- Apr 7, 2013
2019 Dallas Cowboys Primer Series
Week 3: Miami Dolphins
September 21, 2019
Introduction: This is the fourth in a series of primers that will take you through the 2019 Dallas Cowboys season.
Last Season/This Season: The Dolphins finished the 2018 campaign with a 7-9 record. Thus far in 2019, the team stands at 0-2 after shameful lopsided losses to the Ravens and Patriots.
Head coach: After the team dismissed Adam Gase at the conclusion of last season, they identified New England LB coach Brian Flores to become the thirteenth head coach in franchise history. As a first-time head coach, he has struggled so far in installing the tough and demanding culture he has stated would be his hallmark. It is clear he is committed with the team's agenda which includes a complete deconstruction of his inherited roster. Numerous veteran starters (Minkah Fitzpatrick, LaremyTunsil, Kenny Stills and Kiko Alonso) have been traded leading to a grossly inexperienced and talent poor inventory of players. The reboot of the organization has been laborious and painful and there are rumors players expressing displeasure of the impression of tanking the season. This appears to be manifesting itself on the field asevidenced by the embarrassing102-10 point differential in the first two games of his tenure. He favors the defensive side of the ball and has swapped out the Dolphins' base 4-3 for a hybrid 3-4 alignment. The scheme utilizes players in multiple spots, the goal being to confuse opponents with a number of different presentations using the same personnel.
Coordinators: In addition to being a first-time head coach on any level, Flores has two first-year coordinators in Chad O'Shea (offense) and Patrick Graham (defense), both of whom he brought in tow from the Patriots. Former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell serves as the Assistant Head Coach and also functions as QB coach to succor O'Shea. Another former New England staffer in Patrick Graham leads the defense. The special teams units are handled by Danny Crossman who has extensive NFL experience with three separate clubs in Carolina, Detroit and Buffalo. Head Strength and Conditioning coach Dave Puloka was promoted from the assistant level to continue his work with the organization.
Positional Coaches: Some of the positional coaches are comfortable with Flores having also been with him previously in Foxboro. These include Dave DeGugliemo (offensive line), Josh Boyer (cornerbacks), George Godsey (tight ends), Jerry Schuplinski (assistant quarterbacks). DeGugliemo took over the job in late July after previous coach Pat Flaherty was fired just four practices into training camp. Eric Studesville (RBs) and Karl Dorrell (WRs) are both long-time NFL positional coaches. Tony Oden switches over from handling all of the defensive backs to focusing strictly on the safeties while Josh Grizzard goes from offensive quality control and expanding to both sides of the ball. Marion Hobby handles the DL which features a rotation that substitutes frequently, even across positions. Linebackers coach Rob Leonard has only one year of positional coaching under his belt. Jim Arthur works alongside Puloka on the strength and conditioning front. Brendan Farrell was brought in from the college ranks to aid Crossman with special teams. The Dolphins staff is unusual in that they employ four Quality Control coaches in Grizzard, Mike Judge, Matt Lombardi and Tiquan Underwood.
Quarterbacks: The Dolphins elected to make a quarterback change for this game, benching veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in favor of second year signal caller Josh Rosen. Rosen has had a tumultuous career thus far, going from being picked last season to be Arizona's QB of the future to being traded to Miami where he sat behind Fitzpatrick before getting on the field late in the Week 2 matchup with New England. He has good mechanics and intelligence with an arm that can make all the required NFL throws. There are serious questions about his intangibles as he developed a reputation for being tough to coach, arrogant and somewhat immature. Fitzpatrick is the quintessential NFL journeyman signal caller who is now on his eighth team. He can have fleeting moments of sparkling play but his brief glimpses of brilliance are fewer in number than his moments of mediocrity. He can be turnover prone as evidenced by his four picks on the season that bought him a ticket to the sidelines.
Running Backs: The departure of Frank Gore has reduced the Dolphins to anineffective committee approach running the ball with Kenyan Drake paired with Kalen Ballage. Drake typically will receive the majority of the work but has yet to get into a groove. He has more value as a third down option and change of pace back. As a runner, his feet are extremely active and he can be especially elusive along with an extra gear he can use in the open field. He is a quality pass catcher who runs routes well enough to be used in more complex downfield play designs. So far this year he is finding a hard time hitting holes behind a leaky offensive line, and has shown a distinct lack of patience which has resulted in a lack of explosive plays. Ballage is big and imposing and has surprising quickness for his size. He has a developed sense of direction that is wasted as he will take false steps before making his move upfield. He went through a very rough outing last week with replete with mental errors. That could open the door for former Bengals draft pick Mark Walton. Walton was acquired via waivers after he was cut due to receiving probation for a weapons charge. He is physically thick and strong with some burst. He has been used sparingly, mainly due to his inability to pass protect adequately. The remaining tailbacks are seventh round pick Myles Gaskin and camp surprise Patrick Laird. Gaskin has been inactive both contests so far and Laird has only seen action on special teams. Miami did exhaust a draft choice on fullback Chandler Cox in April. He is an intense player who has some of the tools to grow into an effective lead blocker provided he can be a better technician has his physical traits are not very remarkable. He has yet to record a touch.
