In a country where things are becoming increasingly diverse, it becomes necessary to gain an understanding of where the heritage of those with different cultural backgrounds come from. So on Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins brought community leaders, local youth and law enforcement to go on a cultural tour around Fort Lauderdale with Dolphins players, alumni and executives.
This was the fourth of four tours scheduled to take place throughout the year.
The tour began at the African American Research Library, which held its grand opening all the way back on October 26, 2002. Since then, it's become an integral part of the community, offering classes in computer technology and educational, recreational, and cultural programs on a regular basis.
And it also touched the heart of Dolphins wide receiver Francis Owusu, who attended the tour as one of the representative players.
"One of the ladies really said a provocative statement, she said, 'to know where you're going, you gotta really know where you come from.'" He said. "We talked about a lot of groups that came before, specifically talking about the wars and World War II, the Buffalo Soldiers really stood out, I was reading one of the - it was up on the wall - just one of the pictures that had some stuff written about it. It was awesome to read about and experience."
The tour then moved over to the Urban League of Broward County, which Dolphins tight end MarQueis Gray immediately decided after visiting, he was going to contribute to their cause.
"My favorite part of the tour so far has been going to the Urban League," Gray said. "Knowing that anyone can just walk in and use their computers, print off anything, I mean they're helping these people get jobs. They lady told us a story that she's seen a young lady working outside, told her to come in, and they gave clothes to them so they could go into interviews and she got a job that same day ... I already told one of our speakers from the Urban League that I was going to help donate clothes so they can continue to hand those out to those people for their interviews. I know wear a lot of sports and stuff but I'm pretty sure I've got some suits that I can give back."
The tour concluded at the Historical Stranahan House Museum, and a trip to Las Olas Beach, and the entire group learned something new that day, even those who have been living in the area for a very long time.
"Even for a guy like myself, I've been places today I've never been." said former Dolphins wide receiver and senior vice president of special projects and alumni relations Nat Moore. "Learned stuff and saw stuff that I've never seen and I've been here my whole life. There's so much culture when you think about Fort Lauderdale, when you think about Miami, that if we can get our kids out, we can get our friends and families out, there's a lot to learn."
There's a lot of hidden culture still to be uncovered in South Florida, and there's no doubt the Miami Dolphins are committed to continuing to help normally separate groups of people see each other's perspective in an attempt to further unify the community.
How Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard is still somehow unrecognized around the league as a top NFL corner is a mystery. Even with the elephant in the room that he plays for Miami (which somehow immediately removes any possible recognition he deserves), he's accomplished something practically unheard of: Howard has three games this season alone where he's caught two or more interceptions in a game (OAK, IND, BUF).
That's not even counting the two games he had last season where he caught two against the Denver Broncos and two against the New England Patriots...yes, that means Tom Brady.
“I’m the best corner in the league,” Howard declared after the game. “Look at my stats. There’s no doubt. Just watch the stats and watch my game.”
The stats are impossible to ignore. After intercepting rookie quarterback Josh Allen twice this past Sunday, Howard leads the NFL in interceptions with a grand total of 7, putting him ahead of Bears corner Kyle Fuller, who himself is widely respected in his field.
And yet, somehow Howard continues to go unnoticed.
“I don’t feel like I get recognized enough,” Howard said. “I’m going to let them know I’m the best corner in the game.”
He's been an incredible blessing for the Dolphins so far, keeping his team in games all by himself at times with his tight coverage and tendency to punish quarterbacks who feel it wise to challenge him.
This is also a curse, as well, but only because of the way Miami has handled situations like this in the past.
Consider this: Next season, 2019, will be Xavien Howard's final year on his rookie contract. He will count for a grand total of $1,949,830. After that, he will be a free agent and be allowed to test the market...and make no mistake, there will be a market for him, a big one, because even if the folks on ESPN and NFL Network don't notice it, other teams do...Howard is a stud, and he's only going to get better.
So what does this mean? It means that when the time comes to get Howard signed to a new contract, he'll be compared to the highest paid corners around, which includes Josh Norman ($15 million annually), Patrick Peterson, ($14,010,000), Trumaine Johnson ($14.5), Desmond Trufant ($13,750,000)...you get the idea.
This is what Howard's price range will be in by default, and you can be sure he'll be looking for a truckload of guaranteed money since that and base salary is the only money that really matters in the NFL.
Miami needs to get him locked up long-term. Now. This upcoming offseason at the very latest, or the number it will take to lock him up may grow out of control and out of range for Miami to retain him.
In 2019, the free agent corners who will be available - most notably - anyway - will be Morris Claiborne, Darqueze Dennard, Bradley Roby, Bryce Callahan and a few other decent names in there who are on the older side of things (Brent Grimes).
Not to discount these players, as they clearly have something to contribute to any NFL roster...but it would take some doing to convince some folks that they deserve to be on the list of the best of the best at corner. This is precisely why Miami needs to re-sign Howard now, before the market has a chance to inflate massively.
Because in 2020, Howard will become a free agent, and so will young studs Trae Waynes and Marcus Peters, unless they also sign an extension in the offseason. You'd better believe that teams will be bidding hard for them if they hit the open market, and Howard will be watching carefully to see what they get, and try to one-up them.
This is where Miami has failed in the past. They refused to extend Charles Clay - despite the fact that he was the most effective tight end they've had in years, and he still is, even in the face of his underwhelming performance in Buffalo. They failed to re-sign Olivier Vernon when he would have been more affordable, and let him go to New York for a fortune. He's a good player, but not a great one, and they waited for him to do enough where he could be paid like a great one.
Jarvis Landry was a huge part of the offense, even if his attitude tended to hurt more than help at times, but again Miami waited instead of extending him while he was affordable.
And for those who point out none of the aforementioned players are doing anything now...yes, I know, that's the problem. If they'd been re-signed earlier, it's not a stretch to assume they could have been had for salaries more worth their talent level, rather than some other team breaking the bank for them and putting them out of range.
It's time for the Dolphins to learn from their mistakes and re-sign Xavien Howard long-term before his price tag skyrockets beyond what they can afford. He's coming into his own as a star cornerback, a cornerstone if you will, possibly the best since Sam Madison and the No-Fly Zone.
It would be foolish to assume Howard will just not perform as well in the final year of his rookie contract and drive his price down...the kind of slump he would need to have would do more to convince the world he shouldn't be signed at all; he's going to continue to get better, and more expensive as a result.
He's in range now, Miami Dolphins, don't let him escape like you've let so many others. Star players don't come around every year. When you hit, keep them.
But it's only going to get harder the longer they wait, and now that Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald is reporting that Howard hired a new agent - the infamous Damarious Bilbo, who negotiated on behalf of Jarvis Landry, expect the negotiation to be a tough one.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
It seems like no matter what the Miami Dolphins do on any given Sunday, something seems to go horribly wrong that makes you believe that the team truly is cursed. At the peak of potential hype, they do something, anything, that will immediately drain it all away and remind you that this team has issues, lots of issues.
And there's no foreseeable fix that will make it all go away, at least not anytime soon.
It's as if the song that was once intended for the Dallas Cowboys - which I once showed my Pastor to tease him with since he is a Cowboys fan - has suddenly shifted over to the Dolphins. You know the one, the mashup made by D.J. Steve Porter where Stephen A. Smith of ESPN First Take repeatedly calls Dallas an accident waiting to happen? If you somehow haven't seen it, I'll just put it here so you can listen to it, because it really is catchy.
The unfortunate part of this is...nearly everything in that song can easily be replaced with Miami appropriate terminology and it would be just as accurate. Somehow, they always find a way to get in their own way, an accident waiting to happen.
And it seems to be taking its toll on the team.
“It was very frustrating because we were dominating the game all of the way through until there were seven or eight minutes left in the game." said running back Frank Gore on Monday. "We let it go. When you dominate the game, you have to finish the ballgame. It’s already hard to win games in this league. I thought we had that one.”
They also though they had the one against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 5, but they gave that game away too, in embarrassing fashion.
Does this seem familiar to the previous story I wrote calling out Adam Gase? It should, because plenty of the same issues can be traced back to him. After the game, he defended his decision to make the playcalls he did that ultimately doomed the team.
On Monday, after given time to reflect...he doubled down on that defense, and again disregarded any talk of the fact that the results have not been good.
“We did what we game-planned to do." Gase said. "We did what was best for that situation. I’m probably more upset about the second-down call. I thought we’d catch them in a pressure to that side and they came from the opposite side. If I could have that one back, that probably could have made a difference.”
If this is in reference to the attempted bubble screen to DeVante Parker that gained zero yards, then this should be a surprise to no one. Gase speaks of catching the opposing team off guard...not one time can I recall a screen actually surprising anyone who's played Miami this year. There have been some positive screen plays, but not because defenses weren't prepared. They rarely ever work.
But, again, Gase doesn't seem to want to focus on the results.
"It was unfortunate we lost that game because I really thought there were a lot of guys that did good stuff. It’s just hard to see right now because everybody does the same thing." He said. "Everybody goes and looks at the result and all of the good things get forgotten about. That’s where we can’t get lost in it as a team. We’ve got to focus on the things that we did improve on. The things that we didn’t, we need to get better at."
I understand what he's saying, I really do, it's not like there were no positives to take away from the overall performance. Wide receiver Leonte Carroo pulled a Randy Moss-like catch for a touchdown on a busted play, Xavien Howard intercepted Andrew Luck on two consecutive passes, and Kenyan Drake once again got to display his athleticism and elusiveness as a weapon.
But, they lost. So, yes, the good stuff gets forgotten, because instead of sitting at 6-5 and in the thick of the AFC Wild Card race, they're now 5-6 and have to win every single game from here on out to even have a prayer of getting in.
You can only talk about the process for so long before no one wants to hear it anymore. No one wants to hear about progress or improvement, they want to see a higher number in the win column.
Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard said it best after the game was over. He was perhaps the star of the game for Miami with those two interceptions...and this is what he said:
“It really don’t matter. We lost. We lost.”
Can you just feel the frustration? So...what are they going to do about it?
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
It has come to this. No more positivity, no more looking at things in a cup that's half full, even half empty is still too full. It's completely empty, in fact it's shattered on the ground and Dolphins fans are slicing their feet to shreds on the broken glass of the cup.
How many times must this happen? How many times must the obvious problems be identified, only to ultimately be ignored and then repeated over and over again? And who suffers from this? The players, obviously, who are extremely frustrated with how things are going as the Dolphins fell to 5-6 in embarrassing fashion, like most of their losses.
“We didn’t finish,” Gore said in an expletive fueled rant. “S---. We’ve got to finish. That’s the key. Especially when they got a f------ guy over there that can get hot, who I respect, plays the game how it’s supposed to be played, the quarterback. Finishing, man."
Whether Gore's comments were a not-so-thinly veiled shot at Ryan Tannehill or Adam Gase, there's no way to know for sure. But here are the facts of the matter. With the Dolphins up seven points, with the Colts just having finished scoring a field goal, Miami had a lovely opportunity to run down the clock with 8:26 left in the fourth quarter, all they had to do was hand the ball off to Gore a few times (and maybe one throw if necessary to get a first down), and watch the clock tick away so they could leave Indianapolis with the victory.
But that's what common sense would dictate. Adam Gase has shown numerous times now that common sense is not how he calls plays. He wants to do the unexpected, he wants to catch teams off guard. He wants to go against conventional wisdom because doing the obvious would be...well...obvious. So what does Gase call?
He calls a pass on first down, and Tannehill has to throw it away as pressure came after him.
Then on second down, he calls another pass, and this time Tannehill misses Kenny Stills over the middle. That was on the QB.
Then on 3rd and 10...another pass to try and convert for a first down? No. A shotgun handoff to Kenyan Drake that loses five yards because after all this time Gase has spent trying to be sneaky, teams have come to expect the unexpected. They knew he'd do that, because he's done it so many times.
Next drive, Colts score another touchdown, and the game is tied.
So now it's time to give the ball to Ryan Tannehill, who had been playing well all game despite a few hiccups here and there, in fact his overall numbers were better than Andrew Luck's, because Luck threw two straight interceptions to Xavien Howard, and managed to avoid another that could have been caught by Reshad Jones.
Tannehill is backed up deep in his own territory, on the six-yard line. There's a little over four minutes left. Time for Tannehill to prove himself in crunch time.
Gase calls a run to Frank Gore for no gain, a screen pass to DeVante Parker for no gain (with an offensive P.I. on Kenny Stills to boot), and on 3rd and 10...a shotgun handoff to Kenyan Drake that went for four yards...and instead of going for it, he called another punt with 2:50 left on the clock.
