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Where Would The 2019 Dolphins Be With Lamar Jackson?

Chris Kowalewski

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Since the retirement of Dan Marino, the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback story has been one of frustration and division. With no replacement player able to even glimpse the franchise level set by Marino, fans continue to dwell on the past, clinging to the glory of his record setting career as well as the haunting despair of the franchise’s past poor choices (Culpepper over Brees) and sub-par draft picks. 

This year is no different, as it sees the sensational Lamar Jackson skyrocket from the practice field to the heights of NFL super-stardom.

It was widely reported that Dolphins’ owner, Stephen Ross was never really happy with the outcome of the first round of the 2018 draft. 

Miami held the 11th overall pick and whilst the team still lacked a true direction for the future, the choice of rookie was up for debate. Uncertainty loomed around the position concerning the return of Ryan Tannehill and the team had reached a metaphorical fork in the road when it came to deciding how they intended to proceed.

We all know how the events unfolded that night, as the Dolphins selected DB, Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama. Touted as Nick Saban’s ‘favourite son’, the selection was even widely applauded by Dolfans and the media in general with Minkah being considered a Top-10 talent.

But behind the scenes – before the Dolphins’ card had been turned in to the Commissioner – there was unease at the Dolphins’ top position regarding the decision. Stephen Ross voiced his preference was for the Dolphins to trade back from the 11th spot to acquire more draft picks and to select QB, Lamar Jackson.

Ultimately, Ross relented and deferred to the conviction of his employed ‘brain trust’ of Mike Tannenbaum, Adam Gase and Chris Grier – eventually swayed that Minkah Fitzpatrick was simply too good to pass up…

Whilst showing occasional flashes of brilliance in Miami, Minkah has since demonstrated his abilities and defensive prowess in the short time since joining the Pittsburgh Steelers on 16 September 2019 with 30 tackles, 12 assists, 2 forced fumbles and 5 INTS for 130 yards and 1 TD.

Some 240 miles SE of Pittsburgh, Lamar Jackson, the 32nd overall selection in the 2018 draft accelerates towards the position of league MVP following yet another stellar performance, a 45-6 victory on MNF against the LA Rams.

Through 11 games this season, Jackson has thrown for 2427 yards, 24 TDs, 5 INTs (66.9% completion) and a 111.4 QB rating. In addition, he leads his team in rushing yards with 876 yards on 124 carries for a further 6 TDs. 

How things can change in less than a year, when the right plan is in place and when it actually works.

This time last year, Ravens’ coach John Harbaugh was reportedly on the hot seat in Baltimore as their 2018 campaign unfolded. Since bringing a Super Bowl title to Baltimore in 2012 led by an outstanding post-season performance from Joe Flacco, the Ravens had failed to maintain their dominance in a competitive AFC North. Joe Flacco had become a shell of his former self, and the 2012 Super Bowl MVP show was a distant and faded memory. He was benched late in the season for the young rookie as the Ravens stuttered and stumbled to a 10-6 finish with Lamar Jackson at the helm, ended by a Wildcard loss to the LA Chargers.

For most NFL teams which dwell in the habitats of perpetual mediocrity, a 10-6 finish and a playoff appearance would be considered a positive thing. 

For those accustomed to the taste of victory and the shine of the Lombardi Trophy, it is a painful mark of failure. To them, falling so short marks a need for change rather than offering a solid foundation for the following season.

The way the Baltimore Ravens changed themselves and built new foundations for success has been nothing short of spectacular.

Ravens’ Offensive Co-ordinator, Greg Roman, was elevated to the position this season after spending 2018 as the team’s TE coach and Assistant Head Coach. NFL fans may recall that Roman had previously been the OC for the San Francisco 49ers under Jim Harbaugh en route to the brothers facing off in Super Bowl XLVII.

At the time, the 49ers had reached the Championship game with Colin Kaepernick – another dual threat quarterback – under center, after he had stepped in to replace the injured Alex Smith.

Over the 13 games he played in 2012, Kaepernick threw for 1,814 yards, 10 TDs and 3 INTs (62.4% completion), whilst rushing for 415 yards (avg 6.6 yards per carry) and 5 TDs.

