Houtz Special: Dolphins should ‘stay the course’ with Tua Tagovailoa

Last night, the Cleveland Browns defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 35-30 in an exciting primetime game.

This game had everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING.

Odell Beckham Jr. made big plays. Cleveland utilized their two-headed monster in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. And we got a preview of Baker Mayfield vs Joe Burrow. We also got this.

(P.S I miss you Jarvis Landry. #LandryGangGang)

Dolphins can learn a lot from Joe Burrow; Bengals

It was a good night of football.

But my biggest takeaway from this game–besides realizing how foolish it was to sit Kareem Hunt this week for broken Miles Sanders–was that the Dolphins need to stay the course with their young signal-caller.

Because yes, Joe Burrow looked impressive as hell completing a rookie record 37 passes on 61 attempts.

But he also got his ass-kicked, enduring 17 punishing hits throughout the three-hour slugfest.

After the game, Burrow said he was fine. But as we’ve seen first hand in Miami over the years, this type of abuse is not sustainable.

Furthermore, making Burrow throw the ball 61 times is not something we thought we’d see on this day. And behind indubitably the worst offensive line in football, this isn’t exactly a recipe for success.

Now, I know what the first thing is you’re going to say:

bUt MiAmI’S oFfEnSivE LiNe Is BetTeR tHAn CiNcInAtTi’s

Yes, this is true.

But it is also true that Miami has only played ONE game.

Offensively, the Dolphins line played solid. And if younger players like Solomon Kindley, Austin Jackson, and Robert Hunt continue to step up; and the veterans build continuity, there’s no reason why this offensive line can’t rank middle of the pack–at worst.

So, yes I concur that Miami’s offensive line is superior. It’s hard not to be.

Fitzmagic or Fitztragic?

Then there’s also this older, bearded guy on the roster named Ryan Fitzpatrick– whom is playing in his 16th NFL season. Not only did he lead the Dolphins to five wins in 2019 but he’s again reunited with 68-year-old Chan Gailey. Whose offense in week one, admittedly, looked like it hasn’t aged in a few decades. And in their first time together since 2016, there were plenty of kinks to work out.

On Sunday, Fitzpatrick looked much more like his alter-ego FitzTragic–throwing three interceptions in a losing effort. But in 2020, the leash for Fitzpatrick could be longer than a season ago– as Chris Kauffman of 3 Yard’s Per Carry notes in this elegant thread:

And the most important variable–other than health– is how well does the rookie understand Miami’s offense?

After all, we heard all offseason how it’s much more simplified than Chad O’Shea’s from a season ago.

We also know how similar Gailey’s offense is to what Tagovailoa ran in Tuscaloosa.

But in his first taste of the NFL glitz and glamour, Tua did everything asked of him on the sideline. And whether that be communicating with coaches and players, or buckling his chinstrap on every offensive position, The Left Arm of God appeared ready and eager to get out there.

Miami’s starting QB agreed:

“He asked some really good questions. It seemed like he saw the game pretty decent from the sidelines in terms of the stuff that we were talking about and the questions he was asking. It was good. It was a good start just to build on that communication now, just being another set of eyes for me to be able to trust. I thought he did a nice job.”

The Final Yard

Ultimately, it is up to head coach Brian Flores on when he will decide to usher in the new era in Miami.

An era, that many have dreamt about in their heads since the GOAT Dan Marino rode off into the sunset.

And despite all these words I just took an hour to type out, everything could change with another lackluster performance from the veteran Fitzpatrick.

Yes, this is a unique season. But the Dolphins have already been clear that Tua is healthy and able to play. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have sent Josh Rosen packing with a handful of money. Or removed Tagovailoa recently from the team’s injury report.

In the end, no one knows when the Tua Tagovailoa Era will begin in Miami.

But as we saw last season, all it takes is a few costly mistakes and Brian Flores is ready to make a change.

A change that Dolphins fans have desired for most of their life.

 

***********************************************************************

A word from a sponsor of Dolphins content on FiveReasonsSports.com….

Been in an accident? Not sure if you have injuries? In Florida, you have 14 days to be evaluated for injuries related to an accident otherwise insurance won’t pay for your medical care.

If you were in an accident, don’t wait to get evaluated by a doctor, even if you don’t think the accident was serious. Getting the right care after an accident can save you thousands of dollars in medical bills and prevent future pain and suffering.

If you don’t want to go to the doctor, contact Dr. Chung for a virtual consultation and it will ensure that you can use your auto insurance benefits for your future medical care.

Contact us at 561.246.0044 and get a complimentary consultation when you mention “Josh Houtz” or visit us at Keystone Chiropractic for more information.

 

 

 

THE EXTRA YARD: Week 1 Dolphins Grades

After every Dolphins win or loss, I will provide grades for each unit on the team, including coaching.

