Everyone wants to blame Adam Gase.
Everyone wants to blame Ryan Tannehill.
What no one wants to do is realistically assess their football team and realize that the majority of the players on the 2018 Miami Dolphins failed.
Their beloved legends. Their gritty youngsters. Their passionate veterans. Chances are, whether you were sporting his jersey throughout the season or not, your favorite player(s) failed you this year.
In a year in which the team was expected to rely on the growth of their young talent mixed with the reassurance of their “proven” veterans, the Miami Dolphins disappointed all of us. Not only as patient patrons yearning for a successful season (after an optimistic end to the 2016 season and a mockery of a 2017 season), but as fans clamoring for a bright and sustainable future – something that would give us more than one playoff game a decade (we’ve played in 3 this century).
Whether it was living up to large contracts, lofty expectations or evolutionary growth, most of the Miami Dolphins this season either regressed or plateaued.
Below is a breakdown of where each Miami Dolphins player “ranked” this season. And while this list is subjective, and players can certainly fluctuate between “categories”, I think you’ll notice there is a common theme here: disappointment.
Couple of notes:
- order of players is random – it does not signify a ‘rank’ within the category
- this list does not encompass every Dolphins player in 2018, but the ones we expected to contribute to a successful 2018 season
- most numbers are through Week 16, unless otherwise stated
Let’s start with something we can actually look forward to. Although most of this team stresses us out on a weekly basis, there are actually some bright spots currently on the Dolphins roster. All of these players are (currently) on their rookie contracts and are core players that are worth building around. It would be harder to argue why these players aren’t the best within their position group than to debate why they are. These are the players Miami got right….even when all they seem to do is get it wrong:
This might be dramatic, but it isn’t far-fetched. Laremy Tunsil is going to be the next Orlando Pace or Jason Peters. As long as Miami doesn’t screw it up contract wise (and as long as Tunsil’s health isn’t as detrimental as Jake Long’s), Tunsil is going to be an elite left tackle for a long time. After being snubbed of a pro bowl nod after a stellar year at left tackle, Tunsil has shown he can protect the most vital position on the offensive line without worry. For all the sacks Ryan Tannehill absorbs each week, leading into Week 16, only 1 was Tunsil’s fault. He is an island all his own and should see a contract extension either this offseason (if Miami is really ambitious, which I doubt) or after the 2019 season. You keep players like this around.
After a rough beginning to Xavien Howard’s career – one that teetered on him being labeled as a “bust” – Howard has proven why the Dolphins traded up to select him in the 2nd-round of the 2016 NFL draft. Howard was selected to his first Pro Bowl after recording 7 interceptions and 12 passes defended on the year. Miami will have a tough task ahead of them, though the decision should be an easy one to make. Howard will be entering the final year of his rooking contract. Unlike Jarvis Landry, Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller before him, it would be wise for Miami to pay the player now rather than wait and let his value balloon out of Miami’s market. How much Miami is going to pay the young corner will be interesting to see.
Although Howard has been sensational, and fits the mold of a #1 cornerback, it must be noted that he has missed some time throughout his NFL career. Out of a possible 47 games, Howard has played in 35 of them (74.4%). While that’s not enough to deter me from extending Howard, it’s something I want to keep in mind at the negotiating table.
You don’t throw toward Xavien Howard. pic.twitter.com/cNoF3XG5p4
— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) November 25, 2018
There was a ton of hype surrounding the other Ohio State linebacker this season, but no one further exceeded expectations this season than Jerome Baker. Originally touted as being “too small” to be an every down linebacker, Baker has proven his skeptics wrong and has shown he easily belongs in the NFL. Though he only participated in 629 snaps (61.25%), Baker was able to record: 1 interception (a pick-six), 3 passes defended, 2 sacks, 72 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss and 3 QB Hits. While everyone was paying attention to all of the plays Kiko was making, it was easy to overlook how solid Baker played this year. If he exhibits any kind of growth going into year 2, he could become the first linebacker we exude any kind of confidence in since Zach Thomas.
Does it matter where you play him? He’s going to be extremely productive regardless of where he lines up on the field. All this hoopla about where Minkah Fitzpatrick was going to play in the NFL was a blessing in disguise for the Miami Dolphins. While productive players like Derwin James, Calvin Ridley, Leighton Vander Esch, and (*gasp*) Lamar Jackson were available, the Dolphins pounced on the 4-year starter on Nick Saban’s vaunted Alabama defense. Between learning three different positions (safety, slot corner and boundary corner) and adapting to the NFL, you wouldn’t have thought this was Fitzpatrick’s rookie year. He looked like a veteran on the gridiron – and while he may not have had as many flashy plays as Derwin James, he comes as a hotter and more-versatile commodity that also has a higher ceiling. Statistics will tell one story, but if both of their careers parallel their rookie seasons, Fitzpatrick is in for the larger contract.
