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Miami Dolphins

Top 5 Miami Dolphins of 2018

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In a year full of things to forget, the Miami Dolphins were able to produce some players we could be proud of.

While we probably could have reduced the list from 5 to anything lower than that, we were able to muster up enough reasoning to warrant 5 (extremely) productive players for this team in 2018.

You can probably predict who’s going to be on this list, as there weren’t many players that exceeded expectations, though figuring out which 5 performed above the others might not be an easy thing to forecast.

In conjunction with our Top 5 Most Disappointing Players of 2018, we bring you our Top 5 Players of 2018; take a look at the players that made our list, and feel free to slot them where you’d like:

5) Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick wasn’t the only rookie or sophomore to shine on the Dolphins. Among all of the negativity, Dolphins fans can find solace in the fact that this team does have a pretty nice group of young, core players.

Fitzpatrick’s season was virtually as productive as players like Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, Jerome Baker and others, so why is he on this list and the others are not?

Versatility and positional impact have a lot to do with Fitzpatrick’s importance on this team. Don’t get me wrong, Miami suffers mightily if they do not have one of those other players mentioned, but they don’t dissolve as quickly as they do if they don’t have Fitzpatrick.

A man brought to this team (allegedly) without a position, Fitzpatrick found himself saving the Dolphins at safety, slot corner and boundary corner. How is it that we have players on this team that are unable to understand their coverage assignments (looking at T.J. McDonald, Byron Maxwell in 2017 and – it pains me to say it – Bobby McCain in 2018), yet Fitzpatrick provides blanket-coverage at three different positions?

Not to mention, Fitzpatrick’s ability to diagnose and disrupt a play is as impressive as his open-field tackling. The pick-6 he had against the Minnesota Vikings wasn’t necessarily a bad pass by Kirk Cousins. Look at the initial freeze-frame of the clip above. Cousins’ arm is already cocked and Fitzpatrick is currently being occupied by the tight end. Within the next 1-2 seconds, Fitzpatrick will have shed his block and read Cousins’ throw, leading to the pick-6.

His football acumen is heads-and-tails above others and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch.

Fitzpatrick is a tremendous bright spot for this team and the only way you believe the Dolphins got this selection wrong is if you believe the team should have traded up for either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen (or even Baker Mayfield). A young, prime corner back provides the perfect compliment to (or replacement for…) Xavien Howard.

Why is he so high (or low, depending how you view it) on the list then?

Fitzpatrick had some instances where he was exposed in coverage, though not enough for us to get disgruntled. In fact, outside of a few rookie mistakes, Fitzpatrick looked nothing like a rookie and easily outperformed 4-year corner Bobby McCain. Just imagine how much he’ll evolve with a real NFL offseason under his belt.

4) Albert Wilson

How bad was the 2018 season that Albert Wilson played in only 7 games, and is still considered one of the top 5 Miami Dolphins of the year…and it’s not even like he’s #5. The only reason he isn’t higher is because he played just 44% of the season; otherwise, he’d still be running into 1st-place on our list of top Dolphins.

Kenny Stills has been a productive player for the Dolphins, but when was the last time Miami had a receiver that could outperform the opposing cornerback on almost every play? Jarvis Landry was phenomenal, but was never really a mismatch. Mike Wallace was a (bad) deep threat. Brandon Marshall was a (poor) #1 wide receiver whose hands were stiffer than Jakeem Grant‘s.

Wilson isn’t tall like Randy Moss, he isn’t fast like Desean Jackson, and he isn’t the big-bodied receiver you can’t outbox like Calvin Johnson Jr. was. Wilson’s agility and shiftiness have cornerbacks desperate to keep up with him on a route.

I don’t want to put Wilson in the same class as those other receivers; but it’s hard to deny the impact Wilson had on the Dolphins season. He is the sole reason why this team was viewed as a playoff team throughout the beginning of the season. Ryan Tannehill flourished off of his ‘yards after the catch’ (YAC), and this offense actually produced an undercover #1 receiver.

