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.
I WANT FLORES GONE. I DONT CARE IF HES THE NEXT DON SHULA. I WANT HIM GONE. RIGHT NOW.
— Botched The Tank (@MVPTua) November 11, 2019
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.
You see that straight upward climb by NE at the end? After improving throughout the year, they always play their BEST football in December. Coincidentally, the Dolphins play the Jets (2-7), Giants (2-8), and Bengals (0-9) in December. They also MAY face NE’s backups in Week 17. https://t.co/2sKzbLxFUn
— Chris Kouffman (@ckparrot) November 11, 2019
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.
Christian Wilkins’ 32 tackles are the most by any rookie defensive lineman in the NFL. #MiamiDolphins
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) November 12, 2019
Vince Biegel is 11th on the Miami Dolphins in defensive snaps, but 1st in quarterback hits. In fact, his 11 quarterback hits are more than twice any teammate. pic.twitter.com/a2BZI3Djox
— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) November 12, 2019
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.