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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
The buzz among Dolphins fans over the past month or so has been one of excitement and optimism, and understandably so considering the wealth of talent that was added to the team on the offensive side of the ball. So today I’m going to present a rather sobering view on where the roster currently stands by considering what I consider to be some of the biggest concerns. (I will then follow this up next week with a “glass half-full” view, so don’t dismiss me as all gloom and doom just yet.)
Both offensive tackle spots.
“Both?!” you say? “Didn’t you notice that Miami signed Terron FREAKIN’ ARMSTEAD?” Yes, I did. And he’s a top 5 left tackle in the NFL when he’s on the field. Therein lies the rub. Armstead has missed 38 games over the past 8 seasons (I didn’t include his rookie season). That means he averages missing 4+ games a year. Who do we have behind him? The same guys who played so badly last year that it was really hard to watch. If (and when) he has to miss a few games, do any of us feel good about trotting Austin Jackson back out there? As for RT, unless there are other moves made, it seems to be a competition between the aforementioned Jackson and Liam Eichenberg. The hope is that with better coaching and scheme design they can develop into serviceable tackles, but there’s no actual evidence to give me any confidence that this plan will work out.
Depth at cornerback.
Our defensive scheme relies on having 2 quality boundary cornerbacks that can effectively lock down the outside targets and force the opposing QB to attack elsewhere, which also provides time for the pass rush to arrive. However, if either Xavien Howard or Byron Jones misses extensive time, who fills in? Noah Igbinoghene? While Nik Needham has been very good in the nickel role, he’s not the same kind of player in terms of his physical skill set.
Lack of playmakers at Linebacker.
I like Jerome Baker as a player. He’s the best LB on the team and has developed nicely. Andrew Van Ginkle has been a nice player and provided some jazz at times from a pass rush standpoint. But the reality is this team doesn’t have a true stud at linebacker. Maybe the scheme doesn’t need one. But it sure would be nice to have a player that struck fear into the hearts of opposing offensive coordinators. Outside of Baker, we seem to have a collection of solid role players.
There may be good arguments for other positions to be put on this list over some of my choices, (the Tua-doubters are frothing at the mouth) but honestly, I am less concerned about the play of our QB and even center positions than I am the above. Time will tell!
With all the hype about free agency and the big names we've resigned and acquired, I started thinking about what my biggest concerns would be going into the season. Aside from the obvious question about how Tua will perform with all this surrounding talent, one other concern I have is the defense.
I know we wax poetic about how good this defense is, but let's not forget what we saw during the first half of last season. The defense was putrid. It seemed as if they were playing less aggressively, particularly when it came to pressure packages. We were getting run on, which obviously meant fewer opportunities to roll out those exotic blitzes on third down. Then we heard the rumors about Flores taking over the defensive play-calling, which we now hear is not true. But did he have some influence?
So with Flores gone, it will be interesting to see how the defense performs. If it performs like it did the first half of last season, we're in for a long season of whining and groaning about how Grier is awful and we wasted all that money and those picks for nothing. So Boyer's performance as defensive coordinator is key. Because he basically has all his pieces back. Ogbah, X, Jones, an emerging Phillips, Holland. All the key guys and emerging young players will be back so the expectation is to build upon what we saw in the second half.
The other major concern for me is STILL the offensive line. Armstead only solidifies that line when he is healthy and chances are he will miss games. And we still have huge question marks at center and tackle in Dieter, Jackson and Eich. If the right tackle position is not solidified, Tua's blindspot is a risk. If the center position is not solidified, running the ball won't be as easy as we seem to think it will be. I'm not toooooo worried about Dieter, but Jackson and Eich.... oh boy. And if Armstead goes down, which he inevitably will.... ooooooooooooh boy.
So, with all these offensive line and running game gurus, we have on the coaching staff, they better bring it and coach BOTH of these guys up significantly. Because we will need them to perform. One as a starter and one as a back up.
Outside of those two areas and of course QB, I think we don't have a lot of question marks as a team. These are the areas, that in my opinion, will make or break this season.