Miami Dolphins: Linebacker Struggles

linebackers

There was a time that the Miami Dolphins were known for their linebackers. From Nick Buoniconti to John Offerdahl, from AJ Duhe to Brian Cox, most recently were twelve incredible season with Zach Thomas. Miami had been spoiled, linebacker had been a position of strength. Not anymore.

Last offseason the team parted ways with Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett in favor of free agents Dannell Ellerbee and Philip Wheeler. It was thought that they were getting younger and faster, the new linebackers were expected to be better in coverage and blitzing. No such luck. While Dansby had a very successful year, Ellerbee and Wheeler were among the worst at the position last season. They had success previously but last season was ripe with bad angles, ineffective tackling and frankly poor effort. Outside linebacker Koa Misi performed much better, contributing as a run stopper. Even rookie Jelani Jenkins from Florida showed promise. Of course, Ellerbee and Wheeler could improve with another offseason in the Dolphins defense, but can they afford to take that chance.

Too much money is going to Ellerbee and Wheeler to address this need in free agency, so that brings us to the upcoming NFL Draft. There are several promising linebackers in this deep draft. I have chosen three who I believe would make an immediate impact in Miami.

C.J. Mosley, Alabama: 6’2″, 230 lbs

cjmosleyMosley is the consensus number one inside linebacker in this draft. As the leader of Alabama’s defense he showed off great instincts and range. The 2013 Butkus award winner has a high football IQ, he easily runs with tight ends while picking through the trash to make plays in the running game. Mosley will walk onto any team as an instant starter and possible superstar.

chrisborlandChris Borland, Wisconsin: 5’11″, 248 lbs.

This former Badger is a ferocious tackling machine. Often compared to Zach Thomas, he is a little undersized. The biggest issues are his short arms and his 4.83 40-time. As a player he is always around the ball, making plays in the run and pass game. He possesses incredible instincts and a very high motor. If he can overcome his physical limitations he could be the steal of the draft.

Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA: 6’4″, 235 lbs.jzumwalt

I first noticed Zumwalt during this years Sun Bowl, where he would eventually win the co-MVP. Watching him all I saw was a player who clearly loved the game, playing down hill all game long making play after play. While overshadowed by teammate Anthony Barr, Zumwalt is a passionate player and an explosive hitter. He can play inside or outside and is a disruptive blitzer. It is easy to see him as a starting middle linebacker at the next level.

Each of these players would make an immediate impact for the Dolphins defense. The only question is which one do you choose. Much of that will be determined by when General Manager Dennis Hickey decides to address the linebacker position. Mosley will most likely cost a first round pick, while Borland and Zumwalt should be available in the later rounds.

No matter when they look to the middle of the defense, for the defense to improve the Dolphins must make some kind of move this May.

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Miami Dolphins: 7 Round Mock

7 round mock draft

Draft Day is coming soon. No, not the movie but the actual NFL Draft. The 2014 draft begins Thursday May 8th. Less than a month remains for teams to finish their draft boards and debate among the hundreds of players they may have to choose from when they get on the clock.

It is so difficult to determine what any team will do when the draft arrives, nevermind a team with a new general manager. Dennis Hickey is preparing for his first draft as a member of the Miami Dolphins. No one truly knows what he will do when the time comes. That’s ok. I am more than willing to give him my seven round mock draft to work from.

Miami has several holes they need to fill through this draft. Offensive line is the most glaring need. Safety, Linebacker and Tight End could all use upgrades as well. With a pick in every round the Dolphins should be able to make some solid moves with a good draft.

xsfRound 1 (pick 19)

Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG  (UCLA)

Not the sexy pick some fans would want but Su’a-Filo is exactly what is  needed to firm up the offensive line. At 6-3 and 305 lbs. he has the athleticism to work as a pulling guard while also being able to hold up in pass protection. He should start from day one, could easily see him as a long time pro bowler.

Round 2 (50)FSU13_t607

Terrence Brooks, FS (Florida State)

Louis Delmas was signed to be the Dolphins new free safety this offseason. His contract suggests that he will not be there for long. Brooks has been moving up draft boards steadily this offseason, with good reason. 4.4 speed and great instincts do not come around everyday. Until he is ready to assume the starting job Brooks may contribute as a nickel defender, he is a former corner.

