The dreaded bye week is upon us. While it's great having the bye coming off of a win - a Monday Night Football win over a hated division rival, by the way - these off weeks still anger me. After all, there's only so much talking we can all do about the Dolphins' win over the Jets last week before we're all itching for another game. But we have to deal with it - and the "bye week Friday" is always a crappy day. Now when the work/school week ends, we have no Dolphins football to look forward to.
So as I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to talk about today, I had an idea. It's never too early to talk about what kinds of offseason improvements the Dolphins need to make to get better for 2010. And with these latest rumors that the Dolphins might be "buyers" here as the trade deadline approaches, I figured we should quickly touch on what needs this team has that have to be addressed in the offseason. And to spark some debate, I've ranked the needs in order of priority - as I see it, anyways. Below are my thoughts. Be sure to share yours in the comments.
Priority #1 - A true #1 receiver
This is obviously the top need on the team. While I love the guys this team has (to varying degrees, of course), you simply can't argue the fact that the Dolphins do not have a true, legitimate number one receiver on their roster.
This isn't a knock on any of the guys who are here right now. In fact, there was never a time in which I did think any of these guys were going to eventually become a number one receiver. Even when Ted Ginn was drafted - or "over-drafted," as he was - I never thought he'd become a true number one guy, despite the slot he was selected in the draft. He just doesn't have "it." But I do think he's an ideal number two receiver - and has a lot of value on this team as the only receiver on the roster who can stretch the field.
Guys like Greg Camarillo and Davone Bess are also potentially great number two or number three receivers. Bess, for example, will become one of the best slot receivers in the league as he progresses. And Camarillo, before his injury, was well on his way to becoming a terrific complimentary receiver - and still might become one. But there's nobody on this roster who you can rely on making big catches in big spots - like Dwayne Bowe did for KC this past weekend or like Braylon Edwards did for the Jets on Monday night.
Priority #2 - Upgrade at inside linebacker
I'm not here to crap all over Channing Crowder and Akin Ayodele. They've both had their good moments in these first five weeks and their bad moments. But we're kidding ourselves if we think these two are anything special. Crowder is what he is - a run stuffing inside linebacker who is a liability in coverage. Ayodele, meanwhile, is a serviceable starting linebacker with a lot of experience and who will perform well enough to keep his job for now.
But Ayodele is now 30 years old and will only lose more of his athleticism as time goes on. And Crowder isn't exactly a quick linebacker himself. There's the problem. Neither of these guys are good in coverage nor are they particularly good at blitzing. In a 3-4 defense, you don't need two great inside linebackers. You can have one slower one who can stuff the run as long as the other can cover and has good range. Neither of these two can do that.
Just imagine how much better this defense would be with a linebacker who is even 75% of what Patrick Willis is.
Priority #3 - Another young pass-rushing outside linebacker
Joey Porter and Jason Taylor haven't exactly been dominant this year. Taylor has 3.5 sacks - but 2.5 came in one game against a terrible offensive line - and Porter has been slowed by a hamstring injury. Neither are exactly spring chickens, either. And while Cameron Wake has shown some promise, he, too, has only put together one great game. Whether it's lack of playing time or not, Wake is still far from a sure thing - though there's a lot to potentially be excited about.
Regardless, you can never have enough pass rushers in this league. The Giants proved that when they went out and shut down one of the best offenses ever on the biggest stage of them all. And remember, you can't get beat deep when you don't give the opposing quarterback enough time to throw.
Priority #4 - Return specialist
Let's face it - the Dolphins have a problem on special teams. We saw just how bad the return teams are last week when Patrick Cobbs couldn't even get the ball to the 20 a couple of times. For the year, the Dolphins are averaging just 22 yards per kick return. Last year, they were even worse - averaging just over 20 yards per return. I know we're all excited about the potential of this offense now with a stronger armed quarterback leading the way, but can't we try to make it a little easier on the offense by giving them better starting field position?
I think that the value of a return man is still underrated, even after Devin Hester proved to the world that return specialist can be dangerous weapons. But the Dolphins obviously realize this fact - as proven by their rumored interest in Joshua Cribbs. And whether it's before the trade deadline or next offseason, I hope the Dolphins find somebody who can become that dynamic return man this team hasn't had in a long while.
Priority #5 - Safety
Some will probably rate this position higher on their lists, but I'm not going to do that. I know that this position has been the obvious Achilles heal of the defense. Anybody with at least one eye can see that just by watching a quarter of Dolphins football. But I didn't rank it higher for two reasons.
One - the money already invested into the position. The Dolphins re-signed Yeremiah Bell to a 4 year, $20 million deal and signed Gibril Wilson to a 5 year, $27.5 million deal. That's a ton of money invested into two safeties.
Two - the Dolphins have two young safeties whom they like. Tyrone Culver was signed to an extension that keeps him in Miami through 2011. He's been getting on the field more and more in recent weeks and his role could continue to increase. Meanwhile, rookie Chris Clemons shined during offseason practices and has all the physical tools you want in a safety. He's got great speed, good hands, and can tackle. But he's very raw and is still learning the mental aspect of the position. And we don't really know yet if he has the instincts that safeties need to play in this league.
But with all that is invested in the position already, I just don't think this front office will make a big change at safety. That is - unless things get terribly worse.