News

5 Stories to Track in Dolphins Training Camp

As we get closer to the start of training camp, I wanted to let you guys and gals know what storylines I’ll be spending my time in training camp observing. There are other question marks on this team outside of Tua that need answering before we can take seriously this playoff or bust attitude most seem to have. 

Run Game

One of the biggest storylines the entire offseason has been the “need” to improve the run game by drafting or signing elite talent. Names like Aaron Jones, Najee Harris, and Javonte Williams have all been talked about in insufferable amounts, but Myles Gaskin remains as the “workhorse” back heading into the 2021 season. The only addition to the RB room is Gerrid Doaks and Jordan Scarlett, which leads me to believe they expect (or hope) that the Oline developing is how they’ll be able to improve on a rush offense that finished 22nd in total rush yards with 1688, 29th in ypc with 3.9 and coming dead last for the longest run at 31 yards.

Rush Defense

One of the things Belichick always preached is the ability to stop the run first and then worry about the pass second, making teams one-dimensional. Last year at times it felt like teams could run at will against the Dolphins. In 2020 as a team, they finished 16th in overall rush yards p/game given up at 116.4, 24th in yards per away game with 132, and gave up 4.5 yards per carry which were tied for 16th in the league. The team expects further development from Raekwon Davis who at times showed dominance, as well as the additions of Adam Butler, John Jenkins, and Bernardrick McKinney helping add to Baker, Wilkins, and Ogbah who all played well last season.

Battle at WR

Excluding the top 3 guys in Parker, Fuller, and Waddle, the next 3 maybe 4 jobs are up for grabs for players like Lynn Bowden Jr, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Mack Hollins, Robert Foster, Malcolm Perry, and others. Will position flexibility help some stay on the active roster like Perry who can play slot, RB, and special teams, or Mack Hollins who can play WR, special teams, and even TE in a pinch? WR4 will be a crucial position on this team as most of the WRs have injury histories so expecting them to play more with one extra game is imprudent, especially when you consider WR4 will be a starter week 1 due to Fuller’s suspension. All the ingredients on paper, are there for one of, if not the most, explosive WR room in the league. It’s almost time to see if they can all put it together on the field.

Co-Offensive Coordinators

Heading into Flores’ now 3rd season and being on his 3rd and 4th Offensive Coordinator makes it a pivotal factor in how this season can go. From everything being put out, it will be a run game/ pass game coordinator situation with Godsey calling the plays on gameday due to his experience doing it with the Texans while having Studesville give major input throughout the week as well as handle anything needed on the field as Godsey will most likely be in the press box. Whatever way they decide to roll, they need to be quick and decisive in the decision because a certain 2nd year QB is fighting for his NFL life and needs people in his corner who are a help not a another obstacle, also I’m not sure how it will look to be hiring your 5th OC heading into your 4th year as a Head Coach.

Rookies & Second Year players first training camp

You know you can’t have a Dolphins article and not talk about Tua, who yes does need to improve but so many other players must perform, and it all starts in training camp to see if they can handle it. Can Brandon Jones, Jaelan Phillips, and Jevon Holland earn the trust of the staff to play large snap counts for 17 games? How about Lynn Bowden, Jaylen Waddle, Salvon Ahmed, and Gerrid Doaks who may all be integral parts of the offense at different points in the season. How are Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Solomon Kindley, and Robert Hunt going to respond from shaky rookie years and with some staring at potential position switches to have a chance to play. These are all questions that need answering to have a successful season full of progress and development from your first and second year guys.

Ultimately if this team wants to have a playoff or bust attitude, the foundation begins on July 27th as a training camp with games and also 2 scrimmages against other teams, will allow the team the ability to gel and improve in a “normal” atmosphere that some have never even experienced.

 

 

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53-man Projection for Your 2021 Miami Dolphins

53-man Projection for Your 2021 Miami Dolphins

With under 2 weeks left into training camp officially starts on July 27th, 2021, I wanted to invite you into my thinking process as to who ends up emerging and becoming a part of your 2021 Miami Dolphins. Keep in mind that this does not account for trades, potential practice squad players nor transactions that may come after league-wide cuts.

QB (2)

Tua Tagovailoa & Jacoby Brissett 

This is one of the easier ones as it is all on Tua this season with Jacoby there to help him understand what he’s seeing. Jacoby also has experience starting so that if Tua gets dinged up and must miss time like last year, we may not see a drop in QB play.

Not making team: Reid Sinnett

RB (4)

Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, Salvon Ahmed & Gerrid Doaks

While some have Jordan Scarlett also making the team, I believe this team will go with Gaskin & Ahmed as the speed backs and Brown & Doaks as the power backs in that order. Keep in mind this will most likely be a running back by committee where the person with the hot hand gets most of the caries that afternoon. Doaks having special teams experience already from college is a big plus and may end up solidifying his spot on the roster. 

Not making team: Jordan Scarlett, Patrick Laird & Carl Tucker

WR (7)

Will Fuller, Devante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden Jr, Robert Foster & Malcolm Perry.

In what is the most competitive room on the entire team, we see the Dolphins go for what it loves most in younger players with untapped talent on cheap contracts. Barring any trades or injuries, the top 3 in Fuller, DVP, and Waddle are all locks. Outside of those 3, it’s a bloodbath to determine who sticks. Preston is firmly on the bubble; I expect another impressive camp that keeps him around, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s cut or traded. I also have the battles between LBJ vs Albert Wilson & Robert Foster vs Mack Hollins, going to Bowden and Foster due to being younger and cheaper in Bowden’s case, and Foster because of familiarity with Tua and special teams play. Malcolm Perry also squeaks in because of the position flexibility to play slot, RB, and special teams.

