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Miami Dolphins

Under New Executive VP, Chris Grier, Dolphins Introduce Future Plans

Travis Wingfield

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When he woke up Monday morning Chris Grier was the General Manager of the Miami Dolphins. With the exact details of his responsibilities shrouded by the presence of an Executive VP, Grier likely didn’t know the potential wreckage he was driving into on his Monday commute.

Unexpected to most, Stephen Ross acted swiftly. Reports of Adam Gase’s dismissal became public knowledge around 10 A.M. EST. Still, a cloud of mystery hovered about the next moves this once proud organization would enact in the coming days.

Or, in this case, the coming hours.

Ross took to the podium with Chris Grier. The announcement was made that the former General Manager would take a promotion up to the head of all football operations.

The man whose job Grier takes over, Mike Tannenbaum, has been re-assigned to a non-football working role within the organization. Essentially, he’s Jack Barker from Silicon Valley. Or Milton from Office Space – whichever you prefer, probably age-dependent.

Grier sat alongside Ross as the pair answered questions regarding Miami’s vision and plan going forward. Ross, visibly weary, announced his intentions to be a hands-off owner. Entrusting everything on the football side to a scout that rose up through the ranks within the organization.

“When you talk to people in the NFL, he’s one of the most respected people in the league. He’s been here a long time and he’s earned the respect of everyone in the organization. I’m confident that I already have the best person for this job.”

Ross’ glowing review of Grier isn’t unique.

Grier, the son of former Patriots Executive Bobby Grier, has worked alongside some of the more illustrious names in NFL lore.

Beginning as an intern in 1994, Grier was promoted to a position as a regional scout from 1995-1995. Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll were each able to call Grier a colleague during his tenure with the Patriots.

Grier would migrate south to Miami for eight years (2000-2007). Then when his former boss, Bill Parcells, signed on with Miami, Parcells made Grier the director of college scouting.

With Parcells leaving the franchise three years into his contract, Grier remained in the same role through the 2015 season.

After being named General Manager in 2016, Grier is now in the same chair previously occupied by Tannenbaum and Parcells before him.

Walking down Grier’s memory lane serves a purpose. Grier, himself, addressed the media today to talk about his vision moving forward.

“I’m not [going to] just throw it out there for you guys, but look at who I started with,” Grier said about his roster building philosophy. “Parcells, Carroll, Belichick, Saban a lot of those guys influenced me and I still talk to them.”

As a fly on the wall during the Saban, Cameron, Sparano, Philbin and Gase eras, Grier has seen it all. And the breadcrumbs of those mentors brings his philosophy largely to one area.

Defense.

Seeing the failures of previously renowned offensive guru Adam Gase (and may as well toss the milquetoast Joe Philbin into that pairing), Grier figures to turn back to his roots. Parcells defines the old school while Saban, Belichick and Carroll’s programs are featured defensive stalwarts.

Miami has made quick work of identifying a list of coaching interviews to conduct over the coming days and weeks. Before we uncover those candidates, a few more quotes from the 12-minute presser from Monday.

Stephen Ross [paraphrasing]:

– The decision to move on from Adam [Gase] was made last night (Sunday).

Nov 4, 2018; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (left) celebrates with Dolphins president and chief executive officer Tom Garfinkel (right) after a game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

– Today, we are no further than when I bought the team. We have a good young roster and attacked the remaining issues with some older free agents and a few draft picks. But to continue to operate under that practice would be the definition of insanity. We’ve done the same things over and over since I’ve been here and it lands us in that 6-10 to 10-6 range – that’s not good enough. It’s time for the organization to take a different approach.

Tom Garfinkel has done a terrific job with making the game day experience great for the fans. With that, and the stadium renovations, we’re proud of that, but we aren’t proud of what we’ve done on the football field.

– We want to build a sustainable winner. Even if it takes some time, we’re going to look to build this thing the right way.

Chris Grier is more qualified to do this job than anyone we could’ve found. He will have total responsibility, make all the football decisions and report to me. The Head Coach will report to Chris.

Chris Grier [paraphrasing]:

– It’s important to have an aligned vision with the Head Coach. I’m not going to be rigid in my views and dismiss new ideas, but we need to have the same vision.

– It’s about knowing who we want to be and staying with that vision and building this thing the right way.

