The 2019 NFL Season has reached the mid-way point, with the Miami Dolphins 1-7 in their first eight games. As we prepare to start the second half of the year, we took a minute to look back at the Dolphins’ first half and hand out some awards for the season.
Justin Hier, Josh Houtz, and I each selected a winner for several awards. We included our explanations of the awards as well. Several of the awards were unanimous, though some had a couple of different players recognized. Here are our mid-season awards for the Dolphins in 2019:
Justin Hier: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
Yes, I know, QB is the easy choice, but hear me out. If Xavien Howard were still on the field, I’d select him in a heartbeat, but outside of Miami’s superstar corner, Fitzpatrick has been most responsible for keeping this team even somewhat competitive. If you could pluck one player off of the roster and expect the most harm to come to Miami’s chances of winning games, it’s Fitzpatrick. The stats aren’t stellar, but when the 36-year old gunslinger is on the field, there’s a palpable spark on offense that simply isn’t there when Josh Rosen is on the field. Tank or no tank, Fitzpatrick has put the Dolphins in the best position to win games this season, and though players like DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, and Raekwon McMillan could be argued for in this spot, I’m rolling with the big beard himself.
Josh Houtz: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
You would be hard pressed to find anyone more excited about the Josh Rosen trade than I. However, the difference between him commanding the offense and the 15-year veteran was night and day. And after a sluggish start to the 2019 season, no player has meant more to this team than Ryan Fitzpatrick. Truth is, the gunslinger has been better than advertised during his half season in Miami. And whether it be his leadership on the field or off, he has slowly become the veteran presence that a struggling young team needs to keep things afloat. No matter what happens over the next eight games, I hope FitzMagic is back in 2020. Because no player would be more critical in the development of a young, promising rookie QB, than the man with the nicest beard on planet Earth.
Kevin Nogle: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
I wanted to be different than Houtz and Hier, but Fitzpatrick is clearly the right choice here. The Dolphins were in trouble early in the season - including the first two games in which Fitzpatrick started -but when Fitzpatrick replaced Josh Rosen against the Washington Redskins and throughout the last few games, the offense looks stabilized and effective. While the Dolphins and fans would love to see Rosen show he can be a part of the future of the team, while Fitzpatrick likely will not be the long-term answer for the position, the veteran clearly is helping develop the younger talent on the offense. That may be the biggest reason he is the MVP right now.
Offensive Player of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: DeVante Parker, WR
A huge part of me wanted to pick recently shelved rookie Preston Williams for this award, but the consistency that Parker has displayed is the one thing that Williams lacked throughout Miami’s first eight games. Parker had far fewer drops and has just 28 fewer receiving yards than Williams. Parker has also scored a touchdown in four of Miami’s last five games, showing that he is the engine that is allowing offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea’s offense to put up points. Who would’ve thought?
Josh Houtz: Preston Williams, WR
This is bitter sweet to type, especially after his season-ending ACL injury in which he suffered RETURNING KICKS vs the New York Jets. After all, every year during training camp fans fall in love with the next great WR. Well guess what folks, the man nicknamed ‘The Unicorn’ is every bit as good as advertised. Through 8 games, his 32 receptions for 428 yards and 3 touchdowns was better than Jerry Rice’s rookie numbers in 1985 *eye emoji*. In all seriousness, he looks like a young Brandon Marshall and if he’s able convert some of those drops into catches, could be the dominant WR we have all hoped, in an offense that can showcase his skill-set. Get well soon, Preston Williams.
Kevin Nogle: DeVante Parker, WR
I agree with Houtz and Hier for this award, and you could really flip a coin to separate Williams and Parker at this point. I will give it to Parker, just because he has a better yards-per-reception average and more touchdowns, though Williams has a few more receptions, a few more targets, and a few more yards. I think Parker and Williams have shown they can be the nucleus of Miami’s receiving corps as they complete the rebuild.
Defensive Player of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: Raekwon McMillan, LB
Despite playing almost 150 fewer snaps than his teammate, Jerome Baker, McMillan has just four fewer tackles on the season (50). As one of Pro Football Focus’ highest graded run defenders through the first half of the season, McMillan has shown that, when deployed properly, he can be a top tier contributor on defense. Head coach Brian Flores seems to have found the right way to take advantage of McMillan’s skillset, intellect, and instincts to mold the third-year pro into a formidable enforcer against the run.
Josh Houtz: Raekwon McMillan, LB
It is no secret how I feel about Raekwon McMillan. In fact, since I first put on his tape at Ohio State, I fell in love with the throwback, run-stopping LB. And after a preseason that saw him stand by as guys like Sam Eguaveon and others filled the void left behind, many wondered what his future entailed in Miami. Well, we’re starting to see just how good he can be, when used properly in Brian Flores defense. And yes, we all believed in the Jerome Baker hype this offseason, but what McMillan has done through 8 games can not go unnoticed. In 2018, McMillan has 50 total tackles and has been one of the best run-stopping LBs in the NFL. He still must improve in the passing game, but McMillan is well on his way to 100 tackles in 2019. The future is bright for the man I call Baekwon.
