This Assistant Coach is Crucial in Tua’s Development

In a difficult 2020 season where the Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs by 1 game, Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa showed ups and downs. While the team was 6 and 3 in his starts, he was pulled in 2 games in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

In the games where Tagovailoa struggled, he showed a lack of confidence in the plays he was running, and in his wide receivers ability to get open down the field.

Unlike his Wide Receivers with the Alabama Crimson Tide, who were elite separators, the Dolphins group last year was filled with possession receivers like DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, who didn’t fit Tagovailoa’s skillset of anticipating and making throws to get receivers on the run. Rather, they fit the skillset of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took more shots down the field to contested receivers.

DeVante Parker finished near the bottom of the NFL in seperation.

Along with the receiving core, the offensive line also struggled during both Tagovailoa and Fitzpatrick’s starts. Pro Football Focus graded the Dolphins O-Line as the 5th worst in the NFL, citing that it was to be expected with 3 rookies (Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt, and Solomon Kindley) getting significant playing time. While the rookies showed promise, they were overmatched by some of the leagues top pass rushers, and were inconsistent in both their protection and run blocking.

To fix both of these issues, the Dolphins spent significant cap space and draft capital, picking up weapons like former Texans Wide Receiver Will Fuller in free agency and Tagovailoa’s collegiate teammate, Jaylen Waddle in the draft, while also acquiring Center Matt Skura from Baltimore and Notre Dame Tackle Liam Eichenberg to help shore up the line.

Brian Flores addresses the additions of WIll Fuller and Jaylen Waddle.

But while these moves will most certainly help Tua, arguably the most under-the-radar move came from the offensive coaching staff.

Along with promoting offensive assistants George Godsey and Eric Studesville to be co-offensive coordinators, Miami hired former NFL Quarterback Charlie Frye to be the team’s new QB coach, replacing Robby Brown, who was a part of the Chan Gailey regime (who was let go this offseason). Frye was previously the offensive coordinator and QBs coach at Central Michigan, an offense that averaged over 31 points per game last year.

As for the NFL, Frye’s career was subpar. From 2005 to 2009, he accumulated only 17 touchdowns while throwing 19 interceptions.

Although Frye had an unsuccessful career as a starter in Cleveland, it was his years as a backup where he was able to sit back and comprehend pro-style offenses that he would learn to teach young quarterbacks, one of which was an 18 year old Tua Tagovailoa.

After he had committed to Alabama, Tagovailoa attended Trent Dilfer’s Elite 11 camp, which would have 11 of the top quarterbacks in the nation compete to work on their game and ultimately crown an MVP.

Through 7 on 7 drills, simulated draft combine interviews, board work, and tests of teamwork and dedication, these quarterbacks, which included highly touted prospects such as Jake Fromm and Hunter Johnson, would look to impress the coaches and outperform their campmates. Among these coaches, who would also call plays in the 7 on 7’s, was Charlie Frye.

Bucky Brooks has confidence in Charlie Frye as a QB’s coach.

Entering the camp, Tagovailoa had been looked at as one of the more raw, less refined prospects. Some were questioning if his ability would translate on the collegiate level, as they weren’t sure that his talent he could adapt to a pro-style system. But under Charlie Frye, who worked closely with him on his craft and maximize his arm talent, Tua was able to improve his game enough to be named Elite 11 MVP, coming off of a 7 on 7 win against 2021 3rd round draft pick Davis Mills.

Trent Dilfer names Tua Tagovailoa the 2016 Elite 1 MVP

As the new Quarterbacks coach, Frye will be working closely with Tua on improving his game and creating consistency, something that was hard to come by in the 2020 season.

While Tua performed well in full games like the one against the Arizona Cardinals, where he posted a game winning drive, he struggled in the first half of games against the Bengals, Patriots, and Chiefs; major adjustments had to be made at halftime in order to get him going. But as we saw in the Elite 11 camp, Tua has always been able to adjust to his surroundings and make his way to the top.

With new weapons and an Offensive Line that has another year of experience, Tagovailoa will look for the guidance from his new offensive coaching staff, and most importantly, Charlie Frye, to push this Miami Dolphins team into the playoffs and beyond.

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Can Miami be fine without Xavien Howard?

There has been a trend over the past several seasons among NFL playoff teams to spend significant resources on their secondary.