The “other player without a position” the Dolphins acquired this past off season, Wilson’s 335 YAC have him 51st in the league in 2018 – 3 yards shy of Kareem Hunt – but he also played less than half the games most of these other players participated in. If you take his 7-game total and trend it out into a 16-game season, Wilson would have finished with 766 YAC, good for 4th on the list – 2 yards shy of Saquon Barkley.

3) Frank Gore

At 35 years old, Frank Gore is closer to proving he’s part of the same robotic species that produced Cameron Wake than retiring from the NFL. In no regard should a football player (playing possibly the most violent position) be able to outrun and out-muscle peers over 10 years younger than him.

Gore alluded tacklers as often as he ran through them – the former University of Miami standout has been yearning to come back home for years, and the Dolphins finally obliged this past off season when they signed the future Hall of Famer to a $1.1m contract. And they couldn’t have spent $1m any better than they did.

The aging wonder was expected to be a backup running back originally meant to compliment Kenyan Drake‘s breakout season. A leader, a phenomenal human being, and dedicated workhorse, Gore proved he was more than just a mentor for future starting running back Kalen Ballage.

More durable than any of DeVante Parker‘s seasons, Gore’s injury in Week 15 dampened what was otherwise an excellent year for the running back. Although the overall numbers may not be overwhelming, the consistency he provided this offense is somewhat immeasurable.

On paper, you see 722 rushing yards, 124 receiving yards, and only one total touchdown on the year. But when compared to Kenyan Drake, Gore’s numbers stack up something like:

Rushing Yards per Snap:
Gore: 2.19
Drake: 0.98

Receiving Yards per Snap:
Gore: 0.38
Drake: 0.88

Total Yards per Snap:
Gore: 2.56
Drake: 1.86

Of course the argument can be made that Drake was misutilized and should have received the ball more – and you wouldn’t be wrong with that assessment. But in an offense that required progress on each play, one running back was more productive than the other.

2) Laremy Tunsil 

Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) works against Miami Dolphins offensive guard Laremy Tunsil (67). Image Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

From bong mask to bonafide stud, Laremy Tunsil has proven why he was viewed as the #1 prospect heading into the 2016 draft.

Handling the most important position on the offense next to the quarterback, Tunsil is an island all-his-own. Prior to giving up a sack with 2 games left in the season, Tunsil was nearly perfect in 2018. His ability to shutdown the opposing team’s best pass rusher on a weekly basis is an overlooked commodity on this team. It’s something we may take for granted after watching years of ineptitude grace our offensive line.

Sometimes, silence is golden, and the less you hear an offensive lineman’s name, the better off you are. Using the 5th-year option on Tunsil is probably one of the most obvious things that will happen in 2019, as the elite left tackle enters the 4th-year of his professional career. Between Howard and Tunsil hitting free agency soon, it’ll be interesting to see how the Dolphins manage this situation going forward. While it’s great to have such elite talent, it’s going to come at a premium cost – and for a rebuilding team, it may be a tough bill to pay.

You can easily interchange #1 and #2 on this list. Both players play premium positions that come with a hefty price tag. Both are young (drafted in the same draft) and both are necessary to have if you want to be a legitimate playoff team. I’d say that Tunsil’s nagging injuries throughout his career are a reason for putting him second, but that doesn’t hold too much weight when the #1 player on our list has the same issues.

Honorable Mentions

Below are a few players that exceeded our expectations this season – and can be viewed as bright spots going forward. It’s tough to say they were better than the others, as most still have flaws of their own:

Jakeem Grant – An injury late in the season keeps Jakeem Grant from making the list. A dynamic player that evolved as a receiver, Grant found the end zone as a receiver, as a punt returner and as a kick returner. His ability to line up in multiple positions at receiver (or even as a tailback) gives the defense something to hesitate about – and when your team has Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson and Kenyan Drake as play makers, the defense is going to get confused (which further exasperates how inept this offense was last year). As long as Grant can soften up his hands just a little bit more, the Dolphins might have their 2019 receiving core already intact.

