Monday, January 10, 2011

Things To Be Stated

In this episode I want to focus on where the Dolphins are talent-wise heading into the 2011 off-season.  It doesn't look anything like a 7-9 team, but it doesn't look like a 14-2 team either.  We simply don't have the kind of depth that the Patriots have.  Generally speaking, the teams that play well from week one to week 17 and through the playoffs are the ones who have the depth to last through the odd injury (or twelve) that weaken the team as time goes on.

But it's important to realize that, in a way, it was our depth that was playing in 2010.
Sean Smith started the season as the 4th corner behind Vontae Davis, Jason Allen and Benny Sapp.  Had Will Allen been healthy he may not have even made the team.  He finished as the starter.  We had three Quarterbacks play in one game, out of necessity.  We had guys off the street like Al Harris starting the week after they were signed.  We had Lydon Murtha start the last two games after the entire offensive line fell apart.  We had both Marlon Moore and Roberto Wallace start games during the season.  We had a guy who'd never played Center before as our starting Center.  

Truth is, this isn't just about bad luck and freak injuries.  The Dolphins simply didn't plan ahead.  You can't imagine at any point during the pre-season and training camp they actually thought to themselves, 'this roberto wallace kid will easily replace Brandon Marshall if/when he gets injured'.  Or, 'let's cut Jake Grove, we'll figure out a backup Center when the time comes.'  Actually, that last part does sound like something they'd think...possibly out loud.
So the question of the moment shouldn't be who is going to be our top draft picks this year (though part of the argument should be how we can recoup our lost 2nd round pick), but rather how do we improve this team from top to bottom.  Every position can be improved upon.

For starters, we should go after Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency now that his contract has been voided by the Raiders super-sharp legal department.  We can then trade Will Allen and give his paycheck to Nnamdi, a younger, faster, more physical corner across from Vontae Davis would be a formidable secondary.  Now I'm not saying that having Will Allen back and the continued development of the younger corners, Smith, Nate Ness and Nolan Carroll are not a good thing, but it's all about making every position better, depth-wise, and Asomugha would push a proven starter in Smith back in the chart, thus making the depth stronger.

The Dolphins don't need to do anything at inside linebacker....Dansby, Crowder, Dobbins and AJ Edds will likely be on the final 53 in 2011 and I don't have any concerns there.  

Quarterback is the big nerve-racker here, but in reality, Thigpen, Henne and a grizzled veteran are what we need here, not a newly drafted question mark, though I have to say I am a fan of a couple of available draftees in this category.  As scary as it may sound to some, someone like Vince Young would be a better option in 2011 than someone like Jake Locker.  Ultimately I think we may be spoiled for choice once free agency comes around.

As for the draft, this is where the Dolphins SHOULD draft a running back and an interior offensive lineman.  The other draft choices can be used to add depth to positions such as tight-end, outside linebacker and kicker (he said slyly).

Of course, all of this is contingent on contract renewals, free agency cast-aways, and injuries down the line.  And of course, you have to take into consideration the following players who may shake things up:
RB Kory Sheets
QB Chad Pennington
QB Tom Brandstater
DE Jared Odrick
OL Nate Garner
LB AJ Edds
CB Will Allen

With the return of Odrick, the Dolphins will once again have to convert Randy Starks to NT.  Of course, Paul Soliai becomes a free agent this year, and the Dolphins will likely have to pass on him as he's expected to get bigger money than a backup or snap-sharer would warrant.  But with Starks, McDaniel, Merling, Langford, Odrick, Rob Rose, Ryan Baker, and Chris Baker in addition to Soliai's potential return, the Dolphins could probably have their best opportunity for additional draft picks on the D-line.

So as we go forward with the 15th overall pick, no 2nd round pick, and a slew of bodies (the Dolphins already have 73 players under contract), what are the priorities and what is already going to be better in 2011 after injured players heal?

And will the Dolphins be able to field a team that has chemistry as well as optimal talent, not to mention the mutual respect of their management?

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