Gase defended his decision, saying that they were backed up deep in their own territory and so the run was the call they made...except, the game was on the line, you needed yards and you needed points and you needed them now. What was the logic on giving Andrew Luck back the ball when the defense was not able to find ways to stop him?
Except they almost did, they almost had him stopped...and then the defense gave up one play on third down that clinched the game at last.
Regardless of the defense's ultimate failure to make the stop, which is another topic altogether...this is a recurring problem, a problem that should not be a problem for a supposed offensive guru who received heavy praise across the league for his brilliant football mind and intelligence.
Where is it though?
Is this what they were talking about? Gase's tendency to do the unexpected, even if it spits in the face of what the team should do in any given scenario? When they have the lead, they play aggressive, when they need points, they play conservative.
Huh? Why? That should be the opposite!
You play conservative when you have a lead, you play aggressive when you need points, because that's the situation you find yourself in. When the games come that close to the wire, you can't just assume you'll get another chance to touch the football on offense, you need to play like this is all you're gonna get.
But he didn't, and he doesn't. His play calls consistently baffle all who watch, his decisions leave opposing head coaches reeling and wondering why he made them in the first place. Who can forget when Marvin Lewis essentially called out Gase for leaving backup left tackle Zach Sterup on an island for him to struggle, which ultimately led to the Dolphins losing that game and Tannehill being injured for five weeks?
It just happened again, slightly different circumstances but the same general theme. What is head coach Adam Gase thinking? How can this offensive guru deem it wise to take the ball out of his QB's hands when he needs to have it, and put it IN his hands when he doesn't need to have it? Does being a guru mean you do things no one else would do? Does being a guru mean you do nothing that everyone else would do?
Even though it's proven to work?
Frank Gore averaged 4.8 yards a carry against the Colts defense. Kenyan Drake averaged four yards a carry.
Why didn't you let them run out the clock?
“They ran what we thought they were going to run,” Gase said of the Colts defense. “They pressured us both times. So we got guys wide open. We got to protect and you got to be able to make those plays. They’re pressuring because they don’t want us to run the ball.”
Oh, okay...except that they hadn't shown they could stop you, so that's kinda moot. Who cares if they were crowding the line? Had it been working all game? Not really.
Then when you needed to pass, you ran, threw a screen (which never works without Jakeem Grant, by the way), and ran again.
“Backed up,” Gase said. “We were struggling in that distance to begin with. We have to make something happen on those first two downs. Third and 10 on the minus-3 or whatever it is in not going to be good.”
But...the game is on the line, coach, why would you take it out of Tannehill's hands? Do you not trust Tannehill?
“It wouldn’t matter who is back there,” Gase said. “That’s a [crappy] situation to be in. It’s third-and-long, you're backed up. It’s a bad situation. I’ve been in that end zone before and I watched a Hall of Fame quarterback [Peyton Manning] get sacked for a safety. In this building. We didn’t block anybody. That’s what bothers me more than anything. We haven’t really picked up a bunch of stunts in the four man rush and that’s what these guys do.”
So you're saying you wouldn't have let Peyton Manning throw the ball in that situation? If true, then you're a fool. If false, then you're a liar.
Neither is a good thing to be.
And what did Tannehill have to say?
“We were backed up and coach was trying to get us out of that backed up situation,” Tannehill said. “Of course I understand. I’m a competitor. I want the ball in my hands. I want to make that play. But we’re inside our own 10. Long yardage situation. They had been playing soft coverage, sinking everyone underneath. In those long-yardage situations, the percentages are low. We’re thinking if we can get a block on one guy and make one guy miss there were a couple of situations where we were able to get close on those runs. But as a competitor, it’s tough. You know, you want that ball in your hands.”
Ah, Ryan Tannehill, professional to the last.
The players are angry, they are making it known that they are not happy with how things are going. No one is being individually pointed out, but all of a sudden it's starting to seem more and more like they players who have left as part of Gase's "culture change" initiative have every right to be salty.
They aren't doing particularly well in their new homes, but neither is Gase, so maybe just everything is awful.
Enough is enough, it's time to start holding this alleged offensive guru accountable. I understand the injury angle, I understand the bad luck, I understand all of that...but injuries were not the reason this game was lost, the team had the lead, and instead of using it and forcing the Colts into a bad spot, he gave them life with his unconventional play calls...his ineffective play calls.
Gase will be an effective head coach in the NFL. But it won't be with the Miami Dolphins. He needs to be humbled first, and humility isn't learned through losses, only embarrassment. Humility is something that is learned through being forced to take a step back and really examine one's self before diving back in. To take a step back, he needs to be handed his walking papers, be forced to look at everything that went wrong and come to the realization that there were things he could have done better, not everyone else around him.
He's taken blame before, sure, but not really. If he thought it was his fault, why has he not adapted and evolved? Why has he not come to the realization that his playcalling is a problem? Why has he not hired a true offensive coordinator to take over so he can focus on being a head coach? He has leadership qualities, but he seems disinterested and refuses to give up what he was supposedly brought in for: his offensive acumen.
The season is all but over now, and they seem to be limping to another 8-8 season; painfully average, painfully mediocre, the same Dolphins from the past decade regardless of who the coach is it feels like. That's the only saving grace for Gase right now, he hasn't done worse than anyone else who's been given the coaching job since Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson.
I've preached patience with Gase, let him get his guys together and see what happens...but now he has (or had) them, and the results have been the same. Just more of the same. Situational playcalling is still bad, investment in the defensive performance is still bad, and the team, as a whole, is bad.
Put up or shut up, Adam Gase. If you're so smart, then do something different that you haven't done yet. Stop banging your head against the wall and doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That's not called ingenuity...that's called insanity.
This story was written by Luis Sung Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Every year, you see me write a story about the annual Jason Taylor Ping-Pong Smash and how wonderful it is, its goal of raising money to help kids ever-present and ever-enduring as it kicked off its 15th year on Monday evening.
"It's been great," said former Dolphins defensive end and Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. "Fifteen years, it continues to grow, we have amazing support from all of our sponsors, mainly the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. It's always a fun event, it's great to come out, you see a bunch of kids get to participate, kids that come out and do the free clinics and get haircuts, and all the other things going on, Best Buy always outfits us with a bunch of stuff. This is one of the events that are for everybody."
Every year, this statement is always true. Kids do get involved, and the joy in the room is always palpable, even as a bystander. This year, over 80 kids came to the UPS Kids Clinic, and the event raised over $40,000 for the foundation's mission to empower children and youth in South Florida. Players come and are always ready to compete for a win, especially Kiko Alonso, who has made it to the "playoffs" every year since he's been with the Miami Dolphins, even winning the whole thing in his first year participating in the tournament.
"The reason I won the first year, which was two years ago, was because I had the greatest Ping-Pong player there ever was, and last year I got second because I had another good partner," said Alonso. "But this year, I've had a Ping-Pong table for a year now at my house, so I've gotten better. I can carry my weight now."
And a few rookies appeared for the first time, including Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki and linebacker Jerome Baker, the latter also made the playoffs for the tournament, and it was clear that both of them were anxious to get started.
But here is where the story takes a turn, one that adds a whole new dimension to the experience, one that I did not foresee but was quite happy it happened. For the first time since I began covering the Ping-Pong Smash, I didn't just watch the event unfold.
I got to play too.
Due to some unfortunate happenstance, some alternatives were needed to fill out the tournament bracket, and together with Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post, we filled that role and played through the "regular season" (which in reality is just the preliminaries to decide who moves on).
While we didn't actually do that well (it took me a while to get used to the rules), because of this experience, I now truly understand why this event is so anticipated year after year. The feeling is electric, even the most casual players let their competitive side out...and those who are already competitive (like myself) got even more competitive.
So often, these stories feature players saying how great it is to come out and be with the community, hanging out with fans, kids, sponsors, etc. But it isn't until you actually hop into their shoes and experience it for yourself that you realize that these players are telling the truth when they say they enjoy doing what they do.
In the end, Dolphins tight end Nick O'Leary, paired with Jared "Orange Tux Guy" Wische of Dolfan Project, defeated Kiko Alonso and Luke Freeman of Wizard Creations for the title, with Aja Crowder (wife of former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder) and Rich Goodman of Northwestern Mutual taking third place.
Having experienced it firsthand for the first time, I feel I have a better understanding of why this event is so successful each year, and why so many come out to offer their contributions to the cause. Who says philanthropy can't be fun at the same time?
Fashion shows are generally viewed as opportunities to admire the female form, and it would be a lie to say that wasn't the case this past Friday as the Dolphins cheerleaders worked the catwalk at Hard Rock Stadium, but the underlying theme was a bit different than usual this year, as the cover girls (along with the rest of the squad) were depicted much differently than what's the norm for things like this.
They wore no makeup at all in their photos.
"This is the coolest year to be on a cover," Cheerleader Paige said. "Because it's just raw images of us, completely untouched. So you get to see our inner beauty through our eyes, I get to tell a story through my picture, and I think that's very special to me, that just being myself with no makeup on it is going to be handed out to people and people are going to admire it."
For the very first segment of the fashion show, the theme was called "You Be You," and it gave the cheerleaders the opportunity to design their own outfits and let their personalities shine through the way they wanted it to, and there was definitely no shortage of variety as the girls came out to show them off.
"We kinda got to wear whatever we wanted, that we felt represented us in the best way." said Cheerleader Katie. "I really liked this part because we all are so different, we don't have one image similar to the next, we are the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders 2018 because of all 36 of us. So I felt like it was really a chance for us to contribute to that and show people how different we are and how diverse our team is."
In many ways, this is groundbreaking stuff for the NFL, as the Miami Dolphins continue their crusade against injustice and discrimination in the world. Owner Stephen Ross started up RISE (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality) back in 2015 as a way to combat racism in the world of sports.
But women also need help.
"It's definitely hard as a woman in this world, and in industries like this," said Katie. "It's hard to overcome rejection and overcome stereotypes. We are one of the most stereotyped groups in the industry, unfortunately. It's nice to be the first to overcome it. I feel like we're setting a foundation for all NFL teams, all cheerleaders, and it's really a blessing to be able to do that, be the first to do that and be a part of that movement."
"It's really tough," said Paige. "When you look at cheerleaders, you look at all the rhinestones, the bright lipstick, perfectly manicured, and it's almost sad that little girls will look up to us and think that that's what they're supposed to look like. So I think this direction that we're taking is very, very huge, because we do have a lot of little girls that are looking up to us, so they get to see these pictures and they're like, 'well you know, Paige is on the cover and she has no makeup and I love that photo of her,' so we're hoping to encourage women and little girls to be proud in the skin that they are in and just embrace their inner and outer beauty that God has given them."
This will likely be only the beginning for the movement that the Dolphins Cheerleaders kicked off on Friday; in a world where equality is something so strongly sought after, this is an excellent start, and one can only imagine what the future will hold.
Some artists are known for being attached to a certain location in the world, and Flo Rida quite obviously has his attachment to Miami.
So it was a big deal when the 39-year old rapper, singer and songwriter appeared at Hard Rock Stadium on Sunday against the Detroit Lions to perform for the Miami Dolphins halftime show.
"To be home in the 305, I mean I anticipated coming out here for a very long time, and I think this may be a pre-Super Bowl halftime performance for the Dolphins, you know what I'm saying? We have it down in the 305, yeah it was so much fun."
The longtime Dolphins fan gave shout outs to the cheerleaders and the fans while talking to the media, and also stated he loved Dan Marino and the Marks brothers, which is a true indicator that he's been following the team for quite some time.
And the experience he had performing at halftime is one that Flo Rida is likely to never forget.
"My passion is performing, and at the same time, to be home, you just get tremendous love." he said. "I grew up in Carol City not too far from here, to come home versus performing at night and the day is basically the same for me, because all my family and friends come out and they support. It's the Sunshine State, you know where there's day and night, Miami is like 24 hours."
It was his first time performing at Hard Rock for a halftime show, but he certainly hopes it won't be his last. Flo Rida also has an album coming out soon, and he joked that Dolphins fans should help him come up with a name for it.
Well, that's what Twitter is for, so why not?
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The Miami Dolphins have a next man up mentality, they talk about it all the time, they talked about it more after the loss to the Lions that saw several players go down for either multiple plays or the rest of the game entirely.
