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Miami Dolphins

Why Football Won’t Be Funny in 2019

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Gase’s eyes may be the last thing we get to laugh at for a long time regarding the New York Jets/Miami Dolphins rivalry.

Monday afternoon was a pleasant day for Dolphins fans. Adam Gase was announced as the head coach of their bitter rivals, and the nation paid no attention to what Gase, owner Christopher Johnson and general manager Mike Maccagnan had to say about the franchise-altering move.

Everyone was either laughing too hard to listen, too curious to pay attention, or getting dizzy trying to follow Adam Gase’s eyes.

If there was any doubt that the Miami Dolphins made the wrong decision in releasing Adam Gase as their head coach, it was all but alleviated Monday afternoon.

Though I caution you, that feeling may only be temporary, as the permanent outlook for this rivalry is bleak for one, and promising for another.

Off-Broadway Production

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way and recognize that Adam Gase should no longer be heralded as an offensive guru or a quarterback whisperer. That lust and allure faded over the past two seasons with the Dolphins, even if some aspects (hurricanes, no bye week in 2017, QB injuries, offensive line woes) were out of his control.

That being said, Adam Gase is still very good at his job (as an offensive coordinator…). He was the quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos when Tim Tebow transformed into an actual NFL player and took the Broncos into the Divisional Round of the 2011 playoffs. He was the quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning’s 4th-best season in his career, and the offensive coordinator for Manning’s best and 3rd-best seasons of his career.

Gase didn’t really maximize Jay Cutler like most people claim; his 2015 season as the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears produced a top-5 season for Cutler, but that’s not saying too much. His body of work with Ryan Tannehill will be scrutinized, but he elevated Tannehill to a playoff-caliber quarterback in 2016 prior to his knee injury. Like Tannehill’s entire career, it’s hard to get a grasp on what 2018 meant. Statistically, Tannehill didn’t have a “bad” season, but we all witnessed how poor it really was.

Still, Gase has shown that he can get more out of quarterbacks than others have prior – even hall of famers. So to think that his knowledge and experience won’t rub off and benefit sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold is wrongfully optimistic.

Sam Darnold didn’t flash a pretty stat line in 2018, and Dolphins fans will remember his two games against Miami as less-than-flattering; so it’s easy to think that Gase won’t succeed with a quarterback trending towards being a bust.

But we’re all smart enough to avoid placing that “bust” tag on Darnold (or any player) this early, especially a 21-year old quarterback who was originally projected to be the #1 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Baker Mayfield took the rookie-class by storm, dampening Darnold’s rookie season into appearing less-productive than the standard learning curve.

Do we quickly forget how most current top-echelon quarterbacks faired their first season?

  • Sam Darnold: 57.7% completion, 2865 yards, 17 TDs / 15 INTs
  • Cam Newton: 60%, 4051, 21/17
  • Carson Wentz: 62.4%, 3782, 16/14
  • Jared Goff: 54.6%, 1089, 5/7
  • Matt Ryan: 61.1%, 3440, 16/11
  • Deshaun Watson: 61.8%, 1699, 19/8
  • Matthew Stafford: 53.3%, 2267, 13/20

Darnold’s numbers appear on the lower end of these quarterbacks, but they aren’t that far off. He can easily trend into another Tannehill (58.3%, 3294, 12/13 his rookie season), but Darnold comes with much more pedigree and a higher ceiling than Tannehill ever did.

Gase finally has a young quarterback that he can actually teach and groom. Assuming Darnold is healthy and Gase isn’t thrust back into quarterback oblivion, the main concern should revolve around the rest of the offense – the most important position is already locked down.

That’s where the Jets need a lot of work…but don’t the Dolphins as well?

The New York Jets already have Robby Anderson, a younger (and more-troubled) version of Kenny Stills, and Quincy Enunwa (a more-reliable, yet, less-athletic version of DeVante Parker), under contract for 2019 (Anderson is a RFA that I expect them to re-sign). Their up-and-coming running back, Elijah McGuire, seems more productive and threatening than Kalen Ballage (especially in Gase’s tricky offense). Their young tight end, Chris Herndon, is MUCH better than Mike Gesicki, and their offensive line is just as putrid, so that position is mute.

Actually, the Dolphins do have Laremy Tunsil, which is a huge upgrade over anything the Jets have on the offensive line, but the Jets have one major advantage over Miami heading into the future, one that will allow them to address their team much better than the Dolphins will be able to, and that’s assets.

The New York Jets Are Asset Guys

We can laugh at the Jets ineptitude all we’d like, but we might want to put a mirror in front of ourselves before we crack up too hard.

