It’s only rookie mini-camp this weekend in Miami, but even now, the Fins are trying to figure out how to be better defensively, especially with their front four. And, let’s get this out of the way: they aren’t better off without former Pro Bowler Ndamukong Suh.
Look. We get what they did, and why they were almost forced to do it in March-releasing Suh with his massive $17 million in salary and cap space. By cutting him, they saved about half of that, and freed that money up for other free agent moves and to sign draft picks.
Still, the five time Pro Bowler Suh, who turned only 31 in January, has arguably has two-three years of solid, if not really good, football left in him. The Rams obviously thought so, and gobbled him up with a one year $14 million deal.
Back to to the Dolphins and what they will try to do to replace him.
First, here were some Saturday comments from defensive coordinator, Matt Burke and some analysis from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:
As Jackson wrote: “Suh played 877 snaps last season, seventh most among all NFL defensive tackles, but no longer will the Dolphins rely on one tackle to play nearly that much.
Instead, snaps will be shared fairly evenly among four players – a group that almost assuredly will include Jordan Phillips, Davon Godchaux and Akeem Spence and might include Vincent Taylor, as well.”
Then, from Burke:
“I have a lot of history with Suh; it’s always hard to move on from guys,” Burke said Saturday of Suh’s release and subsequent move to the Los Angeles Rams. “That’s part of the business. I’m excited about that room. We’ve got some young players with Jordan and Davon we’re expecting to make leaps. Akeem is a nice piece for us, especially with his history with [new Dolphins and former Lions defensive line coach] Kris Kocurek.
Sure, they are going with depth on the interior and out of the group, Godchaux probably has the most upside on being able to make that “leap” that Burke was talking about yesterday. And Miami recently traded for Spence from the Lions, but he’s never been a guy to play 50+ plays and take a game over. Unlikely, he will be now.
So, if you want veteran Cameron Wake, trade acquisition Robert Quinn from the Rams, and last year’s top pick, Charles Harris to make trouble from the ends, you need push from the middle.
Something the Fins have relied on from Suh greatly for in the past three seasons.
Now, he’s not there, by their choice.
And the off season process has to be as good, or there will be many more questions this fall, as to why he’s not.
Jon Gruden’s returns to Florida already in coaching turmoil
It may be premature to say that the “second honeymoon” for Jon Gruden with the Oakland Raiders is already over, but another defeat Sunday, and it likely is.
The Raiders are clearly struggling after dropping their second straight game last week in heartbreaking fashion against the Broncos in Denver. Oakland controlled most of the game and Derek Carr was outstanding, completing 23 of his first 24 passes on the day.
However, in the end Case Keenum rallied the Broncos and when Brandon McManus’ last-second field goal went through, the smirking critics of “Chucky” were already “sticking their chests out” about his NFL return.
Without question, some of this is self-inflicted, as Gruden clearly did not want to pay and therefore keep, linebacker Khalil Mack for the Raiders. And yes, they got a bounty of draft picks in return, but Mack has been nothing short of sensational as a pass rusher in two games in Chicago, and the Raiders defense is again mediocre-at-best.
So, that brings us to Sunday. And even though Gruden has been living in the Tampa Bay area while doing Monday Night Football for ESPN, this is the first time that he’s back coaching a game in the state since the final regular-season game of 2008. That day, ironically his Buccaneers lost to the Raiders completing a four-game losing collapse and costing his team a playoff spot-ultimately Gruden his job with the Bucs.
Now, the Raiders have come all the way East to Miami to play the 2 – 0 Dolphins. And while Gruden is in absolutely no jeopardy of losing his job, at least not until year 3 or 4 if it’s not working, owner Mark Davis didn’t make this shockwave multimillion-dollar hire to have the Raiders be one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Clearly, there was going to be some learning curve for Gruden with his new staff and new players. However, with a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback like Carr the belief was the Raiders would be solid, if not a wild card playoff contender.
It hasn’t shaped up that way as of yet.
