Danny Amendola on how he’s moving forward after the Dolphins’ loss to the New England Patriots
On March 15 the Miami Dolphins surprised everybody, including some within the organization, by deciding to trade for center Daniel Kilgore. It was so controversial even coach Adam Gase had to sleep on it overnight to be sure, because it meant the team had to release Mike Pouncey.
And while that move was still reverberating around the NFL, because it seemed like an obvious downgrade, the Dolphins made another decision in signing Josh Sitton to be their starting left guard.
So in the span of 24 hours the Dolphins basically changed the face of their offensive line.
And the first month of the season has changed the Dolphins offensive line again.
Sitton, 32, played only one game before he tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder and was placed on injured reserve. Kilgore, 30, then tore the triceps in his left arm on Sunday against the New England Patriots and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
And now the offensive line that seemed to be a team strength to start the season is broken.
But that’s not what this is about. This is about the Miami offseason.
(Well, most of the Miami offseason. This isn’t about the draft because that deserves and gets at least a year or two before we start to understand whether it hit or missed.)
A lot of the non-draft decisions the Dolphins made in the offseason to get this team past last season’s 6-10 disappointment haven’t exactly worn well after the first month of the regular season.
And, yes, it is early. So this snapshot look at some of the moves we’re about to discuss could look way different by season’s end.
But today, right now, they’re not all trending in the positive direction the Dolphins expected when the moves were made.
The Sitton move looked good until the Dolphins started playing games. Sitton was a leader. He took Laremy Tunsil on as a project, hoping to upgrade the young offensive tackle’s game even as he improved his own position.
But all that fell apart in the opener against Tennessee. And no one who advocated against signing older players as core free agents was surprised Sitton could not play all 16 games.
The Kilgore move also initially accomplished what it was designed to do, as he practiced practically every day and brought leadership and chemistry to the offensive line room.
The fact he could practice every day was huge for the Dolphins because they feared that Pouncey, who has had chronic hip injuries in the past, would once again be unable to practice much this season even if he stayed healthy -- which itself was no certainty.
Well, Kilgore is gone after four games.
Pouncey, meanwhile, practiced every day in training camp for the Los Angeles Chargers. And he’s started every game. And here’s the gut punch:
Pouncey has practiced every day this regular-season.
He’s not been limited in practice even once.
He’s not missed practice time for a rest day even once.
(Why can’t the Dolphins have nice things?)
Other moves in the offseason ...
The Dolphins traded for Robert Quinn. I liked this trade, although it seemed to me Jason Pierre-Paul might have been a better get, salary cap notwithstanding. But that’s another issue.
Quinn is a starter and has done everything coaches have asked. Except he has only one sack through four games.
He needs to drastically improve that rate of one sack per four games because otherwise he’ll be looking at a four-sack season.
Danny Amendola was signed as a free agent. He leads the team in catches with 13 and is considered a leader in the receivers room. He has zero TDs.
Albert Wilson has caught two touchdown passes and thrown another. Yes, he’s kind of a package type player. He’s not the guy other teams feel like they must stop to win the game.
But I’ll take three touchdowns every four games any time.
So far, this is Miami’s most productive acquisition.
Re-signing Williams Hayes didn’t produce the desired results. He lasted into the third game before blowing out his knee.
It was a freak injury. I get that. But remember, this is an older player who finished last year on injured reserve and is right back there now.
Watching the 33-year-old Hayes get injured while trying to avoid landing on a quarterback, I couldn’t help but wonder if a 27- or 28-year-old would have sustained the same injury.
Regardless, this move ultimately didn’t help.
The Dolphins offseason march of 30-year-olds included running back Frank Gore, who is 35 years old.
And he’s healthy. He’s running hard. He’s also leading the team in rushing, with 35 carries for 139 yards (4.0 average).
All good, right?
No, not all good.
I have the utmost respect for Frank Gore. When the day comes, I will be casting my ballot for him for the Hall of Fame, as I am the South Florida representative to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But I don’t want Gore leading the Dolphins in carries or yards this year. That is not good news.
I want Kenyan Drake to be that guy.
And right now, Drake’s not. He has two fewer carries, 32 fewer yards and is averaging only 3.2 yards per carry. But this isn’t about how the offense is distributed.
This is about not allowing a veteran who is most definitely not the future to become a progress stopper.
Gase has to figure out that Gore deserves respect and can still be a contributor, but Drake must be the man.
Drake has a chance to be dynamic. So Gase must give Drake that chance to be dynamic even if it means using Gore less.
Gore might not love that truth.
But it is the truth nonetheless.
Quick aside: Drake also has to do his part and play better.
There were other moves that have done no harm:
Signing Brock Osweiler. He’s the backup quarterback. No issues so far.
I’m good with trading of Jarvis Landry. I’m fine with the release of Ndamukong Suh because of that contract.
Oh, wait, the offseason coaching staff moves. You didn’t think the coaching staff escapes this, did you?
The Dolphins hired Eric Studesville as the new running back coach and run-game coordinator.
Well, Drake has regressed so far from a year ago when he averaged 4.8 yards a carry. And the Dolphins run game is tied for 25th in the NFL.
The Dolphins moved Clyde Christensen from offensive coordinator to director of football and player development and hired Dowell Loggains as the new offensive coordinator.
And Loggains and Gase, who is the play-caller, have authored an offense that is 30th in the NFL right now. The Miami offense is tied for 26th in the NFL in points, averaging 20.5 points per game.
The Dolphins hired Jeremiah Washburn to become the new offensive line coach. And that line was fine until Sunday when it fell apart against New England’s stunts and disciplined play.
It’s going to be interesting to see what Washburn can do with an unit that has lost two key contributors, especially this week against Geno Atkins and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Dolphins promoted Ben Johnson to wide receivers coach. I have no issues with the wide receivers so far. They seem to run the right routes. They have not had a problem catching the football as last year’s group had to start the season.
The Dolphins named Kris Kocurek their new defensive line coach, replacing Terrell Williams who was let go. And the defensive line that was supposed to terrorize last year and didn’t is supposed to terrorize this year.
And it hasn’t.
The Dolphins are allowing 110.5 rush yards per game, which is 20th in the NFL. And Miami is tied for 29th in the NFL with six sacks.
Meanwhile, has Charles Harris emerged?
Did Jordan Phillips change course and become a motivated guy who played up to potential?
You know the answers.
Tony Oden was named defensive backs coach and Renaldo Hill was hired as the assistant DB coach. And Minkah Fitzpatrick has learned quickly, while Bobby McCain made what seemed to be a solid transition to the boundary corner spot after playing in the slot last year.
The only issues the secondary has had so far is that Cordrea Tankersley has not improved in his second season and the players cannot seem to figure out what to do at the line of scrimmage when facing a bunch set of two or three receivers.
Look, I’m not going to get into the signings of Gavin Escobar and those type of moves because they were expected to change nothing and they met those lowly expectations.
But so far through the first month of the season, it’s fair to say the offseason was not exactly kind to the Dolphins.
Oh, yes, you’re going to say the Dolphins are 3-1 so the offseason was awesome! Well, the 2017 Miami Dolphins were 4-2 at one point but the problems we saw early on manifested into losses later in the year. That’s the point.