Day 1 Training Camp Preview: Offense
Last Year Ranks (Ranking out of 32 teams):
YPG: 310.0 (27th)
Passing: 237.8 (12th)
Rushing: 72.3 (32nd)
3rd Down %: 34.30% (28th)
In Part 1 of our 4 part training camp preview, we focus on the Offense (Skill position players, Offensive Line will be in Part 2). We are using Pro Football Focus Grades again as we did in 2019, and they will be (in parentheses).
Ryan Fitzpatrick (76.5)
Josh Rosen (46.0)
Tua Tagovailoa (R)
This Season is going to be very interesting when it comes to the Quarterback position. The Dolphins fired Chad O’Shea and immediately hired former Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey brings in an RPO style offense that suits the style of Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. With the shortened offseason, expect ALL QBs to get a ton of work once camp opens.
In 2019, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a typical Ryan Fitzpatrick season, notching 62% competition percentage, 20 TDs, and 13 INT, while racking up 3,500+ yards passing. What he did show, was he could lead a young group of men into battle every week and make every play interesting.
The expectation heading into camp is that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the guy heading into the 2020 campaign. With a shortened offseason and only training camp to go from, it makes a lot of sense.
For what I mentioned about Ryan Fitzpatrick, the same cannot be said to the incumbent number 2 QB in Josh Rosen. There were high expectations last year when the Dolphins sent a 2nd and 5th round pick to Arizona for Rosen. Rosen played well in the pre-season, leading to many, including myself, pounding the table for him to start week 1. Rosen got his chance in week 3 against Dallas. But it was in the Washington game we found out why Brian Flores was hesitant to play him. He struggled to complete passes, admitted he could not identify a MIKE LB, and make pre-snap adjustments. That led to him heading back to the bench. Rosen could be traded during the pre-season, although there is no smoke to that fire, yet.
Did you think I would forget a QB? The Dolphins landed the guy they were rumored to covet for over 2 years. Tua Tagovailoa was taken 5th overall by the Miami Dolphins. His hip injuries removed his chance to be the number 1 overall pick, but things worked out well for Miami. Tua brings high-level football IQ and leadership that Brian Flores covets. With the lack of a full offseason, Tua will continue to rehab at team facilities and hopes to be on the field for first live practice in July.
Camp Battle: Without a doubt, this will be between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa. While it makes sense to have Ryan Fitzpatrick start the season, it is still not a sure thing. Once Tua was cleared by the team medical staff, he now heads into camp going after the starting job. If I was a betting man (which I am), I would say Tua will win the job and start week 1. But as always, Brian Flores and the staff will likely feel more comfortable with Fitzpatrick under center, while the new OL gels together. But this will be a thrill to read about as camp goes on this summer.
Jordan Howard (69.0)
Matt Breida (68.3)
Kalen Ballage (58.2)
Patrick Laird (52.4)
Myles Gaskin (57.4)
Malcolm Perry (R)
Chandler Cox (FB) (47.3)
The Dolphins were absolutely pitiful last year running the football, for the simple fact that then 37 year old Ryan Fitzpatrick, was the teams’ leading rusher with 243 yards, 5 TDs. The team knew they had to hit the rest button at the position, especially with incumbent #1 running back, Kalen Ballage, averaging a poletry 1.8 yards per carry last season.
Insert Jordan Howard. Howard’s career got off to a great start in Chicago, but fell out of favor with a new coaching regime. He was productive in Philly, who for some reason did not want him and came to Miami on a 2 yr, 10M dollar deal. Howard is not going to wow you with speed, but he is a great running in between the tackles.
Speaking of speed, the Dolphins passed on getting a player in the 2020 draft at running back, they did trade a 5th round pick to San Francisco for Matt Breida. Breida has been in a platoon of backs since he has entered the league. He is coming into a contract year as well as splitting time with Jordan Howard. Breida has averaged 5 yard per carry in his career and can blow the top off a defense in the open field. It was the 1-2 punch Miami has dreamed about since Ajayi/Drake (although that did not really pan out).
For Kalen Ballage, this is the end of the line in his young career. He did not see much work in 2018, albeit a few nice plays here and there. Last year, he was given the reigns as the top running back on the roster. Yes, I know the offensive line was beyond putrid. He did not get much help there. But he just seemed slow, did not see much of his breakaway speed or able to shed tacklers. He will be in a fight to stay on the roster in 2020. Ballage is also coming off a season ending injury. Patrick Laird is an intriguing prospect but struggled as much as Ballage behind the OL last season. He averaged 2.7 yards per carry and had 23 receptions. Myles Gaskin is no different from the previous. Gaskin also suffered a season 8Perry. The Dolphins selected Malcom Perry in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL draft. Not only did they select him, but they stole him right from Bill Bellichick. Perry could be used in many different packages, lining up at QB, RB or even WR, in which he played these positions at some point in his career at Navy.
Chandler Cox is the lone FB on the roster. While he only had 8% usage rate, which is very low, he may be needed going forward to help bolster the running game. He showed flashes in college as a decent receiver out of the back field.
Camp Battle: Howard and Breida are cemented as 1/2 on this roster. The battle is going to be between Ballage, Laird, Gaskin and Perry. While this isn’t exactly something to be on the edge of your seat for, this is going to be a fun battle. The coaching staff seems to like Ballage enough to keep him around, but the emergence of Gaskin/Laird/Perry could push Ballage down the depth chart or off it all together. While I am intrigued by Perry, I believe he does have the longest shot to make the roster. In a shortened offseason and no preseason, Perry will need to show his “Julian Edelman” worth to keep around.