– The process begins immediately, as soon as we’re done with this press conference.

The term immediately shouldn’t have been taken lightly – Grier meant it. Since that press conference, the Dolphins have announced their interest in interviewing five separate candidates for the vacant Head Coach position.

Vic Fangio –

Tied to Head Coaching jobs in the past, Fangio has instead kept to his craft of coaching dominant defenses – and boy did he ever in 2018. Fangio will not be available until the Bears are eliminated from post-season contention (they play Sunday vs. Philadelphia), but his work transforming that side of the football was instrumental in Chicago’s first trip to the post-season since 2010.

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Fangio does two things; chew gum, and built great defense – and he’s all out of gum. Fangio directed the number one defense in the NFL in 2018, up from his 2017 work where he had the Bears in the top 10.

Those big jumps took some time as the Bears ranked 20th and 24th in total defense in Fangio’s first two years. The 2014 defense Fangio took over was 30th in the NFL.

The story was the same in San Francisco prior to his arrival. A good defense in 2010 (13thoverall), Fangio’s four years brought back two second-ranked defenses, a third-ranking and a fifth-ranked squad in 2014.

Fangio was at the forefront of the coaching vacancies around the league in 2017, but declined to move on because of what he was building in Chicago. He also felt that coaching defense in Chicago was a privilege and something he didn’t take lightly.

Fangio spent one year at the college ranks with Jim Harbaugh (who brought him to San Francisco for the 49ers job thereafter). Prior to that, Fangio was on John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens staff in 2008 and 2009 (a holdover from Brian Billick’s Ravens’ staff).

Fangio, age 60, has been coaching football since the 1970’s. He’s never been the Head Coach anywhere, but neither was Bruce Arians until his Coach of the Year 2012 season with the Indianapolis Colts.

“He’s an evil genius.” – Khalil Mack

“He’s a mob boss – the godfather all the way.” – Aaron Lynch

“Lord Fangio,” as he was referred to in San Francisco, has the admiration of his players and coaches alike.

Eric Bieniemy –

The next in line from the recent lineage of offensive geniuses, Bieniemy is the latest apple to fall from the Andy Reid Tree. With the success of Matt Nagy in Chicago, Bieniemy will likely have his pick of Head Coaching gigs this off-season – if that’s what he desires.

Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bieniemy just took a good offense and turned it into a revolutionary one in Kansas City. The running backs coach from 2013-2017, Bieniemy took over the offense along with new Quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Under Bieniemy, Mahomes threw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns.

His first year as a coordinator in the NFL brought back number one ranks across the board. Total offense, scoring percentage, scoring offense and yards-per-play, nobody outdid Kansas City’s 35.5 points-per-game in 2018.

A second-round draft pick in 1991, Bieniemy played for nine years before returning to his alma matter, Colorado, to coach the running backs. Playing with the Eagles in 1999 Bieniemy established a relationship with Andy Reid that would turn into a coaching job 13 years later.

Following up Reid’s mantra of being a teacher above all, Bieniemy is a stickler for the details.

And it works.

Eight of the 11 Head Coaches from the Reid Coaching Tree have gone on to make the playoffs. Three of them went to a Super Bowl (Ron Rivera) and two of them won it (Doug Pederson and John Harbaugh).

“He yells, he screams, he says funny things and it is awesome. We have affectionately termed these funny things Bieiniemyisms.”

“We rushed for 13 hundred yards last year, and don’t get me wrong, for the average back, that’s good year, but not for us. That’s extremely s——.”

Eric is a phenomenal football coach. I can’tcan’tspeakspeak for other people on that,butyougoout,openthedoorandtalktoeverybody. At the Senior Bowl, I talk to guys and say let’s talk some ball. As long as a guy loves ball, he’s got aptitude and is willing to work, I’m all in on it, man, and that’s what Eric is.” – AndyReid

Bieniemy won’t be available for at least two weeks – his Chiefs are onto the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

 

Mike Munchak –

The only man on this short-list with NFL Head Coaching experience, Munchak has earned the admiration of multiple teams in the league with coaching vacancies.

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Munchak took over the Pittsburgh OL job in 2014 after being dismissed from Tennessee (as the HC). During his time in Pittsburgh, Munchak has turned mounds of clay into one of the best offensive lines in the NFL – most notably with Alejandro Villanueva. The massive six-foot-nine, 320-pound tackle was a project after serving as a Captain in the US Army – now he’s one of the best in the business.

