As I scan the endless sea of mock drafts, reflect on others' opinions on the state of the roster and how it should change through contract negotiations and free agency, Ireland and Ross, new stadium upgrades, new logo, and all the other distractions, I come back to one fundamental question: what does it take to win in today's NFL? Today's NFL. GM's and coaches are praised alike for being able to identify how the game is changing, to sift through the mountains and valleys of statistics and personnel, and look into their crystal ball-of-sorts to illuminate what shall pass and how the game will evolve. Bringing a bow-and-arrow to a night-vision-scope automatic weapon kind of fight will bring about the most painful result: not making the playoffs. CT wrote a nice piece praising Dimitroff from the Falcons for building a consistent winner in Atlanta, and arguments can be made for others as well, but the fact of the matter is that being able to see how the game is evolving helps expedite the adjustment process and helps catalyze a consistent loser into a consistent winner. Foresight leads to wins.
Let's help our team while we have the most poker chips at the table (poker chips = draft picks and cap space and ability to make anywhere from subtle to drastic changes of the roster depending on the evaluation of the coaching staff)! Answering this question will help decide if we blossom or deteriorate as a result of this offseason. And I'm well aware that the game is about passing now, and therefore, how important the DE position is. I understand. That's already evolved into today's game. Here is my two cents about how the game is evolving...remember, the more foresight we have, the more likely we are to build a longer-term winner!
1. Audibles and disguises. Having a coach or OC that doesn't allow his QB to audible at the line of scrimmage is a thing of the past. Rookies did it, back-ups did it, everybody did it. Not allowing your QB to audible is suicidal in today's NFL. As such, defenses need to be taught to disguise blitzes and coverages better. This falls on the scheme and coaches executing the scheme, and the players' intelligence executing the play. Offenses often come to the line of scrimmage with more than 1 play to choose from, and I think it's time for defenses to start adjusting by disguising coverage and blitzes better, and being able to quickly audible themselves.
How we can be pro-active about this on 2013 Miami Dolphins and in the future: versatility and intelligence becomes paramount.
2. Defense still matters. Say what you want about the offensive explosion in the NFL, but defense is overlooked. I've heard some Fin fanatics call for every 2013 draft pick to be selected on offense. Look, I know we were bringing bow-and-arrows when it comes to offense this year, but let's not get paranoid and build something lop-sided. To win our division and get through the playoffs, we will inevitably go through an elite QB. We will have to get a pass rush on said QB with 4 pass rushers, because statistically speaking, the elite QB's carve up defenses that blitz with 5+ rushers. If you look at this year's AFC and NFC championship games, each winning defense was able to shut the other team down for a considerable amount of time. You have to be able to do that in the playoffs to beat the elite guys. In each of the past 5 winning Super Bowl teams, their defensive identity came down to either getting heavy, consistent pressure on the QB or forcing turnovers, usually a combination of both (and an interplay of both). The 2012 Miami Dolphins did neither of these things. Wake needs help and so does our secondary.
How we can be pro-active about this on 2013 Miami Dolphins and in the future: draft DE now, draft LB's that can cover tight ends and running backs (2014 draft), draft safeties in the future that can match up with a slot receiver (aka we need safeties to start getting faster and quicker without sacrificing their ability to tackle), and CB's who have shown the ability to jump routes and make plays on the ball.
3. Balance is more important than ever. If there's one way to get stifled by an NFL defense, it's to be one-dimensional and/or predictable. If you're both, you're watching the playoffs from the couch. It's a pass-happy league, but where are the Lions? The Saints? Just because it's a pass-happy league, and you pass all the time, and statistically you are the best passing team in the NFL, and your QB's are upper echelon, it's not guaranteed you will have team success. The best offenses keep defenses off-balance, and you do that by keeping it in good down-and-distance, and having good run-pass balance.
How we can be pro-active about this on 2013 Miami Dolphins and in the future: this is purely subjective, but I want Sherman to do a better job at playcalling. I know our offensive talent wasn't all there, but I felt the playcalling was very predictable at times. I know we had questionable talent on the offensive side of the ball, but since when is questionable talent a reason to be predictable and conservative in calling plays? We need more talent at WR so throwing on 1st down is a more viable threat (more on this later) and we can throw more TD's in the red zone.
4. O stands for options. In today's NFL, you need at least three different threats on offense. 2 is not sufficient, 3 is necessary. The more, the merrier. Teams do this in different ways. NE attacks the middle with 2 TE's and a slot receiver, with role players sprinkled throughout other skill positions on offense; GB spreads out with multiple WR formations and attack space. Teams like Baltimore use a solid play-action game (Pitta, Boldin, and Dickson) and deep threat (Smith) because they can hedge on a RB (Rice) who can run for over 1,000 and catch 50 or more balls. Assuming we stay in the West Coast mold, that means we are relying on multiple WR's to help out, and unfortunately it didn't seem our personnel matched the scheme very well this year. Remember how fast-paced our offense was supposed to be this year? It was pedestrian at best. It wasn't conditioning; we just didn't have the personnel to make it work. I would have liked to see Reggie Bush and Lamar Miller catching more passes last year, and in addition, seeing them on the field at the same time.
How we can be pro-active about this on 2013 Miami Dolphins and in the future: the Miami Dolphins need options on offense. Like yesterday. We need players out of free agency and the draft on the offensive side of the ball, but I think the best bet of finding a long-term playmaker on offense is the draft. Assuming we have 15 picks in the next two drafts, I want 6 of them spent on potential playmakers on offense (including TE). My personal preference is for Tavon Austin with the first 2nd round pick, and Ryan Swope with the first 3rd round pick. But endless debate can be made about who we should choose, my point is that the 2013 Miami Dolphins need options on offense or our playcalling will never get creative (because we have nothing to get creative with), we will be in the same boat as we are right now (a mediocre team),
probably fire a coach or GM or both, and have yet more uncertainty in the organization.
So, my fellow Dolphin fans and visionaries, here was my crude attempt on trying to keep a pulse on the future. How do you see the NFL evolving? And how do you think the Dolphins can fit in with it? Idealistic optimists and cynical pessimists can agree that this year we must make the right offseason decisions. This is the year to capitalize and set up a long-term winner. Tom Brady has 3-4 years left and it would be nice to build a team that can take over the AFC East throne for years while the other teams struggle with organizational instability and profound roster change.