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Miami Dolphins

What Did the Tight Ends Say? (6-11-18)

Jason Hrina



Image Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Each week, the Locked On Dolphins team will look to provide you with the latest quotes from your team’s coaches, players and front office executives. We will let you know what are they saying and interpret what it really means for the Miami Dolphins.

Earlier today, the Dolphins young group of tight ends spoke to the media after their OTA session.

For the first time in Ryan Tannehill‘s career, Dolphins fans finally have a position group to be leery of other than the offensive line.

While there is a bunch of excitement surrounding 2018 draft picks Mike Gesicki (2nd round) and Durham Smythe (4th round), Dolphins fans should look to dip their toes in the water before they jump right in.

Are they really the answer?

The tight end position is vital to the Dolphins (and Tannehill’s) success. In the two seasons Charles Clay was a viable receiving target (receiving 50+ targets throughout the year), Tannehill eclipsed 4000 yards and threw for at least twice as many touchdowns as he did interceptions.

Since Clay’s departure, Miami’s tight end room has been a mix of future potential and former glory.

Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas have been the most well-known tight ends on the roster, though players like MarQueis Gray and Dion Sims have produced better results.

Thing is, Gray and Sims aren’t the type of play makers that are going to evolve an offense.

Which explains why Gesicki and Smythe were two of the first four draft choices for the Dolphins. One has the potential to be the next Jimmy Graham, while the other should shape into a younger and cheaper Anthony Fasano.

None of this even hints at the possibilities AJ Derby can bring to the offense.

Claimed by the Dolphins after he was waived-injured by the Denver Broncos in November of 2017, Derby expects to compete with both rookies for a starting spot. Though his skill set isn’t as explosive as Gesicki’s or as smooth as Smythe’s, Derby should provide a decent compliment to the two; assuming he can beat out MarQueis Gray for the backup role.

Below is a breakdown of what a few of the tight ends on the roster had to say:

Mike Gesicki:

“When the ball comes my way it’s my job to make a play”

Gesicki seems to know exactly what’s expected of him. While blocking is another subject – one he’s working vastly on improving – Gesicki is expected to be the receiving threat Miami has been missing at the position.

He’s also not placing too many expectations on himself, unlike what some Dolphins fans have been doing since he was drafted:

“I’m not worried about the production on the field right now. What I’m most concerned about is showing the coaches that I know my job….that I can be trusted.”

Gesicki seems to be garnering some trust from Tannehill. Fans were elated to see the social media video of Tannehill teaching Gesicki a play, and that wasn’t just for show. Seems Tannehill has been taking this leadership thing seriously.

Gesicki thinks “he’s a really good mentor. I get to see his attributes as a leader. He’s vocal, he’s doing all the right things.”

Being a receiver in college certainly helps Tannehill get his message across when explaining the nuances he’s looking for. Gesicki even has a mentor he can rely on in the tight end room with AJ Derby.

AJ Derby:

Previously a quarterback at Iowa, Derby can decipher and translate what a quarterback may be looking for quicker than another position player.

When asked why Gase considered him a QB-friendly TE, Derby believed it “goes back to knowing the position from a different way (as an ex-QB).”

Derby spent a lot of time with Tannehill this offseason. He revealed that Tannehill contacted him frequently throughout the offseason to get together and throw.

So what did Derby learn in those sessions?

“He’s very detail oriented. He wants you exactly where he wants you.”

This should come as no surprise to Dolphins fans, who heard Adam Gase discuss how he wants his players to know the playbook in-and-out, without freelancing their roles.

In this offense, the quarterback is responsible for throwing to a specific spot. Tannehill expects the player to be in that exact spot at the exact time the play is designed for.

With all of the chatter about how (poorly) Miami will perform this season, Derby had this bit of optimism:

“I think we have a good team, I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year.”

Durham Smythe:

Coming out of the draft, Smythe’s knocks were the opposite of Gesicki’s. He was an exceptional blocker, but wasn’t much of a receiver.

Sep 12, 2015; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish tight end Durham Smythe (80) blocks against the Virginia Cavaliers at Scott Stadium. Image Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When asked if he felt underappreciated as a receiver coming into the draft, Smythe balked, letting everyone know that he felt “with (the) offense we ran at Notre Dame, I wasn’t targeted much.” That displaying his skills as a receiver “was something I tried to show throughout the pre-draft process.”