“What makes Coach Munchak, great first and foremost, is that he’s a great person. He’s a person that has a great set of values that works harder than anybody. He’s a person that truly understands the game from a technical aspect. He’s not going to really worry about things that just happen in football where other coaches might spend too much time thinking about those little mistakes.

He’s such a good person and he’s such an admirable man in every single way. The way he behaves, the way he carries himself. He’s very consistent, treats everybody the same. He’s always the same person. It gets to the point where you really don’t want to let him down. You want to play your best for him.”

There probably doesn’t need to be another character reference beyond that one.

Munchak was an underwhelming 22-26 with the Titans. He never found a quarterback (the team traded up for Marcus Mariota the year after his dismissal) and, frankly, never had a roster worth much more than the middling .500 returns he provided.

Brian Flores –

A member of Bill Belichick’s staff since the 2004 season, Flores has worked his way up the ranks. From a scouting assistant, pro scout, all the way up to the Defensive Coordinator in 2018, Flores is well-versed in the scope of an entire football operation.

Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

With a patchwork group on the defensive side, Flores coached the Patriots defense up to the 7th lowest yards allowed in 2018. Only five teams allowed fewer points than Flores’ defense.

Something this blog has harped on is the lack of teaching being done by Miami coaches. The first thing Bill Belichick references with Flores is his ability to do just that – teach.

 “I think Brian and our defensive staff has done a good job in teaching the players and installing our system,” Belichick said. 

“I’m excited for where he’s at right now,” said safety Duron Harmon. “He’s worked to put himself in this position.”

“Obviously, the football knowledge is 100 percent there,” Jordan Richard said. “But he has so many other qualities that you have to respect.”

Flores won’t be available for two weeks at the earliest – his Patriots have a first-round playoff bye.

Kris Richard –

Coordinating the defensive passing game and coaching the DBs in Dallas, Richard’s connection to Chris Grier goes through Pete Carroll.

Richard spent the first 10 years of his coaching career in Seattle. He was promoted to Assistant Defensive Backs Coach in 2009 when Carroll arrived and his ascension would continue at a rapid pace.

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Richard became the Defensive Backs Coach in 2012 before taking over as the full time Defensive Coordinator in 2015.

Coaching the Legion of Boom could entice Richard to look at what Miami has to work with in the secondary. Xavien Howard (Richard Sherman), Minkah Fitzpatrick (Earl Thomas), Reshad Jones (Kam Chancellor) could make up an intriguing defensive scheme for Richard to build in Miami.

“He’s got a great presentation about him,” [John] Schneider said. “He’s got a great way of teaching guys like in a real, clear concise manner not like guys are having their heads spinning. That’s probably the best way to describe it.

“He’s had rooms where he’s had a lot of strong, alpha personalities, and he handled it.”

Richard’s Cowboys play the Seahawks Saturday in the NFC wildcard round.

 

As we know, both of the Harbaugh brothers bear a special interest to Stephen Ross. If the Ravens are eliminated from the post-season on Sunday, expect the rumors around a trade between Baltimore and Miami to resurface for the services of John Harbaugh.

Lincoln Riley is still nothing more than a hot name at this point on the college landscape. Iowa State Head Coach Matt Campbell declined an interview with the New York Jets, but remains open to the idea of a jump to the league.

Baylor Head Coach Matt Rhule has been linked to some NFL jobs – he turned around a Baylor program that was headed for utter purgatory following a 1-11 season and its own scandalous nature.

Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) is another name that has been mentioned for HC jobs in the NFL. Colts DC Matt Eberflus, Saints Assistant HC Dan Campbell and Dolphins Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi all figure to garner interest as well.

We’ll have you updated with any and all changes the Dolphins make in the coming days both on LockedOnDolphins.com and the Locked On Dolphins podcast.

@WingfieldNFL

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Daddio

    December 31, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Thank you Travis for all your hard work and dedication. If only all our beloved Dolphins players were so professional, we would have had far more success over the last few decades.

