By: Hussam Patel
Zaven Collins is ultimately the #2 LB in the draft behind Micah Parsons; Collins is PFF's #1 graded defensive player. He ended his college career by claiming the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best defensive player.
He exploded onto the scene this season flying around like Jamal Adams in the box, intercepting passes like Don Shinnick, and swarming ball carriers like Luke Kuechly. There isn't anything Collins doesn’t do well; he is an all-around LB that is good in all areas. He's ultimately like Kyle Van Noy, who can cover and help in run support.
Collins is such a fluid athlete on the field; he's got happy feet, which allow him to change directions at the drop of a dime. He has no issue getting parallel down the line of scrimmage. This fluidity and change of direction translates to his ability in coverage as well.
The primary issue with Collins is his inability to hold against bigger lineman at the point of attack when trying to set the edge or when guards pull out in the run game. Ultimately, he will need to run with bigger TE's and faster RBs in man coverage where he will be easily beat as he worked in zone coverage at Tulsa.
By: Drew Welch
I know many are sitting around this offseason being skeptical, and after two decades of waiting it is fair to be. Following seeing the Dolphins make the playoffs in 2016, yet only to regress and ultimately demolish and start over in a rebuild, some may still feel that "worry" about a "regression."
Here is why this time it is different and why you can hope again.
So, in closing, relax have some fun and for a change look forward to next season instead of wondering if it will be another one-off season. #FinsUp.
By: Tanner Elliott
Kenneth Gainwell has some of the best vision in college football; his ability to find and attack a hole is almost unmatchable. Once he finds a hole, he uses a burst of speed to hit it quickly. Gainwell also displays the ability to break tackles by any means; at times he runs over defenders, other times he jukes them out. He also attacks defenders instead of overthinking a run, which almost always results in getting a few more yards. Throughout his career, Gainwell also played a number of snaps at receiver, both at slot and on the outside.
The biggest flaw in Gainwell’s game is his pass blocking. On film it shows; Gainwell just throws a shoulder at the defender to try and slow them down instead of blocking. This can be very worrisome, as this will not work in the NFL. He is also not the fastest player. This is not as worrisome, as Gainwell has quickness but there are times when he gets hawked. Probably one of his less-worrying flaws is route running; as stated above, he lines up at receiver a fair amount. His route running may be good enough to get past average NFL linebackers, but if he goes up against some slot or even outside corners, he could have a problem.
During his time at Memphis, Gainwell was used the same way the Saints use Alvin Kamara. Gainwell was seen lining up in the slot, out on the hashes, and even used as a wildcat quarterback. Due to this, Gainwell can be a matchup nightmare. He has the ability to line up and make plays from anywhere on the field, like Kamara. Both players rely less on their speed and more on their vision and quickness to make plays happen.
Gainwell has been one of the main players involved in the Memphis offense since his arrival, and was used all over the field. He has the potential to be a matchup nightmare in the NFL if he lands with a team that knows how to utilize him. Gainwell should expect expected to hear his name called during day two of the draft; his ceiling should be early second round and he shouldn’t fall out of the third round. He should be an exceptional NFL player and could be a contributor day one.
By: Jason Sarney
There are only days to go before the 2021 NFL season officially opens and free agency frenzy kicks off. The Miami Dolphins will likely be prime players, and will most assuredly be linked to any rumored available player under the Sun.
It is in their nature, and totally acceptable, for Miami Dolphins Fans to be excited about the prospects of new players joining their team; it’s clearly among the risers in the NFL. For the first time in a long time, there is a zero-negative approach for free agents playing football in South Florida, unless they’re averse to warm weather beaches, tax free income, and being led by one of the brightest young coaches in the league in Brian Flores.
There are marquee names available at wide receiver, arguably the primary offensive position of need for the Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa; these same names are circulating on social media and Dolphins Nation. We will take a deep dive into the top targets available to general manager Chris Grier once the signing period begins.
I’ll be giving a grade of likelihood to each name, based on a few parameters: Potential contract amount, personality fit for the team, and scheme fit for the offense.
JuJu Smith-Schuster: He is extremely talented and remarkably young for a player heading into his fifth NFL season. He will turn 25 right before Thanksgiving, so this kid at heart will be heading into the 2021 season with a huge payday.
While JuJu is the type of person who is a brand in and of himself, his production has curiously declined in a number of areas since he exploded on the scene as a big play, big yard receiver.
Before going into statistical evidence illustrating a decline on paper, what’s notable is that Ben Roethlisberger was not at the helm for much of Smith-Schuster’s Steeler career. This very well could be a factor in his yearly decline in terms of yards per target.
His shortened routes could factor into his potential as a Miami slot machine, but for a contract in which he would expect, mixed with a “diva-receiver” mentality, I am not confident in him becoming a Dolphin. He will likely be among the top two salaries in free agent receivers, and with Miami having the ability to draft a wide-out at any point in the first round of the upcoming draft, I think an economical play is in the cards for the Dolphins in the FA market.
Allen Robinson: The Chicago Bear receiver could be a victim of a franchise tag situation, and is perhaps the most talented of this year's free agent class at the position. He could very well demand the other of the top two salaries in this market; that combined with the franchise tag potential diminishes the chance he could become a Dolphin.
However, having said that, if the Dolphins do decide to splurge or even decide a potential “tag and trade” with the Bears, (much like the Dolphins did with the Browns and Jarvis Landry), it would not shock me if a deal is made.
Robinson's stats, while inconsistent at first glance, are not a fair judgement of his ability. As everyone knows, lack of quality quarterback play has hurt his catch percentage as well as his overall money-making statistics.
Sure, he only had one double digit touchdown year (14 in 2015), and only hit a high of seven in his other six seasons. Pairing him with a skilled quarterback, specifically one who has the keen ability to hit a receiver quickly and in stride, is the thought process behind potentially acquiring Robinson.
