A number of different things need to change in the Miami Dolphins player and/or coaching personnel. The course of actions taken by notable brass like Dan Henning (offensive-play calling), Jeff Ireland (draft choices) and Tony Sparano (leadership and discipline) are in serious question throughout the South Florida sports world. Despite the fact that the reallocation of these gentlemen are left up to chance, and can't really be pre-determined (unless Miami swan-dives into a 6-10 finale), the only kind of logical and foreseeable decisions to be made lie in the 2011 Draft.
The Fins lack serious depth in a few spots. While some starters are falling victim to injury on a regular basis, others are developing at a horrendously slow, kill-me-now rate, and may never grow into what many were hoping for. With a depleted offensive line, an aging, injury-prone (now non-productive) run game, lack of speed in their wide-outs, and a quarterback who seems to take one step forward and a sack for a 5-yard loss back, plus the perennial 1-4 interceptions every week, the Dolphins are in big time need for rejuvenation by way of leaders, contributors and play-makers.
Miami has secured solid talent at left tackle (Jake Long), left guard (Richie Incognito), full back (Lousaka Polite), slot receiver (Davone Bess), possession wide-out (Brandon Marshall), and pretty much the entire defense with the way it is being run by Mike Nolan with only an exception or two in the whole unit.
The first order of business that needs to be addressed is Chad Henne; it is clear that he is either not ready or must go. I agree, the play-calling in Miami has not been up to par, but many feel he never truly earned the starting job, while it was instead gifted to him even after being out-played in the preseason by Chad Pennington and Tyler Thigpen. When this guy is given the choice on an option, he still manages to botch the hand-off. He’ll over throw a wide-open receiver, he’ll under throw a player who then has to stop mid-route to catch the ball, only to be crushed by two linebackers. His mechanics look like that of a novice, he has horrible pocket presence, and up until recently, freaked when he could even feel a defender nearing and dropped to the floor. Unless Miami plans on drafting an early QB, they might as well not even bother with picking one up in the second round, they’d just be drafting another Henne all over again.
After the Thursday night massacre versus the Bears in Week 11, it was more than clear that Miami lacks a considerable amount of depth in the interior offensive line. Sure, Center Joe Berger was out, and his replacement, Cory Procter, got hurt in the game as well, but there’ve been a big number of injuries throughout the year and the guys coming off of the bench are having a little trouble picking up the slack.
The Dolphins made two big off-season acquisitions with Wide Receiver Brandon Marshall and Linebacker Karlos Dansby. Despite them being warmly welcomed by the fans and coaching staff alike, they didn’t necessarily end the mild state of crisis on the roster. Marshall isn’t as much of a speedster as he is more of a possession, evasive wide-out, and after trading former first-round letdown Ted Ginn Jr., the team became much slower and lost its special teams explosiveness. Dansby filled a huge void, while the originally slated starter beside him, Channing Crowder, had been under-performing in past years and has only played in 6 games (from Week 6 to 11) all season, and has already missed the last two games due to injury.
Lastly, the heroes of 2008, and Wild-Cat formation workhorses, Running Backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are both thoroughly beloved by people throughout the Miami fan base. Though, with both of them being free agents after this season, it has become clear that something has got to give. One of these two guys won’t be here by the time the 53-man roster is announced next year, and it has become apparent that they are also a bit less productive as before. Ricky not so much, but Ronnie just doesn’t seem the same after the season-ending Lisfranc fracture he suffered in 2009.
Changes need to be made, and the future is the perfect place to start.
If Miami plans on drafting a quarterback it’ll have to be very early in the draft, because out of all of the guys available only two are probably worth it. They’ve picked up some bust-worthy QB’s in past second rounds as is, and if they want serious talent calling the snaps, they’ll have to move up for one of these two passers.
Andrew Luck is without question the best pure QB in the nation, and is as great of a player as he is a leader. He’s captained the Cardinal to an 11-1 season as they currently stand at #4 in the BCS rankings. His 2010 campaign boasts a 166.10 passer rating, a 70.2 completion percentage and 28 passing touchdowns, a new Stanford record. He is also currently a Heisman finalist.
The other quarterback I need to mention, a Heisman finalist as well (favorite, too), is Cam Newton. He is arguably the best over-all athlete in college football today. He is the current leader of the #1 team in the nation and is charging along with them to the BCS National Championship game.
His 2010 passer rating currently stands at a staggering 188.16 (the highest in the nation), and we all know he runs as well as his superior passing game. His #10 overall, 1,409 rushing yards compliment his 2,589 passing yards to the tee, and if he chooses to declare into the draft, I am sure one of the first 10 teams selecting will not let his projected stock drop any further.
Despite only rushing for 816 yards in the season and being held from achieving a 100-yard game since a Week 4 victory at Arkansas, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner is still arguably one of the three best players coming out of the backfield in college football this year. Even if his numbers have dropped dramatically, you need not forget the fact that he’s had less than 100 rushing attempts this season than in last year’s Heisman campaign. Ingram also missed Bama’s first two games of the year while only getting a season-minimum 9 carries in his Week 3 debut, and still ran for 151 yards.
