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Phinsider Mailbag Week 15 Requests and Week 14 answers

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Phinsider Mailbag and I have been having a disagreement lately, especially when it comes to me having the time (or remembering) to post it. Today, I am going to try to make up for some of that. Normally on Wednesdays, I ask for your mailbag questions so on Thursday I can put together my response. That just has not happened lately.

Last week, I asked for your questions on Thursday, then did nothing with them. This week, I actually thought about the requests post on Wednesday, but did not get around to it. To fix this, I am asking for your questions here. I am also picking up some of the non-Patriots specific questions from last week’s request post and answering them below.

All you have to do to ask a question is leave it in the comments at the bottom of the page. I will go back through them tomorrow and provide you with my answers.

Here are a few of the Week 14 questions:

How long until the Dolphins find “their system?” If you look at the successful teams all around the League, what jumps out at me are the noticeable offensive/defensive systems that distinguish these teams. Look at the offenses of Kansas City, New Orleans, New England, Pittsburgh, San Diego and the defenses of Baltimore, New England, Denver, etc. The Dolphins have no identity on either side of the ball and lack any kind of “bread and butter.” - BTDOLFAN1

I think they have a system, especially on offense, but the injuries the last two seasons have been ridiculous and led to the team looking for what works with the players they have rather than using the system as it was designed. Adam Gase runs a pass-happy system that is designed to work off the play action. When that is working, it works well. Miami can use the run to soften the defensive secondary, then use their speed to go deep and pick up chunk yardage.

With all of the injuries to those speedy receivers and the offensive line - not to mention quarterback Ryan Tannehill - the offense has turned more toward the short passing game and trying to manage the down-and-distance rather than being aggressive. We saw some more of those chunk plays start showing up last week against the Patriots, so hopefully we will continue to see them as Tannehill settles back into the offense and the team makes a push down the stretch.

On defense, I think it is a combination of injuries and younger players. I have been frustrated by Matt Burke, but I think he falls into the younger player category as well. Miami is relying on many players in their first few years of their career, and they are being beaten at times because they just do not have the experience. Minkah Fitzpatrick and Jerome Baker have essentially been starters all year despite being rookies, while rookies like Cornell Armstrong and Jalen Davis are being thrust into more prominent roles than the team would like because of injuries. Jonathan Woodard in a first-year player, while Raekwon McMillan, Charles Harris, Torry McTyer, and Davon Godchaux are all in their second seasons. Xavien Howard, is only in his third year. Everyone in that group are contributing on defense, and all of them are 25 or younger. It could just be a matter of the players needing time to develop. Using McMillan as the example, the Dolphins could just be waiting for a younger player to have the game seemingly slow down for him and he starts making key plays.

Even a player like Bobby McCain, who is a really good nickel cornerback, is only 25. Even some of the injured players like Cordrea Tankersley (25) and Vincent Taylor (24) are young defensive players who are still making mistakes but could have a big role in establishing the future defensive identity.

Burke is only 42 and in just his second season as the team’s defensive coordinator. He is growing along with the players.

Why did everyone get so fired up about a hypothetical article on Harbaugh being the next HC for Miami? - NMPhinfan29

That is a great question. My only answer is, “Because we love to get fired up about anything?” I think Jim Harbaugh is the perfect person to fire up the entire fan base. The fans that would love to have him tend to want Adam Gase fired and are vocal about it. The fans that see Harbaugh as a coach that could not get it done in Michigan are vocal about not wanting to see him in Miami. And the group that wants nothing to do with another coach are vocal in their support of Gase. Harbaugh has a way to polarizing everyone, and I think it led to craziness.

With Vance Joseph and Todd Bowles potentially available next year, could one of them be our next DC, again? - PNSter

Those could be interesting choices if Gase decides to move on from Burke and they are both available. I do not feel like Joseph is as much of a guarantee as Bowles, but there was talk earlier this year that Burke was kind of pushed onto Gase as the team did not want to get a big name coordinator only to have him leave after a season - as Joseph did. Bowles could fit the “big name” coordinator if Gase is interested. I am not sure he would be who Gase would want, but he could be an interesting option.

When will the Fins likely offer Howard a second contract and will they have to make him the highest paid corner in the league to re-sign him? - jonman

I would guess they will talk to him about his contract this upcoming summer. He is still only three years into his four-year rookie contract, but unfortunately for Miami - and maybe fortunately for Howard - he is a second-round pick so the Dolphins do not have a fifth-year option on him like they do for Laremy Tunsil. This year, the fifth-round option for a cornerback in the first ten picks was around $12.4 million for a season, while a cornerback in picks 11 through 32 was optioned at about $9 million.

In comparison, the top cornerbacks are averaging as high as $15 million per year (Josh Norman, five years, $75 million, $36.5 million guaranteed). Logan Ryan of the Tennessee Titans is the 15th highest paid cornerback (based on average per year salary) at $10 million per season. That is probably where the negotiations have to start for Howard, but I would expect him to push much higher than that on the list, potentially even passing Norman. Howard is young, but he is becoming a true shutdown cornerback and leads the league in interceptions. It is hard to imagine him not getting paid like a top cornerback.

And, since it is a possibility, if the Dolphins were to franchise tag Howard after next season, that number will push well over $15 million for the one year contract. The 2018 franchise tag number for cornerbacks was $14.975 million. Two offseason increases would still be added into that number before it was placed on Howard.