Robinson is coming off a career-high year in receptions with 102, as well as his best full-season catch percentage at 67.5%. To put this into perspective, as a Jaguar he reeled in 52.6% of QB targets, and as a Bear that percentage spiked to 63.9. Imagine what would happen with an accurate quarterback.
Chris Godwin: Coming off a Super Bowl run with Tampa, will Godwin cash in elsewhere, or stick to being a member of Brady’s Bunch? That’s a difficult question to answer, but Godwin will get paid, and he rounds out who I believe will be the top three earners in the 2021 WR free agent market.
A preeminent slot-man, Godwin has spiked his catch percentage each of his four seasons:
He’s another “fit” for Tua and Miami, but are they a fit for Godwin? There’s a potential recruiter in former Penn State teammate, Mike Gesicki, who would love to get his guy back in the same huddle. This, of course just a fun speculation, but imagine the reunion.
Curtis Samuel: In the last few off-seasons the Dolphins front office has surprised many in all areas of team maintenance. Aside from the Tua selection, not many saw the moves in the 2020 Draft as well as in free agency a month prior.
In a similar mindset, the Fins have deviated from the “popular move.” Last season, nobody saw the Byron Jones signing coming. Mix that with a slew of unproven or under-appreciated former top-50 picks in guys like Van Noy, Ogbah and Lawson, and Chris Grier fooled everyone in retrospect.
So don’t be surprised if Miami kicks off free agency with a guy who was one of the top four producing wide-outs per touch last season. Just look at his company:
The Dolphins have also been tipping their hand a tad in the type of player they want. They’re after team oriented, versatile players. Samuel is just that. Able to return kick-offs as well as carry the ball as a rusher (41 carries in 2020), Samuel touched the ball 118 times on offense last season, and ran back 10 kicks. His yards from scrimmage mark of 1,051 gave him a yards per touch of 8.6. With a catch rate of 79.4 in 2020 as well as a creating 39 first downs, he doubled his career output of yards following the reception.
This healthy spike of 4.2 YAC/R (yards after catch per reception) is a massive buying point for Miami and their need for chain-movers.
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This is exactly the metric that should get Fin fans excited, as separation and gaining yards following the reception are massive needs for Miami’s offense if they want to make life easier on Tua.
My favorite stat from Samuel last season was the whopping QB Passer Rating when he was thrown to, which was 109.2. Samuel is a difference maker and could be the key to making Miami’s offense a potent cocktail of confusion.
The Bargain Aisle
Marvin Jones, Jr. – Dark horse, yet smart money play. He has been driving around Miami, campaigning to fans for his services, and why not? When healthy, Jones is a yardage machine. Although not entering his prime, (and the contract will indicate that), his first three seasons with Detroit were very productive. Here was his average season line from 2016-2018
Mind you, that’s three years ago at best, so this production is not expected. Give me 80% of that, with Jones likely entering his final big deal, and this could be a viable secondary outside weapon for Miami.
T.Y. Hilton – Miami-born vet could potentially mentor a young WR corps, on a 1 year deal with an option if he takes a cut to be part of a special run.
The longshot “What?” signing that will indicate a WR at #3 could be likely:
This doesn’t necessarily mean a surprise name isn’t signed, as sometimes NFL franchises like to surprise us all by having the audacity to do something unexpected. This is just a reminder that they in fact have the control over franchise moves, and not bloggers. It’s truly part of the fun of the yearly NFL experience, which is exactly what the sport has become. When you think about it, there truly isn’t a month without a significant milestone in terms of team development and building, and player news and progression, leading into a Summer of training camp. And once Summer hits, it’s a few months to the bliss of NFL games every weekend.
By: Jason Sarney
In football, hindsight is usually 20/20. In this game and business, however, it’s foresight that requires more accurate Vision.
Regardless of clarity on the optics of what lies ahead for the Miami Dolphins and general manager Chris Grier, he has a Multiverse of options from which he can choose the franchise’s adventure in the months ahead. With a healthy allotment of salary cap at his disposal, he can acquire some premium free agents. Additionally, he has nine draft picks (with four in the top 50) in the upcoming NFL Draft this April. Chris Grier has nothing but options.
With 2021 being year three of the Brian Flores era and year two of Tua Tagovailoa at QB, it’s time to solidify the roster with weapons on the offensive side of the ball as well as strengthen one or two missing links on defense. While spending wisely is much more valuable than spending widely, there is a feeling that the 2021 free agent market will be a little bit different than last season, in that there is a quality over quantity mindset.
This isn’t a knock on last year’s free agent class. Miami brought in outstanding players such as Byron Jones and Kyle Van Noy, just to name a couple. At their time of signing, role players like Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson were undervalued in the market. While Lawson was arguably a hit signing, Ogbah was a home run.
What is meant by the “quality over quantity” mantra is that instead of eight or nine free agents being signed, the move this season will be to sign one or two high-priced, highly-talented centerpieces of offensive firepower.
At this point of the offseason last year, Miami needed to fill around a dozen or so holes with starting-caliber players. Along with the aforementioned signings, role players were brought in such as Kamu Grugier-Hill, Clayton Fejedelem, and Matt Breida in a draft weekend trade.
Miami continued the rebuild by drafting a quarterback, three offensive linemen, a cornerback/return man, a safety, a defensive lineman and a defensive end. These players should be in Miami’s plans for at least the near future. Add in a long snapper and a gadget player, and the Dolphins had an offseason that resulted in doubling their win total from five in 2019 to ten in 2020.
With pieces of the puzzle still left to fill prior to completing the work of art, this is the time to put the fun trimmings on the foundation. The infrastructure is in place, the wiring is all set up, and the plumbing is working phenomenally. If you correlate these inner workings and core pieces of the football team to the analogy, the House of Grier is a serviceable franchise to call home.
But now, it’s time to make it a party house.
There are a pair of free agents in this class, that when combined, would be an immediate answer to the question plaguing Miami, "Where are the weapons for Tua?”
This is a fantastic free agent class in terms of running backs and wide receivers. While with most things, history should be our guide, football history tends to change every decade or so. Contract situations change, the market climate changes, the decision makers on individual teams move on, and philosophies are skewed during the process.
