Isaiah Ford

Last week we talked about the offseason improvement of the defense. Let’s take a look at what Miami did on Offense.

Wide Receivers
Just as the Dolphins have improved overall on Defense, the results on the offensive side of the ball are more dramatic. We definitely lost some big names in Jarvis Landry and Mike Pouncey. With Landry, his monetary demands were just too rich for an already cash strapped team. Some reports have him demanding almost 55 million in guaranteed money. So, in the end he is gone and what left with him is an outstanding football player. Surehanded as one of the game’s premier pass catchers with an uncanny ability to turn upfield and get yards after the catch. Landry looks like a running back with the ball in his hands and can take a short catch into a big play with effort alone he makes look natural and effortless. He is definitely going to be missed and despite recent reports of a lack of relationship with Ryan Tannehill, Ryan will miss him too. Sometimes his emotional style of play has cost the team and his outbursts acted as a distraction. Small potatoes compared to his play. Just too expensive for us.  Landry leaves us as the 19thranked receiver by Pro Football Focus in a season that saw him catch 112 balls. 
With the salary saved on Jarvis, Miami took the two for one approach and picked up perennial performer Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson, the juggernaut from Kansas City. With Amendola we are getting a consummate professional. He is as close to being surehanded as Landry as one can get. He has a knack for coming up with big plays are the right time but lacks big play ability if that makes any sense. Jarvis could take a two-yard pass and make it a 25 yard gain where Danny Playoffs lacks the running ability after the catch. If Amendola can stay healthy (which has been really his only other knock) I think he will do his share of making up for Landry’s production. His professionalism has also been said to be contagious as he helps in establishing the culture Gase has so desired in the locker room. Other receivers on the team are watching him to see exactly how to do things right. 

Albert Wilson

Albert Wilson on the other hand has all the big play ability in the world. He is one of the fastest players in the league and can clearly be a home run hitter for Gase’s offense. In recent OTA’s he was playing all of the positions and is said to be a versatile receiver whom can stay on the field during our no huddle and move fluidly between the slot and both outside spots.  He is a burner and an internal debate has sprung up about whom is the quickest of the wide receiver core. Wilson offered to settle the debate with an old fashion show down on the field. We will have to wait and see if that happens. The combination of Amendola and Wilson are definitely going to soften the blow of losing Landry. But to show how important he was, it takes two receivers to replace him. 

We are bringing back Kenny Stills, one of the biggest leaders on our team both on and off the field, Devante Parker, whom needs to step up and show that be can be the consistent big play receiver that we need and have lacked for so long. Jakeem Grant also returns however I expect his touches to be limited this year with the additions of both Amendola and Wilson. I love the kid though. Tough as nails, quick as lighting and just like Parker, has to become a bit more consistent. 
There will be one open Wide Receiver slot on the 53-man roster and Leonte Caroo, Rashawn Scott and Isaiah Ford will be fighting for it. I undoubtedly expect Ford to win that competition. Has anyone seen the size that he has gained since last off season? I watched one of his interviews after OTA and the kid turned into a man. Coming out of Virginia Tech he was touted as a Shawn Breaston type receiver. He does not have great end speed but runs amazing routes and has more than serviceable hands.  I not only expect to make the roster but to steal some playing time from some of the other receivers. One more side note, he too rehabbed with Tannehill and McMillan. Another young player working alongside a veteran QB whom heard all the chatter about getting replaced all off season. I am going to get into that when we talk about the QB position but think about what Isaiah Ford learned from that experience. I would not be surprised if he took Parker’s role in the offense if Devante fails to show up and be consistent. 
Make no mistake about it, losing Jarvis to the all mighty dollar is definitely going to sting, but with our new additions of Amendola and Wilson, the return of Stills, Parker and Grant and what I expect to be the emergence if Isiah Ford, I think that the Wide Receiver position definitely improved over the off season. While Jarvis came in ranked 19thby Pro Football Focus, Amendola and Wilson come in at 25 and 33 respectively.  If you can’t get behind this unit improving can we say it was an even match?
Josh SItton