Not making team: Jakeem Grant, Mack Hollins, Allen Hurns, Kai Locksley, Kirk Merritt & Albert Wilson.

TE (4)

Mike Gesicki, Hunter Long, Adam Shaheen & Cethan Carter

When looking back at the 2020 Miami Dolphin’s roster breakdown it’s almost impossible to gloss over the fact the team only kept 3 TEs when this season it could be a 5 deep position. I have the Dolphins keeping 4 this time around with the “surprise” being Durham Smythe as I expect them to go with the more versatile player in Cethan Carter and Hunter Long taking most of Smythe’s 675 total snaps per PFF.

Not making team: Jibril Blount, Chris Myarick & Durham Smythe.

OL (9)

Austin Jackson, Jessie Davis, Matt Skura, Liam Eichenberg, Robert Hunt, Michael Dieter, Solomon Kindley, DJ Fluker & Robert Jones

Another position group that I looked back on last year and we kept 9 so I went with the same amount. The battle of backup Center went to Dieter because of the flexibility to also play him at Guard in a pinch. The swing tackle will be Jessie Davis or Fluker who can also play Guard. The developmental OL went to Robert Jones over Larnel Coleman and Adam Pankey.

Not making team: Cameron Tom, Durval Queiroz Neto, Larnel Coleman, Jonathan Hubbard, Adam Pankey & Timon Paris.

DL (6)

Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Emmanuel Ogbah, Zack Sieler, Adam Butler & John Jenkins

Barring any injuries, this Dline will be comprised of mainly Wilkins, Davis, Ogbah, and Sieler with sprinkles of Adam Butler & John Jenkins. Last season post the Godchaux injury, the Dline rotation was essentially the same top 4 with others lightly contributing. I expect more of the same and will be curious to see if the development of Davis, as well as the additions of Butler and Jenkins, will help improve this rush D which at times, would get gashed on command.

Not making team: Nick Coe, Jonathan Ledbetter, Tyshun Render, Jason Strowbridge, Jerome Johnson & Benito Jones.

 LB (8)

Jerome Baker, Bernardrick McKinney, Andrew Van Ginkel, Jaelan Phillips, Duke Riley, Vince Biegel, Elandon Roberts & Brennan Scarlett

The LB room after the McKinney trade and drafting of Jaelan Phillips is all but locked in. Baker and McKinney on the inside with a rotation led by AVG and Phillips while having plenty of Biegel and Scarlett on the outside to start the year, as the Dolphins like to slowly bring rookies along. Duke Riley is Baker’s backup and fills the role the departure of Grugier-Hill created. Elandon Roberts could be someone I see starting on the PUP and eventually coming back as the backup to McKinney and a key special teams contributor. 

Not making team: Sam Eguavoen, Kylan Johnson & Calvin Munson.

 DB (10)

Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, Jason McCourty, Justin Coleman, Jevon Holland, Brandon Jones, Eric Rowe, Clayton Fejedelem & Nick Needham

As stated previously, this projection will not include any potential trades so I have the top 2 CBs being Xavien and Byron with Justin Coleman beating out Needham for the slot CB job. I also have Jason McCourty making the team and rotating the starting safety role with Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones. Fejedelem sticks around as a special teamer, but I could see him being released due to salary cap ramifications. Needham ultimately stuck around as my 53rd player but more on that later.

Not making team: Jaytlin Askew, Terrell Bonds, Javaris Davis, Tino Ellis, Jamal Perry, Trill Williams & Nate Holley

 K

Jason Sanders

2020 Fantasy Football’s #1 Kicker in points. Enough said.

 P

Michael Pallardy

Another lefty punter that fits the mold. Hopefully, we don’t see him on the field too much.

 LS

Blake Ferguson

You don’t draft a LS to cut him a year later.

Last 3 in:

The last 3 players that made it to this roster projection were Brennan Scarlett, Malcolm Perry & Nick Needham. Keep these names in mind as they could initially make the roster but if a player or 2 from another team becomes available, I could see these guys being the first to be cut or moved.

 

 

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Jerome Baker

Jerome Baker signs 3-year, $39 million dollar extension with Miami Dolphins

There are times when players have to be coy about things going on around them. In the case of linebacker Jerome Baker, it was just two days before that he was saying he and the Miami Dolphins hadn’t really discussed details regarding a contract extension.

“I guess.” He laughed when asked about the subject. “I mean, we haven’t really talked about anything. I’m just going into this year and…”

He quickly trailed off and was soon asked another question, this time regarding whether he could see himself playing in Miami for a long time. This time, his answer was much more enthusiastic.

“Oh, yeah. I want to play here for the rest of my career. I love it here, I love the fans, I love the organization, I love everybody here.” He said. “Yeah, I definitely see myself playing here for a long time. Do you see the hat? Do you see the hat?”

Merely two days later, ESPN’s Adam Schefter took to Twitter, announcing that Jerome Baker had signed a 3-year, $39 million dollar contract extension that will keep him in Miami through 2024. So much for having no discussions.

In all fairness, when the two sides want to make a deal, it doesn’t take long to hammer out the details. Baker clearly loves the Miami Dolphins, and the Miami Dolphins love having him on defense. Since being drafted in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, the 24-year old Jerome Baker has proven to be an effective linebacker in every facet of the game. As a pass rusher, Baker has great speed and can get around the edge in a hurry, or burst through gaps in the middle of the line. In 2020, he recorded a career-high seven sacks.

