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The Phinsider Mailbag Week 4: Raekwon McMillan, running game, covering Rob Gronkowsi, and 2019 Draft needs

Tennessee Titans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Another week of a full mailbag on The Phinsider. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to leave us a question. We may not get all of the questions into the answers post each week, but hopefully we do answer your question either through another question, or at least pick up one of your questions at some point this year.

This week, we took eight questions from the mailbag request article. If you want to get your question into next week’s mailbag, watch for the request post on Wednesday. Or, you can always leave the question on Twitter using the #AskPhinsider hashtag so we can find it.

On to the questions:

What is your evaluation of McMillan thus far? - 39 is number 1

Raekwon McMillan is about what I thought he would be at this point, a young linebacker playing in his third game of his NFL career who is making some mistakes, but is also showing that he has a role and a future in the league. I think the Dolphins are not happy with how they are using him, but that they are stuck asking him to be a cover linebacker when they really want him to be a run-stopper. I think, if that is what he is asked to be, he will be really good at it. The Dolphins really just need Jerome Baker - who is starting to see some more snaps and was able to track down Jordy Nelson on that first long pass to the Raiders’ wide receiver - to blossom into a coverage linebacker. I think then we see McMillan reach his potential.

Do you think the Patriots will focus their offense on attacking the young LBs? - 39 is number 1

That is absolutely where I would go if I were the Patriots. Get multiple people into the middle of the field and cause confusion. Run the ball straight at the linebackers. At this point, it feels like you cannot challenge Xavien Howard and the Patriots do not have a lot of stars at wide receiver right now, so attacking the linebackers is their best bet for success - both on the ground and through the air.

Is this the best chance that a team ever had to put an end to the Patriots dynasty ? - Francesco Pergolini

Probably, but I am not ready to predict it is over yet. While the Patriots appear slow and are out of rhythm, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady somehow always seem to work through a slow early season. Now, I think the Dolphins have an absolute chance in this game, especially if the speed package plays like it did on Sunday, and a Miami win would put them three games up on New England through four games, plus have the half-game tie break (at least until the second meeting between the clubs). This could be the start of the Patriots’ downfall - but we have all thought that before.

After another slow start to the game, when will Coach Gase finally open up the playbook and start calling a better game for all 4 quarters. His play calling in the second half was masterful. Why do we always start so slow on offense??? - cjfitz19

I really do not think the play calling is an issue with the team right now. Yes, they started slowly on Sunday, but I think that was more the Raiders doing things right than it was the Dolphins doing something wrong. Oakland sold out against the run, knowing Miami would be looking to get Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore started. When they could not get going, it is not just the run game that struggles, but suddenly there is no reason to fear the play action passing game either. Miami suddenly had to change up what they were doing. As you said, in the second half, the play calling looked impressive - but I do not think that means the play calling in the first half was wrong. You have a team wearing black playing in the heat of south Florida, of course you should try to run the ball and wear them down.

As for why do they always start slow, I think this is absolutely a rhythm offense. They need to find that rhythm and once they do, they are off and running. That comes with both the running game and the passing game. And, do not think the change to Ted Larsen at left guard after working all offseason and summer with Josh Sitton at left guard does not have an impact as well. They need to get off to better starts, and they need to find their rhythm sooner, but I do not think it is the play calling itself that is the issue.

2019 Draft possibilities - I know, I know……. way too early to think about it BUT I was curious about what you all think we should be targeting after 3 games into the season? I’m thinking in this order: - Left Guard, - CB opposite Howard, - a big WR to replace Parker, - DE to groom under Wake - BTDOLFAN1

I think I would go cornerback, offensive line (interior), linebacker, and defensive end right now. Parker is not going to be a big money demand, so if he plays well this year, the Dolphins can bring him back and that keeps the wide receivers intact. I keep taking shots at cornerback and linebacker until I have the starters I need with good depth behind them. I still feel like Cordrea Tankersley should be an NFL starter, but something has gone wrong there and his confidence is completely shaken. It is WAY too early to declare him a bust, but I am continuing to build that position - I would rather have too many starters at the spot than not enough. The same goes for linebacker. Even if Alonso, McMillan, and Baker can be the starters for the next couple of years, finding that true coverage linebacker, and someone who can be Alonso’s replacement or an upgrade to Baker, will be something I am considering. Like you said, a developmental defensive end makes sense. Charles Harris should be that guy, but this league is all about putting pressure on the quarterback, even if it is trying to make it so you cannot actually sack the quarterback, so the more the better - especially when you have a defensive line philosophy that is to rotate everyone as much as possible. Interior offensive lineman is a must right now, just so the team has depth and potential starters at guard and center.

Did Detroit give us (and the rest of the NFL) the blue print to defeating NE? Can we replicate it in NE? - Don12pk

Maybe for this week - and it is probably the Jacksonville Jaguars that deserve the credit. The Patriots will get Julian Edelman back after this week and at some point Josh Gordon has to get on the field, you would assume, so the offense should get a little more open once those two things happen, but until then, take out Rob Gronkowski and force New England to try to find someone else. It is a good plan, and we should be able to replicate it because...

How do you think they cover Gronk this week? And do you think they will be successful in doing so? - PhilbinTheBlanks

...Minkah Fitzpatrick. As long as Reshad Jones is on the field - and I believe he will be back this week - Fitzpatrick is free to be used anywhere on the field Miami wants to put him. I am matching him up with Gronkowski all game, and then giving him help with linebackers or safeties. Fitzpatrick could be just enough of a freak to offset the freak that is Gronk.

How can the Dolphins fix the running game? We have Drake and Gore (and the rookie), and a recent history of doing pretty well in running the ball. I get that we lost a good O-Lineman for this season (and we lost Pouncey… didn’t you hear, we are done for the season now that he is gone!), and restructured our O-line to where we were supposed to be better off for it. OK, so T-Hill is standing safer in the pocket now than he has for years… but where are the yards-per-carry? - Yarganaught

I think this is a little bit of reacting to the last thing seen. Yes, the Dolphins struggled mightily against the Raiders running the ball, but they have not been bad through three games. Drake is averaging 3.5 yards on 30 carries and Gore has 24 carries for a 4.1 yards average. Yes, we all want to see those higher, but Drake is at 4.0 yards when you get rid of the three yards on five carries from last week and Gore is at 4.8 yards. The loss of Sitton is big because he could run block well, but I think you will see the running game bounce back strong after a dismal performance last week.