Th New York Giants play a football game Friday night. Sure, it’s a preseason game but it is still a football game. With the Giants facing the Miami Dolphins in that preseason opener, let’s do what we do and check in with the folks over at The Phinsider to learn more about Miami.
Kevin Nogle of the The Phinsider answers our inquiries in the first “Five Questions” segment of the 2016 season.
Ed: Thoughts on seeing Olivier Vernon playing for the Giants? How good can this guy be in New York? What kind of person are the Giants getting?
Kevin: It will be a little odd because, I think as a whole, the Dolphins fans really liked OV. That said, I also think we believe he was over-paid this offseason. I know the analysts all love to say that teams need to cherish their young pass rushers and that the Dolphins will regret not re-signing him. I think the Dolphins, meanwhile, believe Vernon is more the product of being on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage as Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh than he is a top-tier defensive end (and, yes, Vernon's production increased after Wake was lost last year, so there is some flaw in this logic). He is coming off a season in which he recorded 7.5 sacks, so it is not like he is coming off an amazing season; he has one double-digit sack season in 2013 when he had 11.5 sacks. To Dolphins fans, I think OV feels kind of like the situation that happened with Adewale Ogunleye in 2003, where he was seen as this young, dominant defensive end, signed a big contract with the Chicago Bears, then went on to a solid but not spectacular career when he did not have Jason Taylor on the opposite side of the line from him. All of that said, I do like OV and think he will be a good player for the Giants, especially if JPP is healthy and producing on the other side of the defensive line - pressure from one side that pushes the quarterback toward OV so he can clean up is where Vernon excels. Vernon has often looked really good in training camp, but he will have times in the season where he will disappear for a couple of games in a row, and it will be frustrating. I'm not trying to downplay OV's impact to the Giants - part of that disappearance could be the struggles Miami's defense has had over the last couple of years - but you will also have to expect some late hit/personal foul penalties with OV, who seems to be a master of getting to the quarterback one step too late. Vernon will be a really good addition for the Giants and should upgrade their pass rush, he just has some holes in his game that need to be addressed and I am not completely sold on the idea of him being an annual Pro Bowl defensive end.
Ed: Both teams have young rookie head coaches. Your thoughts thus far on Adam Gase?
Kevin: There is some excitement around Gase coming to the team and the systems his regime is installing. At the same time, Dolphins fans seem to be more in a "prove-it" type of mode when it comes to the team this year. I think Gase is going to do some great things with this team, but it is also his first year and he is taking over a team that went 6-10 last year. Maybe lowered expectations from fans and the media - especially after being the dark horse Super Bowl pick last year with many people predicting Miami would challenge New England for the AFC East title - is what the Dolphins need this year. Overall, I really like Gase because he comes to the team with a swagger and is not afraid to do things in his own way. He likes to trash talk with the players, he has (jokingly?) called out reporters for being overly negative about the club, and he has called out the offense for "sleepwalking" during the team's scrimmage last week. He is fun and he seems to be trying to turn around the Dolphins by truly changing the culture of the club after the Joe Philbin era.
Ed: Giants fans will be interested in a progress report on the Rutgers kid, Leonte Carroo? What have you seen from him thus far?
Kevin: Carroo has been quiet in training camp for the most part, but I think that is more because he is behind Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills on the depth chart. Officially, he is also behind Griff Whalen and Matt Hazel, but that seems to be more of Gase wanting rookies to "earn" their position on the depth chart, rather than having it "given" to them. When he has had his chances, Carroo looks like a solid depth receiver for the team this year, and someone who could be asked to move up the depth chart in the next couple of years. The Dolphins have an extremely young wide receiver corps, and Carroo seems to be considered among the group that should develop together into a top-tier group in the next few years.
Ed: There are some Giants fans who were upset when the Giants let Laremy Tunsil slide by in the draft after the gas-mask bong video fiasco. The Dolphins took the plunge. Is that looking like a worthwhile risk thus far?
Kevin: After all of the chaos of draft night, there really does not seem to be any risk in taking Tunsil. He has come into camp and worked hard, keeping his head down, and looking to put that night and the video well behind him. He is not yet playing with the starters on a consistent basis, spending some time with the twos and some time up with the ones, and he is being asked to both transition to the speed of the NFL and move inside to guard for this year, but he seems to be doing well enough at this point. By the time the season starts, he should be ready to be the opening day left guard, but for now, he is getting experience by trying to stop Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, and the rest of what should be a really good defensive line.
Ed: What are your expectations for the Dolphins this season? Can they take a step forward and challenge for a playoff spot?
Kevin: Realistically, I am looking for the team to look better than last year. That is not necessarily in terms of final record, but rather just a team that seems to be executing, actually running the ball, and a defense that is stepping up and performing. There are holes on the roster, like at cornerback, so there will be issues, but if Gase can get Miami playing well, that is a positive. Optimistically, I am hopeful that the team can push towards the playoffs. The team, from owner Stephen Ross through the coaching staff and to the player, really seems to believe they are a playoff contender this year, which could simply be preseason talk, but they appear to mean it. Maybe they can surprise some teams and get into the hunt. At the end of the day, however, I think most Dolphins fans expect this year to be a growth year and a chance for Gase to establish the team in his vision. It is probably 2017 where the Dolphins are taking that next step forward.