The Miami Dolphins 2018 schedule is out and well, it’s not brutal.
It’s mathematically easier than last season’s schedule. The NFL sets it up that way, so 6-10 teams have a better chance to bounce back.
And well, only four of their games are against teams that finished with 10 or more wins last season (New England twice, Minnesota and Jacksonville).
Here are 5 Instant Takeaways from the release of the all-important schedule:
Miami might want to start fast, because the back end is a bear. Miami opens at home with Tennessee before traveling to the Jets and hosting Oakland. These are three winnable games. And anything less than 2-1 is unacceptable. If Miami is say, 8-4, and in need of two wins to make the playoffs (hey, it’s April) finding those wins down the stretch will be difficult. Patriots, at Vikings, Jaguars, at Bills, is rough.
Some of Miami’s opponents who struggled last season should be better, because key players return. The Texans get Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt back, the Packers get Aaron Rodgers back and the Colts should get Andrew Luck back. All those teams struggled without their top players. Come to think of it, didn’t Miami struggle without Ryan Tannehill (and Raekwon McMillan)?
While playing at Buffalo at the very end of December is not ideal, Miami’s cold weather situation could be worse. Miami catches a break by playing at New York and at New England in September. Miami also plays at Cincinnati in early October. Perhaps the Dolphins will find unseasonably warm weather at Green Bay on Nov. 11. A Week 10 venture to the frozen tundra isn’t all that bad. And back-end of the schedule games at Indianapolis and Minnesota my be a big chilly for travelers, but at least those games are in domes.
Miami’s only nationally televised game is at Houston on a Thursday night. Frankly, Miami didn’t deserve a national audience after the eggs they laid on such stages last season. It is true that Miami defeated New England on a Monday night in December last season. Remember Jarvis Landry’s simulated football deflation? Ah, memories. But we shall also not forget humiliating losses to the Saints, Ravens and Panthers and another loss to the Raiders, all before a national audience.
The Dolphins’ bye is well-placed, in Week 11. Unless of course, a hurricane hits and postpones Miami’s home opener against the Titans. But that won’t happen because I’ve brought it up. So, now that that’s out of the way. Overall, this schedule is pretty fair. Two home games and two road games in each of the four quarters of the season. Three winning opponents in the first half (allowing for perhaps a decent start) and five winning opponents in the second half. Miami has a chance to be in the playoff race entering December. All involved would sign up for that.
ORLANDO — Ndamukong Suh was scheduled to make about $17 million for the Miami Dolphins in 2018, with a cap hit of $26.1 million, including prorated bonuses.
The space needed to keep Suh on the roster was larger than any player in the NFL, behind only quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Matthew Stafford.
Over three seasons, the Dolphins ended up paying Suh $60 million. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is done paying Suh, but there is a salary cap hangover by virtue of cutting Suh with a June 1 designation.
Suh will be gone, but he’ll still cost Miami $22.2 million in cap room over the next two seasons.
Was it all worth it?
“Obviously we wish we won more games with him,” Dolphins executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum, who gave Suh his contract, said this week at the NFL owner’s meetings.
Added Dolphins coach Adam Gase: “I think it was probably just the right time for us… You have to look at everything financially.”
Suh was a dominant player. But he plays the defensive tackle position. And the Dolphins came to the conclusion (as most NFL teams previously had) that it could no longer justify allocating that money to an interior lineman.
Tannenbaum correctly noted that the cap space saved on Suh’s deal allowed the team to acquire quarterback-crunching defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. With the money saved on the Quinn contract, the Rams moved to sign Suh.
It was, essentially, a swap.
Though the Rams will be celebrated for bringing a star to Hollywood, one who may very well wreak havoc alongside Aaron Donald, it is fair to wonder if Quinn will have a greater impact on Miami’s defense than Suh would have.
Suh constantly drew a double-team. And he usually gave excellent effort. Yes, Miami would have loved to see such a highly-paid player take on a larger leadership role. But even more to his detriment, Suh played a position that can be very difficult to destroy games from.
Too often, a pair of low- to-middle tier interior offensive linemen were able to neutralize Suh’s effectiveness. And for some reason, Miami’s well-paid and/or highly-drafted defensive ends (Cam Wake, Andre Branch, Charles Harris) were too often unable to capitalize on the extra attention on Suh.
The Dolphins had only 30 sacks in 2017, 26th in the NFL. The year prior, 33 sacks were tied for 19th.