Kevin Nogle: Raekwon McMillan, LB
I almost selected Jerome Baker here in order to recognize him, but I think the right answer is McMillan. He looks now like the rookie pre-Preseason Game 1 McMillan. The knee injury is clearly behind him, he is taking charge of the defense - even with Baker wearing the radio in his helmet - and he is having an impact in nearly every game. He is dominating against the run, grading among the NFL’s elite in that respect even if he is not necessarily getting the name recognition around the league yet. Head coach Brian Flores probably is a big part of McMillan’s leap forward this season, finding exactly the right role for the linebacker, but McMillan’s health, trust in his knee, and instincts for the game have been critical in Miami knowing they have a potential star at linebacker for the future.
Offensive Rookie of the (Half) Year
Justin Heir: Preston Williams, WR
Was there every any doubt? Williams has not only been Miami’s most impressive undrafted rookie by a large margin, but also one of the team’s most dangerous assets on the entire offense. The timing of Williams’ injury is truly unfortunate, as he was just putting together his most productive game of the season against the New York Jets when an ACL injury sidelined him for the rest of the way. Look for the coaching staff to ensure that Williams remains a key cog in the offense over the next few years. The kid’s got game. It’s that simple.
Josh Houtz: Preston Williams, WR
Kevin Nogle: Preston Williams, WR
This has to be Williams. He could just as easily be the offensive player of the half-year at this point, so he is obviously the offensive rookie of the half-year. An undrafted free agent who looks like he is ready to be a “number one” receiver in the NFL - and not just on a Dolphins team that is currently in a rebuild - Miami stole one here. He will have to show he can be as explosive and effective when he gets back from his ACL injury, but Williams locked this mid-season award down early in the year and no one else has been close.
Defensive Rookie of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: Christian Wilkins, DL
Wilkins almost wins by default here since no other rookie defender has played significant snaps nor made a big impact this season, but that doesn’t take away from the impressive strides the first-year defensive tackle has made. Wilkins recorded the first sack of his young career against the Jets last week, and he’s shown improvement through each subsequent game as the season has progressed. The numbers might not be there yet, but Wilkins has put regular pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he’s tied for second on the team in tackles for loss (2), and is second in the entire league in assisted tackles (11) among interior defensive linemen.
Josh Houtz: Christian Wilkins, DL
I could sit here and write something equally as beautiful as what Justin did above, but what’s the point? Christian Wilkins wasn’t the sexiest pick when the Dolphins selected him 13th-overall, but he’s been exactly the type of player everyone expected him to be. Stout against the run and a leader on a young defense continuing to improve each and every week. If he can avoid throwing punches and suplexing the opposition, the sky is the limit. And who can forget his 28 combined tackles, which is best in the league for rookie defenders. Best of all, may have been his Power Rangers’ sack celebration. The Dolphins have a good one in Wilkins.
Kevin Nogle: Christian Wilkins, DL
This is even more obvious than Williams on the offensive side of the ball. Wilkins has been a great addition to the line. He plays primarily as an interior lineman (defensive tackle in a 4-3, defensive end in a 3-4), so he is not going to have huge sack or tackle numbers, and yet he leads rookie linemen in tackles and is in the top ten for all interior linemen. He recorded his first sack last week. Wilkins has to cut down on the fouls - especially the personal fouls - but he seems to be learning and making sure he does not repeat issues. Wilkins is a gem the Dolphins selected this year, and he will be an important piece the remainder of this season and into the future.
Breakout Player of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: Raekwon McMillan, LB
Josh Houtz: Vince Biegel, LB
For me, it is hard to argue with what Vince Biegel has done through 8 games with the Dolphins. Best of all, he seemed like nothing more than a throw in from New Orleans in the Kiko Alonso trade. Now we’re starting to see his value, especially as a pass-rusher off the edge. Biegel currently leads the team in pressures (10) and has been an absolute menace on special teams. Chris Grier deserves praise for the acquisition, but a lot of this is a testament to Brian Flores and his coaching staff. Aside from leading the team with pressures, Biegel has combined for 24 tackles and is currently second on the team with 2 sacks. I’m excited to watch him develop in 2019 and truly believe, he can be a valuable piece in Flores defense for many years to come.
Kevin Nogle: Mike Gesicki, TE
It is a small sample size right now, but Gesicki is starting to look like the player Miami wanted when they selected him in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rookie tight ends typically struggle to start their career, and Adam Gase did Gesicki no favors by having him block more than they had him work as a receiving threat. Gesicki is starting to show the seam-threat Miami needs, and he is working with the scout team in practice just so he gets more reps against the first-team defense, runs more of the full route tree as he imitates opposing tight ends, and works to break through as a touchdown scorer. In 2018, Gesicki recorded 22 receptions on 32 targets for 202 yards in 16 games. This year, he has 21 receptions on 31 targets for 248 yards in eight games. If he can continue to play as he has the last few weeks, Gesicki could be the breakout player of the full year for Miami.