Historically, spending a mint on a free agent running back hasn’t always worked for teams hunting for that “work-horse” back. Regardless of that, the NFL has gone away from work horse running backs in the 2000s and moved toward running back by committees. Looking back over the last 20 Super Bowls, there has only been a small handful of work horse running backs who lifted the Lombardi Trophy. Marshawn Lynch and Jamal Lewis come to mind immediately, and a pair of Patriot rings with Corey Dillon and Antoine Smith. The latter two took place in the beginning of the Patriots’ dynasty.
The point is this: This is a unique and opportunistic climate for Miami. Not only do they have another year of a treasure trove of top 50 draft picks, but also the contractual structure around the league could result in a number of short-term deals, and several unexpected veteran cuts across the NFL.
Additionally, the Dolphins have four more years of a rookie contract at quarterback, and several undrafted free agents and draft selections who far outperformed their draft value, or undrafted value. Re-signing them in a few years is conversion for another late February day.
There is a three-year window if you want to win a Super Bowl with this current business of the Miami Dolphins. If they can add a few key players to those we’ve seen the last two years, Miami could become Super Bowl contenders immediately. If they perform as we all hope, they can even become consistent contenders.
The two players the Dolphins need to sign on offense are Aaron Jones and Curtis Samuel. While the big splash running back certainly will dent Miami’s wallet, I feel it has the potential to be a mutually friendly deal. And even if it is a little bit too rich for most fans’ liking, the Samuel signing would add a pertinent weapon for this offense. He probably will be the fourth or fifth highest paid free agent wide receiver in this class, which is potential music to the ears of Dolphins fans, and more importantly the accounting department.
Breaking the bank for a receiver like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Chris Godwin isn’t a “bad” play, but it’s a very expensive one that could create targeting drama with Miami’s other existing weapons and potential draftees. Samuel is a perfect player to utilize in the slot and help move the chains, mixing in with Lynn Bowden, Jr. on the inside and allowing Preston Williams and DeVante Parker to succeed on the perimeter. Throw in Mike Gesicki doing Mike Gesicki things as well.
Of course, no off-season article would be complete without mentioning the Dolphins should draft a wide receiver in the first round, adding to their offensive firepower and resulting in five potential threats at wide receiver. Throw in an overall tight end room that was the most productive in more than a decade, and this offense suddenly has some legs to it.
Back to the Jones and Samuel signings; those moves could take a bit of pressure off of the front office with needing to draft a wide receiver AND a running back in the first round of the draft. This could allow them to maximize young talent on offensive line or a defensive player or perhaps cash in with it all via trade back.
We might even see Brian Flores do the “Carlton Dance” to one-up his seat-shimmy when Raekwon Davis was selected in the second round last April. Which when we see something like that, we should all circle that players name.
The Dolphins do not need to sign 5 very good players. They need to draft 5 very good players in their top 5 selections. Prior to the draft they should spend money wisely on 1 or 2 premium products.
Now is the time to fill the house with all the fun toys. Like the saying goes, “if you want to make money, you’ve got to spend money.” And if you want to win a Super Bowl, Miami needs to spend their money wisely. Less is more in terms of number of players signed. Just sign the right ones for what it takes to get them.
This is a remarkably unique circumstantial year in the NFL and the overall situation is building for a “perfect-storm” coming for the Dolphins. All they need to do, is benefit from it, and ride the wave.
By: Chip Turner
This is the third of a three-part series on moves the Dolphins need to make to get to the point that they can play for a championship.
For Part I, go here: https://www.phinmaniacs.com/articles/the-road-to-the-top-how-do-the-dolphins-get-there-from-here-part-i-offense.
For Part II, go here: https://www.phinmaniacs.com/articles/the-road-to-the-top-how-do-the-dolphins-get-there-from-here-part-ii-defense.
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly: Brian Flores is one of the best young head coaches in the NFL. He finished third in the 2020 NFL Coach of the Year voting, and it’s difficult to argue that anyone did more with less than Flores.
This isn’t to suggest Kevin Stefanski didn’t deserve the honor; he won in a landslide. Yet, remember that he walked into a locker room that had the #1 overall picks from 2017 and 2018 (Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield), and boasted what was arguably the league’s best OL in 2020. By comparison, Miami was stripped down to spare parts and cast-offs in 2019.
Flores has brought a no-nonsense yet fair atmosphere to the Dolphins. He seems genuine, open and direct, and tends to make difficult decisions seem easy.
Additionally, he doesn’t seem to care much about what people outside of the immediate persons involved think about his decisions. Bench Fitzpatrick? Okay. He thought it was the best thing for the team at the time to help them win. Bench Tua when he’s no longer the best option for the team to win? Sure, bring Fitzpatrick back in and bench the rookie. Analysts, pundits, and everyone else said, “You just can’t DO this.”
Brian Flores didn’t seem to care about what others said, and the Dolphins won 10 games. Keep in mind, the last time Miami won more games than that in a season, George W. Bush was President. And then this past offseason, he bucked tradition again. He named Co-Offensive Coordinators instead of a single decision-maker. Apparently, nobody outside the Dolphins facility has any idea how that’s going to work.
And I’m pretty sure Brian Flores doesn’t care what people say about that, either.
2021 Outlook: Barring a Gase-esque relationship meltdown with the organization, I don’t see Flores going anywhere soon.
So Chan Gailey is out, and George Godsey and Eric Studesville are in as co-offensive coordinators. What does this mean?
I’m of the opinion it means that while Chan Gailey’s scheme was the basis for what Flores wanted, the play selection and game planning was not. Godsey and Studesville have experience in the system, and will likely add more dynamic elements to it. It has yet to be seen who will do the play calling.
In other interesting developments:
2021 Outlook: Miami is clearly looking for more from their young offense. With these changes, Brian Flores has reinforced something he’s been doing since he was hired as Head Coach: If something is clearly not working, he will try something else. Additionally, the Dolphins organization appears to be doing its utmost to put Tua Tagovailoa in a position to succeed. The organizational stance that they have faith in him isn’t just lip service.