The good news for Raider fans is: no one is going to outwork Gruden at trying to get it right.
The bad news is: the Raiders may not have enough overall talent to overcome that above-mentioned learning curve and digging themselves an 0-3 hole start 2018.
And the Fins, may be about to deal “Raider Nation” their latest lost Sunday.
Dolphins got contributions everywhere in Sunday win
There were a lot of questions and plenty of reasons to doubt the Dolphins roster makeup, as 2018 was getting underway.
However, two games in, the Fins have been impressive, and earned their way to an unbeaten start. Their latest effort Sunday at The Meadowlands against AFC East rival Jets saw numerous players new and old step up.
Whether it was TJ McDonald’s early interception of New York rookie QB Sam Darnold, or Kenyan Drake weaving through the Jets front seven for the early score a short time later, Miami set the tone.
And then, when Kiko Alonso knocked the ball free from Jets receiver Robby Anderson and Raekwon McMillan recovered it, it was new free agent receiver Albert Wilson capitalizing here:
Can't catch @iThinkIsee12
— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) September 16, 2018
It went for a 29-yard touchdown from QB Ryan Tannehill and Miami had command at that point at 14-0.
Tannehill spread the ball around to seven different receivers, and even found reserve A.J. Derby for a 19 yard touchdown, as the lead ballooned to 20-0 nothing.
Darnold ended with some decent yardage and a couple of second-half touchdowns, but the Dolphins registered four sacks and had three total takeaways to help put this one away.
Even ageless veteran Frank Gore got into the act. This as, the 35 year old moved into fourth place on NFL all-time rushing list trailing only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
And late in the game caught a dump off pass from Tannehill and weaved through the Jet defense to pick up 3rd and 19, move the chains and allow Miami to run the clock out.
So the 2018 Dolphins don’t have Jay Cutler, Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and some of the others from a team that struggled last year.
However, their new faces stepped in and stepped up Sunday on the road.
And Miami is now 2 – 0 for the first time since 2013, and in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
Gameday- Dolphins renew rivalry with Jets in New York
Who: Dolphins (1-0) at Jets (1-0)
Where: Met Life Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Spread: Jets by 2.5 (Courtesy Vegasinsidercom)
Renewal of the Rivalry
There are no longer names like Shula, Namath and Marino, but the storied rivalry of the Dolphins and the Jets is five decades old. As AFC East Rivals since the early 1970’s, these teams and fan bases are familiar with each other for generations. Yes, grandads, dads and in some cases, great granddads have watched these two play. The Jets hold a 54-50-1 record all time, and that includes a decisive win in the Meadowlands last year. The Fins, however, won the rematch (Cutler at the helm) later in the year at Hard Rock Stadium.
Now, they play right away in 2018 and the winner maintains at least a tie for first in the division.
Tannehill looks to build on week one
It was a bizarre game last Sunday in the opener with Tennessee, as there were two lightning delays that lasted more than 3 1/2 hours. So, it’s tough to judge everything completely. However, QB Ryan Tannehill, off his ACL tear last August, was effective for a lot of the game (despite two picks) finishing 20-28 for 230 yards and two TDs. One was a second half 75 yard bomb to WR Kenny Stills as the Dolphins prevailed 27-20.
Will the Jets 3-4 defense be able to rattle him? Will Tannehill handle the pressure and be accurate. It’s not the only key, but a big one for the Fins.
Finally, will the Jets look like they did Monday night?
In a remarkable win on the road on Monday night, rookie Sam Darnold overcame a pick six TD in the first :20 of his NFL career to play effectively in the blowout win over the Lions. Darnold who was 16-21 with two TDs, will have to be solid in this one for the Jets.
The Dolphins pass rush led by Robert Quinn and Cam Wake will try to fluster him and create those bad throws from the USC rookie.
The Jets defense and special teams came up with big plays also against Detroit, as they pulled away in the second half for a 48-17 win. That included an interception and punt return TD in the second half.
Miami will need to keep the Jets from making the big play Sunday.
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