The Miami Dolphins offense isn’t a juggernaut (yet). Kenny Stills and Dion Sims are still up in the air. We need to find guards. The offensive makeover under Adam Gase is still not complete.
Boy, we need work on defense, though, specifically the front 7. One can argue we need multiple DE’s and multiple LB’s to shore up a run defense that ranked 30th in yards/game and tied for dead last in yards/rush. Rumors have Brandon Williams as a target of the Miami Dolphins front office to potentially improve defensive tackle, but that ignores the two glaring voids: LB and DE. Which position are we more behind the 8-ball?
The Case for LB
Aside from Kiko Alonso, no one made plays. Jelani Jenkins is oft-injured, as is Koa Misi (and Misi can be released with nearly $4 million in cap savings). Donald Butler was signed off the street early in 2016 and is now a free agent. Spencer Paysinger is a special teams player with spot duty capability, but a free agent nonetheless.
Mike Hull is an exclusive-rights FA and it’s a no risk move to re-sign him - a great special teams contributor with upside. Neville Hewitt is under contract and had the opportunity to take over a starting position as he replaced Jenkins during his injury - he was lukewarm with this opportunity, and didn’t do enough to separate himself.
It’s expected that Kiko Alonso receives a contract tender (as well as Mike Hull), which leaves the Miami Dolphins with 2 players under contract (Misi, Hewitt), and 2 likely to come back (Hull, Alonso). That’s it. This is not only a concern of talent, but one of bodies.
I was in attendance firsthand watching the Baltimore Ravens dissect the Dolphins LB corps with short passes. Baltimore TE’s accounted for 114 yards and 2 TD’s on that day, and, we probably feel like we’re taking crazy pills by saying this again: it’s difficult for Dolphins LB’s to cover TE’s. San Francisco repeatedly fooled Dolphins LB’s with misdirections and short passes.
Kiko Alonso is the lone piece to build around. The luxury of Alonso is his versatility, manning the MLB spot in 2016, but (arguably) has the capability of moving outside to WLB. An investment in MLB might improve 2 positions in the LB unit.
Koa Misi was the last LB prospect the Miami Dolphins selected in the first 2 rounds (and he played a hybrid DE/LB position at Utah), and that was 2010. It’s been awhile since we’ve invested in the position and it shows.
The Case for DE
I mentioned bodies at LB, the DE has two players under contract that had snaps for the Miami Dolphins in 2016: Cameron Wake and Terrence Fede. Terrence Fede’s roughing the punter penalty vs. Cincinnati earned this look from Darren Rizzi (thank you Fuhbawl):
Dion Jordan is an enigmatic turd wrapped in a burnt-hair diaper of riddles, so it’s anyone’s guess what happens to him - for a DE, he could very well be worth $3.2 million, but then again, he could show up to training camp with a beer-dispensing helmet on and get cut immediately. Andre Branch is a free agent.
Aside from QB, there is arguably no more important a position than defensive end, and the Miami Dolphins not only lack numbers, but they have no heir apparent to Cameron Wake. Even if Andre Branch comes back, there is a legitimate argument the Dolphins need to invest in 2 defensive ends to bolster the pass rush and establish long-term continuity at the position.
If we are to take down the AFC East crown before Tom Brady is 63, the only proven method to disrupt the Patriots offense is to wreak havoc with the front 4, and we simply don’t have the personnel at DE to do that at the current juncture. Our front 7 was anemic against the run, and the defensive ends are not immune from that. The Miami Dolphins, despite splash plays like strip-sacks by Cameron Wake, were bottom half of the league in sacks and fumbles recovered.
We relied on the front 4 all year long, and they simply looked gassed towards the end of the year and into the Playoffs. An influx of young talent and a better rotation at DE is paramount to our immediate and long-term future.
What do you think Dolphins fans: LB or DE? I know it’s hard to choose just one, but would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments Section!