The Dolphins defense took a huge leap in 2020, and the coaching staff was one of the main reasons why. With zero blitzes, multiple fronts, amoeba defensive looks, the Dolphins defensive scheme was one of the more entertaining parts of the 2020 season.
As a result, the defensive coaching staff didn’t change much. Defensive Line Coach Marion Hobby and the team parted ways, and Hobby took the same position with the Bengals. His replacement has not been named, but the expectation is that there will be an internal promotion to serve as the new D-Line coach.
2021 Outlook: I don’t believe there will be much of a change to the defensive coaching staff; with some additions through Free Agency/Draft, the 2021 defense could be even better.
The easiest analysis on the Miami Dolphins for 2020 was their kicker, Jason Sanders. He was an All-Pro, the best kicker in the league, and earned a long-term contract extension. Is Justin Tucker the best kicker in NFL history? Yes, he is. Was Sanders better in 2020? Yes, he was. Let’s put it this way: At his current career rate, Jason Sanders will qualify one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the NFL by the middle of this fall (once he hits 100 attempts).
Punter Matt Haack did well to pin opponents inside their own 20; he was among league leaders at that statistic. However, his net yardage wasn’t anything special. He’s a Free Agent in 2021.
2021 Outlook: Jason Sanders was just given an extension, and Haack’s future with the teams is unclear. As the Miami Dolphins add depth and athleticism, ST coordinator Danny Crossman will have improved tools to use on kick and punt coverage. He should return for the 2021 season.
We are a day away from the season opening event for the 2021 Jason Taylor
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WILL YOU BE ON THE 2021 LEADERBOARD???
By: Hussam Patel
Beginning as a WR in college and transitioning to corner, Farley sat out the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. His 6'2” frame and length allows him to disrupt opposing pass catchers and play the ball when it is thrown his way.
He's versatile due to his size, and his man coverage skills will appeal to NFL teams - he can even be a fit if a team runs zone schemes. Farley has great body control and speed; it shows up on his tape, and playing WR gives him a competitive advantage. His hips are very fluid.
With his size and athleticism, he won’t find himself in many mismatches against NFL receivers. His athleticism allows him to match up well in man coverage, and he isn’t targeted a lot; he’s a legitimate threat to pick off a pass and run it home. The Hokie defender also has burning recovery speed down the field, and is aggressive between gaps as an effective run defender.
He sheds blockers well and wraps up the ball carrier's chest to make sure-fire tackles in space. The only issue is when he is off coverage with his back against a blocking WR; he is able to shed the block but can whiff on a tackle when a WR is crossing the middle of the field, requiring safety help.
By: Hussam Patel
Another NFL Legacy player in this draft, defensive back Jaycee Horn is the son of former Pro Bowl WR Joe Horn. Jaycee is a big, long, athletic, physical, and aggressive corner who is willing to match up on any receiver who lines up across from him. He can also play press man and zone coverage, which is a necessity in today's NFL.
Horn started off as a nickel back, giving him early access to what the NFL could be like his freshman year. He consistently made plays both in the run and pass game and as a blitzer. That type of versatility is a valuable commodity in today’s NFL, as offenses value the ability to manufacture and manipulate space more and more frequently.
His best game was against Auburn’s Seth Williams, and he dominated that game. His confidence shined that game, and he really put himself into the national spotlight. With quick feet and fluid hips for a larger cornerback of his size, the Gamecock defender is able to stay in phase with most outside receivers throughout their routes, giving up minimal separation.
He is very physical at the catch point, excelling at using his length to close passing windows and playing through receivers’ hands. Horn is not the kind of ball-hawk who offenses fear to test, his production saw him nab his only interception his final season. Part of this is due to his use in man coverage, which often keeps him from looking in the backfield, but he also needs to improve his ability to track the ball in the air.
Miami Dolphins Fan of the Year Ian "Big E" Berger joins Brandon Liguori and Jason Sarney of PhinManiacs.com to talk about his Super Bowl experience, Dolphins fandom, and 2021's Miami Outlook!
The guys also reminisce about some of the all time best Miami Dolphin Memories! A truly fun chat with a Fin Fan to follow in all forms!
By: Chip Turner
PART I from 2/11/21
Part II - DEFENSE
This is the second of a three-part series on moves the Dolphins need to make to get to the point that they can play for a championship. For part one, go here: https://www.phinmaniacs.com/articles/the-road-to-the-top-how-do-the-dolphins-get-there-from-here-part-i-offense.
The Miami Dolphins Defense made tremendous strides from 2019 to 2020. Before the season-ending blowout loss at Buffalo, (I’m sorry, this is the last time I’ll reference that), they were leading the NFL in points allowed. Their “bend but don’t break” defense was tremendously effective until that point, and the “amoeba” front that Flores and Boyer unleashed on occasion gave QBs fits. As a semi-direct consequence of the amoeba defense, Jimmy Garoppolo was benched, Jared Goff relocated to Detroit, and Justin Herbert shaved his head and joined a cult.
The defense finished in the top half of the league in sacks and QB pressures, and led the league in takeaways. More importantly, despite being only average in yards allowed both on the ground and through the air, the team was particularly adept at not allowing opponents to score; their opponents scored on just 30.7% of their drives, the fourth-best percentage in the league.
Still, there’s work left to be done if the defense is going to be a championship-level unit.
One of the more underrated position groups on the entire roster, the Dolphins DL was primarily used in a 3-4 front, with enough wrinkles and looks to keep opposing OCs scratching their heads. Without a great deal of flash, Christian Wilkins, Emmanuel Ogbah, Raekwon Davis and Zach Sieler provided a solid rotation, even after Davon Godchaux was injured. (Note – I listed Shaq Lawson as a LB for the purposes of this article; I’m aware he was used in multiple fronts.)
