Dolphins Mailbag: X, Holland and Waddle

Answering questions from Miami Dolphins fans on various topics such as the Xavien Howard situation, whether the defense will be better, and an early outlook for Jevon Holland
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From jorge boyd (@raga1922):

Hi Alain, I was wondering, does Zach Seiler have the potential to be a very good player for the Dolphins?

That might depend on your definition of "very good player" because I'd say he's already a good player, if not very good. The thing is that his role is more about helping stop the run and occupying blockers than it is making splash plays for the defense. That's usually what happens in 3-4 schemes, where it's awfully difficult for defensive linemen to gain a lot of attention. But Sieler has absolutely been effective for the Dolphins, and the team recognized that when it signed him to a contract extension last year.

From Mark Schoninger (@SchoningerMark):

NFL teams have a $182.5 mil salary cap and a $180 million floor; virtually all the money that can be spent on on player salaries will be spent. Do players ever resent their teammates for taking more than their fair share of that salary pie? If so, how does the resentment manifest?

First off, let's clarify that the $182.5 million salary cap represents the "base" cap and doesn't include other allocations that make the actual cap higher. For example, the Dolphins' 2021 cap is actually around $198 million because of cap space carryover. But the answer to your question is that, sure, there likely are some players not happy if teammates eat up a large chunk of a team's cap, but most understand that it's business and there's no begrudging a player getting as much as he can because that could be them in those shoes at some point. I truly can't recall a player's disproportionately high cap space being manifested in any way that was visible.

From Dan Giunta (@Dan_B_Phin_Phan):

Does Jevon Holland start for the Dolphins this season?

I'm going to assume the question here involves starting the opener because, with injuries, it's probably logical to assume he'll start a game or more at some point. But in terms of being the outright starter from Week 1, I'd be inclined to think the Dolphins would prefer going with somebody with more experience at free safety given that the position involves a lot of communication. My best guess at this time would be that you'll see Jason McCourty starting at free safety against New England in Week 1.

From LeDernierDroit (@DernierDroit):

Is Jaylen Waddle the best Miami receiver even though he hasn’t even played a game yet?

That's a very interesting question based on what he did at Alabama but also his lack of NFL experience. My gut reaction is to say that DeVante Parker would get that title at this point because of his combination of size and playmaking ability on contested passes (and, yes, I understand about the durability issue, but that doesn't factor into who the "best" wide receiver is), but I don't think it's crazy to suggest that Waddle is right up there.

From John Cronce (@ihatejohncronce):

Speculation over Howard's contract/trade situation seems to have ramped up recently, have you heard anything substantial on this front?

I'm not sure Howard's contract/trade situation has ramped up as much as some media outlets are just catching on to an issue that's been reported locally for a while. I mean, it doesn't take great imagination to connect the dots toward a potential problem when you add Howard signing a five-year extension two years ago, getting passed in salary last offseason by Byron Jones, finishing third in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting last year and then changing agents after the season. That Howard has stayed away from the offseason program so far isn't necessarily relevant to this (though it could be) because everything has been voluntary to this point. But while nothing has leaked in terms of discussions, if any, between Howard's new agent and the Dolphins, we're still looking at a potential showdown here and often when a high-profile player is unhappy with his contract situation, the possibility of a trade will come up. It's what's happening in Arizona with Chandler Jones, so it's not surprising that it's been brought up in Miami with Howard as well.

From Matt LaGrone (@cogator06):

Do you think that the defense will be better this year? If so, why? If not, why? I personally think yes. They have added a much-needed edge rusher, strengthened the middle of the defense with the DTs and McKinney, and more quality depth in the defensive backfield.

I would say the defense is better in terms of personnel because I see Phillips, McKinney and Holland as upgrades over Lawson, Van Noy and McCain and there is better depth, though my concern is being able to duplicate the turnover fest we saw in 2020. For example, Howard ended up with 10 interceptions last year, and that hadn't been done in the NFL since 2006, so it's unrealistic to expect that kind of production again. But what the Dolphins have going for them, in addition to the improved personnel, is a good scheme and a good defensive play caller in Josh Boyer, the combination of which confused more than one opponent in 2020.