QB PLAY
This was a poor effort by Ryan Fitzpatrick. His first of three interceptions was a bad decision compounded by Preston Williams falling down as Stephon Gilmore picked it off. His second interception was the poorest of decisions on this day, as he threw right into a closed window, before his target, (Ford) could clear the zone. His last interception, I chalk up to a P.I. no call and is not his fault. Nonetheless, only two trips to the red zone, and three turnovers gets you a bad grade. Only positives where his command of the huddle, and efficiency in getting his team lined up correctly.-D

RUNNINGBACKS
Myles Gaskins had a productive day with 66 yards on 13 touches, and some good pass pro on tape. Jordan Howard ran out of 12 and 21 personnel, and was given some lead runs, power and inside zone runs that he found no success with. The team looked much better with what Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida were asked to do.-C-

PASS RECEIVERS
DeVante Parker was good while he lasted, as his hamstring injury flared up and he left the game in the first half. Preston Williams was erased for all intents and purposes by several patriots, but mostly by Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson. Isaiah Ford was a non-factor. Jakeem Grant showed some promise, and did pop open for a big one (Fitzpatrick didn’t see it) in the 3rd quarter, and he was the lonely bright spot on the unit. Mike Gesicki had 5 targets and probably should have drawn two pass interference penalties.-D

 

OFFENSIVE LINE
Some good on this unit. If I told you Austin Jackson played a clean game against a Bill Belichick led defense, that was actively throwing the kitchen sink at him, what grade would you give? The other rookie Solomon Kindley had some moment sin inside zone, and stood up pretty well in pass pro. Pass protection was not an issue. Running out of 12 and 21 personnel was. Flowers had a costly penalty that stifled a drive, and Kindley blew a counter play, but the main issues came when trying to hit their double teams on lead runs, as there was a lot of whiffing going on. You subtract their lead iso plays, and everything they ran out of 12/21 personnel, you get a very different story, but you can’t do that. Run Blocking hurts the grade.-C+

 

DEFENSIVE LINE
Christian Wilkins was very good, and active as he shot the B gap consistently all day. The rest if the DT’s sprinkled in moments, with Raekwon Davis noticeably over-running assignments and having his aggressiveness used against him. Ogbah and Lawson were terrible setting the edge, and consistently mis-played Cam Newton’s zone read runs. These guys are much better than what they showed. Other than quarterback, this was the unit deserving the most blame for the loss.-D+

 

LINEBACKERS
Jerome Baker was everywhere. 16 tackles, 1 sack. Kyle Van Noy was the only guy that had a beat on Cam’s zone read, but nonetheless missed a couple of consequential tackles. The group had 4 TFL’s, and each and every one was from smart/good effort. The problem comes when the statistics against you don’t match up with the actual play. The unit didn’t play bad, but they weren’t part of any solutions on this day.-C+

 

SECONDARY
Uneventful. The Patriots really didn’t try to threaten the secondary, as they had much success on the ground. Rookie Brandon Jones was noticeable, as he had a flashy debut. Xavien Howard played limited snaps, Noah Igbinoghene impressed in spurts, and Bobby McCain was not asked to do too much as the secondary was mostly in run support all day, or reacting to play action, as the Patriots ran, or used play action on 83% of their plays.-B+

 

SPECIAL TEAMS
Matt Haack was very good with a 50.7 yard average (no return yards), and Jason Sanders made his only opportunity from 46 yards away. There was no kickoff coverage.– A

 

COACHING
Not good. Late to adjust to the zone read. DC Josh Boyer kept on calling run stunts, when Josh McDaniels ran outside zone, and then called stack, when Josh McDaniels ran inside zone. It was as if Josh McDaniels knew what Boyer was calling on each and every play. Masterful play calling performance by McDaniels. Chan Gailey seemed to abandon his lead iso/12/21personnel packages when they saw no success in the first half. Can only get better from here.-D


Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that produces the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins says the Dolphins need to come together as a team after loss in opener.

Pressure Point: Dolphins have much to fix after sobering loss in opener

First thought on the Miami Dolphins’ season-opening loss at New England, you’ve just got to tip your hat to Bill Belichick.

The Patriots coach let the GOAT quarterback walk, shrugged off eight players opting out of the season and he simply schooled former pupil Brian Flores’ team all day long in a 21-11 clinic Sunday at an empty Gillette Stadium.

The Dolphins gave themselves a chance with a big-time strip of N’Keal Harry by linebacker Jerome Baker to force a turnover at the Miami goal line, followed by an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 14-11 in the fourth quarter.

That was the high-water mark for Miami. Cam Newton and the Patriots offense then asserted their will as they did all day with a 75-yard scoring drive of their own.

Brian Flores the man of the moment for Miami Dolphins this season.

Any hope of another Miami Miracle was stifled when Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third interception of the day put the cap on a sobering opener.

So, Belichick moves a win closer to Don Shula’s all-time record, now 42 behind with 305. And the Dolphins move another game closer to Tua time.

That won’t come at next week’s home opener against Buffalo. Nor should it.

Fitzpatrick’s 3 interceptions crippling

But Fitzpatrick’s 44.6 passer rating with no touchdowns and three picks wasn’t up to the standard he exhibited in leading the Dolphins to five wins over the final nine games last season.

“I would say their secondary played better than I did today,” Fitzpatrick said.

That couldn’t be blamed on lack of protection. The rebuild offensive line, with four new starters including rookies Austin Jackson (left tackle) and Solomon Kindley (right guard) was arguably the most encouraging aspect of the Dolphins performance.