Davon Godchaux is the definition of a draft-day steal. Plucked in the middle of the 5th-round (178th overall) in the 2017 NFL draft, Godchaux has steadily outperformed his draft status, his contract and our expectations – even when they’re already high to begin with. The only downside to Godchaux’s playing ability is that he’s unable to transform into a brick wall and take up space for the entire defensive line. The way Godchaux moves double teams, disrupts the run and pushes linemen back at the point of attack is impressive for a sophomore player. I’d say Miami is lucky they drafted Godchaux, but they selected another bright spot for this team one round later.
— Ryan Smith (@PFF_RyanSmith) September 20, 2018
Injury cut short what may have been the best season for any defensive tackle on the Dolphins. Vincent Taylor’s contributions on both special teams and on defense make for a promising back-half of his rookie contract. Taylor has already accumulated 2 sacks, 4 tackles for a loss, 3 quarterback hits and multiple blocked field goals throughout his two-year career. It may not seem like much for a player you expect to rely heavily on in the future, but that only came with 389 total defensive snaps.
As long as Taylor can come back from his foot injury unhindered, Miami should have a formidable tandem of cheap defensive tackles for the next two years.
I wouldn’t say Jason Sanders belongs in the same category as Fitzpatrick, Tunsil or Howard. The rookie kicker is a “bright spot” mainly because he hasn’t done anything to warrant placement in any other spot. He isn’t as much of a commodity as these other players are, but he was nearly perfect for the Dolphins this season, and as a rookie under a cheap contract for the next 3 seasons, it’s nice to see they have the position locked up. This isn’t similar to Andrew Franks where we’re praying the field goal attempt is within 50 yards; Sanders has a legitimate leg and barring anything crazy happening in Darren Rizzi’s brain, Sanders will be here for the foreseeable future.
This is it. These are your bright spots. You have 7 of them and one of those 7 is only here because he’s a misfit everywhere else.
These are your building blocks to the future. You have two vital positions nailed down (cornerback and left tackle), but this leaves plenty of concerns elsewhere. Not every team is going to have an elite presence at every position, but elite teams have role players that handle their jobs well. Where do Miami’s role players fall?
These are the players we have a hard time forming a concrete opinion on. This isn’t because the cat caught our tongue, it’s just that these players didn’t do anything to show that they’re a worthwhile building block. Or, we know they’re worth building around, but their performance this year had us thinking otherwise.
You’re going to find a lot of players you like in this category. And while you can’t get rid of all of them, you can make a case for just about any of them. The only thing that’ll keep some of these players on the 2019 roster is their contract status (dead money vs salary cap hit).
Why can’t Miami get a Zack Martin or a David DeCastro or a Anthony Castonzo towards the back end of the first round? Why is it that we end up feeling hesitant with players like Ja’Wuan James or we get the lesser of the two Pouncey brothers? For once, it would be nice to draft a bonafide offensive lineman rather than a player we simultaneously know we need to pay out of necessity as well as pray for an upgrade. I guess Laremy Tunsil fits that bill, but he was projected to go #1 overall leading up to the draft, so I can’t really say Miami analyzed offensive line talent well with that one. The biggest skepticism was if Miami felt the public relations nightmare was worth the draft pick (it was).
Ja’Wuan James definitely runs the wrong play pic.twitter.com/B9cvoxx1hW
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) October 26, 2018
Anyway, Ja’Wuan James will earn himself a nice contract somewhere because offensive line play is important and it is currently rubbish around the league. Depending what his price is this offseason, it may be best to let James walk. We were hoping he could have solidified himself as an elite tackle rather than an inconsistent one, but we’ve received much of the same. Problem is, releasing James means you need to use a valuable resource on a fix. Great.
Most of you are going to feel the urge to put Kenyan Drake in the “bright spots” category and I caution you to be so abrasive. Drake was a home run waiting to happen on every play. His shiftiness and agility gave the defenses something to fear. He was turning broken runs into touchdowns back in 2017, and was achieving miracles in 2018. There’s every reason to believe Drake should be a #1 running back in this league, until you realize he’s never been a #1 running back in this league.
How this coaching staff handles its running backs is one reason for Drake’s statistics, but the coach’s reasoning isn’t without merit. Drake handled 109 offensive snaps in 2016 (11.50% of the team’s total snap count), 475 offensive snaps in 2017 (45.81%) and 503 snaps in 2018 (58.56%) – none of which scream the workload of a #1 back.
Drake is the perfect complimentary back to a bruiser, which Miami obtained this year when they signed Frank Gore. As all the pundits scream for Kenyan Drake to get more touches, it should be pointed out that Gore averaged slightly more yards-per-carry than Kenyan Drake in 2018 (4.6 vs 4.5). From a fan perspective, we want excitement. But if you’re Adam Gase and you’re trying to run a specific offense that requires plays to move forward, you have more confidence running Frank Gore than Kenyan Drake.
