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The Miami Dolphins’ 10 position groups — weakest to strongest. Here we go ...
▪ Players: Salvon Ahmed, Myles Gaskin, Malcolm Brown, Gerrid Doaks, Patrick Laird, Jordan Scarlett, Carl Tucker*.
▪ Comment: The longest run in Gaskin’s two-year NFL career is 27 yards. The longest run Brown’s six-year NFL career is 20 yards. The longest run in Ahmed’s one-year work was 31 yards. Scarlett? Only 6 yards. The point is this group lacks a dynamic threat who has proven he can go 75 yards on any given NFL carry. It’s a group with upside, as everyone outside of Brown is young for their position. But it’s also a group of third-day draft picks or undrafted free agents.
▪ Players: Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe, Brandon Jones, Jevon Holland, Clayton Fejedelem, Nate Holley, Brian Cole.
▪ Comment: It’s clear the Dolphins want to upgrade from their starting duo of McCain and Rowe because they drafted Jones in the third round last year, Holland in the second round this year, are visiting with free agent Malik Hooker, and, well, opposing tight ends gave the Dolphins fits in multiple 2020 games. But until the upgrade is tangible with better performance on the field, it’s a goal rather than an accomplishment.
▪ Players: Tua Tagovailoa, Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett.
▪ Comment: So Ryan Fitzpatrick is gone, which means sad face emoji for the conscience of the team folks. According to a source, Brissett signed with the Dolphins because he thought it provided him the best opportunity to play — in a starter-is-injured scenario — of any he had on the table. But make no mistake, the idea of the backup coming in to rescue Tagovailoa or the team on a rough day because of performance — something coach Brian Flores resorted to in two games last season — would be a disaster if it repeats. The Dolphins need and expect Tagovailoa to make a huge leap from a year ago. The uncertainty of whether that will happen accounts for the ranking.
▪ Players: Austin Jackson, Solomon Kindley, Matt Skura, Robert Hunt, Jesse Davis, D.J. Fluker, Liam Eichenberg, Adam Pankey, Cameron Tom, Tyler Gauthier, Jonathan Hubbard, Durval Queiroz Neto, Michael Deiter, Larnel Coleman, Robert Jones*.
▪ Comment: The Dolphins were so excited about the prospect of playing Hunt at right guard and Kindley at left guard that they traded solid veteran Ereck Flowers and paid $6 million of his 2021 salary, in the form of a signing bonus, to make the deal. Then the club added Eichenberg in the second round, who projects as a starting right tackle candidate to compete with Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker. Davis and Fluker, both past NFL starters, are outstanding depth if the younger players are good enough to beat them out. So the plan is a good one. Because this group is so young, we will see on the execution.
▪ Players: William Fuller, Jaylen Waddle, DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Malcolm Perry, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden, Mack Hollins, Kirk Merritt, Robert Foster, Allen Hurns, Albert Wilson, Kai Locksley.
▪ Comment: Miami added tremendous speed here this offseason, and that’s the primary reason the group isn’t near the bottom of the rankings anymore. Fuller and Parker are proven NFL contributors. Williams has shown flashes of being good except for his durability issues the past two years, while Grant, Hurns and Wilson provide outstanding depth and playmaking ability (Grant and Wilson) when healthy. The key is obviously Waddle and how quickly he can perform consistently, which means him learning the offense, mastering the NFL game, and improving his hands, which were not always consistent in college. Quick question ... Who is Miami’s WR1 this season?
▪ Players: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long, Cethan Carter, Chris Myarick.
▪ Comment: The truth is neither Gesicki nor Carter is a tight end in the traditional sense but both are productive in their way — Gesicki as an off-the-line receiving threat, particularly in the red zone, and Carter as a blocker and late-down outlet. The rise or fall of this group will be determined by Long, a third-round rookie, who promises to eventually be the most complete player of the group and therefore the key to whether this group improves significantly in 2021.
▪ Players: Jerome Baker, Andrew Van Ginkel, Benardrick McKinney, Brennan Scarlett, Elandon Roberts, Vince Biegel, Calvin Munson, Sam Equavoen, Duke Riley, Kylan Johnson.
▪ Comment: Miami did as much work at this position as any on the roster this offseason. There’s big plans to try McKinney in multiple roles, Van Ginkel is going to get perhaps 150-175 more snaps than a year ago which means more pass rush opportunities to add to his 5.5 sacks, Scarlett has versatility, and Biegel rejoins after missing 2020 with an Achilles injury. Baker has been the best of the group and comes off a good 2020 season, hoping for better in ‘21, which is a contract year for him.
▪ Players: Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Zach Sieler, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jason Strowbridge, Jaelan Phillips, Tyshun Render, Benito Jones, Nick Coe, Adam Butler, John Jenkins, Jonathan Ledbetter, Jerome Johnson*.
▪ Comment: The Phillips addition is expected to bring dynamic playmaking (sacks, strip sacks, maybe touchdowns) to the group that had some but not enough of that last year, mostly from Ogbah. This group has four players — Wilkins, Ogbah, Davis and Phillips — taken in the first or second round of the NFL draft so the pedigree is there. The production must follow.
▪ Players: K Jason Sanders, P Michael Palardy, LS Blake Ferguson, LS Rex Sunahara, Gunner Jaytlin Askew*.
▪ Comment: Sanders is arguably the NFL’s best kicker — and a lot of people think so because he was a first-team All-Pro in 2020. The club is betting Michael Palardy, who missed 2020 with an ACL injury, is better than Matt Haack. Palardy has a career 45.3 average while Haack was 24th in the NFL last season with a 44.7 average. As for Ferguson and Sunahara ... it’s going to be an competition, and Ferguson is the obvious favorite. But don’t be surprised if both are on NFL teams in 2021 regardless of who sticks with Miami.
▪ Players: Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Noah Igbinoghene, Justin Coleman, Nik Needham, Jamal Perry, Javaris Davis, Tino Ellis, Terrell Bonds.
▪ Comment: The Dolphins are in the conversation for best starting corner duo in the NFL, and they upgraded at slot corner with the signing of Coleman in free agency. The team expects a big second-year jump from Igbinoghene after he was drafted in the first round last year, and Needham and Perry have started in the past and played significant downs for the team so there’s depth. There’s a ton to love here.
*Undrafted rookie who has agreed to contract terms but not yet officially signed.