There was one sack on the final drive. But Fitzpatrick wasn’t running for his life as was often the case for Miami quarterbacks last season.

“I didn’t really get touched a whole lot back there,” Fitzpatrick said. “Just in terms of their mood and mentality and the way they were in the huddle, I thought that was all really good to see. Definitely a different vibe out there with no fans, but those guys were into it, and from what I can tell I thought they did a nice job.”

The line’s performance on run blocking left room for improvement, with a 3.2-yard average and 87 total yards.

The Dolphins did get unexpected production from second-year back Myles Gaskin, with 40 rushing yards on nine carries as well as four receptions for 26 yards. Veteran offseason acquisition Jordan Howard contributed only seven yards on eight carries in a forgettable Dolphins debut.

Parker injured again

Miami receivers had trouble getting open against the Patriots secondary, aside from DeVante Parker, who had four catches for 47 yards. But the Parker injury factor reared again when he left in the second half with a hamstring strain.

A bad hammy in Week 1 with a notoriously brittle No. 1 receiver doesn’t bode well for the weeks ahead.

On the topic of bad, there was the cringe-worthy showing of the defense, which seemed befuddled and unprepared to deal with quarterback Cam Newton’s running and sleight of hand on the read-option.

Dolphins defenders were reacting a step late rather that anticipating all day.

In addition to Newton rushing for a game-high 75 yards on 15 carries, including two touchdowns, other Patriots runners sliced through the Dolphins with alarming ease on the way to 217 total yards, averaging 5.2 a try.

Dolphins frustration was evident in a testy encounter with Newton after the game.

As much as the Dolphins concentrated on beefing up the defensive front and linebacker corps with draft picks and signings, the Patriots were still superior up front. That’s been a New England staple, and the Dolphins haven’t closed the gap.

Another running QB next week

At one point Flores could be seen chewing out his defensive unit on the sideline. They are certain to hear a lot more this week as they prepare for another running quarterback, the Bills’ Josh Allen.

“We’ve got to do a better job of run defense,” Flores said. “I’m not going to make any excuses on whether we had preseason games or didn’t — they didn’t have any preseason games either. All things we can improve on. We can improve the tackling, we can improve the run defense.”

Baker had an interesting day, good and some bad. In addition to the forced-fumble on Harry, the third-year linebacker had a sack and was credited with 16 tackles, but also committed two major penalties. Rookie safety Brandon Jones had 10 tackles but was called for a roughing-the-passer penalty that was questionable.

This Miami Dolphins season is about more than football

Christian Wilkins continued to emerge as a force on the defensive line. He had a sack, two tackles for loss and batted down two passes at the line.

But none of that added up to an effective answer to former MVP Newton in his first game as successor to Tom Brady in New England.

“Cam is still Cam, former MVP,” Wilkins said. “We definitely respected his talent on the field. … Today we got a little sloppy, we got a little undisciplined. Also, we’ve got to come together and play better defense.”

And, oh, my, how Belichick and his coordinators coached rings around Flores and Co.

“We’ve got to do a better job as a team. We didn’t do enough to win today,” Flores said.

Not even close.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Five Reasons to Like the Canes Win Over UAB

In a workman like effort, the Canes beat UAB 31-14 on Thursday Night. Here are 5 Reasons to like Miami’s performance in the season opener.

  1. The Canes Won. Look, normally a win over UAB is nothing to thump your chest over. But UAB is one of the better teams in Conference USA and Miami did lose to a Conference USA team last year. Also, looking around college football, both Iowa State and Kansas State stubbed their toes and teams overall did not look good (with some exceptions like Clemson), so the Canes winning by 17 is a good thing. Perhaps more than anything else, Miami was able to take a bit of a punch, and when threatened at 17-14, the Canes responded with consecutive TDs to put the game away. That wasn’t happening last year, even in wins (see Central Michigan).
  2. The 4-Headed Monster at RB. Miami ran the ball, and then ran the ball, and then ran the ball some more. THREE THIRTY SEVEN ON THE GROUND. While we all would have liked to have seen more out of the passing game, the Canes displayed depth and dynamism in multiple facets of the run game. Miami had 4 runners go over 50 yards and average over 6 yards per carry. Cam’Ron Harris lead the way, but D’Eriq King, Jaylan Knighton, and Donald Chaney, Jr. all contributed, all showed explosion, and you can easily see this being a challenge for future opponents to defend.
  3. The Defensive Line. Quincy Roche, Nesta Jade Silvera, Jonathan Ford, and Jaelan Phillips looked like they had been playing together for years. The stats don’t necessarily jump out with one sack. But they spent a majority of the game in the backfield while maintaining discipline. Any one can charge up the field against an inferior opponent and look good. What we saw was some really good, consistent defensive line play.
  4. The Kicking Game. It’s no secret that the Canes’ struggled on FGs and Extra Points last year. They addressed it in the offseason by bringing in transfer Jose Borregales. So far, so good. He kicked 5 times (4 extra points and a FG) and all were right down the middle. Granted, you’d expect any scholarship kicker to be able to make these kicks, but at least for a week, the kicks were never in doubt. And looking around the country, the Canes are one of the few teams that could at least be comfortable with “easy” FGs.
  5. D’Eriq King. While we wanted to see more out of the passing game, King did complete 2/3rds of his passes and threw a TD. There were also no “almost” interceptions. There was one bad miss when Jeremiah Payton was open for a TD, but overall, he was solid in the passing game. And the rest of game…unbelievable. 12 carries for 83 yards doesn’t really show how exciting he was escaping pressure, making plays, extending drives, and scoring one TD. He’s going to a problem for all opponents to defend and should allow the entire offense to open up. It’s one thing to have to account for the QB because he can make some plays with his feet. But what the Canes have is a QB that can win games with his feet, and that is a different level.

