Ironically, the Miami Dolphins Week 14 victory over the New York Jets only lamented the team's wide array of shortcomings and needs.
Despite the return of Brandon Marshall to the lineup, Chad Henne posted a historically poor performance, completing just five of 18 passes for 55 yards. Even though he was pinned up against the Jets 9th ranked passing defense in the rain, there is simply no excuse for such a dismal game.
Beyond that, both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. This mediocre game, on top of an entire season marred by mediocrity, might hint that a complete overhaul of the rushing offense is in store for the 2011 off-season.
Although Miami is still technically alive in the playoff hunt, it is almost impossible to envision a scenario in which they slide in, especially considering their recent struggles. So, naturally, it is time to start looking ahead, and the next thing in store for the 'Fins is April's NFL Draft. What will the Dolphins do with their seven draft picks? Here are some possibilities.
The Dolphins post-Dan Marino quarterback shuffle has followed two disturbing trends: First, the team has not given most of the 15 successors more than a handful of games to materialize (mainly due to coaching changes). And, second, the team has fooled around with free agents and castoffs, never once reaching for a potential franchise quarterback with a first round pick.
These historical trends create a dilemma for the 'Fins. Chad Henne is only in his second year, and there are examples of great, late-blooming quarterbacks: Drew Brees, Matt Hasselbeck, Kurt Warner, amongst others. Perhaps Henne deserves something that few other post-Marino quarterbacks have been allotted: time.
However, Henne has shown major digression from last season, and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett could very well be on the board when Miami figures to pick in the middle portion of the first round. Mallett stands at a commanding 6'6" and has a NFL written all over him. The last time Miami spent a first round pick on a quarterback, Dan Marino landed in their palms, and things worked out pretty well, didn't they?
You can read more in depth about this sticky quarterback situation here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/535652-miami-dolphins-7-areas-of-need-for-miami-going-into-the-offseason#page/2
With Ricky Williams likely headed into a contract year and Ronnie Brown possibly headed into free agency, the Dolphins may resort to drafting a running back in the first round of this year's draft. But due to a shallow pool of running back prospects, Miami will likely re-sign Brown and look for his protege with a mid-round selection.
The recent success of second and third round running backs (Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Shonn Greene, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew) makes this an increasingly comforting strategy.
Without a second round pick, (Traded to DEN in the Brandon Marshall trade) Cal running back Shane Vereen could be a very enticing option for Miami in the third round. Vereen has drawn comparisons to former backfield mate Jahvid Best, and averaged an impressive 5.1 yards per carry this past season.
Vereen provides a versatile player who could fill a scat-back and Wildcat role, but eventually grow into a feature back and replace Brown. Either way, he would bring a bolt of electricity to an offense lacking speed and a home-run threat.
Just one year after paving lanes for the league's fourth best rushing offense, the Dolphins sent three of their starting offensive linemen packing prior to the 2010 season. Gone were Justin Smiley, Justin Grove, and Donald Thomas; in were Richie Incognito, Joe Berger, and John Jerry.
Today, Miami's rushing attacks ranks 20th in the NFL. It is difficult to pinpoint the root of the team's rushing miscues, whether it be aging running backs, an ineffective offensive line, poor play calling, or a combination of the three.
In all likelihood, it is a combination, but there is no doubting the offensive line's struggles creating rushing lanes for Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown. TCU's Jake Kirkpatrick was an All-American in his first year as a starter for the Horned Frogs in 2009. This year, TCU boasts the ninth best rushing attack, which could raise Kirkpatrick's stock as April nears.
As of now, however, he seems to be hovering below the radar, and at 6'3", 305 pounds, Kirkpatrick fits the Bill Parcells criteria of massive offensive linemen.
Like Jake Kirkpatrick, Mario Harvey is currently drifting below the radar of national draft talk. But, as April nears, Harvey's stock could catapult.
The Marshall linebacker went bananas in 2010, racking up 144 tackles.
Channing Crowder's days as a Dolphins may be coming to end, and although Harvey is currently projected as a late-round pick, he is a tackling machine who could, at the very least, contribute in Miami's defense right away. Moreover, he could be a tremendous asset to one of the worst special teams in the NFL.
Before Steve Spurrier kicked him off of South Carolina's roster just days before the 2010 season opener, former Gamecocks tight end Weslye Saunders was primed for a breakout year.
Saunders was poised to make a run for the Mackey Award and possibly a first day selection at the 2011 NFL Draft, but a major violation of team rules derailed those dreams and left him on the sidelines for the entire year.
Although he did not play in 2010, the Dolphins would be wise to take a late round flier on the 6'5" tight end, known for his receiving prowess. Miami severely needs an athletic tight end, capable of slipping behind opposing linebackers and providing another option for whoever will be playing quarterback for this team next year. Saunders' "character issues" may or may not allow him to slip this deep into the draft, but missing an entire year could be a strong enough factor to dissuade many teams from taking the risk.
If incumbent return-man Nolan Carroll can polish off 2010 with some promising returns, then drafting a return specialist like Auburn's Demond Washington will not be a priority for the Dolphins this summer.
But while Carroll has shown explosiveness and keen field vision, he does not possess the straight ahead, burner mentality that the nation's fourth leading return man packs.
There is little harm in taking a risk with a seventh round pick, especially considering the Dolphins have back-to-back picks in the final stage of the draft. Adding an explosive return man to any teams arsenal immediately upgrades their special teams and benefits its offense with field position.
Washington might be a long shot to make the team, but if he pans out at the next level, Miami struck gold.
Heralded as one of the best offensive lineman in the FCS, Missouri State's David Arkin could make for an intriguing pick at the tail end of the 2010 Draft.
Arkin possesses the mammoth size typical of this Dolphins regime's lineman. He stands at 6'5", 305 pounds, and did not miss a start throughout the entirety of his stellar four year career.
Arkin might grade out to be a practice squad project, but he dominated the FCS ranks, and certainly deserves a shot with the big boys. Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano seem to have an uncanny knack for finding quality offensive linemen in the darkest depths of the football world (Joe Berger, Nate Garner, Donald Thomas, Pat McQuistan, others), and Arkin seems to fit the physical bill for Miami.