He has also shown to be effective in coverage, and is very durable. He’s never missed a game yet, playing in all 48 games throughout his three-year career, starting in 37 of them. In that time, he’s racked up a total of 317 tackles, 11.5 sacks, ten pass deflections and two interceptions. That number is only projected to go up as head coach Brian Flores finds new ways to utilize his unique versatility.

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His personality on and off the field has helped him out too. Baker recognizes and embraces this fact.

“For me, ever since I was young, it’s always been the same.” He said on Friday. “I lead by example and I kind of just do what the team needs me to do. If you need me to be the guy that yells today, I’ll be that guy. If you just need me to be that guy to just lead by example, I’ll be that guy. But ultimately, I think I’m just a lead-by-example guy. I just try to do the right things, I try to do what’s best for the team and that’s always been my approach. I don’t see it changing any time soon and I think that’s what’s gotten me here thus far.”

With Jerome Baker now signed for the foreseeable future, the Miami Dolphins can focus on signing their remaining draft class and extending other players, such as Mike Gesicki.

Training camp is just around the corner. Chris Grier deserves credit for extending a cornerstone and fan favorite before his contract expires. Jerome Baker gives a lot to the team, and that won’t change anytime soon. He’s everything the team professes to want. He works hard. He’s young. Fast enough to keep up with running backs. Smart enough to make calls on defense. And most importantly, he’s a team-first kind of player. Re-signing Baker is a no-brainer.

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

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Tua Tagovailoa

Breaking down the Miami Dolphins first open 2021 practice

For the first time since last December, the Miami Dolphins held their first open practice for the media to watch. With that first practice comes the opportunity to see and hear from the players in a real football environment and get an idea of where they stand.

As OTAs are voluntary, it’s no surprise to see that some players opted not to attend. The most notable absences were Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Jason McCourty, Emmanuel Ogbah, Justin Coleman, Jerome Baker, Benardrick McKinney, Will Fuller, and D.J. Fluker. Just looking at the list, it’s mostly veterans who didn’t show up. This is a regular pattern across the NFL and ultimately means nothing. It’s only when mandatory mini-camp arrives that attendance will matter.

“Like I’ve told them, you don’t just roll out of bed and jump back into it as if you’re in midseason form, so there’s a lot of working through some kinks, I would say, even just from a basic fundamentals, footwork, hand placement standpoint.” Head coach Brian Flores said before practice. “It’s good to get them out here and work through some of those things. We’ll see them these next few weeks to include minicamp.”

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Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns attended practice, with video being taken of Wilson catching a pass from veteran QB Jacoby Brissett.

However, Wilson will need every opportunity he can get to prove he still deserves a roster spot with all the weapons that have been added. This Miami Dolphins regime has shown over and over that no player is safe, no matter how good or respected they are.

Speaking of Brissett, it was reported that he and rookie Jaylen Waddle were getting extra work in after practice was over. This is a good sign considering Waddle is projected to be a big contributor to the offense in 2021. Why wasn’t it Tua Tagovailoa instead? One possible reason is he was preparing for a media session.

The offense and defense never faced each other in Wednesday’s practice. Both sides kept to their own work during practice and the players’ only real opponent was the grass in front of them. Part of the agreement the players reached with Brian Flores stated that OTAs would be a much lighter workload. So the session focused mainly on teaching and fundamentals.

After practice was over, players spoke with the media and dropped some interesting tidbits regarding their mindset and the surrounding chatter. One of the most candid of them all was tight end Mike Gesicki.

This is likely in regards due to the recent chatter coming from the likes of Colin Cowherd and others. The criticisms regarding Tagovailoa’s health, arm strength, durability and comparison to fellow QB Justin Herbert has dominated national airwaves. Fortunately, it seems that Tua Tagovailoa isn’t fazed by this talk and appreciates his teammate’s defense of him.

Later, Tua offered some insight on his strength and conditioning.

Obviously, this is excellent news. After all, one of the main concerns of 2020 was Tagovailoa’s health. Now instead of focusing on healing, he can focus on raising his peak physical shape. Everyone has seen the images and videos of Tua Tagovailoa working out, and it’s obvious that he looks much stronger than he did last season.

However, the quote that will likely make the national news regarded Tua Tagovailoa’s level of comfort last season. It was speculated by many that Tagovailoa looked lost at times in the huddle and wasn’t sure where to go with the ball. Tagovailoa confirmed these suspicions in Wednesday’s virtual press conference.

To clarify, Tagovailoa is not suggesting he did not take the time to learn the playbook. He clarified his comments, saying that when he was in the game, the playcalls were simpler, there weren’t extra alerts or things to take into consideration. He didn’t have the playbook down to such a science that he felt comfortable changing things on the fly, pointing things out, speaking with authority and helping his teammates execute.

Considering he was a step behind all season due to his rehab, this should not be a surprise. He did not get to really focus on learning every detail of the playbook because he had to spend time healing and getting back to his baseline physical shape. Plus, the offense was not catered to his strengths, and neither was the offensive coordinator. Last year’s offense was best suited for Ryan Fitzpatrick, a gunslinger. Not a surgeon like Tua Tagovailoa.

Granted, Tagovailoa takes responsibility for not knowing the playbook as well as he should have. But now things are different, now the offense is being built around him. That has already done wonders for his level of comfort, and it’s showing in the huddle.