  2. Avatar

    Jerry

    January 1, 2019 at 12:13 am

    Rizzi needs to stay right where he is. He’s just damn good as Special-Teams coach

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Miami Dolphins

Patriots-Dolphins Scheme Brief and Player Analogs

Kevin Dern

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With the Draft complete and undrafted free agents added, with a few other moves in the mix, we’ve finally got our first glimpse of Miami’s 90 (really 91) man roster as we head into summer OTAs and mandatory mini-camp.  If I were a betting man, I’d guess that Miami may not be quite done with roster additions.  I imagine we’ll see something between June 1st and the start of Training Camp.  With all that in mind there’s been a lot of speculation about Miami’s defense and how it will look.

This offseason has provided us with a few interesting bits about what we’ll see.  John Congemi state on “The Audible”, the Dolphins own podcast, that Raekwon McMillan asked Brian Flores about watching film and was told to look at Dont’a Hightower.  Eric Rowe also said that the scheme is the same as what he ran last year with the Patriots.  We also had Brian Flores answering a question during his OTA media availability saying that the formatting of defense would be different.  I would expect that answer given the personnel differences, perhaps better spelled “deficiencies” that Miami has in comparison to the Patriots defense from a year ago.  This is why I wanted to put together this piece – to examine what we’re likely to see and who from Miami’s roster is an analog of a Patriot defender from 2018.

The Scheme
Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat.  This isn’t a 4-3 defense.  This isn’t a 3-4 defense.  Forget about those ideologies.  This defense is multiple.  Very multiple.  As I detailed in my piece earlier this year, New England is in a sub-package more than anything.  The top three personnel groupings the Patriots used last year were all sub-packages sets:  4-2-5 (307 snaps), 3-3-5 (226 snaps) and 3-2-6 (162 snaps).  The Patriots were in a 4-3 (97 snaps) and 3-4 (13 snaps) much, much less.

Looking at the Pats top two formations, I think we’re likely to see these used by the Dolphins as well.  A good barometer for how the Patriots used them would be that if they were facing 12 or 21 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with three safeties instead of a slot corner.  If they were facing 11 personnel, they were in a 4-2-5 with two safeties and a slot corner or used a 3-3-5 formation.  Often times that formation saw one of the linebackers, often Kyle Van Noy, walked-up on the line of scrimmage effectively playing as a stand-up defensive end.

This defense will be versatile in that we’ll see some different things than what we saw under Matt Burke and Vance Joseph.  We’ll likely see more even fronts.

https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/sSpkRMR5QZSgWDvC-RHR8Hw/image?w=624&h=352&rev=5&ac=1

We’re likely to see their Diamond (nickel – 3-3-5) and Ruby (dime – 3-2-6) fronts quite a bit.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DVOxHjUW0AE-_sj.jpg  (Courtesy of James Light – @JamesALight)

Coach Flores has often talked about wanting to see what players can and can’t do, and slot them into roles based on those results.  Rather than trying to find prototype players, the Patriots have searched for phenotypes – particular skillsets that players possess – and have plugged them into their scheme.  For example as it relates to Miami, there really wasn’t a player in this year’s Draft that was a direct analog of Kyle Van Noy.  There just wasn’t.  Jahlani Tavai was probably the closest and Detroit snatched him in the second round.

With that let’s take a look at the various positions Miami will use and who might be fits – and those who are close analogs with Pats players.  To help digest this I’ll break it down into:  Position – what they ask those players to do; Analogs – if any; and Players – guys Miami has on the roster that will likely get a crack at the role.

PositionDefensive Ends – Let’s start here.  Miami’s defense has undergone a seismic shift philosophically.  What was once the focal point of the wide-9, Miami’s no longer going to be in the market for defensive ends that could potentially hit double-digit sacks on a regular basis.  The Patriots have used different body type over the years, ranging from Rob Ninkovich to Chandler Jones to Trey Flowers to Deatrich Wise all in order to help set the edge against the run and be cogs in the machine in the pass-rush scheme, not the focal point.

Analogs:  Miami doesn’t have a guy who can replicate what Trey Flowers offered the Patriots.  It’s why Miami were in on him in free agency and were outbid by Detroit, where another Belichick disciple resides as head coach, in free agency.  They do have several guys who can be used the way Adrian Clayborn and Deatrich Wise were used, but until we see it on the field, I’m not comfortable labeling any as direct analogs.

