Dolphins’ Gaskin, Long address situations. And ex-NFL QB says Tua being judged unfairly

Al Diaz/adiaz@miamiherald.com
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A six-pack of Miami Dolphins notes on a Wednesday:

One is a former Dolphins starter who ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in yards per game from scrimmage just two years ago. Another is a third-round pick that a former NFL Executive of the Year (Scott Pioli) predicted will become a Pro Bowler.

But on an offense that has been augmented this offseason, neither running back Myles Gaskin nor tight end Hunter Long will enter training camp with any sense of how much he will play.

Whether Gaskin will even be on the team is a question, after the Dolphins signed Chase Edmonds, Raheem Mostert and Sony Michel.

After averaging 4.1 yards on 142 carries in 10 games in 2020, Gaskin averaged just 3.5 yards on 173 carries last season, with 17 appearances and 10 starts.

Asked about the Dolphins adding three veterans at his position, Gaskin offered a positive spin this week.

“This is the team I love,” he said. “I love these guys. When they bring in somebody else, I’m excited. You can learn from older guys. These guys have been in big games. We went to Sony’s house [Monday].

“He’s got two Super Bowl trophies sitting in his front room [from his time with the Patriots and Rams]. Those are the type of guys you want to be around, guys that have been in huge playoff games. Just learn from them.”

But Gaskin could be at risk because none of his $2.5 million salary is guaranteed. His $2.6 million cap hit would shrink to $21,777 if he’s cut.

Miami could opt to keep the cheaper Salvon Ahmed (due $895,000 nonguaranteed) or another low-budget young player as a No. 4 back.

“We’re all on the same team, but you want to compete,” Gaskin said. “I’m a competitor at my core, always have been. I’ve been looking at other backs across the league, seeing how they play, taking bits and pieces from everybody’s game.”

Long, meanwhile, played only 90 offensive snaps and five special teams snaps as a rookie. With Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe and Adam Shaheen all returning, it’s difficult to see how he will earn playing time in his second season, unless the Dolphins release or trade Shaheen, whose $1.65 million salary is not guaranteed.

“I need to show more what I can do,” Long said this week. “I’m confident I’ll do it this year. I’ve gained some muscle. Everyone watches their own tape. It was a change I felt I needed, and I attacked it.”

What did he learn during his rookie season?

“I learned a lot about myself and what I can do” noting the biggest adjustment from college to the NFL is “trying to handle all the off field stuff. In college, you don’t realize how much is handled for you — like buying insurance, getting a car, buying furniture, stuff you didn’t have to worry about while trying to perform on the biggest stage.”

He said new tights end coach Jon Embree — who replaced co-offensive coordinator and tight ends coach George Godsey — “has been fantastic. Great tight end coach. I’ve learned a lot from him already.”

What does Long like about the offense? “It’s simple and explosive. We love that.”

Agent Drew Rosenhaus made an interesting point about coach Mike McDaniel during his weekly WSVN-Fox 7 segment this week:

“We represent multiple guys on the team, both offense and defense. They love him. He’s made a great impression on the players. They really respect his knowledge. He has made an impression on the players that he’s a brilliant football mind.

“A lot of players have commented that it’s been tough — the workouts, the practices, the conditioning has been brutal. Maybe even tougher than what they’ve had in the past. McDaniel has made a great impression, but he’s also a guy who’s proving that he’s going to demand that players work extremely hard.”

More McDaniel feedback this week:

Christian Wilkins on McDaniel: “We came in, we all bought in. We gave him a chance, he gave us a chance to show what we got. It just felt natural since Day One.”

Gaskin on McDaniel: “The whole coaching staff has a different energy. It’s refreshing.”

Punter Thomas Morstead on McDaniel: “Getting to meet coach McDaniel, he’s a super interesting guy. It’s my first time having a head coach that is my generation, and it kind of feels like one of my buddies as the coach, which is kind of cool. It’s cool to see people like him that are of a unique background getting opportunities to do what they do, provide value and help build a team.”

While Tyreek Hill’s glowing comments about Tua Tagovailoa drew much of the attention during Tuesday’s media session, he wasn’t the only Dolphin to cite growth in the third-year quarterback.

“You can tell he’s made offseason growth in his arm and accuracy,” safety Eric Rowe said. “Another playbook, that’s rough for him. He’s taken it like a champ. He continues to take control of the offense. He’s taken [on] leadership.”

ESPN’s Tim Hasselbeck, the former NFL backup quarterback, offered a soliloquy in defense of Tagovailoa on “NFL Live” this week.

“I think Tua in many respects has been kind of unfairly judged and criticized. You think about how he came into the league. He was coming off a massive hip injury that they weren’t sure was going to heal. They weren’t even sure he was going throw on his pro day.

“People were talking about ‘hey, his rookie year were they were going to redshirt him’; that was the COVID season. He was in a situation where Ryan Fitzpatrick played better than he did.

“Then there’s a change of offensive coordinator [last year]. It’s clear now there was dysfunction in the organization. While there’s a ton of pressure on Tua to perform because of the new cast and a new coach that will have a quarterback friendly system for him, the reality is this is really his first shot to have success based on what he walked into and how he walked into it.”

The Dolphins rarely used a fullback under Brian Flores, but McDaniel has been around offenses that use them quite a bit.

As fullback Alec Ingold continues to heal from a Week 10 ACL injury sustained when he played for the Raiders last season, McDaniel discussed the advantages of using one.

“One of the advantages of a fullback is that you have a backfield player that can give you different numbers on each side of the center depending on the direction he goes.

“It doesn’t hurt that a lot of offenses have gone away from that only because with the historical experience that our staff has had, myself included, defenses aren’t as adept at fitting those types of plays, whether they’re runs or passes, and defending against it, which is a competitive advantage when you’re able to find a fullback that — it’s just not any ordinary human being or you must play with a fullback.

“You have to have an athletic player that is smart, can understand a lot of schemes and can read on the fly. When that position player plays fast, it can be pretty disruptive to teams that are not used to going against it.”

Wilkins explained a tangible way that it helps that the Dolphins are returning generally the same defensive personnel:

“There are certain things like chemistry, like certain plays in certain times where me and Zach [Sieler] don’t even need to communicate. We just know what we’re doing and it’s just like I know you’re going to be there, or ‘E-Rob’ [Elandon Roberts] knows I have times and places where I take risks or I take chances, and he knows he’s got to make me right and things like that. It’s fun to play with guys and have some continuity.”