So, after eight games, the Miami Dolphins are 4-4, and should probably be 3-5, at best. What's more, the second half of their schedule is much more difficult than the first, and opposing teams have begun to figure out how to beat the Dolphins: on offense, throw to the tight end and to your WR's on quick slants, because the middle of the field will be there for the taking all game long. When Miami inevitably cheats up with the free safety, to try and shore up that part of the field, hit them with deep passes for even larger gains. On defense, the game plan for beating the Dolphins is blissfully simple; stack the line of scrimmage on early downs, because Miami will almost always either run or throw very short passes on first and second down, and is loathe to throw the ball down the field unless they absolutely have to. Then, as any team would do, go hard after Cutler on third and long.
So, if you assume, as I do, that the 2017 season is all but over for the Dolphins, where does that leave us for the offseason? If you ask that question of roughly about half the team's fan base, they would likely reply, "Are you crazy? , offensive line, offensive line, offensive line !" Hmm. So, what happened to what, not long ago, was the highest paid offensive line in the NFL? What happened to all the draft picks the Dolphins have expanded on that unit over the past five or six seasons?
Unlike winning organizations, that head off potential weak areas of their roster before they become a problem, the Dolphins wait until a particular unit of the team is a veritable three-alarm fire before bringing in reinforcements. For years, we saw this bad soap opera play out with the team's cornerback unit; it wasn't until the corners were a disaster that the team chose to do much of anything about it. As we pointed out a few months ago, of the ten offensive linemen who started in the Super Bowl for Atlanta and New England nine months ago, only three of them were former first-round picks, and none of the three former first rounders were guards. But don't worry - knowing what we know of the Dolphins, and of Adam Gase, an emotional leader who wears his heart on his sleeve, you can just about bet the ranch that the Dolphins will use their first-round pick on an offensive guard next Spring. Why? Because like the rest of us, Gase and Miami's brain trust are human; when they see a problem, they often go too far in addressing that problem, to the point at which overcorrection is a real possibility.
Why should that be considered a problem, you ask? Because the Dolphins have major concerns elsewhere on their roster. Defensive stalwart Reshad Jones will be 30 next season. Ndamukong Suh will be 31, Lawrence Timmons will be 32 and Cam 'In Your Face' Wake will be 36. But don't worry; the team will probably wait until the defense is, yet again, a complete disaster before deciding to shore up that unit. Dolphins Vice President of Football Operations, Mike Tannenbaum, whom I've been a big supporter of, boasted at last year's draft that the Dolphins were the last NFL team to select an offensive player. Mike, buddy, that's not something you should be bragging about. What that means is that you overplayed your hand in previous drafts, and failed to address other needs on the team. The 2014-16 drafts, when Miami came down with 'Wide Receiveritis' in the early rounds, paved the way for the Dolphins having to draft defense with virtually all their 2017 picks, just as they'll presumably have to select offensive linemen with, I'm guessing, two of their first three selections next year.
So, will the Dolphins overplay their hand in the draft next Spring? They may not have any other choice. With a neon sign hanging over their 'War Room' that reads, 'We Need OL Bad', expect other teams who are interested in linemen to trade ahead of Miami just before their pick comes up, to snatch the players they want out from under the Dolphins. This happened in 2004 when everyone knew Miami needed linemen. The more things change, the more they stay the same.