With Lamar Jackson, OC Greg Roman has developed a scheme from scratch built entirely around the electric second-year QB. The verbiage of the plays has been constructed in tandem with Jackson to ensure the quarterback has full understanding and full control of the offensive system.

Everything about the offense has been designed with Jackson in mind, utilising the abilities of a dominant and athletic offensive line headlined by Ronnie Stanley, Marshal Yanda and Orlando Brown. It promotes a bulldozing running game and a vertical passing game incorporating blazing speed and playmaking tight ends. John Harbaugh has built a complementary defense and running game to support Jackson’s skills ensuring he can make the most of his ability on each and every play. It is a team built on speed and aggression, synonymous with the Ravens’ historically established mentality.

So, how does this all fit in with the Miami Dolphins?

Less than 18 months ago, the Dolphins had the chance to draft Lamar Jackson. He was there for the taking at 11 and the Dolphins could just have easily have traded back to land him later in the first round.

And now Stephen Ross has little option but to sit back along with the rest of the world and marvel as Lamar Jackson tears up the league with unprecedented success, filling up the stands at M&T Bank Stadium, with Super Bowl hopes bounding through the streets of Baltimore.

Whilst John Harbaugh was once on the hot seat, he’s now perched on a block of solid ice as the Ravens seem to have quickly set themselves up for long term success.

As much as Lamar Jackson is firmly established within a system to highlight his incredible skillset, the Ravens’ model is not one which the Dolphins can – or could have – replicated to the same degree. There is a reason the Dolphins have historically struggled so mightily when facing the Ravens and it isn’t just because of the quarterback position.

The Ravens have been purpose-built over the past decade, like a well maintained car tweaked and repaired with authentic, matching parts. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have tried to fix their team with misfit spares and failing cast-offs taken from whatever other high-end motor they could find, hoping it would fit.

That process finally came to a close when Stephen Ross accepted the irreparable state of his own franchise. 

2018’s coach, Adam Gase, had wanted to stay and build a winner ‘now’, but even the ever-hopeful Ross did not foresee this as a viable option. The hefty contracts handed out by Mike Tannenbaum were not producing a level of on-field success relative to their costs. The team lacked any semblance of an identity and Ryan Tannehill had now become the punching bag for a divided fanbase.

Ross knew that the rot ran deep and elected for a total rebuild.

But what if Ross had gained his way, and the Dolphins had drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round? 

Let’s try and look into the mystical crystal ball to see what might have happened to the Dolphins offense.

First of all we would have to make some assumptions regarding a number of the team’s moves which have since happened:

  • The Dolphins draft Lamar Jackson in 2018 either at 11 or through a trade back.
  • The rest of the 2018 draft would have remained the same, in which they did nothing to help the OL.
  • Adam Gase remains the head coach after 2018, trusted with developing his QB.
  • Mike Tannenbaum remains the GM.
  • It’s debatable whether the Laremy Tunsil trade still happens or not, but for the sake of this scenario, we’ll imagine he stays.
  • Kenny Stills therefore stays too.
  • Ja’Wuan James still leaves in Free Agency.
  • The rest of the offensive line? Likely stays the same quality as it is now.
  • DeVante Parker would have been released.
  • Kenyan Drake, purposely limited under Adam Gase, likely would still be gone by this point. We’ll imagine he was traded in any event, likely with another veteran brought in.

Whether Jackson could have succeeded in Miami probably comes down to the offensive scheme under Adam Gase and likely-would-be-returning OC, Dowell Loggains. 

For 7 years, we watched Miami Dolphins quarterbacks struggle to stay alive behind a depleted offensive line. The sacks and injuries piled up raising nothing but questions as to how the Dolphins would approach the team’s most important position.

Heading into the 2019 season, the Dolphins were projected to have in the region of $14m in cap space. So they were never destined to be big spenders and it is extremely unlikely that they would have been able to fortify the offensive line with any real quality and they still would have needed to sign Laremy Tunsil to an extension.

In view of the roster turnover, the Dolphins are still carrying a grand total of $62,436,902 of dead money through the 2019 season.

