With FA all but over and the draft finished, all upgrades to be made this season have pretty much been done. What is left to do now in the doldrums is to evaluate what we got, what we still need and where we should go from here.
In FA we got a LBer to help us in our transition to a more traditional 43 and a FS to shore up our secondary. In the draft we got our QB of the future, an OT that should do wonders for our pass protection, a DE with high potential, and an athletic TE that takes our TE corps from meh to WOW.
Since the biggest complaints last season were a lack of talent at QB and RT, the first two picks were need picks, but the case can be made that they were also the BPAs. The biggest complaints on D were pass rush and pass prevention. The additions of Marshall, Guyton, Kaddu and Vernon answered these cries, but there is much that, unfortunately we did not get to do.
A big need that we still need to address is the pass rush. I know we just brought in Vernon, a DE, and Kaddu, a blitzing coverage LBer, but in today's NFL you need three good Des to properly run the 43 we intended to. DEs get tired through the course of the game and in order to have fresh legs in the 4th Qtr when the other team is playing catch up (hopefully) you need a solid rotation all along the DL. We have a solid rotation at DT with Soliai, Odrick, Langford and McDaniel, but we only have one great pass rusher at DE, Wake, and two guys that aren't good at the moment, Westerman and Vernon. Don't get me wrong. Vernon could turn into a solid to damn good DE. When you factor in DE rotation and the fact that Wake will be slowing down, we need to draft a good prospect in the draft next offseason and will be likely looking for another one in 3-4 years.
Another huge need is a good pulling guard. Right now our OL is stacked, but we are weak at the OG position. If we can get a good pulling guard through either FA or the draft next year, our OL will be set for the next 10 years. Saying this and getting one is much easier said than done though. It is much easier to find a mauler because they just need to beat the man in front of them. That is easier to scout for than a puller because even a good puller in college might have trouble pulling in the pros because of the pure athletic ability of DEs and LBers. A good puller would allow us to not have to use Pouncey on pulls and would vary who we pulled. This could be used to our advantage as we could pull either one depending on the D and the matchups. Needless to say, shoring up the OG would mightily help our ground game.
Continuing on with the offensive needs is the one at WR. We need a talented SE if we want this WCO to be successful. We have a few rookies this year that are promising SEs such as, Jeff Fuller, C.J. Cunningham, Derek Moye, and Rishard Matthews. The ones I think that have the best shot at doing something in this WCO are Fuller and Cunningham, but I might be surprised. While these guys could be the answer we are looking for, I would not leave that up to chance in the next draft, getting the best WR available in the 2nd or 3rd round. I know we already have a logjam at WR, but the more competition the better. The only problem with our logjam is that it is at the bottom of the roster and we are still questioning if we have talent there. If we have talent down there, we need that talent to rise to the top and quickly, drafting a talented WR early in the next draft will force it. If we don't have talent, draft a WR early will provide us with talent to groom.
The next offensive need is a change of pace back to Bush if Thomas can't be that guy. We need a bruiser back there for short yardage situations and to give Bush a break when he gets winded after a big run. This would immensely help our redzone O, as the D would have to respect the run because of our OL and our huge RB. This would take the pressure off of Tannehill's shoulder to perform in the redzone, which is what we need to do with a young QB.
Strong Safety was a need I contemplated placing in the above category, but with so many players vying for the spot next to Marshall, I think that one of them will at least be adequate and we might not even think this position is a need by this time next year. Jones, Wilson, and Johnson should be competing for that coveted starting SS spot and competition among young, talented players is an almost sure fire way to get good results.
Linebacker depth is another area of concern because the only quality depth I see there is Spitler and Kaddu, and Kaddu is completely unproven. This LBing corps cannot take a single injury next year because we have no one behind them to fill in. This would be a bigger need, but we are only missing depth. We have a starting trio that should be good and might get better if Kaddu can supplant Guyton as a starter. Needless to say, our LBer depth is bad, really bad.
The next secondary need on my list is nickelback. I personally believe that Smith and Davis are two talented corners, but after them we only have question marks. Carroll showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, but had a sophomore slump. We lost our previous nickelback in Will Allen. The FA we got to replace him is Jonathan Wade, a 4th CB at best. We have a promising CB returning in Agnew, but he will not be able to play nickelback this season barring tremendous progress. We have good starters and depth, but we don't have a nickelback.
This is all the holes I foresee the Dolphins having in the next year. This is great news as we are not concerned about too many starting positions as in years past, but in depth and adding the final pieces to our O and D. Chalk that up to Ireland's drafting, FA signings and trades.