5 Valuable Things the Miami Dolphins Can Still Learn in Remaining Games
The playoffs are officially out of reach for the Miami Dolphins as we enter the final weeks of the regular season, but the future certainly looks bright.
Joe Philbin's no-nonsense mentality and emphasis on discipline should put the franchise back on the map, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some lingering questions that remain to be answered this offseason.
With a few key players hitting the free-agent market and some holes left to fill on both sides of the ball, here's a look at some issues that may be brought to light over the last three games of the season.
Can Jonathan Martin Replace Jake Long?
Jake Long is a former No. 1 overall draft pick and has been a perennial Pro Bowler at left tackle since entering the league in 2008.
Each of the past two seasons, however, the Dolphins have seen him fall to injury, which has cast some doubt upon his health and future with the organization.
He'll be a top free-agent target this offseason and will command a hefty price tag as well, something that the Dolphins will have to consider as they look to fill numerous holes for next season.
With Jonathan Martin now getting his chance to start at left tackle, these remaining games will be a great opportunity to see whether or not he can fill Long's shoes on the left side of the O-Line.
Is Lamar Miller the Next Reggie Bush?
I, for one, am a huge advocate of Reggie Bush, and I strongly believe that he has the ability to emerge as a top-five running back in the league—given enough touches, that is.
However, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't impressed with rookie Lamar Miller's performance in his limited carries thus far.
His explosiveness and ability to make quick lateral movements reminds me a bit of Bush, and his services are certainly going to come at a much cheaper price for the rebuilding Dolphins.
Perhaps the Dolphins bring Bush back for a few years and groom Miller to be his successor.
Or maybe they take a shot with Daniel Thomas and Miller as their tandem, going for the cost-effective option of youth.
Either way, it would be foolish not to give Lamar Miller more touches down the home stretch in order to get a glimpse of what his future may hold.
Is Anthony Fasano a Franchise Tight End?
He's been a decent option at tight end during his tenure in Miami, but he has yet to develop into the big-time threat that the team desperately needs in the red zone.
His one-handed touchdown grab against the 49ers was certainly impressive, but his overall productivity over the past few seasons leads me to believe that the team can do better.
With the emergence of Charles Clay and rookie tight end Michael Egnew still awaiting his chance, all signs point to either developing from within or looking to the draft and free-agent market.
Which Free Agents Should Return to the Dolphins Defense?
The Dolphins defense has been rather impressive all season long, with the exception of a few holes in the secondary.
Sean Smith has had his ups and downs as the 'Phins' top corner but should be a formidable No. 2 next season if re-signed.
Safety Chris Clemons will become a free agent as well, but his future with the team does not look as promising after his less-than-stellar performance as well as the emergence of Reshad Jones.
The only remaining defensive starter entering free agency is Randy Starks, whose solid play up the middle all season long should make him a top priority this offseason.
Luckily, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle will have a few more weeks to evaluate his talent and address Miami' top needs for 2013.
Is Jared Odrick the Answer Opposite Cameron Wake?
With two games remaining against division rivals in the Bills and the Patriots, the coaching staff and front office should get a good look at what they can expect from their third-year end out of Penn State.
This will likely determine whether they pursue another pass-rusher in the draft or perhaps look for an already proven end in free agency.