Dolphins Mailbag: Contract Years, Stopping Allen, Tua, Eichenberg and More

Answering questions on topics ranging from what Tua Tagovailoa can do to silence critics to whether this can be the best defense in the NFL, to who had the best hands in team history
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From rob hellenbrand (@dolfanrob1):

What prospect in Dolphins history, either drafted or acquired by trade, has given you the most disappointment in comparison to your expectations?

Going off the top of my head, the one who jumps to mind is Cecil Collins. The Dolphins got him in the fifth round of the 1999 draft because of his off-the-field issues at LSU that led him to have to transfer to McNeese State, but I thought he actually would have steered clear of trouble in the NFL after getting a second chance and then I was blown away at training camp by how smooth a runner he was. But that went downhill fast and he didn't even last a year in Miami. Sammie Smith also comes to mind because he really looked the part with his size and speed when he arrived as a first-round pick in 1989.

From Jack Dixon (@jccdixon33):

Is it strategy or luck to always have a few players on prove it deals or contract years? I think we have six or so and is there a correlation in better play in contract year? Fuller wants more $? Ball out!!!

Oh, it's planned that way. And you mention Fuller, but the Dolphins also have Ogbah, Baker and Gesicki in contract years. Of course, the down side of having players on the last year of their contract is the chance they'll want to test the free agent market the following offseason, but there's always the franchise tag to secure that one guy you don't want to lose and by and large players prefer eventually getting an extension with their current team if all things are equal.

From Judd Sanders (@SandersJudd):

RB is still a little bit up in the air this preseason. What are the coaches' expectations for the RB competition and how is it shaking out in the early going after OTAs and minicamp, and are the Dolphins looking to pick anyone else up to compete at RB?

The offseason is never a time to gauge a running back competition because of the nature of the practices, but it's safe to say at this point Myles Gaskin would be atop the depth chart, with newcomer Malcolm Brown likely second and Salvon Ahmed behind them. The fact they put in a waiver claim for Kerryon Johnson (though they lost him to the Eagles) tells you they haven't closed the door on adding a running back, though I probably wouldn't expect a big-name veteran like Todd Gurley or Le"Veon Bell.

From John Fiorino (@jtwin17):

Where do they stand in adding Malik Hooker or Melvin Ingram or any other pieces before training camp begins?

History tells us it's likely they'll sign one or two veterans before the start of training camp in late July, but I wouldn't expect Hooker to be one of them now that the Dolphins picked up veteran Jason McCourty because he's likely to end up playing safety here. As for Ingram, there's no urgency to sign him yet, but I certainly wouldn't dismiss that possibility.

From Cliffy Mac (@mclifford36);

Have they added the right pieces to finally stop Josh Allen this year?

That's a key question for the Dolphins defense because he's given them all sorts of problems since he got into the league, even when he struggled against everybody else as a rookie. The biggest addition toward that goal, from my angle, is Jaelan Phillips because the Dolphins just have to make Allen uncomfortable in the pocket. But beyond that, the Dolphins need their core guys to play better against Allen than they did last year because in that finale at Buffalo there's not one defensive player who didn't struggle in those final three quarters.

From Cody Salazar (@KiD_CoDy8):

Why aren’t people talking about the fact that Miami can have the top defense in the NFL this year? Tua, yes. But I believe our defense is gonna be the story this year.

"The top defense"? Nobody is talking about that because while the Dolphins defense was among the best on third down, in the red zone and at creating turnovers, it was 20th in total yards allowed. The Dolphins were tied for sixth in the NFL in scoring defense, and one of the other five teams at the top ranked worse than seventh in yards allowed. That's why folks aren't talking about the Dolphins having the top defense in the NFL this year. But that's not to suggest they can't get there.

From GPO (@gpon22):

What does Tua have to do, individually and as team leader, this season to shut up MOST of these trolls???? No way to ever shut them all up.....

By "trolls," I assume you mean folks on Twitter? Because those in the media have been overwhelmingly very positive about Tua and his outlook for 2021, even though it's accurately been pointed out that he had some struggles at times as a rookie. And even on social media, I think the reaction has been overall more favorable than critical of Tua. But there always be folks on all sides of every issue or situation. I've never seen anything in terms of personal attacks, though, so if Tua has a big second season, I'd expect the "trolls" to be a lot more positive.

From Ken Dasher (@kdash65):

Is it fair to say that the right tackle position is Eichenberg's job to lose? All the chatter about moving Hunt to RG seems to indicate so.

The simple fact that the Dolphins gave up a third-round pick next year just to move up eight spots in the second round in the 2021 draft to make sure they got Eichenberg tells you he's going to be given every opportunity to win the job. It's just flat out not the kind of move you would make beyond the first round for a player who would need time to develop.

From Nancy (@FingalNancy):

Who is the 3rd year (or longer) player you think will have a breakout year, and why (or how)? If don't want to look at individuals, by position would be interesting also.

There are two players who jumped out at me as I examined the roster for third-year players or longer-tenured, and that's Christian Wilkins and Andrew Van Ginkel. I think AVG could make a big jump just because he was so productive with big plays in limited action last year and I'd expect him to get a lot more playing time. As for Wilkins, I think he's got the ability to become a bigger factor against the run. The thing with him, though, is that because he's an interior defensive lineman in a scheme that uses a lot of 3-4 looks he won't be able to pile up the kind of stats DTs in a 4-3 can.

From aquasandoranges (@aquasandoranges):

In your opinion, which Dolphins receiver had the best pure hands in franchise history?

The three who come to mind immediately are Oronde Gadsden, O.J. McDuffie and Jarvis Landry. And if I have to pick one, I think I'd be inclined to go with Gadsden.