Offensive Line – Again a big name was lost, however as big as Mike Pouncey’s name was, his play did not match his allure. 2017 was the only year that Big Mike played all 16 games over the past few years as he has been bothered by a hip injury. When Pouncey was on the field, the dolphins excelled in both the running and the passing game, however in granting his release, the Fins saved about 7 Million in cap space for the upcoming year. Pouncey ended 2017 as the 25thranked center. 
A bit of luck struck the Dolphins when the San Francisco 49ers signed Free Agent Weston Richburg from the Giants. How is this lucky for Miami? Well, San Fran had signed their then current center, Daniel Kilgore, to a very cap and team friendly 3-year contract in early 2018. The signing of Weston feed up Kilgore and his friendly contract to be traded to Miami for a late round draft pick. He has consistently improved over the years and came in graded for 2017 as the 23rdranked center from Pro Football Focus. The name may not be sexy but from a performance level, he is matched if not slightly better than Pouncey and his reasonable contract makes this an improvement at center for the Dolphins.
Our biggest acquisition on the offensive line this year was the acquisition of Josh Sitton from the Chicago Bears in Free Agency. Sitton comes in as the 5thranked guard from Pro Football Focus and will be an immediate upgrade at the guard position that Miami has struggled so much to fill. He ranks higher in the running game than the passing game, but his presence alone should make Kilgore’s job a little easier at center. I think Sitton will be one of the leaders of the team this year and was one of Miami’s best offseason moves. This also makes this unit deep. Jesse Davis is expected to start at the other guard this year and they will be backed up primarily by Isaac Asiata and Ted Larsen. Larsen is a steady veteran performer who can also plug in at center. Asiata needs to show Miami why they invested a 5thround draft pick in him. He surely has the strength and size to be a full-time starter in Miami, he just has to put it all together. It will be interesting see if he pushes for a longer look during training camp. Another offseason upgrade for Miami at the guard position. 
This leaves us with the bookends of the offensive line, the tackles. No real changes came from last year as we will again start Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil. Both had less than spectacular years last year and both hope to improve upon that performance. I cannot imagine either of them digressing and in fact, the play if Kilgore and Sitton might even lift them up. I can call our tackle position as neither better nor worse than last season but am hopeful we will see some improvement. Over all, as a unit, Miami got better. Signing Sitton alone did this, but also adding a better center at to a team friendly contract makes the case much stronger. 
Mike Gesicki

Tight Ends – This is one unit that time will only tell with. Miami released Julius Thomas after a very forgettable 2017 campaign and let Anthony Fasano walk in free agency. I wish we saw more of Fasano as he was fairly sure handed, a tough blocker and a great locker room presence. 
To fill the void the Dolphins used picks in both the 2ndand 4rth round to draft Mike Gesicki out of Penn State and Durham Smythe out of Notre Dame. Both are high character guys, with Gesicki being a receiving tight end and Smythe more of a blocker. It’s hard to gauge a player on potential but both showed the signs of why Miami drafted them during their college careers. Early reports out of OTA’s said Gesicki struggled but I would not be too concerned at all. Once he is brought up to speed, it will just be playing football again for him, which he does very well. I expect Smythe to see equal playing time and believe he will be a shock to everyone as he is game is more complete than people want to believe. Expect him to score a few red zone TDs this year. 
We are also brining back MarQueis Gray, AJ Derby and Thomas Duarte. I expect Duarte to be released along with free agent pick up Gavin Escobar, unless either can find a home on special teams. Gray has been a bit of an enigma performance wise and Derby impressed at the OTA’s. He could push for some serious reps and will provide great depth to this unit. The poor 2017 performance of Julius Thomas makes it easy for any offseason Miami move to count as a win.  Drafting two tight ends in the first 4 rounds, for an Adam Gase offense that loves tight ends, makes it a major improvement in my opinion. Yet another offseason improvement for Miami. 
Running Backs– Technically, we traded Jay Ajayi mid-season in 2017, so his loss has already been absorbed by team. When he was on he was on and when he was off he was off. I loved his hardnosed style of play. He ranked in at Pro Football Focus as the 14thranked running back. As much as I loved his style, he would deviate from the way play was supposed to be run and offered little in pass protection. Sad to say his knee is a ticking time bomb as well. I wish him all the health in the world, but I am sure that was also a factor in his trade.  He will definitely be missed when we are trying to grind out the clock in a tight possession style game.
Kenyan Drake and his emergence over the final games of the 2017 season makes the running back position at this point, without any other additions,  an even par.  His star shone bright as he averaged 4.8 yards per run in 2017 and reeled in another 32 catches. He is a much more complete back than Ajayi and has the Nick Saban Alabama pedigree, so you know he is a true professional. He is a three down back whom should catch over 75 balls is if he is on the field most of the time. He also has breakaway speed and can be a home run hitter at any time.  I expect him to only grow as a player and improve upon last year’s performance where he came in ranked as the 18thrunning back by Pro Football Focus. I would bet he comes in ranked higher than Ajayi this year. 
Miami also brought the prodigal son home by signing University of Miami legend, Frank Gore. Gore is coming off one of the better years of his career coming in as the 17thranked running back by Pro Football Focus. All of that playing with an Indianapolis Colts team that could not find an identity. With no real passing game to lean on, Gore was a main key for opposing defensives. He has already served as a mentor to Drake and any other player that wants to learn, as he shows them all what it takes to take care of your mind, body and soul to have longevity in the league.  If he can make it the year at an average level, average for Frank Gore that is, he was a great pick up. If he can match last year’s performance, it was brilliant. 
Rounding out the running back group is Kalen Ballage, our surprise 4rth round pick out of Arizona. He is known for his 8 TD performance vs. Texas Tech. He is a physical freak with his size, speed, power and ability to catch and run good routes out of the backfield. Think Ronnie Brown mold. The question is in reaching his max potential. He was never the clear-cut starter at Arizona and it is said that he never just straight up took the job from the competition. If the Miami staff can get the best out of him he is going to be a beast. That is a big if considering we let dependable Damien Williams walk in Free Agency. The one-year deal for Gore makes is a little more palatable and allows Miami to show some patience with Ballage and I trust Gore will serve again as a great mentor. I think clearly this unit has improved as well during this offseason and the addition of Ballage, if he can live up to the hype, gives us a 1-2 punch for years to come. 