Having at least a solid secondary in the pass centric modern game has become a necessity if you want to give your defense a fighting chance.

The top 3-4 defenses in the league spent the most on their defensive back groups at an average of 18.63 percent. This group had the largest disparity in spending between the top and bottom defenses with a 5.18 percent difference.

Miami runs a “hybrid” defense that consists of 3-4 and 4-3 base; however, with Miami’s positional alignments and roster notes for simple terms it is a 3-4 defense.

All the teams that have made it or won in the playoffs have put copious amounts of money into the secondary. Having a good to great secondary players have been a staple in elite defenses. An argument can be made that spending money on good players in the secondary leads to wins.

Rough estimates from Spotrac detail the money spent on starters:

Super Bowl WinnersSecondary Salary
New England (2019)$38 Million
New England (2017)$16 Million*
Denver (2016)$20.6 Million
Seattle (2014)$15,5 Million*
Baltimore (2013)$14 Million*
*Denotes majority of players on rookie deals

The Salary cap jumped significantly in 2014

The 2019 Patriots Super Bowl winning team had DPOY Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Jason McCourty, JC Jackson, and Jonathon Jones. These players contributed to the league leading #1 Defense manned by Bill Belicheck and Brian Flores.

The 2017 Patriot’s secondary consisted of Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty lead a 5th ranked defense to a Super bowl title. With other significant role players on their rookie contracts.

The Legendary Legion of Boom had all of their Corners, Sherman, Browner and Maxwell on rookie deals; while Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor took most of the salary cap room with their contracts en route to a stunning 35 point Super bowl win.

In a league run by QBs, the guys you pay to stop them are one of the most important position groups on the field.

The secondary.

In 2020 Miami spent roughly $44 million for their starters-rightly so winning games through crucial turnovers and coverage sacks-while dialing the blitz 40% of the time.

The top 4 teams secondary spending, excluding Miami goes like this:

2020 BAL-$41.3 Mill

2020 PIT-$25 Mill

2020 ARI- $23 Mill

Now lets take a look at the 2020 Playoff teams secondary spending:

2020 Playoff Teams Secondary Spending (in cap)
BAL $41.3 Million
BUF $36.9 Million
TENN $35.9 Million
PITT $29.8 Million
KC $29.4 Million
CHI $29.1 Million
WAS $29.1 Million
CLE* $26.8 Million
GB* $24.5 Million
NO $24.5 Million
SEA $22 Million
LAR $18.3 Million
TB* $10 Million
* Denotes majority of players on rookie deals

Most if not all of these playoff teams have put copious amount of money into their top 1 to 2 defensive backs to lock down one side, with complimentary players that can handle passes thrown their way. The investment also includes DB’s from the draft, low cost pickups and UDFA signings.

Regardless of whether or not Xavien Howard stays with Miami, they have put the resources into the position to have a good secondary. With current draftees in Noah Igbinoghene, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland, UDFA Signing of Needham Trill Williams and efficient veteran deal for McCourty and Rowe, the Dolphins are fine depth wise as all players are versatile.

While there are some unknowns in the secondary, the Dolphins coaching staff has put players in position to succeed. The biggest impact is coaching ability to develop players and help them win thier matchups, which the aforementioned teams also did. Head Coach Brian Flores and DB’s Coach Gerald Alexander are highly touted for these skills.

Miami’s ceiling is much higher with Howard’s playmaking ability at corner, but it shouldn’t make or break their season.

Brian Flores wants Xavien Howard in his defense, I think the Dolphins organization will make something work, especially since Tua Tagovailoa is still on his rookie deal.

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Benardrick McKinney Completes the Miami Dolphins Defense

The Miami Dolphins have done a complete overhaul of the team in the past two seasons. The offensive side of the ball grabs the headlines, and deservedly so. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa heads into his second season as the presumed franchise QB. The weapons are now there, in the form of explosive receivers like Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller. Now is an exciting time to be a fan of the team. 

Fans, however, shouldn’t overlook the job head coach Brian Flores and GM Chris Grier have done to overhaul the defense. Between some key free agent signings and an influx of young talent in the draft, Miami’s defense should be markedly improved. An off-season trade with the Houston Texans for linebacker Benardrick McKinney could be the piece that ties everything together and puts Miami’s already stacked defense over the top.