"It's football, injuries happen," said Dolphins (and former Lions) defensive tackle Akeem Spence. "It's next man up mentality, and we've been that all throughout this season, we got games where you had two guys go out on the defensive line, guys picked it up, so I mean we gotta continue to step up, continue to make plays, and guys just gotta keep believing, believing in each other, and keep belieiving in this team. It's one loss, we got a game come Thursday night, and we need everybody. Everybody needs to get healthy, do what they need to do, come Thursday night and find a way to get a 'W'."
But that's just it, as much as they would like to talk about next man up, there comes a point where the level of injuries starts becoming a mountain that can't be overcome. Consider this:
The Dolphins traded for center Daniel Kilgore and signed Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton to shore up the interior of the offensive line and protect Ryan Tannehill. Sitton lasted one game, and Ted Larsen took over. Kilgore went down weeks later, and Travis Swanson was picked up off the street. Then Miami signed former Jets interior OL Wesley Johnson just in case, and he wound up playing on both sides during the Lions game, spelling Larsen and Jesse Davis who both missed snaps with injuries.
Then there's Albert Wilson, who left the game with a bad hip injury, and then there's Mike Gesicki, who was evaluated for a concussion, and then there's Kenny Stills, who hopped off the field after taking a bad hit on a deep pass late in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Tannehill, William Hayes, DeVante Parker, A.J. Derby, even Jerome Baker and Frank Gore missed a few snaps against the Lions.
Is the team really just that cursed?
For what it's worth, the team not only used the next man up mentality to discuss that players needed to step up, but also to say that there were truly no excuses for the performance they put out at home against a team that actually improved to 3-3 with the win on Sunday.
"They were just taking the plays we were giving them," said Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain, who himself just returned from injury. "A veteran quarterback like that (Stafford), they're gonna take what you give them. If you give them 2nd and 5, they'll take it, you give them 3rd and 1, they'll take it. At the end of the day, we know we gotta play better in the back end and up front. As a defense we gotta play better, as a team we gotta play better, we didn't do enough."
Miami's defense, which had been viewed as the strength of the team for the past few weeks, gave up a total of 248 rushing yards to the Lions, with rookie phenom Kerryon Johnson accounting for 158 of those yards.
The Dolphins offense racked up a grand total of 322 yards.
At some point we have to raise an eyebrow, at some point we have to wonder why players are so prone to getting injured in Miami. Is it strength and conditioning? Is it the heat and humidity? Is it because of the stadium is built on an Indian burial ground?
Either way, the team needs to find a solution and fast, before there's no players left to play. Now the Dolphins will have a short week as they head up to play a hot Houston Texans team that's won four straight games, and they better have some healthy bodies who can carry the workload if they don't want to fall too far behind the season.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The Miami Dolphins are about to go to Hollywood. Vice Chairman and co-founder and CEO of RSE Ventures (which is owner Stephen Ross' private investment firm that focuses on sports, entertainment and technology based companies) will be making an appearance on ABC's hit show 'Shark Tank' as a guest during the show's 'Decade of Dreams' season.
Higgins will be joined by fellow celebrities Alex Rodriguez, Bethenny Frankel and Charles Barkley, among others. The show is known for allowing aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas and dreams to influential people in the business world, like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who can then make offers to invest in their company if they like the idea.
“It’s what we do all day long, only on TV,” Higgins said during a collaboration with &pizza to launch its exclusive delivery partnership with UberEATS. “They gave me an invite, and how do you pass that up."
All of Higgins' episodes have been taped already, and the Dolphins vice chairman admitted that during these 10-hour taping sessions of hearing pitches, he bought into a few of the businesses that were presented to him with his own money.
“It was an amazing experience. It was competitive and aggressive and I’m excited to see what comes of it,” Higgins said. “Everything we do is about taking a visionary entrepreneur that’s at an inflection point, and maybe they are missing something to get the rest of the way there and we supply it. Whether that’s real estate advice or capital, we just like to give that extra boost.”
Shark Tank will start up again in the fall, so be sure to keep an eye out for Higgins this year.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Such is the nature of the Miami Dolphins and their fan base. The team wins, and they're on top of the world. As soon as things start going sour, everything is horrible. This was the case for everyone - and I do mean everyone - after the painful loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday that should have been a win.
“Every loss hurts. When you put 110 hours in a week and get kicked in the nuts like that, it pisses you off." Gase said after the game. "This isn’t like a 9-to-5 (job). We have a lot of people putting a lot of work into this stuff. You’re going to be mad today and tomorrow. When Wednesday comes, you have to forget about it and move on to the next one.”
Believe me, coach Gase, the fans feel the exact same way. Sometimes it feels like being a fan of this team is a full-time job, except we don't get paid for it, and trying to quit is like trying to get over an alcohol addiction while you work in a bar; it's very, very, very hard.
Also see: impossible.
It is also very easy to fall deeper into dark places when the team struggles and the fan base collectively comes together to wallow in their misery. But it is in these moments where it becomes imperative to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and find something else to look at, something to remind you that all is not lost.
Perhaps there's really no point in expecting Gase to fix the team, since he himself has yet to be humbled and learn lessons on how he should be coaching. Perhaps that won't happen until he goes and coaches elsewhere.
It is also abundantly clear that, as nice of a guy as he is and as hard as he tries, Ryan Tannehill is not a "game-changing" QB, and he isn't able to consistently overcome the extreme adversity that NFL QBs have to face on a weekly basis.
I personally equate that to having the ability (or lack thereof) to run around in the backfield like a chicken with its head cut off, dodging endless defenders and heaving up a prayer that somehow magically lands in the hands of a receiver, but the fact is other QBs get on highlight reels for it and Tannehill doesn't; I suppose that's enough.
Maybe it really is time for new blood at that position. Even if Tannehill's legacy won't be remembered fondly in Miami, I can console myself knowing that he'll likely have a promising medical career after he leaves the NFL. And before anyone accuses me of being "in love" with Tannehill, understand that it comes from the perspective of a human being, not necessarily as a football fan.
Tannehill is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and in some respects, I can relate to him because of the way he lives his life. If that's not a good enough reason to root for him, then that's your prerogative; he still has eleven games to prove that Miami doesn't have to spend a first-round pick on a QB next season.
But this isn't about the negative parts of the team, this is about the side of things that screams promise and further potential. This is about the young defensive core developing even now, and if the front office (and whoever will actually be in it in a year or two's time) is wise, they would be sure to lock these players up now while they have the chance.
The Miami Dolphins defense isn't ranked very high overall thanks to a lot of time spent on the field (side-eye look at the offense), but the number of players performing at a high level has kept the defense from being labeled as a complete joke for once. For a defense that sent All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh packing in the offseason, they're allowing only 3.7 yards a carry, which ranks them at 6th in the NFL in that category.
That's thanks in large part to the emergence of young defensive tackles Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, the team's fifth and sixth-round draft picks from 2017; as a tandem, they have been able to stuff runners and even collapse a few pockets in their short time, making Suh's absence ultimately irrelevant.
At linebacker, Jerome Baker has been a massive (and pleasant) surprise as a rookie third-round pick; his speed has made him an asset in the passing game (though he still certainly has plenty to learn still) and he is able to go sideline to sideline chasing down players and making plays, whether by blitzing or keeping an eye on guys in the backfield. Against the Bengals this past Sunday, Baker racked up six tackles and two sacks on QB Andy Dalton.
That’s why we liked him." coach Gase said on Monday. "We liked him because he can cover a lot of ground and when he blitzes, he has no regard for his body and tries to annihilate the other guy. I thought he played well."
It isn't just Baker, however. After spending the first several weeks of 2018 as practically invisible, Baker's former Ohio State teammate Raekwon McMillan had himself a strong game too, adding six tackles of his own - one being for a loss - against Cincinnati. If nothing else, it means that he's still worth investing in for the future, and the LB corps has a strong chance to be much improved in the future, if the ability to cover can be upgraded as tight ends still pose somewhat of a threat.
But if push comes to shove, that's where 2018 first-round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick comes in, and he also had a good game against the Bengals, helping keep the Cincinnati receivers contained for the most part, and reading screens before they happen and making plays on them to force losses of yards as the slot cornerback.
And if that's where he's the most likely to make his mark in the NFL, then Miami has finally found themselves a real gem.
There's plenty to look forward to on the defensive side of the ball, the talent is there and there's still plenty of time to continue to build around them. Safety Reshad Jones - playing with a partially torn labrum - is still a dynamic playmaker even at the age of 30 and could be an excellent veteran presence for a few years more; Robert Quinn has been every bit worth the fourth-round pick sent to the Rams to acquire him, and should be locked up long-term (if the Wide-9 continues to be implemented) if he continues to be disruptive.
The only thing the defense has not managed to do is finish the job with sacks. They've gotten plenty of pressure on QBs, but they haven't actually been able to get them down before they throw the ball away or somehow escape and find a receiver. That is a concern. Miami ranks down near the bottom of the league at 27th with only eight total sacks, but they rank near the top in takeaways, tied for second with the Chicago Bears with a total of 11.
Only the Cleveland Browns of all teams rank higher, and that's with a whopping 15.
Even if the offense never comes together this season, even if the team goes 8-8 all over again or perhaps drop even lower due to their apparent inability to remain consistent on offense for one reason or another, take comfort in the fact that the defense - while still not perfect and in many ways still very raw - is coming along nicely, and that's one of the marks of any championship caliber team.
Who knows? Maybe a new QB really will turn the tides for the Dolphins offense, though there's nothing in the team's history to suggest that will happen, but regardless, that will have to wait until 2019 at the earliest, if Tannehill continues to perform poorly. For now, hope that the offensive line can somehow get it together and protect Ryan Tannehill so he can be at his best, hope that coach Gase learns to stick with what works and adapts to move away from what doesn't, and enjoy watching a young defense grow together.
Then pray that whoever turns out to be in the front office in the near future - whether it be Mike Tannenbaum or some other executive - has the wisdom to lock up Godchaux, Taylor, Fitzpatrick, Baker, Quinn, Xavien Howard, and others to stick around for years to come, because this defense has the makings to be something special, under the proper leadership.
“I thought the defense did well." Gase said on Monday. "The defense played exactly the way that we talked about all week. That’s why it probably irritates me more than anything that we screwed it up on offense. We scored more offense for their team on the offensive side than they let up. And that bothers me. I feel awful because our defense played really well and they did exactly what we wanted to do.”
For the time being, it's up to Gase to figure things out and make it work, and make sure the team's silver lining has a chance to shine brighter this year, rather than waiting for the future to move into the spotlight.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
There's a major theme that is connected to head coach Adam Gase ever since he took command of the Miami Dolphins, and that is funny business will not be tolerated. On Tuesday, the team continued that trend just two days after getting annihilated on the road by the New England Patriots, waiving former second round pick Jordan Phillips.
Phillips, 26, was drafted out of Oklahoma back in 2015 and is a supremely talented and gifted player, but his effort level and dedication to the game has been in question since his college days, and despite his more advanced draft status, his playing time has dropped lower and lower in favor of 2017 fifth and sixth-round picks Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor, who have been regularly making plays so far this season.
Phillips only recorded a total of 25 snaps (31%) on defense against the Patriots, giving him less than all the other DTs on the roster; he also was later seen throwing a temper tantrum on the sideline that was captured on television, and several players attempted to calm him down but to no avail.
But in spite of this, Phillips himself came out onto Twitter to debunk any theories that this outburst had anything to do with why the Dolphins released him.
On Monday, Gase addressed the sideline spa, which was assumed to be a result of being rotated out of the game as often as he was.
“Well there’s a reason why we’re doing that." he said. "There’s a reason why we’re subbing the way we’re subbing against that team. It’s not a secret why we’re doing it. Whatever (Defensive Line Coach) Kris Kocurek wants the d-linemen to do, that’s what we’re doing.”
Kocurek is known for wanting to continually rotate players in and out in order to keep the pass rush fresh and keeping them from getting exhausted, and it would make sense that Phillips would get frustrated by that. But there's no way to know what the real reason is behind the release without actually being in the building; either Phillips or the Dolphins aren't being completely truthful.
But the bigger story is not that he was cut or why he was cut, it's the sheer joy that he expressed through his Instagram over the fact that he's no longer a member of the team.
In the same vein as departed players Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey, Phillips seems relieved to be out of the Miami Dolphins locker room headed up by Adam Gase. Whether this is a reflection of Phillips or Gase is up to reader interpretation, but it can't be summarily dismissed that so many players are so happy to be anywhere but Miami. Perhaps the players truly are malcontents, like they were being looked at as during the offseason, or perhaps there's something to Gase's coaching style that turns off certain players.