As time goes on, there will be more opportunities to see what Tagovailoa is truly capable of. His teammates have made it clear they believe in him and they’re excited to work with him. All the other discussions outside the organization are being scoffed at or ignored.

It will be interesting to see where things progress from here.

Quotes aggregated by Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga), who is one-third of the trio that does the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast

Summary by Luis Sung (@LuisDSung), who has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for eight years.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at everythingtradeshows.com or call 954-791-8882

Recap of Miami Dolphins’ March 26 Madness

Let me just start off with this,

 

Chris Grier my brother your flowers and a round of applause

 

I will be the first to admit that I had been a skeptic of Chris Grier because of picks like Charles Harris and no RB or WR being drafted before the 6th round, but wow did Chris knock it out of the park in trading back with the 49ers…. So, in the in the midst of me praising Chris Grier and writing this article, He decided that he would make another trade this time with the Philadelphia Eagles so let’s recap all the craziness so far.

 

The First Deal:

This bomb shocked everyone as Flores had previously mentioned picking someone “let’s say in the top 10” so a trade with the 49ers came as a surprise as most expected it to be the Carolina Panthers at 8 who would trade up. For the 49ers this move signals that a QB run will start the 2021 NFL Draft. For the Dolphins the move to 12 signaled serious Najee Harris vibes as the first pick but Chris Grier had other plans apparently, as he was not done dealing for the day.

 

 

Trade with Eagles:

If the deal with the 49ers didn’t kick you off your chair, then the one with the Eagles for sure did. This one move here signifies that the Dolphins aren’t just about wheeling and dealing for picks, but they’ll do it for a specific player as well. I really have to wonder which player or players they have identified as being potential choices for the number 6 overall selection.

 

New Draft Order:

Overall looking at the end result of the 2021 NFL Draft and a couple things standout for me.

  1. The 2021 NFL Draft will start with 4 straight QB selections.
  2. The Bengals will have the choice of both Penei and Chase
  3. And the Dolphins might still have the choice of the top 3 WR and Kyle Pitts at 6.
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To round it all up, this move was probably the biggest indicator of Chris Grier playing chess not  checkers with the competition. Not only was he able to turn the #3 overall pick into a plethora of riches in the coming years:

But he was also able to put the Dolphins in a position where all the options that should be getting considered at 3, are now slam dunk picks at 6 after all the moves.

 

Chris Grier, you killed this one chief!

Miami Dolphins

Five Takeaways from Flores/Grier Press Conference

Earlier today, Miami Dolphins general manager Chris Grier and head coach Brian Flores met with the media for their end-of-the-season press conference. But despite Miami’s front office doing their best to keep things close to the chest, there were plenty of takeaways from this afternoon’s zoom meeting.

Here are five takeaways from Brian Flores and Chris Grier’s press conference.

Tua Tagovailoa is the Miami Dolphins starting Quarterback.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but with every national media outlet trying to spin a QB controversy in Miami, it needed to be.

With a normal offseason and an improved arsenal of weapons, 2021 Tua should look a lot more like the guy we fell in love with at Tuscaloosa.

Tua is the franchise quarterback of the Miami Dolphins.

Chan Gailey expected back as offensive coordinator in 2021?

Coach Flores didn’t say much regarding his coaching staff in 2021, but what he did say was that he expected his assistant coaches to be back in 2021. This means 69-year-old Chan Gailey will once again be calling plays for Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins’ offense. This might have been the most disappointing takeaway from today’s presser.

Here’s what Flores had to say when asked if he’d retain his staff for the 2021 season.

“Yeah, we expect everyone back. Hopefully you’re not jinxing me now. Last time I said that, we lost Karl Dorrell, we lost Pat Graham, so thanks. (laughter) Hopefully not, though. We expect everyone back.”

There’s an outside chance Gailey might still retire. But for now, it looks like Gailey will be Miami’s play-caller moving forward.

Brian Flores should be Coach of the Year, in Chris Grier’s opinion.

There are plenty of deserving NFL head coaches that could be nominated for Coach of the Year. However, if you ask GM Chris Grier, he will tell you no one is more deserving than Dolphins’ HC Brian Flores–and I agree. Yes, the Week 17 loss to Buffalo should leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

Flores deserves to be the coach of the year, with or without playoffs.

Dolphins plan to add competition at all positions in the offseason.

Miami has a lot of options via free agency and the draft. For example, the team has 4 top-50 picks, and their ‘available balance’ in FA rivals what we saw last year. So with a large number of running backs and wide receivers hitting the market, Miami’s interest could be key. But As you would expect, Flores and Grier never speak in absolutes, but they did shed some light on the offensive line and receiving corps–two positions the Dolphins could address at No.3 overall.

The best is yet to come

10 wins is a great accomplishment for a team in year two of a rebuild. But make no mistake about it, that loss to Buffalo left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. And what this team does in the offseason to build around the young nucleus in place could be what ultimately decides whether or not the Dolphins take the next step from promising young team to legit-playoff contenders.

Coach Flores promised to leave no stone unturned.

Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker said it best.

Dolphins win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins (7-4) rebounded from a tough loss last week with a resounding defensive effort against the New York Jets (0-11). The Dolphins defense stymied any offensive output from Sam Darnold and Co., romping their way to a 20-3 victory.  The win, coupled with key losses by other teams, propelled the Dolphins back into the AFC playoff picture.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.

Dolphins Defense Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins defense returned to its dominant ways Sunday. Miami limited the Jets to just three points, 10 first downs and 260 total yards. In 25 possessions this season, the Dolphins held New York to just 0.12 points-per-possession.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the three total points allowed is the fewest by an NFL team in two meetings against the same opponent since 2009. The three points allowed is the second-fewest by the Dolphins against an AFC East opponent in one season. Miami shutout the Baltimore Colts in both games played against them in 1972.