How the Miami Dolphins landed Benardrick McKinney

Former Houston Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney is a guy who had been on the Miami Dolphins radar for quite some time. For good reason, too, as the former Pro Bowl linebacker had been a lynchpin in the Texans’ defense. Though he was hurt for the majority of the 2020 season, his performance the prior two seasons had thrust him into the discussion as one of the premier young inside linebackers in the league.

This March, Grier and the gang finally pulled the trigger and went to get their man. Miami sent the previous year’s free-agent signee Shaq Lawson and a sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for McKinney and a seventh-round selection. Houston then traded the sixth-rounder to the Bengals, who selected Michigan running back Chris Evans. With the seventh-rounder, Miami selected UMass offensive lineman Larnel Coleman.

What Benardrick McKinney brings to the Miami Dolphins

The addition of Benardrick McKinney to the Miami Dolphins linebacker corps should be the piece that brings everything together. McKinney’s skill set should be what frees up everyone around him to play to their strengths, rather than adjusting their game to fill a hole in the defense. With McKinney manning the inside and being a great downhill, run-stuffing linebacker, he frees up everyone else to lean on their athleticism.

With McKinney beside him, current inside linebacker Jerome Baker is free to use his athleticism and be the sideline-to-sideline linebacker Flores needs him to be in the system. The addition of McKinney inside allows the Dolphins to give outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and first-round pick Jaelan Phillips the green light to go get the quarterback. McKinney brings to the team a steady, sure-tackling force at inside linebacker that makes everyone around him better.

All of this hinges on McKinney’s health. McKinney missed all but four games in the 2020 season due to a shoulder injury. If he has fully recovered from off-season surgery and can regain his 2018 Pro Bowl form, the Dolphins should possess a fearsome group of linebackers. Pair all of that with arguably the best defensive back in the league, and Miami should once again notch a top 5 defense — with McKinney as the key that brings everything together.

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The Top 5 Most Secretly Important Miami Dolphins Heading into the 2021 Season

We as human beings love lists. Whether it’s the top 100 NFL players or an well researched article about 37 ways to survive a porcupine attack if your high on bath salts. It doesn’t matter. We as humans eat that stuff up and always will.

You also often see blogs/articles talk about the most under and overrated players in the league or on a team. Nothing wrong with those but I’m a guy who tries to start new trends even when it comes to creating new lexicons. This is why I decided to list the top 5 secretly important Miami Dolphins heading into the the 2021 season(Bill Simmons would love what I just did here, kudos to you if you get it.)

I, loosely, define secretly important exactly like it sounds. I’m talking about guys that are under the radar players who not many are talking about who I think need to have a big impact for the Dolphins to succeed. Notice that I’m not saying that they necessarily will have a big impact. I’m saying that they NEED to have a big impact. Alright, I think we’re all up to speed here. Lets get to the list.

5. Malcolm Brown

The at the moment defacto #2 running back behind Myles Gaskin is slated to be the thunder to Gaskin’s lightning. Jordan Howard morphed into Zach Crockett last year in nearly every way, thus leading to his departure. Brown has been brought in to do all the dirty work between the tackles and in short yardage situations. Would I be shocked if his role gets ramped up by mid-year? Not at all. I think Brown is talented and hungry enough to play the best football of his career. He almost has to because currently there isn’t really anyone on the roster who I would be comfortable in that #2 role. The NFL is a league that caters to platoon style backfield where more than one guy gets utilized. Knowing who you can rely on is key so that you don’t have a repeat of last year where the Dolphins were asking drifters who sidled their way into town to run the ball. Brown is important if the Dolphins are looking to extend drives, which they are.

4. Michael Palardy

You don’t have to be a film junkie who watches the All-22 of every player from the last five years, who will undoubtedly let you know they do exactly that whether you asked them or not in an attempt to flex their football brain to know that punting is important. The hidden yardage that you hear about, a lot of it is accrued in punting. Having a guy who can pin teams back inside the 10 is such a luxury to have.

Miami lost the very versatile Matt Haack and have, seemingly, replaced him with Michael Palardy. Paladry missed the 2020 season with a torn ACL he suffered last Summer. Bold move to bring a guy coming off an injury who, in his last season in 2019, was only the 16th best punter in terms of average with 46.0 yards per punt. Paladry has the ability to swing many games this year so he absolutely has to be on the top of his game.

