As the Dolphins play out the string on a year most would rather forget, areas of interest remain for the most passionate ‘Phins fans.
While the diehards would prefer rooting the team towards a post-season push, December games can serve as an audition for the future of the organization.
With the coaching staff secure in its position, a top-level quarterback returning from injury, and a youth-littered roster, these remaining games hold intrigue for a variety of reasons:
1.) The emergence of Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry as an elite duo:
The numbers aren’t gaudy, but given the circumstances (signing a starting QB in August and two starts by his backup), there’s enough to be encouraged for 2018. Assuming Miami makes a more concerted effort to shore up the offensive line, and with Ryan Tannehill returning to the line-up, Miami would be wise to extend Landry, and focus the offense on these two play makers.
Landry has had a severe dip in production without Tannehill, but Stills has stayed the course. Perhaps this was the best-case scenario for Miami, as Landry could come at a cheaper cost as he approaches free agency.
Stills is already locked up for the immediate future, and securing Landry at a rate comparable to the deal Alshon Jefferey just inked in Philadelphia, would be a win for Miami.
Also contributing to Landry’s long-term prospects of staying in Miami, is the lack of emergence from Devante Parker. The third-year receiver, drafted with the 14th pick of the 2015 draft, has not lived up to lofty expectations. His inability to separate from press coverage, and the number of interceptions on passes targeted his direction (five of his last seven targets have been picked) there’s a growing concern that he may not be long for Miami.
Kenny Stills – 58.8% catch rate, 15.3 yards per catch, 8.94 yards per target, TD per 13.7 targets
Jarvis Landry – 65% catch rate, 8.7 yards per catch, 5.68 yards per target, TD per 20.5 targets
Devante Parker – 59% catch rate, 11.5 yards per catch, 6.78 yards per target, TD per 61 targets
2.) Young corner backs:
Going into 2018, Miami will have the following corners with their respective opening day ages:
Bobby McCain – 25
Cordrea Tankersley – 24
Xavien Howard – 25
Tony Lippett – 26
Lippett missed the entirety of the 2017 season after snatching four interceptions in 2016. Bobby McCain has made the biggest jump among the group grabbing two picks, showing a propensity for quality run-support, and offering solid coverage in the slot.
Xavien Howard has had a rough year, but his two interceptions, five passes defensed day against the Denver Broncos was the highest graded game among cornerbacks in the NFL in 2017. His performance against Julio Jones earlier in the year shows that he may be the solution to bigger-bodied receivers.
Cordrea Tankersley is the most talented of the group. His instincts and ability to mask zone coverage has put him in position to make two game changing plays this season (most notably the game-clinching interception he forced in the Atlanta game).
Miami might be wise to add a veteran cornerback in free agency on a cheap, one year deal to provide some more competition. Regardless, Miami hasn’t had this much potential at corner since Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison.
3.) Rotational Young Players:
I’ve been beating the Jesse Davis drum for quite some time. His performances all over the offensive line have warranted such praise. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a starter in 2018 – the only question is, at what position?
Miami trotted out some young players in auditioning-type-roles on Sunday against Denver. The following players saw increased snap counts:
Terrance Fede – 30
Chase Allen – 25
Stephone Anthony – 29
Jake Brendel – 11
Vincent Taylor – 36
Cameron Malveau – 32
Miami dealt a fifth-round draft choice for Anthony earlier this year, so it’s imperative that he at least carves out a role as a backup linebacker. Brendel could be a potential replacement for the imminently departed Mike Pouncey, Vince Taylor and Cameron Malveaux could be rotational players on the defensive line, and Terrance Fede continues to impress in limited work.
There is always purpose for each NFL game. Distancing yourself from the team after a rough patch of games is entirely understandable, but the youth movement and improvements at key spots should be enough to keep even the casual fan invested over the last four games.
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