Miami Dolphins Rookies: Making the Most of Their Assets in 2022

The Miami Dolphins only had four picks in this past draft, but their rookies are impressive and ready to make an impact in 2022 and beyond.

Skylar Thompson - 2022 Dolphins rookie QB
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Miami, just like the rest of the NFL, has cut their rosters down to 53 players. Every team has surprises across the board, but perhaps none are as pleasant as the Miami Dolphins seeing several late round and undrafted rookies make the team in 2022.

As the roster stands, Miami has five rookies on their 2022 roster. Those include Channing Tindall, Erik Ezukanma, Skylar Thompson, Tanner Conner and Kader Kohou. As a team that only made four selections in the 2022 NFL draft and is looking to compete, it’s impressive that they view these five players, including two UDFAs, as guys who can contribute to winning football.

Each player presents an interesting case and path to production both, today and in the future. It’s only right to show how impressive they’ve been.

Miami Dolphins 2022 Rookie Class

Channing Tindall

The first of the Miami Dolphins rookies selected in 2022 came by way of Georgia, in the form of linebacker Channing Tindall. The third rounder was lauded for his speed, athleticism, and ability to make stops in the open field. Miami was in desperate need of another coverage linebacker, so there was a natural fit.

Channing Tindall has impressive speed.

Since arriving on the team, it’s been a quiet offseason for Tindall. We haven’t heard about many big plays in training camp, or seen them in preseason, but it seems like it’s only a matter of time. His athletic profile alone makes him potentially dangerous down the stretch, and as he gains more knowledge of the playbook and his responsibilities, he has the potential to make an impact.

Erik Ezukanma

After taking Tindall in the third, Miami went to the offensive side of the ball in the fourth, selecting Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. Miami had already spent significant draft capital at the position, signing Cedrick Wilson, and more notably, trading for Tyreek Hill. However, Ezukanma clearly brought a skill set the team lacked. His combination of excellent ball tracking in one-on-one situations and ability after the catch made him a perfect fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense, which thrives on getting players who strive in YAC scenarios.

Erik Ezukanma was impressive in training camp.

That fit has demonstrated itself time and time again throughout camp and the preseason, along with a veteran-like ability to sit down in the soft spot of zone coverage. Day after day in camp, “Eazy-E” was listed as one of the top performers, and even got some run with the starters. He has a skill set unique to not only this team, but most of the league. Thus, there is a clear path to playing time and overall contribution for Ezukanma.

Skylar Thompson

Up next is the most surprising — and impressive storyline — of them all. With one of Miami’s two picks in the seventh round, they decided to take a flier on a quarterback. While many disagreed with the pick, it has been Kansas State signal-caller Skylar Thompson who has shown, more than just about anyone else, why he deserves a spot on the roster.

Thompson had his flashes in camp, showing off his deep ball accuracy and ability to read the field. However, especially in the last game of the preseason, he truly showed that he fits the “gamer” label. Snap after snap, throw after throw, Thompson was getting through his progressions, showing above-average mobility, and, most impressively, showing top-notch deep ball accuracy.

Skylar Thompson has impressive deep ball accuracy.

When Mike McDaniel and general manager Chris Grier discuss Thompson, it’s clear that they feel like they struck gold. With his performances throughout the last month, it was clear that he would’ve been claimed of waivers. In making this roster, he has already exceeded that seventh round value.

Tanner Conner

Following the draft, Miami made it clear that they weren’t done, securing several top-end undrafted free agents. One of these was former Idaho State receiver Tanner Conner.

Conner is the most athletically gifted of the bunch, coming in at 6’3″ and running a 4.37 second 40-yard dash. However, as with any undrafted free agent, there were some questions with his game. In particular, if he could play receiver in the NFL. While physically imposing, he lacked refined route running skills and wasn’t proficient in attacking or high-pointing the football. However, Mike McDaniel had a plan for him, which involved a change of position.

Tanner Conner made the transition to a tight end and fullback role.

Tanner Conner has made the transition to tight end, also taking on the h-back role at times. This move, which perfectly embodied his potential as well as his current skill set, resulted in a newfound ceiling in his game.

Conner made several plays in training camp, and was a clear contributor in the preseason. Thus, Miami felt it was imperative that they keep him on the roster this upcoming season. Chris Grier even mentioned that other teams called to check on his status.

While this move is primarily for the future, Conner was able to come in, change positions, and make the roster all in a matter of months. An extremely impressive feat. If he continues to impress, there is a clear role for his skill set under this regime.

