AFC East

The Miami Dolphins and a man named Suh.

Tony Gutierrez/AP

Tony Gutierrez/AP

Hunting season is almost here. The NFL Free Agency season opens Tuesday at 4pm.

Like most years there is one marquee player grabbing most of the attention. This year that player is Ndamukong Suh. He is the white whale this offseason. Franchises will put it all on the line to sign him.

Suh is the $100-million dollar man this week. The San Diego Chargers just threw their name in the ring, joining the Oakland Raiders, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Chicago Bears, his former team the Detroit Lions and the Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins seem to be the frontrunners. They are going big-game hunting again. This is not the first time they have gone after the biggest name during the offseason. Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Mike Wallace all come to mind.  While they have had some success the Dolphins have also been used to drive up the price on free agents who never intended to sign with the storied franchise.

Suh is absolutely worth the money. He is clearly the second best defensive lineman in the league-sorry but J.J. Watt is still number one. Talent has never been a question. Watching him at Nebraska in college it was clear he was a man among boys. Even his occasional on-field penalties should not give any team pause. Still the price tag is daunting.

$17 million a year. That is what we are talking about on the low-end. That is elite-quarterback money. That is Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady money. It is scary. For that money you can sign two or three very good players, maybe even pro bowl players. For that kind of money you have to be sure or it can cripple a franchise.

Miami has the money. Question is do they pull the trigger?

This week I considered what to do with the defensive tackle position with or without Suh. I came up with three ideas I like.

Scenario #1:

Sign Ndamukong Suh and Jared Odrick. Bring Odrick home. He has been the best interior defensive lineman for the Dolphins for the last few season. Pairing him with Suh would solidify the middle for years to come.

Scenario #2:

Sign Suh and Dan Williams, the free agent nose tackle from the Arizona Cardinals. At 6’2 and 327 lbs, Williams can eat up space in the middle while Suh, Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon terrorize opposing offenses.

Scenario #3:

Sign Odrick and Williams. Yes they miss out on the shiny signing of Suh. That is ok. The defensive line is still strengthened and you have a chunk of cap space available to address other needs.

Categories: AFC East, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Free Agency, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Ndamukong Suh, NFL, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Miami Dolphins: Top Three Needs for 2015

This is a special time of year in the NFL. Some are fortunate enough to compete in the playoffs hoping all the hard work might pay off in a Super Bowl berth. Others find themselves at the other end of the spectrum searching for a new head coach to hopefully steer the ship away from the rocks. Every one else? Well now is a time for them to take stock. Take a look at what worked and what did not. It is time to make difficult decisions as they begin the journey through the 2015 offseason.

I started taking a look at what need the Miami Dolphins might need way back in November. While some things have changed since then the basic premise is the same.

I do not feel that the Dolphins are that far off the pace. Injuries and quality depth hurt Miami as much as anything on the field, just like any other team. To an extent the Dolphins could go BPA(Best Player Available) when the draft rolls around. I have however targeted three spots.

1. Linebacker:

The Dolphins have two good promising starting linebackers in Koa Misi and Jelanie Jenkins. The problem is they are also saddled with Philip Wheeler and Dannelle Ellerbee who have drastically underperformed. The good news is that Wheeler and Ellerbee will most likely not be here next season. The bad news…who takes their spot?

Second year players Jordan Tripp and Chris McCain could possibly fill that third linebacker spot still leaving us with the question of depth.

Two players I do like are Erik Kendricks (UCLA) in the early round and Mike Hull(Penn St) in the later rounds.

Kendricks is an active versatile player who could easily be penciled in at middle linebacker from day one. Hull is a gritty, lunch-pail kind of player. While his measurables may not be as shiny he will outwork everyone.

2. Offensive Line:

Last season the Dolphins addressed their offensive line problems signing free agent Branden Albert and drafting rookie Ja’Wuan James. That seemed to help dramatically. When Albert went down with an injury it was clear more work is needed.

With James and Albert manning the tackle positions and Mike Pouncey expected to resume his career at center now it is time to find depth and possibly a guard or two.

Brandon Scherff(Iowa) would be a tempting first round pick. He could possibly man one of the tackle spots but he may be even better inside at guard. Another option Erik Fisher(Oregon).

3. Secondary:

Notice I said secondary. Not safety, not cornerback. My feeling is either or both may be a need. Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan could both be back or neither leaving more questions than answers. The simple fact is we need someone solid across from Brent Grimes and we do not know if Jamar Taylor can do the job. On the other hand while Delmas was good before his injury he does have an injury history.

There are a number of talented young players on the roster to look at for help: Michael Thomas, Walt Aikens, Jamar Taylor, Will Davis. Even if everyone contributes we will still need some secondary help.