Players:  For this defense, I think we’re likely to see guys classified as “Closed Ends” and “Open Ends” rather than left and right.  Closed meaning the strongside end, often with a LB outside or playing off of that player, and open side meaning the guy on the weakside of the formation, sometimes with no one outside of him.

Closed Ends:  Tank Carradine, Jonathan Woodard, Jonathan Ledbetter
Open Ends:  Charles Harris, Dewayne Hendrix, Jayrone Elliott*

*Jayrone Elliott may be more of a pass-rushing specialist in the mold of John Simon, whom the Patriots listed as a LB but played as a defensive end, sometimes standing up.  This is where I think Elliott slots in and he very well may have a shot to earn a roster spot.  He’s #91 for the Packers in the GIF below.

https://i2.wp.com/titletownsoundoff.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/12_elliott.gif

Position:  Defensive Tackles – The Patriots last year under Brian Flores used a rotation of four primary guys.  They also used DEs Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise as 3-techniques quite a bit, but the primary four were Malcom Brown as a 1-technique and shade NT, Lawrence Guy as a 3-technique, Danny Shelton as a true 0 and shade NT, and Adam Butler as a 0, 1, 2i or 3 technique – he was involved in a lot of the Pats’ pass-rush packages.  The Patriots would also use some packages with 3 DTs on the field at the same time, often having Lawrence Guy play as a “Big DE” as Brian Flores labeled it last week.

Analogs:  Davon Godchaux compares pretty favorably to Malcom Brown, in my opinion.  He’s country strong and has been Miami’s primary 2i-technique the past two seasons.  That’s not much of a variation from playing the 1-technique NT spot, which many fans seem to forget Godchaux played at LSU for two seasons before switching to 3-4 DE his final year in Baton Rouge.

Players:  For Miami, I think Davon Godchaux slots in as the primary 1-technique player.  Christian Wilkins and Vincent Taylor figure to handle the 3-technique snaps of Lawrence Guy, as well as potentially doing some of the 4i and 5-tech stuff, especially Wilkins.  Miami at the moment has setup a nice competition for that true NT spots.  They don’t really have a guy as yet but figure on a competition between Jamiyus Pittman, Joey Mbu, Kendrick Norton and Cory Thomas.  I think Wilkins will likely eat up the snaps that Adam Butler took, but Miami may keep Akeem Spence for that role.  Remember, Akeem Spence was traded to Miami last year by Matt Patricia because he didn’t fit the defense.  That’s Miami’s defense.

I do think there’s an opportunity for both Wilkins and Taylor to grab some snaps at 3-technique in the 3-3-5 “Bear” front with New England runs quite a bit *IF* Miami can find the OLBs to make this work.

https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/1*VBysJsaw3lxF0Mduc7-Ueg.png

Position:  Linebackers – The Pats primarily used two linebackers on the field in most of their packages, except on third downs.  Those two guys were their Mac (Mc) and Money ($) LBs – Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.  Their responsibilities vary by formation and personnel grouping.  They’ll also use a Buck (B) when they have three linebackers on the field.  I’ll be working on a preview article as we get into Training Camp and preseason where I’ll do a deep dive on how they use these positions in each personnel package.  For now, I’ll summarize these parts.

Mac – This is Dont’a Hightower’s spot.  In the 4-2-5 and any 4-3 formations, Hightower is an off-ball LB or MLB in the 4-3 most of the time.  There are various formations, like the 3-3-5 picture above (see OLB Lee as Hightower was injured for this game), will line up on the ball in a position akin to where a 3-4 OLB would be, even though there’s only 3 LBs on the field.

$ – This is Kyle Van Noy.  Van Noy will line up off the ball in 4-3 formations or will be the SAM if they use an Under look – which is rare.  In the 4-2-5 groupings he and Hightower are the two main off-ball linebackers.  In the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts, Van Noy is often at the MLB spot, with Hightower and John Simon as the OLBs.  However, he will also line up on the line of scrimmage as a stand-up DE in their Diamond and Ruby sets that were shown before.  In these spots, he’ll 1) pass-rush 2) cover a RB or TE 3) cover the hook, curl or flat, or 4) act as a blitzer – either in a green dog capacity, or as looper coming through the backside A or B gap.  See the formation below:

Notice that Hightower is off-the-ball as it looks like a 4-2-5 formation.  This is one of the subtleties that the Patriots will use.

