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Dolphins vs Bills

Dolphins vs Bills: Week 3 Preview

Dolphins vs Bills

This Dolphins vs Bills matchup presents Miami with a real chance to make a statement to the rest of the league, even in defeat. If the Dolphins can keep the game close, a strong performance will put the league on notice that they are a legitimate post-season contender.

Dolphins vs Bills Game Information

  • Date: Sunday, September 25
  • Time: 13:00 ET (18:00 UK Time)
  • Venue: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami FL
  • TV: CBS and Sky Sports NFL
  • Record: Dolphins (2-0) Bills (2-0)

Week 2 Recap

A comeback performance for the ages! For the first time in 711 games, a team was able to overcome a 21-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter. Miami were able to turn adversity into opportunity, following a shaky first half, to pull off a stunning comeback against a very strong Ravens’ side.


  • Offensive productivity on third down
  • Noticeable elevation in Tua’s game in fourth quarter
  • Hill and Waddle = Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Improvements in the run game
  • Alex Ingold’s blocking contributions
  • Goal line run defense

Star Performer- Tua Tagovailoa

Have a day Tuanigamanuolepola Tagovailoa!

Following a rocky first half performance, Tua elevated his game to become only the third Dolphins’ QB to throw for 6 TDs in a game, alongside Dan Marino and Bob Griese.

Tua finished the game 36/50 for 469 yards, 6 TDs and 2 INTs. Tua’s confidence and poise was such that he could have continued to score as and when was required.

In my Week 2 preview article I wrote that  “Tua needs to step up and elevate his game to a level which will allow him to take the game to this Ravens defense, in the event that the game turns into a shootout.” And a shoot-out it was.

Tua’s performance was a notable step towards silencing his biggest critics.  It is often said that the Dolphins win in spite of Tua. Well that was not the case in this game. Tua stepped up and carried the team forward in light of the defense’s early struggles.

I have to admit at half time, I for one was skeptical, with the offense seemingly having no answer to the Ravens who were able to score with ease. In my game day notes at half time, Alec Ingold was the Dolphins’ star performer. Lamar Jackson had an outstanding MVP caliber performance, yet Tua’s remarkable comeback performance was able to overcome the high bar that Jackson set.

Mandatory Credit: Dol-Fan UK Podcast

Honorable mentions:

While Tua had a career game, I would be remiss if I did not honor the superb performances of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. The speedy tandem of receivers were all over the field and unplayable in the second half, despite Hill suffering from cramps and being doubtful to return to the game.

Excitement is certainly high as to what this Mike McDaniel offense can achieve this season.


  • Tua’s impatience- resulting in two unnecessary picks
  • Dolphins’ secondary playing too soft
  • Lack of pass rush

You know the defense is having a bad day when Xavien Howard is beaten time and time again. Howard had a PFF coverage grade of 41.7 against the Ravens allowing 5 receptions for 119 yards on 8 targets. The Dolphins secondary played too far off man, resulting in Howard being exploited against the speedy Bateman.

Buffalo Bills Week 2

The Bills are off to a red hot start in 2022, following wins against the Super Bowl Champions and last year’s #1 seed in the AFC. The Bills were relentless against the Titans putting up 34 unanswered points, with Josh Allen being allowed to rest up during the fourth quarter.

Buffalo are clicking on all fronts following another strong defensive performance in which they held the Titan’s offense to a mere 187 total yards. Tyreek Hill had more yards than the entire Titan’s offense in Week 2.

Dolphins vs Bills- Keys to Success

A battle of two undefeated teams, and staunch divisional rivals. This Dolphins vs Bills game is set up to be a real showdown for two teams with the playoffs firmly in their sights.

Buffalo are the consensus Super Bowl favorites and have dominated Miami in recent years. So what will the Dolphins need to do to stand a chance of going toe to toe with the Bills, who are #1 in scoring offense and #1 in scoring defense?

1. Improvements on Defense

It is safe to say that Buffalo has had their way with Miami in recent years. In 2021, the Dolphins were outscored 61-11, mainly attributable to Miami’s offensive woes.

In the Week 8 matchup, the Dolphins’ defense kept the game within one score until the fourth quarter when Buffalo ran away with the game. However, Tua and this offense are vastly improved and should help the defense by keeping Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense off the field.

If the Dolphins are to stand a chance in this game, their defense must improve and that starts with the pass rush. Jaelan Phillips and Jerome Baker have been incredibly quiet to start the season.

Strong performances from these two will not only limit the time that Allen has to sit in the pocket, but also take away his ability to escape the pocket and run with the ball.

2.  A Confident Tua

Tua is his own biggest critic, which is hard to believe given the amount of critics that he has. He was the first to admit that his first half performance was not up to standard, often trying to force plays when things were not clicking offensively.

However, in the second half against the Ravens, Tua played with more confidence than he ever has in his career and it showed. A confident Tua who plays with poise and consistency will be key to victory on Sunday.

“I want his confidence to outweigh his perfectionism, or whatever that word would be, so that he can continue along his journey, but also be a little more present in reality.”

Coach Mike McDaniel

Tua slowed down his game was able to focus his fundamentals and the individual play in question to deliver in key moments. I urge all Dolphins fans to watch the film breakdown below.

3. Discipline

While discipline is a key to victory in just about every game, Buffalo’s ability to punish on extended drives will be detrimental to any hopes that the Dolphins have in starting the season 3-0.

Special teams’ mistakes, forced interceptions and penalties almost resulted in Miami contributing to their own downfall in Week 2. Make no mistake, they will need to be at their very best to beat this Buffalo side.

Injury Concerns

Buffalo’s victory against the Titans did not come without a cost. With Tre’Davious White remaining on IR, the Bills secondary is badly beaten up. Both starting safeties, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer sat out of practice on Thursday.

Both Hill and Waddle will look to take full advantage of this on Sunday. Meanwhile, look for Gabe Davis to potentially return after just missing out in Week 2.

Miami are not without their own injury concerns. Terron Armstead (toe) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. Let us hope that this is just Miami being cautious with the highly experienced veteran not needing as many practice reps to be game ready.

The Dolphins also appear to have caught a break in their secondary. Despite not practicing on Wednesday, Xavien Howard returned to practice on Thursday and looks likely to play on Sunday. His involvement will be key to keeping the Dolphins in this game.

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Nebraska vs. Northwestern Preview: Week 0 Prospect Roundup

Northwestern vs. Nebraska preview

Nebraska vs Northwestern Preview

Let’s take a deep dive into some of the best 2023 NFL Draft prospects in this Nebraska vs Northwestern preview!

College football’s return begins with the annual Week 0 matchups. Although these aren’t the crowd-pleasing matchups that come later in the season, these early games offer a nice appetizer.

By far the most anticipated game in Week 0 is the inter-conference bout between Nebraska and Northwestern. This is the biggest Power Five game, between two teams looking to bounce back.

This BIG 10 rivalry game has the allure of being set in the Irish capital of Dublin, with the actual game taking place at Aviva Stadium. 2022 marks an important year for both teams, especially for Nebraska after coming off a 3-9 season in 2021. Their last win came against Northwestern in the fall of 2021, scoring a whopping 56 points against the Wildcats.

2021 was also a trying season for the Northwestern Wildcats, finishing the season with the same record as their opponents at 3-9. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes to rebound in 2022, hopefully through their downhill rushing attack lead by their impressive room of running backs.

More important than their individual team aspirations are the draft prospects found within each team. Both squads have plenty of talent on their rosters with each varying in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. The following list will attempt to preview all of the 2023 NFL Draft prospects you should care about as you watch this exciting Week 0 matchup of Nebraska vs Northwestern.

Nebraska vs Northwestern Preview: NFL Draft Prospects


Evan Hull – Running Back 

The Wildcats haven’t been known for their offensive star power. However, that doesn’t mean they lack talent at the skill positions. In the last five years, players such as running back Justin Jackson and wide receiver Ben Skowronek haven’t been the most impressive prospects, but have carved out roles at the next level nonetheless. This year, the Northwestern Wildcats have another solid skill player in running back Evan Hull. 

Hull had a breakout year in 2021, amassing 1009 yards rushing at 5.1 yards-per-carry on almost 200 touches. Additionally, he rushed for seven touchdowns while catching another two through the air.

At 5-11, 210 pounds, Hull has a dense build that allows him to carry good strength in his lower body to churn out runs down the field. He’s not an elite-level athlete, at least on tape, however, he shows good fluidity in between the tackles that allows him to create extra yards. 

Playing against a stout Cornhuskers front, Hull will have a chance to showcase his ability and potentially get more eyes to his game. He’s certainly an underrated prospect coming out of the summer, but is certainly worth some attention in Week 0 this Saturday. 

Peter Skoronski – Offensive Tackle 

Similar to his former teammate and 2021 first-round pick Rashawn Slater, Wildcats offensive lineman Peter Skoronski is Northwestern’s biggest offensive star by a long shot. Skoronski is considered to be one of the top offensive tackles in the 2023 NFL Draft, and one of the best players in the BIG 10 Conference. 

Skoronski shows excellent power with a crisp anchor, having great lower half strength that helps him to supplant opponents with little issue. He’s an excellent mover in the second level, with his foot quickness and hip fluidity allowing him to take advantageous angles to his targets.

The biggest draw to Skoronski’s game, however, is his versatility — or rather — potential positional versatility. Skoronski lacks elite arm length, so there are questions as to whether he’ll stick at offensive tackle or not. He’s had experience at center, which should open up different opportunities for him to see the field. 

As mentioned above, the Cornhusker’s front seven looks to be stout this year, with their pass rushing possessing a three-headed rotation that could give Skoronski some struggles on Saturday. Even so, Skoronski could quickly cement himself as one of the top tackles if he comes out sharp against Nebraska

Adetomiwa Adebawore – Defensive End 

Where Northwestern has begun to shine over the last five years is with its defense. A few edge rushers such as Earnest Brown IV, Dean Lowry, and Ifeadi Odenigbo have made it to the league — with varying degrees of initial success. This year Adetomiwa Adebawore could be the next Wildcat edge rusher to make his way to the professional level. 

Adebawore was recently featured on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks Lists, where he was highlighted for his impressive strength and weight room prowess. He also showed good numbers in the three-cone drill as well, reflecting the above-average change of direction skills found in his college film. He has solid first-step quickness that will allow him to establish leverage while using that elite strength to maintain gaps. 

Adebawore was not a highly thought of player initially by yours truly after summer scouting, but after more film study his stock has begun to rise a little bit in my rankings. He has a great opportunity to make some noise this weekend against a Nebraska offensive line that lacks elite talent. Adebawore is a solid day three prospect at this point and could continue to rise if he builds off of a promising 2021. 

Cameron Mitchell – Cornerback 

Greg Newsome was great for the Wildcats and quickly became among one of the best cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Newsome was a quick riser in that draft class after not being a widely discussed prospect for much of the early process. This isn’t to say that Cameron Mitchell will reach the same heights as his former teammate, however, he is one of the BIG 10’s best-kept secrets. 

Mitchell plays outside corner for the Wildcats and, despite not possessing elite ball production, there are still elements of his game that show some promise. Mitchell plays with quick feet and solid fluidity in his hips, allowing him to be a relatively successful man-coverage corner with some good activity in his hands.

At this point, Mitchell is an underrated prospect but looks to have a good weekend against the Cornhusker’s receivers. 


Casey Thompson – Quarterback 

The Texas Longhorns had a down 2021 season under their first year with Steve Sarkisian, although quarterback Casey Thompson was one of the bright spots for the team. Now at Nebraska, the 23-year-old passer aims to guide the Cornhuskers to the promised land in the BIG 10 in 2022.

Thompson possesses some good athletic traits when using his legs, with great foot quickness which allows him to break off big runs down the field. He has a solid arm, too, and has several instances where he’s been able to astutely press the ball downfield. 

Although it’s unlikely that Thompson will be considered among the ranks of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud, he could carve out a nice place for himself in the 2023 draft class. And that journey starts on Saturday. 

Travis Vokolek – Tight End

Chase Allen was the focus at tight end for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Now that duty has turned over to Travis Vokolek. With Zavier Betts off the team, there isn’t a top-end pass catcher for Thompson to rely on. Vokolek has nice speed with solid hands, but in a deep tight end class he’ll need to find his footing.

Ochaun Mathis – EDGE 

Nebraska’s second biggest offseason addition is pass rusher Ochaun Mathis. The former Horned Frog transferred this year after having a solid career at Texas Chrisitan. He finished his career at TCU with 12.5 sacks and 26 tackles for a loss, with eight of those sacks coming during the 2020 season.

Mathis already has many fans in the draft community, but will have an excellent opportunity to gain more with a great performance on Saturday. 

Mathis already possesses some solid athletic traits, showing a good initial step and change of direction skills when operating from gap-to-gap. He stands at 6-5, 260 pounds, possessing great length for the edge position with enough mass to anchor versus the run. Mathis is still learning the finer points of pass rushing, but has the potential to improve and showed plenty of promise in 2021. 

Caleb Tannor – EDGE 

By far the biggest unknown out of every player mentioned here is the “other” edge rusher at Nebraska, Caleb Tannor. After starting only a handful of games in 2020, Tannor made the jump to full-time in 2021 and the results were not disappointing. While he didn’t necessarily crush the stat sheet, the raw athleticism on display was something to behold. 

Similar to Mathis, Tannor is still somewhat raw as a pass rusher. However, he can absolutely supplant tackles with speed-to-power, using his length to stun offensive linemen and drive them deeper into the backfield. He has an incredible burst off the line of scrimmage, while his body control allows him to play underneath his opponents.

Tannor vs. Skoronski will be must-see television on Saturday. 

Garrett Nelson – EDGE 

The final pass rusher in the Cornhuskers’ Hydra linebacking core is veteran and reigning team sack leader,  Garrett Nelson. Coming off of a six-sack 2021, the lead pass rusher of Nebraska is an underrated prospect in this class. He’s not as athletically gifted as his teammates, but Nelson still has plenty of talent of his own and is certainly worth a look going forward. 

Nelson has solid hand technique when operating as a pass rusher, but still relies heavily on effort and power. More so than his teammates, it will be interesting to see what improvements he’s made as a run defender. Run defense was not his strongest suit in 2021, with him struggling to set a physical edge against the inter-conference competition. He’ll likely see snaps against Skoronski as well, so viewers will get the chance to see how he fairs against top talent early on. 

Luke Reimer – Linebacker 

The final prospect in this preview is the Cornhuskers’ 2021 tackles leader in linebacker Luke Reimer. Reimer isn’t an elite-level athlete but has proven he can make consistent plays against the run. The 2021 All-Big 10 Honorable Mention is one of the teams’ top defenders, and its easy to see why.

Reimer has shown on film how easily he deconstructs blocks, using hand force and body positioning to stave off potential blocks. He’s quick on the hoof against the run, and tries to be the first player to the football. He’s deceptively sticky in man coverage versus tight ends, but will not be heavily relied upon in that regard. Reimer is still a junior and may not even declare this year. However, he’s still worthy of your time. 

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Music and Sports: Why Cover Both?

music and sports
Credit: NBC Los Angeles

At first it may seem out of place for a sports website to venture out and cover music. You may be seeing us on Twitter and asking yourself “why are they talking about a music artist?” The answer is simple. When you really think about it, music is an integral part of the fabric of sports.

Whether it’s a marching band in high school, fight songs and hype songs in college, entrance music in baseball or wrestling, or the PA playing heavy metal — or symphonic deathcore, to be specific — at a hockey game, music is everywhere in sports.

The Intersection of Sports and Music

So why, then, should you have to go to one spot for your sports coverage and then leave to go to a specific music website to read album reviews? Why should you have to come to us to read about what’s going on in training camp, then have to head to an entirely different site to see a band’s entire discography ranked from worst to first?

You shouldn’t! And that’s the ultimate goal here at Around the Block Network. We want to be your one-stop entertainment hub! We want to be at the intersection of sports and music.

That’s why you’re going to see someone who tweets about the Giants and his local Baltimore teams talking about a hot new artist he loves. That’s why you’re going to find two Dolphins fans and a Lions fan promoting a heavy metal-focused podcast. Because at the end of the day, we all love sports and we all love music. So why shouldn’t you be able to get analysis and opinions on both in the same place?

It may seem strange at first, but should it? We would argue that it shouldn’t, and we hope you agree! Who knows, maybe someday in the future it’ll become some normal, par-for-the-course content strategy. For now, ATB is here to give you the latest on all your passions. Stay tuned and enjoy the ride!

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Yadier Molina’s ejection is a Bad Look

Yaider Molina’s ejection made the wrong kind of headlines, when this happened the other day.

What led to Yadier Molina’s ejection?

While Yadier Molina is recovering from injury, he decided to go back to his native Puerto Rico to do his rehab work there. He also happens to own a professional basketball team there, and was attending one of their games. It seems like he saw something he didn’t agree with and lost his cool, and an ejection quickly followed. As a result of Yadier Molina’s ejection, he has since apologized for his behavior.

The Cardinals Are Hurting Without Their Catcher

Molina has been out with knee inflammation since the middle of June. Since then, the Cardinals have struggled to replace him. Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, and Austin Romine have not been up to snuff. Offensively, they have been below average to dismal. That is a drop-off from Molina’s steady, but unspectacular batting. That drop is compounded by the fact that none of them are anywhere near the defensive x-factor that the veteran Molina is. This is coming at a time where the Cardinals have been treading water just to stay within striking distance of a sputtering Brewers club for the NL Central crown.

Not a Good Look Right Now

The optics of Yadier Molina’s ejection could not look much worse right now. Just the fact that Molina is not in one of the fifty states is likely to infuriate fans. However, legends like him are rare exceptions and can get a pass here. That pass gets a lot harder to accept when videos like the one above come out.

Also, this feels like a last hurrah for the Redbirds, with Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Albert Pujols likely hanging it up after this year. Seeing a crucial player that fans are hoping to get back doing anything other than rehabbing is going to be frustrating. The only news that fans want to hear right now is when he is coming back. They don’t want to hear about him being the Mark Cuban of the Puerto Rican NBA.

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Georgia defenders Travon Walker and Jordan Davis go top 10 in this mock draft

TD Hunter’s Final 2022 NFL Mock Draft

We are less than a week away from the 2022 NFL Draft. There are handful of trades as well as a few picks to mimic the craziness we all know and love on draft day. Without further ado, here is my final mock draft of the season!

Georgia defenders Travon Walker and Jordan Davis go top 10 in this mock draft
Photo Credit: John Adams/Icon Sportswire
No. 1 Jacksonville Jaguars: Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia

The Jaguars opt for a high ceiling player with unmatched physical potential to kick of this year’s mock draft. Though he wasn’t the most dominant pass rusher in college, Travon Walker’s physical upside is too much for the Jaguars to pass on and they get a difference maker on defense.

No. 2 Detroit Lions: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

Head coach Dan Campbell gets his tough, gritty defender in the Michigan native Aidan Hutchinson. The former Wolverine has all the tools to excel in the NFL, as he is solid in every facet of the game. His leadership ability makes him a big draw as well.

No 3. Houston Texans: Evan Neal, OT, Alabama

The Texans must lay a foundation for their franchise and Evan Neal can help them do that. Adept at playing both left and right tackle, the physically imposing Neal can be a franchise tackle in Houston for years to come.

No 4. New York Jets: Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon

It wasn’t too long ago that Kayvon Thibodeaux was the conseus top player in this draft, but falls to fourth overall due to unfounded questions of his effort. Robert Saleh made a career off of a vaunted pass rush in San Francisco, and he grabs a dynamic EDGE here for his defense.

No 5. New York Giants: Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The Giants need serious help along the offensive line in order to help protect quarterback Daniel Jones and open holes for running back Saquon Barkley. Ikem Ekwonu is a phenomenal run blocker who plays with a nasty streak that the Giants will certainly covet.

No. 6. *TRADE* (from Carolina) Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
(Panthers receive 20th overall selection, 52nd overall selection, 2024 first round pick)

Word on the street is the Steelers are enamored with Malik Willis, and it’s not hard to see why. A tremendous athlete with a cannon for an arm, Willis can bring to life a position that has been on the wayside in Pittsburgh the last few years. Though he’ll need time to develop, and he’ll get that behind Trubisky, Willis will be well worth the wait for the Steelers.

No 7. New York Giants: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati

New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale prioritizes defensive backs and coverage over pass rush, and hasn’t been shy about saying so. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has the size, speed, and swagger that Wink drools over, and would be a perfect fit in the Giants new look defense.

No. 8. Atlanta Falcons: Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia

The first big shock of this mock draft goes to the Falcons, who stay close to home and are not above taking athletic marvels, even if the position isn’t a big need or matches the value of the spot. At 6’6, 340 lbs and running a 4.78, Jordan Davis is a freak of nature the NFL has never seen the likes of and he should have teams drooling.

The Falcons ranked last in sacks and were sixth against the run, but Davis can elevate those around him. Not to mention, Grady Jarrett is due over $16 million during his final year of his contract and Davis could help ease that eventual loss.

No. 9. Seattle Seahawks: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Illinois

The Seahawks have massive holes at both tackle spots, and it doesn’t matter much who is under center in Seattle until those spots are filled. Trevor Penning has been a fast riser in the draft process due to his athletic testing and his nasty style of play. This may be seen as a reach, but Pete Carroll’s draft board has always looked vastly different from most everyone else’s.

No. 10. New York Jets: Drake London, WR, USC

Getting quarterback Zach Wilson more help should be a high priority for the Jets. They go out and snag a big target for their second year quarterback here. Drake London may not have blazing speed, but he is a big-bodied target with a massive wingspan who makes contested catches look easy. The Jets get a much needed-number one wide-out in New York.

No. 11. Washington Commanders: Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame

The backend of Washington’s defense needs an upgrade, and Kyle Hamilton is one of the best upgrades a team can have. Seen as one of the top players in this draft, Hamilton has tremendous range, versatility, and overall talent, and fits in nicely with Ron Rivera’s defense.

No. 12. *TRADE* (from Minnesota) Kansas City Chiefs: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
(Vikings receive the 29th and 30th overall picks)

The Chiefs have shown that they are not afraid to go all-in to get players they feel will help Patrick Mahomes, as evidenced by their overhaul of the offensive line last year. Now, the Chiefs need weapons and they grab perhaps the best one in this year’s draft. Jameson Williams is an explosive pass catcher who can play all over the field and keeps the Kansas City offense dangerous.

No. 13. Houston Texans: Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

The Texans need help across the board and are in a prime position to take the best player available. Derek Stingley Jr. is far and away the best player on the board. There were talks of him being a potential first overall pick after a tremendous freshman year at LSU, and while his play has cooled off since then, there is no denying that Stingley possesses unreal talent.

No. 14. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

Despite owning a bevy of mid-round picks, the Ravens do the Ravens thing and stay put to let good players fall to them. Jermaine Johnson fills a massive need for Baltimore, as the team has no proven players beyond Tyus Bowser and Odafe Oweh, both of whom are coming off of injuries themselves. Johnson can rush the passer in a variety of ways on top of being a stout run defender.

No. 15. Philadelphia Eagles: Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington

The Eagles are in desperate need of secondary help, and Trent McDuffie offers just that. Though he doesn’t possess prototypical length, McDuffie is an outstanding athlete who has the ability to play both the slot and out on the perimeter.

N0. 16. New Orleans Saints: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State

Jameis Winston is firmly entrenched as the team’s starting quarterback, so the Saints look to upgrade the talent around him in this mock draft. There is a gaping hole at left tackle after the departure of Terron Armstead, but Charles Cross can help fill that. Seen as the best pass protector in the draft, Cross can step in from Day 1 and be the Saints blindside protector.

No. 17. Los Angeles Chargers: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State

The Chargers are seriously invested in making a championship run while Justin Herbert is still on a rookie contract. The defense has been massively upgraded and now the Chargers look to upgrade Herbert’s weapons. Chris Olave has tremendous deep speed that complements the other receivers well, and he can immediately take advantage of Herbert’s big arm.

No. 18. Philadelphia Eagles: George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue

Philly’s defensive line is in serious need of some youth and George Karlaftis provides just that. Perhaps the best power rusher in the draft, Karlaftis is a stout run defender with a non-stop motor to get to the opposing quarterback.

No. 19. New Orleans Saints: Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State

Whatever the Saints need from him, Garrett Wilson can provide. A smooth route runner with sticky hands who can create separation in an instant, Wilson provides a much needed complement to the returning Michael Thomas — himself a former Buckeye.

No. 20. (from Pittsburgh) Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

The Panthers have a massive need at quarterback and are in dire need of draft picks. The trade down with the Steelers in this mock draft nets Carolina solutions to both, as the Panthers snag a second round pick and the quarterback they were targeting all along.

While Kenny Pickett is far from a finished product, he has enough physical and technical ability to give the Panthers confidence that he is their franchise QB going forward.

No. 21. New England Patriots: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson

Even if J.C. Jackson had returned, defensive back would still be high up on New England’s list of needs. But with Jackson’s departure to LA, the Patriots are in need of an influx of talent on their defensive back end. Though there are some medical concerns, Andrew Booth is an astounding athlete and a tough competitor who can play both in the slot and out on the perimeter.

No. 22. Green Bay Packers: George Pickens, WR, Georgia

George Pickens is a big-bodied receiver with deceptive speed who can make any catch thrown his way. Aaron Rodgers needs more weapons, and he will come to love Pickens in a hurry.

No. 23. Arizona Cardinals: Zion Johnson, IOL, Boston College

Though there are more pressing needs for Arizona, the team’s top priority should be surrounding quarterback Kyler Murray with talent, assuming he comes back. Zion Johnson is an interior lineman who has it all and can instantly upgrade Murray’s protection, which has been suspect at times.

