It’s officially back. No more watching NFL Rewind. From this point forward until February, America will no longer be starved of its most important resource - football.
Even though it’s just preseason, there is still plenty to talk about regarding each team in the league. This week, the Bucs play the Dolphins, so we thought we’d hit up The Phinsider’s managing editor, Kevin Nogle, to get an idea of what to expect from the Dolphins during Thursday night’s game as well as what to expect during the regular season.
1) Adam Gase called himself a name on Monday, drawing laughs from reporters. He was a bit more stiff on Tuesday, however, when asked about the Anthem Policy. What is it like having Gase in charge and do you think he is feeling the pressure after collecting a 16-16 record with an 0-1 playoff record after his first two years as head coach?
No, I don’t think there is any pressure on Adam Gase this year. I know the media likes to talk about the hot seat and how Adam Gase could be in trouble, but last year needs to be completely thrown out the window. No team does well when they lose their starting quarterback in training camp. Even with going to get Jay Cutler, the Dolphins were not going to have a good year. Then add in the craziness of losing their bye week, losing Raekwon McMillan who was supposed to be the starting middle linebacker, Lawrence Timmons going AWOL, the offensive line coach snorting cocaine in his office, and somewhere around 16 key players landing on injured reserve last year, and this year is a fresh start for Gase and the team. They should take a step forward, but even if they stall, I think he is easily back next year.
2) It seems as if every player the Dolphins lost either to free agency or trade (Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh, Mike Pouncey, Julius Thomas) they replaced (Danny Amendola, Frank Gore, Robert Quinn, Albert Wilson, Minkah Fitzpatrick). Which newcomer do you expect to have the biggest impact and which player were you hoping that the Dolphins would retain?
Robert Quinn has been really good in training camp as he returns to a hand-in-the-dirt pass rushing defensive end, so he should have a big impact. Amendola and Wilson will combine to replace Landry, as well as the offense looking to be more well-rounded rather than reliant on a single receiver. Gore will be interesting to watch, because he appears to still be ready to be a lead back, but I think the Dolphins will look to Kenyan Drake for that role. Fitzpatrick needs to have an impact this year, even if it is primarily as a situational player covering tight ends. I think the Dolphins will be using a lot of three safety sets, getting Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, and T.J. McDonald all on the field at the same time, with Fitzpatrick playing all over the place. Of those, I think Quinn and Fitzpatrick probably have the biggest impact.
Of the losses, I was surprised when Landry was traded, but understood it - he simply priced himself out of the Dolphins’ plans. Thomas had to go, he just never became an impact player at a key position. I thought both Suh and Pouncey would be back for another year, then the team moved on from them in 2019, but both moves made sense. Suh is a generational talent, but he just became too expensive for the Dolphins. The highlight of the season for Pouncey was the simple fact that he played 16 games; that is not a great accomplishment for a once great center. He could find that Pro Bowl form again, but I feel like he is a solid center now, not a great one. When Daniel Kilgore became available - that trade was actually made before Pouncey was released, though the reports had Pouncey’s release first - it simply became a cheaper option for what could be similar production.
3) Who are you watching the most on Thursday night? Which rookie(s) do you expect to stand out? Which matchups are you excited for?
The position battles to watch will be the backup quarterback, with David Fales likely in the lead over Brock Osweiler right now, and cornerback. The Dolphins have a player who could become a true shutdown cornerback in Xavien Howard, but they do not have a locked-in second cornerback yet, with Cordrea Tankersley, Tony Lippett, Bobby McCain, and Torry McTyer all showing potential to claim the spot. It is almost a situation where the Dolphins have more talent at the spot than they need, but now one or more of those players have to prove they can meet that potential and stay at that level consistently.
As for a rookie, I want to see Mike Gesicki. I do not think the Dolphins will play Minkah Fitzpatrick much, but I think Gesicki gets playing time to (a) see the speed of the game and (b) get plenty of action as a blocker. He has shown his skill as a receiver already in training camp, especially as a red zone target, but the blocking - which was a known weakness coming out of Penn State - still needs work. This could be a chance to give him extra reps in that role.
I also want to see Kalen Ballage and Jerome Baker. Not a lot has been said/seen from the two rookies so far in camp, so getting to see them on the field, even if it is against the second or third teams, will be something to watch. Ballage should serve as the team’s third running back, behind Drake and Gore, while Baker has coverage ability as a linebacker, but needs to develop his run support and ability to shed blocks for more playing time.
4) Will Gase continue to call the plays this season or will Dowell Loggains take over in that role? Will there be any difference between Loggain’s system and Christensen’s? If so, how do you expect Tannehill’s adjustment to the new system to go?
This is Gase’s offense. He will still be the play caller, and, after having Ryan Tannehill on the sideline with him all year last year, the two of them should be on the same page from day one this year. I think there will be some adjustments to the offense from the last time we saw Tannehill, but I think that will be an evolution of the offense and not a massive revolution. The main things are, I expect more deep passes with the coaches utilizing the speed of Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, and Albert Wilson to their advantage, as well as the spreading of the ball more. I would not be surprised if the leading receptions on the team are somewhere in the 80s, compared to 112 for Landry last year. I also think the coaches will utilize more play action and movement of Tannehill as compared to what we saw last year with Cutler and Matt Moore.
At the end of the day, Loggains was brought in to work with Gase because the two have an outstanding chemistry, and Gase realized he needed to rely more on his coaches this year for game planning and for during the game. He trusts Loggains, and while it forced Christensen out, the fact that the team kept him as the Director of Football and Player Development at least indicated that Gase and the team respected him and want him still around the club.
5) Who emerges as the top receiver on the team or do you expect a healthy share amongst DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills, Jakeem Grant, and Albert Wilson?
I think spreading the ball around will be the top option here, but I expect Kenny Stills to be the top receiver in the group. I hope it is DeVante Parker, because he has such great potential but has been hampered by injuries almost every year, but I think Stills becomes Tannehill’s favorite target.
Be sure to check out thephinsider.com to get all the necessary Dolphins coverage!