The question remains as to whether Gase have even wanted to play Jackson?

Stubborn in nature, with a strong affinity for Ryan Tannehill, Gase was quick to blame everyone and everything but his own scheme for the team’s failures. He was desperate to keep Tannehill as a pocket passer, bringing in Brock Osweiler to be his backup.

In a scheme built for Tannehill, with few designed QB runs, no power running game, no playmaking TE, a handful of diminutive receivers and zero protection,  Jackson would have no option but to scramble for his life on every play.

Ultimately there can be no real confidence that the Dolphins under Adam Gase would have been willing to build an entire scheme around Jackson as the Ravens have done. Even if they had wanted to, the Dolphins did not possess remotely the same caliber of players to do so, or even the capital to acquire them.

As the Dolphins embark on their rebuild, we even now see Tannehill having success with a system built to suit his needs and a strong running game.

Not for one second am I suggesting that Tannehill is currently playing on the level of Lamar Jackson, but he is yet another example of how the Dolphins in their previous state had no real direction of how to handle development of a quarterback or any other talented players. 

Whilst there always remains the chance that Lamar Jackson could have suppressed my scepticism and brought new life to Miami, I just can’t look back at the ‘what-could-have-been’ by copying and pasting the Ravens’ current success onto the 2019 Miami Dolphins.

Although Stephen Ross hasn’t got the quarterback whom he desired in 2018, he has now torn down the front office and (indirectly) the roster to enable the Dolphins to build an offense using the Ravens’ blueprint for success – identify a quarterback, and build the whole team and scheme around him to support his skill set optimise every chance of success.

Chad O’Shea, with a depleted roster has already shown a higher propensity for scheming and utilising players than we saw under Adam Gase/Clyde Christensen/Dowell Loggains and even though the running game remains a league worst behind the persistently awful offensive line, the team has been on a general upward trajectory with promising play calling and design.

With Lamar Jackson, the Dolphins certainly wouldn’t be in the position they are now with a multitude of draft picks and projected cap space. The more likely scenario is that they would have remained in stagnant position, gambling on Jackson being able to bail them out, rather than being able to do all they can to support him.

They would be stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to deciding how to proceed with Lamar Jackson. They could have continued to overpay mediocre talent, with an under-utilised run game and lacklustre play design under Adam Gase simply hoping for the best.

Or alternatively they could have offloaded talent and contracts as they have done in order to build for the future leaving him with little chance of success, similar to the Arizona Cardinals who have brought in a QB to a talent-depleted team. Even through Kyler Murray was reportedly a more accomplished passer than Lamar Jackson, the team as a whole is not built to match the Ravens’ success despite a scheme purposely built for Murray’s talent. 

Looking back in despair and wishing that Miami drafted Lamar Jackson is natural for Dolphins fans. However, it simply can’t be trusted that the Dolphins front office in their previous incarnation would have had the mindset to incorporate the changes needed to see Lamar Jackson reach his current dizzying heights. With neither the versatility, draft capital nor cap space to support such a radical deviation from Miami’s usual approach it is impossible to state with any confidence that the Dolphins would now be settled with their franchise quarterback. 

Lamar Jackson’s unprecedented success is a perfect storm in Baltimore, but one which would likely have ultimately developed into nothing more than a relative breeze down in South Florida.

‘Hoping for the best’ is what has landed the Dolphins in the sticky, stagnant puddles of mediocrity. They have now taken the opportunity to make a radical change.

It is time to stop looking back to the past and begin looking towards the future.

FINS UP.

Physically located across the pond, but mentally always in Miami. A qualified lawyer, NFL sponge, aspiring writer and self-proclaimed IKEA furniture construction expert, he’s looking ahead to a brighter future for the Dolphins after decades of wading in the depths of mediocrity. Always on the search for any excuse to talk all-things Dolphins.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

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

Shawn Digity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

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

DolphinsGiants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Scheme:

Offense:

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

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

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

Defense:

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

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

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

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

The Players:

Offense:

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

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

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

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

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

Defense:

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

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

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

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

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

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

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

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

The Concerns:

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

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

The Projected Outcome:

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

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

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

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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