It’s the opening day of the 2019 NFL season and all three state teams will have home games. Off of three losing seasons a year ago, two of them, the Bucs and Dolphins, will be debuting new coaching staffs.
First in Jacksonville, the Jaguars will take on the defending AFC West champions the Kansas City Chiefs and their electrifying quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. This should be a fascinating matchup of the Chiefs high-powered passing attack against one of the better defenses in the NFL. Led by Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Myles Jack and Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars will give the Chiefs a true test.
On offense, Jacksonville has welcomed in free agent quarterback Nick Foles to get their past game going. As we wrote earlier this week, he’s been bothered by a slight abdominal injury and it remains to be seen if he is healthy enough to be effective for the entire opening game.
A guy that does appear to be healthy for the first time in a long time in NFL regular season is running back Leonard Fournette. Fournette battled a hamstring injury for most of last year’s 5 – 11 season, but if he is ready to roll, then it will greatly help the Jaguar chances.
Next, in Miami, it’s the first game for brand new NFL coach Brian Flores (above). After spending over a decade as a defensive assistant with the New England Patriots, Flores takes over what will be a more than challenging situation in year one.
First, the Dolphins have to figure out their quarterbacking future. For now they will go with longtime veteran or Ryan Fitzpatrick to start the opener with the Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium. However, the team would like to see newly-acquired second-year quarterback and former first-round pick up the Cardinals, Josh Rosen become the guy. Rosen might see action as soon as Sunday, depending if the veteran Fitzpatrick struggles.
The expectations have been lowered greatly in South Florida after Flores and GM Chris Grier have stripped the roster of almost all high-priced veteran players. Gone are the names Ryan Tannehill, Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, Danny Amendola, Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills and Kiko Alonso. All of those players were either released or traded away this offseason.
Clearly, the Dolphins have their eyes on being better in 2020 and 2021, but the real danger is just how much losing will go on this season before it gets to that?
It will probably be the Dolphins biggest key to try to neutralize former South Florida high school and Louisville Heisman winning quarterback, Lamar Jackson. Jackson helped lead the Ravens to the AFC North title going 6 – 1 as a starter down the stretch of last season and played so impressively that the team Delta wave former Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco in the off-season.
Whether Miami can contain Jackson with their young and experienced defense, may end up deciding this one.
Finally, the Buccaneers will also welcome in a new coaching staff. Bruce Arians is the fifth new head coach in eight Tampa Bay seasons. He brings a winning pedigree from the Arizona Cardinals and has primarily been brought in, along with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, to get more consistent play out of quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston and the Bucs should be familiar with their opening-day opponent the 49ers, especially after beating San Francisco in late November of last season at home.
Tampa Bay has installed a new 3 – 4 defense with coordinator Todd Bowles and they now must be ready for the 49ers to welcome back Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from his season-ending knee injury a year ago.
The Bucs are counting heavily on a rookie first-round pick middle linebacker Devin White and free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to help add to their defense. Suh replaces six Time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy after the very popular player on and off the field was released in a salary cap move by the team earlier in the offseason.
The Buccaneers have high hopes that Arians can turn them around like he did the Cardinals, where they won 10 games in his first season in the “Valley of the Sun.”
Dolphins reverse course- will start Josh Rosen Sunday
In a move that fits the pattern of seemingly having no true plan of how to get better and, further being willing to change or get rid of personnel on any whim, coach Brian Flores and the Dolphins have done “a 180 turn,” and will now start second-year quarterback Josh Rosen in Dallas Sunday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 19, 2019
After being adamant for the last three days the team would continue to start veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, even after two dismal games where the Dolphins lost by a combined score of 102 – 10, Flores and the organization have obviously decided that now is the time to see what Rosen can do.
We at F.F.I. called for this move on Monday, as Miami’s offense could be truly no worse than what it has looked like in the losses to Baltimore and the Patriots at home.
And sooner or later you have to give Rosen an extended look to find out, if he has some promise to be a quarterback of the future or at least, part of the mix as a backup etc., for 2020 and 2021.
Clearly, Miami is doing everything they can to lose every possible game they can and get their best draft position in 2020.
To that end, the Dolphins traded 2018 first round pick defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday acquiring their number one pick. This added on to the blockbuster trade of left tackle Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills where the Dolphins acquired the Texans number one and number two picks this year and their first round pick next year.
The Dolphins stuck Rosen in Sunday’s disaster with New England with nine minutes to go and trailing 43-0 and he threw 18 passes, completing only seven and also had an INT while being sacked three times. Rosen even managed to roll his ankle, but kept playing, but only in worthless garbage time.
Rosen, who was acquired in an April draft night trade with Arizona, was 3-10 last year as a starter with only a 55% completion percentage and 11 touchdowns vs. 14 interceptions with the Cards.
Now, considerably handicapped on offense without Tunsil and Stills, etc., we will see what the former UCLA first round pick can do against the formidable Cowboys.
Dolphins trade Minkah Fitzpatrick to Steelers
The Dolphins remained true to their “lose at all costs” mentality for 2019, as they dealt last season’s #1 pick, DB Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers on Monday night.
TRADE: Steelers are trading a 2020 first-round pick to the Dolphins for DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2019
As we wrote earlier Monday night, Fitzpatrick has been disgruntled in Miami just two horrible games into their season and was given permission to seek a trade last week. Apparently, Pittsburgh came up with the best offer, first, to get the former Alabama All American.
Fitzpatrick, who the Dolphins took with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft, is disgruntled in part, because of the Dolphins “veteran purge” that has gone all in all offseason, stripping them of experienced talent everywhere. He further has been unhappy with new head coach Brian Flores and defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, moving him to different positions all over the defensive secondary in the preseason and the first two games of the year.
Fitzpatrick started and played significantly in most of Fins Sunday blowout loss to the Patriots 43-0 that dropped them to a dismal looking 0-2. And Pro Football Focus gave him a decent grade for Sunday:
Minkah Fitzpatrick was the highest-graded #Dolphins player in Week 2
— PFF MIA Dolphins (@PFF_Dolphins) September 16, 2019
GM Chris Grier continues to stock pile draft picks for the “named players” on his roster. This included the huge deal trading of starting LT Laremy Tunsil and WR Kenny Stills on the eve of the season to the Houston Texans. Miami got the Texans next two #1 picks and their second rounder in 2021 in that deal.
The acquiring of the Steelers first rounder gives Miami three opening round picks now in next April’s draft.
Reportedly, the teams are also swapping fourth (Miami’s) and fifth round picks in 2020 and sixth (Pittsburgh’s) and seventh rounders in 2021, as part of the deal.
Grier had been busy getting rid of other veterans in the off season. This also included dealing players like QB Ryan Tannehill and DE Robert Quinn in March, veteran WR Danny Amendola being cut after just one season in Miami and Pro Bowl DE Cam Wake being allowed to walk away in free agency.
In addition to trading Tunsil and Stills, Grier dealt his most productive tackler the last three years, Kiko Alonso, to the Saints at the end of preseason, too.
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