3. Noah Igbinoghene

Depending on what happens with Xavien Howard, Iggy might be moved from the secretly important list to the obviously important list. We know that Iggy had a not so wonderful rookie year last year. But if you listen and put any stock into the reports from the beat writers, then you’d know that Iggy had an outstanding mini camp. Literally, nobody has a bad word to say about him besides brining up last year.

Noah is part of a secondary that houses about a billion players at the moment, but he has all the physical tools to be a very good corner and ascend through that billion deep unit. Hopefully, the Howard situation gets cleared up and Iggy can focus on being 3rd corner or somewhere around that position on the team. If the Howard situation goes the other way and he gets traded or exists in that limbo holdout void then Noah Igbinoghene will probably be tasked with stepping up and show everyone that last year was a major learning year for him.

2. Jevon Holland

Is it fair that Jevon Holland finds himself on the prestigious and very on-point secretly important list? Maybe not. But I don’t think a person like Holland shies away from such lofty expectations. He’s a rookie but all accounts have the former Duck to be the Dolphin’s starting free safety come September 12. I think that will end up being the case largely because Flores will believe he can handle it and that Holland possesses the one thing that makes Flores feel all tingly and that’s versatility. You can line Holland up at safety or screw him down and have him cover guys out of the slot. Some say he’s the Taysum Hill of defenders. Is he at Swiss Army Knife level? We’re going to find out.

Holland gets labeled that feel good phrase of “ballhawk” that fans just love hearing about one of their guys. But Holland really does have a nose for intercepting passes. He had 9 in two seasons at Oregon, which is a lot for a college player. I also think Flores will be utilizing Holland’s IQ and have him be a quarterback of the defense where he’s lining everyone up when he has to. As Flores said about Holland:

Head coach Brian Flores said after day two of the draft that Holland has leadership qualities and that he “has the ability to communicate and quarterback a defense because he’s smart.”

There’s a ton on the plate of the rookie Holland but I honestly think this is something he can handle and might possibly be the steal of the draft not just for the Dolphins but for the entire league.

1. Matt Skura/Michael Deiter

This is a real twofer because at the moment we don’t know who will be the lead dog at the center position to open the season. Obviously, with training camp and the preseason we’ll know more but I felt I had to include both Matt Skura and Michael Deiter.

The conventional wisdom is that Matt Skura was brought in from Baltimore to be the starting center. I think Skura actually will be the starter in New England but that’s nowhere near in stone. Skura had major snapping problems last year and was benched in late November after a couple of bad games. Skura has said all the right things about how he’s putting last year behind him and that he’s worked really hard on improving his snapping. Time will tell on this.

Michael Deiter filled in for one game when Flowers got hurt last year and did a really good job in that game. After being drafted in the 3rd round Deiter has kind of been a bit of a mystery on the team. There was some talk earlier in the offseason that Deiter was being trained behind the scenes like he was in the Red Room to be the Dolphins future center.

I like the idea of Deiter training all along to be a center. The team hasn’t had a lockdown center in years so good on him for seeing that and being cool with revitalizing his career with a new position.

Regardless of whoever wins the battle for the center position, that person has to be able to anchor an offensive line that has three second year players on it, take the running game to the next level and give Tua more than a few nanoseconds to throw the ball. You want receivers to get more separation? Give the quarterback 3 healthy seconds to throw the ball more often. This is why Skura or Deither get the nod for most secretly important player on the team. They unlock so much of what the team can accomplish.

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Trill Williams: Miami’s Next Project

Perhaps one of the most surprising statistics in football is that 30% of active NFL rosters are made up of undrafted players, the Miami Dolphins of which are no strangers.

Nik Needham, Albert Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Adam Butler, Jesse Davis, Malcolm Brown, Justin Coleman, Robert Foster and Allen Hurns are some notable names on this roster, all of which went undrafted in their respective classes.

The next undrafted player hoping to make his mark on the league is former Syracuse defensive back Trill Williams. Having been cut by the Saints following a failed physical (a mere six days after signing), Chris Grier swooped in claiming him off waivers and in doing so acquired one of the most sought after undrafted free agents in the 2021 class.

