Davis: Dolphins must draft wisely, not focus on one player

The most significant development of the weekend for the Dolphins occurred far from Hard Rock Stadium.

Matter of fact, nothing was gained in the desultory 37-20 loss to the Bills on Sunday, not even in relation to next year’s draft. At 2-8, the Dolphins remain positioned to pick fourth behind the Bengals, Redskins and Giants.

It is pure speculation what that means in the wake of the devastating injury to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagavailoa on Saturday.

#TankForTua has given way to #PrayForTua.

One can only hope that Alabama team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain’s optimistic report following surgery on Tua’s right hip Monday in Houston proves accurate. Cain said in a post-op statement: “Tua’s prognosis is excellent, and we expect him to make a full recovery.”

Whether or not a full recovery equates to Tua being able to perform at the level of his brilliant collegiate career, which ended abruptly on one unfortunate landing, won’t be known for many months.

Dolphins news: DeVante Parker turned back the clock Sunday

And it is immaterial how his health may affect Dolphins draft plans.

As an observer, I am more interested in athletes than teams. The special ones are a treasure. So I’m rooting for Tua foremost — for his sake but also for the hope of seeing his talent blossom in the NFL regardless of what uniform he might wear.

Comeback complicated for Tua

Whether he will get that opportunity remains to be seen.

The comments of Dr. Louis Levitt, in a report by CBS Sports, provide an indication of the complex variables of Tua’s injury — a dislocated hip with a fracture to the posterior wall — and the recovery process he faces. A similar injury ended Bo Jackson’s NFL career.

Levitt, vice president and secretary for The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Washington, D.C., told CBS Sports: “… the perfect scenario, the ball is back in the socket, there are no loose fragments in the socket, it is a single piece of the socket that can easily be put back. He doesn’t get any complications and then, if all the Gods shine down on him, he then can probably get back to playing and retain his professional potential within a year.”

Again, the primary concern is for the well being of a young athlete whose future has been clouded by an injury that is rare even in the violent sport he plays.

As it relates to the Dolphins, it illuminates the folly of trying to tailor the fortunes — or misfortunes — of an entire season with the aim of being in position to draft a particular player.

This most confusing Dolphins season, which had some fans rooting for losses to improve draft position,  has gotten more so.

Already some Dolfans are shifting focus to LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, while others want the team to take a chance on Tua making that full recovery.

All of which is premature and wasted energy. It will be weeks before Tua is permitted to put weight on his surgically repaired hip and months before he can try to attempt football maneuvers. As a junior, he may not even enter the 2020 NFL draft.

Houtz special: Despite injury, Dolphins should draft Tagovailoa

What about Kap?

If you want to speculate, why not throw the name of Colin Kaepernick into the mix? The controversial exile quarterback, showed in a special workout Saturday that he is able as well as eager to get back into the league.

The bottom line is, in stripping down the roster, Dolphins GM Chris Grier has accumulated a load of draft picks, including three first-round choices in 2020.

He will have ample opportunity to address some of their many needs, including a quarterback. And with an estimated $117 million in cap space ahead of next season, there will be flexibility in signing free agents to fill other needs.

The one thing Sunday’s one-sided loss to the Bills underscored was how widespread Miami’s needs are. The Dolphins can’t run (23 yards on 13 carries, ouch!) or stop the run (168 yards, 4.9 per carry allowed). They can’t protect the quarterback (Ryan Fitzpatrick sacked seven times) or muster a pass rush (zero sacks of Josh Allen).

Rather than pinning hopes on one presumed savior QB, it will come down to choices — as it always does.

Thus the concern is not that a couple of wins have taken the Dolphins out of the running for the first overall pick. It is that too often in the past, they have simply made the wrong choices.

Tony Capobianco photo gallery from Dolphins’ loss to the Bills

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

Houtz Special: Despite injury, Dolphins should draft Tagovailoa

Despite a season-ending injury, the Miami Dolphins should still have significant interest in Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa

Tank for Tua

For as long as we can remember, Tank for Tua has been the preferred plan by most Dolphins’ fans.  And truth is, after starting the season 0-7 it was the only thing fans had to look get excited for. But like everything that happens with this team, nothing ever goes according to plan.