Kader Kohou

The last of the Miami Dolphins rookies from the 2022 class to make the roster might be the one with the biggest role. As a part of the aforementioned UDFA class, Miami signed Texas A&M-Commerce cornerback Kader Kohou.

In a group that featured Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Nik Needham, and high-end draft picks such as Noah Igbinohgene, Kohou was once thought of as an afterthought. However, with injuries to Jones, Needham, and Trill Williams, Miami’s cornerback room is at its thinnest. Luckily, Kohou has burst onto the scene and been a real contributor throughout this preseason.

Kader Kohou is sticky in man coverage.

His ability to stick in man coverage has been impressive, and perfectly fits a scheme that runs a high percentage of press-man and blitz looks. This will come in handy for Miami’s early games, while they eagerly await the return of Byron Jones.

However, Miami hit on yet another defensive back, and it will be exciting to see how Kohou performs, along with the rest of the Miami Dolphins rookies in 2022.

The Definitive Requirements for Tua Tagovailoa to Succeed in 2022

Tua Tagovailoa is entering the deciding year of his career, and he must improve in several key areas if he is to succeed.

There may be no more heavily debated and disputed player in the NFL than Tua Tagovailoa. Dating back to his first starts in college, he’s been analyzed to a degree few NFL prospects have ever seen. Many were sold on his “it factor” after his infamous game winning touchdown against Georgia in the National Championship. However, just as many were skeptical, and doubted his ability to lead an NFL offense.

This lead to heavy debate on his potential draft position, which reached it’s pinnacle when he suffered a career threatening injury against Mississippi State. Many still saw him as a top five pick, while others had him out of the first round entirely.

The former, however, was the only opinion that mattered when Tua was selected number five overall in 2020 by the Miami Dolphins. The team searching for their first elite quarterback since Marino took one of their biggest risks to date.

However, the divisiveness of Tagovailoa has only continued to grow. He has shown flashes of the quarterback many believe him to be, but has had just as many head-scratching moments. These have drawn out extreme takes and biases on both sides. Nonetheless, somewhere in the middle lies a quarterback with definitive strengths and weaknesses. It is with these that we can form the foundation of what can be built upon and what needs to be fixed in the most important year of the young quarterback’s career.

By many accounts, the most important quarterback traits are as follows: arm talent (strength and accuracy), anticipation, processing, pocket presence, and footwork. My goal is to evaluate where Tua Tagovailoa lies on each of these categories, and discover an attainable goal where I, and hopefully the rest of Dolphins media and fandom, can consider this season a success.

Arm Talent

Coming into the NFL, Tua’s strengths and weaknesses as far as arm strength and accuracy were well documented. Coming from the RPO-heavy Steve Sarkisian system, it was clear that he possessed elite short area accuracy and ball placement.

It was also clear that he wasn’t a premier deep ball thrower. While he could hit the open shot once in a while, he wasn’t going to hit the cover-2 hole shots at a rate similar to 2020 draft counterpart Justin Herbert. It wasn’t necessarily an issue, but a clear niche in which his game found itself.

However, the intermediate area is where the debate began. Despite Tagovailoa’s historically high efficiency numbers, there were serious questions about how inflated they were from a primarily one-read scheme. If Tua would have to read more of the field, would his accuracy take a major dip?

When combined with below average true accuracy between the 10 and 19 yard line, the results we would see in the NFL became telling.

Tua Tagovailoa has struggled immensely in the intermediate passing game since arriving in the NFL. Per NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Tua’s passer rating on passes between 10 and 20 yards to the middle and right thirds of the field is significantly below average. However, when targeting the left third, his 118.5 rating dominates the league average of 89.2.

Tua Tagovailoa’s grid, per NFL’s NextGenStats.

This shows a clear area in which he needs to improve. Luckily, there is a visible path to doing so in the Mike McDaniel offense. McDaniel, along with his run-game prowess, has shown the abilty to draw up deadly play action looks. Specifically, boot concepts in which San Francisco’s playmakers would attack the intermediate zones.

The result: Jimmy Garoppolo was above league average in each of the intermediate thirds. It’s clear that Tua can do the same. He has the talent to do so, and it is crucial that he takes advantage of those opportunities when they arise.

Jimmy Garoppolo was above average to elite in the middle thirds of the field.

The goal: attain an above average passer rating in ALL THREE intermediate thirds of the field.