Vishnu Parasuraman is a contributor for @FiveReasonsSports and generally covers the Miami Hurricanes. You can follow him on twitter @vrp2003

Madden 21: Predicting the Miami Dolphins 2020 season

With Week One’s matchup vs the New England Patriots right around the corner, I simulated the Miami Dolphins 2020 season using Madden 21. 

 

The 2020 NFL season is finally here.

And as we sit here and wait anxiously for kickoff in less than four hours, we’re left wondering, ‘how will the Miami Dolphins look in 2020?

Well, there are three ways to find out.

  1. Wait patiently for 2020 to end.
  2. Hop in a time machine and ruin everything.
  3. Simulate the season using Madden 21.

Since I don’t have the ability to time travel or fast-forward through the year 2020, I’ll decide to boot up my Playstation 4 and simulate the hell out of the 2020 season using Madden 21.

Now, I will admit, this process is far from perfect.

The first time I simulated the Dolphins 2020 season, they finished 1-14-1. Miami’s lone win was against New England in week 1, and the tie came in week two vs. Buffalo. 

This seemed a bit farfetched, so I decided to start over the process. 

Here were the results of my Madden 21 simulation. 

Miami Dolphins 2020 Schedule (Madden 21 Computer Simulation)

  1. @ New England  W 28-17
  2. vs Buffalo  L 10-17
  3. vs Jacksonville L 18-31
  4. @ Seattle L 28-14
  5. at San Francisco L 13-31
  6. @ Denver L 10-17
  7. LAC vs W 35-14
  8. LAR vs L 3-27
  9. @ Arizona L 0-21
  10. New York Jets W 27-24
  11. BYE
  12. @ New York Jets W 20-17
  13. Cincinnati W  20-14 
  14. Kansas City W 21-28
  15. New England L 27-33
  16. @ Las Vegas L 24-30
  17. @ Buffalo W 20-13

Final 2020 season Record 7-9

IN THE HUNT in Madden 21

According to Madden 21, the Miami Dolphins will start the season with an upset victory over the New England Patriots before losing 4 of their next 7 games.

The second half of Miami’s schedule seems easier than the first half, but no one truly knows in 2020.

So, after starting the season 2-6, the Dolphins won 5 of their last 8 games to finish these season 7-9–or In the Hunt.

Unfortunately, Miami must wait another year before getting their feet wet in postseason play.

Here are some of Miami’s projected statistical leaders in 2020.

(P.S Tua Tagovailoa only plays one snap this season)

Passing

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Quarterback. 3,458 yards, 32 touchdowns, 16 interceptions.

Rushing

Jordan Howard, Running back. 162 carries, 842 yards, 8 touchdowns

Receiving

Preston Williams, wide receiver. 72 catches, 987 yards, 9 touchdowns

Sacks

Kyle Van Noy, EDGE. 12 sacks

Interceptions

Byron Jones, Cornerback. 8 interceptions

Conclusion

In the end, no one knows how the 2020 NFL season will take shape–certainly not an incredibly flawed video game like Madden.

However, 7-9 isn’t too far from where most ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’ believe our beloved Dolphins will finish in 2020. And I tend to agree.

But like I’ve continued to preach all offseason long, the 2020 NFL season is just an appetizer.

2021 is when Brian Flores, Tua Tagovailoa, and the Miami Dolphins show the world, competitive football is back in South Florida.

 

A word from a sponsor of Dolphins content on FiveReasonsSports.com….

Been in an accident? Not sure if you have injuries? In Florida, you have 14 days to be evaluated for injuries related to an accident otherwise insurance won’t pay for your medical care.

If you were in an accident, don’t wait to get evaluated by a doctor, even if you don’t think the accident was serious. Getting the right care after an accident can save you thousands of dollars in medical bills and prevent future pain and suffering.

If you don’t want to go to the doctor, contact Dr. Chung for a virtual consultation and it will ensure that you can use your auto insurance benefits for your future medical care.

Contact us at 561.246.0044 and get a complimentary consultation when you mention “Josh Houtz” or visit us at Keystone Chiropractic for more information.

College football is not the same without fans

In an episode of “Batman The Animated Series,” in which the hero was perceived to be out of the picture, the Joker tried to take advantage of the caped crusader’s absence by robbing a jewelry store. At the end, the Joker lets out a deep sigh with a long face and says, “Without the Batman, crime has no punchline.”

The 2020 college football season feels the same way. Saturday’s game between the South Florida Bulls and the Citadel Bulldogs was the first game this year with zero spectators in attendance.