Ultimately, until the results of this move are seen, it's truly moot. As a member of the Miami Dolphins, Phillips racked up a total of 63 tackles, 5.5 sacks 11 pass deflections and an interception in his four seasons. Now, it's up to veteran Akeem Spence, and young players Davon Godchaux and Vincent Taylor to pick up the slack, with recently called up defensive lineman Jonathan Woodard attempting to fill in the role left behind by William Hayes, who was also playing on the interior.
Phillips is indeed 'free at last,' the only question now is who will this benefit more when all is said and done.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
All offseason, we had heard that the Miami Dolphins have a whole slew of plays on offense that no one had any idea about, we were treated to an incredibly vanilla offense in the preseason that featured very little - if any at all - creativity on the part of the coaching staff.
The fan base tense, with their patience being tested as the play calling continued to be reminiscent of the same old, boring offense that barely got anywhere, they were treated to a show on Sunday as the Dolphins opened up the playbook and unleashed plays that have never been seen before.
By those outside looking in, at least.
“Well, we have seen then already." Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said after the game. "So it was a surprise to you guys but we have been seeing them all week. But it’s another one of those things where it’s a little bit leery as far as what’s going to happen, especially having seen them already. I don’t know if they worked perfectly but they worked and it’s definitely a lot of fun watching guys run down the sideline untouched, high-fiving and going in the end zone and scoring. That was a treat for sure.”
Part of the appeal of hiring Adam Gase as a head coach in the first place was because of his supposedly brilliant offensive mind, which is why frustration builds when so many times there seems to be this determination to throw short passes and non-working bubble screens - on third and long no less.
And then out of nowhere, Gase throws this gem onto the field? Whether you want to call it the 'Miami Special' or some strange mutated variation of the wildcat, one thing was for sure, the Raiders weren't ready for it in the slightest.
"I mean it’s one of those plays that we … It’s plays off plays." head coach Adam Gase said. "We have run similar plays to it and it’s just one of those things where you just don’t think that’s going to come. I’m glad it worked and it was good timing. I thought those two guys made a really good execution of the play."
Gase admitted that this play in particular was an old play that his mentor Mike Martz used to run, and speculated that no one saw it coming because no one watches film on what Martz did all the way back in the early 2000s.
"We’ve got all kinds of stuff of his and we kind of talked about some stuff when he was here and what we could do because we were really trying to expand Albert (Wilson) and Jakeem (Grant)’s packages and just keep growing them." Gase said. "We’ve got guys that can do a lot of different things. They can throw it, they can run it, they can … We have done a couple of things already this year that really has worked to our benefit."
Besides that, however, Gase was not exactly forthcoming with information regarding his plans for the future. Has that particular play worked in practice before?
Did it work every time?
How many more of those plays are in the playbook that haven't been put on display yet?
Such scintillating repartee.
But, it goes with the Adam Gase M.O. when it comes to matters like this. Gase refused to admit to anyone what type of plans he had for tight end Mike Gesicki in the preseason, and we have yet to really see him be put into a situation to make a lot of plays, aside from a simple reception here and there.
Gase told veteran running back Frank Gore that he had big plans for him this season, and besides just running the ball and passing Curtis Martin on the all-time rushing leaders list, Gore has been fairly routine as well.
So what is he hiding? What else has Gase concocted in that creatively brilliant mind of his? Is all the frustration that he puts the fan base through with simple screens and short passes all just part of a larger, master plan that we cannot comprehend without being behind the scenes?
We can definitely come to one conclusion: that these mystery plays have a lot to do with the skillsets that wide receivers Jakeem Grant and Albert Wilson offer on the football field.
“Every practice man." Grant said. "Every practice we had, me and Albert were practicing and you know it was just like that chemistry. I knew that it was going to be a touchdown and all he told me was, 'Make sure you score and if you get tackled by one man in the open field, you owe me $100.' And now he owes me $100 for scoring because that’s what we do.”
“It’s something we’ve been working on." Wilson added. "I’m ready for everything he called; every play, every run play, every pass play, every throwing play. Whatever he has for me, I’m ready for it.”
Bottom line, the Dolphins are 3-0 and still - apparently - have plenty up their sleeves as they prepare to face the struggling New England Patriots (1-2) up in Foxborough, where Miami hasn't won since 2008. With the way things are going, that just might change next Sunday.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Patrick Peterson, Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Richard Sherman.
The Miami Dolphins may have just added one of their players to the ranks of some of the greatest cornerbacks in the NFL, as third-year player Xavien Howard has seemingly emerged as one of the league's elite corners, totaling three interceptions in just the first three games alone, and handcuffing one of the league's best young wide receivers in Amari Cooper, limiting him to only two catches for 17 yards.
"He looks like the guy we have been seeing since training camp, so I think he’s just trying to figure out a way to get better every day. He’s done it." head coach Adam Gase said after the game. "He’s practiced well and we’re starting to see that translate to the game."
But it's not just the turnovers themselves that have made Howard's presence be felt, two of his three interceptions this season have been in the endzone, saving the team from giving up six points in the most crucial moments. This one came as the Raiders were driving down the field while trailing by four points. Carr was hit by All-Pro pass rusher Cameron Wake, and Howard got into position against WR Martavis Bryant and pulled down the ball in the back of the endzone to give Miami back possession.
"We have a thing. The left side corner’s best friend is a pass rusher." said Wake. "A pass rusher’s best friend is a corner. So I think that he understands that. He made good plays today. Some of the guys up front are doing their best to try to get pressure on the quarterback to maybe throw an errant pass and he picked it off. He did his job and vice versa. The quarterback tried to make that read, he doesn’t have time, we get a sack. So playing hand in hand, I mean, obviously, nothing to take away from him; but I think working together creates plays for everybody all over the field."
It won't be long before people start taking notice of Howard's ability on the field, especially if he continues this performance when the Dolphins travel to Foxborough next week to face off against the Patriots. But if the man who's fan-given nickname is 'X' is only just now starting to catch the attention of the world, then it means that it hasn't been paying attention to his teammates for a while now.
"He's been a ballhawk, man. He's been a ballhawk, he's feeling comfortable on defense." cornerback Bobby McCain said to the Sun Sentinel through a busted lip after the game. "He’s one of the best corners in the league to be honest with you, one of the best corners in the league, and I believe that, and we believe that ... We been telling people that. We been telling people that for a year. Now they know. He locked down Amari. The league knows now.”
It will be some time before we know if opposing quarterbacks have learned to not challenge Howard anymore; as an unfortunate and undeserved result of being part of the Miami Dolphins, Howard has been slept on due to the national indifference towards his team. But until then, he's determined to keep making plays and keep making them pay for throwing the ball his way, and he'll keep being the 'X-Factor' that helps lead his team to victory om Sundays.
“That was a game changer. That meant everything." Howard said. "I think we took the soul out of them when I caught that interception. Our offense got on the field and attacked and scored. That’s what it was all about.”
It's only a matter of time before Howard's name is listed among the best in the league. It just may take a few more games like the one he's had these past two weeks, and he's more than ready.
"I've been hearing that all week ... I just gotta make 'em pay when they try me."
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The Miami Dolphins have gotten off to a 3-0 start for the first time since the days of Joe Philbin, and they did it in stunning fashion, putting up 14 points in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach for the now 0-3 - Jon Gruden led - Oakland Raiders.
Cornerback Xavien Howard came up with two big interceptions in crucial moments, which gave the exhausted Dolphins defense some much-needed bailouts and allowed for the struggling offense to get their act together and score four total touchdowns, three of which were credited to Ryan Tannehill, who finished the game 17 for 23, with 289 yards passing, as well as tacking on 3 carries for 26 yards, leading the team in rushing that day.
But the true heroes on offense were wide receivers Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant. Grant scored two touchdowns on offense, one via a shovel pass in the backfield where he outran the defense, and one a crazy trick play that had Albert Wilson throw a touchdown to him after he was given the ball by Frank Gore.
This comes as a testament to the team's enduring resolve, as the team had lost LB Chase Allen, DEs Andre Branch and William Hayes, and safety Reshad Jones (before the game) to injury, and then DT Akeem Spence was ejected for ripping a Raiders player's helmet off and taking a swing at another player with it.
Questionable calls also plagued the team, as two would-be first downs were called back by the referees near the end of the first half as they were threatening to score.
Nevertheless, they came away with the victory as the Raiders finally wore down and started making mistakes that the Dolphins were able to take advantage of. This is the M.O. for the Adam Gase-led Dolphins since 2016, and now they will go into New England with a 3-0 record, aiming to take down the Patriots on their home turf for the first time since 2008.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
So many pundits see the Miami Dolphins as the worst team in the NFL, they see a team that lost star power when they sent big names like Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey packing to go be with other teams and picking up players that definitely don't have the ability to sell jerseys or raise the eyebrows of casual fans.
It even reached a point where certain power rankings went as far as to give the Dolphins the distinction as the absolute worst team in football, predicting a record as low as 2-14.
Right now, the Dolphins are standing in at 2-0, effectively shutting up the mouths of a lot of their detractors, and the players are loving every minute of it.
“We knew it was going to happen. We’ve been working really hard this offseason." wide receiver Albert Wilson said on Monday. "Like I said, we’re not surprised where we’re at. I just hold a higher expectation for this team.”
Now, all of a sudden there are outlets doing a complete 180 on the Dolphins, while some are coming around slower than others. After being underdogs in their first two weeks, Miami is now a 3-point favorite to beat the Oakland Raiders when they come home to Hard Rock Stadium this upcoming Sunday, and the team's Superbowl odds have dropped from 150/1 in August to 60/1 as of this week.
But even as the team celebrates their success, head coach Adam Gase is remaining focused on the goal.
"We’ve talked about it so much leading up to this that everything that’s said outside our building is irrelevant." he said. "The only thing that matters is this week. It’s really the truth. I’ve been 6-0 and not made the playoffs. It doesn’t matter. You have to play every week. You have to reset it every week. You have to work to get better to try not to be a team that’s up and down. We’re trying to be consistent. You’re going to lose games in this league. That’s why there’s only been one undefeated team that’s ever won it all and another team didn’t win the last game, so nobody really cares about it if you won them all. If you don’t win the last one, nobody cares.”
It sounds cynical, but it's the truth. Even now, with the team one of only seven teams in the NFL who are undefeated, there are still those who are extremely skeptical and seem unable to give the team its proper respect. Miami found a way to win on the road against the Jets, but it came as a complete and utter shock (and perhaps even embarrassment to those who picked against them.
And the Dolphins are more than happy to keep proving them wrong, no matter what tries to get in their way.
“Most definitely. This team is battle-tested." said Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones. "We’ve been through a lot. Like last year, the first game (we had a) hurricane and couldn’t play the first game. The first game this year was the longest game in NFL history. This team is battle-tested. We’ve got resilient guys in this locker room and a great coaching staff. You just try to keep stacking these Ws.”
“Regardless of what’s going on outside the locker room, we just don’t pay attention to it." tight end Mike Gesicki added. "Kind of a quote that I go by is ‘don’t pay attention to praise or criticism. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.’ When things are going good, everybody is happy. When things aren’t, you block it all out. You just focus on your role, your assignment. That’s all that you can control.”
Make no mistake, the team is listening, and they hear the doubts and aspersions cast on them as they go in week in and week out, but it is fueling this group, not causing them to go out of control. They're 2-0, and they're happy about that, but they also say they have yet to play even close to their best football.
"There’s a long road in front of us and a big opportunity." quarterback Ryan Tannehill said after Sunday's game. "We’re able to fight through it and get wins. That’s what you’re here for: to get those wins. When we finally get this thing going and get clicking, the onus is on us to find a way, as an offense, to put drives together. I think the defense is doing a good job. They’re getting turnovers and getting the ball in our hands. You can’t ask for anything more from the defense. I’m really happy with the way they’re playing. I’m proud of those guys. But as an offense, we have to turn our level of play up."
If this is only the beginning as they claim, the NFL pundits who doubted them may be having to eat a serving crow and humble pie for dessert. But first, they'll have to keep proving it with another win this upcoming Sunday.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Jason Taylor Foundation hosts 14th annual 'Cool Gear for the School Year' shopping event at Old Navy
It's the beginning of the new school year, and kids all across South Florida are getting ready for a fresh start. But not everyone gets the same opportunity to go in with a fresh new look to match the fresh start, and this is where the Jason Taylor Foundation takes it upon themselves to make up for it.