DeVante Parker (79.2)
Albert Wilson (58.3)
Jakeem Grant (62.1)
Allen Hurns (57.0)
Preston Williams (67.7)
Isaiah Ford (68.9)
Gary Jennings Jr (60.0)
Mack Hollins (49.5)
Kirk Merritt (R)
Matt Cole (N/A)
This is arguably the best position group on the roster, in terms of talent. A lot of injury concerns here for the Dolphins going into 2020, but if all stay healthy, this group can do some damage. It of course starts at the top with Devante Parker. Parker had a breakout season and finally showed he can stay healthy, as well as make big plays.
Parker had a career year and he looks to make well on his new contract extension. Many believe his 2019 was a fluke, but time will tell. The Dolphins also decided to retain the services of Albert Wilson. Wilson was coming off a bad hip injury from the 2018 season, where he was on pace to have a career year. It took Wilson some time, but he became very reliable. He re-negotiated his contract with the team and he is back. While he isn’t a lock, Wilson is fantastic in the slot. He has a catch percentage of 65.4% for his career, and 71.1% while in Miami. Once his hip healed and the WR corp was on IR, he took advantage of his opportunity. If pre-injury Albert Wilson is back, the Dolphins will have a security blanket for whoever is under center.
Jakeem Grant has hit the injury bug recently as well. Grant has not seen the field much but can be electric when given the chance. Grant’s best chance of making this team in 2020 is to continue to showcase what he does best with the football in his hand.
After a vicious hit in the Cowboys game, Allen Hurns became a reliable player down the stretch as well for Miami. Finishing with 32 receptions and 416 yards, he will have an upper hand heading into camp. The oldest player in the WR room, Hurns will have his experience to potentially get him on to the roster, although he will have some tough competition. The same can be said about Isaiah Ford. Ford has bounced on and off the roster the last few seasons. He had a strong finish and became a favorite of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ford finished with 23 receptions, with 12 receptions in the final 2 games.
After going undrafted, Preston Williams certainly became a fan favorite quickly. Videos of him making crazy grabs, going one on one with Xavien Howard, who gave him high praise after many practices last year. Williams was on track for near 1000-yard season, until a torn ACL on a punt return ended his season in week 8. Williams is on track to be ready for opening day, if there are no setbacks. He is a virtual lock to make this roster. Gary Jennings Jr came over from Seattle after he was waived there. The rookie and former 4th round pick made his way to Miami, where he ended up going on injured reserve 2 weeks after arrival. He looks good in the videos posted by Omar Kelly, and he will be fighting for the 5/6 receiver spot. I personally liked him out of West Virginia in the 2019 draft. Mack Hollins and Matt Cole all may fight for roster spots but may play special teams. Mack Hollins has the best chance of this small group.
The real wild card here going into camp is UDFA Kirk Merritt. Merritt, like Preston Williams in 2019, fell off teams’ boards after a very productive time in college. The former 4-star wideout transferred from Oregon and found himself at Arkansas St, where he finished his career with over 1800 yards receiving and 19 touchdowns. Merritt will have to showcase everything he has in practice and team scrimmages, as the loss of preseason games hurts him quite a bit.
Camp Battle: The camp battle here will be for the 5th and 6th WR slots. I firmly believe that Gailey will want to have as many WR’s available for him to use. Parker, Williams, Wilson, and I would say Jakeem Grant are locks to make the team, barring any injury. That leaves 2 open spots. This could come down to Ford, Jennings, Hurns, and Merritt. Jennings, Ford, and Merritt are eligible for the practice squad, however, any could be scooped up by another team at any point. I cannot see the Dolphins protecting all 3 guys on the practice squad, so I am going to keep my eyes on this battle as it happens. Don’t be surprised at Merritt and Ford taking those spots.
Mike Gesicki (60.5)
Durham Smythe (52.7)
Adam Shaheen (61.2)
Michael Roberts (N/A)
Chris Myarick (N/A)
Bryce Sterk (N/A)
This group gives little to desire. Outside of the emergence of 2nd-year standout Mike Gesicki, there isn’t another proven pass catcher in this group.
Gesicki had a tough rookie season, used in the wrong packages as well as being kept at the LOS as a blocker, which isn’t the best way to use him. That all changed in 2019, where Gesicki was used 65% of all offensive snaps, which was light years ahead of 2018 where he was used only 44% of the time. Finishing the season with 570 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also having 0 drops for his career. He is essentially a 5th WR on this team, and he is only going to get better in the spread offense.
Durham Smythe is not used often as a receiving TE. He is much better as an H-back or hand in the dirt style TE. He has average blocking grades from PFF. With his lack of use as a receiving TE, it may be tough for Smythe to make this roster, but he still has a better chance than most with the lack of depth here.
As I was editing this article, the Dolphins just traded for 2017 2nd round pick Adam Shaheen from Chicago. After being a high draft selection, things just didn’t work out for Shaheen in Chicago. He has 26 career receptions and 4 touchdowns. The Dolphins moving a 2021 6th round pick for him is all but making him the #2 or #3 TE on this roster.
Chris Myarick and Bryce Sterk have the change to crack the roster, but as like everyone else, they have an uphill battle.
Camp Battle: None. Gesicki is the lead guy and after that is a bunch of unknowns. Do not be surprised to see the Dolphins go and find a TE on the waiver wire or a possible free agent like Delanie Walker or Jordan Reed for a veteran presence. (Edit: They traded for Shaheen instead). Shaheen vs Smythe will be the real battle for the #2 spot behind Mike Gesicki on the depth chart.
Thank you for checking out Part 1 of our 4 part series leading up to training camp. Stick around for part 2 with the offensive line and special teams. Be sure to follow me on twitter @DolphinsTalkTom.