Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Miami Dolphins Confidential Issue 7 " Linebackers"

The offseason goal of every team in the NFL is to improve their team.  The primary wave of free agency has passed. Next up will be the NFL draft followed by the bargain shopping in the free agency after the draft. GM’s and fans alike tend to focus on the new additions to the team when trying to get a feel for how much improvement the team will show.  However, a very important aspect of the success of all teams will hinge on how the players remaining on their rosters from the prior season improve or decline.  We at Bitchin Dave’s thought it would add some intrigue to the offseason lull to have a discussion on where we feel the team is at and where they are headed.

The prognosticators will be Carl “The Ref” Leone , Chad “ The Baumhower” Ronnebaum . We will be having a position by position debate on where the Dolphins ranked in 2013 as well as where we see them ranking at the end of 2014.  We are going to start with our pre-draft rankings and then will update this post draft and probably once or twice prior to the start of season as the final free agent signings and injuries shape the team during training camp and the preseason.

Scale: We are using a 10 point scale to rank where we felt the positions ranked against the rest of league in 2013 as well as where we predict they will rank in 2014.  5 out of 10 for example would mean we rank the unit as about the 15-16th best unit in the league.  10 out of 10 would basically feature pro bowl players at the top of the league and 0 out of 10 would be dead last or the worst unit in the league. Issue Seven will review the Linebackers.


                                                                                                Chad’s Take            Carl’s Take

2013 Position Rank
3 out 10               3 out of 10
2014 Prediction
4 out of 10          5 out of 10


Predicted Depth Chart
2014 Improvement/Decline Prediction
Dannell Ellerbe
0                                     +1  
Phillip Wheeler
0                                     0
Koa Misi
0                                     0  
Jelani Jenkins
+1                                   0


Chad: This unit would have been the biggest bust if not for the complete meltdown of the O-Line.

Carl: You got that right.

Chad: Dannell Ellerbe was supposed to be the middle linebacker and leader of the defensive.  He appeared to be out of shape and did not appear to stand in well at the point of attack.

Carl: A big disappointment.

Chad: On the positive side he did display excellent side line to side line speed for a man his size and had some interceptions in coverage.

Carl: Yeah but he is not a 4-3 middle linebacker. Our run support stunk. That used to be one of our best stats. Defending the run.

Chad: I am not big on players that don’t keep their bodies in peak shape. It tells me that they lack commitment so I am skeptical Ellerbe will ever be the answer at inside linebacker. In fact I think the reports are true that the Miami Dolphins are going to move him back outside.  I think if he were 10-20 pounds lighter he would be more successful in an outside linebacker role. However, that is a big if and I can’t give him any points. If he shows up to camp out of shape again he will become negative points.

Carl: I would love to see us trade back a couple picks and still get C.J. Mosley. He is gonna be a beast and can cover Tight Ends very well. I think we will get him so I see Ellerbe going outside and gaining a point.

Chad: Phillip Wheeler on the other hand is a great shape and a beast.  The only problem is he is a not a great cover linebacker.  He is much more suited as a pass rusher.   Koa Misi is a bit of a hybrid DE/Linebacker  who is also more of a run stopper and pass rusher. To his credit he was in great shape and did a decent job on the run and did what was asked.  It would be a very tight head to head battle between Misi and Wheeler.

Carl: If we don’t get Mosley, then what?

Chad:  I personally don’t think Misi would be any better in the middle. Yes he would be great at run support, but he simply does not have Ellerbe’s coverage ability. Jelani Jenkins showed some flashes and was starting to get some more playing time as the season wore on.  I don’t expect him to change from a back-up role however, if Ellerbe shows up overweight I would not be shocked to see Jenkins take over for him.

Carl: I am getting a headache. We need a new middle linebacker. We better draft one.

Chad: In summary Miami does not have linebackers matching up well to fit the scheme they are being asked to perform in. There has been a lot of buzz about CJ Mosley and if they were to land him, my 2014 prediction will take a big jump.

Carl: That’s the extra point I added to get our linebacker unit to a 5. We draft a middle linebacker.

Chad: I hope so  Carl. I am hoping for Mosley. I know we need O-Line but I feel like you can address the right tackle and guard position in this draft after the first round. To be fair the Dolphins offense was part of our bad run defense. They did A LOT of 3 and out’s the last two games because we had no ability to run what so ever against the solid D-Lines of the Bills and Jets. You can’t keep throwing your linebackers out there over and over and expect them to not wear down. With that being said if Ellerbe had his ass in shape he may have not gotten tired and sloppy.  Also, the defensive has been designed as an attack defense. Not as a stout run stuffing type of unit. They could put two loads in there at D-Tackle and use stronger linebackers at the point of attack and shut down the run. Only problem is those guys get torn up by teams like the Patriots who will just pass all game. If our offense turns it around and scores more points, our defense will become beasts.  We have 3 D-Ends that can really get after the passer.  Starks, Mitchell, and Odrick also can shoot gaps and pressure up the middle. Finally, all of the current linebackers have solid pass rushing skills.  That along with all our talent in the D-Backfield will make us very difficult to handle in obvious passing downs. We just have to get leads that dictate teams to have to throw.  I would love to make the Jets and Bills have to throw most of the 2nd half of games. Right now neither of them have the personal to do it. Last year’s losses to them were so frustrating.  Both those teams had HORRIBLE passing games yet were able to beat us because our offense was unable to put them into a position where they had to throw.

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