Round 3 (81)

Jordan Zumwalt, LB (UCLA)

Zumwalt’s instincts and high motor contributed to him being voted co-MVP in this years Sun Bowl, where he contributed 10 tackles and an interception. Experienced at all three linebacker positions, he could compete for a starting spot immediately. I see him as the middle linebacker of the future.

Round 4 (116)

Jaylen Watkins, CB (Florida)

Watkins has played both corner and safety at Florida. With great instincts and closing speed he should contribute immediately in the zone scheme Miami currently runs.alynch

Round 5 (155)

Arthur Lynch, TE (Georgia)

An In-Line TE which is exactly what Miami needs to complement Charles Clay. He is a solid blocker, with good hands. Clay is the seam threat, Lynch can eat underneath.

Round 6 (190)

Michael Schofield, OT (Michigan)

Schofield moves well for his size. Not good enough to start on the left side, but he could become a solid right tackle. Failing that he also has experience working inside as well.

Round 7 (234)

Brett Smith, QB (Wyoming)

I am a big believer in always taking a quarterback to develop for the future. I think it is time to move on from Pat Delvin as a back-up. Smith is a natural passer with a good enough arm for the next level. He has the athleticism to get outside of the pocket and throw from the run. While I would prefer Aaron Murray from Georgia, Smith could develop into a quality starter and a solid backup in the near future.

Writing a seven round mock is like throwing darts at a board. Who knows what will happen come May? If half of these players end up in South Beach I will be happy.

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The Man Who Isn’t There

The weekend of the Masters and for once I am talking about golf. It is sad that for many their focus on this weekend has little to do with the players actually competing in Augusta.
Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson are five under par but for some that does not matter. They care about the man who isn’t there. All they care about is Tiger.

Tiger Woods missed the 2014 Masters according to this report from CBSSports.com. His absence is due to surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back. I wish I could say this is a surprise. It is not. More and more often Tiger has not finished tournaments or simply skipped them altogether. Nagging injuries are often the reason given for withdrawing from the events.

Is Tiger simply suffering from an injury plagued period of his career or is it something more?

Tiger has never been my guy, my golfer. I never understood the obsession. Without a doubt he is an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime golfer, but I always preferred Phil Mickelson. With Tiger he is so good all he would do is disappoint me. You always expected him to win. So if he won, well that is what he was supposed to do. Anything else is just some level of failure, a disappointment. With Phil, he plays like we would. He takes chances he probably shouldn’t but that is why I love watching him. Mickelson is one of us.

Sadly the Tiger we have seen recently is not the Tiger we were used to. Some blame injuries, others point to his public problems in his personal life. What if it is something simple?

Maybe he is just getting older. Everyone ages. Peyton Manning is not the same quarterback he was ten years ago, why should we expect Tiger to be.

Maybe his body simply cannot do the things it used to do. He cannot make the same shots he always did. And maybe, just maybe Tiger cannot deal with that. He is used to playing from the front of the pack, being chased. Now he is doing the chasing. The things he did before, things that made him great, are simply not working anymore.

If it is simply injuries he may just need time to recover. If it is father time, well someday time will run out. Even for Tiger Woods.

 

 

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Someone Else’s Privacy.

Wednesday at the SEC media day the big story was Johnny Manziel and the Manning Passing Academy Camp.

ESPN reported the story about Johnny Manziel leaving the Manning Passing Camp: Johnny Football leaves the Manning Passing Academy early.

So when Manziel appeared on Wednesday he had to answer a lot of questions and he answered them…to a point. When asked if he was hung over he quickly answered no. However, when asked if he had been drinking that weekend he chose not to answer. There are some in the public and the media who felt that was not good enough. Felt that they deserved more from this young man.

That’s the thing. They don’t. We don’t.

No one has the right to someone else’s privacy. I understand with social media and reality tv it often feels that we do. But that is a false assumption.

Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter among other outlets many people live their lives in the public. It gets worse when you are an athlete or celebrity. So many people want something from you. Anytime you go out in public you are on display. Every move you make may be dissected and analyzed. You still are allowed to decide what parts of your life you want to share with the world.

If Manziel decides to share his life with us that is his choice, not ours. He can share whatever he wants, all or nothing. But if he decides that one little, tiny, insignificant part of his life is his not to be shared that’s ok too. He is allowed his privacy, it is his life not ours.