On September 10, for the 14th year in a row, 60 kids from across South Florida were chosen to be gifted with a total of $300 dollars each to go on a shopping spree at Old Navy, in search of new clothes, backpacks, and whatever else they wanted to get their hands on with a celebrity shopper accompanying them along the way.
"It definitely is a pleasure for all of us to see the kid's faces light up and shop with them," said former Dolphins wide receiver Oronde Gadsden. "We get to listen to them, help them with anything they need at that time, it's just a great event. We've been doing it with Jason (Taylor) as fellow teammates for probably as long as he's had the event. It's a great thing and we look forward to it every year."
The event always features an All-Star cast of guest shoppers, which this year included former Miami Dolphins players: David Bowens, O.J. McDuffie, Anthony Harris, Troy Drayton, Sam Madison, Oronde Gadsden, Mark Higgs, Louis Oliver, Patrick Surtain, and of course the man whose name is on the foundation, Hall of Fame pass rusher Jason Taylor.
Taylor continues to prove that he has a real heart for children; pouring millions of dollars into his charity and in one night alone, spending over $60,000 just for the sake of kids being able to go into school feeling good about the way they look. He's been where they are, and he wants them to have that burst of confidence.
"I was a poor kid growing up, my mom busted her butt to try to make ends meet, sometimes school ends in May and starts back in September." said Taylor. "Like any young 15 or 16-year old boy you're gonna grow over the summer, so sometimes you grow two or three inches and you just don't have money for new clothes ... It's in vogue now to wear short pants with your socks hanging out, it's great now, but back then you get clowned about it. I just want to help these kids with their confidence, take one less thing off their plate."
What's truly heartwarming about this whole thing is that those kids who have been blessed by the Jason Taylor Foundation's dedication to their cause, many of them have turned right back around to repay that kindness in full.
"We've been around long enough now to have kids come through being in elementary school, go through high school, graduate, going to college, leave college, come back and volunteer for us," Taylor said. "Some are actually now paid staff members for us, so you're getting that full cycle of a kid's life and seeing what they're becoming."
That's the true goal of any such event like this: it's not just about making a kid's life better, it's about making a lasting impact that will drive kids to become a better person in the future so that they too will have a heart for helping others who are in need, just like they once were.
Someone who shares that heart is current Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who - alongside teammates Davon Godchaux and Charles Harris - also made an appearance as a celebrity shopper for this event.
"It's a good way for us to spend time," said Stills. "This year's a little bit different for me, because one of the kids, he has to wear a uniform for school so we had to shop for school clothes and make sure we got that out of the way. I asked him to make sure we had enough school clothes, I hope we don't end up getting in trouble because we got a couple pairs of the school clothes and then we started getting the regular wardrobe type stuff."
Stills in particular has been especially active in the community since he arrived in Miami, having won the Nat Moore Community Service Award for the past two years for his dedication to helping South Florida and volunteering his time to whatever causes he can.
"I feel like I wouldn't be where I'm at today without the help of other people, helping me throughout my life as a young kid all the way to now," Stills said. "So it's my way of paying it back, it comes from my heart, I had people who helped me get to where I'm at, so I wanna give back as much as possible.
"I would love to have a foundation of my own and be able to put events like this on at some point in time, and I think when the time's right, I'll do it."
So often, the topic of discussion is what the Jason Taylor Foundation did on any particular night, whether it's a ping-pong tournament or shopping for clothes; this time, it has become abundantly clear that the impact is more than skin deep. They have inspired others to follow their lead, and that will have much longer-lasting effects that any one shopping event.
And that is where they should truly place their pride in. They made the years of 60 kids in one night, but they've also planted the seeds of potential for an entire generation to give back the same way they do now.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Some of the most memorable parts of football games is meeting up early at the stadium and enjoying good food and friends at a solid tailgate party, and the Miami Dolphins decided to host one of their own at the first Football Unites tailgate party of the 2018 season.
This is the third year in a row that the Dolphins are hosting these tailgates, which are meant to strengthen relationships between community leaders, youth and law enforcement.
"Great thing about it is it's funded by (Owner) Stephen Ross and our employers, and how can we move this conversation forward?" said Senior Vice President of Communications and Community Affairs Jason Jenkins. "And to get these different groups out here today to meet each other in fellowship around the sport of football, it's a great feeling ... the teamwork at work, we wanna make South Florida healthier, educated and more united, and events like these can help us with that goal."
All the stops were pulled out for this party, as a live DJ, a massive foosball table, food and even a scavenger hunt were slated to help bring these diverse groups together to get to know each other better. Even former Dolphins wide receiver O.J. McDuffie was seen making an appearance, enjoying the time with the fans and giving them a real Dolphins vibe.
But as it's often been the case, some things are bigger than football. There are causes to be fought for, injustices to be righted, and from the day of its inception, that has been what Stephen Ross and his RISE initiative has been fighting to accomplish, and there have been examples of the impact its had.
"I think it's more so the continued communication," said Jenkins. "You see groups, and you come back and see them next year and say 'oh yeah, this is my friend now,' or 'oh yeah, we're going out here' ... it's a great thing not just for the kids level, but also the organizations too. That's one thing we saw as well, because there are so many groups in South Florida, so many positive and great organizations, but sometimes they're a little splintered.
"So the Dolphins not only bring the kids together, but also these organizations that ultimately, we all have the same mission. We want to move forward, we want to be better, and we want to treat this as an issue of humanity, not just one race or one gender, one sexual orientation or identity."
The Miami Dolphins are using the backdrop of football to unite groups that have the potential to be at odds with each other, and through this experience, perhaps spread the influence beyond South Florida to further level the playing field for groups in the community who need a little extra boost.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
As the Miami Dolphins cut down to 53 for the regular season, PhinManiacs will provide up to date information as it comes in. The team must complete their trimming by September 1, Saturday at 4:00 P.M. They currently have 90 players on the roster, so 37 players will be sent packing before time runs out.
So as cuts are made, here is where we'll give the updates and brief analysis of each player that goes, and we'll also keep track of how many get released.
1. Kicker Greg Joseph
Joseph, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of FAU to compete with seventh-round draft pick Jason Sanders, was reported as having lost the job to the team's draft choice and will be released, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
The 24-year old Joseph seemed to be neck-and-neck with Sanders all the way, and likely lost the job solely on the principle of Sanders being a draft pick. When the race is a tie, preference comes into play. But Joseph certainly proved he has the leg to be an NFL kicker, making all three of his preseason field goal attempts from 48, 54, and 33 yards.
If a team is in need of a kicker at any point, Joseph would seem to be a fine addition to a roster.
2. Tight End Gavin Escobar
Per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, the Miami Dolphins are releasing veteran tight end Gavin Escobar, who was signed as a free agent by the team back on April 16th to compete with rookies Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, and veterans MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby and Thomas Duarte for a spot on the team's 53-man roster.
Escobar was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft and was projected as having high upside as a weapon in the offense for them, putting up 333 yards and 8 touchdowns on 30 receptions for them. Numerous injuries kept him from reaching his full potential, however, and he wound up landing with the Chiefs and Ravens before coming to Miami.
With the Dolphins, Escobar only recorded a mere 3 catches for a total of 27 yards, while rookie Mike Gesicki continued to elevate himself in the depth chart to the point of being projected as a starter. With the competition he was facing, Escobar couldn't keep up, and he now finds himself looking for another job.
3. Safety Jordan Lucas (Traded to Chiefs)
After a superstar performance against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night in the final preseason game, where he recorded an interception, a sack, and a tackle for a loss, the now former Miami Dolphins safety who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL draft was deemed good enough for the Kansas City Chiefs to trade a draft pick for him, per the Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports it to be a seventh-round pick.
Lucas always had moments where he showed signs of being a good player, but it was last night's performance where he looked the best he ever has, which was too little, too late with the likes of Walt Aikens leading the special teams unit, and fellow young safety Maurice Smith shining brighter overall and also having some special teams value.
The 25-year old Lucas will now get an opportunity to show what he can do under head coach Andy Reid and the Chiefs, and the Dolphins get some compensation out of a player who was almost guaranteed to not make the roster. Win-win for both sides.
4. Linebacker Frank Ginda
Per the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, Miami is releasing linebacker Frank Ginda.
Ginda was brought on July 24 after the sudden retirement of undrafted free agent linebacker Mike McCray, who decided he was playing football for the wrong reasons. Ginda replaced his spot on the roster.
During his junior year at San Jose State, Ginda led the nation in tackles per game with 13.3, while also setting a Mountain West single-season record with 173 total tackles.
Unfortunately, his time with the Dolphins wasn't quite as impressive. Ginda stayed primarily with the second and third units, unable to rise above the likes of Chase Allen and Mike Hull on the depth chart (though the latter suffered a bad knee injury and freed up some play time).
Ginda made several tackles in his preseason stint, but he never did anything to make himself stand out, and so he now finds himself cut, though if Miami feels he's worthy, he is certainly practice squad eligible. This scenario, however, seems unlikely.
5. Cornerback Johnathan Alston
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Miami Dolphins are releasing Johnathan Alston, a cornerback out of North Carolina State who was signed as an undrafted free agent back in May of this year. Alston started his career in college as a wide receiver, and - like Tony Lippett - later made the transition to cornerback during his junior year in college.
His training camp performances were nothing spectacular, and the same goes for his preseason work, as he accounted for only one tackle.
The release of Alston comes as no surprise as there are much more productive players who also are awaiting their ultimate fates.
6. Linebacker Cayson Collins
Once again the report comes from the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson (he has eyes everywhere), that the Miami Dolphins are releasing linebacker Cayson Collins, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina.
Collins showed some promise throughout training camp, but he never rose above the incumbents and his preseason snaps did not produce anything wow worthy to warrant him staying on the 53-man roster, accounting for only a total of four tackles (one for a loss) in his four games.
Perhaps Collins is a candidate to land on the practice squad, as the remaining linebackers on the roster did not show much either, and with Mike Hull injured, Miami could use someone to call up if absolutely necessary.
7. Defensive end Claudy Mathieu
Barry Jackson reports that the Miami Dolphins are releasing defensive end Claudy Mathieu, a former undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame. Unlike many of the others undrafted free agents, Mathieu caught the attention of coaches and fans alike, making plays in training camp and in preseason, and racking up six tackles and a sack during his preseason performances.
The only issue is that the defensive line rotation is nearly impossible to crack, with veterans Robert Quinn, Andre Branch, Cameron Wake, William Hayes, and former first round pick Charles Harris already claiming the roster room for themselves at DE.
If Mathieu clears waivers, however, look for the Dolphins to view him as a prime candidate for the practice squad.
8. Linebacker Terence Garvin
Per the Palm Beach Post's Joe Schad, the Miami Dolphins are releasing veteran linebacker Terence Garvin, who is entering his sixth season in the NFL and spent the first three years of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent, before ending up with the Redskins in 2016, and then finally the Seahawks in 2017.
In his career, Garvin has racked up 77 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a pass deflection in the 74 games he's played; he's only started in four of them. Garvin was competing for a spot on the roster with the likes of Chase Allen and Mike Hull (who was later injured), but he was unable to make himself stand out and even struggled at times on defense, though he made 12 tackles, two of which went for a loss, and he has special teams value.
If Miami ends up having injuries to the linebacker corps. Garvin could be brought back fairly easily later in the season, provided some other team doesn't decide the veteran is worth bringing in first.
9. Defensive tackle Anthony Moten
The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports that the Miami Dolphins are releasing young defensive tackle Anthony Moten, who was signed as an undrafted free agent from the Miami Hurricanes after the 2018 NFL draft. The 23-year old Moten very quietly had a strong training camp, making solid plays with the third and fourth units.
While he only made five tackles in the preseason, he got two QB hits off, which means he is getting penetration at the line of scrimmage, and he definitely has plenty of potential to do more. But just like with Mathieu, the defensive line rotation is hard to crack with Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux, Vincent Taylor, and Akeem Spence taking the starting spot.
The Miami Dolphins will definitely be looking at Moten to be a primary candidate for the practice squad, and there's no doubt they'll be hoping he clears waivers.
10. Wide Receiver Drew Morgan
Per the Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser, the Miami Dolphins are releasing wide receiver Drew Morgan, who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the team back in 2017, though he failed to make the roster then too and wound up spending the year on the team's practice squad.
