Sunday, January 17, 2021

State of the Dolphins heading into Training Camp

Training Camp for the Miami Dolphins begins this coming Thursday (25th) July, so I thought we’d have a look at how the Fins have changed over the past 4 months, ahead of the 2019 season. Let’s start by looking back at the last campaign for the 2-time super bowl champs.

Season Recap

The 2018 Miami Dolphins were a mess, let’s face it! Starting 3-0, all was looking good for the Dolphins. This team, of course, was overhyped, resulting in a 38-7 thumping by New England, rounding out September. Tannehill got hurt in week 5, which saw Brock Osweiler get a run as a starter. From Week 12 onwards, Miami finished the season with original QB Tannehill starting under center.

Gase’s offense was a snooze fest. If the Dolphins were facing 2nd and long, they would run the ball a whole chunk of the time, even if they were struggling in the running game. This often resulted in 3rd and long, and most of the time, a Matt Haack punt. The Fins QB’s failed to utilise the deep threat of Kenny Stills, with Danny Amendola leading the team in receptions and receiving yards.

The running game was one of only a few positives from 2018, although it wasn’t used very often! Frank Gore showed that he still had it. Kenyan Drake was utilised heavily in both rushing and in the passing game, proving heroic in Week 14, when the Dolphins defeated New England 34-33, which was later named the ‘Miami Miracle’. Kalen Ballage was beginning to feature more towards the end of the season. He put up 123 yards and a TD in Minnesota on 12 carries.

Finally, upfront, Laremy Tunsil had an incredible year, only allowing 1 sack, compared to 6 the season before.

Xavien Howard with Kenny Stills, modeling new throwback uniforms.
Image courtesy of Miami Dolphins.

As for the 2018 defense, they were ranked 29th overall, 31st in run defense, 21st in pass defense. The secondary was once again the main spark in a below-par team. The Dolphins were tied for fifth in total takeaways and had a +5 turnover differential. Many of those takeaways were from Xavien Howard, who’s 7 interceptions resulted in a tied lead for the most picks in 2018. More impressively ‘X’ only played 12 games last year. Minkah Fitzpatrick proved to be a good 1st round pick.

An aging Cam Wake and Robert Quinn duo were average at best in terms of pass-rushing, but that was the common theme of this team in 2018.

So what’s changed?

Well, Adam Gase was fired on New Year’s Eve, in came Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores. Flores brings a new regime to South Beach and brings new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, formerly the Pats receivers coach. In true New England style, free agency was quiet for the Fins, well incomings wise anyway!

New Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores. Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Out the door, went both Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler. Tannehill was traded to the Tennessee Titans and Osweiler is yet to find a team. In come both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen. Fitzpatrick signed a 2-year deal with $7 million guaranteed, whilst Rosen was acquired in a draft-day trade for a second-round pick. This is going to set up a whole new QB room, with Jake Rudock taking up the role of QB3. I’m looking forward to a starting QB competition this training camp, how far can Josh Rosen push the likely starter of ‘Fitzmagic’?

At the receiver position, Danny Amendola departed for the Detroit Lions in the Motor City, whilst surprisingly DeVante Parker signed a contract extension. It looks like it’s one last chance for Parker, who was a 1st round draft pick out of Louisville in 2015. Albert Wilson will look to pick up on the form he was in before getting hurt. I’m intrigued to see how O’Shea uses the under the radar weapon of Jakeem Grant. Finally, controversial undrafted free-agent Preston Williams will be an interesting watch from Thursday.

With Frank Gore moving to a divisional rival, Buffalo, Kenyan Drake, and Kalen Ballage will be given a chance to shine. Rookie running back Myles Gaskin completes the rest of a whole load of backs on this roster.

Tight End Dwayne Allen is one of the most notable free agents. He comes over from New England, to add to a rather inexperienced room with the likes of Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe. Fullback Chandler Cox looks like a promising pick, I assume he will be used in a similar role to James Develin of the Patriots.

Ja’wuan James left South Beach for a heap of cash in Denver. In comes, former Bills Tackle Jordan Mills to partner Laremy Tunsil. Guard Chris Reed signs from Jacksonville, to join Rookie Michael Deiter and Jesse Davis in the interior O-Line.

As for the Defense, one huge change will be the lack of Cameron Wake. There’s been no real attempt to replace him, however. There’s a lack of an Edge Rusher right now, so it’ll be interesting to see how Charles Harris copes being the main pass rusher. There is however an interior pass rush! First Round pick Christian Wilkins looked like one of the best players in the draft, with the former Clemson Tiger looking pumped to be a Dolphin.

Dolphins first round pick Christian Wilkins
1st Round draft pick Christian Wilkins.
Image courtesy of Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Linebackers wise, Miami look mainly the same, with the only notable addition being rookie Andrew Van Ginkel. Jerome Baker is set to improve on his impressive rookie season.

In the secondary, Reshad Jones’s future as a Dolphin is under serious consideration, with many believing that the two-time pro-bowler is facing his last training camp in Miami. The NFL’s highest-paid Cornerback Xavien Howard will return, with his new 5-year deal. Mr.Versatile Minkah Fitzpatrick will aim to have a breakout season. Eric Rowe will start opposite ‘X’ this season, after signing from New England. TJ McDonald and Bobby McCain are the other potential starting DB’s.

Projected Starters in each position (Week 1)

Offense

  • QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick – Rosen will start from Week 6 (after the bye.)
  • RB – Kenyan Drake – Will take the majority of snaps in the backfield.
  • WR 1 – Kenny Stills – Number 1 outside receiver, will sometimes swap with Wilson
  • WR 2 – DeVante Parker – His last chance beckons.
  • WR 3 / Slot – Albert Wilson – Can also be used outside.
  • TE – Dwayne Allen – Can block, unlike Gesicki.
  • LT – Laremy Tunsil – Nearing Elite
  • LG – Michael Deiter – Beats Chris Reed to a starting job.
  • C – Daniel Kilgore – Meh
  • RG – Jesse Davis – Versatile, can also play Tackle
  • RT – Jordan Mills – Again, meh
  • FB – Chandler Cox – Interesting.

Defense (In 3-4, Miami will probably throw up a hybrid defense)

  • DL – Davon Godchaux – The best and most experienced in the DL
  • DL – Vincent Taylor – Underrated, will shine.
  • DL – Christian Wilkins – One of the best players in the draft
  • DE/OLB – Charles Harris – Make or break season
  • OLB – Jerome Baker – Breakout season
  • MLB – Kiko Alonso – Meh
  • MLB – Raekwon McMillan – Will improve a lot
  • CB – Xavien Howard – Elite
  • CB – Eric Rowe – Good back up, not as a starter.
  • FS – Bobby McCain – New position (if Jones is traded.)
  • SS – TJ McDonald – Meh
  • SLCB – Minkah Fitzpatrick – Can play anywhere in the secondary.

That’s all from me, I’m super excited for Thursday and the upcoming season in general. Bring it on!

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