It is the preseason, but it is the debut for the Dolphins newest head coach, Brian Flores, as Miami gets set to host the Atlanta Falcons at Hard Rock stadium Thursday night.
Flores obviously brings credibility having been park of three recent Super Bowl wins by the New England Patriots, including as the defensive play caller in their latest Title Game win over the Rams in February.
It goes without saying that most observers and pundits believe this will be a long season in Miami that may result in his only two or three wins.
This is especially because of the unsettled quarterback situation, where 15 year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently the starter as preseason begins. However, the Dolphins are hoping that former number one pick of the Arizona Cardinals, Josh Rosen, whom they got in a trade in April, will eventually overtake him for the starting role.
Miami also has an unsettled running back situation between veteran Kenyan Drake and second-year back Kalen Ballage among a group of other young players that will vie for carries, etc.
If the Dolphins do have a strength it’ss probably at wide receiver where veteran speedster Kenny Stills will be helped my former first-round pick DeVante Parker. Later in August, speedy Albert Wilson, who comes off injured reserve with hip surgery, is expected to slowly work his way back. And, tight ends Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe, who enter their second seasons, should be able to contribute more in 2019.
Probably the biggest concern is the defense, where the Fins did draft Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in the first round. They do have a couple of other potential impact players in linebacker Raekwon McMillan, plus defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Xavien Howard. However the lack of quality starters and depth will be more apparent on the side of the ball, even though it’s Flores’ specialty.
When you take into account the Flores has never been a head coach at any level. And further, most of Bill Belichick’s former assistants have struggled, especially early with their new teams, there obviously will be a learning curve.
The questions are there and starting with seeing the Falcons starters in the first quarter Thursday, we’ll see some answers, too.
Looks like Tua Tagovailoa will work out for teams prior to draft
There will be numerous NFL teams interested, including the Dolphins, on just how healthy injured Alabama star Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is. And, a report on Wednesday says that Tua will likely be ready to throw for teams later in the offseason draft process.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that “NFL quarterback super-agent” Leigh Steinberg and his firm are letting teams know that Tagovailoa’s injured hip should be healed enough for him to be able to throw in early April prior to the NFL Draft at the end of the month:
From our Championship Wednesday coverage on @NFLNetwork: #Bama QB Tua Tagovailoa may throw for NFL teams during a Pro Day in mid-April, thanks to some very positive health news. pic.twitter.com/ooVJCyf0ij
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 15, 2020
This will be especially important for teams like the Dolphins, who will be selecting fifth currently in the upcoming selection process.
Tagovailoa 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.
However, Tagovailoa was injured in Alabama’s 10th game of the season suffering the hip injury on a sack late in the first half at Mississippi State. He missed the Tide’s final two regular-season games and their recent Citrus Bowl win over Michigan two weeks due to the injury.
Typically, players participate in some kind of individual workout or pro day, but as Rappaport relayed, most teams already know what Tagovailoa can do from his previous two seasons at Alabama. The bigger concern is his health and specifically his mobility, as he progresses through the summer and into the first NFL training camp and preseason of his career.
It is believed the Tagovailoa is the second, or at worst third rated, quarterback behind LSU Heisman Trophy winning National Championship QB Joe Burrow. Burrow is expected to be taken first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in late April.
Who is new Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer?
On Sunday night, the Dolphins finally decided to allow first-year defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to leave and take the same position with the New York Giants. And, coach Brian Flores moved quickly to promote a member of his staff, Josh Boyer, to be his defensive play-caller
So exactly who is former New England assistant that will now be in charge Miami’s defensive unit? More on him in a moment.
First, as we wrote, Miami had wavered Saturday night and Sunday on whether to let Graham go to the Giants to be with new head coach, Joe Judge, creating an important void. Graham was only being given a “lateral move” to New York, and Miami could have continued to block him. But, in the end, Flores had someone he could trust already on staff.
That’s Boyer, who has just completed his 14th season in the NFL, all previously in New England and then, obviously, his first with the Fins after coming with Flores last February.
Boyer’s background is as a secondary coach and specifically, working with cornerbacks. He held that job for his last seven seasons in New England 2012 – 18 and was part of three Super Bowl championships under Bill Belichick.
Boyer deserves credit for helping the development of defensive backs like Malcolm Butler, who sealed Super Bowl 49 win over the Seahawks with his famous goal-line interception of Russell Wison in the final half minute of the game. Boyer also worked closely with Pro Bowlers Logan Ryan and more recently, Stephon Gilmore, who iced Super Bowl 53 win last February with a late INT against the Rams.
This past year was obviously a trying one for the Dolphins defensively, as they finished 32nd in scoring and 30th in overall in defense. But Boyer cannot be judged too much, given the cornerbacks he was working with, especially late in the year.
He had his best player, former number one pick Minkah Fitzpatrick, traded away in the first month to the Steelers. Miami also lost veteran Bobby McCain to injury later in the year and had a depleted secondary at the very end of the season.
However, Boyer (shown above with DB Eric Rowe after his week 17 pick six of Tom Brady) obviously impressed Flores and GM Chris Grier with his coaching to get the promotion.
And, he’s following a similar path as Flores, who worked his way up from secondary coach to defensive coordinator with the Pats.
Now, we’ll see if Miami can bolster their defensive backfield this off sesaon.
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