What’s interesting about this is that Flores and Boyer used each of the Linemen to the best of their abilities. While Ogbah had nine sacks on the year, some of his success can certainly be attributed to the defensive scheme. Sieler has proven excellent at penetrating a line and causing disruption, Davis made huge strides in his rookie year as a behemoth who regularly occupied two O-linemen, and Christian Wilkins continued his growth in his sophomore season.
2021 Outlook: I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: The Defensive Linemen in this scheme are doing what they’re asked to do; stop the run and occupy blockers, allowing LB to wreak havoc.
As much as this is true, imagine what Flores could do with a monster pass-rusher at DE. That time may come, but I don’t think it will happen in 2021. Davon Godchaux might be re-signed, but I wouldn’t expect much activity here besides a depth signing or late-round draft pick.
This is where the fun starts. Shaq Lawson, Andrew Van Ginkel, Kyle Van Noy and Jerome Baker just had fun this past year. While the D-Line held up blockers, these four collected stats. Lawson and Van Ginkel both rumbled for defensive scores, and Van Noy and Baker collected 13 sacks between them. Thanks to Boyer and Flores, these guys got to capitalize on the opportunities created for them in the trenches.
Here’s the thing: I’m of the opinion that the biggest thing this defense is missing, the thing that could launch this team from “dangerous” to “I’ll tune in just to watch this defense play” is a dominant MIKE linebacker. And at present, the Dolphins simply don’t have one. While Jerome Baker has tons of speed, he doesn’t have the size to take on blockers. While Free Agent Elandon Roberts was a missile against the run, he was a liability in coverage.
2021 Outlook: I believe that the Dolphins will make an addition here. While Lavonte David might be on the radar as a free agent (and I’d like the signing), I don’t think he’s a long-term solution at the position. Where there are a few solutions is in the 2021 NFL Draft. Micah Parsons would be a welcome addition, although recent rumors of off-field behavior are…troubling, and he’s likely going to be drafted in the top half of the first round anyway. Nick Bolton is a tremendous option at ILB, but he’s slightly undersized for the MIKE – and the same could be said for Chazz Surratt.
Enter Zaven Collins. If the Dolphins trade down from pick #3 and acquire more draft capital, and Zaven Collins is still on the board near the end of the first round, he’d be the perfect pick. He’d make the Dolphins Defense a must-watch every Sunday.
This might be the strongest position group on the entire team. Xavien Howard and Byron Jones make up one of the better cornerback tandems in football, with Jones proving somewhat less effective than in 2019 after transitioning from zone coverage to press man. Bobby McCain is underrated at safety, Nik Needham and Eric Rowe flashed ability despite inconsistent years, and Brandon Jones progressed nicely as the year went on.
This brings us to Noah Igbinoghene, whom much of the Dolphins fan base have labeled a bust after extremely limited use. Almost all of his snaps came in the second and third games of the season, after an offseason with no training camp, as a rookie, who only played the position for two years in college. Oh, and he was literally the youngest player in the NFL.
Igbinoghene wasn’t used much at slot because of the emergence of Nik Needham. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s a good thing. I’m firmly of the opinion that Igbinoghene is being groomed as a boundary corner as an eventual replacement for Howard or Jones. He was drafted as a pick that pays off in 2022, not in 2020.
2021 Outlook: This group has been heavily invested in over the past year. Defensive backs are imperative to Miami’s defensive scheme, but I don’t believe they will sign anyone else in Free Agency. Safety help in the draft wouldn’t surprise me, particularly after the issues the team had slowing down larger Tight Ends.
Up next, Part III – Coaching and Special Teams.
A special thank you to Ben Allbright of @KOAColorad & @PFN365 for joining Hussam Patel & I on the PhinManiacs Podcast!
Ben talks Senior Bowl, Draft/Trade Rumors, MIA, DEN & we get a technical explanation of the dreaded word..."Omaha."
By: Hussam Patel
The legendary progeny of former Miami Dolphins Cornerback Patrick Surtain, Surtain II certainly has the DNA to be a long, tall, rangy corner. Ideally, his best fit is in a press man scheme, where he can use his frame and physique to bully WRs at the line of scrimmage and disrupt the route.
When on the LOS, Surtain uses hand jamming techniques - a quick one-or two-hand jam. When Surtain doesn't use his hands, he watches the pass catcher’s body and hip movements keenly, he's patient and doesn't bite on separation moves.
He has build-up speed when challenged vertically, and he can find and make a play on the ball. A reliable tackler in space, and understanding zone coverage, he's able to effectively play the run and is willing to shed blocks to let other teammates make tackles.
What I’ve noticed on game tape, and what is sure to pop out, is Surtain’s struggles with quick routes such as slants and 5 yard out routes. He doesn’t have the short area burst and quickness to match up with speedy slot WRs, although his frame and physicality certainly lines up against bigger WRs.
While I do not envision him being like his father, Surtain II shows some flashes of being like another Dolphins cornerback, Byron Jones.
Hussam Patel and Brandon Liguori talk Fins and Scouting on the latest edition of the PhinManiacs podcast!
They discuss and shout out the great season and new contract extension of All-Pro Kicker, Jason Sanders
By: Jason Sarney
Pre-Apologies. We all miss football, and after some Twitter inspiration and recent memories resurfacing of Ace Ventura, I felt the need to deviate from the serious, and have some needed fun.
It is said that all athletes want to be actors, and all actors want to be athletes. In a similar mindset, all people who cover both forms of entertainment simply want to be both. That’s where fantasy sports come in.
February is usually the month, post-football and pre-baseball, where college basketball becomes superior to all.
With a pandemic canceling last year's March Madness, this year's college tournament will be (Lord-willing) viewed by tens of millions of people, many of whom watch and like movies.
Recent Tweeted conversations have led me to think about numerous cinematic performances in the world of “sports movies” that a certain type of actor or actress simply nails.