This year, Morgan again spent all of his team with the backup units, as the first five wide receiver spots are set in stone with DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson, and Jakeem Grant. If Miami decides to keep six wide receivers, then he faced stiff competition in the likes of Isaiah Ford, Malcolm Lewis, Francis Owusu, Rashawn Scott and Malcolm Lewis.
During the preseason, Morgan only made five catches for a total of 24 yards, and his punt returns were not much better. But he is a solid route runner and has good hands, so he could find himself sticking around again.
11. Offensive tackle David Steinmetz
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that backup offensive lineman David Steinmetz will be released by the Miami Dolphins. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Purdue, the 23-year old Steinmetz was fighting for a spot on the roster as a backup offensive tackle, though he found himself struggling in that regard.
With veteran Sam Young acting as the team's primary swing tackle, it was between Steinmetz, Zach Sterup and Eric Smith for the final spot, and now he finds himself out of the battle.
Steinmetz could certainly be brought back to the practice squad, though there's no telling whether there will be any interest when Sterup and Smith would also be eligible.
12. Center Mike Matthews
This release comes as a bit of a surprise. The Miami Dolphins are parting ways with center Mike Matthews, a former undrafted free agent of the Pittsburgh Steelers out of Texas A&M, and the little brother of Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews.
Matthews is entering his second year in the league and for a time - thanks to the injury to Jake Brendel - he was the primary backup in training camp and preseason behind starter Daniel Kilgore. However, Matthews was unable to make himself stand out, and with Brendel likely to land on the PUP list and veteran Ted Larsen able to play center as well as guard, the team has apparently decided Matthews is expendable.
Matthews is eligible for the practice squad, but there's no telling whether his preseason performance was enough to warrant him taking one of the ten available spots.
13. Wide Receiver Leonte Carroo
Per SiriusXM's Craig Mish, the Miami Dolphins are releasing wide receiver Leonte Carroo after his third straight disappointing preseason after the team traded their 2016 sixth-round pick and 2017 third and fourth round picks to the Vikings to get back into the third round of the 2016 draft to select the Rutgers standout.
But the 6-foot-1 receiver just couldn't crack the starting lineup, and this year put the icing on the cake as he battled through nagging injuries that slowed him down, and on numerous occasions he was caught simply giving up on routes, including one in the endzone where he assumed the ball was not coming to him so he stopped the route.
His final preseason total for this year amounts to four catches for 39 yards. Carroo had high expectations placed on him due to the price Miami paid to get him, and he simply never reached it. That, paired with the level of talent ahead of him facilitated his release.
14. Wide Receiver Isaiah Ford
Here's another surprise from the Dolphins front office, as Craig Mish reports that Miami has also cut wide receiver Isaiah Ford, who seemed to come on strong in training camp and early preseason before falling off slightly near the tail end.
Ford, a seventh-round pick from 2017 out of Virginia Tech, was evaluated as being a potential second-round talent by draft experts but he faced adversity which caused him to fall all the way to the seventh. Then, he suffered a season-ending knee injury as a rookie in training camp which kept him from showcasing what he could do.
But then he returned and seemed to come on strong, which makes the release that much more surprising, as he totaled seven catches for 70 yards and a touchdown during the preseason. Perhaps the reason for this is because of his special teams value not being as high. But regardless, expect Ford to be a primary practice squad target.
15. Cornerback Tony Lippett
While not necessarily shocking, it does come as a massive disappointment as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the Miami Dolphins are releasing cornerback Tony Lippett, who was fighting to come back from an Achilles tear he suffered in 2017, but was unable to come back to form after leading the team in interceptions in 2016.
Rapoport also reported that the Dolphins were shopping Lippett around for a potential trade partner, but with no incredible effort to put on film this preseason (like Jordan Lucas), there were no takers.
Lippett, who was one of four fifth-round picks the Dolphins made in 2015 (along with Bobby McCain, Jay Ajayi and Cedric Thompson) was originally a wide receiver out of Michigan State and was converted to cornerback via the urging of then head coach Joe Philbin and the coaching staff.
The 6-foot-3 talented player was on the verge of becoming a viable starter in the NFL before his injury, and there's no doubt that some team will eventually pick him up as he continues his comeback.
16. Guard Isaac Asiata
Another player who was on the verge of making it has fallen just short, as the Dolphins release former fifth-round pick Isaac Asiata, who was drafted last year out of Utah in an attempt to shore up the offensive line.
The 25-year old Asiata (who will turn 26 in December) was a disappointment in his rookie season, unable to beat out even the primary backups in 2017 and spent most of his time inactive on game days, only playing in one game near the tail end of the season.
He was much improved in 2018 and spent his time as the primary backup at left guard behind Pro Bowler Josh Sitton, though he still had his bad moments in pass protection. Run support is his main niche, and he can move defenders with his brute strength; his technique, however, still leaves much to be desired.
Expect Asiata to join the practice squad should he clear waivers, he's too strong of a player and too valuable as a run blocker to simply let go.
17. Offensive tackle Eric Smith
The Miami Dolphins are releasing offensive tackle Eric Smith, who was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia in 2017. Smith has shown promise and was battling it out for the fourth or fifth tackle spot along with the previously released David Steinmetz, and Zach Sterup.
Smith is still eligible to be on the practice squad and given the potential he has shown, he could be added to it. He beat out other veterans on the roster in 2017, and injuries kept him from doing more that year. There's no reason to believe that potential is now gone.
18. Linebacker Mike Hull (Injured Reserve)
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Miami Dolphins are placing linebacker Mike Hull on injured reserve after he suffered a knee injury back in the first game of the preseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The injury was bad enough to warrant him being carted off the field, and he never returned to practice or play again afterwards. Hull is a fourth-year player out of Penn State who who was signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2015 and has stuck around with good technique and solid tackling ability.
Throughout his career so far, Hull has played 35 games, starting in three of them, and he's racked up 27 tackles, one interception and fumble recovery playing in a support/special teams role for the Dolphins.
Miami saves a roster spot by placing Hull on IR, and they keep him from being taken by another team. Hull can later be brought back
19. Wide Receiver Francis Owusu
With the wide receiver battle as tight as it is, there were going to be some hard decisions made at that spot, and with Ford and Carroo already gone, they continue; Francis Owusu, who has been putting up excellent numbers in the preseason, has been released from the team. During his preseason stint with the Dolphins, Owusu caught 7 passes on 15 targets (most of those incompletions were on the QB), totaling 111 yards and a touchdown.
Owusu was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford by the Dolphins back in 2017, but that time was cut short when he was waived/injured in mid-August, only to land on the injured reserve before reaching an injury settlement with the team and being released. After the season, he returned on a futures contract.
According to the official Dolphins website, Owusu stands in at 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, and at his pro day, he ran a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash. Owusu should be a prime candidate for the practice squad if he clears waivers, and if he continues to develop over time, he may end up being the replacement for former first round pick DeVante Parker, who is listed at the same height, but his clock is ticking.
20. Tight End Thomas Duarte
This release comes as no surprise as the Miami Dolphins released former UCLA standout Thomas Duarte, who was competing with rookies Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, as well as the previously released Escobar for a spot in Miami's tight end rotation.
Duarte unfortunately never really developed as a former seventh-round pick from 2016, and in the preseason he caught only seven passes for a total of 50 yards, while the team's 2018 second round pick, Gesicki, rose up to the point where he will likely be named the starter come the regular season. The other will probably be veteran MarQueis Gray.
It seems unlikely that Duarte will find his way back to Miami, so his best bet at this point will be to look elsewhere for a job.
21. Defensive end Quincy Redmon
Per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Miami Dolphins are releasing defensive end Quincy Redmon, who is a former undrafted free agent out of Fairmont State, a small school in West Virginia. He is designated as waived/injured.
Redmon had a few moments here and there in training camp and in the preseason but was ultimately not worth keeping around, especially not over the likes of Claudy Mathieu and Anthony Moten, who have also been released.
Redmon only made three tackles in preseason. He is practice squad eligible but don't expect him to get too hard of a look from the Dolphins for that, instead if he clears waivers, he'll likely be added to IR to keep him around.
22. Running back Buddy Howell
Barry Jackson reports that the Miami Dolphins are releasing running back Buddy Howell, a hard-running undrafted free agent out of FAU who was battling for a potential fourth running back spot with veteran Senorise Perry.
Howell is likely to be added to the Miami practice squad should he clear waivers. Besides having plenty of special teams value, Howell also ran for a total of 76 yards on 14 carries, averaging 5.4 yards a carry. He also showed plenty of versatility as a receiver out of the backfield, catching eight passes for 57 yards.
The rookie has a lot of potential and could be a possible replacement for veteran Frank Gore after the season if he sticks around, but he'll have to get to that point first.
23. Defensive end Jonathan Woodard
Another defensive lineman bites the dust as - once again - the team is pretty much set at that unit with the possible exception of one slot that still might be open, or may not exist at all depending on the number of players kept. This time, it's former Jaguars 2016 seventh-round pick Jonathan Woodard who gets the axe.
Woodard, who will turn 25 on the 19th of September, had plenty of moments to shine in camp and preseason, much like Claudy Mathieu who also was released earlier. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins have interest in adding him to the practice squad should he clear waivers.
It's no surprise that Miami has interest in Woodard; he put up eight tackle and a sack in the preseason. It all depends on if the other 31 teams decide to let him pass them by.
24. Cornerback Jalen Davis
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that the Miami Dolphins are releasing undrafted free agent out of Utah State Jalen Davis, but they have a lot of interest in bringing him to their practice squad.
The 22-year old Davis has a lot of potential, but he is raw and was competing with drafted rookie Cornell Armstrong for a reserve role with the team. With the release of Davis, however, Miami now has only four corners who were truly competing for a starting job with Lippett gone.
Davis made five tackles and a pass deflection in the preseason, and it's quite possible some other team will put in a claim for him. With any luck, the Dolphins will be able to retain him.
25. Wide Receiver Rashawn Scott (waived/injured)
The Miami Dolphins seem to be content going into the season with only five wide receivers, as with the waived/injured designation of Rashawn Scott, Miami only has Malcolm Lewis still remaining on the roster after the projected starting five receivers, and it is unlikely that Lewis will remain.
Scott, on the other hand, is being designated the way he is due to an ankle injury he suffered in the final preseason game against the Falcons. He was later seen being carted off into the locker room, and left the area in a walking boot and crutches.
It is clear what the team's plans are for the wide receiver position, but Scott's situation is somewhat interesting. As a player with less than four years of experience, Scott must clear waivers before he can be placed on injured reserve. During the preseason, Scott accounted for five receptions for 72 yards, and the former UM standout certainly has a lot of talent in him.
More than likely, Scott will clear waivers and Miami will be free to place him on injured reserve.
26. Defensive tackle Kendall Langford
Per the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson, the Miami Dolphins are releasing veteran defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who was signed onto the team shortly after the release of Gabe Wright, who clocked starting running back Kenyan Drake in the back of the head with his elbow during training camp.
This comes as a bit of a surprise considering how well he did as soon as he came, but it's possible that the reason behind the release of the 32-year old Langford was because Miami would have been projected to keep ten defensive linemen on the team, and with veteran William Hayes expected to return, the Dolphins didn't need Langford to stuff the run in the middle as Hayes is also capable of that.
The other possibility is that Miami did not want to be liable for having to pay Langford's contract as guaranteed; if they hadn't released him now, they would have been forced to have his salary against the cap no matter what the team did afterwards. Now, the Dolphins could potentially bring him right back come Week 1, and still have the flexibility to release him again later with no penalty attached.
27. Long snapper Lucas Gravelle
This comes as a surprise to no one, but the Miami Dolphins have once again opted to not release their longtime long snapper John Denney, who has been with the team since 2005, and have instead opted to release undrafted rookie Lucas Gravelle.
There really is not much to say about this, other than that Denney is now considered a cult legend in Miami for his longevity with the team, and for anyone to unseat him before Miami simply decides to not extend him or he retires is extremely unlikely. Denney will be here until he decides he doesn't want to be.
28. Defensive end Cameron Malveaux
With the release of Cameron Malveaux, the Miami Dolphins make their intentions clear that they will keep only nine defensive linemen on the roster. The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reports that the Dolphins want him back on the practice squad, but given Malveaux's ability to rush the passer, it seems unlikely that he will survive the waiver wire.
The soon to be 24-year old Malveaux was originally brought on to the team as an undrafted free agent out of Houston back in 2017, and he immediately began making his mark as a pass rusher in practices, showing an excellent burst off the snap and the potential for so much more, making five tackles and a sack in the four games he was active in his rookie year.
