Ryan Tannehill return to OTAs this week in Miami isn’t the only serious knee injury comeback story in Dolphins Camp. No, a guy that was almost forgotten, because he got injured in the first quarter of the first preseason game last August is back, too, LB Raewkon McMillan.
McMillan, a former 2nd round last year out of Ohio State has made tremendous progress as well from his ACL tear and is ready to bolster the Dolphins linebacking crew.
After Thursday’s OTA workout he met with the media to discuss what the last nine months have been like for him.
Dolphins Live: Raekwon McMillan meets with the media https://t.co/82FGMthzuG
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) May 24, 2018
It is interesting that he and Tannehill had their ACL surgeries on the same day last year, and almost had a rehab competition in trying to get back to the playing field over the past few months. As McMillan detailed Thursday:
“We starting rehab on the same exact day. From day one, it was always a competition. Who could walk without their crutches first? Who could run full speed underwater first? It was just little stuff. Who can get a bigger quad muscle? It was just really stupid stuff like that to keep competing with each other.”
Some are still shaking their heads that McMillan was lost for the year on a special teams play in a game that didn’t matter.
However, as we wrote last August, young players playing on special teams are going to risk injury. And Coach Adam Gase should not have been faulted then, or in the future, for trying to get young guys acclimated two playing on kickoff or punt teams like McMillan was, when he got injured last year.
The bonus is: if fully healthy, McMillan is like an extra draft pick for this season. And the Dolphins also coincidentally (or maybe not) drafted another Ohio State line backing prospect in Jerome Baker back in April. Baker looked to McMillan as a bit of a mentor in his time in Columbus, and it will help both guys throughout the offseason, training camp and more to be together.
The Fins have several question marks headed into this season and the biggest is, Tannehill and whether or not he can return to form. Obviously, another key defensive question is how big of a contribution can a guy, who never played a down of regular season football last year, either help the linebackers. The name is Raekwon McMillan.
“Mountaineer Shot” earns Dolphins K Sanders AFC honors
One of the great trick plays, not just of this NFL season but in recent pro football memory, has earned the Dolphins kicker who caught a touchdown pass Sunday AFC weekly honors.
The league announced Wednesday that kicker Jason Sanders, who became the first place-kicker to catch a touchdown pass in 42 years, is the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week:
Special Teams Players of the Week (Week 13):
— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2019
Sanders also made his only field-goal attempt, as well as two extra points, earned the weekly honor for Miami’s 37 – 31 upset of the Eagles.
However, it is the play that is known as “Mountaineer Shot” that Sanders will forever be remembered for not just in Dolphin history, but NFL.
We wrote about the play on Monday, as head coach Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Danny Crossman implemented the direct snap to punter Matt Haack, while players were spread wide on either side of the formation.
Haack then, took the snap, rolled left and when the Eagles rushed at him, he flipped the ball to Sanders for the touchdown. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers. And, it’s something that Dolphins had been practicing regularly on and off for the past two months.
Furher, as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.
It is also the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that a punter has completed a touchdown pass to a kicker and the play will live on for years and years to come.
It is the second time that Sanders has won the AFC special teams player of the week award this season. He also got the honor for his two clultch 48 yard field goals in the fourth quarter of the Dolphins 16-12 upset of the Indianapolis Colts in November.
Dolphins fans still buzzing over “Mountaineer Shot” trick play
Move over, “Miami Miracle,” we now have a rival Dolphins trick play that will be talked about forever by fans and observers.
While it wasn’t the crazy lateral clinching play that Miami scored on with no time left to defeat the Patriots last December, “Mountaineer Shot,” as it’s known, is one of the wildest gadget plays to ever score a TD in the NFL. That’s because it involved the punter throwing to the kicker for a touchdown on a fake field goal.
It was the second quarter with the Dolphins trailing the Eagles 13 – 7, when Miami elected to kick a field goal (or so we thought) from Philadelphia’s 1-yard line.
That’s when dolphin punter Matt Haack lined up behind Center Daniel Kilgore with Miami spreading players to the right and the left. Then, what happened next was comical special teams touchdown, maybe in NFL history:
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) December 1, 2019
Haack’s first ever NFL completion was a forward option pitch to the kicker, Jason Sanders. And for good measure, it was Sanders first reception in his entire football career (dating back to high school) with the play stunning the Eagles and helping Miami pull off a 37 – 31 upset win.
Here was more on the play from David Wilson of the Miami Herald, including how long coach Brian Flores, special teams coach Danny Crossman and the players had been waiting to pull it out of the bag of tricks:
“We felt like that was a good time to run it,” coach Brian Flores said, and it gave us a spark….
“It was one of those plays Miami had been waiting weeks for the chance to run. Tight end Mike Gesicki said the Dolphins started working on it about two months ago and have been waiting weeks for the right opportunity to arise. Sunday finally presented such an opportunity….
“The gutsy call was just the latest in a line of gutsy calls by special teams coordinator Danny Crossman. In an October loss to the Buffalo Bills, Haack ran for a first down on a fake punt attempt. Last month, the Dolphins successfully executed a surprise onside kick in another loss to the Bills….
“The gutsy call was Crossman distilled to his mad-scientist essence.
“Danny Crossman is crazy. Like what is he dreaming up? This is the NFL,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “Like, that’s not—that doesn’t happen.”
Of course there is further irony that the Eagles famously ran their “Philly Special” play, which was an option pass to then-quarterback Nick Foles, for a touchdown in their upset of the Patriots in Super Bowl 52.
So, teams have constantly been looking to get the Eagles on trick plays themselves.
This would include the Patriots having run a double pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who threw a touchdown against them in New England’s 17-10 victory couple of weeks ago at Philly.
Back to “Mountaineer Shot” on Sunday. The play is named for the center, Kilgore, because he played at Appalachian State, whose nickname is the Mountaineers.
And as for the historical aspects of the play, Sanders became the first kicker to catch a touchdown pass in an NFL game since Baltimore’s Jim Turner did it in a game in 1977.
And, it is the first time since the AFL – NFL merger in 1970 that our punter has thrown a touchdown pass to the kicker.
Oh, and the Fins have suddenly come to life with three wins in four games after and 0-7 start. And, it’s in part because the team is still playing hard for a coach and coaching staff that’s willing to take wild risks they did with “Mountaineer Shot,” Sunday.
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