I inexplicably took a week off from blogging. Let’s come back with a follower favorite: football!
Prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, many NFL fans, whether insightful or not, were picking the Miami Dolphins to be the worst team in 2019. They let go of a large chunk of players, including notable names like Danny Amendola, Robert Quinn, Andre Branch, Frank Gore, and longtime star Cameron Wake. In return, they’ve signed notable fringe players and little more. Their quarterback situation consisted of two players who have zero starts between them and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has only been good in completely random streaks. Many predicted they were “Tanking for Tua” (referring to Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa), referring to securing the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft in order to obtain the rights to sign him.
Then, the 2019 NFL Draft happened. The Arizona Cardinals took quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. And on the second day, the Cardinals traded former first-round pick (the previous year!) Josh Rosen to the Dolphins, giving them a fighting chance at the quarterback position. With that said, are they still the NFL’s doormat going into the 2019 season? Let’s look at the details.
Who would the Dolphins’ competition be for worst team in the NFL going into 2019? Many could argue for a number of teams that seem to always be snakebit by random forces or those who seem to have made bad choices in the 2019 offseason, but for me, I think there are only a few possibilities at this current time.
The first is the team that traded Rosen in the first place: The Arizona Cardinals. With Rosen off the team, they now have Kyler Murray to fall back on immediately, as I doubt Brett Hundley or Derek Anderson will have the starting reins for all that long. As a rookie in this league, and one that has been picked by a team that posted the worst record in 2018, it’s fair to be pessimistic about the team’s chances. Still, it’s entirely possible that Murray will be so good that he transcends the team’s potential. Probably not, but it’s possible.
The second are the Oakland Raiders, a team that went 1-8 in 2018 upon the return of Jon Gruden as head coach, before finishing with a 4-12 record. Despite three first-round picks and a bounty of other picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, I still don’t think the Raiders will do well under Jon Gruden. Nice as it is to finish 3-4 after starting 1-8, I think that putrid start was indicative of something bigger—a culture of sorts, if you will. One could argue that the trading of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper sent the franchise back however many years, but I think it’ll continue to hang over Gruden’s head for a long while, which could affect the morale of the team.
The third is the San Francisco 49ers, who seem to always underachieve under head coach Kyle Shanahan. One can blame the quarterback situation all they want, but I think it’s more than that. Shanahan has shown me the potential to be a great coach, it’s just that he struggles to bring it all together. He managed to do some good things with some no-name commodity in Nick Mullens, which shows he isn’t a terrible coach. I only believe that there’s something that will always hold the team back, whatever it may be. A lack of talent, shoddy coaching, whatever it is, I don’t see the 49ers going far in 2019.
The fourth are the Denver Broncos. General Manager John Elway has sung this tune before: sign a quarterback from another team to ride the ship and then develop a quarterback from the draft as a security blanket. Since Peyton Manning, who was a near-guarantee to be successful, the quarterbacks for Denver have been above-average at best, and horrid lately. Joe Flacco is not the savior in Denver, and Drew Lock is just another name in a list of quarterback names that the Broncos have drafted since Manning’s retirement. Will he be any different? History says no.
Finally, we have the Washington Redskins, who also drafted a quarterback in the first round while also trading for Denver’s 2018 starter in Case Keenum. Their current starting quarterback, Alex Smith, will likely be out for the entire 2019 season with a horrible leg injury. With Smith, the Redskins were 6-4. Without him, they were 1-5. Alex Smith still isn’t with them, so I can only assume based on pure statistics that they will go 3-13. Unless Dwayne Haskins, Colt McCoy, or Case Keenum can suddenly become Aaron Rodgers, I don’t see this team doing much.
Then we come to the roster for the Miami Dolphins (at this time; could change down the road). Looking for starpower on the roster, or any player that makes me think of anything other than “He’s decent” is hard to come by. There are some players I’ve seen flash some talent, such as Kenyon Drake, Kiko Alonso, Reshad Jones, and Xavien Howard, that give me some optimism for this team’s chances, especially on defense. However, the roster is still fairly thin, full of solid options at starters, but no one who’s going to imitate the best in the league, except perhaps Howard.
On top of this, Miami has a new head coach at the helm, one who didn’t even have an official title in his last season as a coach with the New England Patriots. Many praised the hire of Brian Flores as a good one, though the fact of the matter is that he has no head coaching experience and that typically doesn’t bode well for the first year. Many first-year head coaches don’t find a lot of success, and if they find success in the regular season, they almost never make it past the first round of the playoffs, at least from what I’ve experienced.
The most obvious, as well as prominent, feature of this post is Josh Rosen himself and whether his skills as a quarterback will elevate the Dolphins team. Taking into account his stats at face value, this is an obvious “no” situation, though one has to take into consideration the team that he was playing for. Many cite that Rosen played behind a very bad offensive line, as well as a pretty putrid offense altogether that featured Larry Fitzgerald and pretty much no one else (Christian Kirk had a decent rookie year). And while the Cardinals went 3-13 in 2018, they won those three games with Rosen starting, while three additional games were started by Sam Bradford, who was released mid-season because he was that bad.
The Dolphins’ offensive line in 2018 allowed 52 sacks in total, so Rosen isn’t exactly getting an upgrade in that department. The same line, however, did a pretty respectable job in the running game, allowing for over 1,500 yards altogether and about a 4.5 YPC average among runners. Of course, this didn’t stop the Dolphins from using three of their recent draft picks on offensive linemen, which is always a smart move. This is only to show that the Dolphins aren’t exactly a solid fixture of offensive line prowess in the NFL, so Rosen may end up on his back as often as he was in Arizona.
He will have some more weapons to his name, though. DeVante Parker, for as strange as his 2018 season was, is a former first-round pick and has shown flashes of brilliance. Along with him are Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, who have shown to be reliable weapons down the stretch, at least in adequate portions. The real issue is that the Dolphins don’t have a Larry Fitzgerald-type number-one receiver. Rosen may have to simply spread out the ball to whoever happens to get open, assuming they get open, as I find it difficult to believe any passing option will create separation from ability alone, especially with top corners. Perhaps get creative with Kenyon Drake and have him as a feature back in both the running and passing game… then again, they also tried that with David Johnson in Arizona.
If I had to pass the ball to one team I thought would be the worst in the league for next year, with the likes of J.J. Watt and Von Miller burying down on me in an instant, I would probably go ahead and clumsily toss it back to the Arizona Cardinals. It may be pessimistic, but I don’t think the Cardinals really improved with the state of their roster after free agency or the NFL Draft. I’m also somewhat hesitant to get on the Kyler Murray hype train, either, as Johnny Manziel kind of ruined any hope for smaller, multi-faceted quarterbacks coming out of big schools with great players. On top of hiring a first-time head coach (in the NFL) with a losing record in college, I think the Cardinals are going to be worse before they get better. Well, hard to be worse than 3-13, but anything’s possible. I don’t think the Dolphins will be the worst team in 2019, but with all the evidence, they’ll likely have a losing record.
What do you think of Josh Rosen in Miami? Does he make the team better? Will he even beat out FitzMagic for the starting quarterback job?
Thank you for your time. Have a great day.