Without fans, college football has no soul. What’s the meaning of an upset without the sight of the distraught home fans covered in body paint putting their hands over their head in disbelief?

A full stadium is the ultimate stage in sports, but this game looked like a dress rehearsal. Especially when considering The Citadel uniforms. The Bulldogs took the field wearing a plain white helmet with two blue stripes on top and no logo, a blank white jersey with just blue numbers in standard font, no name or stripe, and grey pants. They looked like the generic football team in the commercials.

Matchups between FBS and FCS teams are usually the dress rehearsal of the season but that never stopped fans crowding the perimeter of the stadium, tailgating, celebrating the return of football in their town.

There was none of that in Tampa. While Florida State and Miami opened their season with a small number of fans at the games, USF elected to not allow anyone but media and staff into the stadium for their season opener, waiting until their conference slate in October before allowing a small number of spectators.

First year USF head coach Jeff Scott, who previously spent the last five years as Clemson’s offensive coordinator, found it to be fitting.

“We’re starting over,” Scott said. “This is a new era. This is starting a new decade. We’re gonna start in front of no fans and then hopefully we get back in October and start building it. It goes to 15,000 fans and if the guys truly buy into what we’re doing, I have a vision we’ll fill this stadium up in the future whenever we’re allowed to.”

USF defeated The Citadel 27-6 with relative ease. The Bulls players seemed to not even need the energy normally supplied by fans in attendance. They did that themselves through cheering and dancing.

“I really don’t care too much about fans,” USF receiver DeVontres Odoms-Dukes said. I was more focused on catching this touchdown pass, helping the team win and celebrating with my teammates. Those are my fans.”

Dukes also said that having fans cheer the team on will be helpful and is indeed missed but the sentiment has long been there. Players have always been so isolated from college student body and the locals that it creates a sense of separation. The players are taught to believe that they only have themselves and everyone else is either the enemy or irrelevant bystanders. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exasperated that.

The corona virus ravaged the United States and the rest of the world. It has caused fear and division among us. Like a post-apocalyptic Dr. Seuss world where we are divided up between the sneetches with stars and without, but the stars are replaced with masks in this reality. Everybody should wear a mask, but nobody wants to. To wear one is for protection, but it is also an annoyance, especially if you wear glasses.

A week will not go by where instead of scrolling on Twitter every Saturday for college football jokes, you’ll end up with video clips of people bunched together and the fear mongering that will come with it.

The PAC-12 and Big-10 have decided to postpone their football season to the fall, although the ladder is reconsidering due to public backlash. The other conferences are going out as planned but with a small number of allowed fans spread out around the stadium.

It is a noble attempt but it’s just not the same. Without the normally sold out crowds, college football is nothing more than a television product suitable to long distant fans and those looking to make a quick buck based on an accurate prediction.

Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores has a much more talented roster to work with in his second season.

Pressure Point: Brian Flores man of the moment for Dolphins

South Florida sports are suddenly rife with intriguing personalities. Would-be difference-makers. Most are young with dynamic potential.

Some already recognizable by a single name.

For the Miami Heat, bound for the Eastern Conference finals, there’s Jimmy (Butler, the veteran exception, spearheading this run in his first season in Miami), Bam (Adebayo), (Tyler, we didn’t have to wait for another) Herro.

The playoff-contending Miami Marlins: Sixto (Sanchez, the new Jose), Sandy (Alcantara), Jazz (Sweet and Sour Patch Kids Chisholm).

The retooled Miami Hurricanes: Flashy new quarterback D’Eriq King — by either name, a winning ring.

Finally, the Miami Dolphins, entering Sunday’s season opener: shortest, most recognizable and carrying the grandest expectations — Tua.

But the pivotal character in this certain-to-be most unusual Dolphins season isn’t Tua Tagovailoa immediately emerging as the team’s first star quarterback since Dan Marino retired two decades ago, though it would be a welcome development.

The Extra Yard: Projecting 2020 Miami Dolphins season

Flores most important Dolphin

Coach Brian Flores is the Man of the Moment for Miami in 2020 — the man on the spot.

Will Flores be the first to cast an enduring name as Dolphins coach since Shula? Or will he come and go in the blink of a Gase?

However it plays out, Flores is a fascinating figure — a man of action, a man of principle, a man of the times.

For now, might as well call him “Sir” and get out of his way. Because Flores is coming straight at you and not yielding.

Flores has been outspoken about racial inequality in the country and relates it to his experience growing up as a Black man of Honduran descent in Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the roughest parts of New York City.

He was fully involved in the powerful video Dolphins players released Thursday, featuring verse about racial issues and explanation of why the team intends to remain in the locker room before Sunday’s game at New England during the playing of the national anthem and the Black anthem “Lift Every Voice And Sing.”

This Miami Dolphins season not just about football

He is similarly principled in his approach to running a football team. Ultimately, that’s how he will be judged here.

This second season at the helm should start to tell about the direction of the rebuilding collaboration between Flores and general manager Chris Grier.

Still finding way as head coach

But make no mistake, this is Flores’ team. Through an extensive roster makeover since he was hired in 2019, the coach has gotten the type of players he wants to mold under his philosophy. Those who haven’t fit or bucked the program have quickly been shown the door.

