Amidst the embarrassing "bullying" scandal of 2013, which cost the Miami Dolphins two starters, were many questions regarding the leadership in the locker room, and rightfully so. The Dolphins seemed lost and deflated after the scandal, but by season's end they had bounced back to put themselves in a position to grab the 6th seed in the AFC Playoffs.
Then the unthinkable happened, a two-game collapse in which the entire team seemed as though they would rather watch the playoffs from the couch. No one stepped up. There was no leadership to pull the troops out of the slump. The Dolphins had a chance to step out of the house of mediocrity but failed in a deflated manner with a dismal effort.
But that was 2013.
Head Coach Joe Philbin and GM Dennis Hickey obviously knew of this problem when reviewing 2013 (it wasn't hard to miss) and made adding leaders a priority.
Branden Albert, a six-year veteran, was added to not only protect Ryan Tannehill's blindside but to also provide guidance for the younger offensive lineman and provide solidity to a unit which was incredibly inconsistent on and off the field.
Louis Delmas, a five-year veteran, and Cortland Finnegan, an eight-year veteran who was once regarded as one of the best (and dirtiest) cornerbacks in the NFL, were also added this offseason. The two bring energy and electricity to a now-very talented defensive back group.
Finnegan works closely with the younger cornerbacks, such as last year's second round pick Jamar Taylor, everyday to work on their fundamentals, have a few laughs and transfer his knowledge of the game to the younger CBs. Finnegan does this despite the fact that these young CBs have the potential to take his job. That is leadership at it's finest.
Knowshon Moreno was added to provide a veteran presence in the backfield. Moreno's addition adds another high-character guy to the locker room and a back who can do it all behind Tannehill, most important pass block effectively.
Moreno's conditioning has underwhelmed so far, and Lamar Miller has been impressive, so he will have to earn a starting spot. However, Moreno will undoubtedly earn playing time for the blend of skill's he possesses.
Just as important to that is what he can help teach backs such as Miller. Moreno excels in the art of blocking, catching out of the backfield and running hard on every play.
Teaching the younger backs a few of these tricks of the trade would do well for a backfield that seemed inexperienced and at times even timid. Of course a fair share is due to last year's offensive line, but running for two yards in a game is inexcusable (yes that happened).
The Dolphins also used five of their eight picks in the 2014 NFL Draft on players who were captains at their respective colleges.
These additions are important because it helps builds a strong locker room, which is huge after last year's debacle, and provides players who can yank another player by the collar and tell him to step his game up.
Some feel it is the head coach's job to motivate players, and while this is partially true, players have enough motivating factors. What's needed is for players to be able to lead and motivate themselves and their teammates on the field when the bullets are flying. This is when the true leaders step up.
The problems were plenty in 2013, but it's a new year with a new general manager and a new mindset in the Dolphins facility. The issues from last year are slowly being fixed, but the encouraging thing is that these problems are being recognized.
We can cross "leadership" off of the list of questions for next season, that problem has officially been solved. Many more wait to be answered, but you can rest your head on your pillow soundly tonight knowing that the kind of breakdown you had to experience over the last two weeks of the 2013 season won't happen again.