Taking the next step is what we are all hoping to witness next season. To become that elite team right up there with the likes of the Colts, Patriots and Steelers every year. Although a winning season next year still will not put the Dolphins in that catergorie it has to be done to get there. Tony Sparano said this is the hardest step to take in all of sports .. and you need to look no further than Browns, Jets and Cowboys to see that trying to hard to achieve this will sometimes set you back. So what do the Dolphins have to do to get there? We all know the Trifecta has a plan ready to put in action to get us to the top of the mountain but do you see it the same way? I know I would never argue with what they are doing.
So here is a small breakdown of what we already got .. I know many of you already know all of this but it might help with the bigger picture in seeing what we got and where we are going.
The offense finished the season #12 in the league in Total Yards .. not to bad at all considering where the phins finished last season. To get there they used many different things like the Wildcat and Ginn Jr. Reverses to confuse opposing defenses and score quick points. This allowed our team to use the talent to the best of our ability and even starting something new in the league that hasn't been done in a long time. I don't think this is what we will continue to do next year as I believe our talent level will rise and allow us to do more out of our base offense. So how do we get to that point?
Some things to note about the 2008 season:
- No 1000 yard rusher
- No WR with +60 catches or 1000 yrds (Camarillo was on pace before being injured)
- QB with +3500 yrds passing and +90.00 QB Rating
- TE with 7 TD receptions
According to these stats the Dolphins offense lacks talent in the most important positions on the field. I do think the Dolphins RB talent is great but for some reason it isn't adding up and showing up on the field each week. They do have a young WR group and should get better with more work in the offseason .. also adding another big body WR could help .. cross fingers now to not getting another bust like Wilford. Also remember that Deveone Bess came in for an injured Camarillo and the offense didn't miss a beat. The TE position is solid with both Fasano and Martin playing great this season .. a little offseason work should help them improve even more in this system.
The O-Line is really the biggest question mark on this team .. Where are they if Vernon Carey is let go? Do they have enough depth to withstand the same injurys next season? The positives are the Dolphins have an absolute stud in Jake Long and Smiley did have a good season as well, it has been said the trifecta likes big players on the line .. what does this mean for Samson? This is the biggest area that will be changed again in my opinion .. Matty wrote a great article on this if you want more detail. Overall not to bad but No 1000 yrd rusher says a lot in my opinion .. they need to be able to open up those holes for the RBs to run through out of the base offense for this team to take the next step.
Finally the QB position .. our team MVP comes from this position in Pennington and the phins have two high draft picks we spent to back him up. If you look at his stats for the season it was quite different for us as fans because we haven't seen a QB do this in so long .. since Marino. It was a great season until the final game but that is usually how it goes for most teams .. the Panthers and Jets to name a few.
Overview of the Offense
The Dolphins most talented players on Offense are probably the RB's yet neither rushed over 1000 yrds .. this should be addressed this offseason. If this means getting the O-Line in that will provide the proper lanes for our RB's to run through than go get them at all costs. Chad Pennington will stay as starting QB and should lead this group to more success next year .. to become a constant winner we need to be constant in the most important position on the field. Pennington has the ability to find everyone on the field and manages the game with the best of them .. with an improved O-line and run game who knows how far the Dolphins can go on the offensive side of the ball .. Top 8?
The focal point of this offseason will be spent on the Defense with many questions about pending FA for some players. The starting secondary is all up for FA (except Will Allen) and so is Channing Crowder. Overall the unit ranked 15th in the league and 9th in points allowed.
In looking at the teams that made the step to the Conference games this week all of them except the Cardinals have a great defense .. actually #1 - #3 great. So what is it going to take for our team to take that next step to becoming an "elite" defensive team in this league.
Some things to note about the 2008 season:
- Had a three game streak with no opposing TD's allowed.
- Ranked 8th in sacks with 40 .. thank you Joey Porter
- Ranked 8th in INTs with 18 .. league leader Baltimore had 26
- Ranked 9th in Pass Defelected with 99
According to these stats the Dolphins were a bend but don't break defense .. that shows why we are 6 spots higher in points allowed V. Total yards allowed/game. For this team to get to the next step they are going to have to improve these stats even more. We know the system in place works now we just need the parts to make it run better.
The secondary will probably see some changes as it will be difficult to keep everyone. Goodies 5 INT this season will make him a hot target in the FA period. Who can we afford to lose and keep? of the three it is my opinion that Hill is the most expendable but he also helps this unit communicate so well out on the field. This will be interesting to see the next step the Dolphins take.
The linebackers as group were solid but not fantastic. Joey Porter was Second Team All Pro which says enough and Channing did enough to warrant staying with the team but once again he still doesn't seem to make those game changing plays. I think this unit will add another LB pass rusher so they can start to put some fear into the opposing teams offense, this should improve secondary as well.
The D-Line was alright this year but struggled with the pass rush. The Dolphins have a great mix of young talented players and crafty old vets like Ferg and Vonnie. The only area of concern for this unit as a whole would be the depth at the NT position .. this is probably the most important position in this defense as the flood gates can open if you don't have the right person in.
Overview of the Defense
Its hard to see what is going to be done with this unit. The Dolphins were good but not great .. how do you get to great? Who do you keep and who do you let go with the FA? This will be the toughest and most important moves made this offseason .. with proper moves how far til we make a jump in the top 5?
I guess after seeing all the moving parts and what is going on you can see why it is so incredible how the Colts, Pats, and Steelers manage to stay at the top level for so long. Even teams like the Eagles making another incredible run shows you what having the proper people in place can do for a NFL team.
So the final question I ask you is if you are part of the Trifeta where do you focus on taking this team to the next step?