If this 2020 draft has taught us anything, it’s that Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is determined to take what he learned in New England and bring it to South Florida. And general manager Chris Grier is going to continue to accommodate this philosophy.
Coming from the Bill Belichick tree, Flores learned the foundations of building an NFL football team:
— Protect your quarterback
— Stop the run first, get to the quarterback second
— Running backs are valuable, but don’t invest highly in them.
That’s exactly what this 2020 draft was all about for the Dolphins.
****NEW**** https://t.co/jTLjtUE3tr Podcast Recapping Day 3 of the NFL Draft and the Dolphins Draft Picks in Rounds 4-7. Plus we talk Matt Breida Trade. All of that and much more! https://t.co/sGVMq2mPut
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 26, 2020
Watching the legendary Tom Brady for many years back in New England, Flores knows all too well the importance of protecting a franchise quarterback, and that’s exactly what the Dolphins planned to do after selecting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Flores and Grier picked the next-best available offensive tackle—USC’s Austin Jackson—to protect their most valuable asset.
The Dolphins then went on to add two more offensive lineman — Louisiana-Lafayette’s Robert Hunt and Georgia’s Solomon Kindley— during Day 2 & 3 of the draft. Both powerful run-blockers with adequate pass protection.
For the last handful of years, Miami has placed near the bottom of the NFL against the run, while Patriots have managed to stay above the top-15 for the better part of the last 10 years (maybe even longer). And although Miami has had players like Cameron Wake and Ndomukong Suh during that time, they have not had the disruptive success on quarterbacks they were hoping for.
Grier and Flores made a point to fix that by Day 2. They followed the formula the Patriots have stood by, find linemen with bigger bodies who are stout against the run, but can also provide adequate pressure on quarterbacks.
In doing so, the Dolphins drafted Alabama’s Raekwon Davis, North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge, and Boise State’s Curtis Weaver.
Davis is a defensive tackle who provides run support. Davis statistical production trickled downward from 2017-2019 at Alabama. He may not load up the stat sheet, but that didn’t stop Flores from thinking highly of the defensive tackle. Flores saw that Davis can hold down the point of attack, occupy double-teams, stuff holes, and provide an opportunity for his teammates to make plays. Flores referred to these as “hidden” stats.
Strowbridge and Weaver are both defensive ends. The Dolphins are in need of defenders on the edge because two of their primary pass rushers— Charles Harris and Taco Charlton— are first-round busts at this point. Strowbridge has experience lining up inside and outside, the ability to hold the edge in run support, as well as pressure the quarterback. Weaver is similar to Strowbridge, but is better at giving pressure than he is in run support. Both ends are good with their hand usage and should provide an immediate contribution on run and passing downs.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) April 26, 2020
When it comes to coverage, the Dolphins appeared to be loaded with defensive backs. They have Byron Jones, Xavien Howard, Bobby McCain, Eric Rowe, impressive youngster Nik Needham… but they decided to stock up even more with Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, and Texas safety Brandon Jones.
Igbinoghene has limited experience as a corner, and needs to be polished up, but demonstrated physicality, run support, and toughness—All of which Flores values. The Dolphins are in love with his physical traits and hope he can grow into a more consistent corner with added experience.
Jones is the type of safety Flores loves. Jones isn’t as much a safety as he is a defensive back who can play all around the secondary. He’s highly intelligent and versatile. He wants to be in the action and plays physical and carries a toughness with him.
If you were pulling your hair out like I was during Day 2 of the draft wondering why the Dolphins continued to pass up running backs in a deep running back class, you’re worries were put to rest on Day 3. The Dolphins traded with the San Fransisco 49ers to acquire running back Matt Breida, and also drafted Navy’s, Malcolm Perry.
Sometimes I forget that Flores is very much sticking to his learning in New England, that I forget that the Dolphins don’t want to do things differently. The Patriots aren’t known to draft running backs highly, if at all. Some of the more successful running backs they have had over the last 10 years have been undrafted, castoffs, or late-round finds like Legarrette Blount, Danny Woodhead, Dion Lewis, and James White.
The reason for this is because the Patriots see running backs as role players more than a fundamental identity of their offense. They are willing to bet a wall of an offensive line will allow a running back with adequate skills to be successful. Both Breida and Perry have a balanced set of skills.
Those two running backs, along with free agency acquisition Jordan Howard, should be able to find running room behind a drastically improved offensive line.
The way the this backfield is shaping out, it mimics the same recipe the Patriots used when they had a trio of running backs: Blount for power, Lewis for balance, and White for passing downs.