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Did Dolphins coach Brian Flores make the right call?

When intentions are unclear, it’s difficult to assess decisions.

Take, for instance, the choice by Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores to go for two, rather than tie the game, after his team rallied to within 17-16 against the Washington Redskins with just six seconds left in regulation Sunday. And then the actual play that was called, that seemingly had little chance at success.

While it’s clear this season that ownership and front office are fine with lots and lots of losses, the coaches and players don’t have much to gain by deliberate tanking. Flores, in particular, is trying to show he’s a competent NFL coach. So this has always seemed more about the front office giving him little to work with, and then him attempting to instill the proper principles in whatever personnel he’s been provided.

With all of that said, Flores and his staff (especially the coordinators) have made some odd decisions this season, whether regarding the unconventional utilization of players in particular schemes (outside their comfort zones) or curious play calls. Then, of course, there was the matter of star cornerback Xavien Howard being held out Sunday after practicing all week with a sore knee; that had a direct impact on the game. That may have been a call made above Flores. The two-point conversion was a call made by Flores, and hand-picked offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea.

Was it the correct one?

Well, the throw behind the line of scrimmage to Kenyan Drake didn’t work. And the Redskins won. And the Dolphins lost. Which was bad. Or good. Depends on your perspective.

Here are some of the tweets of the moment:

For more

For more about the Dolphins’ loss, which dropped them 0-5 and kept them in prime position for the upcoming NFL draft, check out Craig Davis’ latest column:

Dolphins

Dolphins coaches reevaluating their methods

The Miami Dolphins are 0-4 heading into the bye week. They have been outscored 81-0 in the second half through all four games. Players are growing frustrated with the team’s inability to execute. Now, the entire coaching staff finds themselves questioning how they’re handling things.

“We’re going to go and closely evaluate what we do in all areas of the second half – the approach, the scheme we use, defensively study what they’ve done (against) us in the second half.” Offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said on Tuesday. “I think it’s a combination of factors that we’re really going to look closely at and determine what’s best for us moving forward.”

In all fairness, there are many rookies on this Dolphins coaching staff. Both O’Shea and head coach Brian Flores are first-timers at their respective roles. If Patriots head coach Bill Belichick were in the business of passing on his skills to his subordinates, more of his coaching tree would find success upon leaving New England. Additionally, the talent level on the roster is severely lacking in several areas. The offensive line in particular. When coaches have to add new players through the regular season, success is hard to come by.

“I would say we made a lot of changes to the roster,” Brian Flores said on Monday. “(We were) kind of building the team on the fly in a lot of ways. But we’re not going to make excuses about that. We try to put the guys in the best positions to play well, but at the same time trying to build a team and build some camaraderie and build some communication and build some rapport. I think that’s been a big part of these first four weeks.”

With this in mind, it’s not surprising to see the coaching staff looking to make some changes. Considering their desire to emphasize basics and fundamentals, the lack of execution is troublesome. The number of wide receiver drops is especially alarming. Miami ranks second in the league with eight drops. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have suffered from more with ten. So even how the coaches teach players how to catch is not immune to scrutiny.

“I think that one of the things on catching the football is it’s something that we have as part of our everyday drills.” O’Shea said. “We think that throwing, catching, blocking, tackling are things that we try to work every day, and we’re going to continue to do those, but we’re going to – as a coaching staff – again, we’re evaluating all aspects of our program right now. One of the things we’re evaluating is the teaching progression and what we do on the field and the drills that we have and those things.”

It’s not ideal to hear that the Dolphins coaching staff already feels the need to change how they do things. However, the previous regime displayed the other side of the spectrum. Adam Gase – now with the New York Jets – refuses to change. As a result, his team has also failed to win a game so far.

It’s been said numerous times that 2019 is all about evaluation for the future. Perhaps, it bodes well that the coaches are willing to take an honest look at themselves in the mirror. If they can find a method that works by 2020, then perhaps the rebuild won’t take nearly as long as projected.