March Madness is a little over a month away, so I’ve decided to pass the time by blending the cinematic world and the athletic world into a bracket-style basketball tournament and give you the official, unofficial:
Movie Madness Actors in Sports and Sports in Actors Tourney
New York Region - Hollywood Region - Philly Region - Overseas Region
Throughout the world of cinema there have been Oscar-winning movies and actors in the world of sports. This tournament will be comprised of the 32 individuals who encapsulate the art of cinematic sports acting, and gave us some of the most memorable fake athletes or sports personas in film history.
Some of these individuals may have been behind the scenes sports figures, coaches, managers, front-office executives, or what have you. If an actor is on this list, they are unequivocally one of the greats in the genre of sports movie acting.
We will be separating 32 participants the regions into four regions.
The thespians were able to punch their tickets via multiple classic sports roles or even a singular Oscar victory in a sports movie, regardless of being the athlete themselves.
Seeding is a mixture of overall body of work as well as strength of film….as it should be.
We will start with the New York Region.
The #1 seed was awarded to Robert De Niro, following an Oscar victory portraying boxing legend Jake LaMotta. You can also list Grudge Match and Silver Linings Playbook to his credit. Mastering the troubled boxer and gaining 60 pounds for the role, De Niro cemented himself in cinema.
He was able to sneak past legendary sports sidekick, and former Sandlot fictitious heavy-hitter to rival only Babe Ruth, James Earl Jones. #8 seed Earl Jones is the voice of baseball, thanks to Field of Dreams, and he also was in a Tae Kwon Do film called Best of the Best. Forget Best of the Best; Earl Jones’s baseball monologue was the possibly the best in the history of baseball movies ever.
The #2 versus #7 matchup is perhaps the most intriguing first-round affair, with lifelong collaborators #2 Wesley Snipes and #7 Woody Harrelson going 1-on-1, much like their days of White Men Can't Jump and even further to that of Wildcats.
Snipes, playing angry after memories of Billy Hoyle upstaging him after pulling off an alley-oop dunk, gets his revenge and it's not a contest. Harrelson looked sluggish all game, and there were rumors of performance downing substances throughout the game.
Friends in film and life, #3 Mark Wahlberg and #6 Matt Damon square off in a battle of brain against brawn. Wahlberg specializes in roles where he likes to hit things, notably people in Invincible as a Philadelphia Eagle, and as a boxer in The Fighter, or as a failed basketball prodigy turned drug addict in Basketball Diaries.
Damon mastered the role of poker-player Mike McDermott (it’s a sport) and he also coached Christian Bale to a should-have-been overall victory at Le Mans in Ford V. Ferrari. Damon’s portrayal as Carroll Shelby was effortless; unfortunately, so was his fake performance against Wahlberg on the fake court.
The #4 Ralph Macchio versus #5 Billy Zabka contest is prime-time television, as the karate rivalry is akin to a Duke-UNC face-off in a do-or-die rematch from four decades ago. This has been the battle on a national stage that Zabka has been waiting for, and he beat Macchio at the buzzer in an absolute thriller. The two came to blows several times, and officials needed to intervene on many occasions. Zabka was elated after the game, and Macchio walked off the court prior to a handshake.
NEXT UP: The Hollywood Region
Check back for the rest of the bracket shortly...........
By: Hussam Patel
Juice's Top Running Backs Series
Michael Carter is another Tar Heel Running back that has declared for the NFL Draft . He broke out, along with his teammate Javonte Williams, this final season. Carter is projecting to be a productive back in the NFL as a primary rotation back in a spread offense or third-down back in a traditional offense.
I would describe him as “compact” instead of small due to his size, he carries thickness in his upper and lower body. Carter’s height gives him a naturally low center of gravity, useful for weathering contact and changing or pace quickly. He is more scheme dependent- the zone running game as his best use- showing good patience behind the line of scrimmage to allow blocks to develop and vision to pick out holes.
An agile runner, he is an asset in the passing game. Carter is a natural pass catcher, who has elite vision to frame the ball well when extending to make the catch without bouncing off his chest.
He can pass block as well, giving his QB some time to cash in an opportunity downfield. Carter does not have the functional strength shown to break tackles, it is tough for him to break tackles around the line of scrimmage and falls into traps when cutting into a closed lane. He can be a productive back for any team
By: Hussam Patel
Juice's Top Running Backs Series
Kylin Hill was not asked to do much during the 2020 season, as Mike Leach took over the offense, and he later opted out due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. I am primarily basing Hill as my #4 running back based on his 2019 game tape. He has an all-around skill set as a slashing runner who can pound the rock, and a pass catcher who can catch the ball seven to ten times a game as a check-down option.
Kylin Hill is a north to south, downhill runner. He shines and gets very physical when running in-between the tackles, as he can fight through contact. His frame and build coupled with upper-body strength makes it extremely difficult for defenders to bring him down.
He is a grinder who can fend off defenders, working through body tackles trying to take him down. Hill's low center of gravity makes it increasingly likely for him to fight violently through the trenches and gain extra yardage. The Miss. St. product is surprisingly good in pass protection, which you do not often see from college prospects. He would be able to be a sure-fire three down back in the NFL.
What Hill needs to work on is toning down his toughness and physicality, and using his vision to find holes for easy yards instead of barreling down defenders; it will be increasingly hard to do at the NFL level with his 5'11 size. While his decision making is good, he does not have the patience as a runner, and he will need to learn to wait for holes to open up.
If he cleans up these issues, he can be a reliable running back for a team for years to come.
The PhinManiac Scouting Department continues the off-season evaluation with some lesser known running backs heading into the NFL Combine and Draft process.
By: Hussam Patel
Juice's Top Running Backs Series
Javonte Williams was actually a run stopper before he turned into a RB, playing as a linebacker in high school, and converting to a RB at North Carolina. Understanding blocking concepts due to his time as a linebacker, Williams developed a sense of patience, he waited for his linemen to make open holes, and then ran straight through them.
Williams can make the smallest of gaps look like a truck could fit through it. He can be a slasher, cutting on a dime through a hole in a defense and gashing it for a massive gain. He is compactly built, using his low center of gravity to cut sharply and play with excellent contact balance.