Wide Receivers: DeVante Parker is the team's alpha receiver. He is a linear athlete with only average speed that is offset by his size, catch radius and soft hands. He works to muscle off coverage on jump balls which allows him to be able to snare the throws at their high point. There are moments where he looks to be ready to establish himself as a star, but invariably he gets sidetracked by injuries and inconsistency. He is utilized extensively as a boundary receiver due to his comfort level with contested passes. After Stills was moved to the Texans, it elevated UDFA Preston Williams in to a starting role which he may have earned due to a very solid preseason. Williams is a plus athlete who has impressive size to go with refined and physical route skills. He has experienced his share of rookie mistakes, including periods where he will frequently drop possible receptions. Jakeem Grant is a severely undersized slot receiver who can really scoot to get open and make defenders miss after the reception, making him a target for quick screens and crossing patterns. His lack of bulk and stature make it hard for him to break long plays if much contact is involved. Despite his exceptional speed, he simply cannot execute deep routes as he struggles to escape when he encounters press coverages. Ex-Cowboy Allen Hurns is the lone other healthy receiver as Albert Wilson has been ruled out with a strained calf. Hurns appears to have not yet recovered from the aftermath of the gruesome leg injury he suffered in last season's Wild Card game. Historically, he has been a competitive tough pass catcher who has relied more on fortitude than on dominant traits. His speed and quickness were diminished even before the injury and now he labors to create separation.
Tight Ends: The team makes extensive use of all of their tight ends, primarily because none have been able to emerge from the group. 2018 2nd rounder Mike Gesicki shows some eye-popping athletic qualities, but he still has some developmental kinks that have to be worked out. He looks like a massive WR and will show rare coordination, body flexibility and long speed in the passing game. Tight coverage is a challenge for him as he often fails to win when his release is tested by an opponent. As a blocker, his frame prevents him from gaining enough push and traction to move his man. Durham Smythe is a better interior blocker and can also function on the move. Nick O’Leary is a willing gritty throwback-type with marginal tools and a stumpy body type that limits what he can do.
Offensive Line: This unit was torn apart in the offseason and is now straining to put NFL-level personnel on the field. Center Daniel Kilgore is the most experienced member of the group. He is slightly on the small side, but he will play with a violent streak and likes to mix it up in close quarters. He has very suspect field awareness with plays unfolding in front of him and can be exploited badly by blitzing. The two guards are rookie Michael Deiter and former Viking Danny Isidora. Deiter has thick trunk, powerful hand punch and shows intensity that helps him finish plays. His movements are very mechanical and speed/move rushers can give him problems. Isidora is a big man with light feet. Balance issues and an inability to handle strength make stalemates often as the best he can perform. Left tackle is a mess as the decision to trade Tunsil is looming large. Jesse Davis has been forced to flip from the right side to the left after the throw-in tackle from the Tunsil deal, Julién Davenport, went down with a knee injury in the opener. In his third season, Davis is still developing after switching from the interior defensive line which he played in college. He is a mauler who is better suited for guard duty or the strongside. He is better at running single rushers around the arc than he is handling stunt schemes directed right at him. Right tackle is also in a state of disarray as the journeyman J'Marcus Webb has been forced into action. His lack of agility, heavy feet and slow lateral movements can render him a turnstile unless he gets into position early and can get his hands latched onto the rusher. Rookie Isaiah Prince is the swing tackle, despite his lack of suitability for the role. He is capable of weakside assignments but his stiffness can be exposed by fast action. Depth is relatively sparse with ex-Jaguar Chris Reed, former Cardinal/Ram/Colt Evan Boehm and another rookie in Deion Calhoun.
Defensive Line: This is an area that is also in a state of transition as the team is trying to understand its own identity. All three starters seem to be a bit out of their comfort level in terms of what they are expected to execute as they are often moving sides and changing roles as they all substitute by situation. The unit's best player is Davon Godchaux. He is a technically sound quick penetrator who is being asked to perform assignments more fit for a bigger nose tackle. He has short limbs and has issues facing double teams. Top draft choice Christian Wilkins is at his best with three-technique work. He is very sudden off the snap and spends a lot of energy trying to win early, meaning if he guesses wrong and blockers get into his chest plate, he can get washed out of the play. At times, he appears to tire late in games as his stamina wears down due to the quick starts and stops. Left end Avery Moss was claimed off waivers after the final cuts from the Giants. He has underdeveloped instincts and is too reliant on his athleticism. Cornellius "Tank" Carradine has bounced around since entering the league. He is capable of backing up all three spots. He can move but he often lacks a plan and gives up on plays as soon as resistance is displayed. Massive John Jenkins splits time with Moss and can shift to nose at times thanks to his enormous size. He can crumple a pocket but has inconsistent motor that keeps him from making more plays than the occasional bull rush. The newest addition to the group in Dallas' draft bust Taco Charlton. Charlton does provide some intrigue to the game, but it is uncertain if he will be able to suit up after only one practice. Charlton possesses a questionable motor, shows a very limited array of rush moves and has yet to show the mental toughness to play the multiple roles needed in defense that almost demands position flexibility.