Suh also didn’t have the impact on team rush defense that may have been envisioned. Last year, Miami improved to 14th in rushing yards allowed per game. In 2016, Miami was 31st in the NFL.
As previously mentioned, Suh was scheduled to make $17 million this season, counting $26.1 million against the cap.
Quinn’s 2018 contract is worth $10.3 million, with a cap hit of $11.4 million. As of now, Quinn’s cap hit is scheduled to be the biggest on the Dolphins this season, ahead of only Andre Branch at $10 million (that’s another story.)
But Quinn’s contract is not unreasonable, considering his production and age.
Suh, 31, has averaged 6 sacks and 36 tackles over 8 seasons with 4 career forced fumbles.
Quinn, 27, has averaged 9 sacks and 22 tackles over 7 seasons with 21 career forced fumbles.
The statistics are a bit skewed because Quinn started only one game as a rookie and missed 15 games due to injury in 2015 and 2016.
But Quinn has double-digit sack and Pro Bowl potential and, opposite Wake, may create more game-changing plays than Suh did. Quinn should also benefit from a move from outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense last season back to pass-rushing end in a 4-3 defense, his more natural position.
On pass-rushing downs, the Dolphins can theoretically line up Cam Wake-Charles Harris-Andre Branch-Robert Quinn, which should create a ton of pressure. Miami can also mix in William Hayes, Jordan Phillips and Davon Godchaux into the interior in those situations.
Miami really needs Quinn to end up as one of the great under-the-radar trades of this offseason, and to regain his form as one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing defensive ends. Quinn was just that as a Pro Bowler in 2013 and 2014 and a first-team All Pro in 2013.
“We got a young player that (can) rush the passer, loves playing football and he’s got a great motor,” Gase said. “When you watch (Quinn) on film, the guy just keeps rushing the passer.”
As of now, Jarvis Landry is going to cost the Cleveland Browns $15.9 million in 2018.
As we’ve long explained, the Dolphins didn’t want to pay Landry that. And so, instead, Miami dealt Landry away and signed veteran Danny Amendola and up-and-comer Albert Wilson in free agency.
Amendola’s cap hit will be $6 million this season and Wilson’s will be $4.8.
So for $10.8 million, plus the fourth- and seventh-rounders acquired in the deal, the Dolphins feel two is better than one.
It’s not fair to separate intangibles from the equation, but we’ll try in this study.
Landry was passionate (sometimes too passionate?), energetic (not always channeled the best way?) and fearless (nobody can fairly doubt this).
Amendola brings work ethic, drive and a history of clutch play. Wilson brings energy, toughness and a competitive fire.
And no, none of these guys are particularly tall.
Landry and Amendola are listed at 5-foot-11. Wilson is listed at 5-foot-9.
Wilson has the edge in speed, having covered 40 yards in 4.43 seconds, with Amendola at 4.58 and Landry at 4.77.
Of course, no receiver in the history of the NFL has more catches over the first four years of his NFL career than Landry. So we cannot dispute his production as well as his connection with Miami’s starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.
We can’t say for sure how Amendola and Wilson will mesh with Tannehill.
Over the course of their careers, some basic statistics can be used to compare the three receivers. For example:
Yards Per Game: Landry 63.1; Amendola 37.0; Wilson 28.1.
Yards Per Catch: Wilson 12.5 Landry 10.0; Amendola 9.6.
Yards After Catch: Wilson: 7.7; Landry 4.6; Amendola 3.4
Catch Rate: Landry 70.2 percent; Amendola 68.7; Wilson 62.3.
Touchdowns Per Season: Landry 5.5; Wilson 1.8; Amendola 1.7.
Obviously, Amendola (9 seasons, 32 years old) has the largest sample size here. Landry (4 seasons, 25 years old) is in his prime. And Wilson (4 seasons, 25 years old) must now prove he was underutilized in Kansas City.
The basic statistics outlined above show that Wilson actually has the ability to make the most big gainers in the group. He’s been a dangerous weapon (albeit in limited duty) as a slot receiver and out of the backfield. But his skill set allows him to line up in multiple positions.
Wilson is outstanding at gaining yards after catch. This has always been a Landry forte. But statistically, Wilson is even better.
Landry was also criticized (prior to last season) for a perceived lack of touchdowns. But Miami is really going to need a step forward from DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and whoever plays tight end, because Amendola and Wilson have not been huge touchdown producers.
