CBS Sports' Pat Kirwan recently asked what it means to have depth in the NFL. He then developed 13 different questions about each NFL franchise, looking at key positions on the field and who would fill in if needed, in an effort to find the clubs that do have "depth." Kirwan ultimately reached the conclusion that two teams, the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and the Cincinnati Bengals, best fit the idea of "depth" on a roster.
He also listed five teams that could be considered "honorable mention" franchises when it comes to the ever-important depth: the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and a "tossup" between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Kirwan explained the honorable mention list, writing, "they don't satisfy all the categories but they did better than most teams hitting on at least nine of the 13."
The depth questions start with an entry criteria question, one that if you answer no, you do not move on to the rest of the fields and simply do not have depth. Since the Dolphins met the entry criteria for the depth discussion by having a backup quarterback that "can go at least 2-2 in a four-game stretch" with Matt Moore, we have been breaking down the rest of the questions Kirwan poses. The seventh area for consideration is:
Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
When we started this look at Kirwan's article, and when Kirwan put together his honorable mention list, this was an easy "yes" for the Miami Dolphins. As of this past weekend, however, that's not so true. The Dolphins' pass rush specialist is second-year defensive end Dion Jordan. That's the same Dion Jordan who was suspended by the NFL for performance enhancing drugs this weekend.
That makes it hard to see the Dolphins having a true "pass rush specialist" for the first four weeks.
The good news is, with Cameron Wake on one side of the defensive line and Olivier Vernon on the other, the team does not necessarily need a pass rush specialist, as both of those guys are capable of tallying double digit sacks on the year. The Dolphins could also flex linebackers Philip Wheeler or Koa Misi into the role, as well as backup defensive end Derrick Shelby. It could also open up a roster spot for seventh round draft choice, defensive end Terrence Fede.
The Dolphins are deep on the defensive line, which is a benefit as they deal with the Jordan suspension. Being deep is not necessarily the same as having depth, so the Dolphins have to figure out exactly who will step up in the absence of Jordan, filling in on the speed package and spelling Wake and Vernon when needed - at least until the 2013 third overall pick is able to get back on the field in Week 6.
The ultimate answer to Kirwan's question is yes, the Dolphins have a pass rush specialist able to play on all three downs, and actually have multiple of them in Wake, Vernon, and Jordan. With two starting, the depth piece comes down to Jordan, so hopefully the Dolphins do not need the depth option he would provide during those first four games.