This is just the start, but hey, it’s the start of the 2019 Miami Dolphins season today. Once the pads come on, this is where it finally gets real. Long gone are 3-a-days and in 2011 the collective bargaining eliminated two-a-days as well, so the brutally hard practices of yesteryear are all gone. Still, this is the closest thing to action we got, so enjoy it!
The rookies have been here since Sunday, but tomorrow the entire team, both veterans and rookies will be together as one team. I think quite a few of the rookie class will make the team, which is already a pretty young roster. We lost DT Kendrick Norton in a terrible automobile accident which took his arm and his football career, but Kendrick seems to be doing well and is out of the hospital. The Miami Dolphins have decided to pay Kendrick Norton his entire salary, a nice gesture.
There are some big camp battles, including of course the QB battle between long time vet Ryan Fitzpatrick and newly acquired 2nd year QB Josh Rosen. To me that’s the headliner. Most fans think Fitz will start the season but I believe there is a fair chance if Rosen plays well enough he may earn the job. What happens at DE is big too, because it looks like a very deficient unit at the moment, unless some guys step up and do a LOT more than they have yet in their careers. The number of sacks from the current guys is truly woeful, Tank Carradine in 5 seasons has (5.5) sacks, Nate Orchard in 4 seasons has (5) sacks, Charles Harris in 2 seasons has (3) sacks and Jonathan Woodard in 1 season has (1) sack. That’s 13 sacks combined for 4 players. Obviously in our new hybrid defense we will be rushing the passer with LB’s as well as safeties and corners, and we will need guys like Jerome Baker, Kiko Alonso, Reshad Jones, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Bobby McCain and others to be effective occasionally when they blitz. In addition, I think we can get pressure on the inside with DE/DT’s Vincent Taylor, Davon Godchaux and Christian Wilkins. If not, it’s going to be a long hard season for this defense and we will struggle to get off the field.
We have a lot of DB’s on the roster but it’s imperative that we find an effective player on the opposite side of Xavien Howard. It may be former Patriot Eric Rowe, or maybe one of our own guys step up like Jalen Davis, Cornell Armstrong, Torry McTyer or hopefully Cordrea Tankersley who is currently on the PUP list. CB Jomal Wiltz showed some flash w/o pads, we’ll see how he fares with the pads on. At safety we’re in really good shape with Reshad Jones, Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. McDonald, Bobby McCain (who will share slot duties as well with Minkah), and Maurice Smith and ST’s ace Walt Aikens.
On offense, it’s going to be very interesting to see what our identity is on that side of the ball. I think a lot of that will depend on who the QB is. Ryan Fitzpatrick throughout his career has been a gunslinger for better or worse. He plays a wide open type of game and always looks to push the ball downfield, sometimes recklessly so. He’s a gambler. With our offensive line a huge question mark, nothing helps a beleaguered OL better than a consistent run game. It gives them more confidence and wears down the opposing defense. Will Fitz be a game manager? It’s possible, but I’d sooner see a power run game with a play action pass game although I can’t see Fitz reining himself in. Rosen would be the better candidate to operate that type of offense, and any QB would benefit from a strong run game.
Our WR’s corps really is another huge question mark. On paper it looks better than it really is because you never know what you’ll get from Devante Parker, and Albert Wilson is coming back from a season ending hip injury that robbed him of such a promising season. Wilson was nothing short of electric while he was healthy scoring 4 TD’s on only 26 receptions, that’s a TD every 7 catches. Kenny Stills is really the only given, you know he will make some big plays although he’s never been a volume receiver having more than 60 receptions only once, his 2nd year with the Saints and Drew Brees. Regardless, he averages routinely near 15 YPC and he scores TD’s. What about the rest of the WR corps? Jakeem Grant is exciting but so far has been used in small doses. I’m not sure he’ll ever be like a Tyreek Hill although I sure wouldn’t mind if they tried. Brice Butler brings another big bodied receiver and he showed some abilities last year but only had 6 receptions for us. In his 6 years in the NFL, he’s never had more than 20 receptions. We have a few other big receivers in house, Preston Williams, newly acquired WR Saeed Blacknall and Reece Horn. All of them are 6’2 or bigger.
Last season our LB unit really picked up, a lot of that due to the return of Raekwon McMillan’s run stopping prowess and the coverage and tackling ability of rookie OLB Jerome Baker. Baker had an excellent rookie season showing excellent pass coverage skills, and for all intents and purposes, McMillan had an excellent rookie season too (1st year I/R). Kiko thrived last year not being forced to cover quite as much and turned an underrated solid season. Kiko finished with 125 total tackles (79 solo), 3 INT’s3 FF’s, 1 FR and 6 passes defensed. This a strength on our defense, and if we can generate any pass rush at all, this defense will surprise a lot of teams.
The O-line, a perennial worry, once again is exactly that. Starting LT Laremy Tunsil is one of the leagues best, but after that if could potentially fall off a cliff. Will it be Wisconsin rookie Michael Deiter at LG or swing man Chris Reed from JAX? Can Dan Kilgore hold down the C spot and be effective? It seems like Jesse Davis is going to play one of the spots on the right side but it’s yet to be determined whether it’s RG or RT. We acquired RT Jordan Mills from Buffalo, a starter of every game for the last 3 years. He was underwhelming with shorts and t-shirts, but I have a feeling once the pads come on, he’ll look a lot better. While Mills isn’t an elite pass blocker, he’s got experience and shouldn’t be a turnstile. If he does falter, Jesse Davis just might play RT and maybe of Deiter looks adequate, Chris Reed could slide over to RG with Davis playing RT. In any case, a lot has to happen to give me any kind of confidence in this unit going forward.
At RB, Kenyan Drake is primed to have a big season. Whether he’s the big volume guy as far as carries isn’t important, he should be getting more touches. He’s a HR hitter and we simply need to score more points. Scoring less than 20 PPG won’t cut it, and Drake can help with more touches. What will be fun to watch is who, if anyone, is the volume back. Kalen Ballage is back for his 2nd season and he showed some promise last season. We drafted extremely high volume back Myles Gaskin from Washington. Gaskin had nearly 1000 carries there and over 5300 yards. Lots of miles for Myles, but he potentially could get the lion’s shares of the carries. We have a couple of bowling balls on the roster as well in Kenneth Farrow and Mark Walton (who may face disciplinary action from the NFL for an off the field incident). We’ll see if either guy makes the roster.
ST’s was a solid unit all around, from place kicking with Jason Sanders and punting with Matt Haack, (Rock’s beloved) LS John Denney, and the return team of Kenyan Drake, Jakeem Grant and Kalen Ballage. All were better than average last year and hopefully that will either continue or improve.
After taking a look at the entire team, there’s a few good things that stand out, and a few problems that are hopefully fixed. DE and the O-line are the potential weaknesses, while LB, S and DT a strength. RB and WR are wld cards, because you just don’t know what you can get from this group. If Devante Parker ever plays like we thought he could when we drafted him and catches 60-80 balls with a 12+ YPC average and 8-10 TD’s, along with Stills getting his usual 6-10 TD’s, and we have a consistent run game with the trio of Drake, Ballage and Gaskin, we can be a very competitive team. As usual, lot’s of ifs. No pass rush and no DB stepping up to average or better than average opposite X and we will be in trouble. O-line incapable of either generating a consistent run game or protecting the QB and again, trouble. Here’s hoping for the best!