Prior to reworking any contracts or extending any players, the New York Jets have $98m in salary cap space to play with in 2019. They have so much available cap space that they are most likely going to rollover more money than the Dolphins currently have in 2019 cap space, and that’s $14.34m.

While the Dolphins have a tall task ahead of them maneuvering contracts and making decisions on current players on their roster, the Jets can sit back and play the market however they’d like.

Want to splurge for Antonio Brown, who’s about to be released from the Pittsburgh Steelers? No problem! Want to pair him with Le’Veon Bell so you can try and create a pro-bowl offense? Go for it! These might resemble Mike Tannenbaum moves, and aren’t really wise for the Jets organization, but they have the luxury of both making the move and making the mistake.

If they feel they can contain the locker room culture (a big ‘if’), they can certainly contain the contracts.

The only issue the Jets have to deal with, that Miami has the advantage on, is the team’s 2nd-round draft pick in 2019. That’s the only remaining cost derived from the trade that netted the Jets the 3rd-overall pick in the 2018 draft. They traded their 6th, 37th, and 48th-overall picks in the 2018 draft, and their 2nd-round pick in the 2019 draft to get their franchise quarterback.

Miami has their 2019 2nd-round pick, but it doesn’t look like they have a franchise quarterback. Which means they’re going to need to spend A LOT more of their assets going forward.

Pair the cost of obtaining a franchise quarterback with the cost of establishing the rest of the roster and you begin to realize that Miami doesn’t have enough money or draft picks to do this all in one season. And even if they do try and rebuild towards 2020, you better hope they get each step of the way right, because you’ll otherwise find yourself spinning your wheels for another 18 years while the Jets and Adam Gase walk a smooth line they grooved for themselves.

Not so funny anymore, huh?

We can nitpick who has the better defensive players, which offensive players have a higher ceiling, and which staff has a better trajectory, but it’s hard to deny that the New York Jets are currently in a better position than the Miami Dolphins are.

I hope you enjoyed that Monday news conference, because the Jets are probably going to get the last laugh this 2019 season.

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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Scouting Reports

State of the AFC East

Oliver Candido

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With the aging empire of the New England Patriots hopefully coming to an end in the coming years the arms race and power struggle will enter overdrive. The Patriots have run this division for over a decade but all things must come to an end, with Tom Brady nearing his goal of playing till 45 and Bill Belichick turning 66 there is blood in the water, and the rest of the East will look to grab the crown and run with it.

Dec 23, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and head coach Bill Belichick head out onto the field to shake hands with the Buffalo Bills after their 24-12 win at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots

Roster:

Tom Brady’s play has declined but that hasn’t stopped New England from being a powerhouse, the offensive line will welcome Isiah Wynn back the former 1st rounder, he tore his Achilles in camp 2018. The skill positions are mixed, Sony Michelle provided a solid rookie campaign but there are holes in the wide receiver and tight end positions. Rob Gronkowski is pondering retirement meanwhile Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson are all set to hit Free Agency. Defensively New England has excelled on maximizing talent with what they have but with that being said they have some notable players departing such as Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, and possibly the McCourty twins.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Markus Golden (EDGE)

Pick 32, 1st round:

Kelvin Harmon (WR)

 

New York Jets

Roster:

The New York Jets are not a star-studded team and will be ongoing a scheme change led by Coach Adam Gase. Offensively it would be easier to name what they do have then to name what they don’t, Sam Darnold is the only true “bright” spot on the offensive side of the ball. Multiple reports state that Isiah Crowell will be released in the coming month so half back will need to be addressed, in addition to wide receiver, tight end, and offensive line. On the opposite side of the ball things seem to be a bit more promising with Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye. New York will need to add a true pass rusher along with some other linebackers and defensive backs as well.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Le’Veon Bell (HB)

Pick 3, 1st round:

Josh Allen (EDGE)

 

Buffalo Bills

Roster:

Buffalo has a good defense that is paired with the 31st ranked offense, they are in need of talent to surround Josh Allen with. Josh Allen needs an entire cast around him, most importantly an offensive line who can buy him some time, but it doesn’t stop there. After releasing former fullback wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay the only player who can truly garner some targets is aging halfback Lesean McCoy. Although the defense has played well they are also in need of some attention, with Kyle Williams retiring they will need another defensive tackle in addition to a true edge rusher. This roster is still being rebuilt and could use talent on almost every level offensively but they need to give injury prone Josh Allen some decent offensive line play.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Trenton Brown (OT)