Those have included accomplished talent such as Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kiko Alonso and Kenny Stills.

Some of Flores’ methods have been eyebrow-raising, such as the practice-field stream of Jay-Z songs to get under Stills skin and motivate him. It didn’t go over well, and Stills was traded soon after.

It also remains to be seen how Flores’ in-your-face, no-nonsense approach will endear him in the locker room over the long haul.

“I coach guys hard. I’m demanding. I’m still that way and I’m going to be that way,” Flores said this week.

It should be noted, though, that he has made an effort to get to know his players away from the field and taken an interest in their lives. Also, several veteran free agents who worked under or were well acquainted with Flores on the Patriots elected to sign with the Dolphins this offseason.

Still, he is still finding his way as a head coach. Some decisions have been head-scratching. Certainly, some of the personnel decisions by Flores and Grier have been questionable.

Some questionable moves

They quickly discarded injured fifth-round pick Curtis Weaver, an edge rusher with potential, when they could have kept him for the future.

Oddly, they drafted a long snapper, Blake Ferguson, in the sixth round when they could have taken another promising edge rusher and South Florida product, Jonathan Garvin, a former Miami Hurricane who went in the seventh round and earned a job with the Green Bay Packers after an impressive training camp.

Then there was the failed experiment with quarterback Josh Rosen, who they acquired for a 2019 second-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round pick, only to release him this summer.

An interesting viewpoint on that was presented by Kyle Crabbs of thedraftnetwork.com, who argued that if the Dolphins hadn’t traded for Rosen they probably wouldn’t have been in position to draft Tagovailoa at No. 5 this April.

That is partly predicated on Rosen’s three ill-fated starts. Had Ryan Fitzpatrick been in there instead, particularly for the Washington game in which the veteran nearly completed a remarkable comeback in relief of Rosen, the Dolphins may have finished with at least one more win in 2019. That would have given them the No. 8 pick and Tua would have been out of reach unless they traded up.

Flores’ view: “You don’t hit on every player, on every trade, on every draft pick. Show me a team that’s hit on every one. And I’ll applaud that team.”

We will begin to find out Sunday if Flores/Grier made the right choices in the 2020 draft and free agency.

Rookies earn roles

Draftees Austin Jackson (left tackle) and Solomon Kindley (right guard) are already starters on the offensive line and Robert Hunt is a prime backup at guard and tackle.

On defense, cornerback Noah Igbinoghene and d-linemen Raekwon Davis and Jason Strowbridge are expected to have immediate situational roles.

Versatile receiver Malcolm Perry, a seventh-round pick who was a quarterback at Navy, has gotten favorable reviews. They picked up a similarly intriguing player, Lynn Bowden Jr., in what amounted to a swap with the Raiders for 2017 second-round pick Raekwon McMillan.

No doubt Flores has more talent available in year two. It’s up to him to fit the pieces together and make them work.

Eventually he’ll decide when the time is right to unleash Tua.

Flores earned himself some capital last season by coaxing five wins out of a roster that was stripped down and constantly churned until a team that started 0-7 went 5-4 over the last nine weeks.

Fitting that it begins Sunday in New England, where Flores made his mark as a Super Bowl champion defensive coach and where 2019 ended with a 27-24 Dolphins win that mark the conclusion of Tom Brady’s remarkable run with the Patriots. Remember, the Patriots overran the Dolphins 43-0 in Week 2.

Five things to watch for Dolphins vs. Patriots

Because COVID canceled the preseason, we’ve never known less about a Dolphins team going into the opener.

Maybe some of these Dolphins rookies will make names for themselves in the NFL quicker than Tua. If so, they may help keep Flores’ name relevant in Miami for quite a while.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Dolphins coach Brian Flores drafted the type of players he wants to build around.

Flores, Dolphins once again at the forefront of change

Miami Dolphins’ players released a powerful video Thursday night that showed the type of leadership Brian Flores has instilled in his players.

A New Era in Miami

It has been 584 days since Brian Flores became the 13th head coach in Miami Dolphins’ history. It didn’t take long for everyone to notice a change in South Florida.

Sure, after all the moves and signing this offseason, the new players have fans excited.

But it is Miami’s second-year head coach that should give everyone the most hope, and not just for his schemes and strategy.

Earlier this offseason, I wrote about Brian Flores, his leadership during the George Floyd Protests, and how the NFL should’ve followed his lead. 

So, with the season approaching and the world watching to see how the NFL would handle protests and other social issues.

It was no surprise that once again Brian Flores and his Miami Dolphins were the first to make a statement.

 

13 Dolphins players including head coach Brian Flores appeared in this incredible video created by Kaleb Thornhill, the Dolphins Director of Player Engagement.

 

After the video released, reaction around Twitter spread quickly, as expected.

Most of the feedback was positive. However, as you can expect, there was a small group that had an issue with an NFL franchise not “sticking to sports”.

Flores was asked about his thoughts on the video and the origin behind it.