He is a very hard and physical runner, frequently breaking or bouncing off tackles for significant yards after contact. The Tar Heel Running back is a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield as well, frequently running check-downs, flats, slants and Texas concepts. He has excellent hands, helping out his quarterback as a receiver in pressure situations.
Williams is not a blow-by runner who will separate with speed; he will churn out yardage with his hard-nosed running and stiff arms to shed tackles. To be a consistent three-down running back, he’ll need to get better at his pass protection to be able to play in crunch-time moments
By: Hussam Patel
Juice's Top Running Backs Series
Travis Etienne is one hell of a running back. Clemson’s all-time leading rusher was projected to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, but instead opted to come back for his senior year to improve his craft, which he decidedly accomplished. There were minor concerns about his pass protection issues, and he improved upon this; he got much better at protecting Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei. Etienne is a highly explosive, well-balanced, big-time play-maker adding value every time he’s on the field.
What makes Etienne so dynamic? He has a low center of gravity and bounces off tackles to gain more yards. He can also turn on the jets to accelerate and beat linebackers in the middle of the field, he uses his vision to creatively find gaps and run routes, and he has elite lateral movement to execute cuts and counters. There is no one quite like him; he’s incredibly elusive, agile, and explosive. Those traits are always on display when his teams needs to move the sticks.
It’s easy to see his speed jump out on the screen, but what goes unnoticed is his body adapting to angles on a dime and cutting away from defenders. He squares his shoulders and loosens his hips to balance his core and finish the play. He makes good linebackers look lost, and routinely puts them on skates in the passing game. Against the University of Miami and Wake Forest, he caught numerous screen passes behind the LOS and weaved his way for easy 10-15 yard gains.
Etienne did have some issues in Pass Protection in 2019, but he got better at picking up blitzers in 2020. However, college linemen and NFL linemen are completely different. He’ll need to learn how to properly identify which blitzers are coming free and protect his QB. Also, Etienne might not see a lot of playing time in the beginning of the season as his workload at Clemson was that of a traditional three-down running back. He would pair up in a RB Committee to freshen up his legs and not get worn down.
By: Hussam Patel
Juice's Top Running Backs Series
Najee Harris - Alabama
1- The Crimson Tide seems to churn out a “generational” franchise RB nearly every year; Najee Harris will be just that. Harris fits the Dolphins perfectly as he's an all-around back, and has chemistry with Tua. He's a hard-nosed elusive runner with a combination of power and slashing abilities.
He can go up-field, in between tackles, or around the edge. He’s also a perimeter receiving threat out of the backfield and in an empty set. He's an instinctual runner who uses his vision to gain yards after contact, ad has exceptional balance and soft hands. His vision is exceptional, as he can see a hole before it’s even open. These factors and that his cutting ability to stop on a dime make his running ability special; all of these factors separate him from others in this draft class
He's also a physical runner that can go up against the toughest LBs and fall forward to gain more yards. In the passing game, he's able to find the soft space against LBs and DBs in coverage, and he uses his quick feet to put defenders in limbo.
He's solid in pass protection and would need experience in handling NFL level LB's and DL. Najee is a sure-fire lock for the 1st or early 2nd round,
The TuAmigos are back at it this week! The internationally renowned dynamic duo riff about the Dolphins in one of the Miami Fan Bases most unique, informative and enjoyable podcast!
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By: Chip Turner
The celebrations are dying down, the Lombardi Trophy is safely stowed away, and the 2020-21 NFL season has come to an end. For the 47th straight year, the Lombardi Trophy will not be displayed in Miami, and Dolphins fans are tired of hearing the word “patience.”
Alas, that’s what is required when an organization is torn down to the foundation, as the Dolphins were in 2019. The team took a huge step forward in 2020, and despite a thorough dismantling at the hands of the Bills to close the season, the future looks bright.
Read the above paragraph again, and then think about this: On November 2, 2019, the Miami Dolphins were 0-7. Over the next 14 months, they went 15-10, defeating the 2017-18 Super Bowl Champs, the 2018-19 Super Bowl Champs (twice), the 2019-20 NFC Champs, and gave the 2019-20 Super Bowl Champs a heck of a fight.
In the final game against Buffalo, their lack of depth, talent and experience was exposed, but that’s okay. The Dolphins were, and are, one of the youngest teams in the NFL, and 2020 was a big step in getting that elusive trophy back to Miami.
So what are the next steps? To start this three-part analysis, let’s look at each position group on offense, and measure them up against the two teams that played this past weekend. This looks to be the most interesting Free Agency period in years, and Miami has plenty of draft capital to take a big step forward.
Quarterback is decidedly the most important piece of an NFL team, as illustrated by Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady being the last two QB competing for the championship this past Sunday.
Let’s get this out of the way: The jury is still out on Tua Tagovailoa.
Let’s also get this out of the way: You don’t know if Tua’s the guy. Yes you, the fan who thinks he’s seen all he needs to see, who may or may not have played organized football, or Madden, and has already decided that Tua is going to be a complete bust or a Hall Of Famer.
You don’t know, and neither do I, and neither does any journalist, talk show host, or YouTube personality. So maybe, just maybe, let’s stop tearing each other to shreds over it. Because we don’t know yet.
What I do know is that there were times in 2020 when Tua absolutely looked like the QB Dolphins fans waited on for 20 years, and there were also times he looked completely overwhelmed and hesitant. I also know that his rookie performance wasn’t good enough to get the job done. I know it, the coaches know it, and most importantly Tua knows it.
There seems to be concern that figuring out if Tua is the future of the franchise will take another seven years. I seriously doubt that; Brian Flores has definitively shown that if something is proven to not work, he’ll move on. If the only reason the Dolphins are not working offensively is Tua, I have no doubt that he will be replaced sooner than later; most certainly before another six years go by.
Let’s see how his second year in the league turns out.