Add in Drake’s persistent shoulder injury this season, and you have a plethora of reasons as to why Drake hasn’t panned out the way the team expected. Partly their own fault, but partly due to the circumstances Drake gave them. A nagging injury paired with average pass protection mixed with boom-or-bust run potential leads to a 35-year-old running back receiving more carries than the young playmaker.
Kenyan Drake's contribution here is running into his left tackle and watching the play fall apart. Think he knows he screwed up, too pic.twitter.com/NrE5rovL5i
— gth (@gth829c) December 18, 2018
I was tempted to place Raekwon McMillan into one of the lower categories, but I had to hold back a bit. The sophomore linebacker was tasked with being the defensive leader in the middle of the field after missing his entire rookie season with an ACL injury. The thought was that McMillan could hold the middle while Kiko Alonso and Jerome Baker would make plays on the outside. This plan could have worked, if not for one dominating flaw: Miami’s non-existent defensive line.
There are plenty of instances where McMillan was a step slow in coverage or he was washed out of a run, which is why he finds himself in this apathetic abyss, but there’s also plenty of potential that peaks out once in awhile, which is why he isn’t looked at entirely as a hole. If Miami was able to stop the run at the point of attack, we wouldn’t be talking about how the linebacking unit is gashed on a weekly basis.
Miami’s most eccentric personality received a well-deserved contract extension this prior offseason. While he hadn’t shown elite potential prior to the extension, Bobby McCain was the perfect slot corner for any team. He’s smart, energetic, passionate and brings great team chemistry. Some “experts” might have viewed the contract as excessive – what kind of unproven slot cornerback deserves $6.75m a year? But if Miami’s defense didn’t blow up before the season started, McCain might be looking at a much more productive season than the statistics show (and the statistics are not pretty for McCain). His dead cap hit ($8.56m) means he’ll be on the team next year, and that’s not a problem – he shouldn’t be a liability. But, if we’re being honest, he regressed in 2018, and if he doesn’t improve well beyond his 2017 production, it’ll be the last year we see him in a Dolphins’ uniform.
Bobby McCain struggled all game, and that’s not the norm for the Dolphins nickel cornerback. But this play isn’t acceptable. It’s zone coverage in the red zone. The QB is rolling right, you might want to cover the right side of the end zone. pic.twitter.com/I7z6fJN4cY
— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) December 17, 2018
A soft spot for the Miami Dolphin all-time great may be what’s keeping him in this category. It wasn’t just his attitude that turned sour this season, his production fell along with it. There’s a lot to be said about Reshad Jones playing “out of position”, but is that the only reason Jones has gone from one of the league’s most overlooked safeties to being justifiably overlooked?
On the season, Jones had 69 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and 2 interceptions. He didn’t record a forced fumble, he didn’t recover a fumble, he didn’t sack a quarterback; heck, he only hit a quarterback once this season.
A declining 30 year old player on the cusp of costing $17.16m against the cap next season is tough to justify. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Miami move Jones’ contract for anything they can get (think a 7th-round draft pick in 2020 as a realistic option. And yeah, that’s not an exaggeration. Which team needs an expensive, aging player on the decline? You’re trying to shed salary cap space and teams know you’re desperate to get rid of a quitter).
Danny Amendola is the epitome of doing nothing wrong and yet still being average. With the departure of Jarvis Landry, Amendola was brought in to be Ryan Tannehill’s new security blanket. He didn’t actually have a bad season all things considered. He accumulated 549 yards on 55 receptions (a 10 yards-per-reception average) and caught 1 TD. Between injuries and veteran emotions, the Dolphins had themselves a mess at wide receiver this season, and amidst all of that trouble emerged Amendola as the generically average receiver. His reliability and surprising durability are the main reasons why Amednola is neutral, but if we’re looking at players we can build off of or replace, Amendola fits the ladder category.
A leader I would want any child to emulate, Kenny Stills is a fascinating human being. Not only is he dedicated to helping people around the world, but he’s also extremely dedicated to his craft. His work ethic is something younger players (looking at you, DeVante Parker) should emulate and his bravery is something to commemorate. That said, Kenny Stills cost $9.75m against the cap this season; he’s going to cost another $9.75m next season. Nothing about a 34/526 stat line tells me this player is worth retaining at that cost.
Kenny Stills caught a TD pass and crashed into a security guard who didn't see him coming.
Stills went back and gave the TD ball to her. pic.twitter.com/u0dYVVSkn0
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 21, 2018
The thought was that Stills wasn’t properly utilized last year with Jay Cutler. Reuniting Stills with Ryan Tannehill was going to lead to more fireworks like we saw back in 2016. Tannehill had debunked the myth that he didn’t have good deep ball accuracy, and Stills did a great job of deflecting the notion that he’s strictly a downfield receiver. But Stills didn’t grow this season. There were a few great tosses littered throughout the season, but as an overall, Stills was a non-factor. A lot may have to do with the offensive line and quarterback play behind him, but unless both of those units are going to drastically change in 2019, there’s no reason to maintain an unhappy player who isn’t positively affecting the outcome of each game.
