2019 Dolphins season in review, plus a look to the future

A cursory glance at our record in the standings might lead one to think this season was a failure. 5-11 and last place in the division by itself is not an impressive achievement. In context however, getting to 5-11 with the roster Brian Flores was given to work with in 2019 is actually pretty impressive. The final game win over the Patriots in Foxborough the cherry on top of the sundae. The Dolphins shed the roster of a large quantity of players, some with legit talent such as LT Laremy Tunsil, defector S Minkah Fitzpatrick, DE Robert Quinn, WR Kenny Stills and Kenyan Drake and a multitude of injuries that stripped the roster down considerably. Xavien Howard played (injured) in only 5 games in the beginning of the season before being placed on IR. Reshad Jones played in only 4 games. T.J. McDonald was released in August. DB Bobby McCain played in only 9 games. Charles Harris was there but he was all but invisible for 14 games. For perspective, our defensive backfield the majority of the season was Nik Needham, Jomal Wiltz, Eric Rowe, Steven Parker, Chris Lammons and then followed by half the season or less with Ken Webster, Adrian Colbert, Montre Hartage Ken Crawley, Johnson Bademosi and of course MTM sucked for 2 games for us. Get the picture? It was like GOT, a cast of too many to recall.

Our leading rusher was our QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, with 243 yards. Neither Kenyan Drake nor Kalen Ballage were able to establish that they were a feature back, and Mark Walton who was on the precipice of doing so was then hit with an 8 game suspension for previous wrongdoings which unceremoniously ended his season. Kenyan Drake was traded to the Arizona Cardinals where he became a superstar (JKJBB) which gave Kalen Ballage his best opportunity ever. Ballage was abysmal really, awful even, averaging less than 2 YPC on 74 carries. By the end of the season we were down to Myles Gaskin who was injured in Week 16 which left only Patrick Laird and De’Lance Turner. Whew!

Bright spots! DeVante Parker realized all his wondrous potential and showed us just how good he can be. It was stunning really, that boy can play! His renaissance began about mid season but took off Week 10 against Indy and didn’t stop. The man was making catches in crowds where he simply ignored his safety and went up and snared the football with his 2 huge hands with total disregard for his body and made the catch. Time and time again we witnessed this as the chemistry between Parker and Fitzgerald was undeniable. Early in the season Preston Williams was cementing his status as a go to guy but was injured Week 9 against the Jets. Albert Wilson took a while to shake off the rust and by the end of the season, he started to resemble the guy from early to mid 2018 before his hip injury. Allen Hurns was a nice pickup and he also was returning from an injury last season and I think he will pay more dividends in the future. Rookie Isaiah Ford showed a lot of promise as well and was establishing himself as a legitimate WR by season’s end. Mike Gesicki turned into the receiving threat TE we thought we drafted. He showed nice growth and I think is just getting started as to what he can be.

On defense Taco Charlton who we picked up on waivers was our leading sack man with 5. Vince Biegel who we picked up in the trade with New Orleans had 13 QB hits. Davon Godchaux had a very solid season with over 70 tackles. Jerome Baker one of the defensive leaders on the team continues to play well and grow. Some of the youngsters in the no name secondary proved they are NFL worthy contributors and some will round out our depth back there very nicely. Andrew Van Ginkle showed a little promise in the limited time he played, he was on IR for much of the season (10 games). Eric Rowe who looked overmatched out on the boundary was a pleasant surprise when they moved him to safety. Rowe looks certain to be in the mix for one of the safety spots next season. A bunch of the no-name guys also excelled at ST’s and that’s an important dynamic on a football team. Walt Aikens continued his ST’s excellence this season.

Not getting caught up in hyperbole, I think the future is bright for our team. The Dolphins check in at #2 of teams with highest cap space available in 2020 with $94M +, just shy of the Indianapolis Colts who are only $2M higher. We have currently picks #5 and #18 in RD 1 along with one more pick which is tied to the success or failure of the Houston Texans against the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Texans lose the pick is at #25, if they win it continues to fall to the end of the 1st RD if they keep winning. THREE 1st RD picks! We also have picks #39 and #56 in RD 2. IN RD 3 we have pick #70. The good stuff ends in the 4th RD where we currently hold no picks. We do however, have three 5th RD picks. We have two 6th RD picks and one 7th RD pick. That’s a huge haul, which by the way does not include compensatory picks whose value has yet to be revealed although it’s value is likely set. Figure a 4th RD for Ja’Wuan James and somewhere between a 5th-7th for Cam Wake. That should result in a haul of 14 total draft picks in 2020. Draft party anyone???