Linebackers: This is an area that has potential but is overextended by an ineffective line that has trouble keeping blockers from getting to their level. Charles Harris is supposed to be the primary pass rusher but he has accumulated just three sacks in his first two years in the league. He often finds himself engulfed as he has problems controlling the point of attack. SOLB Sam Eguavoen dropped down from the CFL and was able to claim the job and make Alonso expendable. He plays a fearless brand of football. He has well-honed tackling fundamentals and can fill up a stat sheet with takedowns. On the downside, he requires a clean sight line in order to flow to support and can be outrun when asked to cover wide areas of the field. Inside, Jerome Baker and Raekwon McMillian form a sound duo. Baker is the chase player while McMillian is more of the thumper. Baker can fold in physical situations and is far more effective in running down plays than he holding his place on the field. McMillian is a downhill LB who can read his keys and is nimble enough to shift through traffic. His biggest flaw is that he finds it hard to disengage when he meets up without his shoulders square. The reserves are comprised of Vince Biegel, Deon Lacey and James Crawford. Biegel is a young player who came in exchange for Alonso from the Saints. He has good football intelligence and these smarts could end up in him becoming a chess piece who could move around the defense and fits the "Patriot" profile. He is held back a lack of size and has to be opportunistic to make the plays asked of him. Lacey is a special teams maven while Crawford is a similar specialist who rarely plays more than a few select snaps on defense.
Secondary: The trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick robbed the Dolphins of one of their best and most adaptable players, leaving all-star Xavien Howard alone to hold things together. Howard checks the boxes with size, feet and directional skills and has learned to trust his own confidence concerns. He can get handsy when he gets lazy with his technique, but he relishes contact and will fight for the football. His speed is only average and he relies on his ability to take the right angle when he has to turn and run. It is anticipated that he will carry the opposition's best receiver in single coverage for the remainder of the season. This is expected due to the fact his running mate Eric Rowe has been graded as one of the worst pass defenders in the league through two games, allowing a frightening 157.8 QB rating in two games on passes directed at him. He seems to be playing out of position as his dimensions lend themselves more to a free safety job than an edge cornerback. He lacks the extra acceleration gear to combat deep speed so he must win battles right away at the snap when pressing. Slot corner is another concern as all signs show that first year player Jomal Wilz is being left to learn by fire to see if he can grow into becoming an effective third starter. He has good enough speed, but lacks muscle mass and can be bullied by bigger wideouts. Teams are picking on him to the tune of 5 receptions for 112 yards and two scores. There does not appear to be anyone else among the reserve talent that seems to be able to step up and assist. Johnson Bademosi and Chris Lammons are only fit for teams duty while rookie Ken Webster has been hampered by injuries. Unfortunately for Miami, the safety position is also facing talent deficiencies that have been magnified by Fitzpatrick's departure. FS Bobby McClain is technically a corner by trade who is quick-twitch and tough but struggles with deep assignments with his back to the football. SS Reshad Jones is a capable defender who will be held out with a calf injury. That leaves a cloudy mixture of Walt Aikens, Steven Parker or Doug Middleton to step up and fill the vacancies. Immediately, Parker will be given the chore. He has good size and knows how to wrap up. He does not run well and lacks the ability to recover once he is beaten. Middleton has the physical nature required, while special teams captain Aikens is speedier.
Specialists: Punter Matt Haack has received a lot of work, but not been a liability while placekicker Jason Sanders has been barely used, nailing his one and only attempt from 50-plus yards. Grant should be a dangerous punt returner but he is averaging under two yards a try. He is faring better as kickoff man with around 24 yards an attempt. Long time deep snapper John Denney was cut after fourteen seasons in Miami in favor of a younger cheaper player in Taybor Pepper.
QB - Josh Rosen*, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB - Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Mark Walton, Patrick Laird, Myles Gaskin
LWR - DeVante Parker
RWR - Preston Williams, Allen Hurns
SWR -Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson*
TE - Durham Smythe, Nick O'Leary, Mike Gesicki, Chandler Cox
LT - Jesse Davis
LG - Michael Dieter, Chris Reed
C - Daniel Kilgore, Evan Boehm
RG - Danny Isidora, Deion Calhoun
RT - J'Marcus Webb, Isaiah Prince
LDE - Avery Moss, John Jenkins
NT - Davon Godchaux
RDE - Christian Wilkins, Cornellius Carradine, Taco Charlton
LOLB - Sam Eguavoen, Trent Harris*
LILB - Raekwon McMillan, Vince Biegel
RILB - Jerome Baker, Deon Lacey
ROLB - Charles Harris*, James Crawford
LCB - Xavien Howard, Johnson Bademosi, Ken Webster*
SS - Brice McCain, Walt Aikens, Steven Parker
FS - Doug Middleton, Reshad Jones*
RCB - Eric Rowe, Jomal Wiltz, Chris Lammons
P - Matt Haack
K - Jason Sanders
LS - Taybor Pepper
PR - Jakeem Grant, Kenyan Drake
KR - Jakeem Grant, Kenyan Drake, Myles Gaskin
* - injured player; status to be determined
Prediction: Cowboys 34, Dolphins 13