So, of course the Dolphins won Tua straight games and looked to be eliminated from the #Tankovailoa sweepstakes.

On one hand, this was a good thing.  Because it showed promise in Brian Flores and the rest of Miami’s coaching staff.  After all, they have done an outstanding job developing players, and have remained competitive despite an XFL-caliber roster.

Unfortunately, winning games means they would miss out on the quarterback they were believed to have their hearts set on.  Sure, there were alternative methods to achieve this goal, but they would be extremely costly. But again, expect the unexpected.

Flash forward to Saturday. With just under four minutes to play in the second quarter of a commanding 35-7 first-half lead over Mississippi State, Tagovaiola landed hard on his right hip. Several reports said he was unable to walk and was heard “screaming in agony”.  Later, we would find out from an team doctor that it was a hip dislocation, which would end his once promising season.

We can all sit here and speculate on who is at fault.

Maybe we can blame Nick Saban for not taking his star QB out sooner.  Perhaps he should have sat him all together, in a game many believed ‘Bama would win handily.

Then again, maybe it’s Tua’s fault, for wanting to be a team leader and play – despite the ankle injury – and prove to the world he is that damn good.

Nevertheless, hindsight suggests this mistake was costly.  Not only for Alabama’s playoff aspirations but for Tua, who was expected to enter the 2020 NFL Draft as the potential #1 overall pick.

Now neither is expected to happen.

Where do the Dolphins go from here?

Obviously, the Dolphins still head into the 2020 NFL draft with a war chest of draft picks-and still have aspirations of finding their next franchise QB.  Could they take Oregon’s Justin Herbert? Maybe, Georgia QB Jake Fromm? Perhaps they draft Jordan Love or Jalen Hurts to develop a year, with hopes of being the guy in 2021? Or maybe, they stay the course and draft Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa.

That’s right, folks.

The 2020 QB Class is loaded with plenty of potential talent. But with potential, comes uncertainty. And no one can sit here and honestly say, they know what is going to come of the aforementioned QBs.

So, why not stay the course?  Why not, draft the QB the Dolphins had their eyes on all along?

Many years ago, Miami’s medical staff made the decision to sign Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees, and that decision still haunts this fanbase until this very day. So sure, maybe the Dolphins’ medical staff makes another grave mistake, but at what expense?

Why pass on Tua in a draft where Miami currently has THREE first-round draft picks? In fact, most draft picks are nothing more than a gamble anyway, so why not gamble on one of the most talented players at the most important position in football?

In a strange way, the injury might have actually helped the Dolphins’ chances of landing Tagovailoa. Because prior to the injury, many believed he was a surefire top-5 draft pick. A player that if Miami wants to get, they would need to move heaven and earth to do so.  Now, they can win a few more games in 2020 and select the Alabama QB with the first of their day one draft picks.

Conclusion

According to AL.com, ‘sources’ believe the Alabama QB could be ready to play football in 6-8 months.

Obviously, this is all speculation. But if the report are true, I would have no problem with Miami selecting Tagovailoa with the first of their three first-round draft picks.  Joe Burrow is good but in my opinion, there is no better QB in the 2020 NFL draft than Tua. And if the Dolphins finally  want to get out of the 7-9 hell they have found themselves in since Marino’s retirement, they will take the chance.  Tagovailoa can sit a year and learn behind Fitpatrick or whatever other veteran QB the Dolphins deem fit. But they owe it to themselves, to their loyal fanbase, to draft the best QB in the country.

That QB to me is Tua Tagovailoa.

This article was written by Josh Houtz (@Houtz) and he really, really wants the Dolphins to draft Tua Tagovailoa

WATCH: Dolphins coach Brian Flores calls media on the carpet

Every once in a while, the media receives pushback from those they interview. Reporters in charge of interviewing Bill Belichick and Adam Gase know what that’s like, in different ways. On Thursday, however, a certain member of the Miami Dolphins media got called on the carpet by coach Brian Flores.