“You’re always in the process of self-evaluating and trying to improve.” Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said. “I ask the players to get better every day. I make it a point on myself to get better every day. If I’m never thinking about how I can improve for the next week or the next day, then I think you get complacent, and then when complacency sets in, in this league, you’re not going to be here very long. That’s how I approach it. There’s a bunch of stuff – I don’t feel the need to get into exactly all of the stuff that I know that I need to improve upon, but I’m constantly evaluating myself and trying to figure out how I can become a better coach, a better husband, a better brother, a better son. That’s just how I’m built.”

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

Ross tried to keep Minkah Fitzpatrick

Last night it was announced that the Dolphins would send Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-round pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for a 2020 first-rounder, 2020 fifth, and a 2021 sixth.

The Miami Dolphins have done it again.

In a league where trading, especially top-tier talent, is rare, the Dolphins have moved another player for future draft picks.

The organization did try everything to convince the former Alabama stand-out to remain with the team.

Keep in mind, Fitzpatrick was a fan of Miami’s coaching staff.

However, he wanted to be put in the best situation to succeed, instead of a changing role on a week-to-week basis.

Moving the 2018 first-round pick should mark the end of Miami’s wheeling and dealing of current players. However, if one thing is for certain about the 2019 Miami Dolphins ⁠— anyone is available at the right price.

Minkah Fitzpatrick

Minkah Fitzpatrick seeking trade away from Miami Dolphins

After the rout at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, multiple reports came out that several Dolphins players wanted out. The locker room emptied out almost instantly. Players contacted their agents desperately seeking help to find an escape route. Now, at least one player is confirmed to be part of that group. 2018 first round pick Minkah Fitzpatrick has been granted permission to seek a trade, per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

A Dolphins official informed ESPN’s Cameron Wolfe that while the team is not actively shopping Fitzpatrick, they have not denied his agent, Joel Segal, permission to talk with other teams. So if some teams offers up a king’s ransom like the Dolphins got for Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills, it’s likely Fitzpatrick will be the latest casualty of Miami’s tanking process.

Miami is reportedly looking for a return on their first round investment on Fitzpatrick. Teams seem unwilling to part with such a valuable asset for the former Alabama standout, but stranger things have happened.

Fitzpatrick is highly regarded for his versatility. However, Miami’s desire to use him in multiple roles has been a point of contention for months. Back in August, Fitzpatrick’s mother came out to express her displeasure over her son being misused. Fitzpatrick himself later confirmed he felt the same. He had hoped that a new regime would offer clarification on what his position in the defense was. Instead, things got even cloudier.

As a result of this position juggling, Fitzpatrick has been unable to settle in. His level of play is diminishing as he cannot focus on one thing at a time. He played four different positions against Baltimore, including linebacker. That sort of responsibility is too much to ask of almost anyone, let alone a second-year player.

Potential Consequences

Under these circumstances, it’s hard to imagine the Dolphins’ plan working out. The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson reports that at least one other veteran wants to leave. That player will never admit it publicly, but it’s easy to speculate. Reshad Jones, Kenyan Drake, Albert Wilson, they all have something to offer contenders. Minkah Fitzpatrick is an elite level nickel cornerback. Miami doesn’t want to let him sit there, despite uprooting Bobby McCain from there to supposedly let Fitzpatrick take that role.

No matter which way you slice it, this is a bad look for the Dolphins. This comes just days after players like Davon Godchaux and Jerome Baker took to social media to support “trusting the process,” so to speak.

As of this moment, Fitzpatrick is still scheduled to play against the New England Patriots, in the same role he’s been in so far. If what happened last week happens again, the locker room mutiny could continue to grow out of control. Brian Flores needs to find a solution, and fast.

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

Dolphins trudge off after what may be a season filled with losses. (Tony Capobianco for Five Reasons Sports)

Dolphins players deny talk of tanking

After the Dolphins were annihilated at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, 59-10, it became clear that winning wasn’t something that was going to happen a lot in 2019. Lack of execution. Lack of apparent talent. It’s hard to imagine 2019 being successful in any capacity after a loss like that.

Unless, of course, a team is tanking to secure the #1 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Miami removed almost all of their premier talent in the offseason. They traded Laremy Tunsil for a slew of top draft picks. They released their top preseason pass rusher. No aspect of those moves indicate winning is even a secondary goal for this season. Additionally, coach Brian Flores decided to make the only other tackle besides Jesse Davis who had any experience in the offense inactive on Sunday. One could argue that Isaiah Prince isn’t as good as Julién Davenport or J’Marcus Webb. But when players have to introduce themselves in the huddle, that’s an indicator that it’s best to just go with what little chemistry is there.

