Before the season comes to a close and all the mock drafts come into a frenzy, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the state of the Miami Dolphins roster with four games to go.
Last year the Miami Dolphins took a giant leap forward by appointing a coaching staff that likes their teams to play the type of football many of us have yearned for, and drafted at the time a highly polarising west coast quarterback with the number eight pick in the draft. Fast-forward eight months, and the coaching staff have done a pretty good job with the resources they have had at their disposal. But that was the easy part. The hard part now is to find the players to build around your new quarterback. Tannehill needs help, and this is absolutely the year we need to give him the weapons to put us in positions to win football games. It’s as simple as that.
With this in mind, never has it been more crucial for our Dolphins players to step up to the plate and be counted for. We have four games to go, and there will be many players that will be playing for the futures. Who will stay and who will go? Lets take a look at a position-by-position breakdown of our roster with four games to go.
Quarterback It may not seem like this is a huge need, but with Matt Moore’s contract up at the end of the season, we need a number two quarterback. For me, Moore needs to be re-signed. Hopefully he’s realised he will never be a number one quarterback in the NFL and, in Miami, he has a good working relationship with the coaches and a team that trusts him when he steps into a game. He’s a very good game-manager that can get us wins when he’s called upon. For me, he needs to be convinced to sign on the dotted line.
Running backs Reggie Bush had a tremendous start to the season, but since then has stuttered somewhat. Behind him we have Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller. Both are promising young players in their own right. But are they ready to handle more carries if Bush goes? I don’t like the idea of Bush going, but the team may look to move on if his demands are too high. On his day, he is one of the most terrifying running backs to play against. When he’s not on his day, he can disappear from games.
Wide Receivers This is one of the most crucial positions that we need to fill. We need guys who can come in right away and start contributing. They need to have excellent hands, good route running skills and the ability to stretch the field. Out of all the impending free agents from our team, I don’t think Brian Hartline will be a priority. No way do they pay him $5-6 million a year. But there is one guy that is almost a lock to be a free agent, and that is Greg Jennings. Yes, he is getting older. Yes, he has just come back from an injury. Yes, Joe Philbin has said he wants the team to build through the draft. But coaches love familiarity. Philbin is aware of what Jennings can do from his time in Green Bay. Are there any players in the draft better than Jennings? Not a chance. He’d be costly, but in my mind would be well worth getting an elite receiver to continue Tannehill’s development. Mr. Ross would love the fact it would almost certainly sell a few more tickets in 2013, too.
Tight End Fasano has been a good servant for this football club over the past few years. However, it’s time to move on. Whilst he has good blocking ability and decent hands, he’s been struggling to get separation in the past few games. And with a cap hit of $4 million, the savings could be put into other areas of the team. I’d also like Egnew to stay. I read an article with Sherman a couple of weeks ago, and he has said that he is excited about the potential of Egnew. He is improving everyday, and will come back in 2013 ready to contribute. Clay has also been good these past few weeks. He’s a nice complimentary tight end to have. Moving forward, there are a few options in free agency and in the draft. There’s one tight end in the draft I’m particularly high on, but won’t give away the game until the offseason! One thing is for sure though, the tight end position is crucial for us to win in 2013.
Offensive Line Jake Long is out of contract and injured. Can Martin step up at left tackle and prove to be the answer in 2013? It will be very interesting to watch how he plays in the last four games. If he plays admirably, he may save this team a lot of money. I like Long, but I don’t think he’s worth over ten percent of the team’s cap space. Worryingly too is the fact that his pass protection has been poor this year. And does he even fit our system? I think Philbin will be tempted to move on and put more money into the skill positions. There’s also a certain prospect in the 1st round that has NFL bloodlines and was coached by our offensive coordinator at college. The team may also look to upgrade the guard positions. John Jerry is improving, but Incognito may be sacrificed to make extra cap room (save $4 million). There’s a very good guard that looks like he’ll hit free agency out of Buffalo, while there are also some nice looking prospects in the draft. We need guys that will fit our zone blocking system, and right now some of them aren’t cracking it.
Defensive Line Not many changes here for me. Starks needs to be re-signed. If you don’t re-sign him, we will regress. The defensive line is the best unit on our team right now, and we need to do everything we can to keep them intact. But, in order to win next year we need to generate more pressure from the pass rush. There are plenty of prospects in the first round of the draft next year that can do this. Once we get our pass rush up and running, then it will make life a lot more easier for our secondary.
Linebackers Pretty solid unit for us right now. I hear calls from some sections of the support calling for Dansby's head. Right now, he's the leader on the defense and needs to stay. Koa Misi is developing very nice. It suits him being a 4-3 linebacker. And Kevin Burnett is solid. I would like to see some depth added in the offseason and would be interested to see what Kaddu can do next year.
Secondary This might have been our weakest unit of the team this year. Of course, this hasn’t been helped by our failure for our defensive line to get the the quarterback. Nevertheless, we need a few upgrades here. I like Smith, and he will almost certainly be re-signed. Marshall might be a casualty, but I think they let him take part in preseason next year and see what he can do. In order to upgrade the cornerback position we need to get someone in who can play MAN. I put that in capital letters because we will not be signing cover corners. In the draft, there are a few man corners, and I think we will see at least one signed on day two. If not, expect the team to dip back into free agency. At safety, Clemons is serviceable, but it would be nice to get that ball hawking free safety to compliment Reshad Jones. We need a guy who can stop Brady from slicing through our secondary time and time again. The player will need to be quick, will need to be good in run support and will need to be a football player and not an athlete. The safety position is one of the stronger parts of the draft next year, and it will be one of bigger priorities for Jeff Ireland to address next offseason.
Kicking/punting We are fine here. Nothing more to say.
Concluding thoughts It’s going to be real important for this team to kick on this offseason. It’s make or break time for Jeff Ireland. But I can’t help but feel who will really be in charge of the recruitment. Did Jeff Ireland really have a big say in them drafting Ryan Tannehill? Philbin is very meticulous and Sherman has been a GM before. They will know exactly what type of players they want, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they name them to Ireland. It’s also incredibly important to not consider our needs as such when looking to strengthen the team, but look at which positions will make us win quicker. It’s clear as day we need more wide receivers. That’s obvious. We also need a tight end that can stretch the field, someone who Tannehill can grow with. The offensive line needs sorting out once and for all too. Will Jake Long stay? That’s up in the air right now. On the defensive line we need another pass rusher opposite Wake. Getting another pass rusher alone will improve our secondary. Not all our problems will get solved at once, but securing the positions will enable us to win faster. This where the key to the Holy Grail lies, the Super Bowl. Do you believe?