Johnny Football has made some mistakes, he is allowed to. Like he reminded us he is only 20 yrs old. He isn’t out getting DUIs, getting into fights, he is simply acting like a college kid. If he wants to share his life that is up to him, we don’t have a right to it.

Hopefully he learns from his mistakes as he finds his way. It is his path, let him follow it.

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Welcome to your Dwight-mare.

It happened to Cleveland.

It has happened to Orlando twice.

That moment when a city is forced to watch an athletic superstar break their collective hearts, leaving them is disarray. Whatever reasons given it can be painful. As a city, as an organization you see your dreams of championships fade into the stark reality of a painful rebuilding process. For Cleveland and Orlando unfortunately this is not a surprising turn of events, for Los Angeles it is downright shocking.

But that is exactly what happened this weekend to the Los Angeles Lakers as Dwight Howard agreed to join the Houston Rockets. For once the mighty Lakers lost out on the premier player who they desired.

The Lakers Dwight-mare is coming to an end while if history repeats itself Houston’s is just beginning.  After a very promising beginning for his career Howard cannot seem to get out of his own way. For whatever the reason Dwight Howard is not the same man or player that he previously was. Injuries have played a part but the more obvious concern must be for a young player who cannot seem to make up his mind, one who seemingly wants to make everyone happy.

For many in Orlando there was a lot of anger when Dwight initially left for the Lakers. Then something so sweet happened. Dwight and the Lakers struggled, badly. It was such sweet revenge. After losing first Shaq, then Dwight to the Lakers for once karma seemed to have struck. When this offseason began it was nice watching Dwight do to the Lakers what he had done to the Magic just the previous year.

Now Howard finds himself in Houston. A talented young team, a fresh start. Maybe things will work out this time for him, it may be his last chance to repair his reputation. The talent is obviously still there, the real concern is his character. The Houston Rockets believe they can do what the Magic and Lakers already failed to do: make Dwight Howard the champion he can be.

Of course if things go sideways, if he becomes a Dwight-mare in Houston don’t say we didn’t try to warn you.

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Father’s Day Football.

Once in a while an idea will find me all by itself. This Father’s Day I saw a post on Facebook of all places suggesting that Father’s Day should take place in the fall so we could spend our day with or fathers and sons watching football.

Sounds good to me.

Then I thought why does it have to be in the fall. From 1934-1976 the Chicago College All-Star Game took place between departing college players and the NFL champions. What is wrong with beginning that tradition once again. Very simple have a team of college all-americans play against NFL pro bowl athletes, have the game coached by the head coaches of the defending National Champions and Super Bowl champions. Nice and simple.

Have all procedes go for charity, I’m thinking Big Brothers.

What better celebration of fathers across the country than having a football game used to raise money for those children among us that live there lives without a father.

It is an idea.

Oh, and before I forget Happy Fathers Day!!!

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Still Standing

We all have challenges.

Each man, woman and child has their own unique trials to overcome.

College graduation.

Job problems.

Personal tragedies.

No matter if you are a professional athlete, soccer mom or the child down the street there are things going on in your life. Things that seem overwhelming to each of us, things which beat us down at times. It may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel

The true measure of an individual comes in how we deal with these obstacles. Not whether we win or lose, that is not important here. All that matters is how we meet these challenges and what comes next.

So there comes that time when we stomp our feet with that ‘child’ inside each of us and scream to the world:

“I’m Still Standing…”

…next.

 

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We are Boston

“This is our F***ing City.”b_strong_white

These were the words of ‘Big Papi’ David Ortiz before the Boston Red Sox played their game this last Saturday, the first sporting event in Boston after an emotional day which saw much of the Boston area on lockdown and afraid.

This was not about the 35,152 in attendance at Fenway Park that afternoon.

This was not even about the over 600,000 brave citizens of Boston.

This was for every single man women and children in this great country of ours.

There are times when we are One Nation; sometimes however we are one singular city. This was one of those times.

Watching the opening ceremonies of Saturday’s game between the Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals I felt tears in my eyes. ‘Man Tears’ but tears nonetheless. Looking out on that field with our sports heroes standing in awe of the real heroes in our life. It puts everything in perspective. I was so proud of our brothers and sisters in Boston that day. So proud.