Two safeties I like are Cody Prewitt(Ole Miss) and Gerod Holliman(Louisville). Both have good size and ball skills. They could allow Reshad Jones greater freedom to freelance and be the playmaker we have seen in the past.

As far as corner Trae Waynes(Michigan St) is a no brainer. I also like Kevin Johnson(Wake Forest). Both have the size we are frankly missing at corner to go along with excellent coverage skills.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Draft season is not quite upon us. As it gets closer players do begin to separate themselves. Just a little taste of what we could be in store for.

 

Categories: AFC East, Football, Miami Dolphins, NFL, NFL draft | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Eventful Sunday

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Al Diaz/Miami Herald

“Here’s a Christmas present. You don’t have to ask me anymore. He has one year left on contract and is coming back.”

Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross to reporters regarding head coach Joe Philbin. The announcement that the head coach would return was only the last item of an eventful Sunday for the hometown team.

Earlier in the day the Dolphins were officially knocked out of the playoffs when the Pittsburgh Steelers held off the Kansas City Chiefs 20-12. By that point a playoff berth was little more than a pipedream. The disappointing performances over the last month truly sealed the Dolphins fate before the Steelers put the last nails in the coffin.

While everything else was going on the team managed to have an exciting game with the Minnesota Vikings. A blocked punt for a safety won the game for the Dolphins 37-35, not that they did not try to give the game away. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill had an excellent game throwing for 396 yds and 4 touchdowns. After bringing the team back to a 28-20 lead Tannehill watched as the Vikings marched right down the field to tie it up. Worse still, a fumble by Jarvis Landry gave Minnesota the ball at Miami’s five yard line which quickly became a lead. Tannehill once again tied the score with a minute left. Rookie Terrance Fede won the game with a timely punt block for a safety with only 41 seconds left.

The game was symptomatic of the entire season. Good plays followed by bad. At times they looked among the best of the league, other times they looked horrible. The sixty-minute game still eludes them.

The arrow is still pointing up. While some were calling for change knowing the status of the coaching staff can only be good moving forward. Now the team and the fan base can look to the future together without wondering who was steering the course.

Categories: AFC East, Football, Head Coaches, Miami Dolphins, NFL, Ryan Tannehill | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Grass Is Not Always Greener

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Time flies.

A month ago the Miami Dolphins were looking towards the playoffs, now fans are calling for head coach Joe Philbin’s head. Forget about waiting for a body to be cold, the body is not even dead yet. Things move fast in the NFL(Not For Long).

The reasons to move on from Philbin are there. Not enough progress year to year. Team going into games seemingly unprepared. The team coming out of the half of pseudo-playoff games totally flat. That is at least in part on the coaching staff. Then you have playcalling decisions that are questionable to say the least. Yes the offensive coordinator calls the plays but these are the same issues we had with Mike Sherman so it is fair to ask if it is a Philbin issue.

Joe Philbin often comes off as a mail man. The lack of passion can be frustrating. Being even keeled worked for Tony Dungy but Philbin is no Tony Dungy.

Naturally the talk comes to making a move. Changing coaches(again) is not without risk. This Dolphins team has talent, they are headed in the right direction. Many believe they are close, a few tweaks and they could be very good. At times this season they have shown how good they could be.

The question is what changes with a new head coach. Most likely a new coach will not simply make a few tweaks but sweeping changes.

There are two ways coaches handle new teams: Some adjust their schemes to fit the players they have to get the most out of them. Most new coaches would rather simply replace the players with ones to fit their schemes. The first way could lead to a quick turnaround. The second, well, that can but a franchise back years.

Many fans are hoping for Jim Harbaugh. He is a great coach but he may not be what the Dolphins need. The best case scenario may be a John Gruden following Tony Dungy scenario. That may be a pipe dream.

If, and it is still an if, Philbin is fired things will change. Do not fool yourself into believing that they will automatically change for the better.

The grass is not always greener.

 

Categories: AFC East, Head Coaches, Miami Dolphins, NFL | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Miami Dolphins vs. Baltimore Ravens: Five Things

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

Al Diaz/Miami Herald

When the Miami Dolphins came out to a 10-0 lead against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday I felt pretty good, that feeling did not last. Of course I felt good the defense had stuffed the Ravens offense for three straight drives, the offense seemed to be able to move the ball on Baltimore’s defense as well. All seemed well.

It was not.

The cracks began to show and you saw what followed. The Ravens dominated the rest of the way, outscoring the Dolphins 28-3.

So here are Five Things.

