Wrapping up the mailbag dealing with the joint practices and the preseason opener against Tampa Bay:
From Chris (@uhazie):
My two concerns for 2022 are: 1. Defense takes a step back without Flo; 2. Offensive line is still bad enough to hold Miami back. Which of these is more likely to be true?
Hey Chris, if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you probably know that I think the idea of the offensive line “holding Miami back” last season was overplayed (not suggesting the O-line play was good enough, by any stretch). Having said that, I do think the offensive line performance will improve enough to help the Dolphins do some things on offense. Your concern about the defense absolutely has validity because I think we’re being naive if we refuse to believe that Flores’ fingerprints were all over that defense the past three seasons — just like Mike McDaniel’s fingerprints would be all over the offense this season even if he ended up not calling plays.
From Bob Curvelo (@curvelo13):
Was the offense as dominating as being tweeted in the joint practices against Tampa Bay?
Hey Bob, I didn’t see every tweet that was posted from the joint practices, but a lot of those I did see were exaggerating things (shocking, I know!). Those tweets also so often lack context, for example a completion to Jaylen Waddle in a 1-on-1 passing drill where a DB is supposed to be able to cover him when he’s got half the field with which to work (in those drills, it’s news when the pass ISN’T completed). Having said all that, the offense did some good work against Tampa Bay, with some nice completions by Tua and Skylar Thompson (though very little downfield), but there also were several instances (counted seven in one practice) where the play might have been a sack for Tampa Bay in a regular game. So, bottom line, there was good work done, but Twitter as usual exaggerated things (which is somewhat to be expected when the posts are from fans).
From Lloyd Heilbrunn (@LloydHeilbrunn):
As an old-school fan who remembers Troy Vincent's injury, I don't want to see Waddle or Hill on returns. More recently, Preston Williams might have ruined his career returning punts. Thoughts?
Hey Lloyd, I actually don’t remember Troy Vincent’s injury, though I do remember he was a very, very good player who I hated to see the Dolphins allow to leave. Anyway, I agree with your overall point because I’m not a fan of Hill or Waddle or Jevon Holland returning punts for the Dolphins. Those guys are way too valuable on offense and defense to take that risk. Of course, the flip-side argument is that an injury can happen at any time, but if I weigh the chances of a long return versus the risk of an injury on a return, to me I don’t think it’s worth it. Based on his comments, though, it doesn’t look like Mike McDaniel agrees with us.
From Randy Millard (@dolphan013):
Can Skylar Thompson replace Teddy Bridgewater if Miami only keeps 2 QBs?
Hey Randy, this was a frequent question before the game at Tampa Bay and I’m guessing it’s even more on the minds of Dolphins fans after his performance in the preseason opener. But my answer hasn’t changed and it’s still no. Look, we can appreciate what Thompson did against Tampa Bay as much as we want, but the bottom line is that it was a preseason game against a team featuring backups with a vanilla defensive game plan. The regular season is a completely different animal and trusting a rookie seventh-round pick, no matter how promising, to serve as the top backup behind a fragile quarterback isn’t good business IMO.
From Phinaholic (@dana_buice):
Hey my friend, in a previous mailbag you wrote that after seeing Pennington’s first practice you were confident that the Dolphins could make the playoffs. Tua has many of the same strengths & weaknesses as Chad. What did you see in Chad that you still have questions about Tua?
Hey Dana, it’s not quite as simple as Chad vs. Tua because there were other factors at play in 2008, where I just loved all the solid veteran players the Dolphins had acquired in the offseason, and with Tony Sparano as coach and Bill Parcells in the front office, you knew it was going to be a tough, physical team that could win with a capable quarterback, which Pennington most certainly was. I have more question marks with this Dolphins team, though the playoffs certainly are within reach. If you want me to break down Chad vs. Tua, I’ll just tell you there that Pennington was a more proven commodity in 2008 than Tua is heading into the 2022 season.
From Mark Khouri (@Markkhouri7Mark):
Does Skylar have a legitimate shot at making the roster and maybe become the number 2?
See the previous answer regarding becoming the number 2 QB. As for making the roster, I’d say he’s a lot closer now than he was heading into training camp and he certainly made a strong case for himself with that performance at Tampa Bay. I’d call it right now 55-45 he makes the 53-man roster.
From Jason Mitchell (@Mr_Ivorian):
Hi Alain, love your work and thanks for what you do. Two part question 1) who is the best NFL player you have seen play in the flesh and 2) if peak Marino was playing for Miami today, we going to the Super Bowl… right??
Hey Jason, first off thanks very much. Hmm, best player I have ever seen in the flesh … tough one, though I know Dolphins fans want me to say Dan Marino without hesitation. There are a lot of them, to be honest, but it’s pretty hard not to go with Tom Brady. I still can remember him crushing the Dolphins early in the 2003 season with, like, an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime after the Dolphins had a chance to win it on a field goal. I’d have to really think about it to maybe come up with a definitive answer, but for now, yeah, I’d go with Brady. As for the second part of your question, that would seem to be the reflex answer, right? But I’m not sure it’s quite that simple. Remember that peak Marino required a passing offense, which put a lot more stress on the defense than a run-oriented ball-control attack like the Dolphins had with Bob Griese. If you think that’s blasphemous, then consider that the quarterback who put up the biggest passing yardage totals in a season rarely won the Super Bowl. Marino never won a Super Bowl. Dan Fouts never won a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning didn’t win the Super Bowl in 2013 when he put up those crazy numbers in Denver. John Elway didn’t win a Super Bowl while he was slinging it in Denver until after Terrell Davis and the ground game became dominant. And there are plenty more examples.
From Johnny (@BckSeat_QB);
What to do with Noah? Limited options in that they must hope another year of coaching will finally unlock his talent?
Hey Johnny, yeah, this is becoming more a legitimate issue for the Dolphins, even though I thought Noah actually had some good moments early in camp. While I don’t put much stock in the 1-on-1 passing drills (the ones that showed Noah getting beaten in the joint practices in Tampa), it has been a rough go for Igbinoghene in team drills of late. It would be borderline disheartening for the Dolphins to move from Igbinoghene before his third NFL season, so he’ll get every opportunity, but I’m not sure we can consider him a lock to make the roster. Another option if the Dolphins decide he can’t cut it at cornerback is to switch him to, say, safety and see if he can develop at that position.
From David Furones (@DavidFurones_):
How would the 1994 season have ended for the Expos had it not been for the strike?
Esteemed peer David of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel joining the mailbag fun with a good but oh-so-obvious question — World Series, baby! And a repeat in 1995! And a three-peat in 1996!