During the preseason this year, Malveaux had more competition but still applied pressure, getting three tackles, two QB hits and a pass deflection at the line of scrimmage. If by some miracle Malveaux is not claimed, Miami will no doubt add him to the practice squad.
29. Running back Brandon Radcliff
Another hard runner has been released, as the Dolphins move on from Brandon Radcliff, who was originally brought on back on November 29, 2017. Radcliff bounced around as an undrafted free agent from the Colts to the Titans before finding a home on Miami's practice squad.
Radcliff came on strong at the start of training camp but then started to fall off as the preseason progressed, falling to the bottom of the depth chart. His preseason stats totaled up to 15 carries for 56 yards, and three receptions for 22 yards.
Radcliff may find a home somewhere else eventually, but it won't be with Miami.
30. Wide Receiver Malcolm Lewis
With the release of Malcolm Lewis, the Miami Dolphins now have only five wide receiver on the roster. This means that, more than likely, the Dolphins plan on keeping four running backs and four tight ends...and it's becoming more apparent that they may also be keeping three QBs, though that remains to be seen.
Lewis, like the previously released Scott, is also a Miami Hurricane alumni, and had some moments where he flashed in training camp, while his preseason production was not as impressive, making only four catches for 30 yards.
Lewis is eligible for the practice squad, but so are many of Miami's other released players, and there are only so many slots that can or should be used on one position. Perhaps, however, Miami feels that of the players they released, only the defensive linemen and the receivers are worth retaining. It remains to be seen.
31. Linebacker Quentin Poling
The Miami Dolphins decided to not retain one of their draft picks from this season, and that pick is linebacker Quentin Poling out of Ohio, who was drafted in the seventh round.
Poling came on strong in training camp, making plays in practice several times and moving around from inside to outside on a whim. His preseason performances were also fairly impressive, as he made 12 tackles and a pass deflection in the four games he played.
More than likely, Miami will look to retain him for the practice squad. If things go awry this season, he may find himself getting called up.
32. Quarterback Bryce Petty
In a move that surprises no one, the Miami Dolphins are releasing quarterback Bryce Petty, who was claimed off of waivers from the Jets on May 4 with the likely intention of being a camp arm while Brock Osweiler and David Fales battled it out for the backup job.
Petty is being designated as waived/injured.
Strangely enough, however, out of the three players, it was Petty who looked the best in preseason action, even though it was against third and fourth string talent. Both times Petty got a chance to play in the preseason, he led the team to a touchdown. The first was a six-yard pass to WR Isaiah Ford in the fourth quarter against the Buccaneers, and the second was against the Panthers where he scrambled for 15 yards and scored himself.
Unfortunately, Petty would not get anymore opportunities after that, as he suffered an oblique injury that kept him sidelined for the rest of the preseason, keeping him from making any further cases that he should be in legitimate contention for the backup job. His final stat line sits at 9 completions out of 13 pass attempts for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Petty could land somewhere else after he becomes healthy, and now with new film to show other teams, he could compete for a backup spot on whatever new team signs him.
33. Running back Jeremy Langford
It was only a matter of time before this cut was made. The Miami Dolphins have released veteran running back Jeremy Langford, who was with head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains during their tenure with the Chicago Bears.
Langford struggled with injuries in Chicago, which limited him and opened the door for young phenom Jordan Howard to make an impact. Langford was out of work in 2017 before Gase called him in to try and audition. He never actually got a leg up on anyone and was at the bottom of the chart with Brandon Radcliff.
Maybe someone will look at Langford now that teams know he's healthy, but it seems unlikely that the Dolphins wil bring him back again.
34. Safety Trae Elston
The Dolphins are releasing safety Trae Elston, who was claimed off of waivers by Miami from the Buffalo Bills on December 29th of the 2017 season. Elston was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the New Orleans Saints back in May of 2016, and since then he's bounced from team to team, including the Buccaneers, the Browns, the Bills, the Eagles, and then the Bills again before joining the Dolphins roster.
Elston has some NFL experience, having played one game in 2017 with the Eagles and then playing 13 with Buffalo that same year. That year he racked up a grand total of 19 tackles (only 1 with Philadelphia), and deflected a pass as well as caught an interception, both of which were with Buffalo.
With Miami, Elston was competing with the likes of Walt Aikens and Maurice Smith for a spot in the Dolphins secondary, but he was unable to beat either of them out on special teams, making him expendable. His preseason with Miami saw him rack up a total of four tackles and a pass deflection (which led to a Maurice Smith interception).
35. Center Connor Hilland
Once again, the team intends to go with Ted Larsen and the injured Jake Brendel as their backup centers. Meanwhile, center Connor Hilland, who was competing with the previously released Mike Matthews, has also been let go as the final cuts are made.
Hilland struggled at times in the preseason, and with the veterans already on the roster, it's no surprise that he's been cut. Hilland was a former undrafted free agent out of William and Mary.
36. Offensive tackle Roubbens Joseph
Not much is known about Roubbens Joseph, as he was essentially invisible until fate stepped in and gave him an opportunity to play at right guard during the final preseason game in lieu of an injured Ted Larsen. Now, the former University of Buffalo tackle will have to find a landing spot elsewhere.
With this release, the Miami Dolphins offensive line is set with their starters, and Zach Sterup and Sam Young will be the team's backup tackles during the team's 2018 campaign.
37. Defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman
Yet another promising undrafted free agent is released as the Miami Dolphins part ways with defensive tackle Jamiyus Pittman, and once again the set in stone rotation on the defensive line is solidified further. Pittman was a former standout out of UCF and was a former teammate of well-documented linebacker Shaquem Griffin.
Pittman stood out in training camp and in preseason, making six tackles and a couple of QB hits. He was able to apply pressure up the middle, but it wasn't enough to earn a spot. Expect there to be interest in adding him to the practice squad.
38. Cornerback Taveze Calhoun
The last player to be released is cornerback Taveze Calhoun, who initially went undrafted out of Mississippi State in 2016 and landed with the Chicago Bears before being cut during final roster cuts. He then landed with the New Orleans Saints and stayed there for a year, playing in only one game before being released and then signing a futures contract with the Dolphins.
Calhoun had a few plays in training camp, but Maurice Smith and others still had more to show. In the end, Calhoun only contributed five tackles in preseason. With that, the team's initial 53-man roster is set, and now it's time to keep an eye on the waiver wire.
After struggling to score points in the first three preseason games, the Miami Dolphins suddenly started firing on all cylinders as the backup players put up some good tape for their final audition, defeating the expected playoff-contender Atlanta Falcons 34-7.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the performance by quarterback Brock Osweiler, who is in competing with David Fales for the right to be the backup QB to Ryan Tannehill. For all of the preseason and even back during training camp, Osweiler has struggled mightily, making it seem like Fales was the easy favorite to win the job.
Then Fales began to struggle as well, and Osweiler came on strong in this final preseason game, going 16 for 25 for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Osweiler led the Dolphins to touchdowns on his first two drives of the night; the first one was a 1-yard pass to running back Buddy Howell, then the second touchdown was a run by Kalen Ballage, who played in a game for the first time since suffering a concussion in Week 2 of the preseason against the Carolina Panthers.
Ballage, for his part, also played very well in his return, gaining 25 yards on four carries, and making three catches for a total of 37 yards, again showcasing his dual-threat ability, which is impressive for a player his size (6-foot-2, 237 pounds).
Even more impressive was the fact that Miami was only penalized three times total against the Falcons (as opposed to Atlanta's 10 penalties), which is a major improvement given how many times penalties hindered them in the first three preseason games - particularly with the starting offense.
This is the type of football the Dolphins need to be playing all the time: smart, clean and efficient. It was clear that Miami's toughest opponent throughout the preseason was themselves, defenses struggled to stop the offense until a foolish mistake was made. This time, there were very few foolish mistakes, and the Dolphins scored 34 points, 24 of them in the first quarter with Osweiler.
Even the defense, which has struggled to keep opposing offenses from racking up yards on the ground as well as in the air, managed to put together an impressive performance. Cornerback Torry McTyer, who was initially leading the competition to be the boundary corner opposite Xavien Howard (before Bobby McCain took that role), made an excellent pass breakup which set up an interception by linebacker Stephone Anthony.
Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor continued to dominate, harassing rookie QB Kurt Benkert and making stops against the run, safety Jordan Lucas made an interception, a sack and a tackle for a loss, and pass rusher Cameron Malveaux also had an excellent game, providing pressure and decently setting the edge.
Head coach Adam Gase has a lot of tough decisions to make, there are only so many slots on the practice squad, and the Dolphins are also expected to be active on the waiver wire when the final cuts start. There's no telling who will come out on top after the performances on Thursday.
When your team combines for a total of 343 yards, 26 first downs, and a mere three penalties, it speaks to strong execution across the board. Whoever makes the final 53 may do so only by a hair.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Icing on the cake. That is the best way to describe the fourth and final game of the preseason. Although the Miami Dolphins have failed to secure an exhibition victory in three attempts, there were a few positives to take away from Thursday’s 27-10 loss to Baltimore at Hard Rock Stadium.
The first team offense was finally able to cross the endzone. Early in the first quarter, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who has been accurate with his passes in three football games, connected with offseason acquisition Danny Amendola, on a 16-yard catch and run.
Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake, the former Alabama Crimson Tide, continues to show his mobility from the passing and running game.
“I don’t know. It’s hard for me to look back." he said. "I’m looking forward to the season, so I’m just trying to play every rep 100 percent, make sure I have all of my responsibilities down. It wasn’t perfect just because it’s preseason. You’re trying to iron out the wrinkles, make sure that you get the details down so when the bullets really start flying in the season, you’re ready to go out there and play ball.”
Drake rushed for 32 yards on four carries, to go along with a deep 36-yard reception. Keep in mind, all 32 NFL squads are to be fully set with their 53-man roster by Saturday, September 1 at 4:00.
From a simple perspective, Thursday night’s contest against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium allows players such as Isaiah Ford, David Fales, Brock Osweiler, Rashawn Scott, and others to have a lasting impression, and prove they deserve a roster spot.
Miami opens the 2018 season at home, September 9, versus the Tennessee Titans.
Atlanta, coming off a sluggish 17-6 defeat at the hands of Jacksonville, is in similar water to Miami: unable to secure a win in preseason. However, for coach Dan Quinn and staff, that is not the main goal heading into their opener Thursday night, September 6, against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Quinn, along with Adam Gase, is seeking productivity from guys fighting for a job on their particular football team. Quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Devonta Freeman, and wide-receiver Julio Jones are just some of the names to expect on the Opening Day roster. Calvin Ridley, the former Alabama product and Broward County native, currently sits third among the WR depth chart.
Ridley trails Jones and Mohamed Sanu. In 2017, these two opponents squared off in a much different scenario during the preseason and regular season. The Dolphins were led by eye-itching and turnover-prone Jay Cutler, Jarvis Landry, who was dealt to Cleveland, and Ndamukong Suh, who was shipped to the LA Rams.
At the conclusion of the game, Dolphins fans will have a complete understanding of who will be on this football team, and who will become unemployed.
This story was written by Brandon Liguori. Follow him on Twitter: @BLiguoriSports
When the Miami Dolphins released All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh for salary cap reasons, everyone looked at Jordan Phillips and second-year player Davon Godchaux to pick up the slack and make up for the loss of an elite talent.
But as the preseason has worn on, it's becoming clear that those two aren't the only ones capable of making big plays when it counts: Vincent Taylor, who was drafted out of Oklahoma State in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL draft (one round after Godchaux) has also making big plays, even though the amount of chances he's gotten with the starters is fairly small.
"I'm just trying to make a play every chance I get, that's what the coach is looking for." Taylor said after the game on Saturday. "I'm just trying to go out there and have fun, and it's paying off for me."
That's a bit of an understatement, as through his first three preseason games, Taylor has accounted for eight total tackle, 1.5 sacks, a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage, and a blocked field goal that he logged against Baltimore.
A feat that he actually managed to do last year as well.
“I had two last year." Taylor said. "I had one against (Justin) Tucker last year and to go out there and get it again. That’s one of my goals, to block the kick. Every chance to get, I just go out there and make it happen. (Davon) Godchaux gave me a good push so shout-out to him.”
Taylor has had a knack for blocking field goals since his days in college, and to see him continuing that trend at the NFL level speaks highly of his potential and room for growth even as he finds ways to contribute.
Needless to say, the plays he's made have not gone unnoticed by head coach Adam Gase.
