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Miami Dolphins

Top 5 Most Disappointing Miami Dolphins of 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The entire 2019 season can be disappointing for various reasons.

For one, the Miami Dolphins sported their worst record since their forgettable 2007 season in which they went 1-15.

Although they surprised us with 5 more wins than we expected, the team took themselves out of the running for Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and they potentially need to use all the extra assets they acquired just to move up a couple spots for Tua Tagovailoa.

But season expectations aside, there were plenty of players that became bright spots for 2020, while others have us shaking our head. Below are the top 5 most disappointing Miami Dolphins of 2019:

Click here to see which Miami Dolphins made our top 5 for 2019.

5) Minkah Fitzpatrick

A player has to do something outlandish to warrant a spot on this list after just two games, but that’s exactly where we find Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Sold to us as the ultimate team player and perennial starter that could play more positions than the average fan realized existed, Fitzpatrick was nothing but a dud in 2019.

Frustrated with the way he was utilized, and disappointed that the team was attempting to “tank” (and seemingly waste the early part of his career), Fitzpatrick demanded a trade. Most will say that Fitzpatrick won the battle, as he evolved into a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate, but the Dolphins are in a much-better position to win this war.

If Fitzpatrick is disappointed that the Dolphins are rebuilding, what does he think the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to do with Ben Roethlisberger on the verge of retirement?

In the end, the Dolphins received a solid return for a player that wasn’t going to live up to his potential in South Florida, but everything else surrounding Minkah Fitzpatrick’s 2019 saga was dramatic and disappointing to say the least.

4) Charles Harris

This is an evergreen statement that I should just wash, rinse and repeat on an annual basis.

After two disappointing seasons, it’s not that we had too many expectations for Charles Harris, but there was still hope that Brian Flores could come in and turn the former 1st-round pick (22nd-overall) around. Unfortunately, the four-year role player found himself losing snaps to fellow 2017 draftee Taco Charlton (28th-overall).

Charlton’s final stats might indicate he was more-productive, but most of his sacks were clean-up sacks earned by someone else on the defensive line or dictated by tight coverage in the secondary. This isn’t to discourage Charlton’s production, but to show you just how far Harris has fallen.

In the end, Harris’ draft slot (22nd-overall) is the only reason he isn’t as disappointing as Dion Jordan (3rd-overall). For your reference, Harris has been active for 41 games and has accumulated 3.5 sacks while Jordan was active for 26 games and accumulated 3 sacks.

3) Jakeem Grant

It’s not that Jakeem Grant had a bad year, but we expected him to flourish after teasing us with his potential and subsequent contract extension in 2018.

Statistically, 2019 was Grant’s worst season (aside from his rookie year where he accumulated almost nothing). He’s supposed to be a speed threat; however, his 8.6 yards-per-reception last year was lower than DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Allen Hurns. Some of us view Hurns as an afterthought, but his 416 yards last season were only 16 yards less than what Grant has accumulated the past two seasons combined.

Currently, the Miami Dolphins are strong at wide receiver, to the point where Grant is possibly the odd-man out in 2020. Parker, Williams and Hurns may all be higher on the depth chart; add in the potential that Albert Wilson restructures his deal, and Grant becomes a luxury more than a commodity.

2) Reshad Jones

Reshad Jones is another veteran that disappointed us for reasons unrelated to his performance.

If this Dolphins team was able to win 5 games without their two-most expensive players, what could they have accomplished with both of them (Jones and Xavien Howard), Minkah Fitzpatrick, Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Ryan Tannehill?

Jones’ $17.2m salary cap hit meant the Dolphins used $4.3m in salary cap space for each game Jones was active for last season. He accumulated no turnovers, just 27 total tackles, only 1 pass defended, and allowed multiple touchdowns in coverage. Though I don’t believe Jones is “done”, his performance last year left a lot to be desired.

Dolphins fans absolutely love the hard-hitting, trash-talking safety, but it remains to be seen if he’ll still suit up with the team that originally drafted him for an 11th season. Jones is set to cost $15.6m against the cap in 2020, with a $10.2m dead cap hit attached.

Honorable Mentions:

Cordrea Tankersley:

Hard to fault a guy for tearing his ACL, but Cordrea Tankersley has gone from the most-promising player on the team to a forgotten former 3rd-round pick.

