The best way to gauge what a team will actually look like when it starts playing for real in the NFL is to watch how it performs in its third preseason game.
This is the game in which the starters usually play the most, sometimes into the third quarter, but that may not be the case with the Miami Dolphins, who have a few starters who are well, just getting started.
Center Mike Pouncey and right tackle Ja’Wuan James are in that group. Both are expected to take their first snaps tonight and when quarterback Jay Cutler takes the field, he’ll do so with just 12 snaps under his belt.
This then may not be the best of gauges to determine just how the Dolphins will actually look when they kick off the regular season against the Bucs on Sept. 10 but it will still be a good one.
With that in mind, here’s a look at three areas of play that are worth monitoring as the Dolphins move a step closer to opening day.
Cutler played only 12 snaps in his Dolphins debut last week, completing 3-of-6 passes for 24 yards. He should play a lot more tonight, in part because he needs to. Cutler has only been with the Dolphins for 19 days and he’s trying to play catch up after missing all of the offseason workout program and the first week or so of training camp. Cutler is coming off a busy week in which he got a lot of work against the Eagles in joint workouts but neither those workouts nor that brief stint he had a week ago against the Ravens offered enough of a look at Cutler to determine whether he can truly be the savior he was brought in to be. This game should reveal a lot more about what Cutler has left and whether leaning on him was the best choice for the Dolphins.
The offensive line
Pouncey and James are both expected to start tonight and with the Dolphins seemingly leaning toward making Jesse Davis their starting left guard, this will be the first time Cutler has played behind the line that’s now projected to protect him when the season opens. The biggest fear, of course, is that Pouncey (hip) and James (shoulder) will prove they still haven’t recovered enough from their injuries to play at a high level while Davis proves he’s not ready to be a starter. The Dolphins desperately need this unit to come together in a hurry so Gase will want to see them work as long as possible but the fact Pouncey and James are taking their first snaps of the preseason may prohibit them from playing for an extended period.
The loss of middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan forced the Dolphins to pull former Bengals starter Rey Maualuga off the street, but Maualuga isn’t ready to play just yet. That has given Mike Hull a chance to prove he’s worthy of a starter’s role, and he got off to a good start in that venture when he produced five tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass breakup last week against the Ravens. The Dolphins largely revamped their linebacking corps after signing Lawrence Timmons in the spring so there’s an opportunity here for Hull to earn a spot but he’ll have to keep putting good performances together to do it. The chance for Hull to prove he’s more than just a special teams regular is at hand. Let’s see what he does with it.
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.