Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Dion Jordan is one of many additions to Miami's revamped defense.
General manager Jeff Ireland has been chastised for some questionable decisions since he took over in Miami. However, what he did this offseason was pretty darn solid.
Despite losing some key contributors on both sides of the ball and overspending a tad on free agents, Miami upgraded its talent level a great deal.
Veteran cornerback Brent Grimes joins rookies Jamar Taylor and Will Davis to form a high-upside trio in the defensive backfield. They replace Sean Smith as well as Vontae Davis, the latter of who was traded prior to last season. If healthy, Grimes can be one of the better cover corners in the entire league.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Grimes ranked third among all NFL cornerbacks in pass coverage back in 2011. He did miss all but one game due to a torn Achilles in 2012. That's a primary reason why Miami was able to sign him to a one-year, $5.5 million contract.
Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe had a breakout campaign for the defending champion Baltimore Ravens last year. He recorded 69 tackles and 4.5 sacks. After signing a relatively lofty five-year, $34.7 million deal, Ellerbe joins fellow newcomer Philip Wheeler and holdover Koa Misi to form a vastly improved starting linebacker group.
With the back seven upgraded, Miami focused on the front four in the 2013 NFL draft. It traded up for the services of ultra-athletic defensive end Dion Jordan to team up with Cameron Wake.
Bleacher Report's Ryan Lownes had the following to say about Jordan back in April:
The sky is the limit in terms of potential. Jordan is already a very solid football player, but he has plenty of room to grow and improve his craft. He is a perfect fit for hybrid schemes that stress versatility and the right defensive coordinator could work wonders with his rare skill set.
Scheme versatility is huge here. With Jordan and Wake entrenched in as bookends, opposing blockers are going to have a heck of a time holding off the edge. This should also help the production we see from defensive tackles Randy Starks and Paul Soliai.
Offensively, it was all about replacing franchise left tackle Jake Long and finding receiving options for young quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
While right tackle Tyson Clabo won't necessarily fill Long's shoes in the starting lineup, he creates some sense of stability along the unit.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Clabo ranked seventh among right tackles in pass protection this past season. At the very least, this should help make Jonathan Martin's transition to the blindside a little easier to swallow.
Wide receiver Mike Wallace gives Tannehill the deep threat on the outside that he lacked last season. Despite being a solid possession guy, Brian Hartline just wasn't going to stretch the defense by himself. Wallace, who is coming off a down year, has that capability.
In addition to signing Wallace, the Dolphins were able to nab tight end Dustin Keller from the division rival New York Jets. The veteran suffered through an injury-riddled 2012 campaign, but did put up over 800 receiving yards the previous season.
Miami's success in 2012 will ultimately depend on Tannehill's progression at quarterback and the ability of Lamar Miller to shoulder the load at running back.
According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, Miller is ready to take on that lead-back role:
(Daniel) Thomas isn’t conceding anything, but Lamar Miller has done nothing to lose his firm grasp on the starter’s job. He had two impressive runs of 20-plus yards on Saturday – including one where he turned the corner – and also caught a wheel route from Tannehill for a 15-yard gain.
If those two are able to up their games from 2012, Miami could be in a position to challenge for a wild-card spot. Depending on what happens in New England, it could even make the Patriots sweat it out a little bit in the AFC East.