Up until Week 16, Kiko Alonso had played every defensive snap for the Miami Dolphins. Although we’ve grilled him constantly for his liability in coverage, truth is, he’s been the most reliable and durable linebacker on the Dolphins. Maybe it’s the inconsistency of Raekwon McMillan next to him or his memorable adjectives about Ryan Tannehill’s balls that make us think more of the linebacker.
He’s a smart football player, he is able to routinely diagnose plays and has a crazy motor, but with all of that said, Kiko still has a knack for getting beat. If it weren’t for his bloated $9.66m cap hit this season, Kiko could very well be a bright spot for this team.
Though, how can I make someone a bright spot if there’s a solid chance the team cuts them this offseason? I expect both sides to renegotiate and extended the enigmatic linebacker.
Kiko Alonso forgot what team he was playing for pic.twitter.com/KLwz2Q1qkC
— Someone's An Idiot (@SomeonesAnIdiot) August 25, 2018
It actually pains me to put Cameron Wake in this section. Wake is one of the only bright spots this organization has had over the past decade. Who am I to categorize a Dolphins legend as someone I’m apathetic about?
After Wake’s performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars, fans are hoping to see the 36 year old defensive end return next season. He’s set to cost $9.63m against the cap (and would cost $8.6m in dead cap money if released) – meaning he’s likely to be on the team next year barring a trade. It’s possible that Miami, once again, extends Wake for another season (think 2-years, $15m, $12.5m guaranteed).
Like Frank Gore, Cameron Wake does not play like his age, and he’s likely to still be playing (and be dominant) for at least another year. But how long can we rely on a 36 year old defensive end to anchor a line that has been more than underwhelming during his tenure?
Frank Gore was actually teetering on being a bright spot for the Miami Dolphins before going down with an ankle injury. Gore was reliable, durable, and well outperformed his contract and expectations. Given Adam Gase’s (lack of) trust in Kenyan Drake, and his desire to withhold both Branden Bolden and Kalen Ballage from partaking in meaningful snaps for most of the season, it was amazing to see Gore perform as exceptionally as he did. He wasn’t just barreling over defenders, he was juking and cutting his way to a 4.6 yards-per-carry average.
#Dolphins Frank Gore leads all running backs with 12 forced missed tackles and 2nd with 115 yards after contact over the last 2 weeks
— Ryan Smith (@PFF_RyanSmith) November 16, 2018
The argument will be made that re-signing Gore may prevent Drake and Ballage from getting more snaps, but at 35 years old, Gore shows no signs of slowing down. Drake is a hit-or-miss 4.5 yards-per-carry running back, and Gore is a reliable 4.6 yards-per-carry running back. I’m not saying you should have one and not the other…why not have both? For near the veteran’s minimum, there should no excuse to not re-sign Frank Gore.
I mean, I guess we’re apathetic about him? How else are we supposed to think about Akeem Spence? As another former Detroit Lions defensive tackle coming over to Miami, Spence was expected to provide depth at the position while also taking some meaningful snaps throughout the year. His arrival was Miami’s cheap way of covering the hole left by Ndamukong Suh. Spence was admirable this season, though it’s hard to say the Dolphins want anything to do with him in 2019. He’s currently set to cost $2.5m against the cap and holds no dead money next season. His performance is in-line with a $2.5m player, and I don’t see why Miami wouldn’t retain him. Just make sure you’re retaining him for depth, because if he’s expected to be your starter once again, you can expect opposing offenses to continue to rush for 143.9 yards-per-game (30th in the NFL).
You know exactly what you’re going to get in Walt Aikens. The special teams standout continued to shine as the captain of his unit, but was exposed in coverage while playing safety on defense. If he’s playing defensive snaps, something went wrong and the prayer is that he can hold down his position without giving up a big play. On special teams, however, you can expect a solid play almost every time from Aikens. A sure-tackler who’s usually spot on as a gunner downing kicks, Aikens seems to be the perfect player to receive the torch from Michael Thomas (who signed with the New York Giants this past offseason).
The adjectives “weapon” and “liability” were both used to describe Matt Haack’s punting this season. An upgrade over 2017 mostly by default, Matt Haack was booming 60+ yards punts as often as he was shanking them. It’s tough to say if Miami will have a different punter in 2019, but they definitely will bring in competition for the inconsistent lefty kicker.
