Douglas struggles and plays, Phillips plays better and is inactive, Parker is the best and needs his chance
This is the story of three Miami Dolphins rookies. It is a story that does not make sense in some respects -- even to me.
And I wrote it as the Dolphins have dictated it so far.
This is about first round draft pick DeVante Parker, second round pick Jordan Phillips and fourth-round pick Jamil Douglas, who was Miami's third pick in the 2015 draft.
Of the three, it is ironic that Douglas, the lowest picked of the three, is the only starter of the three. More ironic?
He's playing worse than the other two even as he's started all three games.
Douglas, you must understand, was something of a revelation during training camp. Having played left guard all his college career, he came in competing on the left side and midway through switched over to the right guard spot. And through steady improvement, he took the starting right guard job from Billy Turner, who was the favorite to win the job and indeed was the starter when camp opened.
One of Douglas's more impressive traits through camp was his steady progress. It suggested that even as the season started and he wasn't necessarily a ready-made player, he'd continue improving with each passing week.
He hasn't. He's regressing now. He is ranked No. 74 among 75 guards who have played at least a quarter of their team's snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He has allowed a dozen quarterback hurries and half of those came against Buffalo on Sunday when he gave up six hurries, two quarterback hits and had a minus-8.9 overall grade, which is predictably bad.
On one play the tape shows Douglas failing to block as a defender shoots straight through the A-gap at quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
“We’ve got a young player playing at right guard, Jamil Douglas," coach Joe Philbin said. "I think he’s done a lot of good things. It’s a process, it’s his first year in the NFL and I think he’s adjusted well. We were hoping to watch continued development. I'm not ready to pull the plug on him yet."
The operative word here is "yet."
If Douglas continues to spiral downward Miami coaches will have no option but to reconsider Billy Turner as a starter.
Think of this: How bad do coaches think Turner is when he cannot replace a player who is 74th among 75 rated guards according to the metrics site?
Having said that, Philbin is saying he's sticking with Douglas for the moment.
And that causes me to compare how the Dolphins are dealing with Phillips and Parker.
Phillips at this very moment has the Miami Dolphins only sack of the season through three games. He was active and played in the first two games and although he wasn't J.J. Watt, he wasn't the defensive line's major problem, either.
So what did the Dolphins do in trying to continue developing Phillips? Did they show patience as they are obviously showing Douglas?
Phillips was a healthy scratch on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Inactive.
And this simply smells wrong.
How does a player who is in one category (sacks) more productive than anyone else on the team left off the active roster for a back-of-the-roster player such as A.J. Francis? No disrespect to Francis. He's a hard worker. He's a try-hard player. He's a fine.
But he's not a great run stuffer. He's not Joe Greene or Dave Butz. He's a guy.
And the guy is active but a healthy Phillips is not?
So did Phillips do something? Was it disciplinary? Did the player who came to Miami with a reputation for taking plays off, dial it back in practice?
Something had to happen because otherwise this makes zero sense, especially when compared to how the team is handling Douglas.
And then there is Parker. He's the first-round pick and the best of all three players who are the subject of this post. His ceiling is higher. He's playing better now than any of them.
He's headed in the right direction.
And yet, he has been limited, including in the last game, while the Dolphins have been giving snaps to players who are not producing or not as likely to produce.
Parker is playing less while Greg Jennings is starting.
How does that makes sense anymore?
I get that Jennings is a Joe Philbin guy. He's an ally in the locker room. I get that Jennings is an exemplary professional. I get that he is a resource. But somebody is failing to get that DeVante Parker's career arc is headed on direction and Jennings's career arc is headed in the opposite direction.
It is time to make a change, folks.
Jennings needs to be the solid citizen and great backup plan in case something goes wrong. He's the guy on the sideline who can share wisdom based on what he sees happening out on the field. But Parker is the guy that needs to be on that field.
He's the dynamic player. Not Jennings.
(Not Kenny Stills, either so far this season.)
The point is the Dolphins have put a not-ready rookie at right guard and they're sticking with him as he struggles. But they wouldn't do that to a lesser degree with a rookie defensive tackle?
And they wouldn't let a high-ceiling playmaker get out there more and develop faster because they're sticking with a veteran who isn't really producing?
This is flawed.