dolphins fans to stop debating the quarterback position.

Most notably absent form the list are Devante Parker and Kiko Alonso. Parker has gone through ailments each of his first three years as a pro. In an organization who’s theme is work-ethic and dependability, it’s hard to see Parker being long for this roster. As for Alonso, playing injured or not, he simply must be better than he was in 2017.

This is an extremely young team. Some think this roster lacks star power. Some think this team is primed from a six-win season. With so many moving parts, just about any record is feasible. With better injury luck and the immediate inclusion of new pieces, this team can compete into January.

We’ll have the answers to those questions in a few short months.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3

DolphinsGiants

The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.

The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.

Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.

Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.

Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.

The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.

A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.

The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.

The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.

Defense:

James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.

The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.

New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.

The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.

New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.

Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.

This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.

Defense:

Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.

On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.

Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.

The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.

This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.

If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.

The Concerns:

The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.

Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

The Projected Outcome:

It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.

Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.

A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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