A lot is changing with the Dolphins and it seems like there's a negative vibe amongst Dolfans these days. I'm still optimistic about the direction of this franchise, and it starts with the [alleged] hiring of Brian Daboll. It's going to be interesting to see how the draft is handled. The Dolphins are close. Aside from a few missing pieces on offense, the team is loaded with young talent. Unfortunately, one of the missing pieces is a quarterback.
According to his Patriots bio, Daboll “was primarily responsible for preparing film breakdowns for each upcoming opponent, including comprehensive opponent scouting charts for Coach Belichick and the defensive coaches. The preparation and study of opponent offensive game tendencies during his first two seasons with the Patriots provided unique training for his first positional responsibilities in 2002.”
That's from Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post. In my opinion, the only thing that matters is Brian Daboll's THREE Superbowl rings. He coached guys like Randy Moss and Wes Welker during some pretty spectacular seasons. Daboll brings a winning philosophy, proven success and energy to the Dolphins. At the very least, his wide receivers didn't have a problem with dropping passes.
If the Dolphins are going to improve, it's going to be primarily through the draft. Sparano and Co. improved the defense tremendously by drafting heavily on the defensive side. This year, they're going to do the same to the offense. The Dolphins have needs at quarterback, guard, wide receiver, runningback and tight end. In my opinion, the draft is set up well to find a quarterback or a guard in the late first round. Like in 2010 when the Dolphins traded down and selected Jared Odrick, I am hoping that they trade down and draft the best player available that fits the needs of the Dolphins. Here is Mel Kiper's top 25, condensed to include only the Dolphins main needs:
- Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
- Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
- Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
- Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
- Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
- Jake Locker, QB, Washington
- Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova
There are four quarterbacks and five linemen that, were the draft today, would all be a steal in the late first round. Obviously, most of the linemen are listed as tackles, but I would hope that Sparano could move an athletic tackle inside to guard. Blaine Gabbert could be the next Big Ben and Mike Pouncey would be a versatile supercharge to the line. It's also possible to draft one of the four quarterbacks (someone usually slides) in the late first round, and then draft someone like Ben Ijalana in the second round.
I don't think that quarterback is as great a need as most people are saying. For example, what would our draft needs be if Henning would have opened up the offense a little bit, ditched the Wildcat, and stuck with the hot runningback? Our record would have been different and Henne would have been in less of those bad situations, like 3rd & long following a busted Wildcat play. I think that Henne deserves more time to develop, with competition.
To sum things up, this is what i'd like to see:
- Someone like Jake Locker to bring in and compete with Henne for the starting quarterback position. I believe that Locker has the tools to be a great NFL quarterback. He's also a better runner than Tyler Thigpen or even Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is the future of the NFL quarterback as we know it and the Dolphins should use him as a template when evaluating prospects.
- An elite lineman. Nate Garner (who is a physical, versatile giant of a lineman) is coming back, and hopefully John Jerry will improve in his second year. Richie Incognito is at this point an experiment at center, although he looks good so far. But 2010 proved that the Dolphins don't have enough quality depth along the line.
- A wide receiver with speed in the middle rounds. At this point it's pointless to speculate who that would be. Once the combine rolls around, we'll see who runs a 4.2 and then we can begin to salivate.
- A running back with speed. Graig Cooper is a good example of a speedy runningback who could be around in the 7th round due to his ACL injury. Willis McGahee suffered a similar injury and he went on to become the complement to Ray Rice in Baltimore. It's important to remember that whatever happens at the runningback position, Kory Sheets will be returning from injured reserve.
- An athletic tight end to complement Anthony Fasano. D.J. Williams from Arkansas is a good example of someone the Dolphins could target in the middle rounds. It will be interesting to see how the tight ends run at the combine, because there really aren't any elite prospects as of right now. If Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame junior) grades out well at the combine, he may be worth drafting in the second round.
I'm excited about the coming season. I hope Sparano and Nolan have the sense to stick with what works on defense. Jared Odrick and A.J. Edds are returning from injured reserve. The Dolphins have the luxury of drafting towards their needs on offense. More importantly, Brian Daboll [allegedly] stands to fix some of the philosophical mistakes that were made on offense. I'll close with just a few quick thoughts:
- It's interesting to remember that Michael Lombardi of NFL Network named the Dolphins one of his "Blue Chip" teams prior to the 2010 season, saying that they had the talent to be legitimate Superbowl contenders. Maybe if the team had been handled a little differently he would've been proven right.
- Where does the defense go from here? Paul Soliai, Vontae Davis, Sean Smith, Nolan Carroll and Reshad Jones all showed signs of improvement as the season went on. I think that with the return of Jared Odrick, the defense is going to be special in 2011.
- If Ronnie Brown returns, I hope to see the return of the Wildcat. As much as I hated to see it this year, I think that Brown runs the formation in a unique way and it can be a valuable tool with improved blocking. I just hope that Brian Daboll has the sense to use it more appropriately.
- I would be interested to see an accurate 40 yard dash time for Patrick Cobbs. I still can't figure out if I think he belongs on the roster. I was upset every time he took the field this past season, until he started making plays in the later games. Now I am just confused.
- Kory Sheets is fast. I don't know how the Dolphins feel about him, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Dolphins don't even draft a runningback this year. If Ronnie Brown comes back, they might take a runningback in the late rounds, or even try to find one among the undrafted free agents.