1. The season is not over, it just feels like it is. Mathematically the Dolphins still have a shot at the playoffs, a shot. Most likely they need to win out, which means beating New England in Foxboro.  They will need a lot of help. A lot of teams need to lose at least once in the next three games. I hate depending on other teams. They should have just taken care of business themselves.

2. Defense: Where did the run defense go to? Once upon a time the Dolphins boasted a top-ten run defense, not anymore. Getting pushed off the line of scrimmage, bad angles, missed tackles just plain bad. They have given up over-650 yards in the last three games. That makes things even easier for upper echelon quarterbacks like Joe Flacco, what will it do against Tom Brady.

3. Injuries: These are players that left the field at some point Sunday- Jared Odrick, Koa Misi, Jelani Jenkins, Samson Satele, Charles Clay and Louis Delmas. Add those names to Branden Albert, Knowshon Moreno, Dannelle Ellerbee, Michael Thomas, Will Davis, Jamar Taylor and Courtland Finnegan. The team is looking like a mash unit. The loss of Branden Albert hurt the offensive line badly but the secondary may have been hit the worst.  Delmas may be gone for the season and only Finnegan looks to return anytime soon to help. RJ Stanford was one of our starting corners this week, let that sink in.

4. Mike Wallace. Many fans are upset about the lack of shots deep by the offense. Wallace should be a weapon deep but watching the game it does not look like Ryan Tannehill has the time to even attempt a deep pass let alone complete one. The bigger concern is the occasional lack of effort by Wallace. Commentators claim that Tannehill missed a touchdown pass to Wallace in the second half. That simply did not happen. The ball was right where you want it away from the defender towards the pylon, the receiver has to make that play. If Wallace had tried to get to the ball and could not that would be one thing, he gave up on the play. Gave up. Unacceptable.

5. Coach Joe Philbin has been criticized for a lack of emotion. He is so even-keeled sometimes you wonder if he has a pulse. The problem is when he does not seem to get the team ready to play. Watching the second half I found myself wondering if the team knew how important this game was. That is on the coach. Yes there are three games left and a slim chance to make the playoffs still exists but this game mattered. It would be nice if the coach understood that.

Yes there are other things to complain about. Bad calls from the officials: two questionable ineligible man down field calls and the reversal of a game changing fumble. The team inexplicably giving up on the run in the second half. But that is nitpicking. The team got beat down. We all saw it. Only one question:

What happens next?

On to New England.

Categories: AFC East, Baltimore Ravens, Football, Miami Dolphins, Mike Wallace, NFL, Ryan Tannehill, sports | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Showdown at Mile High-Miami Dolphins v. Denver Broncos

Snow game

Sunday afternoon the Miami Dolphins take the field against the Denver Broncos in the most important game of the 2014 season. At this point in the NFL season every game is the most important game. Each game sets up the next as teams jockey for playoff position.

This particular game sets up a faceoff with the New England Patriots on December 14th. Win this game and the Patriots game could be for the AFC East title, it could also be for the best record in the AFC. Lose, lose and it may be time to fight and claw for a wildcard berth.

The advantage heading into the game with the Broncos is simple: Everyone expects the Dolphins to lose. All over social media, across the television dial, pretty much all the national media has already given the win to Denver. This does not come from some matchup advantage or even some deficiency on the Dolphins part. No apparently Denver will win because they are Denver and oh yeah because “Peyton Manning”.

Fortunately for the Dolphins the games are played on the field. On the field Miami has a chance, actually they have a really good chance.

Denver is beat up. Tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders are recovering from injuries, while their offensive line is just bad.

“It’s worse than bad — it’s horrendous,” ESPN analyst and ex-Broncos Pro Bowl offensive lineman, Mark Schlereth said to the Denver Post. “If I was grading, giving an F would be kind.”

Coming to town are the Dolphins with the 2nd ranked defense in the NFL. The pass rush led by Cameron Wake and his 8.5 sacks will try to harass Peyton Manning throughout the game. Getting pressure on Manning is the only sure way to disrupt the hall-of-fame quarterback and Denver’s potent offense.

On the other side Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is on a hot streak. Since the game against the Oakland Raiders in London, Tannehill has posted four games with over a 100-quarterback rating. This brings his rating up to 92.2 for the season, a nice improvement over last season 81.7.  It seems as if offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s offense is finally clicking, with the rest of the offense pulling their weight as well.

For the first time in far too long it seems as if the Dolphins are playing as a complete team. The timing could not be better.

No game against Peyton Manning is every easy. This week however the Dolphins can walk onto his field with no fear.

 

 

Categories: AFC East, Denver Broncos, Football, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, NFL, Peyton Manning, playoffs, Quarterbacks, Ryan Tannehill | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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