Not only that, there are reports circulating that several players on the team want out. In light of that, it’s hard to conclude tanking isn’t the unspoken goal. However, in spite of everything that’s been seen so far, players insist they aren’t trying tanking. Linebacker Jerome Baker took to social media to express his desire to keep fighting, as did DT Davon Godchaux.

Center Daniel Kilgore also spoke of his frustration over the allegations on Monday.

“It’s a terrible thing to say, honestly.” He said. “For you guys to say that and you’re here every day, you see the amount of work that we put in and I think these fans deserve more. I know the game has always treated me well and I would never do that on a personal level, nor will I expect my teammates to do that. It’s aggravating but it’s something that we’ve got to block out. Outside of this building, we’ve got to block those things out.”

LB Raekwon McMillan echoed similar sentiments. “I’m not going out there to put my body on the line, put my future on the line just to lose games. I’m going out there to win, put my best effort out there on film and give my everything for my teammates.”

These questions are expected, and the team answered accordingly. Of course they will deny these things. Publicly admitting they feel their team isn’t trying to win would be disastrous. But it’s easy to imagine that tempers will boil over sooner rather than later if things don’t improve in a hurry. The Dolphins need to play better, and soon. Otherwise, things might get even uglier. For now though, they’re going to accept that the loss happened and try to move past it.

“We’re going to let it sink in. Let that (expletive) hurt.” safety Bobby McCain said. “Let it hurt, let it hurt, because it does. Going out, we gave up 60 points today, essentially. So just going out and coming to work tomorrow. Like I told the guys, we’ve got to come to work tomorrow, put your head down and just work on it. At some point in the game, you have to play for each other and that’s just what it is.”

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

Laremy Tunsil

According to Vegas, losing Tunsil and Stills did not hurt the Miami Dolphins

Tunsil and Stills are gone and some Miami Dolphins fans can’t still believe it.

The Dolphins have continued to be the model of mediocrity for the last 20 years.

They’ve struggled to find success in the playoffs. Yet, have refused to bottom out.

The Dolphins are embracing the tank under first-year coach Brian Flores in 2019. As a result, Vegas had Miami winning 4.5 games in the 2019 season. BetOnline still had a line of 4.5  after trading away left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Robert Duff, on sportsbettingdime.com dove into how this move may impact the Dolphins here.

Duff, whom taught a course on the history of sports at Elder College, highlighted how a mutiny could develop in Miami’s locker room after trading away their cornerstone left tackle. According to Duff, what doesn’t help Miami’s situation is that Brian Flores is starting to look as “cold-hearted” as his previous boss, Bill Belichick.

Flores is quickly losing the faith of a team. Like every team, Miami put plenty of work in the offseason, just to fall to Baltimore by 49 points on opening day.

While the first-year coach has preached that his team is going to be competitive, it isn’t looking that way early in the season. Miami’s struggles are at a point in which players don’t want to suit up for a team that will be dominated on a week-by-week basis.

Per Mike Florio, of ProFootballTalk, members of the Miami Dolphins are reaching out to their agents in hopes to get traded from the team. This could potentially make an already diminished roster even weaker.

Early mutiny in Miami

Things will get worse in Miami before they get better. The Dolphins have only won four-or-less games just twice since 1970. The 2019 roster is looking as bad as the 1-15 team from 2007.

Vegas doesn’t see the Dolphins getting any worse, especially after losing Stills and Tunsil. Keep in mind, they are most certainly not getting any better.

The 4.5 line is looking like a pretty appealing line to bet the under on. Especially for a team that is clearly tanking with their sights on Tua Tagovailoa.

Brian Flores: ‘I’ve got to do a better job of coaching’

MIAMI GARDENS — Brian Flores had spent his whole football life preparing for Sunday – the past 15 years with the most successful organization in the business in New England. He did his part in helping the Patriots win four Super Bowls, including the most recent.

Sunday was his first chance to show that he could take what he’s learned and lead a winner on his own.