No. 24. Dallas Cowboys: Tyler Smith, OL, Tulsa

For years, the strength of the Cowboys has been the offensive line. But age, injuries, and free agent departures have thinned out that line. Tyler Smith offers some much needed reinforcements. A violent run blocker with obscene strength and power, Smith can open up holes for Cowboys runners with ease.

No. 25. Buffalo Bills: Treylon Burks, WR, Arkansas

Wide receiver isn’t the biggest need for Buffalo but Treylon Burks is too enticing at this spot to pass up. Falling a bit due to disappointing 40 times, Burks is still a big-bodied receiver who complements Stefon Diggs and could quickly become a favorite target of Josh Allen.

No. 26. Tennessee Titans: Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah

The Titans have a noticeable hole in the middle of their defense at linebacker. Devin Lloyd can come in right away to remedy that. Ultra versatile with sideline-to-sideline speed, Lloyd can be a useful weapon head coach Mike Vrabel could deploy effectively.

No. 27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devonte Wyatt, IDL, Georgia

Devonte Wyatt was productive while at Georgia and has all the tools teams want in a defensive lineman, but he’s one of the oldest prospects in the draft. That could cause him to fall. The Bucs need to inject some youth into their defensive line and Wyatt could be a Day 1 starter.

No. 28. Green Bay Packers: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia

The Packers grab a versatile defensive back to strengthen their defensive backfield. Lewis Cine has great range and can play in multiple spots on the defense and would be a needed boost to Green Bay’s secondary.

No 29. (from Kansas City) Minnesota Vikings: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

The Vikings have had a revolving door at corner for a number of years, and it’s not for a lack of trying to upgrade the position. Kaiir Elam has the NFL pedigree and a great combination of size and athleticism to be a standout defensive back.

No. 30. (from Kansas City) Minnesota Vikings: Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

There’s a new regime in Minnesota and that typically means a new quarterback. While Kirk Cousins is back for one more year, that doesn’t preclude the Vikings from taking a signal caller and getting that coveted fifth-year option. Desmond Ridder is an experienced player with the tools necessary to succeed at the next level.

No. 31. Cincinnati Bengals: Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa

The Bengals made a surprising Super Bowl run last season and that is no thanks to the offensive line. The Bengals have made much needed additions to that unit and Tyler Linderbaum can be the cherry on top.

No. 32. Detroit Lions: Daxton Hill, DB, Michigan

The Lions close out this mock draft and go Michigan once again with their second first round pick, Daxton Hill. The former Wolverine can line up and virtually any spot in the secondary, which is a relief because the Lions need help in their secondary in a bad way.

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Dwayne Haskins’ Death Shows the Disease of NFL Culture

Dwayne Haskins throwing the football while with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Dwayne Haskins tragically lost his life, after he was struck by a dump truck on the side of the interstate in Florida. At just 24 years old, he still had the great majority of life in front of him. Joys, pains, the glories of life; all of which were stripped away in crushing suddenness.

While the great majority of the NFL community showed their support, the league’s culture reared its ugly head again. As Saturn devoured his son, a portion of the league’s media devoured a man’s honor in death.

Zero Empathy from NFL Media

Adam Schefter was, for most people, the first person to break the news. He did so in a way that focused on Haskins’ struggles in the NFL, rather than a person who just died.

Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida. . .

Adam Schefter

Schefter deleted the tweet, and posted a new one that focused on Haskins’ accomplishments. The damage was done, though. Adam Schefter had taken a terrible situation and made the worst of it. Haskins’ failures in the NFL were the first thing that came to his mind.

Not even two hours later, Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt appeared on SiriusXM NFL radio to discuss Haskins’ death. What resulted was a disturbing diatribe about Haskins’ character.

Brandt said that “he was a guy that was living to be dead,” and placed the blame for Haskins being hit on the interstate on Haskins himself. At one point, Brandt launched into a story about Haskins wanting to hang out with friends and family at a bowling alley on draft night. This was somehow supposed to be a knock against his character.

Yes, Brandt is 90 years old. No, that doesn’t excuse him from launching into this rant. Even if he was asked about him from a purely scouting standpoint, he could have turned it down until a later date.

Brandt eventually apologized, but phrased it as a “poor choice of words.” Yet, the problem is that the words reveal a mindset far too common in this league. Players, even in death, are looked at as assets to be judged.

A Chronic Problem

Of course, race is the great divider in how the league treats players, and always has been. White players enjoy a standard of humanity in death. That humanity is looked at through the lens of football, but it still exists. When Colt Brennan died last year, Schefter did not focus on his pro failures, but on his successes in college at Hawai’i.

Meanwhile, the ugly saga of Sean Taylor’s treatment in death rears its head again. Taylor, despite being the victim of a burglary, was blamed for his own death by the media. Famed troll Colin Cowherd delivered his racist id’s invective, saying that one should “ask yourself realistic questions….Just because somebody cleans the rugs doesn’t mean there aren’t stains.”

Taylor was famous for not caring about what the media thought of him. At points, he was even combative. For this, the shadows of the NFL’s media saw themselves fit to judge him for his own demise.

It is no wonder, then, that players like Marshawn Lynch refused to give access to the media during their playing career. They understood that the league only cared about access, and little about them. Whatever story that they, as Black men, brought to the game, didn’t matter to the media or the league as a whole.

Haskins Deserves Sweet Remembrance

With Black athletes and coaches degraded in the NFL as such, it is logical that former Dolphins coach Brian Flores is suing the league. Black executives get no redoubt from racism because of their supposed authority. Black athletes put their bodies on the line for white owners, who care little for what happens to those players.

All these people suing for change, demanding respect from the media, and asking for people to care are just that; people. They have lives, loves, ambitions, and dreams.

Whatever there is to say about his career, Haskins has achieved so much in his short life. To play quarterback for Ohio State, and at the NFL level, is a life most would give anything for.

Dwayne Haskins was a dreamer who achieved, and that is the way he should be remembered.

Follow Kathryn Rose on Twitter

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The Miami Dolphins are Back to Having Fun

As the Miami Dolphins head back to the facility for their offseason program, there seems to be a common theme among players and coaches. That being the fun, lighthearted nature of coach Mike McDaniel.

“It’s more like… fun.”

Emmanuel Ogbah on the differences of having Mike McDaniel as Head Coach.

At first glance, it would appear the Dolphins, specifically on defense, enjoyed their time under Brian Flores. Rattling off back to back winning seasons was quite the accomplishment, and much of it came on the back of the defensive unit. An opportunistic bunch with a knack for timely turnovers and sacks was able to drag a lackluster offense to two of their best seasons in recent memory.

However, it was clear that the other side of the ball wasn’t improving, and Flores’ no nonsense attitude was wearing on players. When the “Patriot Way” isn’t winning postseason games (or getting you there in the first place), then it all falls apart.

Mike McDaniel, however, had a clear goal coming into this offseason: keep the defense intact while bringing in players and staff who can get their offense back to being competent for the first time since Dan Marino was under center.

Mike McDaniel brings hope of getting Miami’s offense back on track.

New Acquisitions

McDaniel came in with aggression, quickly bringing in major acquisitions in the free agency period. Namely, signing All-Pro tackle Terron Armstead and trading for the NFL’s most explosive receiver Tyreek Hill showed determination.

Along with that, depth pieces and other upgrades, such as Cedrick Wilson Jr., Raheem Mostert, and Chase Edmonds are sure to give Miami a more dynamic unit.

The Miami Dolphins have a new look offensive unit.

This was a clear issue under the previous regime. Brian Flores showed an unwillingness to go after free agents, leading to an offense bereft of talent.

They also brought in familiar faces and rising stars in the coaching room. Patrick Surtain, Sam Madison, and Wes Welker, all former Dolphins players, will be taking on the reigns as assistant coaches. There have even been jokes about whether the assistants will run one-on-ones in practice, which is yet to be seen.

Keeping Your Best Players Happy

However, this was all on-paper, and if players are unable to get along with the coach, then it all goes downhill. Miami’s previous two coaches alienated players from one side of the ball, and it was up to McDaniel to show he won’t make the same mistake. How would he do that? By paying Miami’s premier defenders.

Xavien Howard and Emmanuel Ogbah, two of Miami’s best defensive playmakers, received extensions to remain in the aqua and orange.

Unlike Flores, McDaniel’s regime didn’t let these contracts linger, as they made sure to keep the best players happy. It’s important to make a strong first impression, and the new coaching has definitely done just that.

Fun Off the Field

However, McDaniel’s connection with Miami’s fanbase has been just as strong. Dolphins fans across social media noted the former OC’s stellar press conferences, which always included witty remarks. Thus, he struck a cord with those who wanted a more lively candidate at the helm.

It’s clear that the wit and humor has remained in Miami, along with the lighthearted interactions with fans and media.

Mike McDaniel accepts and conquers Rich Eisen’s coaching cliché challenge.

The Bottom Line on Miami Dolphins and Their Fun Offseason

On paper, the Dolphins look to be much more fun than years past. The offensive line is vastly improved, appearing much more able to support Mike McDaniel’s outside zone scheme. This would give the support needed to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa needed to get the ball to his new dynamic duo at wide receiver.

On top of that, a defense that ranks among the top of the league in turnovers is still intact. Although many thought Xavien Howard or Emmanuel Ogbah might not be retained, they are both back for the foreseeable future.

They even found a way to acquire one of the league’s most fun-to-watch wide receivers in Tyreek Hill. One whose ability after the catch is unmatched, and appears to be a great fit in their scheme.

However, the X’s and O’s only begin to describe this new era for the Miami Dolphins. New Head Coach Mike McDaniel brings an aura that Dolphins fans and players haven’t seen in a long time. It is this hope, humor, and… fun, that has eluded this fanbase for decades, and comes back in it’s newest form.

While we are unsure of how good the Miami Dolphins will be, it’s clear that something has changed this offseason. We can expect coaches, players, and fans alike to be having a lot more fun in the years to come.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Miami Dolphins Trade Devante Parker to Patriots

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker, acquired by the Patriots in a trade
Credit: The Phinsider

The Miami Dolphins traded wide receiver Devante Parker. This does not come as a surprise to most; however, the team he was traded to was a bit of a shocker. GM Chris Grier made a deal with the AFC East rival New England Patriots to trade Devante Parker and a 5th-round pick to New England in exchange for a 3rd-round pick in next year’s draft. 

Parker had been mentioned in trade rumors for a couple of years, but Miami never dealt him.

During his time in Miami, Parker was a key contributor when he was on the field. Unfortunately, hamstring injuries have plagued his career and he hasn’t been as consistent as many had hoped.

What the Devante Parker trade means for Miami:

Salary cap:

This offseason, Miami signed wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and traded for star receiver Tyreek Hill. With 2nd-year wide-out Jaylen Waddle already on the roster, Parker quickly found himself in the fourth spot on the depth chart.

Parker was owed about $6 million in 2022. It is an unprecedented amount to pay for a fifth pass-catching option. According to Spotrac, the move frees up $6.25 million in cap space for Miami and they will take on no dead money. 

Draft capital:

By sending this year’s fifth-round pick to New England, Miami has just four picks in the 2022 NFL draft: a third and fourth-round pick, and two seventh-round picks. What goes unnoticed is the amount of cap space “created” by not having to sign an entire draft class this year.

The most exciting part of the trade, however, is not the money Miami saved. It’s what the Dolphins got in return.

New England sent Miami a third-round pick in next year’s draft. Miami now has a whopping five picks in the first three rounds of the 2023 draft. Currently, the Dolphins have two first and third-round picks as well as one second-round pick.

Who “won” this trade remains to be seen, but Dolphins fans should feel good about adding cap space while adding future draft capital. 

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter

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Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard

Miami Dolphins Agree to Extension with Xavien Howard

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard
Photo Credit: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins have agreed to a contract extension with cornerback Xavien Howard, per his agent.

Contract terms

The deal will keep the disgruntled Howard in Miami for an additional five years and give Howard an additional $50+ million in new money. The deal also reportedly contains the most guaranteed money for a cornerback in NFL history.

A step in the right direction

The Dolphins have clearly gone into “all-in” mode this off-season. It started with a revamp of the coaching staff, spurred by new head coach Mike McDaniel.

McDaniel promises to bring a fresh, new offense to the team. One that should maximize the talents of third-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

From a personnel standpoint, the Dolphins “all-in” approach has seen the team add Terron Armstead, Connor Williams, Raheem Mostert, Chase Edmonds, Cedrick Wilson, and Trent Sherfield in free agency to help bolster a struggling offense and implement McDaniel’s system.

The off-season also brought former Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill to Miami in a blockbuster trade. It’s clear the Dolphins think their time is now.

In hindsight, all the moves on the offense were going to ring hollow if Howard wasn’t wrapped up long-term. The two sides had their dispute last off-season.

What it means

In exchange for Howard signing a one-year extension, the two sides agreed to come back to the table this off-season and once again attempt to get the young star manning the Dolphins defensive backfield for years to come.

Today, those efforts have come to fruition. This extension with Xavien Howard is the feather in the Miami Dolphins cap that is the 2022 NFL free agency period.

Now, the team – and fans – can fully turn their attention to the NFL Draft. Miami doesn’t have a pick in the first two rounds, but there should be plenty of excitement around the event nonetheless.

A new era has come to South Florida as the team is finally starting to keep their developed talent. Xavien Howard’s contract extension is a step in the right direction.

Follow Chris Spooner on Twitter

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Tyreek Hill is the Stephen Curry of the NFL

Tyreek Hill had his opening press conference with the Miami Dolphins on Thursday, and his confidence is contagious.

Among the topics of conversation, an appreciation for Mike McDaniel and his scheme was prevalent. It’s clear that, after having a falling out in Kansas City, Miami was a place Hill believed that he could succeed at — or past — the level he did previously.

While it’s unknown what Hill’s role will bring in McDaniel’s system, it’s clear that they can both elevate each other.

McDaniel brings a new scheme, centered around wide zone runs and timely play action. Hill, on the other hand, brings an element of speed the league has never seen before.

However, it’s his gravity, and how that plays into the entire offense, that’s so exciting for McDaniel and the Dolphins. That innate ability is rarely seen in football. It’s so rare, in fact, that his best comparison might be NBA superstar Stephen Curry.

The Gravity of Stephen Curry

For those unfamiliar with Curry, the three-time NBA champion has the most three-pointers made in NBA history, and is regarded as the greatest shooter of all-time. He has made a living on making defenders pay, and his other-worldly skill has brought fear into those tasked with covering him.

“If teams are going to throw the kitchen sink at Steph, they’re going to pay”

Steve Kerr (Warriors Head Coach)

Everybody knows that Steph Curry can score better than just about anyone in the NBA, but it’s how his play effects others on the team that makes him different.

Due to his ability to get such a high volume of points in a short amount of time (along with him being able to threaten any space on the court), teams instantly go for the double team (and sometimes more).

The ideology seems sound: stop Stephen Curry and, in turn, shut down the rest of the team. However, this is the exact opposite of the case.

Stephen Curry’s manipulation of leverage and gravity opens up opportunities for others.

By dedicating an extra defender to Curry, the rest of the court now has one less defender, leaving somebody open.

This now gives the rest of the offense an opportunity to be just as dangerous. Teams will go after the star with everything they have, which takes the ancillary pieces out of their focus. This allows said players to operate in a much less congested space and make big plays for themselves.

A Similar Effect for Tyreek Hill

This exact effect has transpired for new Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill during his time in Kansas City. Much like Stephen Curry, Hill has a generational talent, and while it isn’t three point shooting, it brings the same type of impact.

His speed, which has been brought up time and time again, brings the ability to attack any space on the field with maximum effectiveness. His long range as a deep threat is one of the most unique skills in league history. So much so, that it can only truly be compared to an athlete in a different sport.

A prime example of this can be found in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs against the Buffalo Bills.

Reaping the Benefits of Hill’s Gravity

This play, shown below, shows just how much explosiveness Hill has, and what can happen if he isn’t doubled. Buffalo comes out in a pretty balanced defense, not shading over to Hill’s side, which ends up being a big mistake.

As he comes over the middle, Mahomes puts a perfect pass between the numbers. After that, we see just how much of a game-breaker Hill is. When defenders believe that they have leverage, he finds a way to make them look silly and destroy their angles.

He does so right here and finds his way into the end-zone.

Tyreek Hill destroys angles and finds his way into the end-zone.

On the following possession, we see the effects of Tyreek’s big play potential, and how teams will give up big plays elsewhere to limit one from him. Due to his ability to make a home-run play at any point, Buffalo lines up way too deep.

Kansas City is running low on time, but this is too much room for Mahomes to work, and it’s clear that this defense was called in response to Hill’s generational speed.

The Bills’ fear of Tyreek Hill as a deep threat leaves Travis Kelce wide open underneath.

By lining up their defensive backs deep, Buffalo was unable to account for the middle of the field. Thus, Kansas City was able to take advantage of matchups, which left Travis Kelce with too much room to work. This put Kansas City deeper into field goal range and was a crucial play in pushing the game to overtime.

Without Hill’s speed and explosiveness, the prevent defense likely isn’t called. This begins a domino effect that likely ends with Kansas City losing this game. Thus, likely ending their playoff run a round early. It’s clear that the gravity Hill attracts is extremely important and brings great potential to Miami.

The Bottom Line on Tyreek Hill and his Gravity

Miami has one of the best young cores in the NFL now. Behind Jaylen Waddle, Mike Gesicki, and Cedrick Wilson, there are several players capable of having big games.

The probability of doing so has just gone up. Tyreek Hill will continue to draw the best defenders, with teams often coming out in preventative defenses with two-high safeties or double teams. As it did in Kansas City, the surrounding pieces will be too much to handle.

The gravity that Hill brings simply isn’t matched by any NFL player, and his generational talent, similar to Stephen Curry’s, will do wonders for the Dolphins’ offense.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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How will Tyreek Hill fit with the Miami Dolphins

On Tuesday, the Miami Dolphins traded a slew of picks for Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Hill will be joining Mike McDaniel in his first year in Miami, and the Chiefs received a first, second, two fourths and a sixth round pick in the NFL Draft for the six-time Pro-Bowler.

Miami sees Hill as the missing piece to a contending roster, and clearly envision him having high production in McDaniel’s scheme, but it won’t be coming in the same ways as it did in Kansas City.

Andy Reid and Kansas City’s Offense

Andy Reid, who was Hill’s coach throughout his NFL career, runs a vastly different scheme than McDaniel. Coming from a vaunted BYU coaching tree, Reid runs more air-raid passing elements. His offense thrives in the shotgun, typically having receivers spread out across the field, making their money in the deep passing game.

Tyreek Hill was elite in the deep passing game.

Kansas City, especially after bringing in Patrick Mahomes, committed to the deep passing game, in which Hill thrived. His ability to take the top off of the defense was his best skill, and it vaulted the Chiefs into contention.

His vertical speed made it nearly impossible to guard their offense, and allowed others to succeed as well. Among them, tight end Travis Kelce had major success coming over the middle and finding open space.

This came primarily out of 11 personnel, which KC brought out 64 percent of the time, and was the staple of their offense.

Tyreek Hill with Mike McDaniel and the Miami Dolphins

This, while something that will be used under Mike McDaniel, will likely no longer be the calling card of Hill’s game. McDaniel, whose offense I broke down in a previous article, operates in much more condensed formations.

They pride themselves on being run first, so the formations involve much more use of fullbacks and tight ends. San Francisco ran a league high 34 percent of their plays in 12 personnel (1 running back and 2 tight ends). This is a stark contrast from Kansas City, who only ran this grouping five percent of the time.

Mike McDaniel runs a high amount of 12 personnel.

Being more condensed means not only a more heavy run focus, but also different plays in the passing game.

San Francisco did a lot of their damage in the play action, dialing up timely crossers after gashing with the run. Their receivers (namely Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel) would often use their speed to get out in space for YAC (yards after catch). This is where Hill fits in nicely.

Although, he was known for the aforementioned deep receiving ability, he was deadly after the catch. When they weren’t running him deep, Kansas City often used Tyreek on crossers to get him targets in space.

Success Over the Middle

Prime examples of this were found in 2021, especially in the playoffs. When Kansas City faced two high safeties, such as they did against the Bills, they were forced to adapt. This meant more consistent short passes and crossing patterns, and Hill was just as — if not more — effective.

Tyreek Hill was deadly on crossers.

Being what NFL fans and media define as a “gamebreaker”, it’s simply difficult to stop Hill on crossers.

He makes defenders who believe they have positioning look silly, using generational speed to pass them and ruin their angles. This bodes well for him in Miami, which, under Mike McDaniel, is expected to run a high amount of crossers.

McDaniel has stated that he is enamored with players who can win in space, and that shows with Hill. His ability will be maximized on crossing routes, and much of his success will hinge on Tua Tagovailoa.

How will Tyreek Hill fit with Tua Tagovailoa?

Although many see Hill as a poor fit with Tua, it may be quite the opposite.

Coming out of college at Alabama, Tagovailoa was regarded as one of the best short-to-intermediate throwers in his class. This has translated well into the NFL, and he has quickly become a consistent threat in the RAC game.

His ball placement — one of his best skills — helped Jaylen Waddle reach over 1,000 yards in his rookie season. In a scheme that prioritizes his best throws, this can do just as well for Hill.

They both have a knack for working well in the middle of the field, and if Tua is able to find Hill in space, it will be dangerous for opposing defenses.

With Tagovailoa at quarterback, it’s safe to say that we will be seeing the new Dolphin between the numbers quite often. They will clearly use his deep-threat skillset, but the short and intermediate game will be his bread-and-butter.

The Element of Gravity

Tyreek Hill, much like is described with Stephen Curry in the NBA, brings a level of gravity that is unmatched by many.

Teams fear his ability to go over the top, so they bring the strength of their defense over to his side. This opens up others across the team, none more exciting than second-year receiver Jaylen Waddle.

Coming off his aforementioned 1,000 yard season, Waddle broke the rookie receptions record. He was consistently Tua’s number one option, and while that will likely change, so will the quality of his targets.

Waddle and Gesicki

The primary issue with Waddle’s season was not one of his own doing.

Due to a variety of offensive issues (line play, playcalling, quarterback inconsistencies, etc.), Waddle was unable to find many deep targets, which was his number one trait in college.

When combined with being focused on as the number one playmaker, we weren’t able to see as many big plays as anticipated. However, Tyreek Hill’s arrival in Miami will mark a change.

Defenses can’t double team both receivers, and with consistent one-on-one matchups as well as deeper routes called, Waddle can be much more explosive.

Jaylen Waddle’s top 10 plays.

It’s very possible that we see one of Hill or Waddle working over the top. Thus, opening up the middle of the field for the other weapons. Notably, the other of the two.

A similar effect will be seen for Mike Gesicki, who can reap the benefits of a Kelce or George Kittle.

Opposite the most explosive receiver duo in the NFL, the middle of the field will be more open. Furthermore, teams won’t be able to dedicate the defenders to him that they were previously able to.

When there isn’t safety help, teams will be forced to lighten the box or put a linebacker on him. The latter of which is a clear mismatch, and further expands the role for the recently franchise tagged tight end.

The Deebo Factor and the Bottom Line on Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins

The most important question, which I broke down previously, was how similar Hill’s role will be to Deebo Samuel.

The receiving portion of their games, shockingly enough, will likely be similar. Both will operate in the open middle of the field. However, it’s likely we don’t see Hill rushing in the same way as Samuel.

Deebo has a listed 31 pounds over Tyreek, and is able to work between the tackles how few players can. McDaniel himself stated that Samuel is a one-of-a-kind player, and that looking for him won’t bring strong results. It was maximizing talent, however, that brought the results we saw of 2021’s All-Pro.

The role we saw Samuel in was custom built for him, and I expect the same thing for Hill.

It’s conceivable that we can see some similar backfield work, and Tyreek will definitely be in motion. However, his role will be unique to his skill set as a player, which is just as one-of-a-kind as Samuel — albeit in a different way.

While we can all guess what his role will be, it’s just conjecture for now. It will be fascinating to see how Miami utilizes their weapons, and it will start with their newest toy as Tyreek Hill plays his first season for the Miami Dolphins.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Chicago Bears

Miami Dolphins Free Agency Targets

Chicago Bears offensive lineman James Daniels, a potential target for the Miami Dolphins in free agency
Photo Credit: chicagobears.com

It’s only been about seven weeks without Miami Dolphins football, but it feels like it’s been seven years. The good thing for Miami Dolphins fans is that NFL Free Agency is rapidly approaching. The Miami Dolphins holes and positional needs on this roster were made abundantly clear during the 9-8 campaign. Fortunately, many of these needs will be filled during free agency.

Team Needs

The Miami Dolphins will surely be in the market for a top-tier OL in free agency, maybe even two. Miami had a bottom-3 offensive line in 2021 and was a big part of the reason the offense struggled. The Dolphins offense finished  25th in yards per game and 24th in points per game. With new OL coach Matt Applebaum and a run-heavy offense with HC Mike McDaniel, expect GM Chris Grier to look for top-tier offensive linemen when FA opens. 

For a second straight offseason, the Dolphins will likely be looking for wide receivers. Aside from Jaylen Waddle, no WR from the Dolphins 2021 roster is a guarantee to be back. In the Dolphins new offense, guys who can make plays in space with the ball in their hands will be valued. 

The Dolphins will also look to add front-seven starters/depth pieces on defense. The linebacking corp was a weakness last year on defense, and getting a key piece next to defensive play-caller Jerome Baker would be significant.

Potential Miami Dolphins Free Agency Signings

Wide Receiver, Amari Cooper

Cooper is still under contract with the Cowboys. Fortunately, Dallas is expected release the veteran due to cap concerns.

Amari Cooper would be an huge signing for Miami for obvious reasons. He is still a big-playmaking receiver who would become an instant threat in the Dolphins offense.

A huge part of what makes Cooper’s game so special is his route-running.

The Dolphins will have to spend more money on Cooper than other WRs I’ve listed, but they have the space.

