With at least four starters or primary contributors, Ryan Tannehill, Ted Larsen, Raekwon McMillan and Tony Lippett, all projected to be out for much or all of the 2017 season, injuries are becoming a viable threat to define the year for the Miami Dolphins. There has been some discussion as to whether the team is at fault for the excessive amount of injuries in such a short period of time, but the one that really stands out was the season ending knee injury to projected starting MLB Raekwon McMillan.
As the Dolphins' run of mediocrity has continued over the past decade and a half, so too has their fans' creativity and resourcefulness at excuse making. When the team sets NFL records in the draft trying to prop up its quarterback, our response is that every team builds around its quarterback. When players leave Miami to become major contributors elsewhere, our response is that our coaching staff was weak and that trading that particular player, or allowing him to leave in free agency was the only possible way he could have improved. Now, with our projected starting middle linebacker out for the season, after being made to cover punts on special teams, the excuse du jour is that lots of other teams use their starters on special teams, so it's no big deal that the Dolphins did so. Sorry, but it is a big deal; you don't have a guy who is a high draft pick, at a position at which you're woefully thin, play on special teams, when there are three or four other guys at that same position who can serve the same purpose for you. Unfortunately, stupidity isn't limited to just this generation of coaches; in 1993, former first round pick Troy Vincent was knocked out for the season on a punt return and missed the remainder of the season. He was the Dolphins' starting cornerback and should never have been playing on special teams, to begin with. Guess what? When he returned from his injury, Don Shula never used him on punt returns again. You can post as many links as you want, showing us how many players play on special teams, and how many of them are starters; that doesn't make it right that the Dolphins did so. As my elementary school teacher used to say if your friend jumped off a cliff, would you do the same thing? You're telling me that the Dolphins didn't have three or four other linebackers who could have played on the punt coverage team? The reason guys play on special teams, to begin with, is to prove their worth; if a guy is already projected to be a starter for you, you don't put him out there and risk getting him injured.
Beyond the injury to McMillan, however, I have no quarrel with Gase's routine. If anything, he deserves credit for having some lighter practices and giving players more time off. He doesn't run guys into the ground the way a Nick Saban or Dave Wannstedt used to. Wannstedt, in particular, was terrible in that regard; when the team lost a game, he would respond by punishing them the following week with brutally grueling practices, ostensibly to motivate them not to lose again. Hopefully, the players the Dolphins have brought in will pick up the slack and the team will have a successful season nonetheless.
Is it just me, or are there a lot of folks rooting for fifth round rookie Isaac Asiata to earn a starting job at one of the guard spots? I love this guy's size and demeanor; he's a mauler and a brawler who I think might help the offense in the running game. In some ways, he's sort of like a Jarvis Landry, in that his enthusiasm helps spark his teammates and get guys around him pumped up. If he can keep his emotions under control, limit the penalties and perform at least adequately in pass protection, I think you almost have to consider starting him.
In other news, Miami this week signed WR Trey Griffey, whose father is, of course, Ken Griffey Jr. Hey, if a guy's father and grandfather were both successful pro athletes, you've got to figure that the kid at least has a chance to make a contribution, even if the Dolphins have to stash him on the practice squad for a year. I know Miami has a lot of receivers, but this move might have also been about setting themselves up to trade another wideout for some OL or LB help, as well.