Flores’ first regular-season game as head coach couldn’t have gone worse for him and the Dolphins, a 59-10 thrashing by the Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium. Actually, the Ravens could have scored more. The game ended with a kneel-down at the Miami 5.

Still, it was the second-worse loss in Dolphins history.

The surprise wasn’t that Flores’ reign started with a loss in a rebuilding season. It was how poorly the Dolphins performed, how outclassed they were by the Ravens.

And, frankly, how ill-prepared they appeared despite months of meticulous preparation by a demanding and perfectionist coach.

Brian Flores and his Missed on goals

“We talked about playing penalty free. We talked about having a clean operation, alignments, assignments, trying to play turnover free, and we didn’t accomplish any of that. We talked about starting fast. We didn’t accomplish that.

“It starts with coaching. It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching this team. We’ve got to play better. It starts with me. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work we have to do.”

The thoroughness of the beating administered by Baltimore illuminated the ruthlessness of the NFL. Before Ravens coach John Harbaugh took his foot off the Dolphins’ throat on that final play, he had shown no mercy all afternoon.

Harbaugh called a fake punt with his team leading 35-3. It went for 60 yards and led to another score.

Harbaugh went for it on fourth down with his team up 52-10.

Flores, who has been on the other side of rough-riding an opponent while coaching under Bill Belichick, shrugged it off.

“It’s our job to stop them. Those are my thoughts,” he said. “It’s not their job to let off. So it’s our job to stop them. John is a good coach. They’ve got a good team. It’s our job to stop them. I’m not looking for handouts here.”

Brian Flores not blaming tanking

Similarly, Flores brushed aside a question regarding concern about whether there is enough talent on a roster that has been stripped bare of many of veteran players in the early stages of rebuilding.

“I don’t worry about that,” Flores said. “We’ve got the guys we’ve got. We’re going to coach them. It’s our job to coach them. It’s our job to get them better. It’s our job to put them in positions to play well and make plays, and that’s my job. I’m not getting into – Look, I’m not an excuse maker. I never have been.

“Put that in the excuse bucket and you can kick it to the curb, because I’m not into that.”

Flores has bristled at the suggestion the Dolphins are deliberately tanking the season, playing to lose in order to be in position to draft a quarterback to build around.

He puts high demands on his players, as well as on his coaches and himself.

In Brian Flores way of thinking, Sunday’s result is a challenge to be met with even harder work.

That was evident in what he said his message was to the team at halftime when they trailed 42-10:

“‘Let’s play better. Let’s not have as many penalties. Let’s get aligned. Let’s tackle. Let’s not turn the ball over.’ … I just wanted us to stick together, play together and fight.

“We’ve got to fight. We can’t lay down. We’ve got to fight, keep fighting.”

Ready for Patriots?

His message will likely be similar when the team returns to practice this week.

Because, guess what, next week can be worse: The opponent is Flores’ former team, the Patriots.

As much as Harbaugh threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Dolphins, imagine what Belichick will have in store for his former protégé.

“I’ll just go through my normal process, my normal routine,” Flores said. “I’ll obviously reflect on what this was this past week and try to improve it and try to do a better job. At the end of the day, how this team plays is a reflection of me, and I have to do a better job, and this team has to do a better job, and we’ll come to work tomorrow and try to do that.”

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

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The Miami Dolphins look like the worst team in local history

The Miami Dolphins haven’t been able to do much right in the past couple of decades.

But this tanking thing?

They’re naturals.

Sunday’s 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was so complete that the score is misleading. If Lamar Jackson had stayed in for the fourth quarter, the Ravens were headed to the 70s. As it was, this was the highest score by a Dolphins opponent in a regular season contest in the franchise’s increasingly ignominious history.

And here’s the thing: it can and will get worse.

The Dolphins — what’s wrong with Minkah Fitzpatrick — couldn’t handle the Ravens’ pedestrian receivers Sunday. Next Sunday? Tom Brady comes to town with Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman. And it’s not like there are lots of Dolphins young players with high upsides who will improve drastically as the season progresses.

So there’s a real chance this could be the worst non-expansion team in South Florida sports history.

Yes, the Miami Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 under Cam “Thumbs This Way” Cameron.