If Miami can make a hometown reunion with for Cooper, Miami’s offense will instantly look more powerful.

Wide Receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster

Juju Smith-Schuster has been a key part of the Steelers offense for the last five seasons. He is set to hit free agency for the second offseason in a row.

In five years, he’s missed a combined 18 games(more than one season). That hasn’t stopped him front putting up nearly 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns.

What doesn’t show up on the stat sheet though is his ability to block in the run game. In a offense that will place an emphasis on running the ball, receivers who can block downfield will be a great advantage.

Smith will also be a great addition in the passing game for Miami. He can stretch the field vertically as well as make guys miss in space.

Steelers GM Kevin Colbert implied that the Steelers will try and keep Juju in Pittsburgh, but if he makes it to FA, expect Miami to be mentioned as a potential landing spot.

Wide Receiver, Byron Pringle

Pringle just finished his fourth season with the Chiefs and is expected to hit the open market. Pringle, like Wilson, is the perfect fit for the Dolphins offense.

The way Pringle can move with the ball in his hands in traffic is incredible. In an offense that will feature quick passes to receivers in space, Pringle’s skill set would be perfect.

According to Hussam Patel on the Donna Daily podcast, the Dolphins are interested in Wilson Jr. and Pringle and view both as an “Albert Wilson type” player.

Similar to Wilson Jr., Miami should not have to break the bank for Pringle. 

Center/Guard, James Daniels

The offensive line is clearly Miami’s biggest need. It was the downfall of the offense last year and will be key in Mike McDaniel’s run-heavy offense. Daniels, who spent his first four seasons in Chicago, has shown he can play multiple positions on the OL. 

During his rookie campaign, Daniels started nine games at left guard and one game at right guard. In 2019, Daniels split time between guard and center. 

Daniels has had an under-the-radar yet impressive career so far. In four seasons, he’s allowed just four sacks and only has five penalties. 

The Dolphins OL struggled significantly against stunts last season.

While using his experience at three out of five OL positions, Daniels has become elite at picking up stunts.

In the video above, Daniels picks up a stunt and takes on Aaron Donald one-on-one.

Clearly, he can do similar things at left guard. In an offense that expects to run the ball a lot, linemen who can get to the next level are a necessity. Daniels’ ability to block upfield would be a huge addition for the Dolphins. Miami could likely get Daniels in the $10M/year range.

Guard, Brandon Scherff

Scherff will probably cost Miami more money. Scherff has spent seven seasons in the league, all in Washington. Almost all of his time has been spent at right guard. Scherff is clearly a top guard in the game and has the accolades to prove it. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and was voted First-team All-Pro in 2020. 

Although Scherff is a star guard who has established himself at the top of his position in this league, there are a few reasons Miami may shy away from him.

Scherff was moved to RG during his rookie offseason because of his strength and ability to handle bull rushes. Miami currently has Robert Hunt at right guard. Hunt played solid football down the stretch last season, and it would not be surprising to see him get a shot there this season. There will be movement along the OL this offseason, so it will depend on whether the Dolphins feel that Hunt or Scherff can play another position or whether Hunt is just not the answer at RG. 

There’s also the money issue. Miami has a plethora of cap space, but Brandon Scherff will not be cheap. After playing last season on the franchise tag at over $18  million, Scherff is probably looking for one of his final big deals like Terron Armstead.

Whether or not he will be in South Florida next season will depend on numerous factors, but he is a name Dolphins fans should keep an eye on. 

Linebacker, Rashaan Evans

The Dolphins were considered a landing spot for Evans in the 2018 NFL Draft, but they elected to select Evans’ Alabama teammate, Minkah Fitzpatrick. Evans has had a somewhat underwhelming career thus far in Tennessee but has significant potential. 

Miami will be thin at linebacker this offseason with Vince Biegel and Elandon Roberts set to hit free agency and will need to add veteran pieces to the middle of the defense. 

Evans is an aggressive linebacker who can make tackles in the open field, stuff run gaps, and play coverage when needed. A versatile linebacker will thrive in the Miami defense.

Evans will be a low-risk high-reward free agent and will likely generate lots of traction if his asking price is right.

Potential Miami Dolphins Free Agency Re-signings

Aside from the obvious potential re-signings like Emmanuel Ogbah or Mike Gesicki, there are a few other Miami Dolphins that Chris Grier should try and bring back in free agency for the 2022 season.

Wide Receiver, Mack Hollins

In 2020, Mack Hollins showed flashes of potential at the depleted WR position; however, he proved to be inconsistent and was not a reliable piece at the position. He was brought back last season and showed incredible improvement. He became a solid option in the passing game and was a dog on special teams.

Hollins is highly respected in the locker room. The leadership and passion he brings to the squad is second to none.

Bringing Hollins back on the right price tag is something the Dolphins seriously should and will consider.

Running Back, Duke Johnson

The Dolphins RB room has been a cause for concern for the past few years. The lack of run game can partially be attributed to a lackluster offensive line, but also due to a lack of experience and/or talent.

Johnson, who was drafted in 2015, joined the Dolphins in late October and got his first start in a home game in December. Johnson broke out for over 100-yards and two touchdowns. 

He is a hard-runner and has the ability to hit holes and make guys miss in the open field. 

He clearly also has the ability to be a threat in the passing game. Johnson will find himself a nice role in a Mike McDaniel offense should Miami decide to re-sign him.

Johnson’s asking price should not be unreasonable, and he may even take a hometown discount to stay in Miami, where he was born, raised, and attended college.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter

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Jaylen Waddle, Treylon Burks and The Myth of “The Next Deebo Samuel”

Is Treylon Burks or Jaylen Waddle the next Deebo Samuel?

The San Francisco 49ers had one of the most prolific offenses in 2021, and Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel was one of the biggest reasons. The self-proclaimed “wide back” moved all around the field, revolutionizing a run-game that stays at the forefront of innovation.

The scheming from now-Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel was brilliant. Samuel would often start outside, then motion back in, giving San Francisco not only a ball carrier, but also a numbers advantage. By lining him up at receiver, defenses would lighten the box, anticipating fewer players in the backfield.

However, Samuel would move in, adding another big body to the running game. This allowed San Francisco to out-muscle weak boxes, while also having one of the most effective zone-rushing schemes.

Deebo Samuel scores a TD against Dallas.

This success was prevalent late in the season, and it quickly became a habit. Down the stretch, Samuel saw increased snaps at running back, while also being the 49ers’ number one receiver. His ability to create in space was unmatched, but he was just as good in-between the tackles.

Reaping the Benefits of Innovation

This development changed the trajectories of several careers. Samuel is now a total offensive weapon, with the ability to line up anywhere. His value has skyrocketed, and so has his coordinator’s. Mike McDaniel, now seen as an offensive innovator, landed the job he has today, and is entering his first draft combine with Miami.

During this Combine, McDaniel will search for the next player he can maximize. Contrary to popular belief, he won’t be looking for the next Deebo Samuel.

During a combine press conference, McDaniel explained his process for finding players, and how it leads to innovation.

“Deebo wasn’t found by looking for the next Deebo.”

Mike McDaniel

This quote, through its simplicity, pushes a point many overlook.

The best coaches in the league don’t look to imitate, but rather innovate. The number one job of a coach is finding places in which their players succeed. This mindset leads to carving out roles for your best athletes, rather than fitting them to a mold.

Mike McDaniel speaks on Deebo Samuel’s role.

Before Samuel, this “Wide Back” role on the 49ers didn’t exist. Sure, they used receivers in the run game, but this extent of between-the-tackles action was never before seen. It was only after acquiring Samuel and, more importantly, understanding his skillset, that McDaniel and San Francisco were able to bring this innovation to fruition.

McDaniel and the rest of the league’s best offensive minds will utilize the Combine to envision how players can change them and their schemes, not the other way around. Rather than envisioning how a prospect fits their scheme, they will envision how the player can revolutionize their offenses.

Jaylen Waddle

Upon Mike McDaniel’s arrival in Miami, many were looking at how receiver Jaylen Waddle can be “the next Deebo”. His skill set is relatively similar. Both move very well in open space and are dangerous threats in the RAC game. However, that’s about where the comparisons end.

It takes a compact, muscular athlete to run between the tackles, and that’s exactly what Samuel is. Coming in at six feet tall and 216 pounds, he weighs 33 more pounds than Jaylen Waddle — who has his advantages as well.

Waddle, although not as bulky, is significantly faster than Samuel, and moves more with elusiveness — which is exactly what intrigues McDaniel. There is a role that McDaniel sees for Waddle, and it’s clear through his interviews that he’s excited to utilize his explosive skill set. It’s also clear, however, that it won’t involve nearly as much running between the tackles.

Jaylen Waddle catches a deep pass from Tua Tagovailoa.

Treylon Burks

As far as the Combine is concerned, fans and media alike have seen Deebo-like traits in receiver Treylon Burks. Coming out of Arkansas, Burks definitely shares some traits with the All-Pro. Both play big and don’t have trouble breaking tackles. However, Burks is built more like an X receiver. Standing at 6’3″ and 225 pounds, it’s clear that their body types aren’t identical.

Treylon Burks has a unique skillset.

Burks is regarded as the closest thing to Deebo in the draft, yet the differences are still significant — which is exactly why it’s unfair to both players. Although it didn’t seem this way at first, Deebo Samuel is a generational talent, and has a unique skill set that no players have matched. Burks, on the other hand, has just as much individuality in his skill set and body type. They may look quite similar on paper, but their strengths and weaknesses don’t line up perfectly.

The Bottom Line on The Deebo Samuel Role

It would simply be lazy for someone to try to force Burks or Waddle into the Deebo Samuel role. That role was created for a specific player who is among the most unique in the NFL, which is why it works so well.

Samuel’s ability, when combined with the innovation of McDaniel and Shanahan, is a perfect storm for San Francisco, which brings us to the main point.

The best coaches, although taking some from others, pride themselves on innovation. It’s all about finding the next big thing, and that’s exactly what San Francisco did.

Just like the zone-read or the air-raid, the “wide back” will catch fire across the NFL. While others will attempt to copy it, the innovators will be working hard to find another wrinkle, which separates them from the rest. Defenses are working hard to stop new trends, so it becomes pertinent to find something they haven’t seen before.

“It’s more solving problems in different ways and having different tools and abilities to do so.”

Mike McDaniel

Mike McDaniel has equated constructing an offensive gameplan to solving problems, and it shows in his innovation.

Critical thinking brings out the best in top-end offensive minds, and McDaniel came across a gold mine with Samuel. It will be exciting to see what he does next in Miami. How he uses Jaylen Waddle will be on everyone’s mind, as will how Treylon Burks is used with his new team.

However, it’s clear that Deebo Samuel can never be duplicated, and it’s important to recognize and appreciate his greatness.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Chicago Bears Offseason Guide: Three Moves For Ryan Poles To Make

Chicago Bears Off-Season
Image via Anthony Vazquez//Sun-Times

The Chicago Bears finally have new management. With the Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus era ready to begin, no one knows how they will approach this team. Let’s take a look at three offseason moves the Chicago Bears could make.

1.) Bring In A Veteran Wide Receiver

Darnell Mooney should be a perfect partner for Justin Fields. Mooney’s deep threat ability is impressive and Justin Fields throws the best deep ball Chicago has seen since Jay Cutler. However, this offense needs more than one good weapon.

Allen Robinson is coming off of a brutal 2021 season. Some are pointing out that Matt Nagy iced him out of the offense because of a contract dispute. Others are just saying Robinson is washed up and this is the start of his decline. Either way, Allen Robinson will most likely not be back in 2022. Chicago needs new weapons on offense.

Bringing in a guy like Brandin Cooks could be the perfect solution. Cooks has had over 1,000 receiving yards in six of his last seven seasons. At 28 years old, he still has plenty of juice left in his game as well.

He’s a guy who Chicago would have to eat a lot of money for, but could provide a huge boost to this offense as well as help Justin Fields in his development. His 16 million dollar cap hit isn’t appealing, but Houston could look to trade him for nothing or even give up a draft pick to get him off of their books.

Chicago has 25 million dollars in salary cap space without making any cap saving moves heading into the 2022 off-season. If Ryan Poles wants to surround Justin Fields with talent in 2022, adding a proven veteran playmaker like Cooks would be a good under-the-radar move while gaining a late-round draft pick.

Another possibility is that Brandin Cooks becomes a cap-casualty in Houston and Chicago is able to sign him as a free agent at a much lower salary.

Projected Trade Compensation:

  • Chicago receives: Brandon Cooks, 2022 6th round (183rd overall) draft pick, 2022 6th round (206th overall) draft pick
  • Houston receives: 2022 6th round (185th overall) draft pick

2.) Trade Back From Pick #39

Ryan Poles inherited a less-than-ideal situation from former general manager Ryan Pace. With only five draft picks in 2022 and an aging roster. Chicago needs an injection of youth and talent.

The NFL draft is often times called a “crap shoot” because of how unpredictable it is. Players drafted in the top 50 picks sometimes ‘bust’, players drafted outside of the top 50 sometimes hit. It’s common sense, but taking as many “dart-throws” as possible could be a good way of adding talent without a first round draft pick.

To gain extra picks, Chicago is going to have to trade back from #39 overall. At the top of the second round is where we often see the most trades of the draft. With teams having a night to reassess and reconstruct draft boards, there’s a great chance teams will be calling for that pick.

If Chicago could trade back with a contender trying to win-now, they might be able to add a few extra draft picks in 2022 in the process.

A potential trade with the Los Angeles Chargers could make some sense. Brandon Staley and the Chargers are fighting to make the playoffs in a tough AFC conference.

Los Angeles has eleven draft picks in the upcoming draft. Trading away a few late round picks while jumping up ten spots in the draft could be beneficial for both sides. The Chicago Bears offseason would be a major success if they pulled off a trade of this caliber, while still drafting a difference maker.

*Note: Chicago traded up from 52nd overall to 39th overall last year and gave up their 3rd round pick (83rd overall) in the process as well, a trade of this size isn’t unrealistic.

Potential Trade:

  • Chicago receives: Los Angeles Chargers 2nd round draft pick (49th overall, 4th round (119th overall), 5th round (158th overall), 6th round (195th overall), 7th round (251st overall)
  • Los Angeles receives: Chicago Bears 2nd round draft pick (39th overall)

3.) Prioritize Offense In The Draft

This is slightly more open ended for a Chicago Bears offseason move. Ryan Poles inherited Justin Fields. We assume that he likes Justin Fields and believes in him, but he did not make the choice to trade up for him and name him the next franchise quarterback.

Poles will have to find out as soon as possible if Justin Fields is the answer in Chicago. Similar to why the Bears need to bring in a veteran wide receiver, they also need to bring in young talent at offensive line and also at receiver.

Offensive Line Questions

Last season’s starting left tackle, right guard and right tackle Jason Peters, James Daniels and Germain Ifedi, respectively are all set to become a free agents. Teven Jenkins is still an unknown At left tackle. Poles has to operate as if he is the starter, but that shouldn’t hinder him from adding more talent along the offensive line.

Sam Mustifer was also below average as a starting center for Chicago last year and Poles could look to upgrade there as well.

Questions At Receiver

As mentioned above, Allen Robinson is most likely gone this offseason. Without many proven options on the roster to begin with, Chicago needs to continue to add playmakers, even if they do bring in a veteran like Brandin Cooks.

Drafting a wide receiver on day two of the draft would give Chicago a nice mix of veteran and youth talent.

A player like Chris Olave in the second round would be a perfect fit for Chicago. Although many draft analysts think me may be gone by then, Olave and Justin Fields’ chemistry from Ohio State would help both of their developments immensely.

Another option could be small-school standout, Christian Watson. Watson displayed surprising agility and route-running acumen at the Reese’s Senior Bowl last month. At 6’4” he would also add a different body-style to the receiver room as well when paired with 5’11” Darnell Mooney.

Adding two or three new pass-catchers to this offense should be a priority for Ryan Poles as he tries to distinguish if Justin Fields is a star quarterback or not.

Chicago Bears Offseason Conclusion

“There’s a heigh ceiling. It’s just putting him [Justin Fields] in a position to succeed and seeing how high that ceiling really is.”

— Ryan Poles

The Chicago Bears offseason is going to be filled with moves. The defense is aging and the offense is under-developed. However, finding out if Justin Fields can be a great quarterback will be the priority. Building an offense to cater to his strengths will be offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s number one priority. Getting Luke Getsy all of the players he needs sounds like it will be Ryan Poles’ number one priority.

Be sure to follow us: @bears_atb and @ryanmcaloon on Twitter! Until next time, peace!

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Reese's Senior Bowl

Browns’ 2022 Senior Bowl Targets

The Browns are a tricky organization to project Senior Bowl players to due to the current front office’s apparent age policies. While no player is off the board due to age entirely, they will lean much more towards younger players. For example, a player in the Senior Bowl like Bernhard Raimann (who is 24 years old) would be significantly lower on the Browns’ board, more or less eliminating him for selection. The Browns will still have Senior Bowl targets this year, as long as the value is worth it.

Last year, the Browns selected two Senior Bowl players. They were offensive tackle James Hudson in the 4th round and running back Demetric Felton in the 6th round. Hudson struggled a lot in his first season, but Felton played decently well in limited opportunities. He contributed on special teams as well as occasional snaps on offense both in the slot and at running back. The Browns have a good amount of needs to fill in the draft, and a lot of picks to work with, so don’t be surprised if one of the players from the Senior Bowl is selected by them.

Browns Senior Bowl Targets

Dameon Pierce Florida Gators
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 28: Dameon Pierce #27 of the Florida Gators scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Towson Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 28, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Running Backs

The Browns may need another running back to fill in the role of D’Ernest Johnson as a third running back, with Demetric Felton still being used as a hybrid player. If they select a running back, it will almost certainly be on day three of the NFL draft.

Dameon Pierce: Florida, 5090, 220lbs
Brian Robinson Jr: Alabama, 6015, 226lbs
Jerome Ford: Cincinnati, 5106, 209lbs

Dameon Pierce has been the most impressive back at the Senior Bowl during the practices. However, his performance may mean he goes before the Browns would be willing to target a running back. Robinson had a solid career and can be a good third running back. Jerome Ford did really well at Cincinnati after transferring from Alabama, and could also be a quality third back. Ford and Robinson are more likely targets, as they will go much later in the draft.

Wide Receivers

Christian Watson Senior Bowl Target
MOBILE, AL – FEBRUARY 02: National wide receiver Christian Watson of North Dakota State (1) during the Reese’s Senior Bowl practice session on February 2, 2002 at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Browns desperately need multiple wide receivers. Jarvis Landry will most likely be gone, and that leaves the Browns in need of three receivers. Free agency is a possible avenue to add a player, but they will need one, if not two, receivers. I would expect a receiver to be taken early, as well as one on day three.

Christian Watson: North Dakota State, 6040, 211lbs
Alec Pierce: Cincinnati, 6026, 208lbs
Romeo Doubs: Nevada, 6017, 204lbs
Khalil Shakir: Boise State, 6000, 193lbs
Jalen Tolbert: South Alabama, 6012, 195lbs

Christian Watson has been the most impressive player at the Senior Bowl practices. Alec Pierce provides a traditional X receiver. Jalen Tolbert is a deep threat that disappointed in terms of measurements, with belief pre-Senior Bowl that he could be 6’4″. Doubs has been fantastic in his time with Carson Strong. Shakir is a player with a lot of versatility, earning himself the nickname “Swiss” after the swiss army knife.

Offensive Tackles

Max Mitchell Senior Bowl Target
NEW ORLEANS, LA – AUGUST 31: Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns offensive lineman Max Mitchell (74) lines up for a play during a game between the Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana on August 31, 2019. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Browns may need to draft an offensive tackle given that Jack Conklin will be out for a while. If they do so, they can look for one of these day two tackles, one of which may fall. The Browns have had great development from late round picks, so if they draft a player on day two or day three they have a solid chance at success. The only internal competition will be James Hudson.

Trevor Penning: Northern Iowa, 6066, 330lbs
Max Mitchell: Louisiana, 6056, 299lbs
Bernhard Raimann: Central Michigan, 6061, 304lbs
Abraham Lucas: Washington State, 6061, 322lbs
Daniel Faalele: Minnesota, 6081, 387lbs

Raimann is the least likely selection due to his age. Mitchell is extremely undersized and needs experience against higher-level competition. Penning was a solid tackle at Northern Iowa. Abraham Lucas has played in multiple systems and has a lot of experience as a pass blocker. Faalele is a massive human being with decent movement skills. All would be solid players to fill in for Conklin if the Browns are not comfortable with James Hudson and his development.

Defensive Tackles

Perrion Winfrey Senior Bowl Target
STILLWATER, OK – NOVEMBER 27: Running back Jaylen Warren #7 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs the clock against defensive lineman Perrion Winfrey #8 of the Oklahoma Sooners late in the fourth quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys won ‘Bedlam’ 37-33. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Browns Senior Bowl targets are going to significantly focus on the defensive line. They need a lot of help on the interior of the defensive line. Tommy Togiai was selected in the fourth round of last years draft, and Jordan Elliott was selected the year before. Other than that, there are no other defensive tackles on the Browns’ roster for next season.

Phidarian Mathis: Alabama, 6037, 313lbs
Perrion Winfrey: Oklahoma, 6036, 303lbs
Devonte Wyatt: Georgia, 6026, 307lbs
Travis Jones: UCONN, 6043, 326lbs
John Ridgeway: Arkansas, 6046, 327lbs

Ridgeway and Jones can be plug-and-play 1-techs. Mathis, who played more of a true nose-tackle for Alabama, can make the transition. Devonte Wyatt was fantastic for the best defense in college football. Perrion Winfrey has played in a 3-front for Oklahoma, but will have to move to a 3-tech.

Edge Rushers

Myjai Sanders Senior Bowl Target
CINCINNATI, OHIO – DECEMBER 19: Myjai Sanders #21 of the Cincinnati Bearcats attempts to sack Zach Smith #11 of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the American Athletic Conference Championship at Nippert Stadium on December 19, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Perhaps the top Senior Bowl target position for the Browns, Myles Garrett is the only one of the top 3 edge rushers still under contract for the Browns. The Browns will take an edge rusher early. Clowney may be back, as might Takk McKinley, but edge depth is always a plus.

Myjai Sanders: Cincinnati, 6043, 242lbs
Jermaine Johnson: Florida State, 6043, 259lbs
Boye Mafe: Minnesota, 6034, 255lbs
Kingsley Enagbare: South Carolina, 6036, 261lbs
Sam Williams*: Ole Miss, 6040, 265lbs
Arnold Ebiketie: Penn State, 6023, 250lbs
Zach Carter: Florida, 6034, 287lbs
Tyreke Smith: Ohio State, 6030, 245lbs

The top edge rusher at the Senior Bowl practices was Jermaine Johnson. He looks to be a first round pick. On day two, Myjai Sanders and Kingsley Enagbare are two good options, as is possibly Boye Mafe, Arnold Ebiketie, Zach Carter, and possibly Sam Williams. Tyreke Smith is a possible day three selection as well.


Leon O'Neal Jr Senior Bowl Targets
DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 11: Leon O’Neal Jr. #9 of the Texas A&M Aggies attempts to tackle Brendon Lewis #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the first quarter at Empower Field At Mile High on September 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

The Browns are possibly losing safety Ronnie Harrison, and will need a replacement. Richard LeCounte didn’t significantly contribute as a rookie. Grant Delpit will return for his third season (second healthy) as will John Johnson III. Versatile safeties will be important for the defense.

Leon O’Neal Jr.: Texas A&M, 6002, 211lbs
Jalen Pitre: Baylor, 5106, 196lbs
Verone McKinley*: Oregon, 5110, 194lbs

Verone McKinley had a lot of ball production this year at Oregon. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl roster. Jalen Pitre has been a standout at the practices. Leon O’Neal Jr is one of my personal favorites at safety. He can be an instant replacement for Ronnie Harrison, and is good coming up towards the line in shallow zones.

For More Senior Bowl Content Check Out These Articles:

Follow us on Twitter: @danielrgarrett, @browns_atb, @draftrite_atb

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Key offensive recruits for the Texas Longhorns in the 2023 cycle.


With the 2022 class coming to a close, the Horns locked down the number five class in the nation. The 2023 recruiting cycle is now under way and what better way to kick it off than to take a look at the key offensive recruits the Texas Longhorns should focus on. In this piece I will be choosing one to two players from each position and going in depth about what they mean and what I see on film.

If you have not read my first article talking about the impact of the 2022 class on the 2023 class, start HERE.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

NOTE TO THE READER: I tried to get videos of each player in the article, however, if I cannot find one I will link their 24/7 profile to their underlined name.


The key piece to this class will rest on the shoulders of Arch Manning (Isodore Newman, LA). Manning being the number one overall recruit in the 2023 cycle is going to be instrumental in building the future of the program. Arch has mentioned Texas and the future move to the SEC may be what pushes us to the front of the pack.

Running Backs:

Reuben Owens (El Campo, TX). Owens has been high on Texas for what feels like 2 years now. Owens can beat you with speed or power in the hole, and is a great asset in the passing game as well. The physical back from south Texas has great potential and is a guy that can make a huge splash in the class.

Dalton Brooks (Shiner, TX) is another guy that can be big for the class. The ATH from small-town Shiner, Texas is also a defensive lineman. Brooks is one of the most punishing runners in the nation and could line up on either side of the ball in college. Brooks is very patient to start but once he finds an opening, he is able to kick into another gear and pull away from opposing defenders.

Wide Recievers:

Johntay Cook (De Soto, TX) is a big time playmaker out wide or in the slot, and would be a fantastic target from the get-go. The WR has great speed and hands but can also beat you with his route running and head fakes. He is a threat at all levels of the field. He also knows how to successfully high-point the ball which will make him a threat in the red-zone as well.