In 2020 Free Agency, I don’t think we’re gunning for the top stars, although we have the cap space to do so. I think we’ll get some meat and potatoes, maybe even some prime rib but most likely no filet mignon. This is going to be a team, we’re not going to be shopping for “ME” players. I admittedly may be getting so caught up in that mantra that I actually believe we may not select a QB early in this draft while it’s expected our #5 pick is reserved for just that. I have been pounding the table that in the NFL you need to have a top QB. In 2020 I’m not convinced that is completely accurate. I think you need to have a well rounded team, one that can run the ball effectively and play strong defense. Defense wins championships. That still rings true. I know this will come off as a slight to Ryan Tannehill and I apologize in advance for those offended, but just look at the success of the Tennessee Titans. Ryan Tannehill is near the top of the leaderboards in a few passing categories. As per usual, he’s not a TD machine, but he has been a careful and effective game manager. 22 TD’s in today’s NFL doesn’t quite cut it. It can work if you have the leading rusher on your team and the Titans happen to have this year’s best in Derrick Henry. 303 carries for 1540 yards and 16 TD’s. Add in another 2 TD’s receiving for Henry and you can see how important Henry was to their success.

Ryan Tannehill was a complimentary player this season and he did his job very well. He had only 6 INT’s and 1 lost fumble. I’m not going to throw the game manager label on him but HC Mike Vrabel clearly didn’t want or ask Ryan Tannehill to put the team on his back, that was Derrick Henry’s job. Think I’m lying? Last season Derrick Henry had 215 carries, this season Mike Vrabel increased his carries 41%, FORTY ONE PERCENT to 303! I’m not bitter about Ryan Tannehill’s success, but I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due. I can almost guarantee that you if the Baltimore Ravens shut down Derrick Henry and force Ryan Tannehill to win the game through the air the results will be glum for the visiting Titans. So what’s my point? It sounds like I’ve talked myself out of what I was saying that this is a team game, right? I haven’t. We need a capable QB to pilot our team but I’m not convinced it has to be one of the 1st RD QB’s. We have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen next season. We won’t need a QB to step in right away and I still haven’t given up hope that Josh Rosen could be the guy. Years ago 1st RD QB’s sat for a while, and Aaron Rodgers sat for 3 seasons behind Brett Favre. Maybe he needs more seasoning and development. I can tell you he’s watching a fine leader in Ryan Fitzpatrick lay down the foundation of how to lead a team. I’m so enamored with Fitzpatrick and feel embarrassed by saying it would be “boring” to watch him start instead of seeing what we have in Rosen instead.

I think we’re going to build a team, and I think QB is not necessarily the top priority like so many think it is. Hey, I’m wrong at least 50% of the time so it’s not like my track record gives me any foundation for this, but I have a feeling we’re going to hit the trenches in FA, bring in at a minimum 2-3 OL, 2 of them legit starters and one backup. They won’t be old either, probably none older than 28 or 29 for the starters. I think we will do the same on the defensive side, at least one DT/DE, a pass rushing type, and then a LB who can also rush the passer. Same formula, not likely older than 29. We have money, we have to spend some of it and we will. We hit the draft with some key holes filled and continue to add significant talent on the O-line and D-line. We must bring in talent at RB. I wouldn’t mind in the least a 1st RD pick on a RB. We need lots of help in the secondary so CB and S will be priorities. Hopefully the picture of what is going down with CB Xavien Howard is clearer before FA and the draft so we can address it properly. We need depth in the secondary no matter what, but if we know Xavien Howard won’t be missing much time if any would be a boon.

I’m ready for the assault for the Tannehill defenders, I stand behind every word I say and have illustrated my point well. Have at it, I’m here. I’m here for those who think we must take a QB at 5 as well. It’s just how I feel. Heck, I’m here for everything I say really, so if you don’t agree with anything, sling away! I think we will take a QB in this draft but I won’t be surprised if it’s in RD 2 or later. The Tua to Miami thing I feel is way overblown. Every athlete handles injuries differently. The best example of a successful player overcoming a brutal injury history is none other than former Dolphins RB Frank Gore. Gore tore his left leg ACL twice in college and then went on to play 15 years with over 15,000 yards, so go figure. If the Dolphins really are all in for Tua I can only hope he’s like Frank Gore.



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