But they were outscored on average only 27-17 per game.

The Panthers have been middling to bad for a while. But they’ve never been the equivalent of 1-15 or even 2-14 NFL bad.

So it’s just the 2007-08 Miami Heat (15-67 after Dwyane Wade and everyone else got hurt and the Heat raided the D-League roster) and the 1998 Florida Marlins (54-108 after H. Wayne Huizenga sold off a World Series winner).

But this?

This has the looks of something historic.

What will the Miami Dolphins do well this season? Throw? No. They can’t protect. Run? No. They can’t block. Tackle? That appears foreign to them. Cover? Ravens ran wild through the secondary.

And as it gets more and more hopeless, more veteran players will check out, interested only in their checks. More fans will stay home — tanking sounds better in principle than it feels in practice.

Prepare for the worst.

It’s what many of you wanted.

And the Dolphins will deliver.

 

 

Jesse Davis extension

Miami Dolphins extend G/T Jesse Davis through 2022

Not everyone on the Miami Dolphins roster is set to be released. On Saturday, the team officially signed veteran offensive lineman Jesse Davis to a three-year extension. This new deal keeps him from becoming a restricted free agent next season. It will pay him a total of $15 million. His guarantees equate to $8.5 million, with a $4 million signing bonus.

Obviously, locking up Davis comes from a place of necessity. In light of the trade that sent Laremy Tunsil and Kenny Stills to the Houston Texans, the Dolphins need players who can provide depth. At the same time, Davis now projects to be their starting left tackle. With Tunsil gone, Miami only has three other players who can play tackle. Jesse Davis, J’Marcus Webb and Julién Davenport.

The only one who has any experience in Chad O’Shea’s offense is Davis. Additionally, with versatility being so important, Davis fits exactly what coach Brian Flores is looking for. Davis played every snap at right guard for the Dolphins last season, and he’s played every position except center since being called up from the practice squad in 2017. Before the Tunsil trade, Davis played almost every snap at right tackle. Now he’s expected to move to the left side against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Davis has never wowed the crowd with his blocking prowess. He grades out average at best according to ProFootballFocus. However, he’s a versatile and reliable body who can be called upon for many different situations. Miami will undoubtedly look to strengthen the offensive line in 2020, which will take Davis out of his starting role. But in the future, they will need someone who can step in during emergencies, and Jesse Davis fits that role like a glove.

Vincent Taylor Release

Dolphins release DT Vincent Taylor

No one is safe when it comes to the 2019 Miami Dolphins roster. After trading Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Kiko Alonso, then releasing longtime long snapper John Denney, Miami’s purge continues with the release of Vincent Taylor.

With that release, only 22 players who were on the 2018 squad remain, and it’s possible more moves are on the way.

What makes this move so surprising is that Taylor was clearly productive during his two season tenure.

In his 21 games, he made 45 tackles, hit the QB three times, made four tackles for a loss, two sacks, and his real claim to fame is blocking field goals. He has a strange knack for that, but he ended 2018 on injured reserve with a foot injury. Perhaps that has something to do with his lack of production in preseason.

New Face

To replace the 25-year old, the Dolphins signed veteran nose tackle John Jenkins, who spent his first four seasons with the Saints after being drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft. He was a top performer at the combine that year, and unlike Taylor, the 30-year old Jenkins fits a niche role that’s necessary for Miami’s 3-4 defensive alignment.

Since being released by New Orleans in 2016, Jenkins has spent time with a different team each following year. In 2016, he played with the Seattle Seahawks. The next year was spent with the Bears, and in 2018 he was a member of the New York Giants. He played seven games for the Giants, and contributed almost nothing. No tackles, no sacks. To be fair, however, nose tackles aren’t meant to put up stats. They’re meant to clear the way for other defenders. If he can do that, then his contribution will be on tape, not on a stat sheet.

So is this the end of Vincent Taylor with the Dolphins? Not necessarily. Should he clear waivers, Taylor is still technically eligible for Miami’s practice squad. He could be brought back that way. But if not, some team somewhere is going to get real bang for their buck. Taylor isn’t the most well-conditioned player, but when he’s on the football field, he makes things happen.

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