“It came about because of all of the things that have gone on in the country over – obviously starting with Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I think this has been an ongoing conversation. I think we all know how it came about. It was a player-driven decision that came from a lot of conversations about trying to find a way to voice their opinion. It’s about issues that are important to the players and we decided to move forward with it. They are things that I’m supportive of as well, and that’s why I joined in with them.”

I could not be happier with how Miami’s players and staff have handled this unprecedented season.

There’s an old saying that “not all heroes wear capes.” The same holds true for football players and their helmets and pads.

But in this instance, Coach Flores and his players are heroes.

And like many others have said, I have never been more proud to call myself a Dolphins’ fan — that has everything to do with what this team has begun to embody both on and off the field.

He was then asked if the players had talked to owner Stephen Ross and what they hope to achieve with this call to action.

“I talked to Steve about the video. He was supportive. But it was directed at everyone. I think every individual in this country can do a little bit better. It’s players, it’s coaches, it’s owners, it’s media, it’s everyone. Everyone can do better and that was the message. I think to try to misconstrue the message or take it some other – in a different light – that wasn’t what the message was supposed to be. We can all do better. We all need to do better. What’s happening in this country and really around the world, we need change. And it’s something that we’ve been saying for a long time. The players were – the video speaks for itself from that standpoint; but from a message standpoint, it’s that we can all do better.”

The strongest statement from the Dolphins’ HC on Thursday morning was what he said regarding the NFL’s response to the ‘protest movement’.

“I think we can all do better. That was the message in the video. Nobody is going to put words in my mouth about how I feel about this, that or the other thing. I think the video speaks for itself… We’ve got kids who can’t go to school because there is no WiFi. To me, that’s a major issue because I would have been that kid growing up where I grew up. We can do better. We can find ways to help more people. That’s the message in the video. That’s what it is.”

 

Elandon Roberts, Isaiah Ford, and Mike Gesicki also weighed in on the video and how unified Miami’s roster is.

 

It took 584 days for Brian Flores to reshape the Dolphins into his vision.

We got a long way to go as a society. But if we listen to what Flores and his players preach, change could be imminent.

“We can all do better.”

 

#InBrianFloresWeTrust

 

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D' Eriq King

Miami Hurricanes Take Care of UAB 31-14 to Open Season

The Miami Hurricanes opened the 2020 season with a 31-14 victory over UAB in front of just over 8,000 fans at Hard Rock Stadium.

Finally, at long last, the Miami Hurricanes appear to have found the answer at the most important individual position in sports.

 

The stat line for King doesn’t tell the whole story, as he finished 16-for-24 for just 144 yards and a touchdown through the air. What stood out immediately was his athleticism not only outside the pocket, but also under duress in it.

 

He did miss several throws, including what would have been an easy touchdown to Jeremiah Payton.

His decisiveness when pulling it down is uncanny, and when he is in the open field his ability as a ball carrier shines.

For the night he finished with 12 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown, with a long rush of 31 yards.

King looks like the real deal and will only get better with each passing week.

Miami’s Backfield is Going to be a Problem

Speaking of the running game, the Hurricanes showed right away that their backfield is going to cause a lot of defensive coordinators to lose sleep.

 

Harris was a force to be reckoned with and set the tone for a balanced offensive attack, finishing with 17 carries for 134 yards (7.9 YPC) and two scores.

Here Comes the Rooster

Miami offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee leaned heavily on the running game as the Hurricanes ran the ball 52 times for a staggering 337 yards.

Harris was not alone as Miami’s highly touted freshman tandem of Jaylan Knighton and Don Chaney Jr. combined for 111 yards rushing in their own right.

Knighton and Chaney bring a great change of pace and compliment Harris perfectly, and each should be able to maintain a high level of production when called upon. Miami has a history of great running backs and this group has the talent to leave their mark as well.

The much maligned offensive line for the most part held up against the UAB pass rush and opened huge lanes for the ground game, their continued development will be a big key to the success of the Hurricanes’ offense.

Miami was 7-of-17 on third down for the game which is a welcome sight from an execution standpoint.

Defense Settles in

UAB opened the scoring in the first quarter after a Mark Pope fumble on a punt return set them up in great field position. Tyler Johnston would hit Austin Watkins for a 16-yard touchdown to give the Blazers an early 7-0 lead. Miami immediately answered on a 66-yard scamper to knot the game at seven, and the Hurricanes would force five consecutive punts to close out the first half.

Spencer Brown did have his moments out of the UAB backfield but he was about the only one as UAB managed only 80 rushing yards total, with Brown finishing with 74 yards of that total. The Miami front seven was disruptive all night, finishing with six tackles-for-loss. However the pass rush wasn’t much of a factor as Quincy Roche managed the lone sack in the game for Miami.

DJ Ivey had a rough game and could not find the football on the opening touchdown, and the Hurricanes did not force any turnovers.

We will have to wait another week for the new Turnover Chain.

 

All things being said it was an acceptable performance to start the season considering the circumstances. King and the offense will only get better, and the running back corps can control the game when they get ahead. Lashlee wants to have a balanced attack and the run-pass factor with King will give opposing defenses a lot to ponder.

We didn’t even see the best of the Miami Hurricanes in Week 1, and they will have to have to be better when they visit Louisville next Saturday.