Miami extended its takeaway-streak to 17 straight games, the NFL’s longest active streak. The Dolphins’ 19 takeaways this season are third-most in the league.

Miami improved its scoring defense to just 18.6 points-per-game this season, which is second-lowest in the NFL. And the Dolphins have the best third-down defense in the NFL after limiting the Jets to just 3-of-13 on third downs. Miami’s 32.8 third-down percentage allowed leads the league, and the Jets’ 10 first downs were tied for the second-fewest in a single game this season.

No QB Controversy

Much of the discourse leading up to this game surrounded which quarterback gave Miami the best opportunity to win. Tua Tagovailoa was coming off of his worst professional outing, but he’s yet to turn the ball over through four games played. Ryan Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, coughs up the ball at an average of once per game.

A thumb injury shelved Tagovailoa against the Jets, robbing the rookie of a bounce-back performance. Instead, Fitzpatrick helmed the offense. And although some argue for the veteran to replace the youngster, there was no Fitzmagic Sunday.

Sure, Fitzpatrick piled up yards (257), but he provided just two touchdowns against the league’s worst defense. He flashed his chemistry with DeVante Parker, who finished with eight catches and 119 yards, but little else. In the absence of Tagovailoa, the Dolphins offense did little to indicate the rookie was the problem.

After the game, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores voiced his support of Tagovailoa going forward.

“If he’s healthy, he’s the guy,” Flores said.

Flores couched the statement by saying: “We’ll see how he does in practice over the course of the week. He’s a tough kid. It was very close to him being able to go, but we have to make good decisions for him as well. We’ll see how he does over the course of this week in practice.”

If he can go, Tagovailoa will face a Bengals defense that allows 26.3 points-per-game and 253.7 passing yards-per-game.

Dolphins Rushing Attack Leaves Much to be Desired in Win Over Jets

While the Dolphins defense continued to shine, the offense’s lackluster rushing attack reared its ugly head as well. Miami’s ground game lacked rhythm and was largely absent in the second quarter. While some of that falls on offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, as well as the offensive line, what’s clear is Miami doesn’t have a difference-making running back.

The Dolphins split 22 carries among three running backs and watched the trio gain 94 yards but cough up two fumbles. Matt Breida and Patrick Laird both saw their chances limited after the third quarter miscues.

DeAndre Washington submitted the best performance of the three, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for 11 yards. He may have earned himself a few more snaps moving forward, even with the eventual returns of both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

What’s become abundantly clear is that Miami needs a difference-maker in the backfield and that player is not currently on the roster. It’s particularly important to add one, considering one of Tagovailoa’s strengths is RPO. The “run” needs to be an option.

Xavien Howard, NFL’s Best Cornerback

Xavien Howard continued his All-Pro play, too. He nabbed his league-leading seventh interception, picking off Darnold in the fourth quarter. Howard matched his career-high with seven INTs and has five games to go. He became just the second cornerback in team history with multiple 7-plus interception seasons, joining Sam Madison (1998-1999).

Howard’s 19 interceptions since 2017 also pace the NFL. What’s incredible about Howard’s ball-hawking prowess is that he missed 16 games over that span. His career 0.37 interceptions-per-game is fourth-highest among players who made their debut in the Super Bowl era, per Elias Sports.

It’s not just interceptions, either. Howard broke up three other pass attempts, giving him 50 pass breakups for his career. He has 15 passes defensed this season, tied for second-most in the league and one behind the league leader.

Darnold was 3-for-10 for 37 yards and an interception when throwing at Howard. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 50.3 passer rating when testing Howard this season.

Dolphins Win Over the Jets Propels Team Back into AFC Playoff Picture

The Dolphins dominated the Jets to the tune of 44-3 this season. Those wins helped the Dolphins keep pace in the AFC. After Week 12, Miami remains just one game behind the Bills in the AFC East. With the win Sunday, coupled with keys losses by Indianapolis and Las Vegas, the Dolphins vaulted to the 6-seed in the conference.

Miami’s move up the standings comes thanks to a superior conference record (4-3) than both the Colts (3-4) and Ravens (4-4). But with five games to go, the Dolphins have a difficult task ahead.

The Dolphins will need to secure another win next week against the floundering Cincinnati Bengals (2-8-1). Minus Joe Burrow, this matchup has been robbed of its potential headline, but it remains as a must-win for Miami.  The final four games lack any easy opponents for the ‘Phins.

A win versus Cincy would put the Dolphins at 8-4 for the home stretch. Then comes the team’s stiffest test yet, a date with the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs (10-1). After that, the Dolphins host New England (5-6), who could be playing for their playoff lives at that point.

What follows is another must-win: a road matchup with the Raiders (6-4). This could be a postseason play-in game. The regular season finale comes in Buffalo (8-3), and, considering the Bills have a stiff remaining schedule as well, it might very well be for the AFC East title.

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Dolphins Loss Broncos

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Loss to Broncos

The Miami Dolphins (6-4) suffered a disappointing 20-13 loss in Denver (4-6). The game itself featured an offensive failure that led to rookie Tua Tagovailoa being benched.

This loss also pushed Miami from the postseason picture. The Dolphins are on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff bracket. They currently hold the No. 9 seed, losing tie breakers to both Baltimore and Las Vegas, the other 6-4 teams.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins loss to the Broncos.

