Richmond Webb and Dan Marino have been the most difficult Dolphins to replace since their retirement, and Zach Thomas will probably join this list.
Of the three, Webb is the one that leaves Dolphins fans scratching their heads. Vernon Carey is good, but not a natural fit at left tackle. He’s a potential pro bowler at the right tackle position. Why can’t the Dolphins find a starting left tackle?
Webb, the ninth overall selection in the 1990 NFL Draft, was a five-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl Selection. He was the 16th player, following safety Dick Anderson, to be inducted into the Dolphins Honor Roll. More importantly, he kept Dan Marino upright and throwing touchdowns for years. He left the Dolphins in 2001.
The Dolphins have not replaced him yet.
Marquee franchises always seem to be able to replace the biggest of shoes. Asante Samuel’s departure to the Eagles this year mirrors the one of Ty Law’s in 2005. (The Patriots replaced him with Samuel.)
This year’s draft lacks the obvious. There is not a Peyton Manning or Joe Thomas, who made it to the Pro Bowl in his rookie year. The best player in the draft is Darren Mcfadden, who plays at a position that the Dolphins don’t need help at. That’s fine because this draft has something that the Dolphins desperately need, and that's depth.
The big men, the defensive and offensive tackles, are the big show in this year’s draft. There’s plenty of them too. The head of the class for the offensive lineman is Jake Long, a man nicknamed “The Mountain.”
At 6’7” and 315 (that’s him slimmed down to run at the combine) he is a veritable mountain. He has several of the principle qualities of a franchise left tackle. Wingspan, height and technique; these are his main attributes.
He’s also strong. He put up 225 lbs for 37 reps at the combine, tying him for first overall at the event. The most important thing about Jake Long is what I mentioned yesterday about another possible first overall selection Chris Long (no relation). He’s safe.
Darren Mcfadden could be a bust and has a higher likelihood of getting injured. Matt Ryan may never translate his abilities into the language of the NFL. Chris Long and Vernon Gholston might fail to provide the game-changing defense that a first overall selection should. Jake Long, however, will still be a big man.
Tony Mandarich was a big man who “busted.” He never became the player that Green Bay thought he was when they drafted him ahead of Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders and Deion Sanders. He did start however, and played at a serviceable level. They got an expensive middle of the road player. The point is that they got a guy who could at least get on the field, something the Dolphins have missed on in too many drafts.
The Dolphins should draft Jake Long because he’s safe and he plays a position that not only do they need better play at, they flat out don’t have anybody right now. He’s clearly the best player at the position.
Why They Shouldn’t
The 2008 class of offensive tackles is a deep one. Ryan Clady, Jeff Otah, Gosder Cherilus and Sam Baker are all first round talents and several of them will slide to the second round.
Meanwhile the Miami Dolphins need playmakers and youth on their defense and there are some very talented options in this year’s draft. In some cases there may be more of a risk factor involved in drafting them, but in the case of Chris Long this risk is minimal.
There also is less depth at these defensive positions, meaning that in order to get a high impact player a team must strike early. No one can strike earlier than the Miami Dolphins.
In short, the defensive players have more upside and potential to fundamentally change the team. There will be a lineman for the Dolphins in the second round.
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