There have been alot of chicken or the egg arguments around with the GM or Head Coach as who is responsible for this disaster. My opinion is the Coaching was more at stake, but the GM has also been at best average. I have plenty of free time, since we will not be playing in the playoffs, so I will do a series on each position and how we rank (as unbiased as I can be) compared to the AFC. My feeling is if we are in the top 6 on average then the blame lays on Philbin, if not then it rests at the feet of Jeff Ireland.
Here is my ranking of Miami position by position to the rest of the 16 AFC teams. I will continue in this post by comparing the DL spot.
As we turn our eyes to the defense we see that not all was a bed of roses on that side of the ball either. While we were much better on defense, we still had very few “game-changing” plays. I would say the best part of our team was the front 4, but were they really elite. The short answer, yes. For the long answer keep on reading.
We will start with the man who makes us tick on defense, Cam Wake. He is a stud and hopefully can give us 3-4 more elite years. The only problem I saw with Wake was that he seemed to struggle later in the season generating a pass rush. He is constantly held (who isn’t anymore in the NFL) and seems to always give 110% effort. To me he is one of the top 5 pass rushers in the NFL.
Vernon seemed to have his coming out party this season. I am a big fan of his, due to watching him give great effort. Although his stats were higher this season, he is not an elite DE (yet). I do think he is a guy that is a great end already with a high ceiling. What I love the most is his effort.
Dion Jordan… Hard to write too much on him, since he didn’t see the field as much as I expected. When he did play he seemed to be physically able to be a stud for years to come. I am still not sure a 4-3 DE would be the best place to play him. In my opinion he would be a heck of a 3-4 DE (with Wake being the other). Shelby also played very well and I think he starts for many teams in the AFC.
The interior: While I think we re-sign Solai (he gives you the flexibility to play 4-3 or 3-4) and I think he is happier to be in Miami. Starks is a great DT, but at times I saw lack of effort. While I’d love to have both, I think we have to make a decision and Starks walks. This year though we had 2 of the best in the AFC playing for us. I was also very impressed with Odrick. What was surprising was the drop of the level of play here the last 3-4 weeks.
The coaching: I had 2 major issues with the coaching at the defensive line:
1) Playing time seemed to be scripted and not monitored in game. There were critical times in games where I look out there and see Shelby and some DT I’ve never heard of in the game, when Wake and Starks should have been in. Jordan should have slowly been eased in, but by week 15-17 should have been playing much more often. 2) Technique vs. the run. We seem to teach our DL to get upfield every play. The downfall to this is they are easily “position blocked”. We teach our offensive lineman to trap and move guys to the left or right if they don’t play “flat” down the line vs. the run. Many times I’d see Odrick 3-4 yards upfield in the backfield as the ball went one gap over and he was blocked by 1 man (allowing the other lineman to free release to an LB, who couldn’t get off the blocks).
Here are the teams I think Miami ranks much higher than on the DL:
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland, San Diego, Indy, Jacksonville, Tennessee, New England.
Teams we are better than although it is much closer
Cincy: They were stout until they lost their best DL (in our game) to an ACL.
Houston: JJ Watt and company are a pretty good d-line. They may jump us if they pick Clowney this draft.
Denver: Good at getting after the passer, but not sure if that is due to them always being ahead or people feeling they had to pass every down to beat Denver.
NYJ: They are very stout against the run, but don’t generate much of a pass rush. They may pass us this offseason, with us losing Starks/Solai and them being very young.
Team we are behind (although it is close)
Buffalo: Hard to put us ahead of a team that killed Tannehill every time he thought about passing.
I realize I am somewhat biased towards Miami, but I do feel we are an elite Dline with talent. I felt at times we could have been better, but for the most part this group was good enough to win every game. Ireland may have seriously flopped on the OLine, but he did give us some of the best on the other side of the ball.
So according to my rankings Miami comes in at #2 in the AFC. If you are keeping score that is Ireland 3, Philbin 2.
Update: While it looks like Ireland and Philbin are both safe this season, we will continue to look at where the fault was for this season's 8-8 season.