As the Dolphins end their season this Sunday against the Jets many questions will arise around the roster. The roster will need some tweaks but I really believe that we are not that far away. Here is my take on what needs to be done to make us a playoff team next season.
QBs: The only QB that I see returning next season for the Dolphins is Matt Moore. Moore has shown glimpses in Carolina and Miami that he can be a serviceable QB at this level. Is he an elite QB? No he is not. However, I think he can lead a quality team to the playoffs. Henne, Losman, Rosenfels and Devlin I do not see returning. As it stands today the only QB that looks to be available with our first round pick is Landry Jones. I like Landry Jones but I would rather invest our 1st round pick on a RT or a pass rushing DE or OLB (depending if we stay with the 3-4 or go to a 4-3 alignment). I do see the Dolphins investing a pick on a QB later in the draft. What I would like to see the Dolphins do is bring in a QB like they did this past season with Moore. My recommendation would be to bring in Shaun Hill. Hill is not the answer but I am looking for a quality backup to Moore. Let's give Moore a shot in 2012. We lost out on Luck and Griffin. Barkley is going back to USC. Let's not reach for a QB. Moore is the 2012 starter no matter what.
Starter: Matt Moore Backups: Shaun Hill and QB select in draft.
RBs: One of the biggest question marks heading into the 2011 season was our RB position. Many of us did not believe that Bush could be an every down back. Daniel Thomas looked promising but as a rookie coming in it's not typical to dominate the league. Well I think this might be our strongest position heading into the off-season. Bush has played with a level of determination that we saw out of Cameron Wake in the 2010 season. He has proven to be capable of being an every down back. I am worried that injuries are still a high risk for Bush but we only have him signed through next season. We just need him to stay healthy enough to make it through next season. I liked what I saw out of Daniel Thomas this year when he was on the field. I'm not 100% sold on him yet but I think he compliments Reggie Bush really well. Please let Lex Hillard go. He offers nothing for this team. I would like to see them add a 3rd back through free agency. Mewelde Moore would be a great option for this team as a 3rd back on the roster. He catches the ball well out of the backfield. He has proven that he can step in when needed as well. He's not sexy but he would be a wonderful option in case something happened to Bush or Thomas.
Starter: Reggie Bush Backups: Daniel Thomas and Mewelde Moore
WRs: I am shocked to say this but I was diappointed with our wide receivers this year. As much as I am a fan of Brandon Marshall, he did drop way too many passes this year. I still believe that he is a number 1 wr but I think he needs a better compliment on the other side of the ball. Davone Bess over the years has turned into one of my favorite players but there was something different about him this year. He didn't seem to get open like he has in past. Always finding holes in the defense was a specialty of his but not this season. He also dropped some key passes as well. I think we rely to heavily on him and he is more a 3rd/4th wr. Brian Hartline continues to impress me when the ball is thrown his way. At the beginning of the season our coaching staff was not utilizing him in the correct manner, That has changed over the last few games and we see glimpes of what he can bring. He is a smart receiver with deceiving speed. He also is a true number 3 receiver. I'm not sure what we have in Gates yet. I'd like to see what the next coaching staff can do to involve him a little more in the offense. My thoughts are that we need to bring in a number 2 receiver to help Marshall. My answer is Brandon Lloyd. I think Lloyd would not allow defenses to double up on Marshall. He runs good routes. Can still be explosive in spurts as well. Depending on his contract demands I would pursue him.
TEs/FBs: Solid but not spectaular is the best way to describe this bunch. Charles Clay has really given the Dolphins something to be excited about. He looks like he is capable ot delivering big plays. He also has great hands. I'm very excited to see what year 2 brings us with his potential. Fasano, in my mind, is a very undervalued player. He is a very good blocking TE and when he gets the chance proves that he can bring something in the passing game. Mastrud can be brought back as the 3rd TE. I am against drafting a TE early in the draft. I'd like them to take a chance on a TE somewhere between round 4-7.