Offensive Line Failure in Dolphins Loss to Broncos

One of the big questions heading into the quarterback switch from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Tagovailoa focused on the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. National pundits panned the move at the time, saying Miami’s line lacked the ability to properly protect their young QB. But local media pointed out that analysis as lazy, and it was.

The Dolphins offensive line had protected Tagovailoa well in his previous three starts. They’d handled pressure and kept Tagovailoa’s pocket relatively clean. Sunday, though, was a different story.

The Dolphins o-line surrendered a season-high six sacks, double the previous high. Beyond just the sacks, the line regularly allowed pressures and failed to open consistent holes for the running game.

The loss of rookie right guard Solomon Kindley in the second quarter hurt. And Tagovailoa also didn’t help his cause by holding the ball for too long.

Rushing Woes Continue

The Dolphins hoped they had something in rookie Salvon Ahmed. After a solid performance against the Chargers, Ahmed’s emergence led, in part, to the release of veteran Jordan Howard. The return of Matt Breida from recent injury also had Miami’s running game trending up. What’s more, they were facing a Denver rushing defense in the lower third of the league.

But against the Broncos, Miami’s ground game remained absent. The team totaled just 56 yards. Ahmed led the way with 43 yards on 12 carries. Breida picked up just four yards on two carries.

This lack of a consistent rushing attack shifted the offensive onus to Tagovailoa. It also allowed Denver to dial up the pressure on a rookie quarterback making just his second career road start. The result? Another anemic performance.

The solution to this issue remains unclear. A return by Myles Gaskin may help, but an ineffective ground game has plagued Miami for two seasons, through two different offensive coordinators. Opening up the playbook to allow the pass to set up the run may be the only way forward at this point.

No Fitzmagic in Dolphins Loss to Broncos

When Dolphins head coach Brian Flores pulled Tagovailoa from the game in the fourth, some speculated injury. Tagovailoa had just suffered a sixth sack, one that wrenched his lower right leg. The rookie had been on Miami’s injury report in the leadup to this game. Flores, though, dismissed that idea.

“Tua wasn’t injured. We just felt like it was the best move at that point of the game,” he said.

Fitzpatrick entered and immediately led Miami’s offense on a scoring drive. The veteran QB marched Miami down the field twice and flashed a chemistry with DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki that Tagovailoa seemed to lack.

But all for naught.

Fitzpatrick maneuvered Miami into scoring position with a chance to tie the game. However, instead of connecting with Parker for a touchdown, Fitzpatrick failed to look off Broncos safety Justin Simmons and threw a game-sealing interception. Simmons secured the pick in the closing moments, though the Broncos had the chance to intercept two previous passes by Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick finished 12-of-18 passing for 117 yards and the interception.

Seemingly Still Tua’s Team

Despite the late quarterback change, the Dolphins seemingly remain Tagovailoa’s squad. Miami made the switch from Fitzpatrick to the rookie after a 3-3 start with Flores citing Tagovailoa’s readiness to assume the role. The Dolphins kept rolling. But on Sunday, the rookie showed his youth.

What’s interesting here, though, is the move to Fitzpatrick implies Tagovailoa isn’t a ready as Miami made it seem.

“We had to get in two-minute mode, and we felt like [Fitzpatrick] gave us the best chance to win the game, and we had an opportunity at the end to tie it,” Flores said.

Tagovailoa went 11-of-20 for 83 yards and a touchdown, but showed little effectiveness moving the ball. The offensive playcalling didn’t help.

“When I was in, we couldn’t really get things going,” Tagovailoa admitted. “I couldn’t get the ball in the hands of our playmakers and our guys consistently to get a rhythm going.”

Sure, offensive line issues submarined Tagovailoa’s efforts, but so too did his ineffectiveness. He needs to develop a stronger chemistry with his receivers and find a rhythm for this offense to take the next step.

That said, Fitzpatrick admitted after the game that the Dolphins were still “Tua’s team.”

He said: “Tua is going to continue to get better and grow. There’s no controversy. This is his team. He’s going to lead this team and continue to lead the team.”

To his credit, Tagovailoa wants to learn from this. He remained engaged in the contest and picked Fitzpatrick’s brain on the sideline.

“For me, it was a great learning experience,” Tagovailoa said. “I felt like I was holding the ball a little too long. Just got to get completions and get the ball in the hands of our guys to make plays for us.”

Dolphins D Didn’t Do Enough in Loss to Broncos

Miami’s defense buoyed the team’s five-game win streak. Over that span, the Dolphins defense ranked first points-per-game allowed (17.2) and second in quarterback pressures (86) and completion percentage allowed (57.0 percent). They put up 10 takeaways, too.

In Denver, though, the Dolphins didn’t make enough stops. Although the defense extended its takeaways streak to 16 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL, it wasn’t a banner day for the D.

Perhaps the biggest failing was the inability to stop Denver’s ground game. The Dolphins allowed a season-high 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The 5.7 yards-per-carry average stands as a full yard more than the previous season-high allowed (4.7).

What’s more, the Dolphins couldn’t seem to confuse Denver’s Drew Lock in the same way they did LA’s Justin Herbert a week prior. Lock piled up 270 passing yards, the most Miami’s allowed in more than a month. They also failed to pressure Lock consistently and did not sack him once. It’s the first time this season the Dolphins failed to secure at least one sack.