2021 Outlook: Barring something remarkable happening between Miami, Deshaun Watson and the Texans, Tua is the Miami Dolphins starting QB in 2021. I do not believe Ryan Fitzpatrick will return.
This group had to come next, because some guy named Fred from Dubuque read the above part about the QB position and bellowed aloud, “I’m tired of Tua apologists!” He probably said this to an audience that consisted of his goldfish and a few plants, but Fred needed to get that off his chest.
You might want to skip this next part, Fred. Tua didn’t have a lot to work with in 2020, and the Dolphins WR corps was one of the weakest spots on the entire roster.
Part of it was due to injury, part due to COVID opt-outs, part due to no offseason, and part due to a sheer lack of talented depth at the position. When all of that comes together, you end up with Lynn Bowden Jr. and Isaiah Ford being two of the best three WR options for the most important Dolphins game of the past several years. I’m a fan of both players, but that’s not going to cut it for a championship-level team. Both Tampa Bay and Kansas City are loaded with weapons at WR; Miami has a long way to go to be mentioned in that category.
2021 Outlook: DeVante Parker likely stays as one of the primary WR options, with several additions through the draft and free agency. I am of the opinion that Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford (Restricted Free Agent) and Allen Hurns will be looking for a new team in 2021; possibly Albert Wilson as well. While one of the popular names in Free Agency seems to be Allen Robinson, Curtis Samuel is likely a better scheme fit.
We can say this about the Dolphins RB position in 2020; the Dolphins tried to make it work. Unfortunately, the additions of Jordan Howard and Matt Breida were nowhere near as fruitful as expected. Breida was used sparingly, and Jordan Howard made Dolphins fans look back fondly on Kalen Ballage’s 1.8 yards per carry average…over half a yard more than Howard could muster per carry in 2020.
Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were pleasant surprises, but it’s not a good sign when the second-leading rusher on your team (Ahmed) was signed off the street in October. Both Kansas City and Tampa Bay have multiple weapons at RB, and Miami simply isn’t anywhere near their class.
2021 Outlook: This was the second year in a row Miami struggled to run. I expect Gaskin back, as his season was surprisingly productive. The only other two backs under contract are Ahmed and Patrick Laird, and they have a combined $3,000 dead cap number. That is not a typo. While I expect Miami to be active in Free Agency, I’m not certain the team will meet Aaron Jones’s asking price. The cure to the Miami Dolphins RB ails might be a cheaper free agent acquisition to go along with a RB option in the draft.
So here’s a question that’s been bouncing around in my head for a little while now: Why didn’t Miami extend Mike Gesicki’s contract this past year? He gave every indication that he was breaking out in 2019, and then had an even better 2020. At his position, he was fifth in the league in yards with a half-dozen touchdowns. He’s clearly become a top-ten tight end in the league, so why did Chris Grier and Brian Flores extend Adam Shaheen instead?
More thoughts on this in the future.
At present, Gesicki is the best receiver of a trio of TE on the Dolphins roster. Smythe and Shaheen are also capable receivers, and both are better blockers than Gesicki. One thing that stood out for both Super Bowl teams was their tight ends. Travis Kelce was arguably the best receiver at any position last year, and Gronkowski is one of the best to ever play it. While the Dolphins TE corps is far from a weakness, they don’t have a singular weapon at the position who can block and receive like either of those two.
2021 Outlook: I don’t think much changes at the TE position for 2021; Kyle Pitts and Pat Friermuth are enticing draft prospects, but the Dolphins have considerably more pressing needs.
The Super Bowl clearly illustrated the importance of offensive line play to team success. In 2020, Miami invested heavily in their offensive line, resulting in moderate growth. Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley were drafted to join free agent acquisitions Ted Karras and Ereck Flowers, and the OL improved from previous years.
Unfortunately, the OL has been a complete train wreck for several years, so that means it went from “complete train wreck” to “okay, this still isn’t a good OL.” There’s still work to be done, although growing pains were expected from three rookie starters. Austin Jackson is one of the youngest players in the NFL, Robert Hunt took time to transition to RT, and Kindley was a pleasant surprise at RG.
2021 Outlook: I’d expect more acquisitions for the line; the only players under contract other than last year’s draftees are Flowers, Jesse Davis and Michael Dieter. Flowers will be back because of his contract and Davis will likely return due to his ability to play both tackle and guard, but I don’t believe Dieter will return. The Dolphins have expressed interest in re-signing Karras, but neither he nor Flowers were particularly adept at run blocking.
It would not surprise me to see the team spend assets on the OL both in free agency and early in the NFL Draft. The verdict on moving Robert Hunt from Right Guard to Right Tackle is still out; he progressed nicely late in the season, but it’s not clear he’ll ever be able to handle speed rushers on the outside by himself. The addition of a Right Tackle would allow Hunt to kick back inside and solve multiple issues.
Up Next: Part Two – Defense.
By: Hussam Patel
Christian Darrisaw is a massive Offensive Tackle prospect coming from the land of the Hokies. Opting out of his senior season to focus on the NFL Draft, Darrisaw is projected to be a top 20 pick.
A starter as a freshman, Darrisaw has shown continual improvement every year. His frame, measuring in at 6 foot 5 inches and 315 lbs, is tremendous. He has the ideal build for an NFL tackle. He’s long-limbed, a smooth glider on the field, and shows flashes of intensity and aggression - basically everything that an OL coach is looking for.
His combination of arm length, quick feet and athleticism seen on game tape are traits that make Offensive Line coaches drool. His best ability is pulling and moving defenders in space, whether it be in run blocking or pass protection.
Darrisaw’s best fit is in a zone run scheme, as he can consistently move up to the second level and take multiple defenders at the same time. All he has to do is add strength to his body, which any NFL team will help with, so he can take on top-tier defenders.
Darrisaw also has the ability to play either Left or Right Tackle, and also can shift to guard if needed. This type of versatility is a massive advantage for any team. He graded as one of two OL in the upcoming draft with a 90.0+ in both run and pass blocking. He reminds me of Cowboys OT Tyron Smith.
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