Ja’Wuan JamesJa’Wuan James performed very well this past season, and after 5 years of desiring consistency from our former 1st-round pick, we may have finally received some of that in 2018. James started 15 games last season and was a bright spot at right tackle, but his career arc has him ready to miss half the 2019 season. By year, he has started the following number of games:

  • 2014: 16
  • 2015: 7
  • 2016: 16
  • 2017: 8
  • 2018: 15
  • 2019: ?

Like we said…developing consistency.

John Denney – Legend.

Travis Swanson – The Miami Dolphins were 7-6 and had a chance at the playoffs because Travis Swanson existed. What started out as a tumultuous tenure, Swanson smoothed out and turned into a consistent blocker during the second half of the season. Especially when you have Ted Larsen and Jesse Davis on either side of you providing little assistance, it’s interesting to see just how admirably a last-second addition to the roster performed for the team. I wouldn’t be upset if Swanson returned as the starting center for 2019.

Kenyan Drake – I was originally about to publish this piece without Kenyan Drake on this list, but that would have been foolish of me. While we expected more production from Drake than what we witnessed, it’s not his fault the offensive gameplan seemed to be unable to utilize their best playmakers with any kind of consistency. This was supposed to be his 1000 yard rushing season, and instead, he barely eclipsed 1000 offensive yards combined (finishing with 535 rushing yards, 477 receiving yards, and 1012 total offensive yards). But his 9 total touchdowns further support the visual evidence that Drake is a winner waiting to happen on every play. It’ll be interesting to see what a new head coach and offensive coordinator can get out of Drake as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

Jason Sanders – Kickers are an extremely important position on your team (ask Chicago Bears‘ fans how they feel about Cody Parkey), but it’s hard to designate Sanders a top-5 player when his biggest advantage was consistency. And it’s a welcomed consistency at that, but it would have required a dominant season to put him in the Top 5 – even during a wasted 2018.

Davon Godchaux – The former 5th-round pick continues to flourish for this team, and has earned his way into the starting lineup for 2019. The lackluster performance by the rest of the defensive line forced Godchaux into double-duty at times, as he was tasked with typically handling both the opposing center and guard on the same play. His future for the Dolphins is just as bright as….

Vincent Taylor – Miami’s former 6th-round pick could have possibly been on a brighter path than Godchaux if a foot/toe injury didn’t cut his season short to just 8 games. Vincent Taylor broke out in 2018, producing 27 total tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits and 2 sacks; or in other words, more tackles, tackles for a loss and sacks than 1st-round pick Charles Harris.

Jerome Baker – Jerome Baker showed plenty of flashes that indicate he’s going to be around for awhile, but he also had enough hiccups throughout the year to label him as just a “good” player. His sophomore year should feature more development, less false-steps, and quicker diagnosis. If he’s able to shoot the gap and track interceptions like he did his rookie year, he’s only going to get better. Expect Baker to be a somewhat obvious candidate for “breakout player of the year” in 2019.

1) Xavien Howard

Welcome to the NFL, Sam Darnold. Welcome back, Andrew Luck. How did proving your mediocrity feel, Derek Carr? I see you still remember those nonexistent throwing lanes from last season and you’re avoiding treasure island, Tom Brady.

After trading up in the second-round of the 2016 draft, the Miami Dolphins selected a prototype press-cornerback they believed they could coach into a real NFL player. And for all the times we drill them for drafting the DeVante Parker’s, Charles Harris’, and Daniel Thomas‘ of the world, Xavien Howard is one they got right.

Still misidentified as “Xavier” more often than all of those “experts” around the nation would like to admit, Howard made a household name for himself when he ended 2018 tied for the most interceptions on the season and made his first career Pro Bowl. The two other players he tied with? Played in 4 more games than Howard did.

Howard finished 2018 with the least amount of tackles of his 3-year career (including his injury-riddled rookie season in which he only active for 7 games), though that’s more of a testament to opposing quarterbacks avoiding Howard rather than Howard’s inability to make plays.

Whether or not this shutdown corner is on the team going forward remains a mystery, as it’s possible the team utilizes their biggest trade chip (alongside Tunsil) to rebuild the roster. It’s somewhat tough to justify extended a cornerback with an extremely expensive contract when his best years are going to be wasted rebuilding. For all of my business friends out there, the return on investment probably hints towards trading Howard than keeping him.