However the floor for this team already seems higher than any team since 2017, while the ceiling could be much greater.

Follow @5ReasonsCanes for exclusive coverage of the Miami Hurricanes all season.

Subscribe to the 5 Rings Canes podcast here.

Feature image credit miamihurricanes.com.

 

THE EXTRA YARD: Projecting the 2020 Miami Dolphins Season

It’s a new year, and after a busy offseason expectations have been re-calibrated. Make no mistake this was a complete roster overhaul right down to jettisoning the “prospective” developmental quarterback Josh Rosen, in favor of a clearer hierarchy with the place holder in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the QB of the future in waiting Tua Tagovailoa ready to take the reigns. A complete overhaul of the run game (which was historically inept), that came with a new 1-2 punch, a slew of interior linemen and two rookie tackles.

Now, we wait for the results.

So let’s examine what the national media thinks. Most seem to see this large influx of talent, via free agency, the draft, and just assume that — combined with the apparent demise of the New England Patriots — the rise of the Miami Dolphins is sure to come.

Others are just sold on Brian Flores, and why not?

The new coach’s roster last year was built to win no more than a game or two, and he won five, and were really close to winning two more (at Jets, home vs. Washington). The main reason the bandwagon has some passengers all of a sudden comes the exodus from Foxboro of the New England Patriots. Gone, is Tom Brady. There is no Gronk. They lost Kyle Van Noy and Ted Karras to division rival Miami. They had a league high eight opt outs, including top performers Marcus Cannon, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and safety Patrick Chung. Make no mistake, this is a weakened Patriots squad, ready for the picking.

So let’s examine this Dolphins team.

You have to start with a philosophy. It seems to have built one, via their offseason acquisitions. They seemed to make a conscience effort to build a girthy and powerful offensive line, as they added an Offensive coordinator (Chan Gailey) that specializes in creating an interior run game based on power running.

They added one of the best one-cut backs in football, in Jordan Howard, and gave him a guy to spell him (Matt Breida), that can hit home runs from anywhere on the field. Solomon Kindley is “Jamie Nails” like, in that you have likely have not seen a man as big as Kindley move like he moves. Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras figure to be a decent double team combination to get their lead iso game going, and Robert Hunt is waiting in the wings, and will likely play a lot as a 6th offensive lineman till he takes over at right tackle. Arrow up on the run game.

How bout when they have to throw it? There is a quiet confidence in that building in Davie, that they might have replaced Laremy Tunsil, with one 1st round pick and banked the rest in the haul they received last offseason. Austin Jackson has been a pleasant surprise. The thinking at the time he was drafted, was that he was likely a developmental guy not ready to contribute. He will start at Left Tackle from day 1, prepared to defend Ryan Fitzpatrick’s blind side.

Regarding Ryan Fitzpatrick, rare is the situation where you can be confident in your aging, competent veteran QB, and know that there is likely an improvement waiting to take over on the bench (Tua). Chris Grier deserves some credit as of late, as well. After some nervous moments looking at this WR corps, Grier actively attempted to replace the opt outs of Albert Wilson/Allen Hurns, with the signing of Antonio Callaway and a trade for Lynn Bowden. The passing game powered by DeVante Parker and Preston Williams figures to be at the very least above league average, and if it’s coupled with a good run game, it should be enough to win more than you lose this season.

This team seems built to win games with defense, as here is where the most talent is concentrated. While depth is always a concern, that is true for every NFL team, except the very few that can boast multiple starter worthy players in their rotations. The Dolphins have that on two units on defense. The Defensive line is deep up front with 2nd year starter, (with a rededicated body) Christian Wilkins, steady producer Davon Godchaux, late season standout Zach Sieler, and promising rookie Raekwon Davis exhibiting that “1st round talent” all summer. On the outside, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah are massive improvements over what they had there last year.

The linebacking group is solid with the intelligent, versatile Kyle Van Noy, an athletic dynamo in Jerome Baker, and physical thumper Elandon Roberts taking the Mike Backer duties. There are capable players behind them in Kamu Grugier-Hill and Andrew Van Ginkel.

The secondary is the strength of this team and boasts the third of what could be a legendary 1st round haul int he 2020 NFL draft. Noah Igbinoghene has the look of a budding star, and we already know that Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are among the very best at the position. Nik Needham was very good last year and figures to take a step forward, as he adds depth to an already deep unit. In Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe, Kavon Frazier, and Brandon Jones, you have the best of all worlds, and a versatile playmaking group at safety. This is one of the best secondaries in the NFL. To complete the squad, the kicking game is in very good hands in Jason Sanders and Matt Haack.

So where are they going this year? How good, how many wins?

I see them as a team that is a “mile wide, but an inch deep.”

The Dolphins, in my estimation lack some depth to supplement that young talent. This will make the 2021 offseason a very important one. You can’t forecast injuries, so assuming health for the squad, the Dolphins should field a competitive, exciting young team this year. Their expectations should be in that 7 to 9 win range, so I will be the optimist, and say they sneak out out of the regular season with 9 wins, and a playoff berth, where I see them losing to the Houston Texans in the first round. Too much is going right for this Fins team, for Coach Flores and company to not take advantage of it.

 

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.