Buck – This role is sort of two-fold.  It is essentially the WILL LB in 4-3 spots, but can be an off-ball ILB in 4-2-5 fronts, and on the line of scrimmage edge rusher in the 3-3-5 and other sub fronts.

Analogs:  None.  The closest one, in my opinion, is Raekwon McMillan to Dont’a Hightower.  As indicated by John Congemi, McMillan was told by Brian Flores to watch film on Hightower.  I think McMillan will likely fill the Mac role in the 4-2-5 and he had some experience playing SAM at Ohio State, so we may see him as a stand-up on the LOS edge LB in some of the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  Though the fit in the “Bear” package may be dubious at best.  I do, however, think that Raekwon can line up as an on the line of scrimmage or “mugged up” ILB in the Patriots sub-fronts.  He’s got some familiarity with this playing “Nose-backer” in the wide-9 at times last year under Matt Burke.  I think Raekwon is big and strong enough to be used as a blitzer and “pin” player on stunts, much like this GIF of Hightower below, courtesy of Pro Football Focus:

https://media.profootballfocus.com/2019/02/HIGHT-GIFY-3.0.gif

Notice the stunt by Adrian Clayborn following Hightower, essentially a T-E stunt.  Miami’s defensive line coach Marion Hobby gives a great breakdown of those stunts here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2X2HjiynI0&t=5s

I included this here as Miami will likely have some of their linebackers playing on the edges or mugged up inside executing these pass-rush games and blitzes.

Players:   Separating these by position for simplicity:

Mac – Raekwon McMillan is your starter here.  As far as depth goes, I think we could see Chase Allen, Tre’ Watson and Quentin Poling compete here for the reps that are between-the-tackles.  I think guys like Charles Harris and Andrew Van Ginkel could very well get opportunities for some of the stand-up edge reps.  That said, the Patriots have always liked to find guys who can fulfill the entire role rather than piecemealing it.  Miami may not have that player in this case, but I think McMillan can handle the bulk of these duties and should thrive in this defense.

$ – Jerome Baker is likely who Miami starts with at this spot.  Baker recently reported on The Audible he’s trying to bulk up to 230lbs after playing last year at 220lbs.  This fit is dubious, in my opinion.  I know many Dolfans won’t like to read that, but it is what it is.  I think Baker can likely handle this role in the 4-2-5 looks and would likely be the lone off-ball MLB in the 3-3-5 “Bear” fronts.  But Baker is more of a blitzer than true pass-rusher.  He’s also 6’1” and 227lbs currently.  Kyle Van Noy is a full 6’3” 250lbs.  Perhaps Baker’s speed is the equalizer here, but that length will be important.  I think this is where Andrew Van Ginkel could absolutely thrive.  He did the on the line of scrimmage stuff all the time at Wisconsin.  Charles Harris should, in my opinion, get a shot here with the edge stuff; Miami might be able to squeeze some football out of him this way.

Buck – Travis and I discussed this on the podcast on Sunday.  If Miami had limited Kiko Alonso’s role in last year’s defense he’d have been a pretty effective, albeit overpaid, third linebacker.  I see him here, though perhaps not right away.  The new staff may be more inclined to give him a shot at the $ linebacker spot given his veteran experience.  That’d be regrettable in my opinion.  If they can pare down his snaps, he could likely handle a lot of the duties the Buck LB spot handles on first and second downs…that is for what snaps there are.  The Patriots would often use John Simon in this role for their 3rd down packages or as an extra DE.  This is where I mentioned Jayrone Elliott fitting in, purely in the pass-rushing role.

In short, Miami just doesn’t have the horses that the Patriots have at linebacker, and though they may not want to, I think the coaching staff will be forced to piecemeal these LB roles with multiple parts.  Gun to my head, I’d expect we’ll see McMillan, Baker, Alonso, Van Ginkel all playing at least solid snaps, with perhaps Charles Harris and Jayrone Elliott having niche roles.

Position:  Safety – I’m skipping the corner position for right now as I want to do a little more research on that.  Let’s just get this out of the way, Xavien Howard looks like an analog for Stephon Gilmore.  X got the bag, deservedly so, and will hopefully be around to see this rebuild take flight.