Comeback Player of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: Eric Rowe, CB
Has Rowe had a perfect season? No. Has be been a major contributor on defense and in a secondary badly needing quality play? Absolutely. Rowe has had his share of blemishes this season, but he’s third on the team in total tackles (42), he leads the team in passes defended (5), and he’s started seven of Miami’s eight games this season. This all comes after Rowe played in just four games for the New England Patriots all of last year.
Josh Houtz: Mike Gesicki, TE
I’m not sure how much of a ‘comeback’ it is, when the former offensive genius of a head coach, tried to fit a square peg in a round hole. But nevertheless, what Mike Gesicki has slowly started to develop into over the last several weeks, should have all Dolphins’ fans overly excited. Truth is, he was asked to block more than any other TE in football as a rookie-which he was never very good at during his time at Penn State. Furthermore, his 22 catches for 202 yards, was nowhere near the type of production he was capable of. As we’re starting to see in an offense that loves to utilize their TEs, is that Gesicki can be a mismatch nightmare on the outside and the big-bodied seam threat we all envisioned, when he was drafted in the second-round of the 2018 draft. Hell, he already has more yards receiving (248) than he did all of last season.
Kevin Nogle: Mark Walton, RB
The Dolphins added Walton, a fourth-round pick in 2018, after the Cincinnati Bengals waived him following three arrests in the offseason. He is currently suspended for the first four games of the second-half of the season, but in the first half, Walton went from a released player looking for a job to a starting running back who made Kenyan Drake expendable for the Dolphins. Walton may or may not turn into the running back for the Dolphins for the next several years, but he definitely has rebounded from being a waived player with the Bengals to a starter with the Dolphins.
Play of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: DeVante Parker vs New York Jets
Parker’s one-handed touchdown reception over Jets cornerback Nate Hairston was absolutely spectacular and is my favorite play that I’ve seen from the Dolphins this year.
Josh Houtz: Kenyan Drake’s Failed 2-Point Conversion vs Washington
This may sound absolutely crazy, but when all is said and done, no play could hold more value at season’s end than Kenyan Drake’s drop vs Washington. And whether you believe in the ‘tank’ or want to watch your favorite team win as many games as possible, no play could impact the next 10 years of Dolphins football, quite like this one.
Kevin Nogle: Ryan Fitzpatrick kneels for a four-yard loss.
With six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick took the snap, knelt, and lost four yards for the Dolphins. Greatest play of the year. Victory formation killed the clock, gave Miami their first win of the season, ended talk of Miami being the worst team in the league, ended talk of Miami being the worst team ever, ensured the Dolphins will not have an “impefect” season to pair with the Perfect Season, and relieved some of the frustration around the team and in the fanbase. After the 2007 1-15 season when that one win did not come until Week 15, it is nice to know that, as bad as this season could be, there is not a risk of 0-16. That simple kneel was extremely powerful, both in the short-term and long-term reputation of the Dolphins, and should be recognized.
Acquisition of the (Half) Year
Justin Hier: Vince Biegel, LB
The Dolphins acquired Biegel in the trade that sent Kiko Alonso to the New Orleans Saints and the 26-year old linebacker has been nothing short of spectacular in his short time with the Dolphins. Biegel has played in just six of Miami’s eight games and has only 223 snaps played (just over half the snaps of fellow linebacker Jerome Baker), and has 10 QB hits, more than DOUBLE the number of QB hits for anyone else on the team. Biegel is also tied for the team-lead in tackles for loss (3) with newly acquired defensive end Taco Charlton, and is second on the team in sacks (2), behind only Charlton (4).
Josh Houtz: Taco Charlton, DE
No one can argue how well Vince Biegel has played since joining the Dolphins as a ‘throw in’ to the Kiko Alonso trade. He leads the team in pressures and has been a valuable contributor on special teams. He fits the Patriot way and will absolutely be here in 2020 and beyond. However, no acquisition this season was better than Miami claiming former first-round pick Taco Charlton. Sure, his team-leading 4 sacks aren’t the most impressive, as several can be credited to the secondary and/or Jerome Baker. But what he’s slowly starting to develop into is at the very worst, a nice depth piece, for a team in dire need of anything resembling a pass-rusher. And let’s be honest, his sack celebration is second-to-none. In the famous words of Oprah, “You get a taco! And you get a Taco! And You get a Taco!”
Kevin Nogle: Draft picks
This year is all about the draft picks. Players that appeared to be part of the future of the Dolphins, like Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, are no longer in South Florida, and draft picks are in their place. The 2020 and 2021 NFL drafts will be huge for the future of the Dolphins, and acquiring them will be the story of this season for Miami. The draft picks are the top acquisition for Miami.