To say that the Miami Dolphins opened 2012 Free Agency yesterday afternoon with a bang would be a gross understatement. However, that "bang" wasn't from the Dolphins signing Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Vincent Jackson or Carl Nicks. Rather, it was the sound of Miami jettisoning troubled wideout Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks.
"Bang." So long, Mr. No.1 wideout.
Quite a curious move for a team that supposedly wants to win now ... that is, until you realize that the Marshall trade was the ultimate indication that Jeff Ireland and Co. are fully committed to doing things Joe Philbin's way.
Never mind the fact that Marshall would likely have been a distraction for a new head coach trying to get players to buy into his system; the fact that Marshall has been a dropped-pass machine during much of his career; the fact that Marshall has looked at the Dolphins as just a mistress during his two seasons in Miami (quarterback Jay Cutler was always going to be No. 1 in Marshall's book--his gushing and fond reminiscence of their days as Broncos basically confirmed that).
Never mind any of that. The bottom line for why Marshall is now in the NFC North is this: Joe Philbin clearly didn't think Marshall was a fit in his brand of West Coast Offense.
Now, that's not to say Brandon Marshall couldn't fit in the Dolphins' new offense (you can always find a place for a playmaker wide receiver); however, Marshall plays the position like a wild bull--strong, stubborn and often times reckless. You'd have a hard time using any of those terms to describe the offense Philbin presided over in Green Bay. The Packers' offense during Philbin's five years as coordinator was cerebral, organized, fast and precise; its wide receivers all fitting a certain mold of superb route-running ability packaged with great hands and the ability to do boatloads of damage vertically, over the middle and outside the numbers. If those Green Bay wideouts are silent assassins, Marshall is a hellraising banshee, so to force him into an offense like Philbin's or Mike Sherman's would be like trying to fit a square peg into a needle-sized round hole.
Maybe the above won't do much to ease the minds of Dolphins fans convinced that their team's offense won't recover from the loss of such a talented wideout, but this fact might: Philbin was there when the Packers drafted Greg Jennings in the second round of the 2006 draft. He was there when they drafted James Jones in the third round of the 2007 draft. He was there when Green Bay selected Jordy Nelson in the second round of the 2008 draft (and then selected tight end Jermichael Finley in the next round). Philbin was exposed to the blueprint for how to identify and acquire premier receiving talent for the West Coast Offense, and he knows that the second and third rounds are where the magic is.
Now as Dolphins head coach, Philbin has strong auxiliary pieces in Davone Bess (who will be an absolute killer in this offense) and Brian Hartline. What Philbin, Ireland and Co. must do next is find a Jennings-type receiver in a draft class chock full of fabulous wideout talent. After that, find a tall speedster who will give defensive coordinators nightmares. Add that talent to the Dolphins' current receiver roster, and maybe, just maybe, Miami will have something comparable to Green Bay's wideout corps--you know, the one every football fan has been so smitten with over the last three years
Here's a short list of the receivers prospects who could help put Miami's offense on the fast track in 2012:
1) Kendall Wright, Baylor
You might've laughed at the premise of finding a receiving talent akin to Greg Jennings, but that's the kind of potential Kendall Wright brings to the table. Despite his rather compact (5'10", 196) frame, Wright is a diamond-precise route-runner who explodes out of his breaks, and he's a velcro-handed receiver who has no problem making plays over the middle. Don't put too much stock in the 4.6 he ran at the Combine. Wright plays like a 4.3 guy on the field (and he may get close to that time at this pro day next week).
2) Reuben Randle, LSU
A taller receiver with good speed (4.4-4.5 range) and the nimbleness to dice the route tree (though there's still some inconsistency in that department), Reuben Randle is a legit day two pick in this draft. Randle has huge, strong mitts, and is a certified big-play threat downfield. He isn't lightning coming off the line of scrimmage, but he runs big and is a near-impossible jam assignment for defensive backs.
3) Chris Givens, Wake Forest
Givens is a slippery route-runner who can get up to top speed in a blink, and he does great work after the catch. His hands aren't on par with Randle or Wright's, but he's not going to drop many footballs, either. A sleeper prospect with big-time upside.
4) Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
Like Randle, Sanu is a big-bodied wideout with the ability to cut up routes, and he's an excellent fit in any horizontal passing game. Sanu isn't a flyer, but he has good speed and flashes great strength and balance over the middle of the field. His hands are massive and naturally envelope the ball, and his thick build (6'2" 218) makes it difficult to disrupt him off the line of scrimmage. A fabulous receiver prospect in a very strong class for the position.