Friday, November 26, 2010

Dolphins vs. The Rest of the Season

Usually the only part of a Raiders game I'd be interested in watching are the occasional shots of the cheerleaders coming back from break, or if it's Halloween week, shots of the crowd.  But this week they're playing the Dolphins, and since both teams are struggling at 5-5 and both teams are engaging in a Quarterback carousel, and both teams are struggling in part because of over-rated coaching and the letting go of talented players during the off-season, well then, since they have all of that in common, the Dolphins have a fair shot at winning this game (despite the Raiders being favorites) and one thing I'm really interested in is the Dolphins winning a game.  I'm sure we all are.

Now, I'm aware that after the last shambolic outing by the Dolphins, a lot of fans are already starting to get interested in the 2011 Draft.  Fair enough.  But before we talk about drafting Johnathan Baldwin, Mark Ingram or Patrick Peterson, we need to finish the season - we still have six games left.

Personally I don't think the Dolphins have a chance at all at making the playoffs, the Jets have everything falling into place for them and the Patriots are discovering their young talent and becoming a real threat again.  The Bills even have things going for them that will help them in the future, if not this season.  The Dolphins on the other hand need to right the ship because each week they seem to be going backwards both on and off the field.  It's hard to be optimistic about this season or next.  

The only way that will change is if they do the following things before the 2010 season is out: 

1. Give the team back to Chad Henne and show confidence in him.  Let him get the experience he needs (and the bumps and bruises along the way) so that he's ready to emerge with consistency in 2011.

2. Start playing the youth.  I don't see how much worse Nolan Carroll can be than Sean Smith or Benny Sapp.  Give him some snaps for crying out loud! He's not going to be kick returner next year so you might as well see if he can play the position you drafted him for.  While you're doing that, sign some of your practice squad players who have more talent than some of the guys already on the team.  Come on, Ireland, you know Micah Johnson can run circles around Austin Spitler.  Giving every available snap to Sapp, Al Harris, et al does not help at this point in preparing the team for next year - you may think you have to show that you're still 'in it to win it' this season, but ultimately if the Dolphins were to make the playoffs, their depth is woefully unprepared for it, and lets face it, the teams that win in the playoffs are the ones with the best depth because injuries start to pile up (especially for older players) in December.

3. Realize you made a mistake with the O-line.  You shouldn't have tossed out Justin Smiley and Donald Thomas.  You probably shouldn't have placed Nate Garner on IR (he'd be healthy by now).  You shouldn't have deluded yourself into thinking that every ex-Dallas reject is somehow better than proven Miami players.  All three guys mentioned above are 10 times the player Pat McQuistan is.  I think Richie Incognito has given up more sacks this season than all 3 above combined in their Miami careers (don't quote me on that, I haven't done the math).  The point is, the GM and HC of the Dolphins are supposed to be pros at this, and yet they seem to repeatedly make the same mistake of taking good players and throwing them away in favor of guys they go to church with or have been lucky enough to be drafted by them 4 years ago.  The reality of the NFL is that every player on the o-line, all 9, 10 or 11 of them should be of 'Starter-caliber'.  Is SpIreland really confident that Matt Kopa, Lydon Murtha, Pat McQuistan, and Eric Ghiaciuc are starter-quality?  Newsflash, Dolfans, not a single one of them is.  These are the players that replaced Garner, Thomas, Smiley, and Jake Grove.  It seems pretty obvious to me which line had the most talent.  The question now is, what are we going to do to fix the error?  First things first, be prepared for the eventuality of injury - get these scrubs ready to play - and get them plenty of snaps to evaluate which one or two get invited to camp next year.  Secondly, in the offseason we need to sign proven quality players who have starting experience.  Third, we need to draft a bad-ass Center/Guard, someone who can be every bit the player Jake Long has been.  The second coming of Webb/Sims is the only thing that will show that SpIreland actually can do the job.

A team with a beast of an O-line, a prepared youth-movement providing proper depth, and a confident clicking offense led by a matured and trusted QB, a well-rested defense - these are the markings of a Super-Bowl bound team.  I know it, you know it.  Do the Dolphins know it?

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