“One of the best UDFA in the class- the Dolphins pounced and in doing so brought in a legitimate developmental project who has starting level upside at corner or safety, but needs a position and polish”

NBC Sports Thor Nystrom on Trill Williams

Williams was underrated coming out of high school due to questions about his measurables, and ever since then has played like an underdog with aggression and explosiveness. During his career at Syracuse, he played 28 games, starting 15 resulting in: 93 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 3 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Williams, his junior year in 2020 was plagued by injury.

Having sprained his ankle early on in the season, his efforts in attempting to play through the pain ultimately meant further injury ensued, as his injury began to affect his hamstring, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. After the 2019 season, Williams was regarded as the second best DB at Syracuse behind Ifeatu Melifonwu, while ahead of Andre Cisco who went 65th overall to Jacksonville; Williams was himself projected to go in Rounds 2/3 prior to his injury, making him one of the potential steals in this years draft.

Williams strips the ball from the WR returning it for 94 yards for an overtime walk off win, A play eerily similar to one he made in high school.

It is clear that Williams has a lot of upside and versatility, he is able to line up in the slot, on the outside, at safety, and can play both zone and man coverage.

He is a long rangy, physical and explosive player. In essence he is the epitome of a Brian Flores kind of player. He has a clear talent for creating turnovers, his ball skills best explained by the fact that Williams played both receiver and corner at high school.

Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the 5th best defender with Syracuse with a grade of 74.9, while he was also the second best player in coverage with a grade of 78.7. However, while Williams’ aggressive play style may be one of his greatest strengths, at times it can be one of his biggest drawbacks, as there have been instances where he has been known to over-commit to a tackle, leaving him out of position.

Nevertheless, such issues are easily coachable, whereas the ability to create turnovers which he possesses may not be.

Trill Williams was a steady presence in the Syracuse secondary since 2018 where he spent time at wide corner, slot corner, and at safety. While he is versatile and has appeal in any role, I like him best at wide corner. Williams is long, rangy, athletic, physical, and aggressive. His physical skill set is exceptional and he doesn’t have any restrictions. He is springy and explosive, capable of thriving in both man and zone coverage. With that said, he does have room to grow when it comes to anticipatory skills and there were some instances where he didn’t get his head around to the football with his back to the line of scrimmage.

He had three return touchdowns in his three seasons in college and has a knack for coming up with big plays. For a team looking for a versatile defensive back that can be a matchup-neutralizer, Williams has the physical gifts to do that.

Joe Marino- The Draft Network

Williams is by no means an automatic starter in the secondary, nor is he the heir apparent to Xavien Howard, should relations deteriorate further. Instead at this time he is an outsider to even make the final 53 man roster considering the strength and depth at the position, with his main competition being that of Jamal Perry. Williams will be a strong developmental player with a lot of upside, playing alongside some of the best in their craft in the Dolphins backfield.

Comparisons can easily be made with Nik Needham, a promising young defensive back who flew under the radar during the draft, didn’t quite make the 53 man roster after camp, but then started 11 games in his rookie season.

Needham has since become a solid contributor to this defense with 4 INT throughout his first 2 seasons. Williams has already been quick off the mark in Miami, in fact in his first day with the team he intercepted Tua Tagovailoa, along with a couple of pass breakups, standing out in an otherwise talented positional group. He is a physical, scrappy player with the right mindset to fight on every play to make it in the league and has certainly gotten off to a fast start in South Florida.

So what can the Dolphins can expect from Trill?

“Hes a special kid, and I’ve never seen anybody outwork him. He’s different, he makes difference making plays. I’m so proud of this young man. Now we watch the show.”

Tre Williams, Trill’s father

While Williams may not be NFL ready Week 1 against the Patriots, his mental fortitude, versatility and aggressive play style make him the ideal student for Flores, Boyer, and Alexander to develop and refine his skills as a solid player in the NFL. Dolphins fans should be very excited to watch the development of this young man.

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SimBull is the stock market for sports where you can buy and sell virtual shares of your favorite teams using real money. Each time your team wins, you earn a win payout. If your team loses, you lose nothing. SimBull offers trading for the NFL, NBA, and MLB, with College Football coming this fall. You can even own your very own share for the Miami Dolphins!

Visit simbull.com today and use promo code “AroundtheBlock” to earn a $10 deposit bonus on your first deposit.