Jaden Greathouse (Westlake, TX) is another reciever the Horns could immediately utilize in the passing game. The 6’3″ target has fantastic hands and wins off the line with both speed and physicality. He is someone who will have a lot of influence in the class with him being from Austin. Look for Greathouse to start narrowing down schools in the coming months.

Tight End:

Will Randle (Isodore Newman, LA) is a guy that I chose due to his connection with Arch Manning. He is currently projected to attend LSU, but he and Arch Manning have grown up together and both of them coming to Texas could be a big-time chemistry boost for the offense. We also know how Coach Sarkisian likes to utilize the tight ends. He isn’t as polished as Lafayette Kaiuwai but he can be just as dangerous.

Offensive Tackles:

Two tackles in this class really stand out to me as far as the guys we have offered. Olaus Alinen (Loomis Chaffee, CT) is a big left tackle with a high motor and eyes in the back of his head. Additionally, his IQ is through the roof and his physical attributes give him a high ceiling for potential growth. Texas is in his top 4 so be on the lookout for a verbal this summer. He would fit in really well with Banks and Campbell and is a great asset in both the rushing and passing game.

Another tackle prospect is Isaiah Robinson (Lamar, TX). The 6’7″ Tackle prospect is strong and he knows it. He often overpowers the defensive linemen from the start and ends up driving them to the second level of the defense. Robinson shows great potential in the pass game and shows great skill in the run game. He is even more dangerous when in motion and if used correctly, will lead to big runs down field.

Inside Offensive Line:

Harris Sewell (Permian, TX) is a big time guard/Center in the 2023 class. He has great size and speed that makes him very difficult to get around. His film shows great success in the run game as both a guard and a center and could be just what the horns need to boost the line play. The top 70 recruit has offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama and more are on the way. I wouldn’t expect him to make a decision anytime soon, but keep an eye on him.


The 2023 Recruiting class is only going to build off of the momentum of the 2022 class. Make sure to follow for more 2023 class inside looks and targets. The defensive side of the ball is coming soon.


Longhorn Nation should also be excited that @longhorns_atb is starting a podcast! Follow all of us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss it: @ryanmcaloon@michalfarber_@tn_longhorn, @Sam_WaltonFB.

We also now have Around The Block — Longhorns merch! Check it all out here and support your favorite small business, us!

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Where do the Patriots fit in a crowded AFC?

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – NOVEMBER 03: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots reacts against the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 3, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

At first glance, discussing the New England Patriots and their offseason plans aren’t relevant at this point. The Bengals and Chiefs will face off this Sunday in the AFC Championship Game. Before that, the Chiefs and Bills treated us to an all-time shoot out in the divisional round. All three teams feature prolific young passers and a group of stud pass catchers. Only the Bills featured a defense ranked in the top 5 by Pro Football Reference. The days of defenses winning championships may well be over.

So where do the Patriots fit into this future of the conference?

They too feature a young passer, albeit not in the same echelon of Burrow, Mahomes, Herbert, and Allen. Lamar Jackson had a down year but still would be a tier above Mac in a quarterback rankings.

The Patriots got solid quarterback play from their rookie but Mac faded down the stretch, stringing together subpar performances as the Patriots championship aspiration dwindled.

Watching the Chiefs and Bills go back and forth Sunday Night it was obvious that the AFC has transformed into an arms race, where the most potent offenses will succeed.

Belichick has only a few times loaded up on the offensive side of the ball during his tenure in New England. And even in those years he coupled splashy offseason moves on the offensive side with an already stout, veteran-laden defense.

2021 Patriots were good, just not good enough

The 2021 Patriots featured the splashy offseason additions on the offensive side of the ball and a veteran-laden defense, albeit with a couple newcomers on that side too. Despite the poor taste left from the dismantling at the hands of the Bills, the Patriots defense was one of the best in the league in 2021. But therein lies the problem. What does the second ranked defense get the team if it can’t stop a runny nose when it plays the Buffalo Bills?

Belichick has specific physical profiles for every position in defense, whether it be from physical measurables or agility drill times; his defensive players fit a mold.

The linebackers are big bodied thumpers. The defensive line is often stout forward players who are difficult to push backwards. The defensive backs often have top three cone drill times while his boundary guys are preferred to big taller press corners. Only at the safety position has Belichick led the transition to the hybrid types.

Patrick Chung was the first linebacker-safety hybrid but even he failed spectacularly in his first stint with the Patriots.

Against the Bills, the defense looked slow. Forget old. Even the young guys couldn’t keep up with the Allen led attack. The Pats were gashed routinely by the speed and short area quickness of the Bills skill guys.

That doesn’t include the absolute clinic put on by Josh Allen. Allen looked like the older brother who finally relented and let the younger brother and his friends play. Then the older brother showed no mercy for a physically inferior opponent.

Allen was on a different physical level and against the Patriots defense, having been unstoppable for nine straight quarters. While the Patriots may have the future figured out on offense, they aren’t going anywhere until they figure out the Josh Allen problem.

Offseason Plans

That problem will be addressed this offseason. With their current salary cap situation, they will have to choose between adding further to the offense or completely retooling the defense.

The Chiefs just beat the Bills by outscoring them. There was no stopping either offense. The only hope was to have more points than the opposition at the final whistle. That is not typically how the Patriots build their teams. They want an edge in all three phases.

The Pats could add a Davante Adams. A Chris Godwin. They could trade for Calvin Ridley. See if Michael Thomas can be had for relatively cheap. They can add to the offense, one that already features an impressive running game, and try to outscore the upper tier of AFC teams next year.

Or they can retool the defense. Focusing on smaller, faster athletic types to keep pace with the “small ball” trend in the NFL.

The Dont’a Hightower’s of the NFL world may be a dying breed. A dinosaur in a modern game. Sideline to sideline backers is the future of the game. The Deion Jones’. The Darius Leonard’s. Problem is these types of guys don’t grow on trees. The only slightly comparable veteran available in free agency may be Leighton Vander Esch. He of the full-length novel injury history. Nakobe Dean is an uber talented speedster coming out of Georgia, but any draft pick comes as a gamble in and of itself.

What does the crystal ball say?

It is increasingly unlikely the Pats pursue the number one receiver route. They are married to their free agent crop from a year ago. Agholor has a $15 million cap hit in 2022. Bourne still has two years left on his deal and is extremely affordable ($5 million per year).

The Patriots also spent at tight end. Hunter Henry has a cap hit of $6.88 million in 2022. Jonnu Smith has a $13.75 million cap hit in 2022. Smith is signed for three more years, Henry for two. The Pats aren’t moving on from either.

Smith had a disappointing year in his first in New England. Going forward, I’d expect the Patriots to try to incorporate Smith into their attack much more heavily next year before adding more to this offensive cast. They gave him all that money for a reason and hopefully that reason becomes apparent next season.

That leads to the Patriots upgrading the defense. The crop of free agent defenders features many aging veteran pass rushers and a handful of quality safeties. The Pats don’t NEED a safety as Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips are under team control for the foreseeable future. If McCourty hangs it up, the team could kick some tires but it won’t be a splash move.

Upgrading the front seven will be the priority. Matt Judon started on a tear but completely fell off after the bye week. Barmore appears to be the future in the interior of the defensive line. The Pats are in a mess of their own creation. Promising young players such as Josh Uche, Joejuan Williams, and Chase Winovich both hardly saw the field this season. Third round rookie Ronnie Perkins was never active on game day. Maybe they all blossom into full time impact players going forward, but there’s probably a reason they haven’t seen the field much.

The Pats are in a hole of their own creation by missing on a number of their early draft picks in recent years. Now they are faced with a near impossible task of upgrading several positions with limited cap space. Teams have been able to take advantage of rookie QB’s contract situations. The Patriots will need to get creative to do so.

Follow Colby Fauser on Twitter

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The Texas 2022 Class And The Effect On The Longhorns 2023 Targets

This past weekend the Texas Longhorns hosted a “Junior Elite Day” for their 2023 targets. Why would these elite prospects choose the Horns over teams like Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU? The answer is simple — the 2022 recruiting class. Recruiting is all about momentum and Texas’ 5th ranked class is growing stronger by the day. In an attempt to carry the momentum into the 2023 cycle the Longhorns offered eight underclassmen.


The Longhorns 2023 targets offered last weekend included: Ian Reed (OL, Austin Vandergrift), Kyle Parker (WR, Lucas Lovejoy), Jaren Woods (OL, La Grange), Ansel Nedore (DL, Round Rock), Tyler Turner (DB, SA Brennan, currently a verbal commit to Baylor), Colton Vasek (DE, Westlake), Braylan Shelby (DE, Friendswood), and Cameron Cook (RB, Round Rock Stony Point).

Every Longhorn 2023 Target can be found HERE.

Photo courtesy of @TexasRecruiting on Twitter

Current Influences

Derrick Brown (2022 LB, Texarkana) has been an important factor in this year’s recruiting class and that doesn’t seem to be changing in the upcoming cycle. Brown is always in the replies of the Longhorns targets and with him being on campus, it will end up making an important mark on the underclassmen. He seems to be in the ear of any potential longhorn, especially on Twitter. Brown was influential in the recruitment of Kelvin Banks, Terrance Brooks, Bryan Allen Jr., Justice Finkley, and J’mond Tapp. Brown seems to be a great locker room leader and someone that can have an impact recruiting for his tenure on the Forty Acres.

Staff Influence

I also like to consider any new coaches part of the signing class. With that said the addition of Gary Patterson (Special Assistant to the Head Coach), Tashard Choice (Runningback Coach), and Brennan Marion (Wide Receiver Coach) will also be an instrumental part in the upcoming class. These additions are already making an impact. Specifically Marrion and Patterson with the underclassmen. Patterson was included in most of the recruits’ tweets and pictures from this past weekend.

The 2022 class will also be the best pitch since this is Sarkisian’s first full recruiting class at the helm. The talent of this class (especially with players from the portal) is already drawing attention to the next generation of Horns. How this class develops both in the locker room and on the field will be important in how recruits see the program trending in a short amount of time. That all started with the underclassmen weekend the Texas staff hosted this past week.

Momentum is one of the most important things in recruiting and with guys like Brown, Finkley, Neyor, Billingsley, and Quinn Ewers the Horns are already hot on the trail for guys who want to play with the best. Combine that with a good season and we will be in a fantastic spot when early signing day comes back around in December of 2022.


All and all the 2022 class will make the biggest impact on the Longhorns 2023 targets from a point of culture and expectations. The first major pitch will come at the hands of the spring game and national signing day on February third. Be on the lookout for upcoming offers and you will see firsthand who is in the replies before any fans, family members, or friends of the recruits!

Be sure to give us a follow us on Twitter here and check out our most recent articles below. As well as Episode 3 of “Around The Horns” here.

BIG News Coming On Sunday For The Texas Longhorns?


Breaking News: Texas hires Gary Patterson to staff

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Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell

2022 Atlanta Falcons Offseason: Breaking Down the Cornerback Situation

Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell
Photo Credit: Dale Zanine / USA Today

Cornerback could be a strength for the Atlanta Falcons in 2022. The Falcons have one of the best corners in the NFL in A.J. Terrell to build around, but outside of him, there are some solid corners who can be solid role players within the coverage schemes Dean Pees deploys. The big focus for the Falcons will be trying to increase the length at the position and trying to see if they can continue to get more solid man coverage cornerbacks for the roster.

Atlanta Falcons Cornerbacks Under Contract:

CB A.J. Terrell: 2 years, $8.453 million left on his contract and a potential fifth year option

CB Kendall Sheffield: 1 year, $2.73 million left on his contract

RS/CB Avery Williams: 3 years, $3.0 million left on his contract

CB Darren Hall: 3 years, $3.424 million left on his contract

CB Cornell Armstrong: 1 year, $965,000 left on his contract

DB/CB Lafayette Pitts: 1 year, $1.035 million left on his contract

CB Corey Ballentine: 1 year, $895,000 left on his contract

CB Dee Alford: 1 year, $705,000 left on his contract

The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of talent locked in cheaply at cornerback for the 2022 season. This includes the Falcons No. 1 corner A.J. Terrell. The PFF All-Pro is arguably the best cover corner in the NFL. Darren Hall and Avery Williams are great fits for the Pees scheme.

Cornell Armstrong, Lafayette Pitts, and Dee Alford were all futures contracts who can compete for roster spots that fit into the scheme. Corey Ballentine is a former starter for the Giants who can potentially be that Fabian Moreau in 2022 for Atlanta.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

CB Fabian Moreau

CB Isaiah Oliver

Both of these cornerbacks should be brought back for different reasons. Fabian Moreau should be a cheap option who could continue to compete for depth with the Falcons even if he misses out on the starting role. Isaiah Oliver was Dean Pees preferred nickel back before the Falcons lost him due to injury. If they can bring him back on a prove-it type deal for a year and he stays healthy, it would give the Falcons someone who could really elevate the defense in 2022.

Current Need

The Atlanta Falcons have a solid need for a second cornerback even if the Falcons re-sign Fabian Moreau. Potential options for the Falcons in free agency are guys like Jason Verrett, Casey Heyward, and for a more long-term option Carlton Davis. These are all talented starting options, but they could end up being just out of the price range. Depending on overall cost, the Falcons should at least consider all three of these options.

Potential Future Need

The long-term need for a cornerback across from A.J. Terrell is there. However, the team could see it as filled if Darren Hall or Avery Williams drastically improve their coverage abilities. That’s unlikely, but the team could end up liking the idea of having Isaiah Oliver come back for a year and then seeing what they have. However, they could also see someone like Sauce Gardner or Coby Bryant or Andrew Booth as their future starter across from Terrell long term.

What the Atlanta Falcons Plan at Cornerback Should Be Moving Forward

There’s a lot of potential on this unit. However, moving forward, the Falcons should cut Kendall Sheffield for the cap space it would bring. After that, considering a free agent for around the same money Sheffield was going to make is an avenue to consider. If they can’t get one of those, drafting someone at any point in the draft to compete with Darren Hall and Avery Williams at right cornerback is the move to make. At nickel, bringing back Isaiah Oliver is the move.

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Football Super Team: A Football Team From Other Sports’ Athletes

Welcome to the Twilight Zone. In this article I will be pulling athletes from every sport possible to construct a “football super team”.

The goal of this is simple — to have fun. So please leave a comment below and let’s see who would be on your football super team! Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s run through this squad!



Starter: Joe Mauer, Baseball Player

Joe Mauer may have been the easiest name to pencil in. Mauer was a five-star quarterback coming out of highschool. He had a legitimate chance to be the starting quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles.

Instead, he opted to enter the MLB draft. Not a bad choice at all as he went number one overall and went on to have a hall of fame career in the MLB.

Backup: Jason Kidd, Basketball Player

I could not find anything about Jason Kidd playing football. However, at 6’4” and 215 pounds, he has the frame of a quarterback. Add in his athleticism and vision as a passer on the hardwood and there is a strong chance he turns into a great quarterback.

Playing quarterback isn’t just about height, weight, talent and athleticism though. Jason Kidd is a clear leader, highlighted by become a coach after his hall of fame NBA career was over.

Running Backs

The tandem of Zion Williamson and Russell Westbrook would work well as a classic thunder and lightning duo.

Zion Williamson, Basketball Player

Zion might be a biscuit away from transitioning to the offensive line, but for now he provides enough strength and speed to scare anyone on defense with the ball in his hands and a head of steam.

Williamson would also serve as the fullback and spend time at tight end as well. At 6’6” and 290 pounds, Williamson will move around this offense often. With that size he could develop into a phenomenal blocker.

Russell Westbrook, Basketball Player

Russell Westbrook is one of the most explosive athletes in the NBA. With his competitive mindset and speed, teams would have trouble bringing him down with just one tackler.

Dwayne Wade, Basketball Player

Dwayne Wade would likely come in on third and long situations to provide a pass catching threat out of the backfield. With his speed and quickness he would be a threat to take anything to the house.

Wide Receivers

Experience, speed, quickness, and size. This wide receiver room has absolutely everything an offense could want.

Jeff Samardzija, Baseball Player

Jeff Samardzija was once Notre Dame’s leading receiver two seasons in a row. Accumulating 2,266 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns his final two seasons in South Bend.

Usain Bolt, Olympic Athlete

Usain Bolt’s speed is obvious. His size — 6’5” 205 pounds — is also exciting. He may need to be coached up on the nuances of route running, but he brings dynamic size and speed immediately.

Mookie Betts, Baseball Player

Perhaps under the radar, Mookie Betts is one of the most athletic stars on this list. Mookie is a legitimate professional bowler as well. While competing in the Professional Bowlers Association World Series, Betts bowled a perfect game in 2017.

However, Betts’ bowling prowess is not the reason he is on this lineup. Mookie is a gold glove outfielder in the MLB, showing off incredible ball tracking skills that are valuable for a wide receiver. His second best position is second base, where he displays incredible reaction time and quickness to field ground balls. Those skills would show up every play as a slot receiver.

Kevin Durant, Basketball Player

Kevin Durant is an elite scorer, maybe the best in NBA history. His size — 7’0” and 240 pounds (although there is plenty of debate on his actual measurements) — would provide this team with an almost un-guard-able goal line option. Making him potentially an elite scorer in two sports.

Tight Ends

Giannis Antetokoumpo, Basketball Player

Serving as the same goal line option as Kevin Durant, Giannis gives this team similar size at 6’11” and 250 pounds. However, “The Greek Freak” might bring a slightly nastier streak as a blocker.

Dave Bautista, Wrestler

Our first WWE superstar is here. Some might bash the inclusion of — earmuffs for all 10 year olds reading this — “fake wrestlers”, but they have every right to be on this football super team.

Standing at 6’4” and weighing 280 pounds, Bautista possess enough athleticism for his size to be a weapon as a blocker and still be sufficient as a pass catcher. “The Animal” would be moved around all over the offensive formation to utilize his size and speed as a downhill blocker most often. He would serve as the back-up to Giannis and Zion.

Offensive Line

A football super team is incredibly hard to make inside the trenches. Most big, strong, athletic freaks are currently in the NFL.

Left Tackle: CC Sabathia, Baseball Player
Left Guard: Bartolo Colón, Baseball Player

The left side of this offensive line is featuring two of baseballs biggest pitchers. Not only in name — as Sabathia checks in at 6’6” and 300 pound and Colón at 5’11” and 285 pounds.

Center: Pablo Sandoval, Baseball Player

Pablo Sandoval is easily the smallest lineman on this team. At 5’10” and 270 pounds, “Kung Fu Panda” should be able to use his surprising agility and awareness to be a solid offensive center.

Right Guard: Mark Henry, Wrestler
Right Tackle: The Big Show (Paul Wight), Wrestler

The world’s largest tag team is back. Mark Henry and The Big Show are no strangers to working together, as they were a tag team duo in the WWE from 2013-2014.

The right side of this offensive line would be a terror to go against. Henry at 6’4” and 440 pounds and Wight at 7’0” and 420 pounds, would be absolute maulers as offensive linemen. Paving huge runways for the rest of this football super team.


Defensive Linemen

Prince Fielder, Baseball Player

Prince Fielder is another big boy in baseball. At 5’11” and 275 pounds, he would work as this football super team’s nose tackle and space-eater along the defensive line.

Charles Barkley, Basketball Player
PJ Tucker, Basketball Player
Dwight Howard, Basketball Player

This trio of basketball players will fill out the defensive line rotation, playing anything from the 3-tech to the 7-tech. All three have exceptional instincts and ability to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Edge Rushers

Lebron James, Basketball Player

One of the most physically gifted athletes of all-time. Most people would simply slot “The King” into his highschool position, tight end and call it a day.

At edge rusher, Lebron has a much better chance at making an impact on every single play. Standing 6’9”and weighing 250 pounds, James in his prime would glide up and down the court as if he was 6’2” and 190 pounds.

Muhammad Ali, Boxer

Muhammad Ali would be an absolute nightmare for offensive lines and quarterbacks. At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Ali may look slightly undersized for an edge rusher. However, Ali’s violent hands, long arms, speed, and agility would be more than enough to stop offensive tackles from ever getting ahold of him.

Jon Jones, Mixed Martial Artist

Jon Jones is an incredibly talented mixed martial artist. At 6’4” and 210 pounds, Jones is another “small” edge rusher. Similar to Muhammad Ali, Jones would rely on technical skills and agility to win on the edge rather than pure strength.

Jon “Bones” Jones is the brother of Arizona Cardinals star edge rusher Chandler Jones. That relationship made slotting in “Bones” Jones at edge rusher a no-brainer.


Barry Bonds, Baseball Player

Barry Bonds might be the most hated athlete on this list. He’s also one of the biggest freaks. At 6’2” and 230 pounds. Barry Bonds would be able to run with any tight end in the NFL while having the size and strength to be a contributor in the running game.

Playing the weak-side linebacker spot, Bonds’ main duty would be to eliminate tight ends and runningbacks in the passing game.

John Cena, Wrestler

John Cena would fit in perfectly as this football super team’s captain on defense. Playing middle linebacker, John Cena would be in-charge of all checks, audibles, and keys.

Cena would back a punch as a hitter, at 6’1” and 250 pounds. His “You can’t see me” motto would also be a nice bonus for a middle of the field defender in pass coverage, Jamies Winston has been warned.

Mike Tyson, Boxer

Mike Tyson was one of the most dominant boxers of all-time. Standing at 5’10” and weighing 220 pounds, Tyson may be under-sized. What he lacks in height and mass, he makes up for with his insane mentality.

Penciling Tyson in as this team’s strong-side linebacker was a no brainer. He would be regarded as one of the hardest hitters on this team, with no regard for the safety of himself or others.


Michael Jordan, Basketball Player

The G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan is the perfect athlete to slot in as a cornerback. At 6’6” and 215 pounds, he would be the biggest cornerback in the NFL by a large margin.

Jordan’s ability to match ball handlers step for step on the hardwood would transition nicely to the gridiron when covering wide receivers.

Jordan’s killer instinct and overall mentality of hating to lose is exactly what cornerbacks mentality needs to be to survive on the outside.

Kobe Bryant, Basketball Player

Kobe Bryant is another legend. He is constantly compared to Michael Jordan as a basketball player, so it’s common sense to make him Jordan’s teammate in the secondary.

Everything said about Michael Jordan and his fit as a cornerback is exactly the same for Kobe Bryant.

This duo would play plenty of press-man coverage. Jamming wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and disrupting the timing of every pass.

Allen Iverson, Basketball Player

Allen Iverson’s highschool highlight tape is absolutely incredible to watch, check that out here. He was a quarterback at Bethel Highschool in Hampton, Virginia. However, Iverson is a pure playmaker. Where ever he is on the field he will be electric.

Someone with Allen Iverson’s level swagger and extreme confidence is a must in any secondary. He would have free reign as a nickel corner to freelance at times and make big time plays. While also possessing the athleticism to stay with just about any wide receiver lined up across from him.

Kamaru Usman, Mixed Martial Artist

Another mixed martial artist on this football super team. Kamaru Usman would provide some needed physicality to this secondary. At 6’0” and 170 pounds, Usman’s role would be near the line of scrimmage as a corner-safety hybrid.

Usman’s background as a wrestler would help immensely when shedding blocks and making tackles in the run game.


Mike Trout, Baseball Player

Built similarly to Barry Bonds, Mike Trout is listed at 6’2” and 235 pounds. Trout’s elite range and size gives him the ability to be versatile in the secondary.

Trout’s ability to be a force in the box at his size while also being able to drop deep and play the middle of the field is the perfect blend of athleticism and size for a safety.

Ken Griffey jr., Baseball Player

Ken Griffey jr. is regarded as one of the most iconic baseball players of all-time. He brought a unique swagger to a baseball diamond not many other players have. His swagger and confidence are only the icing on the cake though.

“The Kid” is also known as one of the greatest outfielders of all-time, winning ten gold gloves in his MLB career. At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Griffey would play a true high-safety role as a coverage player.

Special Teams

Place Kicker: Lionel Messi
Punter: Pelé

Two of the greatest soccer players of all-time as this football super team’s kicker and punter, seems logical enough.

Lionel Messi and Pelé both are clearly athletic enough to make plays on fake punts and kicks as well. Using their incredible speed to get to the edge and pick up first downs on trick plays.

Kick/Punt Returner: Derrick Rose, Basketball Player

One of the most explosive athletes since 2010. If not for injuries, Derrick Rose would be looked at as one of the greatest pure athletes of all-time. Rose was electric with the ball in his hands on a basketball court, that would transition nicely to a football field in open space.


This was one of the most fun articles I’ve ever done. Going back and watching some of these incredible athletes play highschool football was a joy. With that being said, I’d love to see what team you would put together. Comment below who would be on your squad or tweet at me @ryanmcaloon!

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Zach Thomas

Zach Thomas: The Case for the Hall of Fame

Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas deserves Hall of Fame honors
Credit: The Phinsider

Editor’s Note: It’s been more than a year since this article first published, and today, February, 9 2023, Zach Thomas was finally announced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Congrats Mr. Thomas, and Dolphins fans everywhere.

Every August, we see posts explaining why Zach Thomas should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then the chatter ends. Then, the next year’s finalists are announced and everyone makes their case for Thomas again.

The same thing happens every year; but, hopefully, that changes next year.

Zach Thomas’ Hall Of Fame Endorsements

On Saturday night, now Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson made sure to let everyone know his thoughts on Thomas. Johnson said “Zach Thomas belongs up here” as he talked about his defense that led the Miami league.

Jimmy Johnson is now the 2nd Hall of Fame inductee to emphasize that Zach Thomas needs to be in the HOF. In 2019, former New York Jets OL, Kevin Mawae said Zach Thomas should be in the HOF.

The Numbers

Thomas was drafted in 1996 and spent 12 seasons with the Dolphins, before spending his last season with the Cowboys. He retired after his 13th season.

