By: Jason Sarney
Last Thursday, the Miami Dolphins ended months and months of speculation, and made the move official. With the 5th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback from Alabama. Even more impressive in my mind was the rest of the draft.
The off-season saw 10 free agents sign with Miami and now those 14 draft picks turned into 11 rookie names and a veteran running back in Matt Breida. We can also add in several undrafted free agents who can make noise in the summer.
Essentially, half of their 2020 roster was built after the Week 17 victory against the New England Patriots. A victory that was not seen in Boston for this franchise in 10 years. The Dolphins have a returning core group of a bit more than a dozen of key personnel, and this 2020 unit can be molded perfectly at the exact right time.
However, regardless of the soft AFC East and exit of Tom Brady, there needs to be a relative management of expectation for this team, as well as fan base. The fan base is rejoicing, as the vast majority, including me, are more than thrilled Tua is the quarterback. Now the arguments shift to the number he will wear, but hey, what's this fan base without a little debate, right?
Also, a few collegiate 99’s will wear a new number, as Curtis Weaver and Raekwon Davis must come to terms that Jason Taylor’s #99 may just be the next retired number for Miami.
Folks, it is not a coincidence there have been no other 99s or 54s recently.
This team was not built in the eyes of fans or football analysts or mock draft simulators. There were reasons Miami didn’t select a running back at #39 like the world projected.
Like free agency, Chris Grier had a price he was willing to pay, and a selection spot he was ready to use and in this case, J.K. Dobbins went just a few picks before the eventual selection of defensive lineman, Raekwon Davis at #56. Sure, if available they may have grabbed him, but if they valued a running back that much, #39 would have been the time. Robert Hunt was the better long-term choice.
When the #56 pick was made those glued to Brian Flores and family during the teledraft, saw the Miami defensive-minded head coach seemingly riding an invisible car, diesel truck, or a huge crimson elephant ready to disrupt the opposing offensive line. He was happy.
Cut from the same model as the 10 free agents, these rookies are all self-less, team players, who would all sacrifice stats for the one number that truly matters…
The number on the chest and the numbers on the stat sheets mean little to most of these Dolphins, I would imagine. Jersey numbers can be tricky, and if those remember the importance of Christian Wilkins’ collegiate number 42, if he can make his peace with rules causing it to be impossible, others can as well.
Of course, certain numerical situations are very, very unique. Just like a former Miami quarterback who wore #13.
The point is, Miami has done what they have failed to do since Dan Marino retired, and left the game as a Miami Dolphin forever, without trying to chase a final Super Bowl run in different colors. (Part of the myth, the man, the legend if you ask me.)
This off-season and draft proved that the long-haul and future vision is to get back to the Miami regular seasons of 10 wins on average across the glory decades. The regular season prowess of Miami teams in the 70’s-90’s and even trickling into this millennium with Ricky Williams and an all-world defense, could be close to returning.
The success of the first season of Brian Flores came at the direct resistance to a false narrative. The team, who arguably had a collective group of talent that can be called a “worst bunch” in the NFL, won five games. And if you think about the season, a converted 2-point conversion against Washington wins another game, and a better called contest by refs at New York could have given them a sweep of the Jets.
That could have led to 7 wins, but of course, everything happens for a reason and either of those two scenarios would have closed the book on the Alabama Southpaw…likely.
We'll take it.
My point is, is that this coach in Brian Flores who now upgraded his staff to his specifications, now welcomes in a half-team of new faces to mesh and gel with returning Dolphins.
This process is still ongoing, and the team still has roughly $20 million in cap space as well as a roster spot or two to play with. There is a long way to go before five brand new offensive linemen gel as a unit.
It is very possible there is a totally different and newly constructed offensive line for Week 1 projected starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and the running back by committee of Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Patrick Laird, Kalen Ballage (for the moment) and rookie Midshipmen, Malcolm Perry.
Perry, who was listed as a WR at Navy, will be called an RB on the Dolphins roster, and even took snaps as an option QB collegiality. The “Annapolis Package” is something I am praying to see and hear called, especially on short-yardage, gadget-type plays and 2-point conversion attempts.
This offensive line was solidified in expectation, but again. Let us realize Rome was not built in a day. However, it was destroyed much quicker.
This offensive line, much like in another sport where five fresh faces once came together to create a perfect storm of a College Basketball phenomena in Michigan in the 1990s, can be a stellar group.
Sure, different game and different overall situation with three rookies and two free agent signings so the “Fab Five” they may not be.
Call them the “Flab Five.” Respectfully.
This group of 979 additional rookie pounds in Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley adds to the veteran newcomers of Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras. This is a left to right, right to left upgrade, and guys like Jesse Davis and Michael Dieter must be working as hard as ever in their home gyms and garages now…or at least they better.
This offensive line will undoubtedly improve the Miami team that last season was ranked 32nd in rushing yards per carry, sacks allowed, and QB hits.
The lives of pass-targets DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Albert Wilson, and Mike Gesicki may be a lot easier as well as their QB throwing to them.
Defensively, adding to Raekwon Davis on the interior portions of the line is UNC’s Jason Strowbridge, who was a steal in the 5th round. Curtis Weaver was a top-75 pick in many-a-mock, yet he was also a 5th rounder this past weekend. Matt Breida was part of the San Francisco deal, so essentially, he was the 5th rounder there or even better, the compensation for traded Kenyan Drake last year to Arizona. It all makes sense if you track the pick.
The secondary was bolstered even more with Noah Igbinoghene, who is an outstanding lock-down corner, and can now be making NFL slot-receivers have nightmares. Nik Needham, who is primed for a beneficial year with the company of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, collectively makes this group a bunch of mini-islands that opponents will reluctantly vacation to on Sundays…I call them the “Florida Keys.”
Enjoy your three hour tour...
Texas Longhorn, Brandon Jones was the pick Miami fans were hoping for position-wise in safety after the top four or five prospects were gone, but as they went off the board Jones fit the bill as a “Flores” type player.
That was the theme of the draft. The Dolphins went with “Type” and not “Name.”
There was also a savage, but brutally good business move in the selection of long snapper Blake Ferguson. In what would be a side-bar of unfortunate agony, this led to the waiving of 2019 Dolphin long snapper Taybor Pepper, who quickly became a social media sensation off the field, and quite the player on it with his hustle down-field and snapping ability. Ferguson and Pepper have known each other since childhood, making it a tougher pill to swallow if you are Pepper. The class-act he is, Pepper will shake it off and be fine.
Football is a business, and of course not personal. The business of building a team is what this organization is now remembering how to do. Perhaps the new vision since Stephen Ross took over, through ups and downs and positives and negatives, finally has a foundation in place.
A term real state people need to focus on, because no matter how good a structure looks, it can not sustain anything long-term without the proper support to make it last for the long-haul.
As I have equated this process of Chris Grier’s to a poker game, the general manager slow-played his 2019-2020 hand. Did he score the jackpot over anyone else sitting at the table? We may not know yet, as the hand and overall contest is not over.
Did Grier deal the Miami Dolphins a winning hand? Will this “risk” of folding past hands in traded or released players pay off in the long-term?
As a famous poker player once said…”You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle…but you can’t win much either.”
Will this hand be the Super Bowl winning hand the Dolphins have been waiting for? Perhaps in the future, and near-future at that, yet we don’t know at the moment how other team’s hands are playing out.
Yet we do know this…it is very tough to beat a full house.
You can follow Jason on Twitter @OrangeAquaman