Everything is bigger when you transition from college to the NFL.

How much bigger is the playbook from college? “Volumes. Double (the size).” And that isn’t accounting for how quickly players are asked to learn the playbook.

Gesicki joked that he is given a new “installment” (update to the playbook) not even an hour before practice. Which would be fine if the updates were minor, but they’re “already on install 10”

Though that shouldn’t strike any fear into fans, Smythe seems to have everything under control.

“For me, I’m trying to make (transitioning to the NFL) my strength. All of my focus is on the playbook and little technique things here-or-there.”

One thing that doesn’t come with the transition to the pros? Adjusting to the heat. The heat “is definitely an adjustment”, said Smythe.

Each rookie seemed to have a comment about the humidity in Miami – which makes me wonder why Miami doesn’t look to utilize this more as a homefield advantage (less 4pm games, more home games earlier in the season, etc).

Overall, the tight ends spoke about cohesion in the tight end room. Each player is there to help the other improve; which would be nice for the Dolphins, who are relying on three unproven tight ends to complete their offense in 2018.

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

Pillaging the Pats

Travis Wingfield



Taking From the Rich and Giving to the Phins

De facto Patriots Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores is set to take over the big chair in Miami at the conclusion of New England’s 2018 season. Rumored to be coming with Flores are a pair of Pats staffers.

A master of delegation, Bill Belichick constantly maintains the smallest staff in the league. Flores’ intentions are to bring with him Pats’ Consultant Bret Bielema and Wide Receivers Coach Chad O’Shea.

*We’ll have a comprehensive breakdown of the offensive scheme that comes with O’Shea should this move push closer to official. And we’ll do so in the same capacity as the Defensive Crash Course piece.

If Flores is able to extract both Bielema and O’Shea, he’s plundering 16% of the 2018 Patriots’ staff (that includes Flores). Belichick’s coaching tree has yielded less than desirable results in their new destinations, but Flores is described as “different” from the rest.

By now Dolphins fans are tired of lip service. If Flores is the exception to the many before him, great – we’ll find out on Sundays. Flores is, however, off to a unique beginning compared to the lackluster rest.


Coach (Year Left New England) Additional Migrating Staffers
Charlies Weis (2005 – Notre Dame) 0
Romeo Crennel (2005 – Cleveland) 0
Eric Mangini (2007 – NY Jets) 0
Josh McDaniels (2009 – Denver) 0
Bill O’Brien (2012 – Penn State) 0
Matt Patricia (2018 – Detroit) 0


Goose eggs. I didn’t expect that when I began this study, hence the table. Interestingly, the greatest dearth in the Patriots run came between the 2008-2010 seasons. That sentence is a house of cards for two reasons:

1.) It’s sort of hilarious to call two playoff appearances and a combined record of 35-13 a dearth. Those three seasons were the last time New England weren’t participating in the Conference Championship – they’ve qualified for eight consecutive title games since.

2.) It’s something of a strawman to suggest New England’s 14-2 season was cut short at the divisional round because of a loss of coordinators. Not to mention the 2008 season that brought back 11 wins despite starting Matt Cassel for 15 games.

That three-year stretch did come after New England lost its offensive and defensive coordinators, and then Crennel’s replacement at DC (Mangini) two years later. No one is mistaking Flores, Bielema, and O’Shea for Weis, Crennel, and Mangini, but this would be a similar exodus – the difference being all at once opposed to three years.

It’s no secret that Belichick is a ruthless competitor that has no qualms about making enemies. The Patriots have blocked coaches from interviewing for outside positions in the past. Clearly, New England doesn’t block assistants from taking head coaching jobs, but the fact that zero staffers jumped ship might insinuate staffers are held hostage.

Maybe that’s where the idea that Flores is different from the rest comes from. His ability to separate himself from the Pats’ program. His intentions to implement his own initiative that doesn’t try to form as a carbon copy of Belichick’s well-oiled machine in Foxboro.

There are a million ways to splice this, but it all comes back to one conclusion: Brian Flores is beloved by everyone that knows him – even the heartless Hoodie.