David Fales

Quarterback– Last and certainly not least, we have the quarterback position. Jay Cutler was plain awful to watch. I could not understand in a million years why Miami would have signed him. Ten million dollars could have been used much more wisely and he as absolutely awful on the field. It took him the first 4 weeks to get into football shape. He was constantly throwing off his back foot and would kill plays at the slightest sign of pressure. My 1-year old god son would be an upgrade over this guy. 
No we didn’t trade up and draft a quarterback. Some were disappointed. I was not. I think Ryan Tannehill is going to silence all of his critics this year. And when I mean silence them I mean it in the most assertive way possible. Think about it. He injures his ACL for the second time in two years and the reaction is to bring in Gase’s ex-girlfriend who wont go away, on a ten million dollar deal. Everyone knows that if that would have worked out, Cutler may still be here, eating up more cap space. Tannehill knew it. His reaction was to stay around the team, sit in every meeting, be part of every game plan and support Miami every Sunday on the field, whether we were home or away. Maturity. Professional.  Those mental reps are priceless. Now he has a better grasp, not only what he is supposed to be doing but more importantly, why. This should translate into faster smarter decisions on the field, but also much more effective leadership, which already has been noted. If you want to look at his most recent performance, he was 7-1 in his last 8 games at the helm, and I am pretty confident Miami would have at least competed in the Pittsburgh wild card game had he played. It does not take much to improve over Jay Cutler’s 2017 performance. But I am straight excited over Tannehill. Maybe I am putting too much into it, but I think him sitting out a year but staying highly engaged is going to be the difference. And a big one. He clearly has the physical tools and the rest will now follow. Yet another off-season improvement for Miami. 
I love Matt Moore. He just didn’t get it done when he had the opportunities. David Fales should win the backup job and be more than ready if his number is called upon.  
How in a million years would  Sports Illustrated think we would be 3 games worse than last year? We lost a lot, both in name and production, but what the team did to offset these losses, makes Miami a better team immediately and in the future as we have more cap space, flexibility and a minor youth movement. If you look at our offseason losses, they were big names, with big prices and yet, none of them were leaders. I get where Miami is coming from when they said they need a culture change in the locker room and they took great strides to make that happen. Dolfans should be excited about this coming season, as the off season was not as dreary as the media has made out to be at all. It was quite the opposite with improvements almost all the way across the board. 
Disagree? Let me know why in the comments.