And when we say called out, we mean like a middle school student caught whispering to the kid next to him kind of called out. At the end of the press conference, the Sun Sentinel’s Safid Deen laughed at something coach Flores was saying. Flores then cut himself off, turned to Deen, and asked him what he thought was so funny. The exchange can be found at the end of this video.

Clearly, Flores doesn’t find the concept of keeping a cool head to be amusing. What is amusing, admittedly, is listening to Deen try and explain himself. Like he had to explain to the class why he was laughing during the lecture. Unfortunately, the video makes it hard to hear Deen’s response.

Fortunately, the Dolphins transcribed the event as it played out. When asked to explain why he thought it was funny, Deen said this:

“I don’t know. We asked about Shaq Calhoun a couple weeks ago. I mean, we didn’t ask about Shaq Calhoun a couple weeks ago – he came up unsolicited – so it’s nice to hear you want your players to kind of keep an even head about everything.”

The incident in question happened a few weeks ago, when Flores made rookie Shaq Calhoun inactive in response to what Flores called the ‘rookie wall.’ Clearly, Brian Flores didn’t think it was worth laughing over.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

Dolphins Rebuild Still on Schedule Despite Win Streak.

This win streak has Miami Dolphin fans feeling some kind of way.  All of the emotions were on display this past Sunday as I took an unfortunate stroll through Twitter.  That win against the Indianapolis Colts essentially ended the pursuit for Alabama signal caller Tua Tagovailoa in the eyes of many Dolphin fans.

First of all, that is not true.  Circumstances are conspiring to give Miami another shot at Tua Tagovailoa.  Joe Burrow has the hype train rolling and took a giant step toward the Heisman Trophy, and an extended post season with his win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  It is conceivable that Joe Burrow is QB1 and Tua drops right into Miami’s lap.  On the information side of this, after consulting with a league source, the “thinking” in league circles is that Tua Tagovailoa has nowhere near a consensus among NFL front offices as QB1 and this source speculates that “maybe” half of NFL teams view him as the best Quarterback in this class.

There are two silver linings to this resurgence.  The first is that Brian Flores is somehow finding NFL wins with a team that is sporting several units that belong in the XFL.  The second is that the base of players they will add to this offseason is growing, ever so slightly, but growing nonetheless.

 

So let me offer some optimism.  The 2018 Oakland Raiders were 4-12, having made over parts of the team under John Gruden’s first year as coach.  Not much of it took and a quick reboot was in order.  Trades of top performers, Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper made their immediate direction rather clear. (Is this starting to sound familiar?)  The Raiders then took to the 2019 offseason with 3 first round picks and massive amounts of cap space (sound really familiar now?).  After adding 27 new players and 14 new starters through free agency and the draft, the Raiders are not only a playoff contender, they also play an exciting brand of Football, just in time for their move to Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Dolphins will need to duplicate some of that success to achieve the same thing (competency and contention).

So let’s evaluate what’s in the cupboard before this offseason. A quarterback will be drafted in the first round, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is the perfect backup/mentor for that draft pick.  I believe the Josh Rosen experiment is near over.  The running backs group needs a headliner, but the rest of the group is pedestrian and could use a look or two.  The tight ends are developing with Mike Gesicki taking a big leap this year, and the wide receivers unit is near complete.  The offensive line is a considerable mess and deserves a complete overhaul with maybe one holdover (Jesse Davis).

On defense is where the most work is needed.  The secondary is a barren landscape, populated with journeymen, street free agents, one super star and one fading performer (Bobby McCain).  In recent weeks, Coach Brian Flores and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham have managed to get above average play out of Eric Rowe as a Free Safety,  Nik Needham in a series of roles, Jomal Wiltz as a slot guy, and Ken Crawley as a boundary corner.

If this coaching staff is now demonstrating that odd skill of squeezing every ounce of detailed, smart play they can get from a non-descript no-name group like the New England Patriots often do, then they have really found something.