At Safety, Miami have some fits, but I’m very, very curious to see how the players are slotted into roles.  New England often employs three safeties in their 4-2-5 looks, most often against 12 and 21 personnel rather than playing a third linebacker.  Those roles seem to stack up in the following spots:

SS – Strong safety – This is Patrick Chung, and he’ll often be lined up on the edge or in the box, where a linebacker would often be.  They’ll also use him as a robber in split safety looks, or in disguised looks with a deep safety dropping bac.

* – Star – This is Devin McCourty.  He’ll line up EVERYWHERE.  He’s often a FS in split safety looks, but he’ll find his way to the slot as an overhang defender. He’ll cover Flexed tight ends man-to-man.  He’ll cover them split out wide.  He handles a lot of the single-high safety responsibilities when they have two safeties on the field, but on 3rd downs, he’s often lined up in the slot or in the box with a coverage responsibility close to the line of scrimmage.

FS – Free Safety – this is played by McCourty in two safety looks, but is also played by Duron Harmon when they bring a third safety onto the field.

This video, courtesy of Samuel Gold, is required defensive study viewing.  Samuel does an outstanding job of breaking down how the Patriots shut down the Rams in the Super Bowl.  You can see a lot of the versatility among the safeties in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLmyRYJHt4o&t=202s

Analogs:  Minkah Fitzpatrick is our second true analog.  While we haven’t seen him do everything that the Patriots ask Devin McCourty, in large part due to Matt Burke using Minkah at three different spots as a rookie, if you view his Alabama tape and Dolphins tape, it’s not hard to see the match here at all.  While most football fans acknowledge that Derwin James was just a freaking monster as a rookie, he was used EXACTLY has he should have been.  Kudos to the Chargers for doing so.  Minkah Fitzpatrick was, well, not used that way.  He was still outstanding but received much less notoriety.  That should change in 2019.

Players:  Reshad Jones caught a lot of flak for “quitting” on the team during the Jets game last year.  I don’t care.  He’s been one of the top two or three Dolphins players since 2012.  He should be in the Ring of Honor, and if you’re in favor of putting Ricky Williams there, you damn sure better vote for Reshad.

SS – That aside, I’d like to think that if Reshad’s fully recovered from offseason shoulders surgery – he was boxing in a video on Instagram last week – that he’d be the strong safety.  He did a lot of what Patrick Chung does in 2017 and had a Pro Bowl season.  He’s best attacking downhill or playing close to the line of scrimmage, so I think he fits that role well.  However, if his shoulders are still balky, we may see T.J. McDonald here.  I have another theory on him.

* – We already talked about Minkah Fitzpatrick filling in this role.  It’s his.  Leave him in this role.  Watch him flourish.

FS – This should really be spelled out as third safety.  My guess for now is that T.J. McDonald is penciled, lightly, into this role.  Barry Jackson reported a while back that T.J. wanted to drop weight from the 230lbs he played at a year ago and get down to 215lbs.  He had a little bit of success as a deep safety in 2017 when he came back from suspension.  That being said, I don’t think he or Reshad Jones, again if Jones’ shoulders are balky, are great fits for this role.  Their contract situations are, how to put it…not team friendly.  So, unless there’s a trade that develops, I expect they’ll be given opportunities

Also in consideration for this role should be Maurice Smith and Walt Aikens.  One has been a fringe roster player and the other is our best special teamer (and one of the top 5 special teamers in the entire NFL – Walt’s really good), but I’d imagine they’ll get a trial run here.  Aikens looks the part and is athletic, but wasn’t able to put it together when given a shot as a starting safety back in 2015 when Louis Delmas tore his ACL in preseason.  I do wonder if safeties coach Tony Oden may try to convert one of the myriad cornerbacks Miami have on their 90 man roster to safety.  He did so with Charles Washington while with Detroit in 2016.  The Patriots did it with Teez Tabor last year.  Perhaps someone will emerge for Miami here if McDonald or Jones falter.

We’ve covered quite a lot of ground in this piece already, so I’m going to wrap this up without taking up any more time until my next piece.  Overall, Dolfans are going to be wide-eyed trying to catch up with the philosophical seismic shift we’re going to see with the defense this year.  It’ll be multiple.  It’ll use a lot of players.  It’ll be different in some capacities on a weekly basis given opponents’ strengths.

All of this should be welcomed with open arms.

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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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