Pick 9, 1st round:

Jawaan Taylor (OT)

 

Miami Dolphins

Roster:

Our beloved Miami Dolphins will be going through many changes and a complete rebuild directed by Chris Grier and Brian Flores. Miami has talent at the skill positions with young and inexpensive talent at halfback, tight end, and wide receiver. With the upcoming release/trade of Ryan Tannehill the biggest need will be finding his replacement via free agency or draft. Resources will have to be allocated to the trenches as Miami lacks talent on the interior offensive line and on the edge defensively. Miami’s defense is looking to be a multiple look defense in order to achieve this they will have to add versatility on every level off the defense and add depth to the secondary. This regime will be taking the long painful road of a true rebuild as Miami has been mediocre for far too long.

Free Agent Acquisition:

Mitch Morse (OL)

Pick 13, 1st round:

Rashan Gary (EDGE)

 

Madden 19 Giveaway:

I am giving away Madden 19 on Xbox One for free, all you have to do is find my favorite player. I will add a clue to every article until someone answers correctly. Tweet the answer to me and DM me on twitter @BrazilCandido and don’t forget to give the @LockedOnDolphins and it’s writers some love as well!

HERE IS THE HINT:

My favorite player once caught 29 passes in a season while 11 of them went for TDs! That means over a 3rd of his receptions were Touchdowns!

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Miami Dolphins

State of the Roster – Cornerbacks

Travis Wingfield

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Prelude

The 2019 off-season schedule had an unusual beginning for the Miami Dolphins. Not that the once proud, winningest organization in the NFL is suddenly new to coaching turnover (quite the opposite, rather). It’s the timing of the hire that provides the distinction from Stephen Ross’ three other head coaching appointments.

Typically, when the incumbent or new staff is in-place by Early-January, the roster dominoes begin to take shape. Waiting for Brian Flores to win his fifth Lombardi Trophy delayed that process by a month.

Now, with the majority of Coach Flores’ staff settling into their new offices, we can begin to speculate and forecast what will transpire over the next three months.

It’s not hyperbole to say that these next three months are the most important of Chris Grier’s professional career. Miami’s new General Manager is charged with resurrecting a franchise that, in the last 15 years, has fallen from the peak of the winning percentage mountain top, all the way down to fifth place on that obscure, yet illustrious list.

In this series we are going to explore the current assets on the roster and what their futures hold. Plus, we’ll explore the free-agency market and point out scheme fit pieces the Dolphins might seek to add in April’s draft.

Cornerbacks 

Current Cash Owed: ~ $9.3 Million
NFL Average: ~ $16 Million

Players Under Contract – 2019 Cash Owed:

Xavien Howard – $1.3 M

Tying for the league lead in interceptions (7), Howard continued his breakthrough performance that began late in 2017. Among the game’s top corners, Howard excels in man coverage, offers an impressive physical style of press play, and tracks the ball exceptionally well.

The Dolphins will likely look to extend Howard in the near future, despite rumors of his presence on the trade block. Stephone Gilmore’s lockdown Super Bowl performance afforded the Pats defense ultimate creativity – something Brian Flores will want to retain in Miami.

Howard’s Projected 2019 Action: #1 Corner

Bobby McCain – $5.6 M

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In his first season with a new payday, McCain struggled. Kicking outside on the perimeter was a challenge that exposed his lack of long-speed. Still a jitterbug inside, McCain offers a knack for the nuance of the position in both man and zone.

Injuries mounted on McCain as he tried to fight through a number of issues all season. He’s a team leader and a top-shelf slot corner – that much will be evident when he’s back in his regular role in 2019.

McCain’s Projected 2019 Action: Slot Corner

Cordrea Tankersley – $673 K

It’s difficult to imagine a worse sophomore season for Tankersley. Benched, ran-ragged, and ultimately a torn ACL, it was a steep decline from an impressive rookie campaign. The mental aspect of the game proved to be a challenge for Tankersley and, to be fair, he wasn’t alone in that portion of Matt Burke’s awful scheme.

Likely starting the year on the physically unable to perform list, Tankersley will get a fresh start in a scheme that accentuates his strengths – playing man coverage.

Tankersley’s Projected 2019 Action: Depth (Begins the season on PUP)

Jalen Davis – $570 K

My pick for biggest sleeper on the roster in 2019, Davis flashed big-time potential in his limited work late in the season. In the Jacksonville game Davis forced a fumble and broke up a third down pass in the end zone. He’s fiery, aggressive, and Miami’s best option behind McCain in the slot.

