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.”
Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa present to start NFL combine
The NFL Scouting Combine is getting underway in Indianapolis this week and on Monday morning, one of the prized quarterbacks that will be available early in the first round of the draft was there for official measurements and to meet with teams.
Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, whose season ended with a fractured hip last November, is on the road to recovery and he was officially measured and also, met with numerous teams that are looking at the possibility of drafting him:
Tua Tagovailoa measured at 6-0, 217 pounds at the NFL combine today. Left throwing hand at 10”
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) February 24, 2020
In addition to not only the injured hip, but also a history of high ankle sprain problems, Tagovailoa has got to answer critics on his size. At just 6 – 0 feet there will be concerns about his ability to clearly see downfield through the massive bodies on NFL Sundays.
However, this can be combated by moving him around out of the pocket and that’s something that Alabama was successful at doing over his three years as well.
As we wrote recently, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering a fractured hip on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and then, their Citrus Bowl win January 1st, over Michigan
He came to Alabama from Hawaii and the same high school as Marcus Mariota, having thrown for over 8,000 yards which at that time was a Hawaii High School record. And, he had a career of 84 passing and 27 rushing touchdowns in three seasons.
Tua burst onto the scene nationally, when he relieved Jalen Hurts in the second half and overtime of Alabama’s thrilling title game win over Georgia in the 2018 College Football Playoff Championship Game. Tagovailoa threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the first overtime possession, as Alabama celebrated their fifth National Title in nine seasons under Saban.
In his second season at the helm in the 2018 regular season, Tagovailoa was named second-team AP All-American and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, as the Tide reached the National Title game, again, before being beaten soundly by Clemson 12 months ago.
As this junior season unfolded, Tagovailoa was named almost became synonymous with the Dolphins, who started the season horribly at 0 – 7 and the moniker “Tank for Tua” began to gain momentum in South Florida.
Tagovailoa is obviously on the Dolphins list to look at strongly to select in the top five in the draft and currently, Miami is slated to pick fifth.
It is expected that Tagovailoa will work out for teams probably later in March or maybe even, early April at the Tide’s facility in Tuscaloosa, prior to the NFL draft coming to Las Vegas.
Colorado announced hire of Dolphins assistant Dorrel Sunday
Former UCLA coach and recently promoted Dolphins assistant Karl Dorrell is headed back to college, as the new head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.
The school confirmed Dorrell’s hire on Sunday evening with a five-year contract to take over their Big 12 program:
We'd like to officially introduce you to our new HC, Karl Dorrell.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) February 23, 2020
The Buffaloes have been seeking a head coach since there coach Mel Tucker abruptly left to take the Michigan State job earlier this month.
Dorrell came to the dolphins with Brian Flores this past season, as wide receiver coach and earlier last week was promoted to assistant head coach for the upcoming season. Miami’s top receiver, DeVante Parker, blossomed under Dorrell’s tutelage as the year went on. He finished the season with 72 catches for 1,202 yards and nine touchdowns becoming the favorite target of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Dorrel is the latest Dolphins assistant on the move. Flores fired the offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea he brought with him from New England. And, his defensive coordinator Patrick Graham left to take the same job with the Giants.
Dorrell had also been the Dolphins receivers coach, previously from 2008 – 10 and then, their quarterbacks coach in 2011 under the late Tony Sparano.
“I am excited that Karl Dorrell has agreed to become our head football coach,” George said. “Karl has had great success as a college coach, both as a head coach and an assistant, and he knows the Pac-12 Conference and West Coast well. It was important that our next coach have CU ties, and Karl has those ties having worked at CU twice previously. Karl shares my passion for Colorado and our vision for winning championships. He will be a tremendous mentor and role model for our student-athletes, and he will provide great leadership for our program going forward.”
The CU Board of Regents still have to approve Dorrell’s contract, which will be $18 million for five seasons.
Dorrell had previously been on Colorado staffs two other times in his career, including most recently as offensive coordinator under Rick Neuheisel from 1995- 98.
Dorrell was named head coach of his alma mater UCLA in 2003, where he lasted five seasons and went to a bowl game every year finishing with a career 35 – 27 record before being fired after the 2007 season.
Dorrell had previously been receivers coach for the New York Jets 2015 – 18 under Todd Bowles (above) and two of his receivers had made the Pro Bowl during his time there.
Colorado picked Dorrell from an interview process that also included former Buffaloes player and Kansas City Super Bowl offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, who interviewed and was under strong consideration.