Anticipation and Processing

RPO-based systems are among the hardest to evaluate, due to the fact that so much comes off of one read. Typically, this would stray away talent evaluators, who haven’t seen the quarterback operate in a more complex scheme, but the clip that Tua was able to connect on was generational, and gave many hope that he could do it on a larger scale.

This would be crucial. Given Tagovailoa’s size and physical tools, he would have to be able to compensate with an elite football mind. However, since arriving in the league, he’s yet to demonstrate it.

Far too often, Tua stares down his first read, telegraphing where the ball is going, and allowing DB’s to make a play. Furthermore, when he gets to his second and third reads, he’s either too late or doesn’t trust what he sees. This oftentimes leads to sacks or turnovers.

Tua stares down a receiver and his arm doesn’t make up for the mistake.

It’s difficult to determine how Tua can get rid of these bad habits, and thus the “slow blinker” asterisk. Although, we can also understand that Tagovailoa has significantly better offensive coaching than he has seen to this point. McDaniel, offensive coordinator Frank Smith and new quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell all have a reputaition around the league as bright offensive minds. It’s likely that they can draw up plays to help cover this up.

However, Tagovailoa can’t be complacent, and must see things quicker. Whether it’s mental reps, more studying of the playbook, or simply just more live action, he must improve, and with the recent training camp clip that has surfaced, it appears that he has.

This clip shows Tua hitting Tyreek Hill in stride for a one handed catch and a touchdown. However, the catch isn’t the surprising part. When Tagovailoa releases the ball, Hill is still covered, and hasn’t found the soft spot in the coverage. Despite this, Tua showed more faith in his eyes, and put it in the perfect spot for his receiver to catch it. This is exactly what we are going to need to see more of, and it’s promising that it’s showing in camp.

Tua Tagovailoa puts this ball on the money in camp.

The more film study, time with receivers, or mental reps Tua runs himself through, the more benefits he will reap. His mentality towards the game must improve. Thus, his play on the field will be a strong indicator of if it has.

The goal: know the situation like the back of your hand.

Pocket Presence

If there is one trait that has been an overwhelming positive in Tua Tagovailoa’s game since being drafted, it’s his ability to sense and evade edge pressure. Miami’s offensive line has been frustrating, to say the least, but Tua has largely been able to subdue those struggles with great pocket movement.

Tua evades edge pressure, steps up, and makes a strong throw.

Much of what makes Tua potentially great is how he is able to maneuver edge pressure. It is when that pressure comes up the middle, however, that we begin to see the common problem that becomes his biggest flaw.

Footwork

Robotic: a term often thought of in a negative connotation, but is one of the most common positive descriptors of Tua’s game. In clean pockets, his mechanics are as consistent as they come. His feet follow his eyes, and often lead to smart, quick decisions. However, it is when defenses send pressure through the A and B gaps that his footwork sees a significant drop off.

This is a common issue among young quarterbacks. It’s hard for any human being to maintain strong footwork with 300 pound men being pushed into their knees. However, many of those quarterbacks don’t take the brunt of the blow to their arm strength in the way Tua does.

Due to the arm strength concerns mentioned earlier, Tua needs his feet to be in line with his throws. He doesn’t have the arm of a Mahomes or Josh Allen, who can make off platform plays with ease. However, he creates several by fading on throws with A-gap pressure, which often lead to poor results.

Tua fades on a throw, and thus it’s incomplete.

This will be the hardest habit to break, and has been something few are able to achieve. However, it may be the most crucial to Tua’s success. While Miami worked on their offensive line this off-season, it still isn’t perfect. There will be plays where teams are able to get into his lap, but he can’t crumble. He has to be able to sit in and make a strong throw, or get out of the pocket, as he has successfully done in the past.

Tua Tagovailoa evades the interior pressure and makes a solid throw.

Tua has shown development in this area, but if he is to become a successful quarterback, it must become a strength, rather than his biggest weakness.

The goal: sustain success at the sight of interior pressure.

The Bottom Line on Tua Tagovailoa in 2022

The most divisive quarterback in the league is going into the deciding year of his career. Stories like this are what the NFL is made of, and while many believe Tua’s fate is set in stone, it’s far from the truth.

There are attainable goals, some more difficult than others, that in my eyes, can correlate to a successful 2022 season. If Miami’s quarterback is able to improve in the key areas I outlined the questions will begin to fade. The noise of bringing in his replacement will become a calming silence, and most importantly, the Miami Dolphins will reach heights unseen in decades.