Davis’ Projected 2019 Action: Backup Slot

Cornell Armstrong – $570 K

Thrust into action late last season, 2018 was a learning experience for Miami’s sixth-round rookie. Armstrong fits the prototype for length and style, but he was worked over in the New England game by Julian Edelman (hardly a bad look).

Armstrong will compete for time on the perimeter this year and continue to serve as a core special teamer.

Armstrong’s Projected 2019 Action: Depth

Torry McTyer – $645 K

McTyer’s numbers look worse than his actual performance. He was whipped consistently, starting with the beat down in Foxboro, but his good coverage was beat by better throws in the Chicago game.

There’s upside with McTyer, but he needs to show it in 2019 if he wants to have a future as a starter in Miami.

McTyer’s Projected 2019 Action: Depth

Jomal Wiltz – Not yet announced (Camp Minimum)

Wiltz was drafted by the Eagles in 2017 and later migrated to the New England practice squad in 2018. Playing under current Dolphins Cornerbacks Coach Josh Boyer, Wiltz has a head start on the new defensive scheme and techniques.

The most interesting aspect of Wiltz’s acquisition, he’s just 5’10’’ 180 pounds – an outlier for Miami’s prototype at the position.

Wiltz’s Projected 2019 Action: Cut/Practice Squad

Pending Free Agents – 

None

2019 Cornerback Free Agent Market:

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With McCain locked up and Howard due next, Miami may have to eschew buying its number-two corner. The need is glaring, but the market is lacking. Morris Claiborne, Pierre Desir, and Bradley Roby are the bells of the ball and will be out of Miami’s price range should they hit the market.

There have been two free agent themes presented in this series: 1.) Filling the Foxboro-to-Miami pipeline and, 2.) Reclamation projects.

Jason Verrett qualifies for the second bullet-point – he’s a hell of a player but his medical history is alarming. Eric Rowe is a free agent and falls into both categories. He spent three years with the Patriots but only played in 21 games during that stretch.

Rowe is 6’1’’ with the 205-pound frame to match. Verrett is just 5’10’’ and 188 pounds, but he’s an elite play maker (when healthy).

Miami has been linked to Ronald Darby in recent years. He shakes free from Philadelphia and a poor medical history could significantly reduce his cost.

2019 Cornerback Draft Class:

Cornerback is in play for the 13th pick. DeAndre Baker (Georgia), Byron Murphy (Washington), and Greedy Williams (LSU) head the class at the position.

Baker is feisty and superb in man coverage though he does lack long-speed. Murphy is rail-thin (175 pounds) and his lack of interest in run support will turn the Miami staff off. Williams’ effort has been called into question by some. If that’s true, he will be off Miami’s board altogether as they preach the love of the game.

Penn State’s Amani Oruwariye is an option in the second-round. He first the prototype, he’s ultra-competitive and excels in both press and zone.

Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin plays with the temperament of an alpha dog. His match-ups with Deebo Samuel at the Senior Bowl were the must-see events of the week.

The local product, Michael Jackson from the U, excels in man coverage – he’s a fit.

2019 Cornerback Prediction:

It’s pretty apparent from the free agent and draft classes where the more attractive options lie for the ‘Phins to address this need. Signing a bargain player to compete, and drafting a rookie relatively high should bolster this position into a strength in 2019.

Minkah Fitzpatrick’s official capacity will be as a safety, but he’s going to match-up where the staff sees fit. He’s the best option to cover a detached tight end and he’s probably the best slot cover guy Miami has. We’ll cover him on tomorrow’s podcast and column.

CB #1 – Xavien Howard
CB #2 – Rookie (Baker, Ya-Sin, Jackson)
Slot – Bobby McCain
Slot Backup – Jalen Davis
Depth – Cornell Armstrong
Depth – Torry McTyer / FA (Eric Rowe)
Depth – Cordrea Tankersley (beginning on PUP)

Tomorrow: Safeties

@WingfieldNFL

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NFL Draft

Fits and Starts of the 2019 NFL Draft–Jarrett Stidham

Shawn Digity

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USA Today
A shot of Jarrett Stidham during the Senior Bowl in January. Image courtesy of USA Today

Which 2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks fit for the Miami Dolphins, which ones could start, and which ones aren’t on the table?

Let’s dive into the first installment of Fits and Starts with Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham.

2019 NFL Draft quarterbacks and Fits and Starts intro

I hope you’re enjoying all the Kyler Murray talk; it’s not going anywhere for the next two months. So, with all the hype surrounding the Heisman winner and his decision to play in the NFL over the MLB, it makes sense that Murray shot up the draft boards in rapid fashion.