“As soon as you put pads on, he seems to show up." Gase said on Monday. "He’s the kind of guy that he’s an old-school football player. He does a great job. When it gets physical, I think he enjoys that. He’s got a knack for getting his hands on kicks. There’s a lot of value in that. To me, that’s a turnover for you, because you’re getting great field position, you’re preventing points. That’s something that can help us.”
If this is only the beginning for Taylor, then there's no telling just how good he can eventually be, especially if he's kept fresh in the rotation along with Akeem Spence, Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and potentially Kendall Langford, who also has done well in run support since his arrival.
With the few chances he's gotten, Taylor has shown that he can be a force. The best part? He's only just now starting to convert his ability into instinct, improving from his rookie year to now.
“I think I improved a lot." Taylor said. "I’m not thinking as much as I was last year. I’m just going out there and playing, not thinking as much.”
Once his disruptive play style becomes instinctual, opposing offensive lines better hope they're prepared.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
T.J. McDonald had his fair share of struggles in 2017, even to the point where head coach Adam Gase admitted that the safety situation didn't pan out as well as he had hoped.
But now that he's in his second year in defensive coordinator Matt Burke's scheme, McDonald is coming on strong and is quickly showing himself to be nearly indispensable when defending the run, as he spent a lot of time in the box (near the line of scrimmage) against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, making a lot of stops and even making a key play during a goal line stand in the second quarter that limited Baltimore to a field goal.
"Wherever I'm lined up, I'm gonna make plays," said McDonald. "I definitely am comfortable in the box, comfortable around the action, coming downhill, being in on the play downhill, I'm comfortable with that."
And it certainly showed against the Baltimore Ravens this past Saturday, as during his full half of play time, McDonald made seven tackles, four of them being solo and one of them being for a loss of yards. He also added a pass deflection to his box score during that game.
The 27-year old McDonald was suspended for the first eight weeks of 2017 for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and this led to him being unable to truly participate and get a handle on what he should be doing on the field. But, again, now that he's in his second year and was allowed to fully participate in practices and games, his impact is being felt.
"Just being in the second year in this scheme, understanding what's going on, and just growing with this defense and learning this scheme," McDonald said. "You have to take that next step up and be able to react and take that thinking off and just react and play football the way you know how."
This is where the Miami Dolphins should be taking a good long look at potentially doing what many have been suggesting for the longest time.
Put T.J. McDonald in a hybrid safety/linebacker role and have him play in the box for the majority of his snaps.
McDonald's tenacity and aggressiveness near the line of scrimmage proved itself crucial against the Ravens, and extended play time in that area of the field would greatly shore up a run defense that's been leaky at best and has given up huge runs at worst.
"I think we have to continue to not give up these big explosive runs, it's a big thing for us, we can't give up explosive runs," McDonald said. "We took care of that for the most part, make sure we tackle, swarm as a defense, keep running to the ball ... being on all of our assignments, making sure we're on top of everything. Secondly, just tackling, not missing any tackles."
Tackling has also been an issue in Miami for the longest time, but McDonald has appeared to be one of the exceptions to this issue, always making solid tackles and not letting players sneak past him. This makes him a solid candidate for the hypothetical role that most want to see him in at this point.
It would be a very simple matter to simply have McDonald lined up as a linebacker in the nickel defense, allowing for Reshad Jones and Minkah Fitzpatrick to handle the strong and free safety positions, then Bobby McCain can switch back to the slot corner position, where he is best suited, and then either Cordrea Tankersley or Torry McTyer can take over on the boundary opposite Xavien Howard.
But isn't that why the Dolphins drafted Jerome Baker? Yes, but McDonald is bigger and stronger than Baker, and as previously stated, his value in run support is undeniable at this point.
If Miami wants to shore up the run defense, they should seriously be looking at putting McDonald in a position where he can make more plays than simply putting him and Reshad Jones in the back of the defense when both are better suited as strong safeties.
Rookie DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, however, is very well suited for the free safety position, roaming around the field with range that exceeds both Jones and McDonald in pass coverage, which has been demonstrated in his first three preseason games.
It's time for defensive coordinator Matt Burke to get creative with his personnel and do what the tape has been showing: T.J. McDonald is a crucial key to the Dolphins' run defense in 2018. He needs to have the hard-hitting playmaker thinking inside the box.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
The Dolphins curse that was apparently cast by the Ravens years ago continues to plague the franchise as they were defeated 27-10 during their dress rehearsal game. Thankfully, it was the preseason and not the regular season that this happened.
Nevertheless, the loss displayed some very real struggles that have consistently dogged Miami for the past two seasons, not the least of which was the rush defense, which gave up a total of 223 yards on the ground, including a 65-yard touchdown run by rookie De'Lance Turner in the third quarter.
Rookie phenom QB Lamar Jackson, who is still projected to be a backup barring any sudden injury to starter Joe Flacco, also added some running yards of his own, racking up 39 yards on three attempts, one of which was a read-option touchdown run.
But things weren't all bad for Miami, as the starting offense finally scored a touchdown when QB Ryan Tannehill threw a 16-yard pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola, who caught the short pass, maneuvered around the defense and dove into the endzone for the score.
"It was a big play for us," Amendola said after the game. "Tannehill made a good throw, and it was something we needed. It was a good drive."
Miami followed up that drive by gaining 65 yards with just six plays and 45 seconds for another field goal. The big play of the day (besides the touchdown) came on that drive when Tannehill found running back Kenyan Drake going deep down the left sideline for a gain of 36 yards.
And it was a good thing they had that bounce back, because the offense started extremely flat against the Baltimore defense, which was missing key starters in linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley, as well as safety Eric Weddle. Tannehill bobbled two snaps and penalties once again became a problem before they started getting their rhythm going.
The backups, however, continue to be an issue. This fourth preseason game coming up will tell a lot about who deserves to make the 53 and who doesn't, because if things don't improve in a hurry, then the depth on the roster projects to be a serious problem when the regular season rolls around.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
As the list of the Miami Dolphins inactives comes out, one name in particular stands out above the rest, but because of his name's absence, rather than his name's presence.
Veteran running back Frank Gore, who has been left out of the first two preseason games - presumably for precautionary reasons - will be active and available to play for this third week against the Baltimore Ravens.
It makes sense for head coach Adam Gase to be cautious with the 35-year old running back, saving him for when it really counts would be prudent. However, Gase is aware of Gore's desire to play, and there's a chance the future Hall of Famer might get on the field at last.
“I never said I wasn’t (playing him)." Gase said on Thursday. "I just know he’s played a lot of football. He’s a running back. I don’t know. I’ve seen a lot of veteran running backs go through the entire preseason not playing and go Week 1 and they’re fine. I know Frank wants to get out there and get hit a couple of times and probably get in the stadium and kind of get that first time over with.”
The players who are inactive for Saturday's dress rehearsal are:
The most notable of these is Parker, who is currently nursing a broken finger after having a pass in the endzone in practice broken by up and coming cornerback Xavien Howard. Parker's durability has been an issue since he was drafted back in 2015, and his effort level has been called into question in recent seasons.
While it's unlikely Parker is any danger of not making the roster, him being absent for the dress rehearsal does give the likes of Albert Wilson a lot more spotlight time to showcase what he can do.
QB Bryce Petty was recently sidelined with an oblique injury, and led the last units to a touchdown in both of his appearances. While Brock Osweiler and David Fales continue to battle it out for the backup job, it would have been nice to get a chance to see what Petty can do with perhaps the second-stringers.
Safety Trae Elston, who was claimed off of waivers from the Bills late last season, has been sidelined with a shoulder injury.
Rookie running back Kalen Ballage is still out with a concussion.
Linebacker Mike Hull is out with a knee injury.
Jake Brendel's calf has been a problem since the first day of training camp, and his missing the third preseason game and still unable to practice does not bode well for his chances at this point.
Wide receiver Leonte Carroo has an injury to his groin, and with him fighting for a spot on the roster, his chances are growing increasingly slim as he is no longer practice squad eligible. At this point, it's likely Carroo will be suiting up for another team when the regular season rolls around.
Last but not least, veteran DE William Hayes is out with a hamstring injury, though he has been doing rehab work in recent practices.
"He’s wearing me out right now about playing this week, but we’ll be smart with that." Gase said on Thursday. "That was a pretty severe hamstring (injury) he had. That was one of the longer ones that I’ve been around.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
When former Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi came onto the scene in 2016, fans were no doubt convinced that they'd seen the greatest running game in Miami since the prime days of Ricky Williams. His power running style and never-say-die effort with the ball in his hands turned him into one of the top running backs in the league.
And then he was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles halfway through the 2017 season, presumably for his dissatisfaction with how head coach Adam Gase used him.
But rather than falling off a cliff due to the absence of Ajayi, the running game showed signs of potentially reaching an entirely new level with Kenyan Drake finally getting the chance to show what made him a star at Alabama. Drake was fast, he was versatile, and his pass-blocking has steadily improved, making him very well-rounded as well as a dangerous weapon.
But it's the weapon part that has people excited over what Drake can do, and he continued showing his speed and elusiveness in the second preseason game against the Carolina Panthers this past week, taking a handoff in the backfield and dodging a defender before cutting the opposite direction and running for 34 yards instead of losing 5 yards, a play that had even his quarterback thrown for a loop.
"I didn’t even realize he had spun out of it because I had finished my fake, turned around and he’s running off to the other side." Tannehill said on Tuesday. "But after watching it on tape, he should have been tackled for a 3-yard loss and somehow gets out of it and it ends up being a 30-something-yard gain. I think that’s the kind of playmaking he brings to the table. Any play can be a home run.”
In that regard, Drake is very similar to Ajayi; what he lacks in overall power, he makes up with his speed and agility. He also had some maturity concerns leading up to the season, also similar to Ajayi.
The key difference? Drake has seemingly found a way to overcome himself, while his counterpart in Philadelphia still seems to be struggling in that regard.
“Kenyan has grown up a lot." said Ryan Tannehill. "He’s matured and kind of became a pro. I think he’s had a couple of older guys to learn from. He’s doing a great job of being in the right spot on the field and working hard every single day. He’s a talented guy. He’s had that since he got here but I think he’s added all of the off-field stuff and just a complete understanding, and he’s really taken it to the next level.”
Of course, the presence of veteran running back Frank Gore on the team should not be understated; he's a pro's pro, a future Hall of Famer, and even at age 35, he's running as hard as he ever has, practicing like a player ten years younger than he actually is.
That dedication to his craft has had a very positive effect on the young speedster out of Alabama.
“Frank is one of those guys, you just watch what he does. That’s what makes him different." said head coach Adam Gase. "He’s not afraid to say something if he needs to. Kenyan has done a good job of just watching what he does. Frank is such a pro. Just watch him get ready for practice. He’s always out there early. He’s always doing something. It’s hard to keep him off the field in practice."
Gore's effectiveness is sure to be a good change of pace throughout the season, but it's still Drake who is expected to get the majority of the carries for the Miami Dolphins, and already throughout the preseason, Drake has managed to run for 70 yards on just 11 total carries, averaging an impressive 6.4 yards a carry.
And what does Drake envision for himself and the offense in 2018 given all of these factors?
“With the success of our offense and how explosive we are in general, the sky is the limit for myself and a lot of other players that come out here and try to do their best in this offense." Drake said. "Big plays are something … Big explosive plays are something that we pride ourselves on.
"Obviously you got to take what the defense gives you, but in those situations where you make big plays, you have receivers blocking down the field, running backs blocking down the field, o-linemen chasing down the field helping get those big plays. Not one person can do it on their own. Collectively as a group, we strive to have that excellence."
The team has struggled to maintain that excellence throughout the preseason, with penalties and lapses of focus causing the offense to stall just when they really get going; this was showcased on pretty much every drive the starting offense had against the Panthers. So as Week 3 of the preseason approaches, Drake is hoping the Miami offense can finally end their drive with an exclamation point of a touchdown rather than a period of a field goal.
“Well you know, (for) anybody in the league, it’s a dress rehearsal for the third game." Drake said. "So we want to go out there and execute the plays that (Head) Coach (Adam) Gase calls and make sure in the situations that we need to be very productive, which is third downs and in the red zone, that we need to try to pick up a little bit of that slack.
"We (want to) kind of use this game as a dress rehearsal to go into the season and have that type of success that we need to, to get in the end zone. There’s nothing that we need to do out of the ordinary, we just need to execute more and not shoot ourselves in the foot.”
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
Latest Dolphins News