How coach Adam Gase utilizes his top four receivers (plus perhaps, similarly small Jakeem Grant) will of course play a large role in how successful Tannehill and Miami’s passing game is in 2018. (We believe the offensive line, overall, has also slightly improved).
There should be less of disparity in catches between receivers. And perhaps, Miami’s offense will be somewhat less predictable. Consider for example, that Kenyan Drake can also line up at receiver.
Imagine a play where Drake lines up at receiver, and Wilson and Grant line up in the backfield. Why not? I’m sure Gase has already been thinking of some creative ways to use his new weapons.
Now, this is what we’ve been driving to (took us a while to get here, we admit). Does a dive beyond the obvious (ie., Landry catches a lot of passes) actually show that perhaps Landry was a bit overvalued and Amendola and Wilson have been a bit undervalued?
Does a look at some advanced metrics (of course the Dolphins look at this stuff, too) indicate that Amendola and Wilson may be able to more-than-capably replace the popular and bombastic Landry?
Let’s start with Football Outsiders. For wide receivers, they have developed three complex statistical formulas.
They are called: 1) Defense Adjusted Yards Above Replacement 2) Yards Above Replacement and 3) Defense Adjusted Value Over Average.
Without going into every detail just know that these formulas include factors that extend well beyond net yardage by assigning every single play a value based on both total yards and yards towards a first down.
Let’s also explain that for 2017, Football Outsiders ranked the three wide receivers discussed here as: 1) Albert Wilson 2) Danny Amendola 3) Jarvis Landry.
In other words, despite all of Landry’s catches (a league-leading 112), Football Outsiders is suggested the Dolphins may have been better served with Jay Cutler tossing some of those passes toward someone like — Albert or Amendola.
Taking into account an average of the three above-discussed formulas, for 2017, Football Outsiders ranked them as such:
Wilson (17th); Amendola (30th) and Landry (53rd).
This is not to suggest Landry is not the best player in the group. We’re just suggesting, again, that some advanced metrics are at work against Landry and for the others.
The NFL has been working on some new ways to evaluate and compare players and a few of their Next Gen Stats are revealing for purposes of our comparison.
Here’s how the three ranked last season in yards downfield before a pass attempt: Amendola (8.0), Landry (6.4), Wilson (6.4).
So, yes, Landry and Wilson have both been similarly utilized as very quick-touch players.
Here’s how the three rank in yards between them and the nearest defender at the time of a catch or incompletion: Wilson (1st), Landry (18th), Amendola (41st).
Come again? That’s right. According to NFL Next Gen stats, no player had more average separation than the 4.1 yards Wilson put between himself and defenders. How? He’s quick, that’s how.
Now, will Wilson and Amendola be as productive in 2018 at the statistics indicate they might?
INDIANAPOLIS — It’s rare that NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock can’t think of a fair comparable for a player.
This is the case with Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
“That’s the definition of unique, there is only one of them,” Mayock said of Edmunds.
The Dolphins need a linebacker who can play the run and the pass and occasionally rush the passer. They could really use a linebacker to pair with veteran Kiko Alonso and youngster Raekwon McMillan.
And more than anything, Miami needs to select an impact player with the 11th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Edmunds is a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 253 pounds) and speed (4.54 in the 40-yard dash, which was nearly as fast as the smaller Roquan Smith).
“The beauty of this kid is he’s 19 years old,” Mayock said. “He doesn’t turn 20 until a couple days after the draft.”
So, yes, Edmunds’ upside is incredible. But what he showed he can do in college is tape-stopping.
“Edmunds combines elite size, speed and explosiveness into a productive, versatile linebacker package that will have evaluators salivating,” Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote.
Zierlein chose former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher as an Edmunds comparable.
“(Edmunds) offers tremendous upside as an edge rusher, where he can dip/rip and bend around the edge,” NFL Networks’ Daniel Jeremiah wrote. “Overall, Edmunds has All-Pro ability. His upside is outrageous.”
Jeremiah ranks Edmunds at the third-best player in the draft. ESPN ranks Edmunds as the fifth-best player in the draft. If he is available at 11, a bet on Edmunds is a well-considered choice.
Edmunds can stuff the run, but he also has incredible range and athleticism.
“Feet pump and trigger like pistons,” Zierlein wrote. “Excellent lateral quickness to scrape and stalk. Uses his size and speed to cast a wide, playmaking net and cover large swaths of grass.”
Jeremiah says (and this will be music to the ears of Dolphins fans) that Edmunds can “easily mirror running backs and tight ends” and has even been seen matching up with and redirecting slot receivers.