It was a testament of the power of sports in our lives. There were those who wondered why we should gather for a game in the wake of unspeakable tragedy. Those people simply do not get it. Don’t bother trying to explain it they will never get it.

Our love of sports allows us a slight return to normalcy after a difficult week. These games allow us to come together as a community in a time of crisis, allows those who have suffered through a shared tragedy to heal together. It gives us an opportunity to stand with our brothers and sisters and say “I am here for you.” We a given the chance to come together as a people to say, “Here we are. We are still standing…”

“We are Boston.”

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Trading Places

Everyone following the NFL knew the trade would happen. Finally, Darrelle Revis is a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I do not think there was any doubt that he would not begin the season as a member of the New York Jets. This is a story about two franchises seemingly headed in very different directions.

Tampa Bay has spent the offseason attempting to turn a glaring weakness into perhaps their greatest strength. The defensive secondary was bad last season. How bad? Try dead last in passing defense in the entire NFL. Something had to change.

Signing Dashon Goldson was a good start, teaming him with 2012 draft pick Mark Barron solidified the safety position. Trading for Revis may make Tampa’s secondary one of the best in the league. Even better they didn’t spend much, first round pick this year and a 3rd or a 4th rounder next year. That is a steal. They would have used that first round pick on an untested corner in the draft, so much better to take Revis considered by many the best corner in the league. The cherry on top of all of this is the contract. Revis signed a six-year $96 million dollar contract with no guaranteed money. It is basically a series of one year contracts, if he doesn’t recover from his injury or his play declines the Bucs can walk away without any cap hit. Fantastic deal for the best player at his position.

The New York Jets are an entire other story. This team is coming off a disappointing season with a new general manager in John Idzik, what is his first major move? Trade the best player on the team. They have no quarterback, no star players; they may be the worst team in football on paper. The Jets do have two first round draft picks but very little else to speak of.

Everything done in New York this offseason has been questionable. Head coach Rex Ryan is coaching for his job and Idzik does not seem to want to help him out. The moves made during this offseason seem to be intended to shed salary and set things up for a big offseason in 2014. That may be good news for the Jets moving forward, but for Rex Ryan it may just be writing on the wall.

The Buccaneers have set themselves up for a promising future; the Jets on the other hand do not look like they have one.

Categories: Football, New York Jets, NFL, NFL draft, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Shame and outrage.

(I wrote this column last Wednesday. I felt due to the events taking place it was best if I waited for a resolution before I published this.)

I am going to step away from writing about sports for just a moment here. There are times you just have to; times when events are much more important than sports.

On Patriots day, we saw the Red Sox play a day game, the Boston Marathon and a bombing. Unfortunately sporting events are easy targets for terrorism; a large crowd, confusion, and a chance to not only injure large numbers of people but also attack our innocence and safety.

I could go on about the pain inflicted. Speak of how as Americans we are being dragged into a realm where nothing is safe, a reality much of the rest of the world has lived in day after day. Ponder about the cowardice of bombing women and children who have done nothing but try to live their lives. But that is not the story being told here…

On Wednesday it became clear that many of our media outlets have learned nothing since the Sandy Hook tragedy. We depend on our journalists to inform, educate and sometimes even inspire us. At the very least they must be accurate, for without accuracy they are simply storytellers. After that tragedy the media was so obsessed with being first they did not bother trying to get the facts straight. Once again we have media members obsessed with being first. How about we try and get the story right first?

There were reports of someone being arrested for the bombing, reports that were relayed by several news outlets. News outlets which were clearly more interested in page views and ratings points than in getting the story right. Any first year journalism student knows that you verify any information before you put it in print or on air. This was not done. Hours later reports came from the Police, Homeland Security, and the FBI that no one had been arrested; no one detained, and would not even confirm a person of interest.

The worst part of all of this is even after the media made an egregious mistake once again they tried to talk their way around it. Here is an idea, if you screw up horribly like this again have your on air talent look at the camera and say, “I am sorry, we were wrong…”, then actually tell the public what you actually do know. Just a thought I know.

The fact is as journalist we have a responsibility, not to the people or our employers, we have a responsibility to the truth. We serve an honorable profession that too often suffers a disservice by those who care more about being first than being right. The media should have the decency to do better, to be better. If some of our collegues have difficulty with that maybe they should have the decency to find another line of work…

Categories: Journalism | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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