FB Starter: Charles Clay
OL: This unit is still the weak point of the team. Jake Long when healthy is a stud. Period enough said about him. Pouncey looks to be an all-pro center in the making. The way that he pulls on some running plays reminds me of Kevin Mawae. If he has a career like him we would all be extremely happy. I think we all could say that we have been pleasantly surprised with Incognito's play since he has come to the Dolphins. The weaknesses are on the right side of the line. I for one do not like Carey at the RG position. I think he is slow and I would be shocked if he was in a Dolphins uniform again next season. Marc Colombo is just flat out horrible. There is no way that he will be back. He shouldn't even be on the roster today. One way to fix this line is to throw everything at Carl Nicks. The Saints won't be able to retain him. He is the best available OL in free agency in my opinion. I know we have a lot already invested in the o-line but for Moore to have a chance to prove that he is capable of leading this team improvements on the line need to be made. I would also sign Jeremy Zuttah from Tampa. He is a capable guard and can also backfill at Tackle as well. They should look to draft a RT in any of the first 3 rounds. The drafted right tackle will compete with Murtha for the RT position.
DL: This may be the position with the most change heading into the 2012 season. For sake of this article I am going to say the Dolphins stay in a 3-4 format. Soliai, Merling and Langford are all free agents. I see the Dolphins retaining Langford and Merling. Soliai I think has seen his time come to an end. If they stay in the 3-4 setting. I see Randy Starks being moved to the inside. Tony McDaniel will play there as well. Jared Odrick has shown that he might be able to make us re-think our viewpoints of his pick in the late first round. I see Ryan Baker coming back as well. I see us bringing a few options in the draft and maybe one free agent to round out this group. A free agent to target could be Eric Foster of the Colts.He would fit in the rotation nicely and he is coming off injury. He could come on the cheap for the Dolphins.
LBs: I was a little concerned about this group at the beginning of the season. Dansby and Burnett were playing horrible. Then all of a sudden they clicked. I think we are set at inside LB for awhile. Cameron Wake is a beast. I love his motor. I wish we could take his some of his energy and insert it into Soliai. Our weak spot is across from Wake. Jason Taylor has shown flashes since Misi went down but I am assuming Taylor retires at the end of this season. Misi is not the answer. He's a better special teams player than an every down player. Mario Williams is the only big threat LB out on the market so we will need to draft a pass rusher in the draft. This is where we need to use our 1st round pick. Courtney Upshaw would be a nice fit here. We also might be able to trade back a few spots and still land him.
Secondary: Call me crazy but I am still a believer that V. Davis and S.Smith can still be an elite tandem at CB. The only person we look to possibly lose is Will Allen. I see him coming back next season. Jimmy Wilson seems to be a steal in round 7. He has the ability to make big plays. Very good special teams player that could turn into a nice nickelback. Safety is still a concern. Yeremiah Bell has been solid again but they really need to find a FS. Jones and Clemons are not the answer. Culver is a nice backup and contributes when on the field. They will need to find another safety either through the draft or FA.
K/P: Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields. Our kicking game is solid. Fields is probably our best player over the last 2 seasons. Carpenter is reliable. Nothing to change here.
The key to my off-season is to keep the roster as intact as you can. I'd like to add a few players in FA. Mostly on the offensive side of the ball. Adding Nicks, Zuttah, Lloyd, Moore and Hill would instantly upgrade our offense. Our defense has potential. Outside of adding an OL and possibly a TE in the draft, I would focus my draft on defense and use free agency to upgrade the offense.
I will get more into head coaching at a later time but the man to take this team into the playoffs is Brian Billick. He has already worked with Mike Nolan and would probably retain him. He won a superbowl with Dilfer at QB. Matt Moore is a QB with potential. Let's see what Billick can do with Moore at the helm for a full season.
Please let me know your thoughts.