If the Fins drop Ronnie or Ricky, as everyone expects them to do, the 5’10, 215lbs Ingram would be an excellent young replacement who has the physical strength, explosive speed and agile evasiveness required for the job.
Leshoure may be just a bit slower than Ingram, but he matches that with his size. The weight is not by any means an indication of something that can hinder his speed at 6’1, 230lbs, as he uses it along with his strength and natural burst to drag defenders with him for an extra yard or two on just about every play.
Sure, the NFL isn’t full of 20 year-old linebackers from the Big 10, but his combination of size and speed is fairly reminiscent of a couple guys on Miami’s roster already. He is very smart running up the gut with quick feet and is deadly in the open field.
The Oklahoma Sooner may only have 1,121 rushing yards, but these stats belong to a player on a pass-first team. Demarco Murray has another 69 receptions earning him an additional 595 yards with 19 all-purpose touchdowns in 2010. The latter is something he knows very much about, as he notched up 62 total TD’s at Oklahoma, becoming the new career record-holder at the university.
At 6’1, 207lbs, Murray would be an excellent addition on any roster seeking a 6-point hungry rusher that has the physicality, intelligence, and most notably, speed to get themself into the end zone.
At 6’2, 230lbs, this Tarheel is one of the few standouts in the entire nation at his position. 2011 will more than likely not be a middle linebacker kind of draft, but if there is one to get, it’ll be Sturdivant. His numbers dropped significantly this season, but only after suffering a hamstring injury that sidelined him for five games.
I can’t say that Channing Crowder is the absolute worst player on the Fins’ defense, but he can hardly manage staying healthy, and hasn’t been very effective in his tenure with Miami. Sturdivant’s knack for reading defenses, patience and excellent tackling ability would make a great pick to work alongside defensive captain Karlos Dansby.
Not everyone has been thoroughly impressed by Miami’s 2010 3rd-round choice, OG John Jerry. He snatched the starting job for the first two games of the season, but then took an injury, and wasn’t back until 5 games later. He held the starting job for a few more games, but eventually lost it this past week. Miami likes their linemen big and strong, and even if Jerry isn’t tiny, he’s getting beat up like a guy who is half his size.
The 6’7, 315lbs Miami Hurricane, Orlando Franklin, would make a great addition to the size happy Fins o-line. He’s a monster that opens up big lanes for Canes’ runningbacks Damien Berry and Lamar Miller and could do the same for whoever the Dolphins have in mind at the rush. His pro-ready size can either earn him a starting spot, or at the very least, become a strong contributor coming off the bench at guard or tackle.
Gabe Carimi has been criticized for not being too good at the left tackle position, which is perfect for Miami, because Jake Long has got that spot down packed. At 6’7, 327lbs, most have said he can be more reliable at starting directly in the league as a right tackle, which then leads to the whispers of complaint about OT Vernon Carey’s play.
I myself like having Carey on the roster, even as a starter, but I will admit, he’s slumped pretty hard since 2009, and additionally, most people have forgotten that he was moved over to the right side to bring in Jake Long as the first overall draft pick in 2008. Carimi can add another big body on the right side (two inches taller than Carey), and even if he doesn’t start right away, I doubt Sparano would disagree on having that kind of size on the depth chart.
Miami lost a significant amount of speed after trading away Ted Ginn from Ohio State. They now lack a deep threat with reliable hands (which Ginn didn’t really offer the latter anyway); in comes 2011’s best wide receiver, A.J. Green of the Georgia Bulldogs. Watching this guy is reminiscent of a young Randy Moss at Marshall.
He caught 49 passes for 771 yards and 9 touchdowns this season, and despite being suspended for the first 4 games in 2010, Green has almost mirrored his past performances regardless of being less active throughout the year. In his freshman season alone he racked up 56 receptions, 963 yards and 8 TD’s, breaking all of these freshman records at Georgia. His jump ball abilities are stellar and can break out of coverage in a split second.
He’s been as consistent as he’s been deadly for three years now, and would add the kind of passing explosion the Dolphins need as Brandon Marshall will continue to demand double-coverage on the other end of the field.
How the Eagles managed to run away with Desean Jackson in the second round of the 2008 draft is something I’ll never be able to figure out, but Miami could still do the very same thing with Ryan Broyles in 2011. He covers two things the Dolphins desperately need right now; speed and reliability.
He has the kind of explosiveness that can beat out most defenders in the secondary, and has the hands to compliment those rocket-like bursts. One thing I must mention is Miami’s lack of significance in the kick and punt return game, making their special teams one of the most lack luster in terms of running the ball back. Although his total return yards have dropped in these last 2 seasons from 573 to 208, his receiving stats have exploded from 89 receptions and 1,120 yards in 2009 to 118 receptions and 1,452 receiving yards in 2010.
Broyles may have had a couple of off the field issues, but considering the kind off-season the Fins had with a couple of DUIs and a domestic battery charge, I’m sure it’s nothing they can’t handle. If Miami would like to re-earn and develop some sort of significance, or better said, respect in terms of speed, seeing as though A.J. Green will probably go very early in the draft, Oklahoma Sooner Ryan Broyles is undoubtedly the best way to go.