How about Jeremiah on Edmunds’ ability to hold up against the run?
“Against the run, he is quick to key, fill and finish as a tackler,” Jeremiah said. “He has rare lateral range and collects tackles from sideline to sideline. The former Hokie flashes the ability to shoot his hands and play off blocks, but this is one area where he can improve.”
MOBILE, Ala. — After a 5-11 debut season with the Denver Broncos, coach Vance Joseph turned over his coaching staff.
It’s something Adam Gase, who went 6-10 in his second season with the Miami Dolphins, has done as well.
Joseph, of course, was Miami’s defensive coordinator two seasons ago. Joseph and Gase are close and both coaches felt change was needed. Joseph addressed the dismissal of six assistant coaches on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, where he is coaching the North squad.
“Well, I wanted to add guys that can coach football,” Joseph said. “I wanted to add guys with experience. And you know guys who can really come in and help our guys grow as players. Our young guys, and our veteran guys. Sometimes a different voice, allows a veteran player to take the next step. So I want to see veterans and young guys grow. So, the guys we hired are all great teachers. And that was important for me, to hire guys that can really teach the game.”
Joseph let go Brock Olivo, Eric Studesville, Tyke Tolbert, Fred Pagac, Jeff Davidson and Johnnie Lynn.
Ironically, Gase scooped up Studesville, who he once worked with, as his running backs coach and run game coordinator. Gase has added a few voices that are familiar to him, but will be new to the Dolphins players.
After only 10 games, Joseph let go offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, as well. Bill Musgrave has taken his place.
Gase let go Danny Barrett, Lou Anarumo, Terrell Williams and Dave DeGuglielmo and reassigned offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson. Miami has hired Dowell Loggains, Jeremiah Washburn, Ben Johnson, Studesville and Kris Kocurek.
At some point, Gase will of course address his decision to turn over his staff. He also still has to hire a defensive backs coach.
But it is clear that Gase was not satisfied with the way some of his players were being coached, as well as the results.
Interestingly, Joseph said Tuesday that he knows one key thing he must improve on in his second season in Denver.
“As a coach for a long time, pushing players and coaching players, that’s natural for you,” Joseph said. “That’s what you’ve done. But coaching the coaches. You know, I’ve got to get better at that. And that’s one thing I thought I didn’t do a good job at mid-season there. So, I’ll get better at that.”
There are only five NFL teams less likely to win the 2019 Super Bowl than the Miami Dolphins, according to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.
Vegas expects the worst teams in the NFL, the squads with an impossibly woeful chance to do much of anything next season, to be the: Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and Chicago Bears.
All those teams are 100/1 to win it all.
The first bit of good news is that Dolphins are scheduled to face three of those five teams next season. In fact, five of Miami’s 16 games, nearly one-third of their games, are against those rebuilding franchises.
Now for the bad news.
Vegas expects the Dolphins to be bad again. As bad as the: Washington Redskins and New York Giants.
All those teams are 60/1 to win it all.
NFL 2019 Super Bowl
NE 5/1 Pit 8/1 Phi 10/1 Min 10/1 GB 10/1 NO 16/1 Atl 16/1 Dal 18/1 LAR 18/1 Sea 18/1 SF 20/1 Jax 20/1 Hou 20/1 Car 20/1 LAC 30/1 KC 30/1 Oak 30/1 Det 40/1 TB 40/1 Bal 40/1 Ten 40/1 Ind 40/1 Ari 40/1 Den 40/1 NYG 60/1 Wsh 60/1 Mia 60/1
Why? Ryan Tannehill returns. Raekwon McMillan returns. And it is very unlikely a hurricane will postpone Miami’s season-opener again, a player will go AWOL and a coach will snort a white powdered substance on camera again.
Oh — and as even Vegas believes, Miami’s schedule will be much, much easier.
DAVIE — David Fales has completed two passes in his NFL career, both in the fourth quarter of the last Chicago Bears game of last season.
But Fales is now one snap away from taking over as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill, of course, was lost for the season with a knee injury before the season. And backup quarterback Matt Moore, due to a foot injury, won’t play on Sunday against the Broncos.
If Jay Cutler, who has missed time with a concussion and broken ribs were to be injured on Sunday, the game would be Fales’.
“When you are dressing, you do have to be really dialed in, situationally,” Fales said Friday. “But I do try to prepare the same no matter what. I try to get all the mental reps. I don’t want to fade out or get behind.”