But until he’s gone, he’s one of the only players we can confidently say we’re happy to have.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 17 at Seattle

Travis Wingfield

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Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

Week 17 at Seattle –

By the time this season finale came to an end the entire Cardinals operation had to breathe a sigh of relief. A disaster season, that came to a crashing conclusion, was finally in the rearview. For Josh Rosen, the last month of the season was a recurring nightmare. Rosen threw 146 passes in December and the only one that crossed pay dirt was a busted coverage in this Seattle game.

Some of Rosen’s strong suits didn’t travel to the Pacific Northwest. Throwing into contested windows, play-action passing, and third down conversions each brought back less than satisfactory returns.

The Cardinal passing offense converted 3-of-14 3rd downs. Rosen was 2-of-14 for 23 yards on contested throws and 5-of-10 for 56 yards on play pass.

Rosen was chucking-and-praying once again. The average air yards per throw tallied 10.8 yards, while the Arizona receivers only amassed 51 yards after the catch (34.2% of Rosen’s passing total).

The short passing game was far more fruitful than the vertical attacks.

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

The game was littered with mistakes from the Cardinals QB. Rosen registered 14 mistakes (11 from accuracy, 2 ball security issues, and 1 poor read). Rosen lost two fumbles and had two would-be interceptions dropped by the Seattle defense.

The personnel deployment featured more versatility than recent weeks. Rosen’s passes were supplemented by the following personnel packages.

 

11-personnel 31 snaps
12-personnel 3 snaps
21-personnel 4 snaps

 

As has been the case all season, Rosen was under frequent pressure. Seattle arrived for 11 pressures (6 sacks, 3 hits, 2 hurries) at an average time from snap-to-pressure of 2.19 seconds.

The busted coverage touchdown was Rosen’s one red-zone completion (1-of-3). He was in the gun for 25 snaps and under-center for 13.

Another week, another low conversion rate. The Cardinal passing game converted 8-of-38 plays into first downs (21.1%)

It’s difficult to imagine a more trying rookie season than the one Rosen experienced. The offensive line play was poor, the only consistent pass catcher was Larry Fitzgerald, and Rosen had his own share of rookie mistakes to compound things.

This game goes into the losing performance category marking eight consecutive games that Rosen failed to reach the winning performance category.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 7 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR, @SEA)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 16 vs. LA Rams

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

 

Week 16 vs. LA Rams –

For the second consecutive game Josh Rosen didn’t finish under-center for the Cardinals. In a blowout loss, where it seemed like the entire game plan revolved around making life easy on Josh Rosen, Arizona still managed to get ran out of the building. Mike Glennon completed the final series for the Red Birds offense.

Rosen threw the ball only 23 times, but scrambled more than he has all season. The game plan also featured the least amount of variety, from a personnel grouping standpoint, all season.

 

11-personnel 30 snaps
12-personnel 1 snap

 

Rosen’s typical third down heroics didn’t show up. The Cardinals converted only 2-of-10 third downs in the passing game (one a QB scramble). Converting, as it has been all season, was a challenge in general — Arizona converted just 6-of-31 drop backs (19.4%).

Rosen was in the shotgun almost exclusively (3 under-center, 28 in the gun). This led to a limited play-action passing game (only one throw from play pass).

The four mistakes attributed to Rosen were largely deep shots. He missed on short pass, but two of the three inaccuracies came on balls down the field. One of those deep shots was an ill-advised throw into coverage despite a wide open Larry Fitzgerald coming across the formation (seen in the video thread).

Rosen’s depth splits were as follows:

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 0/3 (0%)
11-19 yards 0/3 (0%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 11/16 (68.8%)

 

More than half of Rosen’s 87 passing yards came from YAC (54%). The average depth of Rosen’s passes was 9.22 air yards per throw.

Throwing into tight window was a futile effort. Rosen completed 1-of-7 contested throws for 7 yards. Pressure was a regular fixture, yet again, as Rosen was under duress on 11 drop backs (4 sacks, 5 hits, 2 hurries). The average time from snap-to-pressure was 2.30 seconds.