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Miami Dolphins

Crash Course On 2019 Dolphins Defensive Scheme

Travis Wingfield



For a publication based primarily on analysis, these last two weeks have been a bit of a drag for content. We know the potential names but, as they say, potential doesn’t play on Sundays. In this case, the reference refers to the rumors and names linked to various positions with the Dolphins – rumors, meaning anything but finalized.

Enter Patrick Graham.

It has been reported that Miami, under Head Coach to Be Named Brian Flores, will tag the former Green Bay Packers assistant as the Defensive Coordinator position with the Dolphins in 2019.

Graham, a former staffer alongside Flores in New England, spent the 2018 season coaching the linebackers on Mike Pettine’s defense.

Another name linked to the vacant DC job is Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas Head Coach spent the 2018 season working hand-in-hand with Bill Belichick as a Consultant to the Head Coach.

And so, from this, we glean some potential defensive structures, schemes and principles that figure to be migrating south this winter along with Flores.

For Flores, Graham, and potentially Bielema, the task is tall. Redirect a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed each of the last two years under the inexperienced watch of Matt Burke.

We start first in New England. After all, Flores will be a master of delegation, but he knows this scheme as well as anyone. Few teams mix up their fronts with more frequency than the New England Patriots.

The prevailing theme among these slight variances of defensive schemes is the “Bear” front. A Bear front simply refers to six defenders up around the line of scrimmage. Two of those players are positioned in a linebacker technique while the other four are down linemen.

This variation of the Bear front is a 3-3 look using three down-linemen, two outside ‘backers shaded off the 9-technique alignment.

In this image provided by the Twitter account of James Light, we can see the variations from the nickel and dime packages (yes, Miami will FINALLY be running some dime defense in 2019).

The more traditional look aligns those six players in a 4-2 set.

Bret Bielema last coached (on the field) in 2017 at Arkansas, so he’s no stranger to the evolution of the college game and its integration into the NFL. There, Bielema’s defense was based in the traditional 3-4, but the tight splits inside look an awful lot like the classic Bear front (nose tackle over the center and two fellow linemen in a variance between 2i and 4 techniques). Bielema helped institute some of these principles in 2018 – his one season with the Patriots.

The common theme between all of these looks is to prevent specific run plays. The inside run becomes increasingly difficult with all the bodies down around the line of scrimmage. The even bigger factor (both literally and figuratively) is the beef inside.

Lining up with three down-linemen (pushing 300 pounds a pop) and defending one gap makes it nearly impossible to pull, which means the end of any gap-scheming.

The scheme is also designed to shut down inside zone, but also free up the linebackers with fewer keys and responsibilities. Instead of asking the defensive ends to set the edge on the way to their pass rush (the design of the wide-9) this alignment puts that responsibility on the outside linebackers.

The widened pre-snap alignment gives the linebackers a quicker, unimpeded path to outside runs. Only the Mike Linebacker has to weed through trash and take on blocks in this defense. Raekwon McMillan would likely serve as the Middle Linebacker. McMillan’s instincts and physicality at the point-of-attack would capitalize on the things the former Buckeye does well.

Then there’s the influence of the actual Titled-Defensive Coordinator, Patrick Graham. Working under Mike Pettine, Graham absorbed the principles of the Bear front and the 46 defense. Pettine spent time with Rex Ryan in Baltimore and with the New York Jets and, as we all know, Rex’s Dad Buddy was the originator of the 46 defense.

The imagine comes from the Patriots defense, but it’s along the lines of what you see in Green Bay with Pettine (and Graham). Four down-linemen condensed to create space off the edge of the linebackers. This means more pass rushing opportunities from linebackers.

Later, as it inches near official status in the way it has with Graham, we will dive into the potential principles and concepts of Jim Caldwell’s offense in today’s NFL. Much like the Dolphins inclination to bring an experienced consultant along with the young defensive boss, the play on the attack unit is heading in that direction as well.

These consultants figure in as prominent fixtures early in this experimental tenure of young coaches. Caldwell (63-years-old with 41 years of coaching experience) and Bielema (48-years-old with 22 years of coaching experience) can ease the transition to the Flores/Graham grouping along with whomever (possibly Chad O’Shea of the Patriots) Flores chooses as his Offensive Coordinator.

The offensive crash course will be posted just as soon as we have more concrete news.


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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Mock Draft Roundup: A Kyler Murray Sighting

Skyler Trunck



It is that time of year again.  Yes, the time of year where we all jump to immediate conclusions, argue and judge each other on projections that, statistically speaking, have a less chance of happening than winning the lottery or being struck by lightning multiple times.