Thomas intercepted 17 passes and returned 4 of them for touchdowns. He also forced 16 fumbles. Although the turnover numbers aren’t eye-grabbing, offenses could never be too cautious with the ball around Thomas. With 33 forced turnovers, he is tied with LB Brian Urlacher, who has been in the HOF for 3 years. 

Thomas racked up 1,100 solo tackles and 627 assists through his 13-year career. For comparison, Urlacher and Junior Seau had less tackles. Both are in the Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, he led the Miami Dolphins in tackles 10 out of his 12 seasons in South Florida. The tackling machine ranks 5th all-time on the tackling list.

It is crucial to note that all 4 players ahead of Thomas on that list played significantly more games than Thomas.

Zach Thomas also had 5 first team all-pro selections and 2 second team all-pro selections. Additionally, he was voted into 7 Pro Bowls.

Clearly, Zach Thomas has the stats to be in the Hall of Fame. From tackles to forcing turnovers, Thomas wreaked havoc wherever he was on the field. 


Aside from the numbers, Thomas was a hell of a leader and football mind. He took blame for every Dolphins loss. Thomas was often the first one in the facility and the last one out. During Kevin Mawae’s enshrinement speech, he said Thomas was “one of the smartest, if not the smartest” defender he had ever faced.

On Sunday, Peyton Manning was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Most people consider Manning a top-3 QB of all-time. Whenever Peyton Manning discusses players who posed the greatest challenge, he always mentioned Zach Thomas

According to Manning, Thomas was able to call out the Colts offensive plays.

He was the quarterback of the Miami defense for 12 years, and caused opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators to lose sleep.

Why Zach Thomas isn’t in the HOF yet is, quite literally, unanswerable. He started all but 2 games in his career and has the numbers to compete with other HOF LBs. Thomas averaged almost 10 tackles per game, and was one of the smartest LBs to play the game. He’s been endorsed by two Hall of Famers during their enshrinement speeches and called on of the greats by Peyton Manning.

The difference for Thomas may be that the Dolphins didn’t have real success as a team during his time in Miami. Whatever the reason may be, we won’t ever know. However, at this point, it’s laughable that Zach Thomas doesn’t have his own gold jacket. 

Thomas has been a finalist two years in a row now. He is bound to get in at some point, right? Dolphins Fans all over the world(literally) will have to wait and see if Thomas is on the stage unveiling his bust next August.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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Miami Dolphins Playoff Chances

miami dolphin playoff chances
Credit: PhinPhanatic

If you told me in August that the Miami Dolphins would start the season 1-7, I would’ve told you that you’re crazy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. At 1-7, if you told me the Dolphins would win five straight, get to 6-7, and have a chance to win-out and make the playoffs, I would’ve called you a lot more things than just “crazy.”

However, that is exactly the point we have reached. The Dolphins have won five games in a row, the defense looks elite, and Tua and the offense are slowly finding a rhythm. Can the once 1-7 Miami Dolphins make the playoffs and what are the Miami Dolphins playoff chances?

Dolphins Remaining Schedule

After their Week 14 bye, the Dolphins will have four games remaining. They host the Jets, visit the Saints, visit the Titans and former QB Ryan Tannehill, and lastly host OROY favorite Mac Jones and the Patriots in Week 18. Clearly, every game is very likely a must win game. 

New York Jets

The Dolphins have won four of their last five games versus the Jets, and most people expect them to make it five of six. Miami easily beat New York less than a month ago at MetLife Stadium and shouldn’t struggle too much with the 3-9 squad in a humid Hard Rock Stadium. 

Of course Miami’s bye week is seen as a chance to get healthy and have extra time to prepare for the Jets. However, it is also coming at a point in which Miami has won five straight games and a bye week could put a dagger in Miami’s momentum.

If the defense continues to perform at an elite level, beating a Jets team lead by rookie QB Zach Wilson shouldn’t be a problem.

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints have lost five straight games. They have uncertainty in their QB room as Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill are both playing below average football, the wide receiver(WR) room is depleted, and overall seem to be struggling in the post Drew Brees era. 

The Saints will be a far tougher challenge than the Jets though. Compared to the Jets bottom tier defense, the Saints are a top-15 defense in the NFL. Miami’s offense, although performing a little better as of late, has been inconsistent. 

Even though Miami upset Baltimore in their last primetime game, the narrative that they do not perform well in primetime is still overshadowing the team. Going into a packed Caesars Superdome on primetime will be a tough challenge for Brian Flores’ young squad, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t win this game.

Tennessee Titans

The schedule gets harder by the week for Miami. In Week 17, Miami will travel to Tennessee to take on their former franchise QB, Ryan Tannehill. This game looks a lot less challenging now that RB Derrick Henry is dealing with a foot injury he suffered earlier in the year. 

The Titans started out 8-2 but have dropped two straight games in embarrassing fashion. They lost to the two-win Texans and were blown out by the Patriots. 

Regardless, they are still the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and a Mike Vrabel lead team can always pose a great challenge. 

Fortunately for Miami, the Titans offense has struggled, and the defense is once again having issues. 

The Titans have averaged just 16.3 points over their last three games, while Miami’s defense has returned to its elite form from 2020.

On the other side of the ball, the Titans defense has also struggled. Tennessee has allowed over 280 passing yards in two of their last three games to teams who haven’t had the most aggressive passing attacks in New England and New Orleans. In their last three games, they’ve allowed over 26 points per game. 

A struggling Tennessee defense will help Miami immensely as the offense needs all the assistance they can get. 

The weather will likely play a role in this game. For a team like Miami who is used to playing under the scorching sun year round, a game in Tennessee in the winter will not be easy. 

If things continue the way they have for both teams, the Dolphins should have a good chance of winning and keeping their playoff hopes alive.

New England Patriots

If all things go according to plan, this game will be the final factor in deciding Miami’s fate. 

The Patriots started 2-4 and are the only team hotter than the Dolphins right now. They’ve won seven straight games, lead the AFC East, and currently hold the first seed in the AFC.

The defense has turned it on and they look like a championship defense.

Offensively, they’ve looked very efficient and rookie Mac Jones has done what he’s been asked. The Patriots scored 36, 25, and 45 points in the three games before their Week 13 snow matchup versus Buffalo.

Miami will have a slight advantage as they always seem to have an edge versus the Patriots when playing at home. Miami is 6-2 in their last eight matchups versus New England in South Florida. 

Expect this to be a heavily defensive matchup with two head coaches who are known for torturing young quarterbacks. 

If Miami can methodically pick apart the New England defense one play at a time(as they did to the Panthers and Giants), and the defense continues their elite run, Miami should have a good chance to win this game.

Is there a chance Miami can lose a game and still make the postseason? Yes. However, that is very unlikely. Miami needs to win-out and hope for some help from other teams.

Teams Ahead Of Miami

If Miami wins out, it’s not guaranteed they make the postseason; but the odds are in their favor.

  • Chargers, 7-5: The Chargers have been inconsistent this season but hold the 5th seed. They have five games remaining and three of them are against potential playoff teams. 
  • Cincinnati, 7-5: The Bengals currently hold the 6th seed. Their remaining five games are all against teams who currently hold a playoff spot or are firmly in the hunt. They were just dominated by the Chargers and have a tough slate of games to finish the season. 
  • Buffalo, 7-5: Buffalo holds the last spot in the AFC playoff picture for now. Just a year removed from an AFC Championship game appearance, they find themselves facing slight uncertainty. Of their remaining five games, two are against current playoff teams(Tampa and New England). Two other teams are in the hunt.
  • Pittsburgh, 6-6-1: The Steelers were dominated last night versus the Vikings and it doesn’t get easier. They have arguably the hardest closing stretch of the teams in the hunt. They close the season against three division leaders and Cleveland.
  • Indianapolis, 7-6: The Colts have their bye week this week. After that, they have four games remaining. Two of those are against division leaders. Another is against Las Vegas who is still squarely in the hunt. It is important to note that the Colts own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami.
  • Las Vegas, 7-6: Like the Colts, the Raiders also own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Miami. Vegas ends their season with three divisional games, and every team they play is firmly in the hunt or currently holding a spot in the playoffs. They have a difficult schedule for a team that has been very inconsistent as of late.
  • Cleveland, 6-6: The Browns defense has been excellent this season, but their offense has held them back. The Browns finish their season with five straight potential playoff teams, similar to other teams in the hunt. If their offense continues to struggle, they may very well find themselves in a bad spot by Week 16.
  • Denver, 6-6: Denver hosts the one-win Lions in Week 14. Denver then faces three teams who are currently in the playoffs and Las Vegas, who is already ahead of them.

It seems very clear Miami has one of the more favorable closing schedules out of any team in the hunt. Most teams finish with four or five straight potential playoff teams. In Miami’s case, their schedule gets slightly harder each week, and they could be controlling their own destiny in Week 17.

Miami isn’t playing this week, but can make up serious ground on some of the teams above.


  • If Miami finishes with the same record as Buffalo, Buffalo will finish ahead of Miami as Buffalo owns the head-to-head tiebreaker this season 2-0.
  • Miami will also the head-to-head tiebreaker to Las Vegas due to their early season loss to the Raiders when Tua Tagovailoa was injured.
  • The Colts, currently one game ahead of Miami, also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker due to their win in Miami over Jacoby Brissett.
  • Miami does own the head-to-head breaker over Baltimore, but that won’t matter if the Ravens win the AFC North.
  • Miami will hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over New England assuming the Dolphins win out. However, like the Ravens, it won’t matter if New England wins the AFC East. 

The Dolphins currently have a 4-5 record in the AFC. Winning out will give them a 7-5 record in the AFC and may play a role in tiebreakers in Week 18.

Will This Matter?

There’s a chance none of this will matter by 4:00 PM on December 19th. If they lose to New York, the Miami Dolphins playoffs chances will take a serious hit. 

Miami has to take care of their business, go one week at a time, and win out. If they can do this, there’s a great chance they will be the first team to start 1-7 and make the postseason.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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Dolphins vs Panthers All-22 Breakdown and Key Observations

dolphins vs panthers
Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

For the fourth week in a row, the Dolphins have found themselves as winners. This time, Miami won in decisive fashion vs the Panthers, with a final score of 33-10.

This game brought hope to Dolphins fans, and for good reason. This game showed the formula many thought they would at the beginning of the season. A combination of stellar defense and opportunistic, ball-control-based offense has gotten Miami wins over the last four games.

When watching the All-22 tape on NFL Gamepass, it was clear that Miami’s plan is starting to work out, and here are five things that stood out when watching the film for Dolphins vs Panthers.

Fantastic Phillip Lindsay

Following being waived by the Houston Texans, running back Phillip Lindsay was claimed by the Miami Dolphins, who were looking for another back to complement young guns Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed.

Coming off a short week, it was uncertain if Lindsay would play, but, as he explained, he was quick to get into the facility and study the playbook.

It was clear that the hard work, even in minimum snaps, has paid off. The two-time thousand-yard rusher showed, even with a below-average OL, why he was so successful in Denver.

Phillip Lindsay’s first run in Miami.

Above all other traits, his burst and awareness have stood out. Other backs, especially Myles Gaskin, seem to wait for holes to develop. This, although valuable with a good OL, becomes an issue when there isn’t time to sit back.

Lindsay, on the other hand, is constantly moving. Even when the hole isn’t there, his feet are always driving forward, raising his floor on yards to gain. Even when he gets tackled early in the play, his forward momentum keeps him from losing yards.

Phillip Lindsay showing off his great burst.

Along with this, his pass blocking is a thing of beauty. On QB Tua Tagovailoa’s 57-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle, Lindsay makes up for OT Liam Eichenberg, who got beat on the play. Coming out of the backfield, he demonstrated textbook blocking, attacking the rusher and providing his quarterback a throwing window.

Phillip Lindsay’s block opens up the throw to Waddle.

The Tuscaloosa Connection

Throughout college, Tua Tagovailoa found success in getting the ball out quickly in the RPO game, typically to his track team at wide receiver. The Dolphins, after drafting Tua thought that the best way to maximize the young quarterback was getting his collegiate teammate, Jaylen Waddle.

Through the first few games of the season, it was apparent that Tua and Waddle had chemistry, the level of which was unknown.

Now, however, as the season progresses, we can see that the 2nd year quarterback is significantly more comfortable with Waddle than any other receiver.

Throughout the game vs the Panthers, Tagovailoa targeted Waddle on a variety of looks, including several tightly contested looks, which contradicted notions on Tua coming out of college that he was unwilling to make risky throws.

Tua and Waddle connect on an out route.

More impressive, however, was the ability that Tua and Waddle have to know when the ball is coming out, and where. Tua, through repetition and natural chemistry, consistently throws the ball to Waddle before, or as, he’s coming out of his break. A prime example of this is the touchdown between the two.

Excellent Anticipation

When Tua releases the ball on a curl route, Waddle has yet to turn around and has three defenders near him. The ball was not only thrown early, but also put in a perfect spot for the rookie to make the play. That anticipation was a trait Tua was praised for at Alabama, and it seems Waddle is bringing it out now.

Tua’s throw to Waddle was out FAST.

This was not the only instance of this chemistry, however, as the aforementioned 57-yard play showed the duo’s promise as well.

Following the Lindsay block, Tua put the ball right in the middle of the field as Waddle made his break. Knowing his ability to move after the catch, his throw gave Waddle ample room to work, even with a safety coming down.

Tagovailoa and Waddle connected nine times for 137 yards and a touchdown, and this game looked promising for the duo.

Jaelan Phillips is Legit

This year, after a rough start, had been largely dominated by rookies Jevon Holland and Jaylen Waddle. Their ability to make impact plays has certainly been noticed, and both have flashed in crucial moments.

However, Dolphins fans and media alike had seemed to forget about the first-round pick, Jaelan Phillips. Coming out of UM, Phillips was regarded as a potentially elite pass rusher with a deep bag of tricks. This left Miami fans excited when he fell to them at the 18th pick.

Despite the hype, however, Phillips had failed to produce by all simple counting stats. While it seemed that he was getting close, he was rarely able to get home. Dolphins fans became frustrated, and it seemed that the optimism for Phillips faded as it grew for Waddle and Holland.

When the Dolphins took on the Panthers, all of it started to come together.

Coming out Party

Against an offensive line ranked among the worst in the league, Phillips was able to tally three sacks, a pass deflection, and a pressure leading to an INT.

Jaelan Phillips creates a pressure leading to an INT.

The numbers, however, weren’t as impressive as the tape on the plays themselves.

In particular, his work from the inside, with Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge, was spectacular. With Ogbah taking an outside route, Phillips was often left 1-on-1 with a guard. His combination of size and speed left these guards in the dust, and him in the backfield at will. With a skill-set as refined as Phillips’, it will be very difficult to stop him without tackle help.

Jaelan Phillips gets a sack vs a guard.

It’s clear that Miami has something special with Ogbah and Phillips, and I suspect they will use that pairing on the same side more often.

Improved Play Calling

Going into this season, Miami knew their offense needed to improve from the 15th ranked scoring unit. Thus, when they opted to make in-house coordinator hires, many were confused. A staff that was unable to produce a consistent offensive scheme would now be led by play-callers with limited experience.

These concerns lingered into the season, as Miami’s offense was dwelling near the bottom of the league. Many were calling for the jobs of Studesville and Godsey, and Miami had lost seven straight.

However, they seemed to have found their stride in the winning streak, both of which continued on Sunday.

Operating out of heavy pistol sets with lots of pre-snap motion, Miami was able to create misdirection. The threat of motion-man Albert Wilson stressed defenses to his side, while Jaylen Waddle and Durham Smythe were able to find soft spots in coverage.

Miami goes underneath to Waddle off the Wilson motion.

Miami also used these looks to create counters from a play they love to run: the wheel to Albert Wilson.

Against both the Jets and Ravens, Miami teased this formation, running a deep wheel route to Wilson in both games. It was clear Miami wanted defenses to pick up the idea, and I had clamored on Twitter for counters.

Those wishes came to fruition on Sunday, as Miami ran almost their entire offense out of this formation. This base set led to several different runs, short and intermediate passes. With the Panthers expecting the wheel route, Miami was able to catch Carolina off guard and tear them apart underneath.

Miami runs their motion based pistol offense and gets a first down.

The offense will still need to improve over the coming weeks, but they are trending up during the most important stretch of their season.

Area Of Improvement

Even in a 23-point win, there were areas of the team that were less than ideal. One that stuck out was the offensive line.

On three separate occasions, Miami’s offensive lineman gave up pressures or bad snaps that ruined potential scoring drives.

On separate drives, Jesse Davis and Liam Eichenberg were beaten badly, leading to crucial sacks on Tua and then punts.

Liam Eichenberg gets beaten by Brian Burns.

The other drive, before the half, contained one of Austin Reiter’s several bad snaps. After going too low, Tua was unable to recover the snap, and Carolina turned a potential Miami FG into one of their own.

Here’s one of Austin Reiter’s bad snaps.

If Miami is to continue their streak, eliminating drive-ending mistakes is crucial, and those start with the OL.

The Bottom Line

The Miami Dolphins are showing signs of life, and are only two games below 500. With games against the Giants and Jets upcoming, Miami has a chance to contend for a playoff spot.

Whether it’s too late is yet to be determined, but Miami has continued to improve over the last month. The tape continues to get better, and Miami looks like the team we envisioned back in August.

The coming weeks will be the most telling, and it will be exciting to see if Miami can complete the miraculous comeback season.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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Miami Dolphins thankful

A Miami Dolphins Thanksgiving: What I’m Thankful For

miami dolphins thankful
Credit: The Phinsider

While the 2021 season has not panned out many fans had hoped, the three-game win streak has been a nice breath of fresh air but that does not mean there are not things to be thankful for as a Miami Dolphins fan.

A postseason trip seems unlikely barring an incredible season-ending run, which Miami has found themselves on the end of in previous seasons. With Week 12 upon us, the Miami Dolphins have not left much to be thankful for this season. Except, outside of a few individual performances.

As a 21st-century Dolphins fan (my age is not my fault), success and accomplishment come few and far between. However, there’s plenty to be thankful for as a fan of the orange and teal over the past 20 years. So on this Thanksgiving, let’s take a look at a few things the Miami Dolphins have made me thankful for:

As a Miami Dolphins fan I’m thankful for:

LB Zach Thomas

Let’s kick things off with one of the primary reasons I am a Dolphins fan. I was born and raised in Virginia. However, I personally disagree with the idea that Washington D.C.’s teams are assumed on Virginia citizens. So I have primarily viewed this as a fandom free-agent pass to find whatever team I want to invest emotional energy in. 

Every Sunday, I would go over to my grandfather’s house and watch that Week’s slate from 1 PM through 4 PMs, sometimes even the night game. So one Sunday early on, I had my grandfather list me all the NFL teams. As a ten-year-old does, I latched onto a team with my favorite color, orange, and prominent player sharing my first name, Zach. 

Zach Thomas interestingly comes up again as the five-time first-team All-Pro linebacker was recently named a semifinalist for the NFL Hall of Fame. There are too many discussion points that highlight how his omission from the Hall is absurd at this point. But I am thankful for Thomas’ play spurring his name into households and leading to my Fins fandom. 

WR Greg Camarillo

Let’s go in an opposite direction here: I’m thankful for WR Greg Camarillo for saving Miami from being the Detroit Lions. Before every channel on the TV was broadcast in high definition, yeah, 2007, the Dolphins had quite a rough season. Back in 2007, if you weren’t playing good football, you weren’t getting the HD treatment, but my grandfather had the NFL Sunday Ticket. The Dolphins were on TV, but that doesn’t mean the quality was great. 

I watched every week of the 2007 season, hoping, praying for a win. Then in seemingly the last moment possible, Week 15 rolled around a showdown at Dolphins Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. Coming into the game 0-13, not many expected a surprise overtime upset. But after Matt Stover missed a 44-yard field goal, Camarillo took a mid-level pass 65-yards to the house to snap the winless streak. Miami finished 1-15 but saved the franchise from the embarrassment of the dread 0-16 season. 

You knew this was coming: The Miami Miracle.

As stated earlier, I’m a 21st-century Dolphins fan, not a lot of success to draw upon. The Adam Gase Era was filled with ups and downs, but despite missing the playoffs and Gase’s inevitable firing in 2018, things somewhat ended nicely? Picture this, Week 14, the postseason looks murkier and murkier. The Tom Brady-led Patriots are 9-3 and primed for another playoff run. What solves the situation? An absolutely bonkers last-second 69-yard touchdown to win the game by one point. 

The only player who touched the ball on that play that is still on the team is WR Devante Parker. The Miracle in Miami will forever live in Miami Dolphins history. Some might scoff at the idea that a regular-season game could mean so much, but sometimes people need something to hold onto. If that means beating your bitter rival in a meaningless game that could hurt draft position, so be it. It was fun, fabulous, and I am thankful for the Miami Dolphins giving me quite a few jaw-dropping fandom moments throughout this journey. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Follow Zachary Knerr on Twitter

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Chicago Bears Mock Draft

Chicago Bears Mock Draft
Image via Cleveland.com

This season has been brutal for Chicago fans. At this point it feels like the Bears are playing just to get Justin Fields more experience in the NFL. With the 2021 season looking as bleak as ever, let’s look ahead into the 2022 NFL draft. Here is my November Chicago Bears mock draft. Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s run through it!

Round 2

Jameson Williams, Wide Receiver, Alabama

The Bears offense is set to lose Allen Robinson this off-season and doesn’t have a very great receiving corps to begin with. Darnell Mooney has been solid, but Chicago’s front office must give Justin Fields the weapons to help him succeed at the next level.

Let’s give this Bears offense some more juice. Jameson Williams is a burner out wide, as evidenced by this video. Williams also has some chemistry with Justin Fields already, as both were at Ohio State in 2019 and 2020. In those two seasons, Williams had 266 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions, that’s good for 17.7 yards per catch.

This season, Williams has taken his game to the next level. Williams, through eleven games, has 59 receptions that have gone for 1,218 yards and 13 touchdowns, good for 20.6 yards per catch.

That kind of game-breaking ability is exactly what this Chicago offense needs. Vertical passing is probably Justin Fields’ greatest strength as well.

Round 3

Jarrett Patterson, Interior Offensive Line, Notre Dame

Protect Justin Fields at all costs. Jarrett Patterson is one of the better pass protectors on the interior in this draft class. Patterson also has the capability to play all three positions on the interior of the offensive line.

This Bears offensive line is still a work in progress even after drafting Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom last off-season. With James Daniels still without a contract extension, this could be a huge need for Chicago. If Daniels does get his extension — which in my opinion he should — the Bears can easily drop Patterson in as their starting center day one.

My summer scouting report on Jarrett Patterson can be found here!

Round 5

Cam Hart, Cornerback, Notre Dame

The Bears secondary is still going to be an issue in 2022. Jaylon Johnson has been solid, but the rest of the secondary has been poor. Good teams have depth in the secondary and Chicago has none.

Cam Hart may not be a sexy name, but he has been a rock-solid cover man for the Fighting Irish this season. As the draft nears closer and closer, he might be a guy who won’t even make it out of Day 2 of the NFL Draft.

I have some thoughts on him after I attended the ND-USC game this season that you can find here!

Round 6

Cade Mays, Interior Offensive Line, Tennessee

As I mentioned above, this Chicago Bears offensive line needs improvement. Even after selecting Jarrett Patterson, Chicago could add a depth piece in Cade Mays late in the draft.

A nice complement to the Teven Jenkins pick last year, Mays will bring the intensity this offensive line room lacks at times. Mays isn’t afraid to block defenders through (and sometimes after) the whistle.

Clearly you can see that I think the biggest objective for the Chicago Bears this off-season should be to build up this offense around Justin Fields. He has shown glimpses of incredible arm talent already this season, even in a poor situation.

With only four draft picks (not including any comp picks that will be coming Chicago’s way), it is tough to imagine this team getting much better though the draft.

Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace are almost definitely gone after this season. You can read my thoughts on that here. It’s hard to predict how a new general manager will draft and what he prioritizes, but I will continue to do Chicago Bears mock drafts throughout the season and in the off-season. Until then, peace!

Follow Us: @ryanmcaloon & @bears_atb

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Detroit Lions Mock Draft 1.0

Junior David Ojabo 55 (Allison Engkvist/Daily)

The Lions suffered another gut-wrenching loss against the Browns yesterday. For the fourth straight season, the Detroit Lions will finish with a losing record. At 0-9-1, they are currently on pace for the first pick, so it’s time for a Detroit Lions Mock Draft.

Round 1 Pick 9 (via ATL): Garrett Wilson, WR – Ohio State

Detroit Lions receive: #9, #42, #63, #73, 2023 ATL 2nd
Atlanta Falcons receive: #1

USA Today Sports

Surprise!! The Lions do a trade back here with the Falcons and take Garrett Wilson with the 9th pick. It may not be popular but the Lions are lacking in depth and need to gather as much talent as possible. A big struggle for the team this year is not having a WR1. Wilson solves that issue right away with his abilities as a route-runner, great hands, elite athleticism, etc.

Round 1 Pick 27: Devin Lloyd, LB – Utah

Bryan Byerly / Utah Athletics

Man oh man have the Lions had their fair share of struggles at the LB position over the past few years. Slow, un-athletic players who cannot cover to save their lives, it’s time for that to change. In comes Devin Lloyd, star Linebacker for the Utes who has been outstanding this season. A finalist for the Butkus award, Lloyd has put up some gaudy numbers this year: 6 sacks, 91 tackles, 21 TFL (!!!!), and 3 INT’s. Having him alongside Derrick Barnes in 2022 will be a breath of fresh air in terms of athleticism and coverage ability.