Similar to Kiko Alonso, it’s tough to consider a player a detriment when they participate in nearly 93% of the team’s defensive snaps (2nd on the team behind Alonso). T.J. McDonald is a strong safety that was exposed a bunch in coverage this season. On occasion, he made plays (accumulating 3 interceptions, 5 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery and 1 tackle for a loss this year), but he was also a quarterback’s best friend while in coverage. Maybe it was Matt Burke and Miami’s pairing of two strong safeties that exposed McDonald more than he would normally be.
here’s the t.j mcdonald interception. he fakes like he’s going to cover the tight end, and then breaks underneath the slant for the easy interception. nice return. pic.twitter.com/OzvascNA9p
— josh houtz (@houtz) September 19, 2018
As much as you may want to move on from McDonald in 2019, he’s going to be a Miami Dolphin. McDonald costs $6m against the cap if he’s on the roster, and $6.5m in dead cap space if he isn’t.
While Durham Smythe‘s receiving numbers aren’t promising, his performance as a blocker in the run game is enough to temporarily satisfy Dolphins fans. Drafted in the 4th-round this past draft, Smythe was selected to predominantly be a run-blocker rather than a receiving threat – and with that, he did a good job. He was exactly as advertised. Problem is, more-productive tight ends (in terms of receiving numbers) were selected after Smyth and Mike Gesicki, leading Dolphins fans to believe that the team got it wrong with their selections. And they’re right about half that duo…
The rookie running back that was a virtual replacement for Jay Ajayi showed that he can compete in the NFL, the only thing that’s left to see is how much of a workload Kalen Ballage can handle. His 75-yard touchdown run was impressive, but any running back could have made it through that hole.
Ballage’s versatility as a running back and general of the wildcat offense makes him more of a commodity than most players in this section, but the limited sample size has me hesitant to say he’s a genuine bright spot for this team. Maybe in 2019, but he most certainly wasn’t in 2018.
All things considered, Kalen Ballage for the next 3 years is better than Jay Ajayi’s deteriorating knees for the next season – this was one Miami got right.
Assuming all of these players are back for 2019, you can cross 16 “holes” off of your roster, but with that being said, how confident are you in any of the players on this list? Combine their performance this season with their contracts going into 2019 and you have to wonder if feeling neutral about these players is actually giving them too much credit. There’s a good chance at least half of these players are on a different roster next season.
So with 7 “bright spots” and 16 neutral possibilities, we have 23 players that the Dolphins can “rely on” next season. A roster needs to hold 53 players. So what happened to the rest of the team?
Regression / Plateau
They fall into these next two categories. One is damning while the other has been a damnation for this team. Before we get into this team’s lack of luck, we’ll get into this team’s lack of talent. Below are the players that not only failed to contribute to the team’s 2018 season, they were a detriment in the process:
This draft pick hurts (you’ll notice a theme with that statement). Miami identified that a dominant pass rush is the way to win football games. They’ve spent plenty of assets trying to assemble the most-menacing defensive line they could develop, and they’ve failed miserably all these years.
Charles Harris putting on a clinic on edge setting pic.twitter.com/qajTLFIJwM
— Travis Wingfield (@WingfieldNFL) December 23, 2018
Charles Harris is a decent role player, but he’s not a first-round draft pick. He was selected (22nd-overall) because his position said he was more valuable than players who played at ‘less-impactful’ positions. I’m talking about Evan Engram (TE – selected 23rd), Jabrill Peppers (S – 25th), David Njoku (TE – 29th), or T.J. Watt (LB – 30th). This doesn’t highlight Miami passing on Tre’Davious White and letting him go to the Buffalo Bills at #27.
It’s easy to play this retrospect game, but this pick was questionable from the start. After a rookie campaign that showed promise, fans were willing to give Harris a chance to evolve in 2019. It never happened. Harris will be a fine role player for the next two seasons, but you can be sure he’ll be another 1st-round draft pick that doesn’t make it to their 5th-year option.
While I have to give Jesse Davis a ton of credit for being the only offensive lineman to start every game and play every snap, I have to point out how disappointed we all are in the second-year offensive lineman. Davis was possibly the brightest player coming out of the 2017 season. The undrafted free agent came in and became the only reliable cog on a putrid offensive line. Pairing his performance with his contract, Davis was the kind of player that could make a team relevant by being successful and cap-friendly.
Then, 2018 happened, and Jesse Davis validated why he was an undrafted free agent. Davis was routinely beat on passing plays, and had trouble opening lanes on running plays. This isn’t to say Davis didn’t have his moments; I still believe he’s a good player, but no matter how promising you think Davis might be, it doesn’t wipe the abysmal performances he had this season.
If Ted Larsen weren’t the current whipping boy for this fanbase, Davis might very well be in hotter water than he currently is.
I can simultaneously admit that Robert Quinn has had a decent second-half of the season while also realizing that Robert Quinn has been a complete detriment to this team.
Let’s all say a prayer for Robert Quinn’s ankles pic.twitter.com/c9YSt6wtOE
— Matt (@PatsFanMatt) September 30, 2018
As the most expensive player on the team (cap hit wise), you’re expected to change the outcome of almost every game. With 6.5 sacks on the year (5.5 sacks coming over the last 6 games), Quinn has been far from it. He gets beat on the edge on running plays, and provides minimal pass rush on most passing downs. His $11.44m salary cap hit is not only a waste, but it came at the cost of a 4th-round draft pick in 2018.
