Why Doesn't Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin Play Rookies?

By Matthew Cannata
Joe Philbin
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There has been some chatter regarding Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin dating back to last season in regards to his seemingly unwillingness to play rookies. This is an interesting conversation, because as everyone knows, the draft is a piece of the puzzle to building a successful franchise. If one isn’t going to play rookies right away who can handle the pressures of the NFL, they need to make sure they have plenty of quality veterans on the team already. With the Dolphins, this isn’t the case.

With that said, let’s go back and take a look at Philbin’s rookie classes in 2012 and 2013, and see if what is being said about him is true.

In 2012, the Dolphins drafted Ryan Tannehill, Jonathan Martin, Olivier Vernon, Michael Egnew, Lamar Miller, Josh Kaddu, B.J. Cunningham, Kheeston Randall and Rishard Matthews.

Tannehill played just about every snap with 1,001 in 2012, and was named the starting quarterback in the middle of training camp. The same can be said for Martin, who was anointed the right tackle almost as soon as he was drafted. He played in 1,053 snaps.

As for the others, Vernon played 445 snaps in 2012. Egnew struggled to get anything going and was inactive pretty much every game of the season, playing only 25 snaps over the last two weeks of the season. Miller was also someone who was brought along slowly, only playing in 146 snaps.

Kaddu played in only 11 snaps and Randall was used sparingly, only playing in 148 snaps. Matthews was brought along towards the end of the season and played in 236 snaps. Cunningham and Randall were both cut prior to the start of the season.

The total amount of snaps the rookie class played in 2012 was 3,065. What does this mean? It shows that unless it’s a huge need for the team, a rookie is going to be brought along slowly. Philbin is going to let the rookie learn the system, the nuances of the NFL, and how to become a professional.

However, we also need to look at the circumstances. It was tough for Vernon to break through and replace Odrick. While the Dolphins were expecting big things from Egnew, he simply didn’t deliver. Miller was fighting to replace Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, but you think he would’ve taken away more carries from Thomas. Kaddu and Randall clearly needed to be developed, and Matthews was given more action when Davone Bess got injured.

Despite some tough competition, fans would have loved to see rookies contributing more on the field. Based off the snap count from 2012, that does not seem to be the way that Philbin operates.

Let’s take a look at 2013 though, just to be sure.

That year, the Dolphins drafted Dion Jordan, Jamar Taylor, Dallas Thomas, Will Davis, Jelani Jenkins, Dion Sims, Mike Gillislee, Caleb Sturgis and Don Jones.

Jordan was injured throughout a good part of the season, but only participated in 339 snaps. Taylor was also injured most of the year and played in 45 snaps. Davis had his own injury and personal issues and played in 65 snaps. Jenkins played in 127 snaps, and Sims played in 280 snaps. Sturgis was on the field for all kickoffs and field goal attempts, and Gillislee participated in only eight snaps. Jones played only on special teams.

Without counting special teams snaps, the rookie class contributed 856 snaps, which was the lowest amount in the NFL. This shows that once again, Philbin brought along the rookies very slowly. There was no real urgent need in 2013 at a position where a rookie was drafted, so you could say that had to do with it. However, with the same exact trend a year earlier, it’s hard not to connect the dots and see that Philbin doesn’t like to play rookies the majority of the time if he doesn’t have to.

This gives us a good idea of what to expect this year. The only glaring need the Dolphins have right now is at right tackle. If the Dolphins draft someone at that position, expect that person to start and play the entire season. If the Dolphins are drafting anyone else, do not be surprised if they don’t play very often, as this seems to be their philosophy here in Miami. After all, 2012 and 2013 shows that Philbin likes to bring rookies along slowly.

Matthew Cannata covers the Miami Dolphins for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @PhinManiacs. Like him on Facebook, and add him to your Google Network.

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