This is it. This year we will see what the heralded franchise savior is made of. The mountain is steep, but the journey of climbing it will be all so satisfying if Tua Tagovailoa reaches it’s summit.

Could the Miami Dolphins Trade for Kareem Hunt?

Kareem Hunt has been rumored to be traded, and a trade to the Miami Dolphins could potentially be a possibility.

The Miami Dolphins have made several moves at the running back position this offseason, agreeing to terms with free agents Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel. However, more backs appear to be available, with Kareem Hunt topping the list of backs available to the Miami Dolphins.

Hunt’s trade rumors have begun to circulate following the Browns’ recent backfield moves. After already signing Nick Chubb to an extension last year, they drafted Jerome Ford in the fifth round and gave D’Ernest Johnson (who impressed last year) an extension of his own.

This leaves Hunt, who only has one year left on his deal, as the potential odd man out. While Hunt and Chubb have certainly been a dynamic duo, Cleveland clearly wants to utilize their young pieces. This may leave the former Chiefs star wanting more touches, and thus, being moved. On top of this, Hunt has been “holding in” at practice. Rumors say that he either wants a raise or to be traded.

Kareem Hunt is rumored to potentially be traded.

The Miami Dolphins, who have had a talent deficiency at running back over the last two seasons, were naturally connected to Hunt, and for good reason. His ability to make plays out of the backfield is among the best in the league, and provides a dynamic skillset the team has lacked.

Is it Practical?

However, I mentioned earlier, the Dolphins have already made several moves at their running back position. These signings clearly have them leaning towards a running back by committee, similar to Mike McDaniel’s San Francisco scheme. This makes little sense for Hunt, however, who is already coming from a similar situation. While Hunt would be the most talented back, he would still have to split touches with at least three others. That likely wouldn’t work for Hunt, who would seek an increased workload and more money if he was to be moved. Miami likely has already allocated too many assets to other backs to put money and picks into a Hunt trade.

The Bottom Line on Kareem Hunt and the Miami Dolphins

Had these rumors circulated earlier in the offseason, Miami would have made sense. They were clearly looking for veteran contributors, and had lost Duke Johnson, who saw significant touches late in the year.

However, the timing is at it’s worst for Miami. Hunt is extremely talented, and likely will see high production wherever he goes, it’s just unlikely to be with Miami. Their room is simply too crowded for someone who will demand the touches that Hunt does. They have the capital to make the deal, but already have allocated so many assets to the position.

Miami has more than capable backs in Mostert, Edmonds, Michel, Myles Gaskin and Savlon Ahmed, and we can expect to see them divvy up touches come the start of the season.

What Sony Michel Brings to the Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have signed running back Sony Michel, and his role is one the team was desperately looking for.

The Miami Dolphins signed former Patriots running back Sony Michel on Monday. Following a brief stint in Los Angeles, the Broward Native will be coming back to play in his home state.

Miami Dolphins sign Sony Michel.

Following a solid first couple seasons in New England, 2020 was a rough year for Michel. Battling injury, he only played in nine games, racking up just over 200 yards.

However, when Rams running back Cam Akers went down, Los Angeles called about the struggling back, whose job was being taken over by Damien Harris. Michel was thus dealt for a pair of day three picks, and began to revitalize his career in Los Angeles.

Under offensive mastermind Sean McVay, Michel saw his role expanded. While he was mainly seen as a power back in New England, there were several skills that were uncovered in his game.

Outside Zone and Pass Protection

Rather than running between the tackles, McVay’s system (very similarly to Mike McDaniel’s), calls for more outside zone run. This put more emphasis on his ability to make quick cuts and find cutback lanes, which was rarely seen during his tenure in New England.

Sony Michel makes a big run.

Michel appeared to have regained some burst following his injury, and it showed in his speed. He was more decisive than ever, and was making quick moves, turning big holes into bigger gains.

This is crucial for a Dolphins offense that, under the aforementioned McDaniel, is basing their offense in the inside zone. They signed running backs Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds in free agency, but they both fit more niche roles, and Miami still needed an early down back.

Michel can bring exactly that. His mixture of power and a newfound knack for hitting the hole is a match made in heaven for McDaniel. Running behind a left side of new additions in Terron Armstead and Connor Williams should open up several lanes that Michel has shown the ability to hit.

