Good Evening Phin Fans!
For my first post, I thought I would talk about the offseason happenings of MY Miami Dolphins.
The hiring of Adam Gase will prove to be a defining moment in the resurgence of my beloved Dolphins! He is primed and ready for this role! He is every bit the leader Philbin was not, and his rapport with his players is obvious. They respect him, and want to play for him. After watching what he did with the Broncos offense, and an aging Peyton Manning, and then the Bears' Jay Cutler, he's got all of the tools and experience needed to turn Tannehill and this offense into something very difficult to defend.
The Offensive Line has been the biggest detriment to Tannehill's career and the Dolphin's offensive performances since his arrival in 2012. In spite of having one of the worst and most inconsistent lines in the league, Tannehill has managed to improve his performance every year, and put up very respectable numbers. The line play, (not to mention the previous coaching staff), has clearly held him back, and he cannot continue to take the amount of sacks he does, without eventually sustaining a significant injury. The inability to overcoming injuries to Albert, Pouncy, and James have caused the most problems. When these three are healthy, and playing together, the line as a whole has performed well enough that they couldn't realistically be blamed for our offensive failures, giving up significantly less sacks and pressures, while also providing for a surprisingly good win percentage. While we have been stung by young, inexperienced, and sub-par Guard play, it has actually been the lack of quality depth after an injury, that has hurt the most. Apparently, after watching the revolving door, that was Jason Fox, and seeing the rendition of musical chairs that was our Offensive Line enough times, someone finally decided it was time to get it fixed. To their credit, they brought in a slew of proven veterans, one with Pro-Bowl honors, to fill in if and when an injury occurs. The additions of LTs Sam Young and Jermon Bushrod, as well as the re-signing John Ulrick, will, (along with another option I'll mention later), solidify the Tackle position with solid options. Billy Turner looks to have given himself an opportunity to be a starter at the RG spot after a solid performance last year, though it will not be just given to him. The other spot seems to be wide open, and to add competition to an already deep group with in-game experience, the Dolphins brought in Craig Urbik, who has flexibility and experience at both Guard and Center.
An Offensive Line consisting of Pro-Bowlers Mike Pouncy, and Brandon Albert, an up-and-coming James, a maturing Turner, and the winner of a position battle including a former Pro-bowler in Bushrod, and the best O-Line prospect in the draft, Laremy Tunsil, sounds good to me. Clearly the Dolphins don't want a repeat performance of the last several years, and many of these lineman, and/or one or two of our roster carry-overs, will ensure it doesn't happen. If the starters can stay healthy, this line can be a top 10, if not top 5 unit. But if not, we finally have quality players that can step in and play at a high level. I sincerely believe the O-Line issues of the past, are finally fixed!
I liked Brent Grimes and he made a lot of plays for my Dolphins, but he was well past his prime, and clearly not suited to the kind of defense Joseph is implementing. I won't even mention the troll that is his wife! SMH.. Anyway, getting Maxwell in that draft pick trade dulls the pain tremendously. He fits our scheme and is only a year removed from being a difference maker at his position. He had unrealistic expectations placed on him, while they were playing him out of his schematic specialty and skillset.
The loss of Olivier Vernon hurts a lot more. I understand not paying him the ridiculous figure he got from the Giants, but he is entering his prime, he's homegrown talent, and he is definitely still improving. I think it was a mistake to let Vernon play out his final year without locking him up long term. He had a great year, and looked even better when Wake went down. It took him time to adjust to being the guy, but after a slow start, he really embraced the opportunity and played very well. I also believe that the Dolphins, even after his performance, thought they could/would still match whatever offer he received on the open market, and that he would return. But with a huge amount of cap space, the Giants threw a boat load of money at him, and we just couldn't match. Luckily, the Dolphins hedged their bets by signing Mario Williams. If they lost Vernon, they replace him with Williams. If they keep Vernon, they release Wake, (as hard as that is to say). So they sign Mario, keep wake, with a slightly better, salary cap friendly extension, keeping him in Miami for the rest of his career.
We also lost our primary back-up at DE, in Derrick Shelby, but we were able to get a couple veteran options in Free-Agency, in Andre Branch and Jason Jones, both of whom have starting experience. We also have some returning, in-house roster options in Fede, McCain, and possibly Dion Jordan, if he's welcomed back, and he's prepared for competition. All signs point to Wake-Zilla being ready for the season, but if he's not, we've got some veteran options to fill in until he is ready, and a group of solid players as backups.
Is there anyone who thinks we could have done better with our first round pick in the draft? The Phins got 3 starters for the cost of 5 spots in the first round! A proven starter at CB in Maxwell, who is a perfect scheme fit for new Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph. They get a young, fast, and instinctive tackling machine and playmaker at MLB in Alonzo, who is apparently fully recovered and healthy after his knee injury a couple years ago. Added to those two, who they acquired in their trade-down, they also get the consensus best LT prospect in the draft, and sure starter (somewhere on the line), in Laremy Tunsil at pick 13. Getting three starters is the best case scenario for an entire draft class most years, and the Dolphins did it with 1 draft pick! 2 proven starters and a probable third.... Nice job!
The rest of the class is filled with intriguing possibilities: Another possible day 1 starter in their 2nd round draft pick, CB Xavien Howard . In the 3rd round, they get Kenyan Drake, a playmaker/homerun threat at RB who has a very similar skill set to Lamar Miller, but with better hands and route running ability, and WR Leonte Carroo, who some compare to Anquan Boldin. He's sure to contribute this year and is a possible #3 starter next year, should they decide to not re-sign Stills. Skip to the 6th round, and we get another immediate contributor in a Special Teams Punt/Kick Returner with blazing speed, and a situational, match-up nightmare in the slot. Think Welker or Edleman, as a comparison. With their Second Pick in the 6th Round, we get a big, strong, press cover corner who fits our new defensive scheme, who also has the position flexibility to play Safety if needed, Jordan Lucas. He'll have to perform on special teams if he wants a spot on the roster but he'll get every opportunity, and he'll manage to do just that. In the 7th Round, they take the heir apparent to Matt Moore as the back-up QB, Brandon Doughty, and a big college WR, turned Stretch/Receiving TE, Thomas Duarte.
With the exceptions of Doughty and Duarte, I expect every other pick to both make the team and contribute this year in some form, whether as starters, or as situational and special teams contributors. It's too early to know for sure, but I can't remember the last time the team had a draft that made sense from start to finish, with clear direction and purpose in every pick! Again... Very nice job!
My biggest concern heading into training camp is the depth and experience at RB. I don't feel comfortable with a stable of backs consisting of two who can't hold a back-up spot, in Pead and Thomas, a rookie in Drake, Williams, a career 3rd down back and substitute, with an unproven second year player in Ajayi, as the starter. I truly believe the Dolphins will eventually bring in a proven, veteran runner to stabilize the group. If I had to pick one or two right now, I believe they pick up either Arian Foster or Knowshon Moreno.
CB is another position of concern, and for the same reason, and we may very well end up bringing in a veteran there as well, but I feel that's a lot less likely. Lippett is capable, and Howard will be given every opportunity to win the job in camp. But if they both fail to impress early in camp, look for a Pac-Man Jones or Antonio Cromartie signing sooner rather than later.
Well...Congratulations on making it through my first post! lol I'm sure my future offerings will be a little more pointed and not so long winded, but I had a lot to talk about, and no one else will listen!