Round 2 Pick 33: David Ojabo, EDGE – Michigan

Michigan linebacker David Ojabo (55) reacts after recovering a fumble while on defense in the second quarter of their college football game against Washington at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, on Saturday, September 11, 2021. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

If you want to talk about someone who has seen their draft stock rise the most, look no further than Ojabo. A non-starter last year, Ojabo has solidified himself as one of the best EDGE rushers in the country. Although he isn’t the best player in run defense, his pass-rush abilities should not be overlooked. The Lions aren’t getting much production from Trey Flowers and Charles Harris is on a one-year deal. Drafting an EDGE player should be high priority and Ojabo fills that void.

Round 2 Pick 42: Kenny Pickett, QB – Pittsburgh

Photo by Michael Longo/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At this point, it feels like anyone is an upgrade over whoever the Lions are trotting out there at QB this year. Pickett comes into a situation where he can start right away. A year ago, Pickett wasn’t even on the radar as a prospect. Now, he has shot up draft boards with his outstanding season and has shown some really nice ability this year. With Wilson coming in and already having a strong OL, Pickett comes in and brings some much-needed excitement at the QB position.

Round 2 Pick 63: Derion Kendrick, CB – Georgia

Credit: Rob Davis

The Lions have some nice talent in their CB room. The only problem is that they can’t seem to stay healthy, which is an issue. Derion Kendrick ran into some off-field issues at Clemson and transferred to Georgia this past offseason. He has done an outstanding job not only off the field, but on the field. Kendrick had some first round buzz last year but decided to head back to school. Although we won’t see him in Round 1, he goes late in the second and provides instant help at the position.

Round 3 Pick 65: Jaquan Brisker, S – Penn State

USA Today Sports

Detroit has an issue at the Safety spot opposite of Tracy Walker. Will Harris has not gotten the job done and everyone else is on a one-year contract. Brisker is a versatile, hard-hitting Safety who fits really well with Walker’s skillset. He is excellent in the box and near the slot in pass coverage.

Round 3 Pick 73: Zion Johnson, IOL – Boston College

AP Images

Detroit has had some shuffling early on in the season, but their OL seems to be set now with Decker back from injury. They clearly lack depth at some spots, especially on the Interior and go with a guy who has experience at both Guard and Tackle. Johnson is a strong lineman at the point of attack, and excels in the run game. With the Lions being a run-heavy team, this is a match made in heaven.

Round 3 Pick 98: Trey McBride, TE – Colorado State

Nov 29, 2019; Fort Collins, CO, USA; Colorado State Rams tight end Trey McBride (85) runs for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Boise State Broncos at Sonny Lubick Field at Canvas Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Hockenson is obviously TE1 on Detroit and Brock Wright has been a pleasant surprise as an outstanding run-blocker. There is still a need for another reliable pass-catcher and in comes Trey McBride. He’s another guy who has seen his stock rise pretty well and he provides exceptional blocking to go along with his receiving skills. Hockenson and McBride? Sign me up.

Round 6 Pick 176: Cory Durden, IDL – NC State

NC State Athletics

You can never have too many big pass rushers on your DL. Durden transferred to NC State after four years with the Seminoles at Florida State. Not the greatest tackler but he can get to the QB really well and has some nice athletic traits to work with.

Round 6 Pick 180: Steven Gilmore, CB – Marshall

Ryan Fischer | HD Media

Brother of star CB Stephon Gilmore, Steven is a nice Corner with great athletic traits. He has a track record of locking down opposing players, but he does lack size to be an outside corner in the NFL. Another potential depth piece at CB for the Lions who can play the slot and on the outside.

Round 7 Pick 218: Micah McFadden, LB – Indiana

IU Athletics

McFadden is an extremely underrated player in College Football. A solid 4-year player at Indiana, McFadden has done it all from covering opposing players, rushing the passer, etc. He isn’t the most athletic player but he’s extremely smart and knows where to be at all times.

Round 7 Pick 237: Jaylen Hall, WR – Western Michigan

Joelle Sanders

Hall is a solid WR with some good size and speed. His 50/50 ability is really good and would have a real shot at making the team in 2022. Hometown kid who has a high floor could be of real use to a team like the Lions who do not have much to work with in the WR room right now.

That concludes version 1.0 of the Detroit Lions Mock Draft. Be sure to check out all of our other content on the website! To catch the other versions of the Detroit Lions Mock Draft, subscribe on the front page to get all the latest in your email.

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Chicago Bears Head Coaching Candidates

Chicago Bears head coaching candidates
Image via on tapsportsnet.com

The Chicago Bears are in the midst of disappointing season. Matt Nagy is public enemy number one in Chicago. It is looking more and more likely that the Chicago Bears will be looking for a new head coach this off-season. The Chicago Bears head coaching candidates will have a talented young quarterback to work with.

With that being said, who should be the Bears head coaching candidates? Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s talk about it!

The Chicago Bears Head Coaching Candidates

Kellen Moore

The Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator is going to be one of the hottest names this off-season. He has led Dallas to one of the best offenses in the NFL, leading all teams in yards per game (418.1 yards/g) and coming in at third in points per game (29.3 points/g).

The former Boise State and Dallas quarterback might be the favorite for the job when the season is over. He has taken all of the talent in Dallas and maximized it while keeping his offense multiple. Using a blend of quick passing game, zone running game, power running game, play action, and vertical passes to make Dak Prescott’s life as easy as possible.

Brian Daboll

The Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator was one of the most talked about assistant coaches last off-season after helping Josh Allen develop into a bonafide MVP candidate.

The 2021 season has not been as virtuous for Daboll, but he still has a nice track record of success. Daboll was with the Patriots organization for five of their Super Bowls as a positions coach and won a National Championship with Alabama as their offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Joe Brady

The Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator is going to be another hot name on the coaching carousel. After being attributed to LSU’s historic offense in 2019, Brady came back to the NFL as the Panthers play caller in 2020 and 2021.

Joe Brady is the youngest coach on this list at age 32. With his limited experience as a play caller, he would be one of the riskier head coaching candidates for the Bears.

Byron Leftwich

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator has worked with Tom Brady and Bruce Arians to create an incredibly potent offensive attack. Another former quarterback, Leftwich is only in his fifth year coaching, starting off as a quarterback coach under Bruce Arians in Arizona.

Leftwich spent nine seasons as an NFL quarterback. Although he is still new to coaching, his ties to Bruce Arians will be a boost in credibility when looking to fill out his assistant coaches.

Patrick Graham

The New York Giants defensive coordinator is the first defensive mind we will talk about here! Graham comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, which I’m sure causes some hesitation among fans. However, Graham has proven to get the most out of his defenses.

Graham’s defensive mindset might not look ideal when finding someone to pair with Justin Fields to develop at first glance. However, Graham’s knowledge on NFL coverages, blitzes, stunts, and defenses as a whole could help Fields’ processing speed. Bill Belichick helped Tom Brady in a similar way in the beginning of his career.

Dan Quinn

The Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator is our only former head coach on this list. Quinn has transformed the Dallas defense into one of the best units in the league after being one of the worst the years prior.

If the Chicago Bears front office wants to play it safe, Dan Quinn will be the best option. He did take Atlanta to a Super Bowl, even if Kyle Shanahan gets most of the credit.


Overall, there are a lot of Chicago Bears head coaching candidates to get excited about. All having obvious perks and flaws. Kellen Moore, Joe Brady, and (maybe) Byron Leftwich have not been NFL coaches for very long. They could all struggle to fill out assistant coaching spots with solid coaches due to lack of connections. Brian Daboll and Patrick Graham also have never been head coaches and come from a coaching tree that has not produced many good head coaches in the NFL. Dan Quinn, for the most part, failed as a head coach in his first try in Atlanta.

Check out some of my other articles:

Follow Us: @bears_atb & @ryanmcaloon

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Jevon Holland

Jevon Holland has Arrived for the Miami Dolphins

Jevon Holland
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins are winners of two in a row after beating the Ravens 22-10 on Thursday night, in large part due to stellar defense and the emergence of rookie Jevon Holland.

This Baltimore team wasn’t like the ones of the past, showcasing less of a slashing run game. Instead, they opted for more of a vertical passing attack. This can be partially attributed to the loss of number 1 and 2 running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards.

Nonetheless, Miami knew Baltimore wanted to run long-developing routes, and they had a plan to stop it.

To give Jackson little time to improvise, Miami showed cover-0 (an all-out blitz look) a staggering 40 times on Thursday night. Thus, guaranteeing shorter passes and free hits on the quarterback, preventing the playmaking Jackson from operating in his comfort zone.

Miami often dropped in-line defenders towards the center of the field to shore up soft spots, while sending safeties and linebackers into the backfield.

Miami drops DT Adam Butler into coverage.

The key to this aggressive defense, however, came from a new face in the DB room, rookie safety Jevon Holland.

Draft Profile

In the 2nd round of the 2020 Draft, Miami made a decision that many questioned. Instead of making a trade for fan-favorite running back Javonte Williams, the Dolphins selected Jevon Holland one pick later.

After having a promising first two seasons at Oregon, Holland sat out in 2020 due to COVID concerns. Thus, much like other players, he lost the ability to show NFL scouts he was a first-round talent.

When the NFL Draft came around, the opinion on Holland was mixed. While most scouts liked his traits and performance, a lack of experience left him in varying places on big boards. It was difficult to tell where safeties such as Holland, Trevon Moehrig, and Richie Grant would land.

Jevon Holland and Trevon Moehrig are the highest-graded rookie safeties.

However, Miami seemed to have an affinity for Holland. His ability to play almost everywhere on the field caught Brian Flores and Chris Grier’s eyes, especially for a defense that uses a myriad of different coverages.

This, as we know, ultimately led to Miami taking Holland, making him the first safety drafted in 2021.

Early Season Spark

Through the beginning of his rookie season, Holland showed flashes. Standout plays such as sacks on Matt Ryan and big hits on Jonnu Smith made waves on social media. Fans and media began to see why Holland was taken so highly, and it seemed he just needed a moment to shine.

Jevon Holland lays the boom on Jonnu Smith.

It seemed that this time had manifested against the Houston Texans. Just after Miami’s defense put together a pretty strong outing against the Bills, they looked to gain some momentum and potentially salvage the season.

With Miami facing a potential 8th straight loss, Holland made a huge play. Coming over from the middle of the field, he was able to intercept a pass in the back corner of the end zone.

Jevon Holland intercepts Tyrod Taylor.

Showcasing his range and playmaking ability that led to nine interceptions in his first two college seasons, it was clear that Miami had uncovered a gem. It was just time to display it to the national media.

Primetime Talent

With the Baltimore Ravens coming to town, it was clear that Miami’s defense had a major test. After failing to stop dual-threat quarterbacks in Brian Flores’ first two years as head coach, this would be one of their toughest challenges to date.

Miami knew that they needed their young players to step up, and under the Thursday night lights, it was the perfect time to set the narrative straight on their careers.

With the lights shining their brightest, it was the rookie Holland who stepped up to the plate.

Applying Pressure

With Miami using more of a blitz-heavy scheme, more responsibility was placed on the safeties. The Dolphins overloaded the box, often giving Brandon Jones and Holland a free rush. The key was getting there quick enough, rushing the ball from Lamar Jackson’s hands.

Holland excelled in that role.

Tallying 6 more of his position leading 14 pressures, Jevon Holland was able to rattle Jackson early and often. His quickness and instinct off the edge were rare for a player of his position, as many coverage players struggle as rushers.

Being a crucial part of Miami’s gameplan, Holland’s pressures caused Lamar’s passes to come out quickly and inaccurately. He was even able to tally a sack against Baltimore’s elusive QB, in which his speed off the edge gave Jackson little time to react.

Jevon Holland sacks Lamar Jackson.

Versatility in Space

Holland’s work in the open field was just as impressive. Tallying 5 tackles, he displayed the range that, in large part, led him to be selected so high.

On several occasions, he was able to move across the field and prevent big plays.

One particular play saw Holland begin on the opposite side of the formation on a jet sweep. After the receiver got to the second level, the young safety was able to get to the second level and make a play on the ball. His hit to force Duvernay out of bounds was extremely important, as he was the last line of defense, giving room for a potential touchdown.

Brett Kollmann reacts to Jevon Holland’s hit on Lamar Jackson.

His ability to threaten the entirety of the field while playing free safety gives the Dolphins much more margin for error, allowing them to run the exotic defenses we’ve seen recently.

The Bottom Line

It’s clear that Jevon Holland has the makings of the elite defensive back for the Dolphins, and his progression through the first 10 weeks has been immense. Miami has used him in a myriad of ways, and I expect that trend to continue.

Holland’s young career has been fun to watch thus far, and I only expect him to grow as it unfolds.

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Panthers Barkov

Florida Panthers make a statement win in their first game without Barkov

Panthers Barkov
Photo Credit: Florida Panthers PR

The Florida Panthers began an arduous journey Thursday night without their captain and on ice leader Aleksander Barkov for the next few weeks. Barkov injured his knee on Tuesday night after a collision with Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield.

Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette described Barkov’s status as “week-to-week.” In hockey coach speak, that translates to a reasonable timetable of about 4-6 weeks. Certainly not season ending, but the team will feel his absence. Over the course of the next month or so, the Panthers will need to prove they can still be a dominant team without Barkov.

Thursday night proved they can do just that. Playing a Devils team that gave them fits earlier this year, the Panthers played one of their best games of the season. The cats got off to a slow start defensively, but took complete control of the game after the first period. In the end, the Panthers cruised to a 4-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Let’s dive into how the Panthers managed to make up for losing Barkov, and how they can repeat this going forward.

Sam Bennett as 1C

Without Barkov, Andrew Brunette opted to reunite the “9-1-1” line as the teams top forward group. For the uninitiated, the so called line consists of Sam Bennett centering Johnathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair. Last season, that line proved to be one of the most dominant in the NHL. The trio spoke on their chemistry after the game.

“We were pumped when we got back together.” Duclair said, “We found a little chemistry when Benny got traded here, and saw a bit of that tonight. We want to build off that.”

Tonight, the they recorded two goals together, one from Huberdeau and one from Duclair. The line will need to be the hub of the offense for as long as Barkov sits if the team wants to maintain their first place position.

Spencer Knight bounces back

The last we saw of Spencer Knight was against these very Devils. In what can be considered the low point of his career thus far, Knight let in seven goals in a rout on November 9th. Tonight, Knight flipped the script. He saved 45 of 46 shots, a performance any goalie would be proud of.

In his postgame interview, Knight reflected on his poor performance and against the Devils, saying “If things go well all the time, you’re not going to learn much.” Knight certainly seemed to learn a ton from his last poor performance. Without Barkov, Knight will need even more performances like these, as goals will likely be harder to come by. Both him and Bobrovsky will have less leeway over the next few weeks.

Fourth line flourishing

Most NHL fourth lines are considered “energy lines.” Mostly, these lines play good defense and light a fire under the rest of the team to generate some chances. Very rarely in the NHL do fourth lines consistently provide offense themselves. So far, the Panthers have been the exception. The fourth line of Eetu Luostarinen, Ryan Lomberg, and Patric Hornqvist have scored in three straight games.

For a group with such little ice time to be so productive has been a blessing for the team. Together, they have found a chemistry several top lines would envy. Head Coach Andrew Brunette said after the game, “”I think they’re doing the right things, they’ve got a nice combination.” Making up for Barkov’s lost production will be a group effort, and thus far the fourth line has done their part.

Looking ahead

The Panthers next play at home against the Minnesota wild on Saturday at 6 PM. This will be a great test for the club, as the Wild are currently first in the central division. It will surely be must see TV.

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Miami Dolphins 2022 Mock Draft

Miami Dolphins 2022 Mock Draft: All SEC Edition

Miami Dolphins 2022 Mock Draft

If you’re a Miami Dolphins fan, I’m sorry. This season has been the opposite of fun for many fans forced to watch the Dolphins flounder week after week. The struggles of the offensive line are more apparent than ever. Questions once again surround quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and whether or not he’s the future at the position. There are holes everywhere on the team. What’s a fan to do? Kick back and have some fun with a Miami Dolphins 2022 mock draft!

It’s November. The college football season is still in full-swing, and the NFL season has barely passed the halfway point. Mock drafts at this point in the season aren’t for accuracy. They’re to have some fun looking to the future, and to introduce fans to some of the prospects they’ll be hearing come next spring. With that in mind, we’re going to have some fun with this Miami Dolphins mock draft.

When I say “fun”, I mean we’re getting a little wacky with it. Many folks consider the SEC the pinnacle of college football, and for good reason. Teams like Georgia and Alabama dominate the college ranks, and send talent to the NFL in droves. So it begs the question: What would a mock draft look like consisting of only SEC selections?

We’re going to answer that question today with a 3-round mock. Now, enough talk, let’s get to the picks! All picks have been made using the Mock Draft Simulator from our friends over at risendraft.com.

2022 Miami Dolphins Mock Draft – 3-Round, All SEC edition

Round 1, Pick 12 – Kenyon Green, iOL, Texas A&M

Right off the bat this mock draft starts off with a ton of tempting options for the Miami Dolphins. With the 12th pick in this simulation, the Dolphins are looking at DT DeMarvin Leal, CB Kaiir Elam, DT Jordan Davis, and WR Treylon Burks as options. Each player has been outstanding this season and would provide the Dolphins with a high-quality player at positions of importance.

However, this pick is about value and need. If we were drafting by a strict “Best SEC player available” strategy, Leal would be the pick. As good as Leal is, the value isn’t there for a defensive tackle at this spot. Especially when there are so many other glaring holes on this Dolphins team. As nice as it would be to add a corner or wide receiver as good as Elam or Burks, the same logic applies.

I know there are going to be some fans who read this and think “Why would we take *another* offensive lineman? We can’t develop them anyway!”. That’s a valid point. The Dolphins have had a terrible run at drafting and developing offensive line talent.

That said, the current offensive line is, well, terrible. It would be malpractice to not at least *try* and address the issue. The team needs to sign a veteran (or two) in free agency, but they also need to draft established, high-quality talent.

Tackle is the bigger issue for the Miami Dolphins offensive line, but the interior needs a complete overhaul as well. Green would be a nice start to that end.

Round 2, Pick 37 – Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

If you thought the Dolphins valuing the interior of the offensive line in the first round was unrealistic, you’re not going to like this pick. If you’ve followed the Miami Dolphins draft habits the past few years, you know they don’t value running back. At all. It was a clear need last year, yet they waited until the sixth round to address the position. With a player who can’t find his way to the field.

It’s still a need, and eventually the team is going to have to address it in a meaningful way. Day 3 guys who fill out the practice squad aren’t going to cut it. Salvon Ahmed and/or Myles Gaskin aren’t cutting it. Neither strategy has worked; it’s time to change things up.

Spillier is one of the most talented running backs in the SEC, if not the entire nation. He’s an explosive playmaker who can be trusted in both the rushing and passing games — a quality you need to be a successful running back in today’s NFL (unless your name is Derrick Henry).

Will the Dolphins take a running back this high when the real 2022 NFL Draft comes along? Almost certainly not. But I told you we were having fun with this Miami Dolphins mock draft. The fans want a running back, and the fans would be getting a running back if it were up to me. There may be better running backs, but Spiller is the top SEC back and was too good to pass up at this spot.

Round 3, Pick 99 – Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama

Here’s where our “SEC only” stipulation gets us in trouble. We round out this 3-round 2022 Miami Dolphins mock draft with what many would call a “luxury” pick. Or, even, a bad one. The Dolphins have glaring needs at offensive tackle and linebacker that have yet to be addressed in this mock draft.

Those positions could be addressed in free agency, but the younger, cheaper, talent the NFL Draft offers is usually preferable. However, with the added complication of taking only players from the SEC, the value simply wasn’t there at this spot. Instead, we’re left beefing up the trenches on defense with Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis.

Mathis is a beast up front. He’s a guy who plays with a high motor and brings an energy to the trenches that Miami could really use. He knows how to read offensive linemen and make them pay when they get sloppy with their technique, and knows how to use his hands well to keep offensive linemen off him and make a play on the ball. 

Mathis would give the Dolphins a nice rotational piece on the defensive line who can be a space eater on the inside. His presence would give the Dolphins some much-needed help defending the rush. However, it’s hard not to come away a bit disappointed with how this Miami Dolphins mock draft plays out at the end. It would have been great to grab a tackle or linebacker, but the fun of this exercise is in the complication!

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Thursday Night Football: A Chance to Change the Narrative

Following a week 9 win, the Miami Dolphins have an opportunity to shock the world against the Ravens on Thursday Night Football.

This season, as we all know, has been a rough one for The Dolphins. After winning a close game in week 1, the Dolphins began to lose grip on their season. Coaching miscues, injuries, and regression led to Miami losing 7 straight.

They finally snapped their streak on Sunday, grinding out a defensive battle without QB Tua Tagovailoa.

Although it seems that Miami’s season is likely over from a postseason perspective, there is still something to prove.

The NFL Playoff Picture going into week 10.

Brian Flores and Chris Grier must show ownership that there is reason for them to stay. A competitive game with one of the league’s premiere teams on Thursday Night Football could help the optics of their situation.

Optics is the operative word here. While Miami doesn’t much have to compete for as a team, individual players have a chance to define the early portions of their careers.

Primetime games present an opportunity that 1pm Sunday showdowns don’t: fans from across the league are watching, and their opinions on players often come from the very little they get to see from their specific teams.

A prime, and frankly, a painful example of this comes on December 26th, 2020.

A Cautionary Tale

Following an impressive win against New England, the Tua led Dolphins went into Las Vegas to take on the Raiders, with playoff hopes on the line. Little did they know, the public opinion of 2 players would change drastically that night, both in different directions.

The game started slow, with very little coming from either offense. Tua was struggling, and many of his completed passes were coming at or behind the line of scrimmage.

With 94 yards on 22 attempts, Miami was in need of a spark, and they made the decision that it wouldn’t come from Tua.

Tua was benched against Las Vegas.

Instead, Miami went with 38 year old veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fans were outraged, and the national media had begun to change their opinion. A quarterback once looked at as a potential star just failed to outperform a career backup.

Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, received an overwhelming amount of positive attention.

Impact of the Comeback

Following Tua’s benching, the veteran was able to go 9-13 for 182 yards and a touchdown, including the infamous facemask pass, to come from behind and give Miami a 1 point win.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Facemask Pass was the Best Play of 2020.

The media instantly reinstated the “Fitzmagic” nickname, and questioned whether Tua should remain the starter. Comparisons between the two QB’s play began to run wild on social media.

Tua’s status throughout the league began to diminish, as he slowly became looked at as a mediocre option. To this day, Tua seems to be of a low opinion to national media, while Fitzpatrick carries his nickname and the lore behind it.

Since then, Tua is 1-5 as the starter, and Miami has looked into other options at the QB position, such as troubled superstar Deshaun Watson. Part of the Dolphins diminishing opinion on Tagovailoa may have come from that December night.

Dolphins fielded questions regarding Deshaun Watson.

Although he performed well in several other games that year, the emphasis on the primetime game shows a trend. When the lights are brightest, media and casual fans judge players the most.

The story of Tua Tagovailoa presents a cautionary tale, and although he remains Miami’s starting quarterback, that game may have been the beginning of the end for his time as a Miami Dolphin.

Seize the Moment

That’s why, along with hopes of winning, Dolphins players must seize the opportunity Thursday Night Football. This game can go a long way in beginning storied careers for many young players. Potential rising stars such as Jaylen Waddle or Jaelan Phillips can cement their place in the eyes of many, while an unexpected hero can emerge, much like Fitzpatrick has time and time again.

Thursday night is an opportunity to shine for Dolphins players looking to make their mark on a subpar team. Legends are made in primetime, and it will be fascinating to see who takes advantage and makes their presence known.

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MLB Free Agent Predictions

MLB free agent
via ClutchPoints

The 2021 Major League Season has concluded with the Atlanta Braves winning their first title since 1995. Now, it’s time for all 30 teams to strategize and figure out their needs during a hectic offseason. Below are my top 25 MLB free agent predictions this offseason. 

  1. Carlos Correa – SS: There is not a better MLB Free Agent available on the market than Correa. He is in line for a huge payday that will likely lead him away from the Astros. As of last night, the Astros have offered him a five-year contract worth $160 Million. Aside from the Astros, other teams that are showing interest include the Rangers, Tigers, Twins, and Yankees.

    Prediction: Detroit Tigers sign Correa to 10 years, $310 Million

  2. Corey Seager – SS: This free agent class is the year of the Shortstops and Seager is next on that list. When healthy, he is another one of the premier Shortstops in Baseball but that’s his only issue – staying healthy. Still, for his production and impact on your team, he is most certainly worth the money.

    Prediction: New York Yankees sign Seager to 7 years, $240 Million

  3. Kris Bryant – 3B: There are no questions about it – the Giants will be aggressive this offseason and will try to re-sign Bryant. The issue is, they will not be the only ones aggressive in signing Bryant. He will be patient in the signing process but will have no shortage of suitors no matter how long he takes.

    Prediction: Texas Rangers sign Bryant to 7 years, $260 Million

  4. Trevor Story – SS: One of the more underrated Shortstops in the game, Story had another excellent year in Colorado. Story is from Irving, TX and all signs point towards the Rangers and Astros. With the Rangers predicted to get Bryant, it’ll be interesting to see if they sign Story as well.

    Prediction: Houston Astros sign Story to 6 years, $180 Million

  5. Max Scherzer – SP: In terms of length, Scherzer will not get the best deal due to his age but he will certainly get a nice AAV. Scherzer posted a sub-1.00 ERA down the stretch and proved to be a high-level player. Rumor is Mike Trout is convincing the Angels to go after Scherzer hard.

    Prediction: Los Angeles Angels sign Max Scherzer to 3 years, $120 Million

  6. Robbie Ray – SP: The likely Cy Young winner is on the market in Robbie Ray. He bounced back in a big way and almost helped lead Toronto to the playoffs. The Blue Jays will have some serious competition for Ray.