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Dolphins Win Jets

5 Takeaways from Dolphins Win Over the Jets

The Miami Dolphins dominated the New York Jets on Sunday. The Dolphins 24-0 win stands as the team’s first shutout since 2014. Improving to 3-3 on the year marks the first time in the Brian Flores era that Miami has been at .500. With the Jets floundering to 0-6 under Miami’s former head coach Adam Gase, it becomes more clear with each passing week that the Dolphins have the right leader in Flores.

Here’s a look at five takeaways from the Dolphins win over the Jets.

Dolphins D Dominant in Win Over Jets

The Dolphins haven’t shut out an opponent since they blanked San Diego six seasons ago. They hadn’t shut out the Jets since the 1983 AFC Championship game. The defense’s domination delighted Dolphins fans as they shut down the purported “offensive guru” Gase.

Miami’s defense elevated its play on Sunday, limiting the Jets to 2-of-17 on third down tries. For the season, the Dolphins top the NFL in third-down defense, allowing just 31.3 percent of conversions. Miami stands fourth in scoring defense (18.8 points-per-game) and sixth in sacks (17).

In the win over the Jets, the Dolphins held Flacco to 148 net passing yards. Last week, the Dolphins surrendered just 128 net passing yards to San Francisco, making this effort the first since 2010 Miami has limited opponents to fewer than 150 net passing yards in consecutive games.

The defense kept the Jets to just 93 yards in the first half, allowing just five first downs and forcing six punts. This helped Miami build a 21-0 halftime lead.

Ogbah, a Great Investment

Among the other free agent additions for 2020, Emmanuel Ogbah’s name might have been an afterthought. But he’s become a force for this defense in the pass rush.

Ogbah recorded two sacks in the Dolphins win over the Jets. His effort stands as Miami’s first two-sack performance since Cam Wake and Akeem Spence both had a pair of sacks versus the Jets in November 2018. Ogbah’s now recorded five sacks this season, tied for second-most in the AFC. Sunday also saw him register six QB hurries and two more QB hits.

The Dolphins are getting the most out of their two-year, $15 million investment in Ogbah. He’s registered a sack in three straight games and at least half a sack in five straight. He’s just a half-sack shy of his career high (5.5)

Howard Returned to Form

Xavien Howard registered his fourth interception of the season after he picked off Joe Flacco in the second quarter. Howard has clearly returned to his 2018 ballhawking form after a knee injury limited him to just five games last season.

Sunday marked the fourth straight game with an interception for Howard. His four-game streak is the second-longest in team history, behind safety Dick Westmoreland (five straight games with an INT in 1967). Howard’s four picks this season are tied for most in the NFL and he’s ninth in pass-breakups (6). His 16 interceptions since December 2017 are the most in the NFL in that span. He’s made an interception in 11 of his 46 career games.

Adding Byron Jones aided this secondary and Howard specifically, but Howard has elevated his play in 2020. He’s held opposing quarterbacks to 12-of-26 passing (46.2 percent) with just one touchdown and four interceptions.

Gaskin, a Bell Cow?

Seemingly overlooked this offseason with the additions of Matt Breida and Jordan Howard, Myles Gaskin felt like the forgotten man amid all of the Le’Veon Bell chatter this week. Gaskin posted a video to social media of his highlights, then followed that with his best performance as a pro.

Gaskin gained a career-high 91 rushing yards on 18 carries (5.1 average). He added four receptions for 35 yards as well. His 126 all-purpose yards also set a new career-high for the second-year running back. The last time the Miami saw a running back total at least 126 scrimmage yards was Kenyan Drake’s 193 performance versus New England in December 2017. Gaskin’s 91 rushing yards are the most by a Dolphins RB since Kalen Ballage ran for 123 yards versus Minnesota in December 2018.

Gaskin’s emergence as a legitimate NFL starter belies his seventh-round pedigree. He continues to take a larger share of the running responsibilities, and his ability as a pass-catcher helps keep opposing defenses honest. Gaskin’s play has resulted in back-to-back healthy scratches for Jordan Howard.

Bye Week Comes After Dolphins Win Over Jets

The Miami Dolphins saw their scheduled shuffled by the NFL last week. In the wake of COVID-19 positives for the New England Patriots, the league changed the schedules for eight different teams. For the Dolphins, that meant they faced New York in Week 6 instead of Denver. It also means Week 7 becomes their bye, instead of Week 11.

The Bye comes at the right time for the Dolphins, as several veterans are hobbled. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy landed among the inactives after groin and foot injuries limited his participation in practice this week. During the game, linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel exited in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. He did not return.

Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill hurt his hand in the third quarter. In the fourth, wide receiver DeVante Parker (groin) and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (shoulder) also sustained injuries. The early Bye affords these players a week of healing and rest ahead of an important stretch for the Dolphins.

Miami has a slate of six winnable game ahead of them, and they’ll need a 5-1 or 4-2 stretch to set themselves up for the playoffs. According to Tankathon.com, the Dolphins have the 10th-easiest remaining based on strength of schedule. They’ll need to bank wins here over the next few weeks, as their final four games see Miami play the Chiefs and the Patriots at home, then travel to Las Vegas and Buffalo to finish.

Dolphins Jets

5 Keys to Week 6: Dolphins vs Jets

The Miami Dolphins return home to face their longtime rival, the New York Jets, who are winless and rudderless. Former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase finds himself on the hot seat after another disappointing start to a season and having alienated another star.

Meanwhile, Brian Flores, Miami’s current head coach, continues to foster a positive culture, built around communication and cohesion.

