Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Dolphins still have 3 major questions to answer

Despite the Dolphins made a big splash in free agency at the end of March there’s still a long way to go before the boys from Miami are competing at the sharp end of the NFL season.

As the Dolphins continue their top-down rebuild of a once-proud franchise, there are still major holes in the roster. And off the field, there is still one man that needs to prove himself if Miami are to return to winning ways.

Dolphins free agency a success?

Having jettisoned a bunch of talent last season, the Dolphins have been one of the more active teams so far in 2020. The addition of Byron Jones stands out as a premium pickup.

Ranked by PFF as the number one corner on the market, and the tenth best overall in 2019, allowing just 0.62 yards per coverage snap, Jones is a huge upgrade. Assuming he’s paired with Xavien Howard next season will give the Dolphins arguably the best corner tandem in the league.

Byron Jones is a huge upgrade for the Dolphins
Byron Jones is a huge upgrade for the Dolphins

Kyle Van Noy is another big upgrade having converted to more of an edge defender in 2019. With more than half his snaps coming with pass-rushing duties (449/814) Van Noy represents another good investment.

Other players represent potential upside but need to seriously improve their consistency and performance levels to be considered successes.

Ted Karras was a good, if not great center for the Patriots last season. Jordan Howard is a good back who has received little love in Chicago or Philadelphia but is a proven workhorse who will put up decent numbers. Should the Dolphins have made him the thirteenth highest-paid back in the league? Well, that’s another question left to be answered.

Ereck Flowers is a former first-round draft pick of the New York Giants. Expected to be a franchise LT for the Giants for years to come, but was released just three years later. He bounced from the Jaguars to the Redskins, where he transitioned to guard. Since then he has blossomed.

But that trend needs to continue for the Dolphins to justify the $10 million per year they have just paid him. Ranked just 43rd among guards by PFF in 2019, Flowers gave up 2 sacks, 2 hits, 20 hurries, and 20 pressures in 588 pass-block snaps. He is developing, but the jury is still out on this deal.

Other players such as Clayton Fejedelem, Kamu Grugier-Hill, and Elandon Roberts look like being most depth players. That’s not to say they are bad signings because the roster lacked serious depth.

Who’s behind center?

For now, it seems Ryan Fitzpatrick is the man leading the offence in Miami. Clearly not the man for the long haul, Fitzpatrick had one of his better years in 2019. That’s really not too much to write home about with his 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions leading to a 5-8 record.

Incidentally, a five-win season represents Fitzpatrick’s fifth-best season in his career.

Josh Rosen was acquired in a trade during the second day of the 2019 NFL draft, for second and fifth-round picks. However, after just three starts he was pulled, and only saw three snaps of action the rest of the way.

Did the Dolphins whiff in trade for Josh Rosen?
Did the Dolphins whiff in trade for Josh Rosen?

It is assumed the Dolphins will use the number five pick in the 2020 draft to acquire their quarterback of the future, either Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, being the favourites. But don’t rule out the Dolphins taking Jacob Eason in the second round if those two QB’s are off the board.

There is the faintest of faint possibilities that Josh Rosen is still the future, and is just learning behind Fitzpatrick. But his lack of appearances last season makes this highly unlikely.

Is Chris Grier a good GM?

And this is the biggest question the Dolphins are still seeking an answer to. Free agency has been good, with three good signings, and some depth. The Dolphins have probably overpaid for a few, but overall this is a good haul.

If players like Flowers, Lawson, Ogbah, and Karras can continue to improve, it could be a great haul.

But the truth of Chris Grier will come in his addressing of the QB position, and the 2020 NFL draft. So far he has taken a swing at Josh Rosen and missed badly so it seems giving up two draft picks in the process.

With three first-rounders and two second-rounders, Grier must find a considerable amount of talent for this roster. Trading away Kenny Stills, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Laremy Tunsil, proven NFL players for picks was a smart move for a team rebuilding. But now he has to hit on those picks.

Dolphins GM Chris Grier faces defining moment in 2020 NFL draft © Jonathan Willey/Miami Dolphins
Dolphins GM Chris Grier faces defining moment in 2020 NFL draft © Jonathan Willey/Miami Dolphins

The Houston Texans have proven that trading badly is a recipe to derail a good roster. As they looked to fill one or two spots to compete now, the Texans are arguably set up to fail in coming seasons.

If Chris Grier whiffs on these draft picks the Dolphins could be rebuilding for years to come.

So far the signs have been mostly positive. But this draft, starting on the 26th April, will be the defining moment for Chris Grier’s NFL career, and the Miami Dolphins next five seasons.

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