    Prediction: San Francisco Giants sign Robbie Ray to 5 years, $125 Million

  7. Freddie Freeman – 1B: The star of the World Champion Braves, this is one free agent staying home for sure. He deserves the big payday he is due and will most certainly receive that.

    Prediction: Atlanta Braves re-sign Freddie Freeman to 5 years, $130 Million

  8. Clayton Kershaw – SP: Dodgers didn’t extend a QO to Kershaw, but don’t worry he will be back in L.A.

    Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers re-sign Clayton Kershaw to 2 years, $80 Million

  9. Marcus Semien – SS/2B: After a rough pandemic year, Semien bounced back big with 45 Homers in 2021. Semien’s ability to play both middle-infield spots and offensive prowess will be valuable to any team interested in him.

    Prediction: San Francisco Giants sign Marcus Semien to 5 years, $120 Million

  10. Kevin Gausman – SP: After struggling to start out his career, Gausman bounced back in a nice way for the Giants. He’s in the running for the NL Cy Young award which should reward him with a big payday.

    Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies sign Kevin Gausman to 4 years, $90 Million

  11. Marcus Stroman – SP: Stroman received a qualifying offer from the Mets and capitalized big time. His best year yet, Stroman should be a top priority for the Mets this offseason.

    Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Marcus Stroman to 4 years, $85 Million

  12. Javier Baez – SS/2B: Led the league in strikeouts but still had a nice slash line down the stretch in New York. Baez and Lindor would like to play together, and I think the Mets make that happen.

    Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Javier Baez to 4 years, $88 Million

  13. Nick Castellanos – OF/DH: Castellanos opted out of his remaining deal with the Reds in hopes of a big contract. His defense leaves a lot to desire but his bat is one of the best in the league, making him a better fit in the AL.

    Prediction: Texas Rangers sign Nick Castellanos to 4 years, $80 Million

  14. Starling Marte – OF: Started the season on the IL but ended up with a nice slash line and led the league in stolen bases. Despite his age, can still make a high-level impact on a contender.

    Prediction: Boston Red Sox sign Starling Marte to 3 years, $65 Million

  15. Noah Syndergaard – SP: He’s pitched two games in the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. There are questions surrounding his value but no doubts about his talent.

    Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Noah Syndergaard with Qualifying offer

  16. Kyle Schwarber – OF/1B/DH: Having one of his better seasons yet, Schwarber played himself to a multi-year deal. He is limited in terms of position, with his best fit being at DH. Maybe we see universal DH come into effect sometime in the near-future.

    Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies sign Kyle Schwarber to 3 years, $60 Million

  17. Carlos Rodon – SP: After being non-tendered last offseason, Rodon bounced back in a big way and pitched himself into the Cy Young conversation. Unfortunately, his injury history knocks him down his list as he dealt with arm fatigue down the stretch in 2021.

    Prediction: Chicago White Sox re-sign Carlos Rodon to 2 years, $34 Million

  18. Justin Verlander – SP: Recovered now from Tommy John Surgery, Verlander is ready to pitch after missing all of 2021. There will still be plenty of suitors looking to add the veteran righty to bolster their rotation.

    Prediction: Detroit Tigers sign Justin Verlander to 2 years, $40 Million

  19. Chris Taylor – UTIL: A very Ben Zobrist-like player, Taylor provides a ton of value as a Utility guy. He had an outstanding postseason once again and is in line to get nice contract for once.

    Prediction: Toronto Blue Jays sign Chris Taylor to 4 years, $52 Million

  20. Michael Conforto – OF: After a down 2021, it’ll be interesting to see what Conforto’s market will look like. Once rumored to be a $100+ Million player, Conforto’s value plummeted. He is still one of the better fielders in the Outfield and has a ton of talent in his bat.

    Prediction: New York Mets re-sign Michael Conforto with Qualifying offer

  21. Anthony Rizzo – 1B: Rizzo didn’t have his traditional year on Offense, but he still produced well enough and offers you consistency in his health. He wants to be back in Pinstripes next year, according to a family member close to him.

    Prediction: New York Yankees sign Anthony Rizzo to 2 years, $26 Million

  22. Brandon Belt – 1B: If Belt were to leave the Giants it would be a huge surprise.

    Prediction: San Francisco Giants re-sign Brandon Belt to 2 years, $24 Million

  23. Raisel Iglesias – RP: He’s been one of the better relievers in Baseball over the past couple years. The Angels could obviously use him and will want him back but Iglesias will have a lot of interest.

    Prediction: Seattle Mariners sign Raisel Iglesias to 3 years, $30 Million

  24. Kenley Jansen – RP/CL: Jansen bounced back in a big way in 2021 after struggling for a couple years. He is still one of the more dependable Closers in Baseball and will be a suitor for contenders around the league.

    Prediction: Los Angeles Angels sign Kenley Jansen to 2 years, $30 Million

  25. Jon Gray – SP: The Rockies didn’t extend a Qualifying offer to Gray, making him an immediate free agent. Gray has a lot of talent who was in a bad situation in Colorado. He won’t be costly so he will be sure to have a good bit of interest.

    Prediction: Washington Nationals sign Jon Gray to 3 years, $33 Million

Others who missed cut:

  • Nelson Cruz – DH: Seattle Mariners sign Nelson Cruz to 1 year, $11 Million
  • Eduardo Rodriguez – SP: Boston Red Sox re-sign Eduardo Rodriguez to 3 years, $27 Million
  • Eddie Rosario – UTIL: Atlanta Braves re-sign Eddie Rosario to 2 years, $14 Million
  • Kyle Seager – 3B: New York Yankees sign Kyle Seager to 2 years, $10 Million
  • Avisail Garcia – OF: Seattle Mariners sign Avisail Garcia to 2 years, $14 Million
  • Seiya Suzuki – OF: Chicago Cubs sign Seiya Suzuki to 2 years, $10 Million

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins: It’s Time to Blow It Up

Miami Dolphins

Nearly two months ago, the Miami Dolphins marched into Gillette Stadium and escaped Foxborough with a one point win.

Since then, they haven’t won a game. The Dolphins have been outscored by 96 points, and are sitting at the bottom of the AFC.

This comes off a 2020 season where Miami over exceeded by winning 10 games. The Dolphins had the 4th ranked scoring defense, and were viewed as a team on the rise.

However, a series of missteps have culminated in a 1-7 record and a head-coach-GM tandem that’s now regarded as a failure. These major mistakes have changed the narrative of the franchise.

Offensive Line

Current general manager Chris Grier has had several positions in his 21 year tenure with the Miami Dolphins. Grier became the GM in 2016, and has held significant power ever since.

Chris Grier has failed to assemble a competent OL.

In that five-year span, Grier has failed to put it together in the trenches. Miami’s offensive line has consistently been below average. Draft picks and free agent pickups at those positions are struggling to find their way in the NFL.

Since entering the GM position, Grier as drafted nine offensive linemen. Only one of them, Laremy Tunsil, has made a Pro Bowl. Three of them have struggled to find playing time (Isaac Asiata, Isaiah Prince, Larnel Coleman). The rest have been playing on the field but producing a unit regarded as among the worst in the league.

This problem would not have been an issue if Grier had brought in any of the several veteran linemen that were made available over the last few offseason.

Linemen such as Orlando Brown, Corey Linsley, Trent Williams, and Joe Thuney have all changed teams over the last few years. There were no reports about Miami in play and Miami has refused to make an effort to sign anyone of their caliber.

Rather, Miami has went the route of saving money. Taking on chosen “cheaper talent” such as Matt Skura, Jesse Davis, and Ereck Flowers. Though, to his credit, Flowers has been serviceable for Washington since leaving Miami.

Ereck Flowers has been serviceabe in Washington.

The philosophy coming in was to work in all of the drafted OL’s together. However, Miami has no veterans to truly help develop them. This has resulted in a unit full of penalties, blown assignments, free rushers, and an injury to their young QB.

2020 Draft Picks

Among Miami’s young and struggling linemen, three of them were drafted in a year that was supposed to supply a treasure trove of future talent. After moving on from the aforementioned Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, Miami held five picks in the first two rounds.

With those five picks, Miami selected Tua Tagovailoa, Austin Jackson, Noah Igbinoghene, Robert Hunt and Raekwon Davis.

The first of which, whether you believe in him or not, has struggled. Tua was benched twice for his struggles last season. He was destined to take a step forward this season. It’s safe to say it hasn’t happened yet.

Fighting injuries and inconsistency, Tua is 1-3 as the starter. He’s had some good throws right into WR’s hands, while also having questionable throws leading to interceptions.

Austin Jackson and Noah Igbinoghene, on the other hand, have been far worse. In Jacksons first 21 games, he was seen unfit to play tackle, and has currently moved to guard.

He has had some hiccups at guard but is slowly improving. It is notable that it took the coaching staff this many games to try him at guard.

An Austin Jackson missed block leads to a Tua Tagovailoa INT.

Noah Igbinoghene has not been given the same chance as Austin Jackson has. Igbinoghene has appeared in only two games this season, mainly seeing time when other defensive backs are out.

Igbinoghene’s name has been called in mostly disappointing results, consistently being picked on by opposing QB’s.

The Dolphins passed on Jonathan Taylor for Noah Igbinoghene.

The 2nd round picks (Hunt and Davis), unlike the first three, have shown their potential. They have also shown inconsistency, with neither making the jump fans and analysts hoped to see.

This 2020 draft class was one Miami hoped to hang their hat on; thus far, it has the makings of a potential disaster.

Offensive Coordinators

While Chris Grier can largely be to blame for the first two issues, Flores may be at fault for the most recent.

Since entering the league in 2019, Flores has had four offensive coordinators. The turnstiles of OC’s have led to the Dolphins offense not being able to produce efficiently. The Dolphins have not had a top scoring offense; they have been in the bottom five the last few years.

Former Dolphins OC Chad O’Shea was fired in 2019 for what was rumored to be a “difficult system” to comprehend. Many questioned O’Shea being let go, with his replacement being just as head-scratching.

Chad O’Shea’s firing was head scratching to many.

In the 2020 offseason, Miami brought Chan Gailey out of retirement to help groom their rookie QB.

Contrary to their plan, Gailey didn’t click with Tua, and the playbook looked significantly different when Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had success with Gailey in New York, was at the helm.

Miami struggled heavily to truly compete with the high powered offenses with Gailey’s seemingly antiquated system.

So when the Dolphins missed the playoffs, in 2020, it was time to find another OC.

Intriguing candidates such as Mike McDaniel, Pep Hamilton, and Matt Canada all received interviews. Miami shocked everyone by going with two internal hires, George Godsey and Eric Studesville.

The Dolphins Offensive Staff has changed year to year.

Many were hesitant to believe the two former assistants could call a top-tier offensive scheme. So far, the hesitation has become reality. Miami is bottom five in scoring, and most recently put up 11 points on the division rival Buffalo Bills.

Once looked upon as a future star HC, Brian Flores has failed to solve his offensive coaching woes. The future does not look promising.

The Watson Saga

The newest domino to fall in the slew of missteps has been the handling of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson’s trade request.

Following a formal request in January, Miami had shown interest, and for good reason. Watson threw 33 touchdowns in 2020 and was regarded as a top 5 quarterback.

But, beginning in March, Watson began to face civil and criminal accusations from more than 20 women of sexual misconduct, which is when Miami had a choice to make:

Commit to your 2nd year QB or continue your pursuit of a troubled, potentially criminal player, disrupting Tua’s confidence and in turn, your whole franchise.

Miami chose the second option. Allowing the Dolphins to be the subject of trade rumors into the season, persisting in their attempts to grab another young QB when they already had one who they drafted 16 months ago still on the roster.

Thus, Brian Flores, Tua Tagovailoa, Chris Grier, and more Dolphins players and staff have been berated with questions about a player who shouldn’t be of any concern.

Tua chimes in on the Watson rumors.

Now, rumors have continued to fly, with the newest comming from lawyer Tony Buzbee. Buzbee claims owner Stephen Ross and the Dolphins may have made an attempt to pay off the women involved in exchange for a settlement and/or NDA. Chris Grier has adamantly denied these rumors.

Chris Grier denies rumors of influencing Watson’s cases.

With Miami declining to make the deal before the deadline, it’s still Tua time in Miami. However, the Watson talk will pick right back up in the offseason, where Miami will have to make the same decision they did this year.

The Bottom Line

Since becoming the main sources of power in the Miami Dolphins organization, Chris Grier and Brian Flores have made some crucial mistakes.

Whether it’s drafting raw players, failing to address the offensive line and coordinator, or letting the Deshaun Watson rumors hang over their head, Miami’s small decisions have spiraled out of control.

It’s gotten to a point where this regime is running out of time, and it may be better off starting over under new leadership.

Miami’s decisions over the next few months will be telling, and it will be intriguing to see if Grier and Flores remain at the helm.

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College Football Playoff Predictions: Week 9

This Tuesday the College Football Playoff Committee will release their first rankings of the season. Today I will release my College Football Playoff predictions, with the four teams who will be in and four teams that just missed the cut. Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s get angry about rankings!

Image via GettyImages, Joel Auerbach

College Football Playoff Predictions: The Four Teams In

1.) Georgia

This was the easiest decision to make. Georgia has been dominating everyone they have played with their elite defense. Their offense is not very explosive, but they rarely turn the ball over and have played good enough to keep pressure off of the defense.

Stetson Bennett has kept his turnovers to a minimum (four interceptions on the year), while allowing the running game to be the engine to this offense.

2.) Ohio State

Ohio State has arguably been the second best team in College Football this season with C.J. Stroud developing into a star signal caller and TreyVon Henderson finding his stride as arguably one of the best running backs in college football.

Ohio State’s offense has been incredible. However, their defense still raises some questions and could be the reason they aren’t raising the CFP National Championship Trophy in January.

3.) Alabama

Nick Saban just turned SEVENTY YEARS OLD and is still dominating college football. Bryce Young, the Heisman favorite right now, is leading the team as a redshirt freshman at Quarterback with playmakers Brian Robinson jr., John Metchie III, and Jameson Williams.

Alabama still has enough fire power to score on anyone even after sending five offensive playmakers and two quarterbacks to the NFL in the past two drafts. With a defense that still ranks in the Top-15 among FBS teams (according to NCAA.com).

Alabama might be the most well-rounded team in college football when all is said and done. Nick Saban is the greatest of all time.

4.) Oklahoma

Oklahoma was looking like a team destined to get upset a few times this season. However, they’ve pulled out the win on every occasion thus far. With the change to Freshman Quarterback Caleb Williams, Oklahoma’s offense looks more dynamic than ever.

This defense is littered with talent including: Nik Bonitto, Perrion Winfrey, and Isaiah Thomas on the defensive line. If Alex Grinch can get this defense to play to their potential, they will be an elite front seven come December and January.

College Football Playoff Predictions: The First Four Out

5.) Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Bearcats are going to be huge Notre Dame fans for the rest of the season. They came away from South Bend with a win earlier this year and so far it’s the only loss Notre Dame has had. Although Notre Dame has had some close calls to questionable programs this season, namely Florida State and Toledo, they still stand with a (7-1) record.

Cincinnati is headed by Luke Fickell, one of the hottest up-and-coming head coaches in college football at the moment. Fickell is a defensive mind, as he was a co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Ohio State before taking the Cincinnati job.

The Bearcats are also littered with talent on their roster, especially at premium positions. Headlined by Desmond Ridder at quarterback, a potential first round pick next April. Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner is a shut down cornerback, currently having an elite-level season. Myjai Sanders is another high-impact defender for the Bearcats. However, he is currently sitting with a pedestrian one sack on the season.

I believe the College Football Playoff Committee will leave Cincinnati out of the Top-4 for the time being. This committee will do anything they can to keep a non-Power Five school from being in the playoffs. The reason is money. Keeping all of the College Football Playoff money within the Power Five conferences is good business. Spreading it to another conference — is not.

I hear the arguments for Cincinnati “deserving” to be in the playoffs because they’re undefeated, they beat a blue blood program on the road, they’ve done everything they could thus far. I just do not think they’re one of the four best teams in college football.

6.) Michigan State

After a huge win against rival Michigan in East Lansing, Michigan State is the last remaining un-beaten team in the Big Ten.

Mel Tucker has crafted an incredible bend-but-don’t-break defense, allowing over 420 yards per game but only 20.5 points per game.

Kenneth Walker Jr. is having one of the best seasons a running back has had since Derrick Henry won the Heisman in 2015. Accumulating 1,194 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight games.

7.) Michigan

With a loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines chances at a College Football Playoff looks slim. However, a big win against Ohio State and Michigan State dropping two games with Ohio State and Penn State still on their schedule, still gives Michigan fans some hope of finally making a playoff.

8.) Oregon

With their win against Ohio State fading more and more into the rear view mirror, Oregon must stay focused and win-out in a bad PAC-12. The loss to Stanford has probably already sunk their chances of making a playoff. A scenario to get them in could entail Ohio State losing one more game to Michigan State or in the Big Ten title game. Alabama and Oklahoma would both have to lose their Conference Title Games as well for Oregon to have any chance at making the playoffs this season.


This College Football Playoffs prediction is hardly set in stone and completely fluid. As of right now, this is who I would have in the playoffs and who I would have on the outside.

Please make sure to comment and tell me who YOU would have in your College Football Playoff prediction. Peace!

Follow Me on Twitter: @ryfootballscout

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Credit: Phin Phanatic

NFL Trade Deadline: Dolphins on the Move?

Dolphins Trade Deadline
Credit: Phin Phanatic

As Tuesday’s trade deadline rapidly approaches, the Miami Dolphins may be looking to move players. Two players whose names have come up as tradable pieces are Albert Wilson and Devante Parker. Miami, whose season is likely over, might be looking to move high salaries or under performers and gain draft capital for the coming years.

Albert Wilson

Albert Wilson might have been the Dolphins best player during camp. Wilson and 2nd-year QB Tua Tagovailoa were showing significant chemistry and were connecting all over the field. 

Wilson was expected to be a big contributor in the offense and have a lot of playing time. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seen the field much and has struggled to be productive when he step on the field.

This season, Wilson has just 7 catches for 45 yards. He is averaging 3.75 yards per target. In week 3, Wilson played 55% of the Dolphins offensive snaps. He hasn’t been close to that number again and played just 4% of snaps last week. Mack Hollins and Preston Williams (when healthy) are seeing more snaps than the Training Camp MVP. The Dolphins clearly don’t have a plan to use Wilson this year and should look to trade him for a position of need (OL, LB) or future draft picks.

Wilson is set to hit free agency after this season, so the Dolphins moving him before the trade deadline and collecting assets instead of letting him walk for free may be the best option. Trading Wilson will also save the Dolphins $3.8 million against the cap and they’ll take on just $1.3 million in dead money.

Devante Parker

Parker’s career has been plagued by injury since he was drafted by Miami in 2015. In 2019, Parker was healthy for all 16 games and put up 1,202 yards and 9 touchdowns. It seemed like a breakout year and his career was reaching the tipping point. In 2020 though, he missed 2 games due to a hamstring injury, which has been an issue for the majority of his career. He still put up respectable numbers with 793 yards and 4 touchdowns. 

Through the first 4 games of this season, Parker was a key part of the offense with 17 catches for 242 yards and 1 touchdown. Unfortunately, he has missed the last 3 games and is in danger of missing his fourth straight this Sunday in Buffalo.

Parker’s inability to stay healthy may be the driving force to trade him. According to reports, the Dolphins have discussed trading Parker. 

There have also been talks about Parker not being fully committed to football. Nagging injuries can take a toll on a player, and it wouldn’t be shocking if Parker is growing increasingly frustrated.

A trade would give Parker a fresh start to his career which is something he probably needs.

For Miami, a Parker trade would clear cap space for the 2022 season. The Dolphins are projected to have the most cap space in 2022. However, only 19 players from the current roster are under contract for next season. The cap availability is going to diminish rapidly and they need money to re-sign big money players like Mike Gesicki and Emmanuel Ogbah.

Miami may try to trade for an offensive line piece, collect assets for next year, or both at once. Regardless, the Dolphins wide receiver room needs to be monitored with just 4 days until the trade deadline. 

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5 Key Plays from Tua Tagovailoa vs. Falcons


The Dolphins are now 1-6 on the year, falling 30-28 to the Atlanta Falcons on a game winning field goal. The Dolphins are now 1-6 on the year.

What you’ll find was hidden in another Miami loss to a sub .500 team is a really good performance from 2nd year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has been in the headlines for a variety of reasons, including potential trades for Deshaun Watson.

In the meantime, Tua is the QB, and we can only base projections off of the roster right now. Tua made great plays, especially in the 4th quarter. He helped the Dolphins come back from down 13 to take the lead with under 4 minutes left.

The story of this game is one of elite traits, signs of development fighting adversity, and mistakes to improve on, and these five plays tell that story.

Pocket Presence

Going into the season, Miami’s offensive line was a major question mark. The Dolphins were starting second year players to start the year and the growing pains were noticeable.

Miami was forced to shuffle around their line in an attempt to find something that sticks. In doing so, they weren’t able to find much improvement.

Through 7 weeks, the Dolphins rank dead last in Pass Block Win Rate, per ESPN, with a whopping 47 percent. For reference, the Cleveland Browns are first with 73%.

Even with the adverse circumstances up front, Tua has been elite in the pocket, ranking near the bottom in sack rate. On several plays throughout the game, Tagovailoa was able to evade pressure and create positive yardage, including this scramble on 2nd and 8.

Tua Tagovailoa puts Deion Jones on skates.

With pressure coming off the edges, Tua makes a quick move, reminiscent of last year’s game vs. Arizona, gets past Deion Jones, and gets the first down.

Although he isn’t a “running QB”, Tagovailoa has shown on several occasions that he is willing to take off if that play breaks down.

“Keyhole” Accuracy

Entering the 2020 draft, Tagovailoa’s key trait was accuracy. At Alabama, he led a fast paced RPO offense, centered around hitting receivers in stride and letting them create yards after the catch.

Since Miami selected Tua #5 overall last year, the accuracy has stayed a point of emphasis, especially when he finds his rhythm.

It was much of the same against Atlanta, as Tua made several tight window throws, especially late in the game, that showed off his most impressive trait.

In the 4th quarter, when Miami was in desperate need of a touchdown drive, Tua started out with an outstanding touch throw.

Tua Tagovailoa threads the needle to Durham Smythe.

Tight end Durham Smythe runs a wheel concept, in which the receiver runs out towards the boundary, then up the field, and Tagovailoa is able to anticipate him reaching a soft spot in the coverage. Upon seeing this, Tua was able to float a pass in a perfect spot for Smythe to make a play on the ball, which he did, for a gain of 18.

Tagovailoa has continued to show that his accuracy is up to the challenge when Miami needs him most.

Fighting Adversity

Earlier this week, Mack Hollins let the world know what he thought of his young QB.

Mack Hollins calls Tua “that dude”

Hollins has a point, as we were able to see Tua’s ability to fight adversity to put Miami in a position to win the game. Some of which included his own mistakes

On the same drive as the throw to Smythe, Tagovailoa made a crucial run on third down, showing that he is willing to put his body on the line for the sake of the team.

Tua Tagovailoa lays the BOOM for a first down.

Sensing pressure coming from the edges, Tua stepped out of the pocket, and lowered his shoulder in order to pick up a crucial first down. Many were looking to see the “dog” in Tua, and we got a glimpse of it last week.

Just Keep Fighting

The next play is less of a show of Tua’s out of structure talent, but more his ability to execute clever plays perfectly if they’re run more.

On his last throw of the game, Miami ran a fake end around, getting the defensive line to commit to Jaylen Waddle’s speed and explosiveness.

After selling the fake to perfection, Tagovailoa rolls out, being able to place a ball in between 2 defenders in the back of the end zone for a lead-taking TD.

Tua Tagovailoa fakes the end around for a TD to Hollins.

Miami hasn’t used much creativity in their playcalling for Tua, and with less to lose, I hope we can see more plays like this.

Area of Improvement

Through his first 3 full games of the season, Tagovailoa’s growth has been noticeable. Unlike his rookie year, he has been much more willing to take chances in the intermediate game.

Even with his growth, there has been a consistent issue in his game: the inability to let plays die.

At several points throughout the games, Tua has made plays outside of structure, which he struggled with in 2020.

Although, there have been times when this has come back to bite him, and this game was no different.

Tua throws an INT.

Although many argue that Waddle is to blame for Tua’s second INT, interior pressure (which he has struggled with), was bearing down, and in the midst of being sacked, Tua let a ball go a bit high.

Another view of Tua’s INT.

While some believe Waddle could have made a play, the ball should never have been thrown.

Nonetheless, Tua must learn to play another down if he is to take the next step Miami hopes he will make.

The Bottom Line

In a year where Miami probably won’t make the playoffs, development is very important. Tua Tagovailoa is a prime example of that. Whether he’s in Miami’s long term plans or not, his and the Dolphins’ futures are somewhat reliant on his performance.

Although he wasn’t perfect, Tua showed that he has made great strides since his rookie year. Possessing some great accuracy, pocket presence, and ability to work in and out of structure, it is clear that Tagovailoa had one of the best games of his young career.

It will be exciting to see what he can do against Buffalo and other difficult teams down the stretch.

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Time to Snap Data adds a New Wrinkle to Tua Tagovailoa’s Game

The future of the Miami Dolphins is murky to say the least. Following the return of Tua from a rib injury, the Dolphins fell to the Jaguars 23-20, losing their 5th straight game. However, there is a silver lining after losing to the Jaguars and the never-ending swirl of Deshaun Watson trade rumors.

Coming off of fractured ribs, Tua threw for 329 yards and 2 touchdowns, showing some promise Miami desperately needs.

Although, Tua made some questionable plays, Tua led Miami to 2 long touchdown drives in which he made several solid throws, finding rhythm early on scripted drives and finishing strong with a 90 yard drive to keep Miami in the game.

