Sunday Dolphins Mailbag: Wilkins, AVG, Tua, and More

What is the best team in franchise history? Will the tight end ever be a factor in the passing game? Tackling those and other Miami Dolphins questions

Part 2 of the Super Bowl weekend #AllDolphins mailbag:

From Jesse DeLong (@jessemdelong):

Hi, Alain. Thanks for the insights. I was wondering if you know if teams scout referees, and their tendencies, and implement that report at all (though it would be minor) into game plans. Thanks!

Hey Jesse, given how thorough every team’s preparations for game day are, there’s little chance they don’t go over the referees working their games and their tendencies, passing on to the players specific things the crew might particularly scrutinize. Can’t imagine, though, that goes all the way to the game plan.

From 24QBsandCounting (@BsandQ):

With free agency looming, you can sign any one pending free agent (money is not an option). Who would it be, and why? I assume it would have to be on offense since we don't know what defense will look like.

This is a very easy, and the answer is Christian Wilkins. He’s absolutely a foundational piece, both with his ability and his leadership qualities.

From Prince-Bishop Militantly Aardvark #FPBE (@MilitantlyA):

The Rams managed to achieve a Super Bowl recently despite not having an astounding team or a great QB. What do the Dolphins lack that they had? My guess would be a strong enough foundation in the area of linebackers/safeties, plus an O-line that doesn't have enough depth.

Hey PBMA, I’m going to disagree with you right from the start with the QB comment because Matthew Stafford is a great QB and he was big-time clutch throughout those playoffs. The other thing that Rams did was a take-games-over defensive talent with Aaron Donald.

From Dion Gardiner (@dantegardiniore):

Last year's offense was fun to watch but because it needed to be so precise it lost effectiveness with injuries and road games. Do you think McDaniel adjusts to something a little less precision-based? I'd like to see something run / play action based.

Hey Dion, here’s the dilemma, the timing and precision are what makes the offense explosive when things are functioning properly, so would going away from that reduce its effectiveness overall if the team can’t be as productive with a more traditional look (more play action, less motion).

From Jay Bert (@bert695):

Danny Crossman? Why?

Hey Jay, per my colleague Omar Kelly, one of issue with the special teams the past two seasons was a lack of time devoted to that aspect of the game, so that wouldn’t necessarily fall on Crossman but rather on an overall team philosophy that probably needs to change.

From Jason Kirkland (@1b igdad424):

Hi Alain, I've heard Omar say that it wouldn't matter if they have a TE because they wouldn't use him. I happen to think it's because we have average Joes. SF runs a similar system and Kittle most certainly makes plays. With a good TE, do you see him used more?

Hey Jason, here’s the problem: How many George Kittles are there in the NFL. Or Travis Kelces. The Dolphins are a pretty good receiving tight end with Mike Gesicki in 2022 and he was a complete afterthought for the offense because he’s not a very good blocker. So basically what it would require is a very good pass catcher who can block. Again, it’s easier said than done to find those kind of players.

From Thomas Hudson (via email):

Hi Alain, I thought this was interesting, even if it may not mean that much: At age 24 Tua led the NFL in passer rating. At age 25 Tua led the NFL in passing yards. He appears to be only the 3rd QB since 1970 to lead the NFL in both passer rating and passing yards at 25 or younger. The other two were Dan Marino and Ken Anderson. Really just a reminder that he is still young. Players may develop younger now, but Patrick Mahomes first led the NFL in passing yards last year, at age 27. And he has never led in passer rating. I think Tua will continue to get better, but I don't know that he will. I think the Dolphins need to give him a contract bigger than what Justin Herbert got, but it would be nice if they could find a way that is agreeable to everyone to get him to play out his option first. Oh, wait. I do have a question. Any chance you or one of the other reporters hovering around the team can find out what the four things are Tua says he will be working on?

Hey Thomas, we’ll find out the four Tua wants to work on if he’s willing to share that, but if he didn’t do it at the Pro Bowl, not sure exactly when or why that would change. We certainly can guess. As for Tua’s contract, I’ve already said (written actually) my piece on the topic.

From Mike Cocchiola (via email):

Dolphins talent evaluation clearly exposed with AVG. Dolphins let him walk, Fangio said no, no, this guy can play — case closed, perfect example to show they don’t know what they are doing!

Hey Mike, not quite sure that’s exactly how it went down. Fangio became defensive coordinator in February and AVG hit the free agent market (not the Dolphins let him walk) in mid-March. This was way more about the Dolphins having a price tag in mind for AVG, letting him see what he could get on the open market and AVG coming back to them willing to accept their offer. Look, it’s OK to question the Dolphins’ talent evaluation, but this doesn’t seem to fit.

From Dave I , Fin Fan in VA (via email):

Alain, folks talk at times about the 72 Fins being overrated due to weak schedule and maybe not as good as 73 team. But what everyone misses is they started a 38-year-old journeyman backup QB in Earl Morrall 11 games (including 2 playoff games) in place of HOF QB Bob Griese. To put this into perspective, imagine a guy like Josh McCown at age 38 starting 11 games for Tom Brady during their almost undefeated 2007 season! Think they would have gone 18-!? And Fins went TO Pittsburgh for AFC Championship game! 72 Fins are greatest ever.

Hey Dave, what you’re omitting is that the 1972 Dolphins did not face a single team that made the playoffs that season and only two that finished with a winning record (both 8-6), whereas the 1973 team faced three playoff teams and played six games against teams that finished with a winning record. As for Morrall being a “journeyman,” he was the 1968 NFL MVP and in that 1972 season he was chosen as a first-team All-Pro. So, sorry, not buying your arguments. As somebody old enough to have seen many games from each of those teams, I will maintain my position the 1973 was the better of the two.

From Dave Gober (via email):

The defensive side of the ball is going through big changes with a new DC and his staff, plus a new scheme to learn for the players. But in my opinion, it was the offensive side of the ball that was the most disappointing. Against teams with winning records the offense failed miserably and was the main reason why we lost out on the AFC East title and the playoff loss. To date, I really haven’t heard of any changes to the offensive staff. In your opinion, what needs to change on the offensive side to rectify those shortcomings?

Hey Dave, hate to pin it on one guy, but Tua absolutely has to raise his level of play against quality opponents, particularly down the stretch, if the Dolphins are going to reach the goals they want. This isn't to suggest that the losses against playoff teams were all on him, but that's what's going to need to happen for this team to take the next step.

From Daniel Kucera (via email):

Isn't March 13 the beginning of the new NFL year and likely pink slips get sent out?
As David Spade said on SNL: "Buh Buy": Buh Bye X, Buh Bye Ogbah, Buh Bye Jerome Baker, Buh Bye J Wilson, Mike White. Can you give me some love on JJ McCarthy, Michigan QB/clone of Giants' Daniel Jones?

Hey Daniel, on the "buh-bye list," Xavien Howard might be cut March 13, but it would be a post-June 1 release, meaning the Dolphins wouldn't be able to use that cap space until that date. Not totally sure on Jerome Baker because maybe the Dolphins see if they can restructure his contract. And not sure about Mike White because he's still fairly inexpensive for a backup and he would need to be replaced. And, lastly, while I need to do more work on him, my initial impression is that I like J.J. McCarthy a lot more than Daniel Jones.

Related: Saturday Dolphins Mailbag: Tua, Free Agency, and More

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