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How did scouts assist on Dolphins post-first round picks last weekend?

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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A fascinating, detailed, “behind the scenes” look into Miami Dolphins scouting has been rolled out this week by Yahoo Sports. National college football writer Pete Thamel was given the opportunity and access to be on the road everywhere with the scouting staff of VP of football Mike Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier. And, Thamel traversed the country for nearly a year with the staff watching what and how they do what they do.

The final part of the series was posted online late Wednesday night and gave great insight in particular to the scouts assisting on draft nights in the Miami war room late last week.

In particular, on Friday night in the second round, the Dolphins were contemplating taking Penn State TE Mike Gesicki, and Thamel picks it up from there:

When the Dolphins’ pick comes up in Round 2, Northeast scout J.P. McGowan gets called into the room by the brass. McGowan, 29, scouts the Northeast and does cross-checks on the tight ends. His trip to the room signaled Miami’s affinity for tight end Mike Gesicki. (It ended up being a busy night for McGowan, as Miami added tight end Durham Smythe in Round 4).

Thamel continued on the amount of time the scouting and front office staff had spent (for almost a year) on evaluating Gesicki.

Reports by McGowan, senior scout Terry Bradway and an in-person practice visit by executive vice president Mike Tannenbaum married with both a glaring need position and Gase’s vision. “He felt like he knew exactly how to use him,” Tannenbaum says. “That gave us great comfort. Not only to take him where we did, but that we’d put him in a position to be successful.”

As we chronicled last weekend, Gesicki is physical freak with great leaping ability for his size and strength. Obviously, that stood out the Fins (and probably several other teams) in the evaluation of why to take him, so highly.

Also, interesting from Thamel’s article Wednesday night was the Dolphins third round selection of Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker, which went against one of their scouting philosophies. That philosophy was not drafting undersized linebackers, especially earlier in the draft. Baker is only 6’1 and 220lbs.

From Thamel, once more:

National scout Ron Brockington saw Jerome Baker, a third-round pick at linebacker, back in August at Ohio State. The vision became clearer through tape and the Big Ten title game, as the 6-foot-1 and 223-pound Baker didn’t fill the Dolphins’ oversized linebacker prototype. But he did fill a need….

And when general manager Chris Grier took a trip to Columbus later in the year, the picture crystalized that Baker may be the perfect exception to their preferred size paradigms. The Dolphins lacked a speedy linebacker versatile enough to cover tailbacks and tight ends last year – think Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski – and Baker could end up starting his career as a third-down specialist and flash his athleticism on special teams.

It should also be pointed out that Baker was a teammate of last year’s second round pick Raekwon McMillan with the Buckeyes and the Miami staffs knew a lot about Baker already because of that.

By the way, Ohio State has had an astounding 26 players selected in the last three (2016-18) drafts. So, if you are picking a place in the middle of the country to go scout and evaluate, that’s a good starting point.

Every team is thorough, some more than others, in the evaluation process, but it’s always interesting to see access/reporting like what Yahoo was given the opportunity to deliver.

Now, let’s see if the Fins draft picks deliver this fall.

Miami Dolphins

“Mountaineer Shot” earns Dolphins K Sanders AFC honors

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
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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:

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.

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Dolphins fans still buzzing over “Mountaineer Shot” trick play

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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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:

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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