Michel’s collaboration with Miami’s linemen won’t stop there. Coming from a New England scheme that emphasizes the little things, Miami’s new addition takes pride in his pass protection. He has shown an aggressiveness and, just as importantly, a willingness to take a hit to protect his quarterback. The Miami Dolphins struggled to protect Tua last year, and that could soon change with Sony Michel in his backfield.

Sony Michel makes a huge block against the Bucs.

The Bottom Line on the Sony Michel and the Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are clearly committed to the “running back by committee” approach, and they now have the backs to do it. The three newcomers join Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, who have both shown spurts of starting-caliber production.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Michel pickup isn’t significant. While Edmonds and Mostert are talented, Miami was lacking an early-down back. With this signing, they now have someone who can run between the tackles and take the tough hits, while also being able to perform on outside-zone concepts.

Michel’s versatility and willingness to do the little things will come in handy for a Dolphins team that looks to be in win-now mode this season.

These Raiders’ concerns still have to be addressed before Week 1

The Las Vegas Raiders have come a long way this off-season. They have found their new head coach, new general manager, next elite wide receiver, and made many more franchise-changing moves. Now, it’s been one week since the 2022 NFL Draft, and training camp is just around the corner. Las Vegas has made some big moves since February, but the Raiders concerns are becoming increasingly more clear ahead of off-season programs.

Front office stability

More than an improved defense or red-zone offense, the 2022 Raiders need stability. They pushed through the most unpredictable NFL season ever in 2021, dealing with challenges in every sense of the word. And while the playoff loss was disappointing, it also served as a reminder that stability and personnel improvement were finally on their way.

The hiring of Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler, and Champ Kelly was a massive step in the right direction. They brought on primarily their own staff and now have executed extensive change in the scouting department as well. All seemed to be looking brighter in Sin City, until this week when it was announced that the Raiders have parted ways with both their vice president of human resources and their team president. It is unclear what lead to the departure of both parties, but new information suggests it may be due to a hostile work environment.

In a newly released statement former president, Dan Vantrelle, suggests he was met with hostility when he brought up concerns regarding the female staff. Vantrelle made clear he stands by his actions and intends to get legal representation regarding his termination.

The Raiders have been involved in many lawsuits over the last year, which makes the latest even more disappointing.

The secondary

The Raiders added a lot of talent in free agency and the draft this year, but one group they hardly addressed was the secondary. Outside of trading for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, Las Vegas only signed three other players to their secondary, and none of them are known to be game-changing players. For the most part, Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler have hung on the pieces that were already there for them.

While some of the pieces they have in place are solid, like Nate Hobbs, most of the pieces could use an upgrade. Starting cornerback Trayvon Mullen and safety Jonathan Abram are both coming off season-ending injuries and surgeries, making their play in 2022 relatively unpredictable.

Despite these injuries and questions, the new front office tandem decided against drafting a rookie cornerback or safety, in hopes that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham can upgrade the players he has on the payroll already, or they can find a steal in the remaining free agents.

That free agent steal may come in the form of Giants’ cornerback James Bradberry, who is rumored to be released from New York in the coming weeks. The former Pro-Bowler is coming off a season with four interceptions, more than any one player had for the Raiders in 2021. If Mullen is out for the beginning of the season, Bradberry gives the Silver and Black a fighting chance and will be a wildly dependable piece of the puzzle upon Mullen’s return.

The offensive line

Unlike the secondary, the Raiders did choose to address the offensive line during the draft. With their first pick, they took Memphis offensive guard, Dylan Parham. Parham’s skill set is unique because he brings the ability to play both center and guard. Prior to the draft, the widespread assumption was that Andre James would remain at center this season, thanks to a somewhat convincing campaign in 2021. Now, it’s less clear than ever what the starting five will look like in September.

Second-year veteran Alex Leatherwood brings his own set of questions, as he was incredibly undependable his rookie season. After playing at both right tackle and right guard, he came away without much success in either. Head coach Josh McDaniels told the media he is unsure where Leatherwood will play next season, but sees him as a “contributor”.

The questions at center come with equal questions at both guard and tackle. The only solidified position on the front line seems to be left tackle, Kolton Miller. Thankfully, with a new offensive line coach comes new hope for an improved line.

The Raiders live in the hardest division in football, inside the hardest conference in football. Their successes and downfalls next season will come at the hands of the problems still unsolved. If they can choose to make smart decisions and do the right thing, these Raiders’ concerns should be mitigated by September.