Murray has been connected with the Miami Dolphins, and it makes sense. The Dolphins need a quarterback to lead the franchise into the future, especially with the start of the Brian Flores era.

But what happens if the Dolphins can’t get Kyler Murrayin the 2019 Draft? Let’s take that a step further. What if the Dolphins don’t get any of the QBs that are pegged to go in the first round? Dwayne HaskinsDrew LockDaniel Jones, along with Murray, are all in the conversation to go off the board in the first round.

The 2019 QB class hasn’t exactly been lauded for its talent, but that doesn’t mean its totally devoid of untapped potential on Days 2 and 3. There are some diamonds in the rough and some could be on the Dolphins’ radar come April. The Fits and Starts mini-series will be focusing on these overshadowed mid-round prospects and who could fit into a role with the Miami Dolphins.

Let’s get into the first name on the list: Jarrett Stidham.

Jarrett Stidham and his NFL Future

The first quarterback on the docket is Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. He’s an enigmatic player. He was in the conversation last draft season (before he returned to Auburn) to go in the second round. He was also talked about as a dark-horse Heisman candidate before the college season started.

His junior season didn’t go exactly as scripted, though. Jarrett Stidham had an up-and-down season, and his draft stock has been all over the place, consequently. He’s polarizing in the Twitter Draft realm with many draftniks either loving or hating him. I predict that he’ll go in the third round, but I could see the need for the position pushing him into the second round.

In a lot of ways, I would compare Jarrett Stidham to Ryan Tannehill. With that being said, he’s a poor man’s Tannehill. He’s not as athletic and I wouldn’t put his arm strength or accuracy on the same level, but there are comparisons that can be drawn.

Jarrett Stidham Mini-Report

He has some starter qualities, and he’s very raw in that regard. He also did not get a lot of help from his receivers during the 2018 season. I saw a lot of dropped passes that should’ve been “gimmes”. Jarrett Stidham has a moderately high ceiling, I would say. He’s extremely rough around the edges, but I can see him becoming successful in the NFL; it’ll come with many growing pains, albeit.

He also has some accuracy issues from a lot of the film I’ve watched of him. He’ll make some unbelievable down-the-field bombs, but also make some passes that are too high, too inside or too outside. Many passes were underthrown and I saw plays where WRs had to turn and play some defense. The accuracy is a roller coaster, and that’s something that is hard to improve at the next level; accuracy is more a God-given ability than it is a teachable skill.

Something else that I wasn’t wild about was how Stidham reacted to chaos and pressure. When the line collapsed, I saw some ugly escapes. Those ugly escapes will be ugly sacks in the NFL. I saw flashes of decent pocket presence, but like many of Stidham’s qualities, they were inconsistent.

That’s one of the best words I would use to describe Jarrett Stidham: inconsistent. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad. Sometimes he’ll thread the needle for a 40-yard touchdown, sometimes he’ll undercut a route. But if the inconsistency is his biggest issue, which I believe it is, then I’m intrigued by his prospects at the next level with some next-level coaching.

At the End of the Day

So, if the Dolphins drafted Jarrett Stidham, it’d likely be on Day 2 and in the second round with the 48th pick. While the Dolphins are rebuilding, I could see them using a popular draft philosophy of taking a quarterback every year until one hits. If that’s the case, then Stidham could very well be a target if the Dolphins decide to address a bigger need or BPA with the 13th pick.

This could be a way for the Dolphins to hedge their bets while keeping an eye on the 2020 quarterbacks. Akin to the Redskins taking both RGIII and Kirk Cousins in the same draft in 2012, the Dolphins could take a flier on a mid-round quarterback and see what he could do in some games under the guidance of a veteran.

While I wouldn’t be upset by the pick, the Miami Dolphins would be wise to stay away from Jarrett Stidham, bottom line. I say that not because of Stidham’s shortcomings or upside but because of where the Miami Dolphins franchise finds itself.

If Jarrett Stidham goes out and has a decent showing in some live action during his rookie season, then that could affect the draft strategy regarding the 2020 class of quarterbacks.

I don’t want the Dolphins to keep waiting and waiting for someone to slowly develop as they did with Ryan Tannehill. Stidham is in a similar mold, looking at his tools and raw potential. I’m not sure how long it would take for Stidham develop, but I could see it turning into a situation where he takes a few steps forward every season.

Jarrett Stidham could be a quarterback that Chris Grier likes, but I would have a hard time believing that he’s a prospect that he would love–and that’s not what the Miami Dolphins need to right the ship.

 

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