Quinn seemed like a prize acquisition this offseason, but it may have been the move that sealed Mike Tannenbaum’s fate as Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
And if it wasn’t Quinn that sealed Tannebaum’s fate, it should be Stephone Anthony. Even if a 5th-round draft pick isn’t too much, it can’t be excused.
The Dolphins have drafted Bobby McCain, Tony Lippett, Jay Ajayi, and Davon Godchaux in the 5th-round during Tannenbaum’s tenure. The New York Giants recently traded Damon Harrison, one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles in the NFL, to the Detroit Lions for a 5th-round pick.
I understand that Anthony came with additional years of cheap control, but he was an injury-riddled special teams player on a team desperate to shed his salary. To give them a 5th-round pick for such a failure is as criminal as biting on the temptation of a once-promising defensive end (Quinn).
I have no idea what happened here. Cordrea Tankersley looked like he would be a nice compliment to Xavien Howard as the team’s second starting cornerback. Instead, he tricked us into believing that Torry McTyer was a legitimate starter in this league. You could argue that failing to get any kind of contribution from the 2017 3rd-round pick sunk this secondary; the repercussions of starting multiple cornerbacks out of place and thinning out the team’s depth can’t be overstated. There are plenty of players that can compete with the 2nd-year cornerback for this title, but it’s possible that Tankersley is the most disappointing player of 2018.
Another story of a stud college athlete that couldn’t transition to the pros. This is where the Dolphins consistently find themselves in hot water (see: Charles Harris). They believe that they can take a dominant athlete and develop them into a football player. There’s plenty of evidence to show us that DeVante Parker has been an underwhelming bust while Jarvis Landry, an amazing football player that fell to the 2nd-round because he wasn’t a prototypical athlete, proved to be one of the biggest steals of his draft. Five years later, and we’re still waiting for that “monster season” from Parker. Spoiler alert: it’s not coming (in a Dolphins uniform).
DeVante Parker made a business decision on that last play.
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) December 23, 2018
A lot more will be said about Ryan Tannehill throughout the offseason, so I’ll save space in this piece and refrain from listing the plethora of reasons why Ryan Tannehill is or isn’t the answer in 2019 and simply state that Tannehill disappointed fans in 2018. It’s slightly unfortunate that he’s the poster child for this anemic offense, but as the quarterback, he’s the maestro behind the orchestra. His quarterback rating and statistics will say otherwise, but Tannehill disappointed us in 2018 – especially when there were MVP whispers earlier this season.
A bunch of promise that has led to a ton of disappointment: that’s your 2018 Dolphins season and your Dolphins 21st century in nutshell. Thing is, all of that disappointment is wrapped tightly in hope, promise, optimism and the opportunity for success; we just open it up to find that it’s (always) just a facade.
Blue Tent Blues
All of that hope and promise had to originate from somewhere. It’s not like we blindly assumed this team was going to be good this season. Our thoughts, hypothesis’ and playoff aspirations were shattered along with the 13 lucky players that landed on injured-reserve this season.
The speedy receiver was so bad at catching a football, he was nearly cut from the team. Originally an afterthought going into 2017, Jakeem Grant’s potential peaked towards the end of the season, giving fans a reason to believe the 5′ 6″ wide receiver could be a breakout candidate in 2018.
And lo-and-behold, it happened. Grant accumulated 268 yards on 34 receptions (12.8 yards-per-catch) and 2 touchdowns. He was a threat with his speed, and he was a menace when defenses realized they had to scheme for Grant, Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills and Kenyan Drake. The options Miami had were bountiful, and Wilson’s injury, Ryan Tannehill’s injured shoulder, and the deteriorating offensive line sabotaged what could have been a top-notch offense.
A “player who had no position” made every skeptic look foolish on his way to 26 receptions, 391 yards (15 yards-per-reception) and 4 touchdowns…in only 7 games.
This play maker was the team’s MVP prior to going down with a hip injury in week 7. His yards-after-the-catch made Jarvis Landry look like a poor man’s Albert Wilson (Wilson had 331 YAC in 2018 while Landry has 215 – Landry has played in 16 games vs Wilson’s 7).
This is the Albert Wilson show. Ended the day with 6 receptions & 155 yards. Here’s 3 of his catches. pic.twitter.com/rEDE5SpINV
— Eric Elizondo (@EricElizondo8) October 14, 2018
The only reason Wilson isn’t a “bright spot” is because we have no idea how he’s going to bounce back from his injury. By no means do we not want Albert Wilson, we’re just unsure if he’ll be the same player we witnessed in 2018. Say what you want about Adam Gase, but he recognized Wilson’s ability, identified that he was the perfect match for this offense, and convinced Wilson to sign with the Dolphins even though there were other suitors offering more for his services.
