On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns’ take on the Miami Dolphins. To help preview a few topics from the Dolphins’ perspective, we reached out to Kevin Nogle from The Phinsider and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Browns fans know a thing or two about a franchise going into tank mode. Talk about how the fan base has handled the current season and the investment being made in draft picks.”
Kevin: “It has been interesting, because the fan base seems to have three distinct elements. There is the group who get angry after every loss and argues with anyone who seems to be supporting the tank. There is the group who get angry after every win and argues with anyone who celebrates the win because they really wanted Miami to go 0-16 and like to throw out things like “will you feel good about this pointless win in ten years when Miami still doesn’t have a franchise quarterback?” And, there is the thing group who wants wins, but can understand the losses when they look at the full picture. That group has both of the other two arguing with them just about every week. Dolphins Twitter is a special place this year.
Now, with two wins and Tua Tagovailoa’s injury, the fan base seems confused. If the goal was to “Tank for Tua” but now Tua is injured and likely not the first-overall pick, what is supposed to happen? Miami is getting an early pick, but just how early do they need to make that selection? Everything feels odd now.”
Chris: “The Dolphins rank 29th in the NFL defensively, which includes 31st against the run and 20th against the pass. I know it may be hard to pick just one thing, but what or who on the Dolphins’ defense has struggled the most?”
Kevin: “Not hard at all - pass rush. Pass rush is non-existent, especially last week when Taco Charlton, the only real threat on the Dolphins line right now, was injured and missed the game. Miami has to generate a pass rush and right now, they cannot. The secondary is banged up by injury, so without a pass rush, they struggle.
That said, they are struggling against the run as well, especially if Raekwon McMillan continues to miss time. McMillan has come on strong this year, and, while one player cannot stop the run himself, he does have an impact against the run because he is good at finding the right hole and getting after the back. He is not perfect, but he is good and the Dolphins need more good right now.”
Chris: “The Dolphins drafted Christian Wilkins with the 13th overall pick of this year’s draft. What role is he playing as a rookie and how has he performed?”
Kevin: “Wilkins has been someone that frustrated fans early in the year, mostly because he plays interior defensive line and you do not see those guys generate stats. He has actually be pretty good, and seems to be getting better as the year plays out. I think the game is slowing down for him and he is trusting his intincts more. He is an interior lineman - either defensive tackle when Miami is in the 4-3 or defensive end when they are in the 3-4 - and he plays that role perfectly. He can shed blocks and make tackles, he can plug up holes, and he can eat up blocks. He is not going to be someone generating Aaron Donald type of stats (this year?) but he is really good and will be a factor for the Dolphins for years to come.
Miami is getting beat on the line of scrimmage this year on both sides of the ball, but Wilkins has been a bright spot for the defensive line.”
Chris: “Cleveland may be facing some depth issues this week on their defensive line, after last week’s suspensions. What is the Dolphins’ biggest weakness on the offensive line?”
Kevin: “Tackle, guard, and center. Yep, that seems about right. Just watch any of the seven sacks the Bills had of Ryan Fitzpatrick last week, and you will understand. This is a constantly changing unit - the Bills game featured the seventh starting lineup of the offensive line for the Dolphins in their 10th game - and they will probably continue to make adjustments this week as they try to find consistency and some sort of success. Jesse Davis at right tackle is probably a really solid right guard - and that may be the best thing that can be said of the line this year. Daniel Kilgore can be a solid center, if he is healthy and he is not right now. Michael Deiter is developing, and he might have a solid career ahead of him, but he is a rookie and makes rookie mistakes.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player on offense and one player on defense who Browns fans might not be familiar with, but who could make a nice contribution for this week’s game.”
Kevin: “Hopefully on offense we are talking about Patrick Laird after this game. The undrafted free agent running back needs to see more playing time, if only because the Dolphins cannot get much worse than Kalen Ballage’s 1.9 yards per carry this season. He has three carries for 11 yards and eight receptions for 66 yards this year, and the Dolphins need to just see what he can be. He probably is not going to become a top running back in the NFL in his career, but why not put him in a situation to know that for sure when Ballage is simply not getting it done (in no small part because of the offensive line’s struggles, but Kenyan Drake was averaging 3.7 yards per carry and Mark Walton was averaging 3.8, so some of this is on Ballage).
On defense, check out Nik Needham at cornerback. He is an undrafted rookie who we all thought was a sure cut at the end of the preseason because he struggled in the exhibition games, but he hung around and continues to see his role grow. The Browns will be able to beat him and he will make rookie mistakes, but he also has made some really good plays lately, breaking up five passes the last two games, recording his first career interception and nearly having a second last week. He is not a shutdown cornerback (we miss you, Xavien Howard), but he is someone who is making some plays and making fans realize the coaching staff definitely can develop players and saw something in Needham.”
Thanks again to Kevin for taking the time to answer my questions.