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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
After taking an extensive look at the offense last time, now we will look to see how the pieces fit together (and which pieces are missing) from the defensive squad of the Miami Dolphins. Newly promoted defensive coordinator Matt Burke was chosen in part for the sake of continuity, so it seems safe to assume that there won’t be any wholesale scheme changes on the horizon. The addition of Frank Bush as assistant head coach/linebackers coach seems smart. He’s been a successful and highly regarded coach for years in the league, and linebacker was arguably our single weakest position last year, for a variety of reasons. So let’s check out the roster.
At tackle, pro bowler Ndamukong Suh had probably his best season as a Dolphin. He plays hard every week, and though he’s not always dominant, he’s consistently disruptive and always commands a double or triple team. Alongside of him, 2nd year man Jordan Phillips played more consistently this year. He was disruptive and even dominant in several games late in the season this year, but never managed to show that consistently. It is the coaching staff’s job to get that out of him, and I was somewhat encouraged at his growth this year. Earl Mitchell in my opinion is JAG. He’s nothing special, though when he first came back from injury he did provide a spark. Look for the Dolphins to add a DT either through the draft or free agency to upgrade from Mitchell and provide more quality in the rotation. Nick Williams fills out the depth chart.
At defensive end, things are grim. Cameron Wake had an amazing year, earning serious consideration for comeback player of the year as he was easily our best pass rusher again. He had 11.5 sacks, 1 interception and 5 forced fumbles on the season. But… he’s 34 years old, and was not good in run defense this year. After him, former starter Jason Jones was cut prior to the end of the season and disappointing former starter Mario Williams is soon to be cut, if reports from the Miami Herald are true. 25 year old Andre Branch helped steady the defense when he was inserted as a starter, and he may be back with the team. However, as an UFA, there are no guarantees… it will all depend on the market for him and how much the team values him. After him is depth player Terrance Fede. In reality, even if we do resign Branch, this position is desperate for upgrade as much as any on the team. Look for at least two players to be brought in either through FA or the draft.
Somebody call the fire department. Or the national guard. Or… just get some help, because this team sure needs it here. I have been a defender of Kiko Alonso on the boards, and will continue to say that he had the best year of any middle linebacker in a Dolphin uniform since Zach Thomas. And that’s not even his natural position. So yeah, we’ve got a keeper there. After that though… I am going on the assumption that Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi have played their last games as Dolphins. I could be wrong, of course. They could be brought back with a team-friendly contract, but if they are counted on as starters it will be a huge mistake. Neville Hewitt and Mike Hull showed nice growth this year, and Spencer Paysinger is an outstanding special teams player… but none of them are starters, and midseason addition Donald Butler did nothing to make me want to see him back. So that leaves us needing at least two starting linebackers, and in a perfect world we would draft a developmental player to groom as well. So… go get some linebackers. Lots of ‘em. Probably our greatest need on the team, in my opinion.
I’m lumping these guys into one category because for once, it’s kind of a no-brainer. At safety, Reshad Jones and Isa Abdul-Quddus are firmly implanted as starters assuming they rebound from their season-ending injuries. At corner, Byron Maxwell bounced back from his early season struggles to be our best corner until he got hurt. He deserves to be back. Xavien Howard was very good as a rookie, and shows the potential to be a top NFL corner. Tony Lippett made more progress as a player than any player on defense this year, ending as a fairly solid NFL cornerback. He has areas where he must improve, but he has shown that he has the ability and the mental make-up to keep working to do so. Bobby McCain was a bit of a disappointment to me this year, but he’s worth keeping around. Walt Aikens is a back-up safety and core special teams player, and Michael Thomas showed huge versatility and growth as a back-up safety/corner and special teams leader. He is a UFA I hope we can bring back with a reasonable contract. Late season addition Bacarri Rambo was brought in when both our starting safeties got hurt. He’s like the cheap pick-up truck somebody lets you get for next to nothing when your car dies. You’re glad you’ve got it while you need it, but you sure don’t think of it as a long term solution. If any players are brought in at CB or S it will only be to improve our depth, and in my opinion should only be a late, inexpensive free agent signing or late round draft pick.
Andrew Franks was ok this year. Not great. But he made clutch kicks down the stretch that helped his case. Still, it would be good to bring in legit competition for him in camp. At punter, Matt Darr was one of the best in the league. He’s a keeper for sure. Core special teamers Spencer Paysinger and Michael Thomas should be brought back for their help here, as previously noted. Jarvis Landry, Kenyan Drake and Jakeem Grant provide good depth and explosiveness in the return game (especially if we can coach Grant not to drop the ball.)
So in my opinion the top 10 priorities on the team as it looks to address needs for the offseason are:
Lets turn the discussion around so that its productive.
Gase already confirmed Matt Moore is not going to be the backup. Its reality, so no sense in arguing that he needs a shot because he won't get one.
If you want Tannehill replaced who would be the target QB? The free agent options are Mike Glennon, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, Mark Sanchez and Blaine Gabbert.
If you want to make a trade you'll be giving up at least a 2nd Rounder to get Jimmy Garoppolo or AJ McCarron, but now you're spending draft capital while leaving big holes on defense. And if Miami is publically looking to trade then that will diminish Tannehill's trade value on the market.
If you want to draft and go with a first year starter then it will take your first, second and maybe more to move into the top 10 to ensure you land Mitch Trubisky, Deshone Kizer or Deshaun Watson. Are you comfortable gambling on unknowns? Have to consider that outside of Dak Prescott, who had an incredibly unique situation, all of the first year QBs did not have impressive numbers or lead their teams to winning seasons.
In terms of trading Tannehill, you know now he's capable of giving you a 10 win season and his contract is a series of one year renewals after 2017. Is that worth a second rounder now? I'm asking seriously and not sarcastically.
I look at all those scenarios combined with Miami's current cap space and the special class of QBs coming out in 2018 and I don't see a reason to just unload the QB because he's above average. I'd rather see if he's a 12 win QB next year or if he fails miserably and Miami can cut him without taking a hit. The 2018 class will be like 2012 (Darnold, Falk, Browning, Rudolph, Allen) with prospects ranging from solid starters to franchise caliber.
Just my take.