The war of attrition seems to have finally broken the Cardinals spirit. The team’s execution was lacking all year, but this game was something of a “white flag” effort from the coaching staff. Rosen gets tabbed with a losing performance for a lack of big-time plays, a few mistakes, and an awful holistic result.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 6 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET, LAR)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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Miami Dolphins

Josh Rosen 2018 Passing Chart – Week 15 at Atlanta

Travis Wingfield

Published

on

Football, more so than any other sport, requires context to tell the full story. Box scores provide the casual fan with a general idea of the cumulative result of any given game, but without isolating each player’s performance, many details go unnoticed.

This project is entirely based around isolating the play of Josh Rosen. Traditional data points will tell you that his rookie season was one of the worst in the history of the league. Watching each drop back multiple times over, breaking down the most impactful plays, and charting the data that tells the true story, this is the 2018 Josh Rosen charting project.

Jump To:

Week 4 vs. Seattle
Week 5 at San Francisco
Week 6 at Minnesota
Week 7 vs. Denver
Week 8 vs. San Francisco
Week 10 at Kansas City
Week 11 vs. Oakland
Week 12 at LA Chargers
Week 13 at Green Bay
Week 14 vs. Detroit
Week 15 at Atlanta
Week 16 vs. LA Rams
Week 17 at Seattle

 

Week 15 at Atlanta –

We’ve reached the point in the season where the Cardinals coaching staff had to make a switch to prevent further damaging their 21-year-old quarterback. Josh Rosen, under duress all game, with very little help from the route concepts and plan to attack the Atlanta defense, was pulled for Mike Glennon in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons pass rush would’ve crippled the most grizzled veteran in the NFL; it completely debilitated Rosen. The Cardinal QB was under pressure 15-of-27 drop backs (6 sacks, 6 hits, 3 hurries) with an average snap-to-pressure time of 2.17 seconds.

Atlanta’s unrelenting pressure led to a season-low in average air yards per attempt (4.6 AYPT). The Arizona receivers picked up 82 yards after the catch counting for 62.1% of Rosen’s passing total.

Once again, a lopsided scoreboard forced Arizona into very little variety from a personnel grouping standpoint. Rosen was 4-of-5 with 37 yards on non-11-personnel calls. The issue there — Arizona was always in 11-personnell.

 

11-personnel 22 snaps
12-personnel 4 snaps
21-personnel 1 snap

 

Rosen only committed two mistakes in the game (one accuracy, one a poor decision). The biggest mistake was an example of nervous antics in the pocket and a decision Rosen would prefer to have back (available in the Twitter thread).

Rosen was under-center just 5 times (gun 22), and only threw from play action three times; Rosen was 2-of-3 with 13 yards on play pass.

The Arizona offense converted only 18.5% (5-of-27) passing plays into first downs. Throwing into contested windows was a 50-50 proposition — Rosen threw for 68 yards on 4-of-8 passing into tight windows.

Rosen’s depth splits were as follows:

 

Portion of the Field Accurate Pass/Number of Passes
20+ yards 1/1 (100%)
11-19 yards 2/3 (66.7%)
0-10 yards (or behind LOS) 12/15 (80%)

 

It was a miserable day for the Cardinals all the way around. Rosen never stood much of a chance to make a big time paly, or to make a game-changing mistake — but the one time he did make a crucial mistake, the game was already out of reach. This showing goes in the inconsequential column.

 

2018 Performance Results Number of Games
Winning Performance 2 (SEA, SF)
Inconsequential Performance 3 (@MIN, @LAC, @ATL)
Losing Performance 5 (@SF, DEN, @KC, OAK, @GB, DET)

Winning Performance – The QB played well enough to garner a victory. He limited mistakes and made plays in crucial situations.
Inconsequential Performance – More of a game-managing role, the QB didn’t have the big plays, but mistakes were limited.
Losing Performance – The QB limited his team’s ability to win the game with his performance.

@WingfieldNFL

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