Don’t trust all of the perception surrounding a player. The media made us feel like Albert Wilson was ‘just another awful signing by the Miami Dolphins’. And while they have merit often enough (Mike Wallace, Andre Branch…) there are times when the Dolphins really are best in the business. Wilson’s signing is one of those positive occurrences.
Watch, William Hayes is going to be back with the Miami Dolphins next season and all parties involved are going to be content with the signing. There’s no reason not to be; other than the fact that Hayes has landed on injured-reserve in both seasons he’s been with the Dolphins.
The only downside to Hayes’ tenure on the Dolphins is his availability. Hayes has been a productive player for this team, but due to various injures, has participated in just 13 out of a possible 32 games (40.6%). He is an exceptional run-stopper and has a knack for getting to the quarterback. In just 3 games this season, Hayes recorded 2 sacks and 3 tackles for a loss. Or in other words, a heck of a lot more productive than Charles Harris has been in 10 games so far this season.
Here’s the video of William Hayes tearing his ACL. If you look at his last two steps, it does look like he shortens his last (right) step and tries to roll over Carr instead of landing firmly on him. pic.twitter.com/bi32c35r7o
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) September 24, 2018
Another positive move by Mike Tannenbaum that will go unnoticed, Daniel Kilgore was a fortunate produce of a San Francisco 49ers mishap. Originally extended by the 49ers, Kilgore was deemed expendable when San Francisco signed Weston Richburg to be their starting center. At the cost of 4 draft spots in the 7th-round, Miami was able to relieve an unhappy and expensive Mike Pouncey in favor of Kilgore.
As fate would have it, Kilgore got injured in week 4 while Pouncey was added to the AFC Pro Bowl roster.
Miami’s offseason prize, Josh Sitton was expected to finally anchor an eternally weak offensive line. While offensive guard isn’t viewed as a premium position, pairing Sitton next to Laremy Tunsil effectively protected Ryan Tannehill’s blindside from any threats. His injury during week 1 may not have been the most catastrophic loss this season, but there are plenty of “what ifs” surrounding this offense that might have been solved if the offensive line, once again, wasn’t putrid.
Costing just $500k more against the salary cap in 2019, there’s a good chance Sitton’s back and this offensive line finally looks respectable. There’s also a chance Miami moves on from the 32 year old offensive lineman fresh off of a season-ending injury. This will be a curious case to monitor this offseason.
The original domino to fall for the Miami Dolphins, MarQueis Gray‘s injury exposed the Dolphins lack of talent at tight end. Although he was never much of a focal point for the Dolphins, Gray was competent in the passing game and as a blocker. Though most people didn’t see this injury as too big of a loss, Miami’s inept offense throughout the entire season would say otherwise.
Miami made a habit out of placing players on injured-reserve, with 13 players on IR as of Week 17. While this group of players couldn’t play, the next group of players were able to participate throughout the entire season, they were just invisible while on the field.
Did Not Show Up
While these players may have “produced” more than others on this list, between the assets and empty hope, these players were invisible in the eyes of Dolphins fans; only to be seen when scorned:
Let’s get the caveat out of the way now and admit that it’s still too early to tell what Mike Gesicki is going to be in the NFL. But, overlooking this Olympic-sized failure in 2018 would be naive.
— Barstool Penn State (@PSUBarstool) October 14, 2018
To put how poor Gesicki’s season was into perspective, the rookie tight end contributed less than Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron did in years prior. Remember how badly we wanted to move on from those two? We’ve talked in depth about how the void at tight end has been a major contributing factor to this offense’s lack of success, and Gesicki was expected to end that drought. Maybe it was fan hype that blew it out of proportion, but the Dolphins decided, once again, that selecting an “athlete” was better than selecting a “football player”. Dallas Goedart and Chris Hernon (and a plethora of other rookie tight ends) were successful and desirable factors in their team’s offense while Miami will be looking for another replacement in 2019.
His game against the Jacksonville Jaguars is actually going to give him meaningful statistics on the season, which only slightly clouds Andre Branch’s real performance in 2018. There wasn’t anything memorable about it, and yet, I don’t think anyone is going to forget it.
Andre Branch was a negative influence on the field. Constantly hit with inexcusable penalties and getting beat on almost every play, his biggest contribution to the 2018 season was shouting “bodybag” from the sidelines.
— Brooks Webb (@BrooksW44) September 9, 2018
At $10m against the cap in 2018, Branch was expected to (at least) be a starting defensive end. Instead, the team had to waste a 4th-round draft pick (and spend even more money) to cover up the mistake that was Branch’s extension.
The two-most expensive players for the Miami Dolphins played the same position…and both need to be replaced. That all but sums up the 2018 season for you.
These players participated for Miami this season, though that never should have happened. They were part of the 2018 season, but were never part of the plan. I’d say I blame (or exonerate) these players, but it’s hard to express emotion towards them when they never should have been relied upon in the first place.