The linebackers are a near complete unit with Raekwon McMillan emerging as one of the best interior backers in the NFL, Jerome Baker paying dividends on his promise, and Vince Biegel coming off the edge effectively.  The Defensive line is a group of players that recognize and play their roles well.  The defensive tackles might be a strength with Cristian Wilkins coming on strong and Davon Godchaux having another steady season.

 

 

 

 

One door closes (Tua, but not really) and another opens.  What once looked like a daunting task, has a more defined mission.  All the while we were thinking that 0-16 or 1-15 was necessary to obtain the QB of your choice, circumstances have changed to demonstrate that the work load, while large, is not overwhelming or insurmountable.


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

Player development key to Manny Diaz tenure in Miami

The Miami Hurricanes are coming off a high after two straight impressive road wins at Pittsburgh and Florida State. They have already impressed before when they defeated ranked Virginia but that came before the Georgia Tech loss.

“We’d be very foolish, given some of our past performances, to think we’ve got everything figured out,” Miami head coach Manny Diaz said during his weekly press conference on Monday. “We know hard work and attention to detail give us a chance to win.”

The defense took a hit after safely Bubba Bolden’s injury removed him from the remainder of the season. He intercepted a pass in Miami’s 27-10 win against Florida State and fellow safety Gurvan Hall leaped in celebration and crashed into him, causing him to landed awkwardly and suffer an apparent ankle injury.

“Unfortunately, he’ll be out for the season, which is tough on our defense because he was really, really starting to play at a very high level,” Diaz said. “We’ll have to do what we always do. We’ll rely on the depth we have at the safety position and move on.”

Part of that depth includes veteran safety Rob Knowles, who has already played a vital role to the defense. Diaz considered the senior safety as “a testament to player development.” 

“Rob Knowles is so important to our football team,” Diaz said. “I don’t know where we’d be without him. I don’t know how many wins we’d have without him.”

Player development has been the theme of the press conference, something that may seem like a lost art in college football when players who are recruited to be starters lose their time and transfer somewhere else in search of that opportunity. 

He’s the guy right now in college football that’s not sticking and staying,” Diaz said. “He’s the guy that doesn’t look player development in the eye that wants to leave and wants to go someplace else because of the assumption that it will be easier somewhere else.”

Diaz said Knowles is more athletic that he’s ever been and other players have followed suit. To him, recruiting is half the battle, development is the more crucial half.

“Not all players walk on to campus ready to play from Day 1,” Diaz said, “but it’s our jobs as coaches to get them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.

Another example is redshirt freshman defensive end Greg Rousseau, who won ACC defensive lineman of the week after posting a career-high four sacks, a career-high five tackles for loss and a career-high eight tackles against Florida State.

“Greg’s a guy that didn’t know a whole lot about playing defensive end when he came here,” Diaz said. “And obviously he had to spend some time being hurt, so getting a guy like that to transform his body. The way he looks now is not the way he looked when he was dropped off on our campus 18 months ago.”

Junior running back DeeJay Dallas rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown along with 44 receiving yards against Florida State. Surprisingly enough, being Miami’s featured back wasn’t the original plan when he came to campus. He was a high school quarterback when he committed to Miami.

“You always try to find ways to get these guys to maximize their potential and thats one of the things we take as much pride on as a coach,” Diaz said. “Coaches a lot of times like to beat their chest about this one was a first rounder, this guy was a first rounder. Sometimes getting that guy that became an undrafted free agent that was not gonna be that, one of the most awesome stories in the last three-four years was Adrian Colbert. He’s still in the National Football League and was left basically out of football at Texas and came here and had a great 2016. As coaches you just love advancing those guys, just getting them to be the best they can be, whatever’s out there for them. That’s as much of a success story as a guy that becomes a first rounder.”

The Hurricanes will be closing out the home slate of the season on Saturday with a Louisville team that is coming out of a bye week. It will be both their homecoming and senior day.

“We play a very dangerous Louisville team that had a week off to do nothing but think about the Miami Hurricanes,” Diaz said.