“It’s about having the right people, having the right cohesive group,” said Flores on a conference call on Wednesday. “It’s about communication. I think it’s about having good people who are team-first, selfless and want to do things for the greater good. People who are tough, who are smart, who are competitive, put the team first and people who love to do what they’re doing.”

Flores maintains the Dolphins are still building, but he’s laid a solid foundation. Something Gase never did in Miami.

Here’s a look at five keys to the Dolphins Week 6 matchup against the floundering New York Jets.

Dolphins v Jets: Get Points Early

The Dolphins stand at 2-3 and both of their wins can be characterized in the same way: Offense scored early. In those victories, Miami raced out to early 14-0 leads. Against both Jacksonville and San Francisco, the Dolphins controlled the pace early and forced the opposing offenses to become one dimensional in an effort to play catchup.

“We always talk about playing fast, starting fast. It’s something that we harp on, on a weekly basis,” Flores said earlier this week.

The Jets offense struggles to score. New York sits 32nd in points-per-game (15.0) and total points (75). They’re a minus-86 In point differential this season, which is staggeringly bad. That figure is 36 points greater than the next closest differential.

If the Dolphins can get on the board early and demoralize New York, there’s a good chance the Jets will quit on Gase and roll over. Gase may not leave Miami with his job.

Attack the Quarterback

In Miami’s two wins this season, they’ve tallied eight sacks and 19 quarterback hits. While they’ve struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks, Dolphins defenders have teed off against more stationary targets.

With 35-year-old Joe Flacco making the start for the Jets, the fear of a running quarterback is completely absent. Against San Francisco, the Dolphins brought pressure facing a hobbled Jimmy Garoppolo and his replacement, C.J. Beathard. Miami registered five sacks and eight pressures.

The defense should employ multiple fronts to make identifying the pressure difficult for the Jets’ offensive line. The return of Byron Jones last week saw Miami shift to more man-coverage, and certainly helped Xavien Howard, who picked up an interception in a third-straight game.

Miami needs to attack Flacco, especially considering the Jets have surrendered 15 sacks this season (8th-most).

Get Vertical on Offense

The Dolphins offense opened last week with a 47-yard connection from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Preston Williams. That set the tone for an offensive onslaught that tallied 43 points on the road. And facing a Jets defense that surrenders 265.6 passing-yards-per-game (8th-most), those opportunities should be there as well.

Last week, New York surrendered 380 passing yards to Arizona’s Kyler Murray. For the season, the Jets surrender a 100.2 passer rating and over eight yards-per-attempt. Their secondary allows over 70 percent of passes to be caught.

Last season against New York, Fitzpatrick completed three passes on throws of over 20 yards. Those three completions went for 72 yards and a touchdown. Against the 49ers, Fitzpatrick completed five throws of over 20 yards for 199 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami features big targets on the outside, including Williams, DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. Those three dominated the Jets at home last season, combining for 15 catches, 224 yards and three touchdowns. Going vertical should open the running lanes for Myles Gaskin, who’s averaging just 3.9 yards-per-carry.

Finally Figure Out Flacco

Flacco remains undefeated in his career against the Dolphins. He sports a career 6-0 record versus Miami. He’s completed 72 percent of his attempts for 1,518 yards and 10 touchdowns. Flacco has thrown only three interceptions versus the Dolphins.

That said, all Flacco’s victories came while he quarterbacked the Baltimore Ravens. And this Jets roster is largely devoid of talent at this point.

Against the Cardinals, Flacco made his first start since Week 8 last season. He completed 18-of-33 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown. The Jets offense struggled on third down, where they converted only four of 13 tries. On the season, New York converts 34.7 percent of third down tries, the fifth-worst rate in the league this season. Meanwhile, the Dolphins allow just 38 percent of third down conversions, the seventh-best rate.

Miami’s secondary will need to key on Jamison Crowder, the Jets most dynamic offensive weapon. Crowder is primarily a slot receiver and currently leads the league with 111.7 yards-per-game.

Dolphins Need to Maintain Focus Against the Jets

The Dolphins enter this game as favorites for the first time in the Flores era. Miami hasn’t been favored in a game since December 2018 (21 games). They’re favored by more than a touchdown for the first time since November of 2016. As a team, the Dolphins haven’t won back-to-back games by double digits since 2015. That said, the Jets have lost each game this season by at least nine points.

This contest has all the making of a trap game. The Dolphins need a win to inject themselves into the playoff race. In addition to that, they’ll need to maintain focus against an opponent that wasn’t originally their scheduled one for this week.

The NFL’s changes seriously altered Miami’s schedule, but the players didn’t seem to care.

“It is what it is, it’s no big deal,” Gesicki said.

Howard voiced a similar sentiment. “It doesn’t matter which team is next. We just have to focus on the game plan.”

With the bye week now upcoming, Miami can’t have a letdown against the Jets. They’ll need to maintain their focus and discipline.

The Dolphins remain one of the league’s least penalized teams, having been flagged just 23 times for 195 yards through five games. The Jets, meanwhile, have committed 38 penalties for 365 yards, a characteristic consistent with Adam Gase teams.

Gase’s culture of alienating stars and blaming players has continued in New York. The Jets now turn to former Miami Hurricane and Dolphins, Frank Gore, who is starting to show his age with just 3.2 yards-per-carry in 2020, and rookie La’Mical Perine in the wake of Le’Veon Bell’s departure.

The Dolphins should handle their business here and win this ballgame. This starts a stretch of seven very winnable games for Miami. If they can emerge from this with a 5-2 of 6-1 record, they’ll be poised for a serious playoff push heading into a very difficult final four games in 2020.