We all woke up once Brocktober ended. It was a fun storyline while it lasted, but there was a reason we kept saying Miami had only one quarterback on its roster when the regular season started. Brock Osweiler held his own and was able to lead the team to a 2-3 record; which, for a backup, is all you can ask for.
Brock Osweiler is skipping rocks out here 😂
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 26, 2018
Osweiler also has the only passing game of 300 yards or more for Miami this season (380). In 15 games, Miami has one 300+ yard passing game. And it isn’t from the team’s starting quarterback…
Is it really his fault he outperformed his expectations so well in training camp that he under-performed during the regular season? As Dolphins fans, we were ecstatic to believe that we had found another starting-caliber cornerback, but once Torry McTyer was on the field, it was revealed why he was an undrafted backup cornerback.
This all sounds negative for McTyer and it really shouldn’t be. McTyer is a solid depth piece to have on your roster and is fine playing for a few series if need be. Unless Miami gets a deep cornerback room next season, it’s easy to expect McTyer back as a backup cornerback in 2019. And that’s perfectly fine with me.
Is Brandon Bolden a bright spot? His statistics and performances say so. Kenyan Drake gets all the credit, but Brandon Bolden is the real reason the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots this season (ok, Bill Belichick outsmarting himself and Tom Brady screwing up the end of the 2nd-half and Stephen Gostkowski missing a couple kicks may be the real reason…).
But snarky Patriots miracles aside, Bolden produced well for the Dolphins in the limited touches he had. At $850,000, he was easily worth every penny and was a productive “bright spot” for the Dolphins this season, especially given his special teams production. It’s just hard to put him in that group when he only contributed 18 snaps on offense.
Not really sure what to say about Senorise Perry. He’s extremely reliable on special teams, but he didn’t play a single offensive snap the entire season. With 4 other running backs active for the Dolphins most weeks (Drake, Gore, Bolden, and Ballage), it’s tough to justify Perry’s roster spot solely as a special team’s player.
Ted Larsen performed just as we expected. He’s a backup offensive lineman who was thrust into the starting lineup very early in the season. I guess we have to give him credit for his contributions; he participated in over 80% of the teams snaps and had some moderate moments run blocking. Problem is, Ryan Tannehill was constantly pressured from his side. It’s easy to punch Larsen for all of the negative plays he racked up, but outside of a couple missed plays, he has soldiered through the entire season.
Ted Larsen had his issues in the Jets game, almost exclusively stunt/delayed blitz pickup (which Sitton also somewhat struggled with the week before), but on what turned out to be the play of game, Larsen walled off TWO defenders so that Tannehill could get this ball to Gore. pic.twitter.com/WyiqggFwP7
— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) September 18, 2018
Fans wanted Travis Swanson exiled from this team after his first two games, but the emergency fill-in for Daniel Kilgore performed in nearly 70% of the team’s offensive snaps and was, well, moderate. While he wasn’t the “best” center, he did just fine for a backup center who wasn’t on the team’s roster until September 3rd. If anything, Miami is kind of lucky he was still hanging around; who knows what would have happened with Wesley Johnson or Ted Larsen at center.
These are the reasons why the 2018 Miami Dolphins failed. It’s not (solely) because of Adam Gase. It’s not (solely) because of Ryan Tannehill. These two people were just part of the problem that was the 2018 season. We fully expected the Dolphins to evolve and instead they regressed…mightily. The hope is that 2018 is a fluke. Problem is, how do you explain an entire century of ineptitude?
Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker
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.
The #Dolphins and WR DeVante Parker are finalizing a four-year extension worth over $40 million, source said. Lot of guaranteed money. Another step in his remarkable turnaround. 💰
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) December 13, 2019
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 will make 4.5 M guaranteed in 2020 and 7.7 M guaranteed in 2021. Also, he's five catches and 120 yards from making another 1.5 M in incentives this season
— Barry Jackson (@flasportsbuzz) December 13, 2019
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.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 13, 2019
Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes
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.
We have signed DB Nate Brooks off New England’s practice squad, signed LB Jamal Davis off Tennessee’s practice squad and been awarded T Adam Pankey off waivers from Green Bay.
We have also placed CB Ryan Lewis and CB Ken Webster on injured reserve and waived RB Zach Zenner.
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 10, 2019
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.
Dolphins add their sixth new player of the week, signing cornerback Linden Stephens off Seattle’s practice squad. To make room, they waived cornerback Chris Lammons.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) December 7, 2019
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.
The #Dolphins have added former UCF and Davie University School DB Rashard Causey to their practice squad today.
— Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 (@Safid_Deen) December 12, 2019
Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
- Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker December 13, 2019
- Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes December 13, 2019
- Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview December 12, 2019
- The Aftermath: Dolphins 21 Jets 22 December 10, 2019
- Fins Fall to Rivals, Officials – Dolphins Jets Week 14 Recap December 8, 2019
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