Fales did not make Miami’s opening day roster, but was brought back before Miami’s seventh game, Oct. 26 at Baltimore. Fales was active that week, and last week in a road loss at New England.
Fales said he’s ready if called upon. He cites familiarity with Adam Gase’s system (they were both with the Bears in 2015) as a key.
“It’s my first year being in an offense for two years in a row,” Fales said. “My last three years it was (Marc) Trestman, Adam (Gase) and Dowell (Loggains). So it’s been nice just getting all the little details down and I mean taking that break when I was cut and back home, there was still a week or two where I was like, OK, remembering. And every week is different with game plan and stuff. So but I feel good. It’s clicking pretty good. It’s just getting out there and communicating. But it feels good. I feel good about it.”
Fales, who had a strong preseason with Miami, and a record-setting career at San Jose State, says he’s matured as a player.
“Having a plan,” Fales said. “And making everything quick. When I first got here I didn’t understand protection as well as I do now. Just understanding how fast you have to simplify things and try to get as many indicators as you can. And eliminate things quickly.”
Fales has been in the quarterback room with Cutler in Chicago. And he’s been in one with Tannehill, Cutler and Moore in Miami.
“You kind of take the people that have done it for a while, and they’ve done it for a while for a reason, and you see what works for you and you don’t take what doesn’t work,” Fales said. “But you have to know what it takes to prepare for yourself. Because everybody is different.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker was asked what happened on an interception thrown his way by Matt Moore near the end of the first half.
“Attack the ball,” Parker said in the locker room after Miami’s loss to New England on Sunday.
Was Parker saying he needs to do a better job at attacking the ball and preventing the interception?
“Yes,” Parker said.
Miami was trailing 21-10 and a touchdown could have put Miami within four points. But as has happened before this season, it was a demoralizing end to the half due to an interception.
Too many times this year, Parker has been targeted on plays that result in interceptions.
“I thought Matt (Moore) made the right read,” Miami coach Adam Gase said. “I would have to watch the film, don’t know if he was early or Devante didn’t think it was coming to him? You know, that quickly. It looked like the ball was in the air, when he got his head around, he was trying to stop, then fell.”
Patriots cornerback Stephone Gilmore, who made the interception, said he knew Parker’s route.
“They ran that route on us earlier in the first quarter and I knew they were going to come back to it,” Gilmore said. “I know every time Parker is in the slot he runs the seam empty so I just beat him to the spot.”
Parker had only one catch for five yards on Sunday. Why are so many passes to Parker resulting in interceptions?
“I mean, that’s hard to say,” Gase said. “I mean, every play is a different play.”
Moore said his pass was a “little short. That’s all I can say about that one.”
Told that Parker accepted responsibility, Moore said: “And I can throw a better ball.”
Parker said in general, he’s upset.
“Yeah I’m frustrated,” Parker said. “We’re not playing how we should be playing.”
Here is some of what Clyde Christensen said on Wednesday:
• Laremy Tunsil can be a really fine player. The consistency should come but it hasn’t yet. The sooner the better. It’s not that he’s not practicing hard. It can’t happen. There can’t be that many penalties.
• We are addressing penalties in meetings, in practice. We’re trying to pull guys out of there if they jump offsides. But so far it hasn’t helped. That was the worst week we’ve had. Unexplainable that those things are happening this late in the season. Bad ball. On everybody.
• Leonte Carroo is going to be in a constant competition. That’s a good thing. Whoever is playing better between him and Rashawn Scott. A lot of it comes down to special teams. The answer to the question is special teams. That’s really a Darren Rizzi special teams decision. Carroo is never going to be a speed burner, so he’s got to be on his technique. The times he’s been in there he’s gotten open and made a couple big catches. It’s special teams.
• Allen Iverson may have been right, practice is overrated. This is a comment he made to Kenny Stills after he went for 180 yards after missing practice with a locked-up back.
• Kenny Stills has improved in all areas.
• Kenyan Drake is growing in his attention to detail, ball protection. He was crushed by a fumble earlier in the year.
• It’s amazing how the Patriots have looked the same for 15-20 years. Same coaches. Same systems. When one player comes in to replace a Pro Bowler, that player looks the same and uses the same techniques. Consistency. And keeping things in place have allowed the Patriots to recruit to their particular system and sustained success.
• Jesse Davis to guard and Sam Young outside if Jermon Bushrod can’t go. How they ended up the game last week.
• Ted Larsen is getting back to himself. It’s a fast track to getting back. It’s 320-pound guys.