Well this was quite a weekend for all of us Dolphin fans. There's a lot to get to and we will get to it all over the next few days and weeks. Below are just my early thoughts about what the Dolphins did this past weekend.
FINS SIGN UNDRAFTED WR
The Honolulu Advertiser reports that the Dolphins, who didn't draft a receiver in any of the 7 rounds of the draft, have signed Hawaii WR Davone Bess. And I think this has the potential to be a very solid signing for the Dolphins.
Bess, coming out as a junior, was a very productive wide receiver in Hawaii's wide open passing attack. His 3 year career at Hawaii includes 293 receptions for 3,610 yards and 41 touchdowns. But it's hard to base his potential on numbers when you consider the teams he played against and the offensive system he played in.
However, when you watch this guy play, you see that he's got some serious potential. At 5'9, 194, he doesn't have ideal height. And he ran just a 4.6 40, so he doesn't have great speed. But he's very quick and possesses great hands. In any highlight you see, you'll notice he's catching the ball out in front of him with his hands, not with his body. He's also very quick out of his breaks, allowing him to make solid cuts, catch the ball, and then turn and run after the catch. He's also got the ability to break arm tackles, further adding to his elusiveness after the catch.
Make no mistake about it, Bess isn't just a "camp body." Mark my words: Davone Bess will be a Miami Dolphin in 2008. And I'm not talking practice squad - I'm talking about on the 53 man roster.
THOUGHTS ON OFFENSIVE LINE
The Dolphins drafted 3 offensive lineman in this weekend's draft. But since we've addressed Jake Long enough (for now), I want to turn your attention to the two guards that the Dolphins drafted.
At 6'4, 320, Shawn Murphy is a massive man. He's got terrific strength and is surprisingly quick. Some say he's still raw, but I look at that as a good thing. A coach like Tony Sparano will be able to get the most out of him and his potential. Coincidentally, NFL.com compares Murphy to new Dolphin Justin Smiley.
And speaking of which, in his post-draft news conference, GM Jeff Ireland said that Murphy would be placed a right guard initially and they would see what he can do there. Ireland also went on to say that Murphy will battle for the starting spot right from the beginning. What does this mean for Smiley? Ireland said that this would likely mean that he moves to left guard, but said the decision is Tony Sparano's to make. In my view, this makes the most sense, as I'd rather not have two rookies starting on the left side of the offensive line (Long being the other at LT).
As for the other guard taken, UConn's Donald Thomas, he's more of a project since he was only a one-year starter in college. But he's got good size (6'4, 303) and good athleticism. For now, he seems like a player destined to provide depth and eventually grow into a potentially larger role down the road.
TALKING DEFENSIVE LINE
I wanted to really talk about two of Miami's picks here because there's been a lot of debate about these two guys.
First up is Hampton's Kendall Langford. This is a player who the Dolphins have been rumored to like for about a month now. And other 3-4 teams also reportedly liked his ability and his potential. He really is an ideal fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Kendall measures in at 6'6 and, depending where you look, between 287-295 pounds. He's big, strong, and powerful and gets a great initial push. He also possesses top-flight intangibles. There was a stat in one of the draft threads that I posted which reads that reads Langford had the ball run in his direction 293 times, with opposing teams only gaining 64 yards (I believe that's the exact number, but could be wrong). Some will say that stat is misleading because it was against weaker competition. The only way I can argue that is to say that the only reason he didn't get into a bigger school is because of some academic issues. He was recruited, though, by at least Virginia and Virginia Tech.
Miami's pick at #32, Phillip Merling, was really a steal. He was a projected first round pick who might have slipped because of hernia surgery. But he's already said he'll be ready to go for the rookie mini-camp. He's a ferocious defender who has a lot of quickness for his size. He's stout against the run, can get to the quarterback, and plays well in pursuit.
The big question, though, is where Merling will initially play. In his post-draft conference call, he said he thinks he's an end, but isn't against playing as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. At 6'5, 272, I personally think he would make a better defensive end because of his lack of speed off the edge. And his size tends to lend himself to the DE spot in a 3-4, as he can certainly stand to gain another 10 pounds, getting up in the 280 range, without taking away from his abilities.
However, at 272, he potentially could be an outside linebacker, especially if Jason Taylor somehow ends up someplace else by the time the season rolls around. Remember, Greg Ellis, in Dallas' 3-4 defense, plays the OLB spot at 265 pounds. So I don't think it is set in stone yet exactly where Merling will be playing once the season rolls around. It's a good pick, nonetheless.
Matt Roth and Vonnie Holliday are officially on notice. Their starting jobs are certainly in jeopardy.
-I think the two running backs drafted by the Dolphins each bring something different to the table. At 6'0, 224, Jalen Parmele is a decent player. He runs a 4.47 40 and is an excellent inside runner, using power and toughness to pick up extra yards. I think he'll battle with Patrick Cobbs to be Miami's 3rd running back. And if Parmele can show he can contribute on special teams, Cobbs might not be around come September.
Meanwhile, Lex Hilliard looks to me like he could be tried at either halfback or fullback. At 5'11, 228, he's a solid short yardage player. But his ability to block well and his slow 4.63 40 time leads me to think that he'd have to make the team as a fullback and special teamer if he wants to stick around. But I also don't know too much else on him, so I'll wait and see what happens with him.
-I don't necessarily think that Chad Henne's selection means John Beck is not in Miami's plans. If the Dolphins were really not liking what they have been seeing out of John, then the Dolphins would have taken Henne at #32. I think this was more of a value pick at #57, where they like what Henne might be able to do and was likely the highest player remaining on Miami's board at the time. I can't wait to watch this QB battle play out. Competition is going to bring out the best in both of these tough competitors.
We'll talk about each of these picks much more in-depth in the near future. But for now, what I take away from this draft is that Parcells and Ireland have a plan for this team. and this was a classic "Bill Parcells draft." He's building the team from the inside out and focusing on the two most important aspects of the game of football: running the ball and stopping the run. You may be asking where the secondary help and receiver help is, but those 2 things can be addressed next year. For now, the Dolphins wanted to improve both the ground game and passing attack by beefing up the offensive line. They also wanted to sure up this "swiss cheese" run defense that Miami had last year. Because we saw first hand that if you can't stop the run, you can't win in this league.
Any and all thoughts below...