Once projected as a possible 1st-round cornerback, Tankersley fell to the Dolphins in the 3rd-round of the 2017 draft, and Miami capitalized on his availability. His rookie season was promising, and fans felt the team solved their secondary which consisted of Xavien Howard, Tankersley, Bobby McCain and Reshad Jones. Unfortunately, the Dolphins are still searching for an answer opposite Howard.

Since Tankersley has faltered, Minkah Fitzpatrick, McCain, Eric Rowe and others have attempted to man the boundary with minimal success.

Kenyan Drake:

You can pin this one on the offensive coaching staff of 2020, 2019 and everyone else since Kenyan Drake was drafted in 2016.

Given his body build, the speedy running back was never viewed as a full time solution at the position. Misused for his entire career, the Arizona Cardinals identified that they could obtain a good running back at a cheap price and poached Drake from the Dolphins for a 5th-round pick.

The Dolphins stunted Drake’s career enough that the Cardinals probably won’t receive a huge compensatory pick in return if Drake signs with another team (as he probably won’t sign a lucrative enough contract to warrant more than a 6th-round compensatory pick), but you have to wonder if Drake could have been a legitimate solution to the current running back dilemma the Dolphins face.

This is an instance where we aren’t necessarily disappointed at the player themselves, but reminiscing about Drake reminds Dolphins fans that he’s just another player the team couldn’t maximize.

Josh Rosen:

The Miami Dolphins future franchise quarterback may not have received the fairest chance, but he didn’t warrant much of a second chance either.

Outplayed and outsmarted by veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen was given the reins for 3 games before coughing it back up to Fitzpatrick. As we come to learn, all Brian Flores wants to do is win, and he’s going to start the players he deems gives him the best chance to accomplish that. And though it was hard to accept, we came to realize that this team wasn’t going to win with Rosen.

Many will view this as a disappointment due to the 2nd-round pick the Dolphins gave up to acquire him, but you can’t fault Chris Grier for trying to solve the quarterback position. It’s the overall production and the fact that this fanbase has to hope for another solution that make this such a disappointing part of the 2019 season.

Aqib Talib:

Literally 0 production, c’mon man….

1) Xavien Howard

His performance hasn’t declined, but everything else surrounding Xavien Howard has led Dolphins fans to question their elite cornerback.

In his 4-year career, Howard has finished all 16 games just once (2017). Between 2018 and 2019, Howard has started 17 games…which essentially equates to one season. Pair this injury history with a potential 4-game suspension for domestic violence, and Howard’s $75m contract looks skeptical at best.

We are all expecting Howard to bounce back in 2020, but can this really be guaranteed? Or will this just be another unfinished season for Howard?

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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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Marchcool

    February 12, 2020 at 7:45 am

    This article just shows that the Dolphins’ front office is a total and clueless mess. It has been so under S.Ross no matter who the HC is and no matter who the GM is.
    Somehow they will manage to blow it again the next season, starting with the draft. Well, it is in fact easy for them to blow it. Bad picks here and there, bad free-agency hiring here and there. Firing some coaches here and there. Let go some key players here and there…and here we go, the perennial mediocre team for more than a decade and for the next decade too. It’s no wonder why M. Fitzpatrick didn’t want to stay. Who wants to stay in such an “organization”. If J.Burrows doesn’t want to go with the Bengals, why in the world he would like to come to the Dolphins, just for the city and its surroundings?
    Well, only if he has to have a long, very long vacation ride in South Florida. Othewise, there are like 20 reasons for him not to come to the Dolphins. The main one being to contend for a SB.

  2. Avatar

    Jerry Gragg

    February 15, 2020 at 9:11 pm

    Josh Rosen was given the REINS for 3 games, not the REIGNS for 3 games.

    • Jason Hrina

      Jason Hrina

      February 17, 2020 at 9:02 am

      Oy! Solid catch, Jerry. Though I do wish he were king for those 3 games

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Think Brian Flores & Chris Grier aren’t smart?

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

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

We’ve Heard This Before

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

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

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

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

Good coach, but poor coaching decisions.

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

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

Great person, but terrible with people.

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

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

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

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

So Why is This Different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Waive TE Michael Roberts

Chris Kowalewski

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

The Miami Dolphins have today waived TE Michael Roberts.

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

The Better Player Plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Playoff Bound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m Sure He’s Healthy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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