It’s mock draft season!  Well – it’s been mock draft season since December 30th but who’s counting…

Let’s get started on what I hope becomes a weekly (or bi-weekly depending on how many updates are made) mock draft roundup for Miami’s 13th overall pick:


Bleacher Report: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Greedy Williams, arguably one of the top corners in this draft — right up there with Washington corner Byron Murphy.  Someone to pair with all-pro corner, Xavien Howard, is a need for this Miami defense. Drafting or bringing in a reliable #2 corner also allows Miami to play players like Bobby McCain and Minkah Fitzpatrick in their proper roles, slot corner and safety respectively.

Williams is a tall corner, measuring in at 6’3”.  Add in the speed he possesses and simply looking at the metrics, he has what you want, physically, for a corner.


CBS Sports: Greedy Williams – CB – LSU

Right off the bat, two mocks having Miami select LSU corner, Greedy Williams.  It’s hard to argue against this pick when you watch Williams.

For those looking for a quarterback, this mock draft saw four — yes, four — quarterbacks go before Miami’s selection.  In between those selections saw a lot of the top defensive line players taken – both edge and interior. Assuming this is the case, a player like Williams would be a solid pick as far as value and need go.


The Draft Network: Kyler Murray – QB – Oklahoma

Now it’s getting exciting!  There isn’t a player in this draft with more hype than Kyler Murray.  As written here at Locked on Dolphins, Murray has the answers for this Miami team.

Some question if he will be available at #13.  As Ian Rapoport reports, maybe that idea isn’t so far-fetched.  Maybe it’s just early smoke-screens or maybe teams are actually concerned about his size.  Make no mistake, despite the round 2 or 3 grade, quarterbacks always find their name called much earlier.  Murray will be no exception.

2019 still may be a “rebuilding” year, but I promise drafting Murray would produce a season defined as anything but boring.  If you’re hoping for Miami to make a splash in the draft, drafting Murray would certainly be the biggest play.


Drafttek: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

Dexter Lawrence did not play in Clemson’s final two games, which ultimately resulted in a national championship.  Although Lawrence wasn’t on the field, don’t misunderstand the impact Lawrence had on this Clemson team.

Lawrence has the size to play on the interior of a defensive line, coming in at 6’4” and 340 lbs.  He isn’t the quickest tackle in the world, but he can stop the run with the best of them and bring interior pressure to disrupt the quarterback.  Although I feel this is high for Lawrence and there may be more impactful positional prospects available at this pick (e.g. defensive end Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat), he would be a safe pick who would contribute day 1 for this Miami defense.


Pro Football Focus: Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson

This now makes two choices for Clemson star interior defensive lineman, Dexter Lawrence.  

What is interesting, in this mock, players like Houston’s Ed Oliver were still available.  Oliver, also an interior defensive lineman, has a different skillset than Lawrence, obvious by Oliver coming in measured at 6’3” and 292 lbs.

Is Miami looking for that big man in the middle who doesn’t get moved around (like Minnesota defensive tackle, Linval Joseph), or the quick tackle, more built for pass-rushing (like Los Angeles defensive tackle Aaron Donald).  Who knows, but if both are in the board, Miami’s plan for the future at defensive line will be clear with this pick.


SB Nation: Daniel Jones – QB – Duke

It’s no secret Miami is in the market for a quarterback.  Although Duke quarterback, Daniel Jones, has potential, this would be a reach.  Jones doesn’t seem to have the high ceiling other quarterbacks slotted in the first round do, so why reach on a player who at best may be a slightly better version of Ryan Tannehill?  There are other options out there at a cheaper price.

When you thrown in Miami is supposedly eyeing the 2020 draft class for their franchise quarterback with the 2019 draft geared towards fixing the trenches, it only raises more questions at why this may be the pick.

All that said, it’s the NFL draft.  Smoke screens are a plenty and no one really knows what a team is going to do and how a player will or won’t turn out.  Pulling the trigger on your franchise quarterback is certainly alluring, but why not put your chips all in on a player who has the franchise-altering potential?  I just don’t see it with Jones.



I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on who Miami should take at #13.  Follow me on Twitter @skylertrunck and let’s discuss.

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