Through the first 12 starts of his young career, a pattern is starting to emerge in the success of Tua. After charting every dropback from Sunday’s game in London, I noticed a strong correlation between yards gained and time-to-snap.

Quick to the Line

Of Tua’s 49 dropbacks, nine of them resulted in plays of 15 yards or more. All nine of those big plays came with seven or more seconds remaining on the play clock. Five of those nine snaps came with more than 10 seconds left on the clock.

Tua Tagovailoa snap stats
Percentages of Time on the Play Clock Remaining on 15+ Yard Plays.

Currently, this offense is designed to get to the line quickly, as Miami drafted a QB who ran one of the most efficient collegiate offenses at Alabama.

Running a variety of RPO’s (run-pass options), Tua was able to lead a prolific 3rd ranked scoring offense in his Sophomore year. It was clear that playing in pace was key for his decision making process. Tua played instinctually and caught defenses off guard with quick throws.

However; with the blueprint for success outlined, Miami came to the table with different plans. In press conferences throughout the season, coaches and Tagovailoa himself stated that their idea was to get to the line quickly, but delay the snap of the ball in order to identify coverages, call-out blitzes, and find soft spots.

In doing so, Miami also causes themselves unforeseen consequences. Defenses now have more time to recover from the previous play, and the ability to make their own counters to what they see on the field. This also has led to significantly worse results for Miami’s young quarterback, particularly early in drives.

The Effects of Starting Slow

Of Tagovailoa’s 11 drives, five of them started with gains of two yards or less (including his INT). ALL five of those snaps came with 10 or less seconds left on the play clock, with minimal gains causing Miami to fall behind on down-and-distance, preventing sustained drives.

Tua Tagovailoa’s Drive Starting Dropbacks with Play Clock Time and Yards Gained.

It’s clear that getting to the line fast, especially early on in drives, significantly increases Tagovailoa’s confidence, pace, and production. Miami had five drive-starting snaps with 11 or more seconds on the play clock, and ALL of them started with gains of at least five yards.

Upping the Pace Late

One of those drives, a 90 yard TD drive in the 4th quarter, started with a snap with 14 seconds left on the play clock. Tua was able to find to find Mike Gesicki over the middle on a game-high 32 yard pass.

On that drive, which was Tua’s best of the game, Miami made quick snaps a priority, snapping with 10 seconds or more remaining on three of the first four plays. The result? Each of those three plays went for 12 yards or more.

The flexibility of Miami’s offense grows with Tagovailoa’s comfortability, however, as the Dolphins were able to wait longer to snap the ball later on in drives, with a similar level of success.

It is clear that the early drive gains are dependent on getting to the line fast, as Tua’s footwork sees a significant drop-off when he is forced to beat the clock early on, which throws him out of rhythm for long portions of drives.

As he was in college, Tua is very much a rhythm based QB, and the ability to get him to act more off of instinct is one that Miami relied too little on, too late in the game.

As a result of that, Miami’s offense was only able to put up 20 points on the Jaguars, the least a Jacksonville opponent has scored all year.

The Bottom Line

With Chris Grier and Brian Flores potentially on the hot seat, Miami is in must-win mode for the rest of the season, and the key for success lies in the hands of a fast-paced Tua Tagovailoa led offense, that we have seen the flashes of.

In the midst of the Deshaun Watson trade rumors, we have seen the narrative on Tua shift to one of a young QB who needs support from his staff and to be put in places where he can succeed. While it is certain that Miami’s staff hasn’t done so to this point, the perfect opportunity to change the narrative lies ahead.

On Wednesday, it was reported that Flores and his staff will be open to different methods of teaching in order to battle through adversity. It will be interesting to see if it includes a shift to a faster paced offense. It may improve Miami’s success rate in early drive situations, much how it has up to this point.

View the Full Chart with Time To Snap, Down, Distance and Success here!

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Credit: Oregon Live

Would We See the Same Justin Herbert in Miami?

Credit: Oregon Live

It is very clear that Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert is the real deal. Through five games this year, he’s thrown for 1,576 yards, and 13 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.

Herbert’s recent play and Tagovailoa’s injury have led to people questioning whether Miami drafted the wrong player.

If Miami drafted Herbert, would we see the same Justin Herbert in Miami?


Before Tagovailoa suffered a severe hip injury, most scouts and draft experts had him as the consensus first pick. In 2019 the plan was obvious, Miami assembled their roster to fail.

They were going to have a high pick in the 2020 draft, and most people had believed since the start of the rebuild that the Dolphins were aiming to select Tagovailoa. The phrase “Tank For Tua” was seen all over social media and had even been mentioned in National media.

The local Miami media was calling the Dolphins to “Tank For Tua” on the second day of 2019.

Tagovailoa being the consensus QB1 wasn’t without reason either. He threw for 7,442 yards, a completion rate of almost 70%, and 87 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.

Tua is the quarterback who took over for Nick Saban’s team at halftime in the National Championship game and led a comeback win in OT to beat Georgia as a freshman. The hype around Tagovailoa was warranted.

After Tagovailoa suffered a near career ending-injury and LSU QB Joe Burrow broke NCAA records, most people began to fall in love with Burrow as their QB1. However, Tagovailoa was still QB1 for some people. For everyone else, he was QB2 at worst. No one had Justin Herbert higher than QB3. 

Heading into the draft, it was clear the Cincinnati Bengals were going to select Joe Burrow with the first pick. It was very likely that Miami was going to select Tua Tagovailoa, which would have left the LA Chargers to “settle” for Justin Herbert.

With draft season many smokescreens are sent into the media. The Dolphins set smokescreens to cause chaos and uncertainty among other teams, many did not know if they wanted Herbert or Tagovailoa; however, some knew Tua would be the pick.

Rumored Disagreement

A recent article by DolphinsNation.Com stated that Brian Flores wanted to draft Justin Herbert.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this though. Over the last year, people in the National Media would speculate that there was discourse in the Dolphins Organization and not a unanimous decision on the right pick at QB.

Brian Flores has spoken in support of Tagovailoa numerous times and emphasized how he feels about Tua’s leadership and ability.

The right pick?

Hindsight is always 2020. If you told Chris Grier and Brian Flores that Justin Herbert would win OROY last year and be in MVP conversations after 5 weeks in his second season, I’m sure they’d have selected Herbert.

Unfortunately that’s not how it works. Really that’s not how anything in life works. Hindsight is always 2020, and you have to work with what you have.

Again, Justin Herbert is an amazing quarterback. He’s reached Star status after just 20 games and is being compared to Miami Dolphins Hall of Famer Dan Marino. 

He’s doing it all well right now.

Is he Dan Marino level already? No. He looks like he could be though.

The point is, saying “Miami drafted the wrong QB” isn’t fair or true. At the time, most people would agree that Tagovailoa was the better prospect and a better pick at 5th overall than Herbert. 

Herbert is going to be a great QB in the league for years to come. This does not mean that Tua can not be a good QB. Tagovailoa has 12 games to prove he’s the guy in Miami.


Let’s get one thing clear. It is by no means a safe assumption that Justin Herbert would have the same success in Miami. 

The system in Miami is different, the offensive line is the worst in the league, and the offensive coaching staff is a mystery, and the WR corp has the highest drop percentage in the league since last year. 

Through five games, Jacoby Brissett and Tua Tagovailoa have been sacked 16 times. That number would be a lot higher if Jacoby Brissett didn’t use his superhuman strength to avoid sacks. Justin Herbert has only been sacked 9 times. In week 4, the Dolphins allowed 2 sacks but a whopping 11 pressures. 

That clip sums up the Dolphins OL performance through the first 5 weeks of the season. 

This season, the Chargers of Los Angeles have a top-10 OL.

The offensive line’s performance has a huge impact on QB play, and there is a drastic difference between the Miami OL and the LAC OL.

Career Path

Since Herbert and Tagovailoa arrived, they’ve had different paths to reach where they are today. After taking over for an injured Tyrod Taylor in week 2 last year, Herbert played well enough to earn the starting job. It was his team going forward and there was no doubt he was the starter.

In Miami, Tagovailoa took over after the Dolphins bye week with the team sitting at 3-3. Unfortunately, it’s been rumored that Chan Gailey did not agree with the decision. Downfield success was clearly an issue when Tagovailoa. Clearly the playbook was limited for Tagovailoa.

The Dolphins were also in playoff contention last year. In games where Tagovailoa was managing the game but not doing enough to win the game, Brian Flores pulled him in favor of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick went 1-1 in his save attempts.

Having a veteran QB who was clearly unhappy with his benching looking over Tua’s shoulder probably was far from the best case scenario.

This year, the Dolphins have two offensive coordinators and a QB coach who all have a part in the play-calling. Similar to playing “telephone” in elementary school, it never ends how you want it to. Tagovailoa is already on his 2nd and 3rd offensive coordinators in just his second year. 

Lastly, playmakers and supporting cast were a big issue for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins offense. In just week 17 alone, the Dolphins had 13 dropped passes. There were games in which Tagovailoa’s starting wide receivers were Antonio Callaway and Mack Hollins. Callaway isn’t with the team, and Hollins is primarily a special teams player. 

Herbert on the other hand had Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler for a little more than half the season.

These are by no means an excuse for the underwhelming start to Tagovailoa’s career. Last year, they were valid reasons. To say Herbert would be having the same start to his career in Miami as he is in Los Angeles is almost laughable.

Herbert is an excellent player and will be for years to come, but his supporting cast, coaching staff, and improved offensive line are all due credit.

The Future

It’s clear that Tagovailoa isn’t as physically gifted as Herbert. He’s smaller and doesn’t have as strong of an arm. That does not mean he can’t be a great quarterback in the NFL going forward. 

Tagovailoa is in Miami and we can’t change that. He has shown flashes of potential. He will need to rely on his weapons to become the player we think he can be.

Herbert is a stud. Tagovailoa can still become really good. Both can be true. Sitting here and saying Miami chose the wrong player is a useless and untrue(at the time) conversation to have. 

Tagovailoa makes his return from IR this Sunday in London and hopes to make his presence felt over the next 12 games of the season.

Follow Rishi Desai on Twitter.

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Bengals Position Grades after 25-22 loss to Packers

Bengals position grades
Katie Stratman – USA Today Sports

The Cincinnati Bengals showed they are worth taking seriously this week against a Super Bowl caliber team in the Green Bay Packers. NFL teams do not celebrate moral victories, and I’m not suggesting Bengals fans do either. But, these position grades will reflect the fact that the Bengals played mostly well in their 25-22 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Like it or not, the Cincinnati Bengals are on the radar now across the league. If just a few plays go differently, this is a 5-0 team right now. I said in our preview article for this game, the Bengals didn’t have much to lose in this game as long as they kept it close. The element of surprise is now gone. NFL teams will pay closer attention now when preparing to face this team. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, particularly for certain position groups. But, the most frustrating part is it should have been enough to come away with a win.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Offense

Quarterback grade: C-

You can never truly count Joe Burrow out, as evidenced by his gutsy drives down the field late in the second half. Were it not for a holding penalty on Quinton Spain and a missed field goal by Evan McPherson, he might have done enough to come away with a huge statement win.

Unfortunately, the way he played in the final 20 minutes of regulation doesn’t tell the whole story. He threw a bunch of passes pretty far off target, looked like he was having trouble getting the ball where it needed to go, and threw two costly interceptions in the third quarter and in overtime. 

The first interception was severely underthrown and killed all of the momentum they had built by scoring just before halftime. The second interception looked like he didn’t even see De’Vondre Campbell right in front of him. It should have directly led to the game-winning field goal kick. Luckily, Mason Crosby missed on his third straight attempt and the Bengals got the ball back.

Running Back grade: B+

Samaje Perine was an absolute machine this week. The man refused to go down no matter how many Packers were on top of him. He turned in an impressive 5.4 yards per carry on the day, which you always love to see. He also caught the Bengals’ first touchdown of the day that gave them an early 7-0 lead at the end of a rough first quarter for both offenses.

Joe Mixon played through an ankle injury many thought could keep him out this week. Although, he certainly looked limited, only turning in 3.3 yards per carry. However, he did score the Bengals’ game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. The 8-yard conclusion to an eight-minute drive breathed new life into a Bengals team that almost came back and won it near the end of regulation.

Wide Receiver grade: B-

It’s really hard to be overly critical of this unit’s performance when Ja’Marr Chase turns in six receptions for 159 yards and a touchdown. At the end of the day, Chase was one of the biggest reasons why the Bengals were in this game with a chance to win at the end.

The problem is the drops. Chase had a big one that would have gone for a first down and added to his already impressive totals. Tee Higgins… man. He had two absolutely brutal drops that would have extended drives and likely led to the Bengals putting more points on the board. In close games like this one, those huge missed opportunities matter. Boy, did they matter this week.

Tight End grade: C

We didn’t see much from the tight ends this week. CJ Uzomah was targeted twice and caught both passes for 16 total yards. Unfortunately, the first catch is largely forgotten about because it didn’t result in a first down. However, it did put the Bengals within long field goal range for Evan McPherson. Why Zac Taylor opted to punt the ball on the Green Bay 41 yard line is baffling. But, we’ll talk about that in later in the article.

Offensive line grade: C-

On the whole, the Bengals’ offensive line didn’t really have the best night. Joe Burrow was regularly under pressure, and quite a few of the rushing yards were only attained by plowing through a sea of defenders. That said, it wasn’t an all-out terrible night for a unit that did help put over 100 rushing yards on the day and only allowed Burrow to be sacked two times. 

He was sacked three times total. But, one of those was on a failed blitz pickup by Samaje Perine. Then again, maybe being happy he was “only” sacked three total times is an indication of how bad this unit has been in the past.

Cincinnati Bengals Position Grades: Defense

Defensive line grade: C

Going into this game, Bengals fans were hoping to see a much more disruptive performance by the defensive line. Not only has this unit been playing really well this year, but the Packers were missing three starting offensive linemen. Trey Hendrickson had a pretty good game. He constantly got in the backfield, took down Aaron Rodgers twice, and hit him a third time.

Unfortunately, Hendrickson was the only member of the defensive line to have a particularly good day. Cameron Sample and DJ Reader were able to get a bit of pressure, but for the most part the unit got shredded by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Not to mention, DJ Reader’s killer tripping penalty that extended a Packers drive in the fourth quarter. The drive eventually resulted in a field goal. Without that penalty, the Bengals would have held the Packers to a 3 & Out immediately before the late eight-minute touchdown drive. There would have been no overtime, only victory.

Linebacker grade: B

It was a relatively quiet game for Logan Wilson, although he still had the third most tackles on the team this week. He was largely responsible for most of the Packers runs that were stopped for a short gain. Akeem Davis-Gaither was largely quiet too, primarily showing up as cleanup duty on broken plays.

Germaine Pratt, on the other hand, was a huge part of the defense’s ability to keep the Packers’ offense largely in check. Twice he stopped Packers running backs for a short gain, once for no gain, and once for negative yards. He did have to play cleanup duty on a couple big catches by AJ Dillon in the backfield, but in general he brought this unit’s grade up.

Cornerback grade: C+

Guarding Davante Adams is a nearly impossible task. He’s a top-two receiver in the NFL, and he’s clearly not number two. So, as ugly as it looked, I’m not going to destroy the Bengals’ corners for getting worked by him all game. Honestly, the fact that they only allowed Adams to get in the endzone once was remarkable. Other than Adams, there were a couple of big plays by Randall Cobb. But, that was about it.

Chidobe Awuzie once again showed why the Bengals believed in him this offseason  with two pass deflections, a tackle for a loss, and a huge interception on Aaron Rodgers early in the game. Mike Hilton got worked by Randall Cobb early in the game, but he cleaned things up as the game went on. He had a tackle for loss in the second quarter. After that, he only allowed one more intermediate play the rest of the game, an eight-yard pass to Davante Adams. 

Trae Waynes generally played well against his man. Eli Apple got burned by Davante Adams for a 22-yard catch that eventually led to a touchdown. But, you didn’t hear much else from him during the short period while he was filling in for an injured Awuzie.

Safety grade: C-

Jessie Bates was back this week and went right back to being the Bengals’ leading tackler like it was his birthright. It wasn’t exactly the most exciting night from him though, as he was regularly the one having to clean up big plays by Davante Adams. Adams burned Bates on that explosive 59-yard catch that ended up being his longest of the night.

While Bates was cleaning up big plays by Adams, Vonn Bell spent most of the night cleaning up big plays by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Except for the one play where he didn’t, absolutely whiffing on Aaron Jones in the backfield. He had him absolutely dead-to-rights on what would have been a big loss. But, Jones stepped to the side and ended up with a 57-yard run that eventually set up a chip shot 36-yard field goal by Mason Crosby late in the fourth quarter. Luckily, Crosby shanked it wide left. But, that could have been the back-breaking play that could have killed the Bengals’ comeback hopes.

Special teams grades: F

From what I understand, there was a wind current running through Paul Brown Stadium near the end of the game. That partially accounts for why Mason Crosby and Evan McPherson combined for five missed field goals at the end of regulation and in overtime.

That said, it’s no excuse for McPherson missing two opportunities to win the game. Granted, one was a 57-yard field goal that would have tied the all-time Bengals record for longest kick. But, the other was from a much more manageable 49 yards. He’s a rookie and I’m sure he’ll learn from this and be better in the future, but it’s something he and Darrin Simmons need to work on.

Kevin Huber had an ‘OK’ day punting the ball. But, poor special teams coverage ruined the punts he did hit well. Then again, there was the one time Zac Taylor decided to punt from the Packers’ 41-yard line. Huber couldn’t pin the Packers deep in their own territory despite the short field.

I’m not entirely sure what Darius Phillips was thinking trying to return a punt at the six-yard line. It likely would have resulted in a touchback. Instead, the Bengals’ offense ends up with the ball at the eight. After they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Huber was only able to get the ball to the 38-yard line. Luckily, Rodgers threw an interception on the ensuing drive. But, you still never want to set an explosive team like the Packers up in good field position.

Coaching grade: D-

Oof. I will give Zac Taylor credit for the Bengals never giving up every week. If two or three plays goes differently on the season, this Bengals team could be 5-0 right now. The way they played this week, it makes you think they are right on the cusp of winning games like this. If they manage to sneak into the playoffs, you have to believe they might be able to make some noise.

That said, I really don’t understand Taylor’s decision making this week. Why the hell did we punt the ball from Green Bay’s 41-yard line? Or later in the third quarter from their 40? The defense was playing well and Evan McPherson hit a 60-yard field goal in warm ups. It sounds weird to say after all those misses at the end of the game. But, those misses hadn’t happened yet in the first and third quarters. 

What happened to that aggressive mentality he assured us they would have all season after that weird 4th down call he made against Minnesota? Why all the conservative playcalling? Why did they not utilize their running game more considering how effective it was when they actually did run the ball?

It’s Taylor’s third season as a coach and mistakes like this really shouldn’t be happening at this frequency. On the whole, they’re having a decent season. He’s going to look pretty good at the end of the season, if they win more games than they lose.

But, when they lose games like this, you can’t help but question what the hell he was thinking.

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NFL Week 5: Dolphins vs. Buccaneers Preview

Dolphins vs Buccaneers

After a disappointing 27-17 Week 4 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Miami Dolphins head to Raymond James Stadium to take on the reigning Super-Bowl Champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Quarterback Jacoby Brissett remains under center for Miami as Tua Tagovailoa is unable to return until Week 6. Take a look below for the start time, channel, and live stream information,, as well as a preview for the Dolphins vs Buccaneers. 

Who do the Miami Dolphins play?

  • Game: Miami Dolphins vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
  • Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida

Miami Dolphins Gameday | Start time, channel, live stream

  • Start time: 1 PM ET
  • Channel: CBS
  • Live Streams:
    • Sling
    • Hulu + Live TV
    • fuboTV
    • YouTubeTV

Dolphins vs Buccaneers Preview

One more week until Tua’s return, and this was supposed to be the hardest game of his three week absence. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to play good football. Going 3-1 so far this season, QB Tom Brady continues to lead the offense at a high level.

The Dolphins defense is more than familiar with Brady under center. However, this will be the first time in a while where the receiving core around Brady is as solid as himself. This Dolphins’ defense can hold the Bucs’ offense, but the question is how long and will they receive any support. 

Speaking of support, any measly chance of winning this game hinges solely on the production of the offense. Miami’s offense was largely inept in their Week 4 loss, failing to find any real momentum until the fourth quarter.

If Brissett opens things up early to guys like rookie WR Jaylen Waddle and TE Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins might put up a fight. But, being down WR Will Fuller and possibly Devante Parker do not help those chance.

Let’s be honest here for a second folks, this Dolphins vs. Bucs preview seems pretty one-sided. That is mostly because these two teams are currently on opposite ends of the spectrum in the football world. But you know what they say Fins fans, any given Sunday.. Tampa wins this game with ease, but Miami at least scores points this time: Bucs 31, Miami 17.

Follow Zachary Knerr on Twitter

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DeVante Parker is hurt again, but Miami is Prepared

The Miami Dolphins’ receiver room has had as much shakeup over the last 3 days as any unit in the NFL. Following the trading of Jakeem Grant 3 days ago and the placing of Will Fuller on Injured Reserve on Wednesday, DeVante Parker has come down with a hamstring injury that leaves him questionable for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

Coming off of his best game of the season, Parker snagged 4 balls for 77 yards and a TD. Among these, multiple tough contested catches on deep throws, an element Miami hadn’t seen thus far.

Jacoby Brissett throws a TD to DeVante Parker.

This Dolphins receiving unit has been reminiscent of last year, which saw a myriad of injuries. With Parker and Preston Williams going down, Miami relied on unproven receivers such as Mack Hollins, Antonio Callaway and Lynn Bowden Jr. for production in 2020.

But, even through injures, Miami’s group this year is much deeper. After seeing an inability to separate in 2020, the Dolphins made a commitment to improving the group, adding the aforementioned Fuller as well as young QB Tua Tagovailoa’s collegiate teammate in Jaylen Waddle.

The Dolphins also had some notable returns in Preston Williams and Albert Wilson, the latter of which opted out of 2020 due to COVID concerns.

The bottom line is that Miami’s group is still deep, and more than capable of being good enough for Tagovailoa or Brissett to win games.

While they will be looking for contributions from their veterans, young speedster Jaylen Waddle is in a prime position for a bigger role.

Jaylen Waddle

Waddle has seen his fair share of targets, leading rookie wideouts in catches with 25. But even with the volume of touches, the scheming has been questionable at best, as many of his opportunities have come in situations where it has been different to get yards after the catch, something he flourished with at Alabama.

Jaylen Waddle scores an explosive TD.

But with the slot position open, Waddle is now undoubtedly the most explosive healthy wide receiver on the roster, and his usage rate will be increasing with him now being the number 1.

He should also see more downfield targets, as he has been open on several deep routes, but Jacoby Brissett has missed him. With Miami reviewing the film and ways to beat a high powered Buccaneers team, I expect more shots to be taken.

Jaylen Waddle was wide open…but Jacoby Brissett misses it.

The ever interesting aspect of Waddle’s game that we haven’t seen enough of is his ability to make quick cuts. Often times in college, a jet sweep, screen or slant route could turn into a 50+ yard score. It’s no question that Waddle has top end agility, but it’s also clear Miami is figuring out how to use him.

Tua Tagovailoa throws a TD to Jaylen Waddle.

While he only saw 3 catches against the Colts, his looks and routes were promising. He was often running farther down the field, and was able to average 11 yards per catch. That’s up from less than 5 in the previous game against the Raiders.

If Miami’s Offensive Co-Coordinators are able to figure out the learning curve of Waddle’s explosive playstyle, his production could grow exponentially, especially with the injuries to Parker and Fuller.

Williams and Hollins

As for other potential contributors, 2 receivers have a connection with Tua Tagovailoa, who should come back next week against the Jaguars.

Mack Hollins and Preston Williams were both some of Tagovailoa’s main targets in 2020, both catching a TD vs the Cardinals (widely looked at as Tua’s best game).

Mack Hollins scores a TD vs. the Cardinals.

After losing Williams to a foot injury, Tagovailoa looked significantly less comfortable, and he could look for his security blanket in his first weeks back from a rib injury.

Tagovailoa also showed some chemistry with Albert Wilson in camp, as the 2 connected on several deep passes in the offseason. Although Wilson has struggled of late, a push into the lineup could bring some of the explosiveness he showed in 2018 before a season ending hip injury.

Tua throws a BOMB to Albert Wilson

The Tight Ends

We could also expect a bigger role from the tight end group, namely Mike Gesicki.

Gesicki, along with Waddle, has seen a lack of manufactured space on targets, but with these injuries, he could see more target share.

Mike Gesicki catches a TD.


It’s going to take a group contribution to make up for the element DeVante Parker brings to this offense. His ability in 1-on-1 situations is elite, showing an ability to snag jump ball deep passes.

But after seeing this situation play out last year, Miami is much better prepared. Explosive slot players in Waddle and Wilson hope to bring speed and agility, while Hollins and Williams bring an element of chemistry to a returning young QB. It will be interesting to see how the Dolphins distribute snaps and who gets a lion’s share of the targets on Sunday and beyond.

Follow Tyler DeSena on Twitter

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  • Allows mixed-sport entries (You can take the OVER on Lebron parlayed with the UNDER on Mahomes).
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Panthers vs Penguins

Florida Panthers sign center Aleksander Barkov to eight-year extension

Aleksander Barkov
Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images

Panthers fans, you can exhale now. The team announced this afternoon the signing of the franchise cornerstone through the 2030 NHL season. For the next decade, Aleksander Barkov will be a Florida Panther.

The deal comes in at an even 10 million dollars annually. That makes Barkov tied for the 11th highest paid player in the NHL, pricing him in a similar range to players such as Jack Eichel, Anze Kopitar, and Tyler Seguin.